Saturday, March 31, 2007

My Computer Is So Old...

  • it runs on Windows 1900.
  • the hard drive’s capacity is 300Gps (Giga papyrus scrolls).
  • the processor’s speed is measured in knots.
  • my monitor is an Etch-a-Sketch.
  • instead of electricity, it uses steam power.
  • the only game I can play on it is Pong, but that’s only if I lay the Etch-a-Sketch monitor flat on its back, get two paddles and a ping-pong ball, and rig a net across the monitor.
  • the keyboard keys have Sanskrit characters on them.
  • it doesn’t have a modem, but uses smoke signals (the ultimate in a wireless connection).


Thursday, March 29, 2007

I'm More Childish Than I Realized

I’m not proud about it, but I did take your suggestions to play a prank on my secretary. I hid her cordless phone in a file cabinet. (I stole the idea from that episode of The Office when Pam and Jim hid Andy’s cell phone in the ceiling above his desk and kept calling.) It didn’t take her too long to find it, but it did give me a moment’s pleasure and a strange rush of adrenaline.

I’m looking for some good photos to put on her computer desktop. Any suggestions? Other prank ideas?

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Day Three and Still a Slob

So I’ve had three nights without a spouse, and the kids have been relatively mild. I have taken a mini vacation at home, doing nothing except eating, drinking beer, watching TV and goofing off. And you know what? I’m bored out of my skull.

Last night as I went to bed, my mind was racing. All the things that I’ve been neglecting, stuff at work, all of it darted to the front of my mind and ambushed my consciousness. So, for the next few days at least, I’m putting the brakes on my slobbish, bachelor life and will be cleaning, doing yard work and getting the laundry caught up.

And, since tomorrow is payday, I’ll be paying bills. There will be no fight this time since there is no one with whom to fight!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Thank God I'm a Middle Class Suburbanite

I was clearing my inbox of unwanted e-mail, and I discovered some buried treasure. I wrote this piece a couple of years ago. Here it is, a window into my soul:

I popped a Creedence CD into the player in the blue Chevy Cavalier, my bruised and banged up half-a-car, rusted out on the bottom like any other self-respecting redneck jalopy. Because it was cool and foggy out, I was wearing my rough flannel shirt with half the buttons missing. The shirt, the music and the car allowed me to revel in my hick soul, even though I was returning from a meeting with very respectable people in a neighborhood full of $750K homes.

Sometimes I wonder if I really am a hick at heart, or if I just like the idea of it. Just because I pull on my boots to slog around in the garden a few times a year doesn’t make me a country boy, even if, in my childhood, I did clear the chickens’ water of ice during the winter and walk up the creek in my shoes in the summers. Now I sit all day in an office surrounded by books with a secretary who sometimes brings me coffee.

As I drove home, Fogerty began “Lodi,” and by the time he got to the words “things got bad, and things got worse” I realized I had heard someone else cover the song recently. Where was that? And who? Ah yes, the fog of memory began to lift...

My brother sat at the table, guitar in his lap, longnecks lined up, some strewn on the floor, soaking the rug with alcohol--a smell that would linger even longer than the stench of roadkill. Moon pie chocolate stained the corners of his mouth as he sang: “things got bad, and things got worse...oh Lord, stuck in Green Creek again.” Between verses he would wipe his greasy hands on his tee shirt, which was too short to cover his belly, or on his blue jeans, torn at the knees. His wife, my sister-in-law, held a child (or “chillin,” as she calls them) in each arm as she swayed in a drunken stupor to the music. Pa, an old man of 76, whistled through the gap in his front teeth, and Ma, celebrating her 50th birthday (her eldest son is 36: you do the math), picked her teeth up off the table so she could sing along, too.

Though the music belongs to CCR, the lyrics are my brother’s rural Homeric attempt to describe the saga of the Wilson clan’s (his in-laws) trips to the campground at Green Creek for family reunions. Most families would choose a plush beachfront resort or an oak-shaded glen in the Midwest for this annual event, but this group caravans their 4x4s and Frankenstein’s monster domestic sedans to a muddy and mosquito-infested stretch of backcountry to drink beer, eat franks and beans, and reminisce about the time Pa Wilson’s shotgun accidentally went off at my brother’s wedding.

When the Wilsons gather their nine children (along with spouses and chillins) to meet up with the other family members, strange things happen. Bodies fall into creeks; bears carry off a week’s supply of Ho-Hos; fishing rods get stuck up in places that ought not be mentioned in polite company, and the like. My brother’s mutilation of “Lodi” describes each year’s journey to Green Creek and forever immortalizes the deeds of the Wilsons and their kin. It was this song he sung as we sat around the table in a swampside shack late into the evening.

Nothing much out of the way happened that night. It was a typical Lefty family gathering, including Ma snorting Jack Daniels out her nose when she got the giggles. Thinking about that night, I realize I am not really a hick, but merely a part of a regular, middle class family. I am only a redneck wannabe. Oh well, maybe in my next life.

“Things got bad, and things got worse, but I guess you know the tune. Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again.”

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Some Great Things to Do

In my continuing quest to improve our quality of life...

  • When turning left at a busy intersection, try dialing a friend on your cell phone. It is good fun for everyone when you miss the gigantic openings in traffic through which one could steer both the Titanic and the iceberg. It is particularly great when you fail to notice the light has turned red, and both you and I are hung out in the middle of the intersection.
  • While listening to your iPod in public, earphones jammed deep into your ears, sing along with the music. The louder you sing, the better. Those around you enjoy hearing your off key screeching while getting none of the actual music you hear.
  • When you are finished with a soda, hamburger, piece of gum, cigarette, child or other object, simply toss it over your shoulder to land wherever the gods will it. If you’re in your car, fling it out the window. The same applies to urine or feces, especially if you happen to be right outside the front of my office building at the time. This is like a giant pinata, and we’re all winners.
  • If you are a telemarketer, and your victim--er, potential client--asks, “Is this a sales call?,” say “no,” and then forge ahead with your sales pitch, which technically isn’t a sales pitch, but an amazing opportunity that can’t be passed up.
  • Drive erratically--stops and starts, sudden u-turns, drift toward the curb and then back toward the middle of the street so other drivers don’t know whether to go around you or follow you at your blistering eight-miles-an-hour pace. If you want to heighten the effect, get on your cell phone, too.

You're welcome.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

The World Is My Laundry Hamper

I have actual bad news (rather than the usual idiocy you get from me): my wife's mother had a serious medical emergency. Fortunately, after a successful surgery, the doctors are saying there is a good chance for full recovery. My wife, though, left this morning to be with her mother in the hometown of one of the Final Four participants. She will be gone two weeks. Both girls will fly out next week during their Spring Break.

On the less serious side, that means that I will be a bachelor for a couple of weeks, which means lots of beer, sports on television, going to play basketball with the guys, and other activities not sanctioned by the Spousal Governing Board. I will miss my wife, of course, but I can go from zero to Al Bundy in 6.4 seconds flat.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Death by Stapler

You should be glad you don’t work in the same office I do. Today, you’d have a very unpleasant Lefty around to make your life miserable.

First, I’m sick. It isn’t the steaming fever, raging sore throat and exploding sinuses (to steal a line from Dave Barry, the Exploding Sinuses would be a great name for a rock band) sort of cold. It is the slight drip, dripping runny nose that reminds me of a leaky sink, the “Dad, can I? can I? can I? CAN I, huh, please?” sort of sore throat that is more irritating than painful, and enough of a fever to make me weak and weary. So that’s got me pissed.

And then, did I mention, there is a secretary that works here?

Each week, on the very same day every single bloody week, she is to go to a particular drawer in another office and pick up two forms that were filled out the previous afternoon. She is to then fax the forms and put the originals in a file.

You’d think it would be a simple task, right? You would be totally WRONG. It is more complicated than assembling the entire Earth using only a box of matchsticks and a piece of gum. About every other week, the secretary comes in to tell me that one or more of the reports is not in the drawer where it is supposed to be. What she really means is that the form was not RIGHT ON TOP with a Sherpa guide nearby to help her locate the form.

It is true, that for some unexplained reason--probably ghosts or mice with superpowers--the people who fill out the forms do not always put them in the right drawer. Sometimes one form is in the correct drawer and one is not, and sometimes neither form is in the right drawer. But always--ALWAYS, damn it!--if the “missing” form is not in the correct drawer, it is in a drawer precisely adjacent to the correct drawer. That means there are a maximum of three additional drawers in which to search for the form.

“But,” says the secretary, “I can’t go ALL OVER THE PLACE looking for the form.”

It gets better, though, because this week she couldn’t find one of the forms. So, like the idiot I am, I went in to look for it. I opened the drawer. On top was the empty clipboard that holds the form she had already collected. I lifted up the clipboard. And there, like the Golden Ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was the blessed form. She DIDN’T EVEN LOOK!

Now on to part two.

Our office answering machine had a message from an employee at another location stating that she needed certain supplies. When that happens, the secretary purchases the supplies, and I take them to the other location because I am over that way quite often. Did I mention that the employee said she urgently needed the supplies?

After a couple of days had passed and there were no supplies for me to deliver, I said to my secretary, “Please let me know when you have bought the supplies so I can take them over.”

“You didn’t tell me to buy them.”

Somebody else was in the office, so I didn’t say what was really on my mind, which was “Waaaaaaaaagh!” as I plunged a stapler into her heart.

I also wanted to say, “And I didn’t tell you to breathe, but you managed that. And I didn’t tell you to pick up your paycheck, but you did that. And I certainly didn’t tell you to leave the office early last Friday but still put on your time card that you worked a full shift, but you sure as hell did that.”

Instead, I said nothing, and several arteries in my brain disintegrated.

So be glad you don’t work here. I might just kill you with a stapler.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Books Aren't Just for Throwing Anymore

Reading is sacred to me. I do it as much and as often as I can. The following books and authors have been particularly nourishing to me over the years.
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway--this is perhaps my most favorite book.
  • Trumpet of the Swan, E. B. White--I read this as a boy and fell in love with it.
  • Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels--these inspired the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. He may be the best novelist of the modern era.
  • Roger Angell’s baseball books--if you love baseball, you’ll love these nonfiction books. He is E. B. White’s stepson.
  • Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy may not be great literature, but the books are damn funny. The movie didn't do it justice.
  • The Iliad/The Odyssey, Homer--I thought I’d be bored stiff, but figured I should read them anyway. Instead, I was engrossed from start to finish.
  • Jennifer Roberson has written a number of historical novels and fantasy series. She should be much more well known.

What are your favorites?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Working 9 to 5...or Thereabouts

I review the hourly employees’ timecards every Monday. We do not have a time clock, so the times are filled in by hand.

Here’s the conversation I had with my secretary this morning.

Me: Are the hours you filled in for Friday correct?

Secretary: Yes.

Normally, I am not in the office on Friday afternoons, and so I cannot observe whether or not she is in the office. Guess what: last Friday, I was in the office for a short time.

Me: I was here from 2:45 to about 3:15. I didn’t see you here. When I left, I locked up your computer and the copy room. They were still locked when I arrived Sunday.

I work on Sunday, but the secretary doesn’t, and she almost never locks her computer or the copy room.

S: I was here. Maybe I took my lunch at a different time, but that’s when I thought I took lunch.

She had marked her lunch as 1:30-2:30pm.

Me: When it comes to your timecard, you can’t think you’ve got it right. You must fill it out accurately.

She was lying through her teeth.

Additional note: my e-mail inbox has 666 messages. Could that mean anything?

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Friday, March 16, 2007

I Think She Wants an Excuse to Kill Me

This morning, my wife was getting herself ready for a job interview (yea!). She asked me the only question with a higher Chaos Rating than "What do you think of this outfit?" on the Freudenberger Scale for Questions to Get Your Husband in Big Trouble.

She said, "How old do you think I look?"

I am sure she could see the confusion and fear in my eyes. My head began to spin. I clutched the bathroom counter for support.

I know very well, of course, that the number I gave in answer the very first time--because there are no second chances with a question like that--needed to be significantly less than her current age, but not too small, or my wife would think that I were merely humoring her. I also knew that I had less than 10 seconds to answer, or my wife would accuse me of fabricating an answer. (In the same way, when the wife says "Why do you love me?" then the husband had better rattle off a dozen excellent reasons within eight seconds or face full spousal wrath.)

So I said, tentatively, "30?" I looked at her for the signs of an eruption. Sweat beaded on my forehead and dripped into my coffee.


"So I look a lot younger than I am." There was no trace of irony, and she seemed genuinely pleased. I had dodged a bullet!

Then she asked, "What do you think of this outfit?"

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Don't Tell Me YOU Haven't Ever Done Anything Impulsive

Person Who Is Not Me, looking at me as if I am totally nuts: “How many days did you spend in one another’s presence before you got married?”

Person Who IS Me, trying to avoid eye contact: “About ten days.”

PWINM: “And you, of all people, should know better.”

Me: “Yes, I know.”

PWINM: “What was the rush?”

That’s a damn good question, and I can’t give a perfectly satisfactory answer.

You see, my wife and I met online. We used to play cards together. After about nine months, we finally met face-to-face. I spent a week with her. About a week after I came back home from that trip, we decided to get married. To repeat: we met for the first time in January and got married in March. Our 6th anniversary is about a week away.

I think the best answer to the question about the rush to get married is this (and there’s no need to tell me that’s not a good enough answer!): it was getting expensive to carry on a relationship when we were thousands of miles apart.

It is true that things have been more difficult for us because we rushed, but I love my wife, and I’m glad I’m married to her. And we’re working on things. We have made a lot of progress in six years, and we’re still climbing.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Reasons Why I Feel Inadequate

Everywhere I go, I compare myself to people around me. And usually, unless I am visiting my brother at Happy Day House for Paranoid Schizophrenics Whose Brains Are Destroyed from Years of Heavy Drug Use, I compare poorly. The same is true when I read your blogs.

Here are some reasons for my feelings of inadequacy, in no particular order...

  1. Mel still holds to that beautifully naive belief that children are gifts from God and should not be wiped from the face of the earth (or at least my house).
  2. Everybody loves Neil. That's why it is so galling that my penis has never said so much as a single word in its nearly 40 years of existence.
  3. Not only does Sizzle seem like a genuinely kind and caring person, she has actual c-a-t-s (take that Blogger ads) in her actual apartment. Oh how my soul would rejoice if I could have some in my house.
  4. Jason has the greatest blog title in the world. Space Monkey Pants is to Long Relief what filet mignon is to baloney. How cool is that? Space. Monkey. Pants.
  5. LVGurl lives in Vegas. Need I say more? She probably dines with Elvis impersonators every day. And she has Tapatio brand salsa picante in her house!
  6. Eileen Dover has a wonderfully exotic accent. That's what happens when you're an Aussie. I'd really love to visit Austin, Texas some day. Any tips for this tourist, Dover?
  7. Have you ever noticed my masthead? I thought not. Dooce is the Queen of All Mastheads. I am so jealous.
  8. And then there's SWF41. She killed her brother with an axe! Okay, she didn't kill him, and it was a hatchet, but still, that woman has got balls.
  9. Bre lives in the land of perpetual ice, snow and minus eight degree temperatures. That is just not fair to those of us who live in harsh places where the sun shines 360 days a year, and the mercury never drops below 62. Have you no shame, Bre?
  10. The Love Monkey (no relation to Space Monkey Pants) is just straight up funny. I aspire to be just like her when I reach her venerable age--83 I think.

And there's more, of course. So much more.

(To be continued.)

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Separated at Birth?

There is a Korean woman who works in the same building I do. She is probably in her 50s. The other day, we passed one another and she said, “You’re so clean cut. You look like Jesus.”

That is definitely not the look I was going for.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Did I Mention...

...that it's over 80 degrees today?


Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Day Neil Kramer Saved My Life

I know. I’m a big dope. I told communicatrix I’d participate in the Carnival of Neilochka, and I missed every single deadline. I do want to add something to the festivities because Citizen of the Month is a damn funny site. Plus, this is a story that must be told.

I have chosen to write about the day Neil Kramer saved my life!

The date was June 6, 1944. Sergeant Kramer stood in line ahead of me as our Higgins boat pitched and rolled toward the sands of Omaha Beach. Artillery shells splashed into the water all around us, but waiting silently in the bunkers ahead were countless Norwegian soldiers ready to cut us down...wait a minute...let me check Wikipedia...

Yes, just as I thought, numerous German soldiers were waiting patiently in their bunkers.

When the door crashed down, we rushed the beach. Almost immediately an explosion sent me flying face first into the sand. After gathering my wits, I searched for my muzzleloader and...hold on...Wikipedia again...

I picked up my Garand rifle and looked up for the only thing that could relieve the panic that was turning my insides to mush. And there he was, our grizzled veteran, that tower of strength for every scared kid like me on that beach, Sergeant Kramer.

“Old Rocky Bottom,” as we lovingly called him, stood erect, waving his giant sword...just a moment...held his Thompson submachine gun aloft and urged us forward. Bullets ricocheted all around him. A grenade landed at his feet, but he kicked it away and laughed--he laughed! He even caught one bullet in his teeth and spit it back toward the enemy.

Move, men!” he bellowed above the din. He was our leader, and we obeyed.

I moved up and had almost reached cover behind a tank trap when everything went black. A blast had knocked my body around like a rag doll and knocked me momentarily unconscious. It had also thrown me forward, right in the enemy’s line of fire.

As I came to, Sergeant Kramer had me by the collar. Using his superhuman strength, he flung me to safety, completely ignoring the shrapnel that just sliced into his hip. Once I was back behind cover, Sarge called for the medic, but alas, he had been killed as soon as we left the boats.

I was horrified to see that my head had been blown clean legs...both my legs had been blown off, which, of course, is why everyone calls me Lefty now. I was losing blood fast, and there was no time to spare. Sergeant Kramer plugged one artery with his right index finger, plugged the other with his left, and with his teeth, he tore bandages from a dead soldier’s uniform. He had taken his boots and socks off, and was preparing a morphine shot with his toes.

All the while, his Talking Penis tried to comfort me. “Hang in there, soldier. You can’t die on me, kid, and that’s an order!” his Talking Penis shouted.

Once I was patched up and out of immediate danger, the Sergeant faced a dilemma. Since he couldn’t leave the men, and since he couldn’t leave me behind, the Sarge strapped me to his back using the intestines of a fallen buddy. He charged into the fray, and everyone followed.

Sergeant Kramer single-handedly cleared ten that day and won the battle at Omaha Beach. And with it, Neil Kramer saved a nation.

Sergeant Kramer, Hero Kramer, would later die in a tragic accident involving tequila and the giraffe from an African safari, a sad broken man who could never come to terms with the terrible things he saw “over there”.

Though the nation has forgotten him, Neil Kramer will always hold a special place in my heart. He will always be the man who saved my life.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

You Want Me to Do WHAT?

This is turning out to be a busy week at the office. It seems as if they want me to do actual work.

That means, of course, that I can’t put as much effort into keeping up with your lives, learning about the sounds your various body parts make, looking at pictures of the insides of your refrigerators, or getting detailed descriptions of the snot and/or vomit that comes from your children.

It also means that you will also be deprived of reading about my fascinating existence. Most of you just can’t get through the day without reading my complaints about cats or a careful description of my stapler, pretending it is actually something interesting, such as an ancient fossil.

I’ll do my best, but I can’t promise anything. After all, I’ve got to pay for my coke habit.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

The Seven Biggest Disappointments of My Life to Date

  1. Pro wrestling is fake.

  2. I have never had a date with Margaret Thatcher.

  3. Two words: Beatles Reunion Tour.

  4. My goal was to read through the entire dictionary by age 30. I am now nearing 40, and I am only on the word “abaft”. The dictionary is a lot less interesting than you would think.

  5. Baseball Hall of Fame voters have bypassed Steve Yeager every year he has been eligible.

  6. I have no superpowers.

  7. Flying cars and jetpacks are not everyday accessories.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Word about Cats, Part 2

Previously, on Long Relief:

I wrote an 80,000 word rant about cats and their effects on wild birds, and promised more. This time, I will describe my experiences with one particular cat, known by some around the neighborhood as Big Louie.

When we first moved into our house, new windows were still going in. Most of the work was finished, but the screens had not been put back up. We arrived in the late summer, and kept the windows open most of the time because the weather was only slightly less warm than Satan’s waiting room.

The very first morning in our new home, I woke up to get ready for work. I trudged toward the kitchen to make coffee. Halfway down the hall, who should I meet but Big Louie, who had come to say “welcome to the neighborhood.” Needless to say, I chased him out my daughter’s bedroom window before he had the chance to give me the plate of freshly-baked cookies he had brought.

I live in a household of nearly all women and girls, and they think all cats are cute and cuddly, and I should love them. My wife, my daughters, and their friends all told me I should give Big Louie a chance. He’s just a cat. It’s not his fault he’s so lovable that he just had to come in and give me a kiss that first morning.

After a while, the women’s encouragement (some less tactful writers might call it “nagging”) broke me down. Even though whenever I’d weed my garden (a task I do by hand), I always found a nice gooey glob of half-buried cat poop, perhaps it was true that I was being too hard on Big Louie. And since he kept coming around no matter how vigorously I chased him away, I decided to try kindness.

Pretty soon, Big Louie and I developed something of a rapport. I spend a lot of time reading on my back patio, and soon, whenever he’d see me there, he came around for scratches on his head. It even got to the point where he’d crawl up in my lap for a nap.

It seemed as if this story would have a happy ending, two buddies whiling away the hours together. Unfortunately, it was too good to be true.

One day, as we sat together, a starling landed in the middle of the yard. In a flash, Louie leapt from my lap and snatched the bird in his jaws. He rushed around the side of the house with his prize, splattering blood all over the patio.

From that moment on, Big Louie was again no longer welcome in my yard. I am a bird watcher, and my yard has been landscaped to attract birds, not to provide Louie a private hunting ground. Now, whenever I see that cat in my yard--no matter what I’m doing--I’ll rush outside to chase him off. If he’s in someone else’s yard, I’ll leave him be, but just stay out of mine.

Some time after that fateful afternoon (henceforth referred to by the starling community as Black Saturday), I was bringing groceries into the house. Between trips, I naturally left the front door open since I’m not very good at opening doors with my teeth. On my way back outside, guess who was standing in my dining room, drooling and looking up at my parakeets in their cage? It wasn’t Santa Claus, that’s for sure. It wasn’t even Dick Cheney.

Now tell me, if one of my children or my dog or my alligator (funny story about that one; I’ll tell it another day) went into somebody else’s yard on a regular basis, and killed small animals about the neighborhood, and went into a neighbor’s house more than once, don’t you think I’d catch hell? Don’t you think my neighbors would scream at me and possibly even threaten to call the police?

But hey, it’s just Big Louie, and he’s small and cute. What can you do? Cat’s will be cats. Well, let me tell you, there is a double cat standard here, and I don’t like it!

All right, I promise, no more cat entries.

You’re dismissed.

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