Monthly Archives: June 2012

Bloggin’ It Up Wizard Style

By: Rachel Womek

Good news Constant Readers! I got my birth certificate and we sent off for my expidited passport today. Celebratory exaltation is in order!

Yesterday I was bored so I watched Lawrence Krauss mop the floor with some philosopher in a debate on whether there is evidence for a deity, which can be seen here. The philosopher would have done better if he hadn’t tried to stick with a strictly Judeo-Christian version of God and if he hadn’t have continued to insist that the universe was fine tuned for “embodied, interactive, angels”, whatever that is supposed to mean. Krauss also showed a more respectful and open minded attitude to all possibilities than his opponent did, which ultimately may have pushed him over the finish line. Also empirical evidence, or in this case lack of empirical evidence, must be the final word in ways of knowing.

I also spent quite a bit of time playing Skyrim, which is about the ultimate method of ignoring the fact that time only goes in the one direction and entropy is progressive. I got a mod to spend dragon souls on perks, which is great, but then I used all of my souls so I had to get a perk which would allow dragons to spontaneously generate more frequently, so that I could kill a larger number of them. So yesterday and today I traveled around Skyrim trying to find and kill as many dragons as possible. so that, of all things, I could decorate one of my houses with weapons I made myself. Is that not the most pointless and inane of all endeavors? Well maybe not, I have seen that Rebecca Black video…

The rest of the day I spent on more practical, but also less fun efforts of trying to learn even a little but of Arabic. Like this one, written by Kiki, for me to translate:  as-sayyaara al-‘aswad wa as-sarii’  or The yellow car is fast. 30 more sentences like that and my brain is ready for another inane Skyrim vacation.

Categories: Adventure, Free Speech, Life, Nerd | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

New Goals, News, Movies and Science Stuff, Or Why Life Is Exciting (Or Not)…

By Kiki Keane and Rachel Womek

Well. Here we are again. It’s goal time. Maybe this week we will actually accomplish something! (Kiki is trying to be positive, here.)

Kiki:

I think it’s obvious that I accomplished nothing the last two weeks. Unless you count watching four seasons of Psych and two movies an accomplishment, in which case I would be golden!

1) Finish a book. Any book. 2) Read some trip related literature 3) Cut down on TV watching (except the news) 4) Figure out that Visa thing 5) Smile once a day. A real smile.

Rachel:

I read The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest and I watched a ton of movies this weekend, well three movies and one 10 hour mini series which I think counts as a movie since mini series are basically really long movies and are usually put out on DVD as such. Other than that I have been useless.

1) Finish a book…after finishing The Girl With The DragonTattoo trilogy I have been in a reading slump 2) Watch a movie 3) Be of general good cheer 4) Leave prank messages on the topic of hairy balls on various friend’s phones

Joint Goals

1) Don’t be depressed 2) Study Arabic

Other Stuff:

As you probably know, Egypt elected it’s very first president the other day. Morsi (and the Muslim Brotherhood) is the Big Man now. We hope it doesn’t impact our trip in a negative way. Here and here is the latest from MSNBC. Also, here and here is some analysis on what it means for Egypt and for America and the world.

In Iraq news, 43 news outlets have been forced to close due to issues with broadcast licensing.

There is a new Anna Karenina coming out soon. Kiki is super excited. They better not mess it up. In preparation for this, we and our friend, Dulce, will be reading (or rereading) the book. Wish us luck.

We also discovered that Odd Thomas will be made into a movie soon. Kiki is moderately excited about this piece of information.

Also exciting: Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider plan to make an announcement regarding the search for the Higg’s Boson at the International Conference on High Energy Physics  in Australia! Rachel is very excited about this, Kiki on the other hand doesn’t give a crap.

 

Categories: Books, Elections, Goals, Life, Media, Nerd, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Delicious Science, Honest Abe Kills Non-Sparkly Vamps, Books Are Heart-Cockle Warmers And How ‘Bout Those Elections?

By: Kiki Keane and Rachel Womek

Science, delicious, delicious science. I (Rachel) watched a great Ted Talk by Brian Greene earlier about string theory and the multiverse. My favorite thing he said was that the multiverse is “a great cosmic bubble-bath of Universes”, grab your rubber duckies people! I also watched some stuff with Richard Dawkins whom I like a lot, even though he is a bit extreme. He’s not a big fan of agnostics like me, but I can forgive that for his snarky attitude, and I love snark. That is why I am friends with a certain journalist.

I’ve been watching these because I am petsitting and largely deprived of going out for long periods of time, playing Skyrim, and I already finished my book. Sadness.

Last night I did go out and see two movies though, not something I normally do, and I am happy to report that I did so without getting a migraine. I saw Prometheus and, with Kiki, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. They were both good, in completely different ways, and I would recommend either.

Sadly, my (Kiki) life is not very exciting. This week was spent mostly in isolation watching Psych and the news. Last night I decided to go back to the land of the living.  As Rachel mentioned, we went to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (from here on out, ABVH). If you know me at all, you that I am 1) Snarky 2) A Purist and 3) A Party-pooper, especially when it comes to messing with history, my favorite things and/or my childhood. I admit, ABVH was entertaining. I enjoy fictional gore, vampires (not the sparkly kind), general badassery and Rufus Sewell’s big Brown (Hazel?) eyes and husky voice. But I LOVE Abraham Lincoln and history with a passion that I cannot fully express in words and to mess with my beloved president and history, creates in me a kind of eye-twitching irritation. The historical party-pooper in me wants to shake people and say, “Is nothing sacred?” On the other hand, as someone pointed out to me, this might be the only way that people will learn about Honest Abe, which is a sad commentary on our educational system.

In my isolation, I also did a lot of online shopping, mostly in the free Kindle book department. I love free books. Just wish they were “real” books. Nothing warms the cockles of the heart like the smell and feel of a beloved book, or any book, really.

So, how about those Egyptian elections? Here’s the latest from NBC Nightly News.

Categories: Books, Bull, Elections, Free Speech, Life, Media, Nerd, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Depression and Failure…

By: Kiki Keane and Rachel Womek

Sorry for the long absence folks. Rachel and I have been depressed.

My depression stems mostly from vanity. You see, I just had my 28th birthday and while 28 is not “old” it feels “old”. I have permanent lines around my eyes and mouth, my blonde hair is turning brown (just like my mom’s did when she got closer to 30), etc. Actually, it’s not really these signs of aging that have me down, though I would really rather keep my blonde (it’s really my best feature). What has me down is the fact that I am not where I planned to be at this age. Actually, I assumed I would be dead. Not because I ever wanted to die young, but because I was suppose to have accomplished everything I ever wanted to do and would have nothing left to live for. Unrealistic? Of course! And things gradually changed as I aged and I realized that I would not actually be able to colonize Mars by the time I was 16 or perform brain surgery by the age of 21 or discover a new continent by the age of 23. By the time High School rolled around I settled for being a graduate of Yale, Stanford, Harvard or Sarah Lawrence by 22, an award winning novelist by 25 and a Pulitzer winner by 26. Sadly, life and hormones happened and I didn’t even bother applying to any of those schools, I haven’t written a line since I turned 18 and I certainly haven’t received the Pulitzer. What have accomplished? A crap ton of debt that I can’t hope to pay back anytime soon, failed grad student (though my grades were pretty good) and being almost completely dependent on my aging grandparents. However, the one bright spot is that this year I finally have the courage to make one of dreams–the biggest dream–come true. This year could be good or could be really, really, really bad. So anyway, a failure induced depression and a good four-day pity party is the reason for my absence. And now that I have bored you with my whining, I will let Rachel bore you with hers. Then we will move on to more important things.

Rachel: I have been depressed for similar reasons. I may not even get to go to Egypt at all because my parents didn’t hold onto my birth certificate and I had to order a new one from California, which I did about 6 weeks ago and I still haven’t gotten it. I have been calling and calling and each time I called would sit on hold for an hour only to hang up because I have things to do and can’t stand around waiting for vital records to answer the phone. Today I just learned they don’t even have any representatives to speak to even though the recorded voice on the phone said their was so I have been calling in vain. Even if my birth certificate arrives tomorrow there is still no guarantee I’ll get my passport on time. I feel like a failure who is supposed to be an adult but can’t accomplish anything worthwhile that I can be proud of.

Don’t get us wrong. We aren’t just sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves. We are working on dealing with our self-pity. Rachel finds solace in killing things in Skyrim and I find solace in Psych and the news. No worries. We will be back to our usual snarky selves in no time. Just a minor set back on our way to becoming self-sufficient adults. And what is success without failure, any how?

Next post will be about more important things. Promise. No, really! Really! 

Categories: Adventure, Life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Leaving

By Kiki Keane

A family member recently asked me, “Why can’t you stay home?” I know she was really asking me, “Why do you insist on going to places that are so dangerous?” I have a number of set speeches, which I recite passionately and which she rejects with equal passion. But that question–“Why can’t you stay home?”–has been nagging me for weeks. After delving into my past I came up with the following: First, I don’t really have a home. I have moved 20 times in 28 years and I’m about to move again. I am both an island girl and a mainlander and I don’t really fit in either place. I’ve lived in small towns and small cities and big cities and foreign countries. When people ask me were I’m from I say, “Well, most recently…”

Secondly, I’ve got the bug. Not just the journalism bug, but the travel bug. I get happy looking at a map the way other girls get when there’s a shoe sale. I get this wonderful ache in my knees when I trace the outlines of countries on my globe. The only thing on my Bucket List are places (except for the item “Read Anna Karenina”, which I have never been able to get through). Leaving and the idea of leaving is so much a part of me that the idea of staying anywhere for a long period of time makes me claustrophobic. I get sick and distant and, at times, down right mean. I have to keep leaving because staying might actually kill me.

Third, I like that I can shed my past every time I go somewhere new. If I don’t like who I am I can leave that person behind like so much sloughed off skin. Travel lets you reinvent yourself and, if you do it right, you will be changed.

I’ll end with this: “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Some News Items:

Syria

Egyptian elections and the ‘coup’

China’s first woman in space

And here is Richard Engel’s latest Hidden Planet (North Korea)

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Breed Specific Legislation is Bullshit

By: Rachel Womek

Humans are inherently biased. We are racist, sexist, heterosexist, ableist, classist and many other forms of prejudiced. Humans are also biased towards other species of animal; we can get really specific. Today I am talking about Breed Specific Legislation, prejudice towards certain breeds of dog, which, in many places, is supported by law. This bais may include, but is not limited to:

Akita

American Bulldog

American Pit Bull Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier

Argentinean Dogo

Boxer

Bull Mastiff

Bull Terrier

Cane Corso

Chow Chow

Doberman Pinscher

Rottweiler

Shar Pei

Or any dog bearing even a slight resemblance to the aforementioned breeds. One town, Fairfield , IA, has banned all these dogs and more, any dog over 100 lbs, German Shepherds and Belgian Malanois (The top breeds used for police work).

Basically BSL is the doggy version of Eugenics. Dog attacks happen, they happen from so called “bully” breeds and they happen from breeds considered to be “family dogs”: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Collies, Border Collies, American Cocker Spaniels, Daschunds and Chihuahuas; to name a few. Dogs can bite. Dogs are domesticated carnivorous predators. If you look at the occurances of dog bites 99.9% of them occur due to negligence or blatant cruelty on the  part of the owner. Dogs don’t get socialized and taught how to behave towards people, dogs don’t get supervised when around strangers or children, dogs don’t get secured on leashes when outside, they don’t get confined within property properly. Thus dog bites happen. A severe dog bite can come from a Pit Bull or it can come from a Miniature Poodle: and yes small dogs can inflict big damage.

The legislation we need is for more responsible dog owners, not restrictions on certain breeds.

When a dog gets euthanized  for defending his caretaker against her wife-beating asshole husband there’s a problem.

When a little girl’s therapy dog is imprisoned for two years under constant threat of euthanasia simply for being a “Pit bull Type dog” there’s a problem.

The American Humane Association has this to say about BSL:

American Humane opposes legislation that seeks to ban a particular breed of dog. Such laws provide a false sense 
of  security as all dogs, when improperly treated or trained, can present a risk to public health. Breed-specific legislation that outlaws specific breeds of dogs
can increase the danger to the community by spawning black market interest, indiscriminate and irresponsible breeding practices,
and subsequent overpopulation issues.”   
                   

 

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An Accounting, New Goals, Syria And Punctuation Personality Types, Or Why Rachel Is Now Called Wednesday And Why Kiki Can’t Find The Glasses On Her Face…

By Kiki Keane

Apologies for our long absence. Rachel and I were busy (Rachel) and lazy (me). Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m going to take a dig at Rachel simply because she’s not here to defend herself. You see, Rachel has been busy this week, but there was a day were she could have blogged, but she decided instead to play Cards Against Humanity into the wee hours of the morning… Actually, it’s not much of a dig. Rachel would the be the first person to confess that she chose a game over blogging.

Anyway, enough of that. I am here for our weekly accounting. Rachel is busy running around and doing things that self-sufficiant adults have to do. Put simply, Rachel accomplished 1.5 out of 3 personal goals and is 1 for 1 in the collective category. As for me, I accomplished 1.5 out of 4 and a perfect 1 for 1 for the collective! In truth, however, things are little more complicated than that, at least as far as Rachel is concerned. Let me explain.

Rachel:

Rachel finished one whole goal, which was to watch two movies. She watched The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish version) and The Yacoubian Building. The other two goals (reading two books and being optimistic) were only half accomplished. Rachel read one book: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. As for her optimism… Well, she’s decided that I am the best judge. My ruling is as follows: 3 out of 6 days. She wasn’t optimistic in the strictest sense, but she did try to crack a few jokes while practicing Arabic. And there were a few moments were she wasn’t all doom and gloom. Some days I am tempted to call her Wednesday.

So you see, the tally isn’t exactly 1.5 out of 3. For all I know, Rachel might think she was pretty optimistic everyday. Until I learn to read minds (it’s on my Bucket List) I will have no idea what goes on in her dark, dark mind…

New Goals:

1) Read 1 book 2) Study Arabic 3) Cling to the remnants of her sanity

Kiki:

As always, I was a lazy lady this week. I think sometimes that I was born in the wrong class in the wrong century. I am much more suited to the life of country lady of yore. One who lays on an uncomfortable looking couch staring dreamily into the distance or being fed grapes by very handsome, very stupid man.

Moving on…

I watched The Yacoubian Building, which was my one fully accomplished goal. I even returned it to the library on time! I read one book, which was also called The Yacoubian Building (my halfway finished goal). I forgot to call the visa people. Every. Single. Day. I would only remember at night (like right now) when it was to late to call, which would cause a small panic attack (like I’m experiencing right now). So there went goals 3 and 5. I feel like I shouldn’t make “not panicking” a goal, since I panic a lot. Everyday. Sometimes multiple times a day. It’s hardwired into my DNA. It’s what I do. And I’m REALLY good at it. But, I hate it. So, I’m going to keep making it a goal and maybe one day I will successfully not panic. It’s funny though. I’m always much more calm when I’m traveling and have no idea what I’m doing. I only panic before I go…

As for reading 1984… well, I had to take it back to the library (I renewed it to many times) so I was unable to finish it. However, I will check it out again (and finish it!) as soon as I read one of the other library books I have stacked at the side of my bed. Which leads me to the half unfinished goal: reading a book relevant to my trip. Now, The Yacoubian Building is an Egyptian novel. So technically I could argue that I accomplished the entire goal, but that’s not what I had in mind. When I wrote “one relevant to my trip” I meant non-fiction and while I have read a good 200 pages of a couple of different non-fiction books about the Middle East, I didn’t finish a single one.

New Goals:

1) Read 1 novel and a book relevant to my trip 2) Study Arabic 3) Call the Visa people 4) Read two magazine articles a day 5) Not panic

Collective Goal(s):

1) Study Arabic together

Because I Haven’t Wasted Enough of Your Time…

I came across this today. It’s called Your Punctuation Personality Type, in which you can find out what your favorite punctuation mark says about you. It’s made up, of course, and I completely disagree with most of them because I see those punctuation marks differently. For example, I really love and abuse the ellipses. I like what it says or doesn’t say. I love that it leaves so much unsaid and that you, the reader, get to decide all that is in the … I think it shows a healthy respect for the unknown. This is what my personality type is according to the post: An indecisive and flighty person. You lose your train of thought easily. You are a follower and like to let other people take the risks. You often misplace your keys or spend ten minutes looking for the glasses you’re already wearing. Indecisive? Yes. It’s not because I can’t make a decision, but because I like adventure and because I really don’t care most of the time. Flighty? Maybe. I don’t forget the glasses on my face and I NEVER misplace my keys. Okay. I forget them sometimes, but only if I haven’t driven my car for a few days. Follower? Certainly not. Not unless there taking me to the ice cream shop or leading me to chocolate. I may not be a “leader,” but I’m definitely a risk taker. I am, after all, about to embark on a journey that could get me killed or imprisoned or just be an epic fail.

My other favorite punctuation marks are the parentheses and the exclamation point. I over use them. A lot. I don’t wholly agree with the personality assessment for these marks either, but they are half right. I am sarcastic, though I prefer the term “snarky,” and I am a very affectionate drunk, though I can sometimes be mean. It depends on what I’m drinking.

I also have great respect and am in awe, really, of the semi-colon. Mainly because it’s so powerful and so often misused.

Okay. Enough about the punctuation. How about some news? I’m only going to mention Syria because I have things to do and the sun is quickly setting.

It turns out that Syria’s regime is ‘wobbling’ and is descending into a civil war. Apparently it’s less like Libya and more like Baghdad. Here’s Richard Engel’s report on Nightly News yesterday and the bit he did with Andrea Mitchell today. Also, Russia seems to be giving the regime helicopter gunships.

Categories: Adventure, Books, Bull, Goals, Journalism, Life, Media, Nerd, Punctuation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Finished Book, A Diatribe Mixed With Self-Loathing And The Passing Of A Write…

By Kiki Keane

I have finally finished a book! I don’t know what’s been wrong with me the last several months. I used to be able to go weeks without turning on the TV and now channel surfing is the first thing I do upon waking. Taking the TV out of my bedroom hasn’t helped because of this new fangled thing called a computer, which has access to this other new fangled call the internet, which has all kinds of things to help you waste your time. Also, the computer has this awesome little device that allows you to watch DVDs. I am torn between loving technology and the ease with which it allows you to access information and hating because it is so distracting and has made the world so…fast. We know so many things and yet have no time to actually learn. I mean I would probably do pretty good on a current events quiz (as long as it had nothing to do with celebrities). I do watch and read a lot news. But does knowing equal learning? Also, I haven’t learned any of things I set out learn six months ago. Six years ago I was translating a chapter of the Odyssey after only studying Greek for a year (one hour three times a week for two semesters). Given that I could do that, shouldn’t I be farther along in Arabic than “a blue chair”? Yes! And why am I not? Because I can’t look away from the screen. Not the TV screen. Not the computer screen. And not the smartphone screen.

Okay. I’m done with my diatribe and self-loathing now.

On to the news.

Alright, I know that many important things have gone on in the world today: Another massacre in Syria, Russian lawmakers backing $9K fines for protesters, more protesting in Egypt, the anniversary of D-Day, etc. And these stories are important and should be acknowledged, studied and passed on. But for me, the news of Ray Bradbury’s passing is the one that I am most drawn to and the one that has occupied my thoughts the most today. Bradbury is the only writer that has ever, really, truly scared the s*** out of me. I still have nightmares twenty years after reading The Illustrated Man, which had the particularly disturbing story called The Veldt. More than that, though, Bradbury gave me one of the two mantras I live by: “You can’t try to do things; you simply must do them.” I say it whenever I go into a new situation. I used to think the implication was that you had to succeed at what you did. And maybe that was what Bradbury meant. But I choose to interpret it this way: You can’t try, you must do, but that doesn’t mean that you will succeed in what you do. The doing is the success.

I will leave you with this link to a nice bit that Neil Gaiman wrote about Bradbury.

Categories: Adventure, Books, Bull, Destopias, Goals, Journalism, Life, Media, Nerd, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sad Goodbyes, Goals Accomplished (?) And New One’s Made, Or We Are To Tired And Cranky To Come Up With A Better Title…

By: Kiki Keane and Rachel Womek

It is goal time again!

Rachel:

I hope you are doing well Constant Readers because my week is sucking. Yesterday my favorite tarantula passed away for no discernible reason and tonight I have to entertain both my sisters and their friends even though all I want to do is curl up with my book and curse society.

I got 1/2 of my goals accomplished. I read Prey by Michael Crichton and I Blogged about GLBTQ. I did not watch a movie nor did I post photos to the blog. Shame on me.

New Goals:

1)Read two books 2) Watch two movies 3) Be optimistic

Kiki:

Okay. If this were a society in which people were flogged for not doing what they say they are going than I would be in deep doodoo. Normally, I at least have my movie goal to make feel like I’m not a total failure, but this week…well…I should be flogged. However, I was a social butterfly ALL DAY LONG on Sunday (I hate being social), so I should get some points for that. Right? Right?

I did accomplish the collective goals, though. I studied Arabic and now know about 10 simple sentence structures, which would be useful if I could just remember the damnable words! I also got two vaccines on Tuesday: finished the Hep B series and started the Hep A. I’ll be done with my Typhoid vaccine tomorrow (I went for the pill option because it lasts longer).

New Goals:

1) Read a novel and a book relevant to my trip 2) Watch a movie 3) Call the Visa folks 4) Finish 1984 and 5) Not panic

Collective Goals:

Study Arabic

Categories: Adventure, Books, Bull, GLBT, Goals, Life, Nerd | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lots Of Troubling News And A Brief Ode To The Power Of A Good Traveler’s Tale On The Young

By Kiki Keane

More news from Egypt today. According to MSNBC, Mubarak was sentenced to life for the deaths of protesters just over a year ago. He could have been sentenced to death. Also on trial were his cronies and sons. His interior minister, Habib el-Adli, was also given a life sentence. Mubarak’s sons, Gamal and Alaa were acquitted on corruption charges. The rulings sparked protest in Tahrir Square, Alexandria and Suez.

Here is another piece on the story from NBC Nightly News.

Sadly, this week I have not been watching/reading the news as much as I usually do. However, I have managed to watch NBC Nightly news most evenings and I was glad to find that there was an interview done with Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak about Israel’s intentions toward Iran should they insist on going forward with their nuclear program. Here is the story for Nightly News and here is the extended interview (web only). The report is by Richard Engel.

There’s lots of other interesting and important international news stories. The growth and appeal of al-Shabaab in Africa, Taylor’s 50 year jail sentence for ‘brutal crimes,’ Syria’s trouble is spilling over into Lebanon, al-Qaeda in Yemen and the latest in Syria, of course.

Here is a Frontline piece on al-Qaeda in Yemen. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad and producer Jamie Doran are very brave souls.

I have also been following the news in Mali, which frankly hasn’t been getting much attention. And why would it? It doesn’t have much to interest foreign powers. But Mali has always had a certain allure for me, ever since a woman professing to be some sort of missionary in Mali came to the local church and into my Sunday School class and told us wild stories of her time there. She turned out be a fraud and cheat, but those stories sparked something in me and I promised myself that I would go there one day. Anyway, the events of the last few months would make a trip there very difficult, especially to the al-Qaeda dominated northern cities, like Timbuktu. Though I try not to shy away from danger, it may be awhile before I make it there.

So the latest news is that the al-Qaeda linked Ansar Dine and the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, or the MNLA (led by the Tauregs) signed an agreement Saturday, but disagree on how strictly to impose Islamic or Sharia Law. It seems that African groups that want to implement Sharia Law are on the rise: al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Algeria).

Okay. I think I’m done depressing everyone now.

Categories: Adventure, Elections, Journalism, Life, Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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