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The dragon that swam
In the seas of life
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Need to talk to me about fictionslamming? Or did you want to get in touch with me, and didn't have my email address? Comment against this post! (If you want to make a friends-locked application to join fictionslamming, please include the full text of your application in comments, I'll repost it and let you know when I've done so.) All comments against this post are screened (this means that nobody can see them but me). If you post anonymously, it becomes very hard for me to reply to you; the odds are that you're not entirely comfortable with what you're saying (so you're posting it anonymously) which makes me uncomfortable with unscreening it.

Please don't ask me to help you with technical LiveJournal stuff, though. (See below.)

Feeling: happy helpful
Listening To: New Order: Shellshock

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LiveJournal support, oddly enough. I don't work for them any more. Even when I did, I didn't like it when people I didn't know asked questions in my journal, instead of using the support page.

Original, snarkier versionCollapse )

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Feeling: annoyed annoyed

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It's distressing to read that the_ferrett had to take a guess at whether he was having a heart attack, because he couldn't afford to blow $5,000 on a false alarm. Like most Australians, I pay 1.5% of my income towards universal health insurance. (Low income people don't pay, but are still insured. High income people can either pay an extra percentage, or get private hospital cover.)

I don't understand how the topic is worthy of debate in the USA. How can government funding be so abhorrent that so many people are put at risk? In Australia, the only attempt to weaken Medicare since it was introduced in the 1970s was the disastrous conservative campaign of 1992 - since then, it's understood that Australians will not tolerate any attempt to take our excellent healthcare system away.

Of course, 'socialized medicine' means that there is no freedom of choice, right? Well, no, actually.

In a potentially amusing conincidence, I've just had microsurgery, and I've chosen to spend $5,000 of my own money getting it done by the person that my research indicates is the best in the country. Because if you're going to slice open my scrotum, I'm hiring the best damned scrotum-slicer I can find.

But when I was in a very bad place 10 years ago, the government contributed a couple of thousand to my psychiatrist bills, and I didn't pay a damned cent for the times I went to hospital (not the time that I didn't have a stroke, not the time that I didn't have a heart attack, and not the time that I didn't break my neck). The thought that I would have had to weigh up my finances and say to the doctor "Actually, I can't afford an X-Ray" or "Actually, I can't afford a CAT scan of my spine" - that terrifies me.

Feeling: quixotic quixotic

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I'm very glad to see that some of my favorite people are still posting. Perhaps from another site, but still posting.
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Medical TMICollapse )

I guess the point is this: I got cut in a very sensitive place, and I'm trying to be brave, and I'm trying to remember that they did it because I asked them to. But it was scary, and it hurt, and I'm not over it, and I want to be coddled.
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I don't know to say. I've wanted to write something for a few days now. Back in the day, I'd have spent several hours a day for a week coming up with a killer post that would have knocked everybody's socks off. I've been 'processing', as Kim and I call it. I think about what has happened, and possibly even feel about it. And it builds up, and I sort through the stuff.

I had my vasectomy reversed two weeks ago. The process of getting that to happen has forced me to revisit the most painful and distressing experiences of my adult life, possibly of my entire life. My kids don't talk to me, don't seem to want to. I'm numb to it most of the time, and that makes life bearable.

Vasectomy reversal turns out to be more painful to recover from, over a longer time, than vasectomy. More on that in a separate post. It's been hard, and it hurts, and I want to cry, but I'm scared to cry. And LJ is a good place to cry, I guess.

But hey - it's important to be optimistic, and to mine the silver linings. I was able to afford this expensive surgery, and to take time off for it, and I now own the house I live in (and I pay less to the bank than I used to pay in rent). My wife doesn't just love me, she also likes me. And she is gradually loosening my ties to the guilt and shame that have trapped me for most of my life.

I'm working at a company that I chose because I kept meeting former employees of that place who were the amazing self-confident people. And I want that self-confidence, and I think that it's working. Plus, the pay is pretty good, and the conditions are far better than what I'm used to. I have a good boss, and that makes a world of difference.

I'm achieving things that I'm proud of, when I stop to think about it - although not enough for me to feel satisfied. There are so many things that I 'should' be doing. My talent is going to waste - or some such bullshit.

Perhaps I'm allowed to take a holiday, some time off to do (or not do) whatever I feel like. Even if I don't feel like I deserve one.
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As many of you know, I have difficulty tolerating the company of people who care about me. It's frustrating, and strikes me as completely stupid, but it's a difficulty that I have. I'm now married (for 8 months now) to a woman who really cares about me, and I've spent more of the last 2 years avoiding her than I consider right. But she forgives me, because she's wonderful.

I came to honestly believe that my work colleagues really do care about me in the recent past. (It's been true for a lot longer than I've been able to believe it.) As a result, I've been off work for 3 weeks. I'm going back on Monday, and I'm scared, but I know that it's an irrational fear.

And, an important thought on PTSD (embraced by my psychiatrist): when something makes us feel guilty and helpless, we will feel compelled to learn how to deal with it. If 'a bad thing happening' is falling into a pit, then the compulsion is to learn how to climb out. The thing that makes it post-traumatic stress disorder is the compulsion to throw yourself back into the pit so that you can learn to climb out.

But you don't have to stop climbing when you reach ground level.
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I like this whole business of posting using your real name. And a friend of mine has gotten me interested in blogging again, by blogging about things that I'm interested in. Here's a link to a friend of that friend of mine.
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Seven years ago, when I started this journal, my life was shit. I had been forced out of the house I'd shared with my wife of nine years, and was living alone in the cheapest flat I was willing to move into. I had fascinating neighbours of the "Gosh it's a good thing you're not going to let an attempted murder conviction get in the way of a friendship" sort, and was holding on to life (let's not discuss sanity or hope just now) by a pretty narrow thread. LiveJournal (more importantly, the people I met there) saved my life. In an existance where leaving the house was a noteworthy achievement, there were people who understood me, and who would celebrate an achievement like that. I met a whole bunch of people, many of them even stranger than I was, and began to feel that there was a place for me in the world.

Things are different now, very different. I've been living with Kim for a bit more than a year now, and we're getting married in November. I have an exciting, challenging job, which stretches me to the limit (and sometimes past that point) in more ways than I imagined possible, and I'm succeeding at it. I have worked miracles, and continue to work miracles.

And I don't know how to talk about it, or where to talk about it, or how to get the feedback that helped me get a sense of perspective, and to climb out of the pit. Kim is wonderful, but she's in here with me, living the life with me, and so she's a participant, she's not out there in the audience. And I can't talk about the things I don't understand in this forum. When I have broken my rule of "Only talk about yourself on LJ" it hasn't gone well, and I'm glad I've never blogged about work in a way that could hurt me. When you have an exciting challenging job, there's plenty of things that are hard to understand. And I have this sense that I'm doing really well, but I don't trust it. And I don't know how to go about checking it.

The struggle against impossible odds gave my life meaning. If I win, I want to reap the rewards that I'm able to collect. But I don't trust it.

And talking out the problem seems to help a little. What I really need to do is reality-test this, not social-test it. I have to decide what are the measures that really matter to me, then make an assessment in terms of those measures, then work out what to do about the findings.

Thanks for listening ;)
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A week ago, I was feeling miserable about a situation at work (largely resolved now). I called my dad, asked him to help me cope, and received a combination of emotional support and good advice. I felt much better afterwards.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

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There is an ancient Chinese saying "In times of crisis, great leaders will emerge."

The evidence of recent years indicates that there is no crisis in Australia, so that's good news.

Feeling: amused amused

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Things have been getting better for a long time now. I'm ready to say that I have a good life. I don't want to go into detail, because keeping a thought secret makes it more powerful, and I want these thoughts to have all the power they can get. But things are good for me, and I'm looking forward to being ready to share more about that.
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Moving house this weekend, to move in with Kim. I don't want to talk too much about how awesome that is, because some feelings are worth holding on to, instead of releasing them to the world. She's the one that needs to know these things, the rest of you can just look on in awe, rather than reading massive explanations.

I have some things to bitch about too. But I don't like bitching in writing (and the bitching is not about Kim).

Sal Khan is pretty damned cool.

Watched The Boy Who Could Fly on Sunday night, and appreciated it much more than I did when I was 11. For one thing, I had a shoulder to cry on, it's not an easy movie to watch. (But if he loved her that much, why leave? It's not as upsetting as Revolutionary Girl Utena where the romantic fantasy is replaced with something else, but the movie had been so real in so many ways, that it's hard to accept that real people do walk away from the people they love. Even if real people really do that.)

Watching Sal Khan makes me want to write about Chinese philosophy again. Although, I'm starting to think that I've studied philosophy widely and deeply enough that I have my own philosophy. But I don't know what to say without imagining an audience.

I know the self-help story that I really want to tell. It's called When I Stopped Hitting My Wife. These days, I think it has a better chance of being a story of how I found a better way to live and less of a horrible, painful confession.
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It is so definitely 'posting frenzy' time. I'm decompressing after working way too hard for way too long, and I've finally got some quality time with me, myself, and I. As is my wont, I have spent much of the weekend so far in ritualistic self-abuse, specifically, staying up way too late and watching tv (seriously, until 4:30am? The Wire is good, but it could just have easily have waited a few hours.)

I'm bored with the self-abuse and the anorexia and the insomnia. Guess those are the next things I'm going to be working on. Mind you, none of those things are as bad as they used to be.
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So, on Thursday, I found myself pondering that memetic question "What would you say to yourself, if you could send a message to the person you were 10 years ago?"

I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the answer was "I have most of the things you want. Thank you."

Feeling: pleased pleased

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I'd love to tell you about my work, but there's a limit to my ability to talk about that in a public place (and a friends-locked post only affords so much protection). When I quit the Chinese Medicine course, it was because (among many other reasons) I realised that there are very few people in the world who can teach me more about healing minds than I've already been taught, and that most of my learning was going to come from doing. Did I really want to spend years getting a piece of paper, or did I want to just get out there and do it?

And I realised that workplaces are where a lot of mental health injuries occur, and where a lot of opportunities for helping people are. Because if you spend a full working day around someone, you're going to have an impact on their mental health. And while I don't mind programming, the thing I really enjoy is being in the company of programmers.

So, a year and a half ago, I found myself appointed an IT manager, not my first supervisory appointment, but the first time where I'm reporting directly to a company director. It's been a hell of a ride, and in the last few weeks, a whole bunch of things have come together, and I'm really proud of what I've achieved.

And I can't tell you about it. Because the things that matter, the things that I'm really proud of, have to do with the mental health of people that aren't me. And it has to do with the mental and social health of a company. When my mind split open, and I could no longer pretend to myself that I was one person, I was well motivated to learn about teamwork, and I did so. It seems Musashi was right - if you can learn to defeat one person, you can learn to defeat two, which means you can learn to defeat five, which means you can learn to defeat ten. I've learned to forge partnerships, then teams, then coalitions.

Which is a long-winded introduction to what prompted me to talk, which is this story of an officer cadet who is proud of her squad. I found out about it from FPB's observations on leadership, and his comment that "This young woman seems to have what it takes to get people to risk their lives in your name." The only mistake that he makes is that he attributes it to a mysterious gift that can not be understood, as opposed to something that can in fact be understood, studied, learned, and taught. Allow me to demonstrate this by explaining what she did, and how you can do it too!

Firstly, let's look at FPB's rather instructively-chosen example of how to get it wrong. That's right, treating your soldiers with contempt will lead to them finding out that you don't like them, and at the end of the day, they won't like you. If they don't like you, their willingness to get themselves killed because they think it's what you want is diminished.

Kate describes her squad as "fantastic", and she does it in a sincere way. She also intends to supply them with food - giving food to people is a very effective way of getting them to look favourably at you. But there's more to it than that, she's actually tapping into a much greater need, one that's rarely fulfilled:

My team. Which had abandoned its squad leader because they saw me running around. That was a very wicked, tactically unsound thing of them to do, and it means that I failed to tell Hill that he was in charge, and that the SL lost command and control of his element...I also know that they would have run after any other junior they were used to.

But even considering all that and knowing that it is basically just a game, I can't help but thrill at the fact that my people followed me into "battle" because it was me and not someone else.


This is the key to understanding Kate's leadership. Everything you need to know is in those paragraphs. Let's start with the obvious, and proceed to the obscure:

She's really pleased by the fact that her squad demonstrated loyalty to her. This is actually extremely important, and it lays the foundation for everything else. If she's picking up on evidence that she's leading effectively and she feels happy when she gets that evidence, then she's going to learn leadership faster. Celebrating wins is vitally important for learning in any field of endeavour, and here she is, winning and celebrating.

She's disappointed in them for a failure of discipline, even though that breach of discipline had no immediate negative consequences. Coming to her rescue was tactically unsound (and, if you read the full post, she didn't actually need rescuing). One imagines that she's going to tell them that they really shouldn't have done it.

She's pleased with them for their loyalty, in the same breath as she's disappointed about the discipline issue. Similarly, even though she's really pleased with herself for winning their loyalty, she's disappointed with herself for giving unclear orders. This capacity to see the silver lining and the clouds at the same time is essential to effective leadership. And that's where she's tapping into that greater need. If you can say to someone "I'm really pleased with you because of X, and disappointed by Y" then you send a mixed message. Mixed messages are addictive. For the mixed message to be genuinely effective, you have to include simple messages, otherwise anyone with a brain will eventually say "That person always sends out mixed messages" and then they interpret everything as a negative, and you've lost them. (Indeed, as I become more and more comfortable with my life, I try to keep my individual messages very simple, and let them build into a complicated, mixed picture.)

Finally, if you know what loyalty looks like, you'll recognize that not only was Kate's squad loyal to her, but she is loyal to them. Reciprocity is a very powerful force - give enough of something out, and it will eventually start coming back to you.
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Also, Thursday night was awesome. I met a brilliantly intelligent consultant who wants to talk to me and steal my ideas. In return, he's going to explain some of his ideas to me. I sent him a LinkedIn invite, and he responded with "I'm avoiding LinkedIn, there's too many people who want to talk to me."

When your ego has taken a real hammering, it's nice to get it boosted :)
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There are two things that I didn't realise about being in middle management, the fear and the isolation.

The fear comes from the fact that when I'm doing my job really well (everything is running smoothly, nobody's having any problems) it doesn't just look like I'm not doing anything - it can be the case that leaving capable people to just get the job done is the best thing I can do. That, and if you've managed to train your people to the point where they're doing their jobs properly, then when things go wrong, the blame can be laid pretty squarely on the pointy-haired idiot who didn't give the right person the right information at the right time. Not to mention the fact that it actually gets harder to stand up to senior management once you've been promoted, because you're supposed to be 'part of the team' now.

And the isolation comes from having principles - I do my best not to talk about stories that aren't mine to tell, and now that my job is significantly about other people, it's hard to talk about any of my stuff without talking about other people's stuff. My achievements center around getting people to trust me, and smoothing over communication problems. Sometimes this requires me to talk about someone to someone else, but if it doesn't, then I need to respect people's confidences.

Plus, I care about my work quite deeply - which means that I'm committed to an emotional rollercoaster. I learn faster, but I hurt more. Which kinda sucks, but there you have it.
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Those of you who know me, online or offline, are probably aware that if I say "I've had a troubled relationship with my father," it's usually because I'm being polite. That talking to him on the phone has caused me such distress that I could be disabled by it for days afterwards (and beforehand, too, if I knew it was coming up).

I had dinner with him on Monday, and lunch with him on Wednesday, and dinner with him and my girlfriend on Wednesday. And I feel great. We were able to talk about things that I've held back on for years, and I don't think he was expecting to be able to say some of the things that he said. Some of it was difficult. During the most difficult parts, I held his hand (or perhaps he held mine) and we helped each other get through it.

I always thought that this kind of happiness only happened to other people, perhaps only to fictional people. I'm glad I was wrong.

Feeling: grateful grateful

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I've spent a lot of the last year being patient. Interestingly enough, the better I get at being patient, the less need I seem to have for patience. When I'm frustrated, I tend to lose sight of the progress I've made (or am making), which leads to frustration.... Nice to be in the opposite cycle :D
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Non-spoilery version: There's no denying that this is a distressing movie. I found it almost as distressing as Perfect Blue, which is quite an achievement in a PG-rated film. However, I think it's a great movie, for reasons very similar to why Perfect Blue is one of my favorite movies.

No more spoilery than a normal film review version: Spike Jonze has made a fairy story for grown-ups. It's easy to forget what fairy stories are like for small children - as we grow up, what we remember is that we found fairy stories comforting. And they are comforting, once you know how they end. But the biggest fear small children have is that something will happen to their parents, and fairy stories tend to begin that way. As a parent, I've told fairy stories to small children, and become re-acquainted with the terror that they induce.

The first time you tell the story, you have to stop several times to reassure and to explain. Only when you're telling it the third or fourth time can you roll straight through and tell the story from start to finish in a clean motion, because only then has the child developed the understanding that is required to cope with the distressing parts of the story. This is what makes fairy stories worthwhile as educational tools - what starts out as unbearable without help becomes bearable and then becomes comforting. The world that seemed so incomprehensible and impossible becomes something easier to understand and easier to bear.

The fairy stories that really mean something present something truly terrifying, and help towards seeing that horrible thing in a better light. It's not easy to see the positive in the film version of Where The Wild Things Are. Sitting there, surrounded by parents and their kids, I wished I was watching it with them, and imagined myself helping them cope. In the end, that's the reason I was able to cope with it myself; having the 'parent mode' of my mind activated meant that I had someone explaining the movie to me. It was terrifying and difficult, but ultimately reassuring. (The fact that I already knew how it ended really helped.)

Properly Spoilery version - but understanding the movie before you see it might not be a bad thingCollapse )
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Thanks to those who helped with my research assignment (nice to get one of those from work!) - something that might be of broad interest that I came across in the process is that planning to do something makes you more likely to do it, and more likely to want to do it. The second part of the finding is particularly interesting, IMO.
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I have a work-related question for LJ to help me with, and it's not even creative writing (wow, such a thing is possible)!

Does anybody know if there is some citable research into survey bias due to elapsed time after the event being asked about? We need to compare customer service related surveys that are done immediately after a customer-service event with surveys that are done a week or two afterwards. There are some immediately obvious answers that anyone who knows brains can come up with, but is there any research that actually investigated this stuff, or a similar-enough phenomenon that we can say "What the research says is..."?
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dalekboy posts:

I'm looking for a Canberra (or nearby) based geek girl, preferably with a nice pair of geek girl glasses, for a photoshoot idea. Costume would ideally be fur bikini ala Raquel Welch in One Million B.C.. Is this you, or a friend? Contact me for details. No money, but a full set of photos from the shoot would be provided.

I can think of several geek girls in Canberra who might do this, and those that I can think of read my LJ :D (I don't know him terribly well, but I've been in a room with him, and know women that are his friends, so he probably won't kill you, cut you into pieces, and put you in the freezer. Probably.)
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You might be aware that the Australian federal government is taking submissions on whether we should have an R rating for computer games. That link is to the relevant part of their website.

Had an awesome weekend. Tired now.

Feeling: sleepy sleepy

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If I had a warning label, what would it say?

Feeling: sheepish

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Pay close attention to 100dates for the adventures of someone you might know with someone else you might know! (I've met her IRL and since I'm off the market, I'm hoping to have some vicarious fun.) And help Sarah out if you can, she's friendly. (And now, I find myself curious as to whether someone else will decide that this is a good idea and give it a try.)

Damn it's nice being off the market for 9 months, with no end to that in sight. Many thanks to halloranelder for casting us as husband and wife in that game way back whenever it was - the vulnerability I felt in that role was matched only by the safety and confidence I felt when I realised that I could trust my partner completely. Having that experience repeat itself IRL has been terrifying and wonderful, but I'm getting used to feeling safe, accepting support, and being happy. I'm still profoundly mistrustful of 'happily ever after', but 'happily for a very long time' is looking achievable.

Susan Blackmore has some interesting things to say about religion. And certainly, my experience supports these findings - I've returned to my spirituality in the last couple of weeks, although the way I derive support from religion is not about 'faith in a god', which may or may not undermine some of what's being said. (The thing I have faith in, more than anything else, is uncertainty. Deriving comfort from such a faith takes some interesting mental gymnastics.)

Listening To: Spice Girls: Greatest Hits

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Seeing the kids on Saturday went really well, exceeding the hopes that I was trying to hide from myself, let alone the things I was letting myself think about. Which was stressful, because I was terrified that the spell would break. But we spent 5 hours together, and the spell didn't break.

It left me rather exhausted afterwards tho :)
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As the countdown to seeing my kids again counts down, I find myself confronting the separation and the way that the kids were treated at the time, and what I did, and what my ex-wife did. And I realise that a large part of my agenda is to prove to myself that I am not a monster.

And I find myself reading websites from the men's movement, some of them rabidly anti-feminist; at least as bad as the feminists I've complained about. Others making things that I consider to be valid points. Some doing a mixture of both. And I form a little more confidence in my own judgement, having steered away from rabid people who claim to be on the side of men, just as I have steered away from rabid people who claim to be on the side of women.

And I consider that while a great many women had their potential defined for them by stories where they wait to be rescued by a prince, a great many men have had their potential defined for them as 'worthless, unless you rescue a princess'. All the more reason to praise the original (and profoundly confronting) ending to Utena, as opposed to the ending that was substituted in the movie.

I have spent so much of my life thinking of myself as a worthless slave, in search of a worthy master (but really in search of a worthy mistress). But I am not worthless. I have options other than slavery. And I get closer to believing these things all the time.

Feeling: optimistic optimistic

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I have taken hold of the rudder of my life again, and am actively making choices about things, instead of letting myself be carried by the currents that seemed pretty determined to drag me around for the last year. Big day Saturday, I'll be seeing my kids for the first time in two years. Their mother has been supportive, but she worries about what might happen. So do I. It's nice to be approaching this from a more balanced perspective than I usually do.

Nice to be reading my flist again, too.
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