This will never become a book.

2014 March 31 Monday

New Chapters and Endings

Filed under: life — kdefg @ 12:56

It’s spring cleaning time here in my neighborhood.  The city invites us to dump huge piles of large trash items out on the curb, and they come around with dump trucks and a scoop to haul it all away. Sometimes we play trash BINGO looking for the most unusual items.  This year there are fewer broken toilets and more kitchen items.  It’s hard for me to throw away anything that has potential to be useful to someone else, but I’m never organized enough to have a yard sale or take things to a drop-off location.  Fortunately we have people who drive around and pick thru the piles of trash for things they’ll either clean and use or resell.  It has taken me years to amass what I have in storage, and I can’t just wipe it all out in a weekend.  I consider it a victory to eliminate a stack of old magazines and regain a single shelf in the garage.

While spring brings the promise of new life, it seems like many other things around me are coming to an end.

Free Realms is shutting down.  I might have mentioned the game here in a post long ago.  It was an online game with quests aimed at a younger audience.  I enjoyed it more as a virtual world to explore rather than the MMO aspects with battles and trading cards and shops.  It was free-to-play if you never bought the in-game extras.  It’s a dying business model.

Television Without Pity  (TWoP) is shutting down. I might have mentioned the website in the past, for its forums and snarky articles.  Some of their recaps were amazing works of creative and expressive writing.  The parent company has no plans to maintain an archive, so read (and download) what you can this week. Many of the staff (mostly freelance part-timers) have posted about how the site is what gave them a start as professional writers. They were paid, but the site content was free to access, with ads pushed to the edges. It’s a dying business model.

My personal experiment with writing has taken a detour, mainly down a dead-end path.  I still enjoy discussions about writing, and I still play out scenes with the characters in my novel, but I don’t sit down to write the actual words.  I have discovered a lot about myself and my abilities over the years with NaNoWriMo and my local writers group.  Mostly I’ve learned that I do not have a passion for writing.  There is nothing wrong with accepting that and moving on.

A local movie theater is shutting down.  The lease ended, and the property owners are turning the site over to a redevelopment group who feels there is no market for a single large screen.  (It’s a dying business model?) There is a petition to save the domes or at least the oldest building in the cluster, but even as an historic preservation site only the dome would remain, with the interior repurposed for anything other than motion pictures.

And the list goes on. My friends have sold their house and are embarking on early retirement.  Can we really be that old?  I remember helping them move from an apartment to a small starter home decades ago, then move again when they bought the large house on the hill years later.  We saw less of each other after that, because it was an inconvenient distance, but we enjoyed many “date nights” for Scrabble and cards and catching up. Now they have a plan to travel the country in an RV.  They put some furniture into storage, so they must expect to settle down again in the future.  I can’t image where they will end up, but it will probably be too far away for game nights.

In other news about endings, my cat was well into her nineteenth year of life when she had a stroke.  She had been doing poorly even before that, waking me up every night and needing a lot of attention. The stroke left her too weak to use the litter box or stand at her food bowls.  After two days, we decided it was time to let her go.  Her things will go into storage, not the curb.

Now I find myself no longer tethered to the house.  I can get a full night of uninterrupted sleep now, too.  This led me to think about going back to work again, not just for money like the cashier job but something to use my computer talents and interests.   I quickly found what I think might be a perfect fit, and I have a job interview scheduled for tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a good time to start another chapter.



2013 June 19 Wednesday

Wiped Out

Filed under: life, writing — kdefg @ 14:16

I am tired, so very tired. Exhausted. Who knew that standing at a cash register for eight hours could wear a body down? My feet hurt, especially my heels, and my knees ache, especially the “pits” where the tendons stretch behind the knee-joint, probably because I hyper-extend my legs and lock them into a standing position. I come home and want to do nothing but recline on the sofa and watch television with my legs sprawled out on the padded cushions.

I still find time to sit at the computer, but my legs grow restless in that position.  I have no room under my desk to stretch them out or prop them up.  I find myself reading fewer online articles and following fewer random links these days, sticking to my core list of bookmarked sites to visit daily.  This is not necessarily a bad thing. While my body may be rebelling against the Internet, my mind has sought out other sources of input.  My job has kept me away from technology on my lunch breaks, and this has given me time to read more novels.

For a while, I tried to use my time between customers to think about my own novel. I would let my mind wander, and I jotted down ideas on scraps of paper tucked into my back pockets.  I now have a small pile of scraps which I have not gone back to read, and I’m feeling no better about my novel than I did when I stopped working on it months ago. I think I need a break from thinking about it altogether.

I had been thinking for some time now that my experiment with NaNoWriMo had reached its conclusion. I tested myself, I learned about my strengths and weaknesses, I accomplished my goals — because I did not set my goals very high.  I wanted to give it a try, and I did try for several years in a row.  Now the organization is running NaNo events several times each year, and the novelty (no real pun there) has worn off for me.  It is no longer a special occasion.

There is a show here on ABC called “Wipeout” which also used to be a special occasion, airing for only a few months out of the year.  It was escapist television, summer fluff, and my family enjoyed it together when it was something new and different.  Then ABC created “Winter Wipeout”, which was somewhat different but came on when we didn’t need the diversion.  Then a year later, they started airing new episodes twice each week, and that’s when we reached saturation point.  The more they produced, the less we wanted to watch.  We were exhausted.  We now skip it, even when there is nothing else to watch.

That was how I was beginning to think of NaNoWriMo.  I am not obligated to participate in every event. Maybe I should skip starting something new until I put some serious effort into working on a second draft of my last project.  I’ve heard others in my own writing group say that they’ve gotten all they needed from past NaNoWriMo events and would not return in November.

So why did I just sign up to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo next month?  To be honest, it was their new feature which allows me to set a smaller goal. My seasonal job will still be taking up my time at least through the first week of July, and my body will still not want to be sitting at a keyboard for hours.  I think I will do better by aiming for only 500 words per day, something more in line with the size of a blog post.  In fact, I’ve decided to structure my project more like a series of blog posts rather than a novel.  Camp NaNo lets me get away with being such a rebel.

The main characters from my last novel have haunted me long enough.  It is time to wipe them from my mind and start fresh. I am putting away my scraps of paper, for now.

2013 May 6 Monday

Paying for Free

Filed under: life — kdefg @ 22:29

My weekend was filled with little lessons in economics.

Free coffee.  I started my morning with a few errands.  Along the way, I passed a coffee shop, so I decided to grab a cappuccino.  Just my luck, it was peak demand time, and the line of customers was excessively long.  Fortunately for me, they had set up a table by the door with samples of their new roast in little paper cups.  It was barely a shot, but it was caffeine, and it was free.  I doubled the volume in the cup by adding milk, and left with just that drink.  (I still wanted my fancy tall beverage, so I ended up driving back to that same store later in the day.  My free drink cost me extra miles on my car.)

Free comics.  Saturday was Free Comic Book Day.  I don’t really read many comics, and I rarely buy graphic novels, but the annual event lets me sample what’s new. I found a small comics shop in a remote part of town where I was running other errands.  The place was filled with people of all ages, and the staff was helpful.  I like to support independent retailers, so I also bought an issue of something from the sale rack for two dollars.  (As it turns out, it was chapter 19 of a long series, so maybe it wasn’t such a deal after all.)

That store had a two-per-person limit on the free comics, so I decided to “cheat” and get some more elsewhere.  Back in my own neighborhood, the local comic store was crowded, too, but the atmosphere here was different.  They had balloons and people in costume, and artists had set up tables outside to sell their custom drawings.  To get to the display of free comics, I had to pass a grumpy attendant taking down names and signing people up for their mailing list.  I told her I was already on their list, but she insisted that I had to sign in to get a free comic.  I suppose even free things have a price to pay?  At least their free selection did have a few titles that the first store did not have, but again the limit was two.  They also were running a sale, but with a much smaller discount.  My desire to support their business cost me six dollars, and now I have issues 1 and 2 of a series that I will probably track down at the library to read rather than purchase.

Free movie rental.  Our public library system is an amazing concept.  We take out books, read them, and return them without paying a cent.  When they first added video years ago, they charged a daily fee per VHS tape.  Eventually they added DVDs to the collection, and dropped the fees, lending movies by the week — a shorter term than books but now for free.  Today I can “rent” an entire season of a television show in a DVD box set and keep it for three weeks, thanks to my library membership card.  The only “cost” is that I need to drive to the library to return them.  And this weekend it cost me twenty minutes of standing in line at the automated return window because their computer system was down.

Free sandwich.  I needed to pick up something for dinner, and I chose to go to a cheesesteak sandwich place near the library.  I had a loyalty card, the kind that they add an ink stamp for every purchase.  Buy fifteen sandwiches and get the sixteenth for free!  Of course, the free sandwich they offer is only the small size with only the basic toppings.  My deluxe options cost me a few dollars more.

Free parking.  Everywhere I drove this weekend had a parking lot.  I never had to park on the street or pay to enter a garage.  People around here take such things for granted.  Just wait until the holiday shopping season kicks in, and all the spaces are filled.  At least one shopping mall sets up a valet service, where people are willing to pay someone to find them a free parking space.

Thank you, WordPress, for letting me use your service for free.  Really, I do appreciate it.


2013 April 24 Wednesday

I Am the Doing

Filed under: life — kdefg @ 22:38

I have a job now, just part-time, just temporary.  It’s not the gig I mentioned earlier, the one for which I spent so much time going through their training — they gave me two attempts to pass their qualification test, and I missed the mark both times.  I don’t get paid for the hours I put into that process, but then they don’t get any benefit from putting me through it, either.

So now I am a cashier.  The training for that lasted barely two hours, not counting the additional hour we spent reading the employee handbook together.  I will get paid for those hours, too.  This is not what I went to college for, but at this time of my life, it feels like a good fit.

I think back to the various jobs I’ve had, the kind of work I’ve done and the job titles they gave me. When I was a computer programmer, I programmed computers.  When I moved up to being called a software engineer, I suppose you could say I engineered software.  When I was a network analyst, I analyzed networks. When I was a telemarketer… I telemarketed?  (What I did do was call people at their place of business to ask them to donate items for a public television fundraiser auction, which was for a noble cause, but it is not a noble profession.)

Then I learned HTML and had a go as a “Web Production Specialist” which meant I produced the pages for a corporate site on the Web.  There is no “-er” equivalent for what I did.  I wrote code, but I wasn’t a coder; I cropped images, but I wasn’t a cropper; I pasted text, but I wasn’t a paster.  I couldn’t even say I was a Web Producer, as that job title means something else entirely.  The skills I used back then wouldn’t even get me an interview for a Web Developer position today, which involves developing layers of infrastructure to generate dynamic applications for a newer version of the Web which laughs at my static hand-coded flat pages.

Of course there are jobs and careers and professions which are not simply a noun derived from the verb describing the tasks they perform.  Think about a dentist or a secretary, a customer service representative or a lawyer.  One cannot say, “I secretary for a living.”  Do certain jobs bestow a sense of identity, simply because of their “I am a” titles?  I imagine musicians and artists are happy to have a label rather than a functional description of how they make a living.

Or is a label too limiting? Is “Bob the Builder” not more than just a guy who builds things? Does a cashier “cashier”?  Will I look back and say I “cashiered”? I think everyone knows what a cashier *does*, even if we have no specific verb for it.  On the other hand, I think everyone assumes they know who a cashier *is*, as if performing the duties of a cashier blots out all variations in the people who take up that job.

Then there are writers.  They write.  Some of them get paid for what they produce, but all of them write.  I’ve stopped writing with any regularity, and I’ve never been paid for any of it.  Was I ever really a writer?  I am now a cashier.  I may need to rethink this.


2013 March 2 Saturday

Long Overdue

Filed under: life — kdefg @ 10:12

It is March 1st, and I have returned.  Oops! No, it is already the 2nd of March.  I was writing this post in my head yesterday, but got distracted.  Now I can’t remember how the rest of it was going to go. I haven’t posted in so long, I almost forgot how to navigate to the input form.  Found it!

In the past month, I bought a new computer.  I am gradually reinstalling programs as I need them, and recovering files from the old hard drive as I fill up the new one.  My last computer was purchased in 2006, so this one is a major leap forward in both software versions and hardware speed.  Change is difficult for me, but this transition is going smoothly.

I might also have employment in the pipeline.  I am about to begin training to take a qualification test at the end of next week, which will get me into further training, which will lead to another test, which will eventually lead to a part-time, short-term project.  It is the closest I’ve come to getting paid for work in over a year.  Of course, I assume I will pass all of their hurdles and be really good at this job.  The company is in another country, so the process is all done remotely — on the Internet, with my new computer. Let’s hope I have the discipline to work from home.

My time-management skills are greatly improved by having a routine.  I used to make this blog part of my daily routine.  Then came distractions.  We shall revisit this subject in future posts, no doubt.



2013 January 9 Wednesday


Filed under: life — kdefg @ 23:01

I remember an advertising jingle from years ago, a classic which cropped up every January (as I remember it).  A razzmatazz melody and a rushed chorus of voices sang, “Everything You Wanted But Didn’t Get For Christmas…” to promote a post-holiday sale at Sears.  (YouTube kindly allowed me to refresh my memory with a version from 1977 — was it seriously that long ago?)

Things that we were fine living without before an arbitrary gift-giving occasion thus become things that we need badly enough to go out and buy for ourselves.  That’s the point of commercials, isn’t it?  They remind us that wanting something is a condition which can be cured rather than endured.

Commercials try to persuade us that our lives are lacking things which we never realized we wanted or needed or couldn’t live without (despite having done so). Very few commercials are simply informational announcements of a new product or service.  Along with the facts are the opinions, presented as arguments we cannot refute, telling us how to think about ourselves and our lives and why we must surely want what they offer.

Even without commercials, I find myself wanting things that I never thought about before, simply because the lack of those things have been pointed out to me.  I knew Twinkies existed, I had eaten Twinkies in the past, but I lived for decades without thinking about Twinkies.  Then it was all over the news how the world would soon be without Twinkies, and suddenly I wanted them.  My store had none left in stock, and I wanted them more.  The shelves of Little Debbie snack cakes were never a destination for me, until this manufactured desire drove me to buy their Cloud Cakes.

Then there is this matter of my current search for a job.  I have considered a lot of different career paths, and have applied for a variety of positions.  I have learned about jobs which I had never considered before, but might be a good fit for my current skills and interests.  I recently had a phone interview which boosted my spirits, and it left me looking forward to working at that company.  Then the rejection came.  And now I am left wanting something I was completely ignorant of before.  How can I want something now which I didn’t know I wanted a mere week ago?  Just because it was taken away from me, before I even had it to begin with, I feel the loss.

I guess they don’t call them “want ads” for nothing.

2013 January 1 Tuesday

Contain This

Filed under: life — kdefg @ 23:32

Happy New Year!

Have you recovered from whatever holidays you may have celebrated in the past month?  I have not yet cleared away the stack of shipping boxes that delivered many of our gifts.  Something about the crispness of the brown cardboard, used only once, begs to be saved for another purpose before being collapsed and recycled.

I find myself increasingly surrounded by packaging.  Most normal people would just throw it out with the trash, but I hate to be wasteful.  A jar that once held wheat germ is a perfectly good container for something else, something dry and powdery like flour — or more wheat germ — and it wouldn’t even need to be washed out for reuse.  So I keep it, just in case it might come in handy one day.  Eventually I will remember that I never found a use for the empty jar from my previous purchase of wheat germ, and I will reluctantly toss it into the recycling bin.  It seems wrong to me, considering how much it will cost someone somewhere to melt that glass down just to mold another glass jar for another single-use container.  Such a wasteful society we have created for ourselves.

I bought sea salt from the grocery store, which came packaged in a sturdy glass jar with a feeble plastic grinder built into the lid.  When the salt is gone, I am left with an empty container which has little value, neither as a storage jar nor as a grinder for other spices.  The plastic blades are worn out; the glass jar is pristine and yet useless without a proper top.  On my next purchase, I bought the cheaper plastic container of sea salt, but the grinder lid is of a different design, and it doesn’t work as well as the first one did.  There is a mismatch here, and it annoys me.

I buy toothpaste which comes out of a dispenser.  My household likes the product, and in theory we should be able to buy refills and reuse the dispenser base.  Our local store has stopped carrying individual refills.  They sell twin-packs now: two refill cartridges packages with a new dispenser.  They are forcing us to buy a new base now, whether we need one or not.  I now have an extra dispenser base taking up space in my cupboard instead of a landfill.  I will throw it away when the next replacement is bought, but I will still keep the most recent one “just in case…”

When I was a kid, we could buy ball-point pens at the office supply store by the individual stick from a bin instead of by the package.  Now they come sealed in flat packs, more one-time-use wrappers of paper and plastic.  I remember returning Coca-Cola bottles back to the vending machine at the gas station. Buying a product back then involved refilling an existing container, not buying a new one along with its contents.

Now, I am conscious that every purchase of a consumable is also a purchase of its packaging. When that package is empty, I still own it.  How can I justify throwing anything away?  I am dangerously close to being labeled as “a hoarder”.  And yet, when the world runs out of oil for producing new plastic tubs for ice cream, you will thank me that I saved a few “just in case”.

2012 July 17 Tuesday

Nickel Debt

Filed under: life — kdefg @ 16:28

I should have been rich by now.  Isn’t that the plan?  I should have discovered my life’s calling, found work that I enjoy and make enough money to more than meet my needs.  Either that, or win a lottery jackpot.

Instead, I take jobs which seem to suit some of my qualifications but are not really what I enjoy doing.  To earn more money, I would need to learn new skills for technology which didn’t exist when I was in college decades ago.  My father tried to tell me that it was not important to enjoy one’s job, that work is work and you get enjoyment from the people you work with instead.  Our culture makes it seem like people should not settle for that, and indeed there are people who find a career which fulfills them and gives their lives purpose and meaning beyond a paycheck.  Right now, I’d settle for the paycheck.

The other day, I went to my regular local coffee shop.  It is an expense which I allow myself for as long as I can afford it, offset by saving money in other ways.  The lady behind the counter knows me very well, not by name but by my appearance as well as my medium cappuccino.  This particular day, I came up five cents short.  Somehow I had spent every last bit of change from my wallet.  I gave her the dollars I had left and apologized for coming unprepared.

I could have gone to the ATM in the plaza and come back with a twenty dollar bill, which she would then have to break to give me a fistful of change.  (I hate doing that to cash businesses when I can help it, because they must go through a lot of coins in a single day.)  She knew me, she trusted me, she let me owe her the nickel.  I said, “You know I’ll be back tomorrow, I’ll pay you back.”  And I was, and I did.

This isn’t a small town, it’s a sprawling urban area.  The coffee lady and I do not know each other’s names.  We never see one another in any other context or location. There was no reason for her to trust me, and perhaps she weighed the odds against the risk of losing only five cents.

I remember a similar scene from countless years ago, when I was commuting between cities.  I had stopped at a fast food place for dinner and came up four cents short of the bill.  The workers did not know me, and yet they let me pay what I had and take my food.  I promised to return to pay them the rest, but they shrugged and told me not to bother.  I did anyway, a day or two later, or tried to.  When I visited the place again, different workers were there and no one knew anything about a four-cent debt.  They thought I was crazy, trying to hand them four pennies without buying anything.

Some day, when I do become rich, I would like to round up the cost of all of my purchases and tell people to keep the change.


2012 July 5 Thursday


Filed under: life — kdefg @ 23:30

If something works, it shouldn’t need to be changed.  That’s my attitude about most things: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  I am very skeptical about anything which claims to be new and improved.

I have been using old versions of almost every piece of software on my computer, from the operating system to the browser and all of the applications.  I know their menus and features, and I like the way they look and feel.  I’ve had no reason to replace them, despite the world telling me they are obsolete.

Today, I let myself be led down an upgrade path, and it has been traumatic for me.  It all started because I wanted to explore a new virtual world, after reading this review of Cloud Party.  My current system has the graphics card to handle it, and I’ve enjoyed other 3-D worlds in the past, ones that run from a downloaded client program, but this one was designed to run in a browser window.  So, to get started, I needed to upgrade my browser.  Scary time.

Suddenly I was tripping over keystrokes that no longer did what they used to do.  In the years since I had last upgraded my browser, they had rearranged the menus, redesigned the icons, and revamped the layout.  It was frustrating!  I went down a side path, searching for solutions and finding many people complaining about the same things I disliked, howling about abrupt changes to a product they all loved.  They encountered these “enhancements” years ago, and there have been multiple version releases since then.  I was on the trailing edge of a wave of changes, and the tide had just swept me to the front of the pack. Fortunately I was able to find ways to customize my interface, and now my browser is nearly back to a state which works for me.  Don’t tell me it looks old — I like it that way.

But the game I wanted to play still did not run, because my video card drivers were out-of-date.  Once again, I had not encountered any need to upgrade for the past several years, and so I was unprepared for the effects a simple update would have on my system.  For starters, the control panel which I use to swap settings for different tasks had been overhauled, and the feature which saved my various user profiles had been eliminated.  I now had no easy way to change between the monitor resolution I use for text-based tasks and the settings I need for graphics-intensive games, plus all of my carefully customized color tweaks were gone.  I am very sad now, and in this area there is no way to go backwards.

So I went to all this trouble just to take a trial run on a website that I probably would not spend much time on later.  It did run, although the objects in the scene render slowly.  I don’t know whether this is a fault of my download speed or their servers, or some other settings which I was forced to reset to new defaults.  The game itself is really just a sandbox now, a place where people can build environments and explore them.  I might return to look around some more, later, since I have ruined my system for it.

I decided to run an older game to see what effect the new video drivers would have on it.  The game is URU, a virtual world that was built many years ago.  It never made heavy demands on my aging computer, and for many reasons it has never required an upgrade of its players.  People with newer computers have had trouble running the software, which was written for an operating system which is no longer worthy of service updates.  I set my screen resolution to what I hope matches the profile I had saved but lost.  The game now runs with an annoying stutter, a sluggish chunkiness in the animation and avatar motions.  I do not know what is causing it, other than the new drivers.  I do not know how to fix it.

I do not understand why things ever need to change.


2012 July 2 Monday

Wallet Angel

Filed under: life — kdefg @ 23:28

We had been out running errands that day, driving around to various shops to pick up an assortment of items needed for the upcoming weekend.  It was late afternoon and we hoped to find all of the things remaining on our list at one final store before it closed for the day, and save ourselves another last-minute trip in the morning.

I pulled the car into a parking space, we got out and I locked the car.  I opened my purse to pull out our shopping list and realized that I didn’t see my wallet inside.  I froze, but only for a moment.  Then I burst into action.

First, I unlocked the car and we dug around under the seats.  I really didn’t think we would find my wallet there, but it gave me time to think.  Where did I last see it?  Where did I last use it?

“Oh no.”  Our previous stop had been to the water store, and in my mind I could clearly see myself putting my wallet on top of the vending machine as I filled our plastic jugs.  “I think I know where it is. Let’s go!”

We were miles away, in another town, and I was now driving in rush hour traffic in the commuter lane.  My mind raced ahead of me, imagining every possible scenario I could face when I arrived.  For the first few minutes, I was hopeful.  We just had to get there before someone saw the wallet sitting there out in the open.  Then doubt seeped in.  How could anyone *not* notice a wallet on top of a vending machine?

I berated myself for being so careless.  I had been in a hurry, trying to do too many things, thinking about the next task before completing the current one.  I stepped on the gas pedal in anger, then backed off when I realized the speed I was going.

In a matter of minutes I was babbling to myself.  I considered whether this trip was worth the miles, whether it was a waste of time, or something I absolutely had to try.  Maybe the wallet would still be there, and the thief would take only the cash, leaving me the credit cards and identification.  Maybe a kind soul found it and turned it in at the water store counter — except that the store would have closed by now.  I might drive all the way there only to had no way of knowing whether my wallet was inside the store or out of the county by now.

I begged the universe to watch over my wallet.  Then I asked for the grace to accept the loss.  I didn’t deserve any special favors from the wallet gods, but maybe they could take pity on me and at least end my suffering.

By now, my passenger was feeling my pain, but also amused by my wildly swinging emotional state.  She and I discussed ways we could turn my facial expressions into a comic strip.  It kept me from looking at the clock for a few minutes, but then I pictured each panel of the comic including a digital readout of the elapsed time, and I returned to reality with a groan.

We finally arrived at the shopping center where the water store was located.  I drove across the parking lot, approaching the store with the outside vending machine in sight.  I couldn’t see my wallet from that distance…

I pulled into the parking space directly in front of the store.  And there in the shadows was the vending machine, with something on top!  Yes! It was my wallet!  “Holy crap!”  I left the car running and burst out of my seat.  My wallet, and all my cards, and all my photos, and all my cash, exactly as I had left it.  I think I actually apologized to it for abandoning it there.

We drove all the way back to the last store to finish our shopping as planned.  The entire trip was punctuated by my repeated outbursts of disbelief: “No way!” I was stunned and amazed and grateful.  Amen.


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