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Although I am essentially a monoglot, I am interested in languages, which I have written about before. As I travel to countries where English is not the first choice, I do try to master just a little of the language. My starter is 6 words and one phrase: “Yes”, “No”, “Please”, “Thank you”, “Hello”, “Goodbye” and “Please may I have a beer.”
The basic greetings are clearly the place to start, but I often find them confusing in English … Read the rest of this entry »
As I was lamenting last week, I spend a lot of time on aircraft as a result of the need for me to travel on business. I often think that it is odd that I subject myself even more of this treatment in my personal life – although we do not tend to take long vacations, we do make 3-4 leisure trips by air each year. For example, we just had a long weekend in Berlin.
All of my air travel is normally in commercial aircraft, but recently I thought that I would try something different … Read the rest of this entry »
Over the years, I have done a lot of business travel. This is not a complaint, just a fact. Sometimes it is enjoyable and I certainly like working in a multi-national environment; I cannot imagine what it must be like to be professionally confined to a single country. A lot of business travel is very mundane: airport to hotel; hotel to office; office to airport. One could be anywhere. Once in a while I am lucky enough to visit someone’s house. I have even visited a school and talked to the kids. But those are rare privileges that I value.
I have no idea how many flights I have taken – in the hundreds anyway. I estimate that I have made more than 50 trans-Atlantic crossings. And it is not getting any easier … Read the rest of this entry »
So often in life, we have expectations. We anticipate enjoying some upcoming event (or not, as the case may be), but often our experience is different from what we expected. When we acquire things – which all of us do far more than is really necessary – we certainly have expectations and often these are entirely unreasonable … Read the rest of this entry »
For many years I rejected the idea of getting a GPS [sat nav] for my car. I did not feel that I needed one. I have a set of maps in the car and very rarely traveled anywhere “strange” by myself. If we were going somewhere as a family, my late wife was an excellent navigator. Basically, I admired the fact that such technology, worthy of science fiction of just a few years before, could be so cheap and capable, but just did not see the need of it for myself.
In due course my circumstances changed. My wife died and my lifestyle increasingly involved traveling alone, so I purchased a GPS … Read the rest of this entry »
When I was a kid, the size of a piece of paper was described by a name, some of which were almost poetic. A “standard” working pad would be “Foolscap”, which was 13″ x 8″ – somewhat similar to the current US “Legal” size which is 14″ x 8.5″. A full Foolscap sheet was actually 17″ x 13.5″ and this was halved and trimmed for everyday use. Other sizes include “Emperor” [72" × 48"], “Antiquarian” [53" × 31"], “Grand Eagle” [42" × 28.75"], “Double Elephant” [40" × 27"], “Colombier” [34.5" × 23.5"] and “Atlas” [34" × 26"] and a whole load of smaller sizes. There seems to be a certain amount of fuzziness in the definitions of these archaic dimensions.
Nowadays, most countries outside of the US talk in terms of “A4″ and its cousins … Read the rest of this entry »
I have written about Evernote here before and continue to be an enthusiast for the product/service. I observe that I am far from alone, as they claim to have something over 50 million users worldwide. It is very much the “control panel” for both my business and personal lives. It is the default place that I keep information and documents, enabling me to seamlessly access stuff from my PC, iPad, iPhone or any Internet connected device.
Previously, I have given some tips on using Evernote, many of which still stand. However, I have changed the way I work recently and I wanted to share my new approach … Read the rest of this entry »
I have ranted about the stupidity of daylight savings – messing with clocks unnecessarily – before. Once again, it is the time of year when life is confusing. Normally, I am 6 or 8 hours ahead of many of my colleagues, as they are located in the Central and Pacific timezones in the US and I am in the UK. Since the US introduced the idea of messing with clocks earlier each Spring, I have to contend with the time difference being 5/7 hours for a few weeks until we indulge in the practice, which we will do this coming weekend. I observe that, since I last wrote about this topic, Russia has abolished daylight savings. I was surprised to learn that my influenced reached that far East.
Although messing with time is silly while stationary, when traveling it gets so much worse … Read the rest of this entry »
The modern concept of money has evolved over a considerable time period. The idea made sense as soon as humans began to be specialists. If I have cows and you have chickens, how many chickens should I expect from you in return for a cow? There are numerous arguments that would result in different answers. The idea of being able to assign a monetary value to a cow and to a chicken is a straightforward way to ease the problem, even if it does not neutralize all the arguments.
The first money was very simple: just individual tokens, which could be used singly or in any number to perform a transaction. But, in due course, it all got more complex … Read the rest of this entry »
A brief bonus posting today! I wanted to share an experience that we had yesterday evening.
My work frequently involves me standing up in front of an audience and pontificating about stuff. That’s what I do and [most of the time] enjoy doing it. Broadly speaking, the larger the audience, the easier it is. The dynamic in the room is strongly affected by the number of people present. With just a few people, it can be very hard to get a reaction or even know if you have anyone’s attention.
I was, therefore, quite empathetic with a performer yesterday. We went to see Al Lewis at a small venue in a nearby town. He is a young Welsh singer-songwriter, whom we have seen a couple of times before. We really enjoy his music and hope that he can make it. We were so disappointed yesterday because the venue, which must have a capacity of well over 100 people, was rather sparsely occupied – I think there were about 15 people there. However, Al soldiered on and gave his performance just as much energy as he would for a full house.
All the people were sitting around the periphery of the room. After a couple of songs, Al said that he felt a bit lonely and we were all welcome to get a bit closer. Nothing happened, so he just continued his singing. I whispered to my wife “Let’s move”. She reluctantly agreed [not wanting to stand out from the crowd] and we moved to a table much nearer to the stage. Guess what happened then. Almost everybody else moved as well – nobody had wanted to be first. The atmosphere in the room was immediately warmer.
Al explained to us that, in the business, you do not have a “small audience”, but you perform in an “intimate setting”. I felt that this exhibited a very good attitude. At the end, I went to chat with Al and buy his latest CD and congratulated him on a good performance. I was pleased to hear that tonight’s gig is a sell out.
Keep a look out for Al Lewis and do go and see him if he’s a venue near to you.
How do you count things? The obvious answer is that you start with 1, 2, 3 and carry on from there. Nothing hard about this – most of us can do it with minimal thought. Many of us can do it in multiple languages and be confident in our ability to count indefinitely. But what if you are counting something under circumstances when you might be interrupted? Then, of course, you need to keep a tally. If you have the means to write it down, a common method is make a stroke for each count and, when you have 4, put a line through them for the fifth.
If you have no means of writing, the obvious answer is to count on your fingers. However, this has its limitations. Using both hands, you can only count up to 10. If you had very agile toes, I guess you could push this limit up to 20. Wouldn’t it be useful if it were possible to count to much higher numbers using just our fingers … Read the rest of this entry »
Sometimes I think that I fully understand something, but then I have doubts. I have been reflecting on something very everyday and simple: how we judge distance.
We all know how to assess a distance. You just need to look and you intuitively have an idea how far away something is. The question is: how do your brain/eyes arrive at this information … Read the rest of this entry »
It has been a rather busy week with traveling, so I only have time to [rather tardily] share a random thought for now …
A while ago, I made a reference to the wildebeest. More recently, I heard about an African story. It seems that, when God was creating all the animals that walk the Earth, he had some parts left over. He used those to create the wildebeest. Looking at a picture, it is almost enough to make me believe in Intelligent Design … Read the rest of this entry »
I figured out that I have been using an iPad for just about 1000 days. I do not just mean that it is around 3 years since I first bought one. I mean that I have used it every single day for the last 1000 days. As I described, when I wrote my my initial impressions, I was not sure what I wanted an iPad for when I made that initial purchase. I was just sure that tablets were the way forward. My usage of the device has evolved. In my interim report, I set some of the directions, but was still trying stuff. I also appraised how I felt about the iPad.
After six months, I felt that my usage of the device had settled somewhat and I documented what apps I used. It was 2 years later, after I had upgraded to an iPad 3 that I updated my description of the apps I used. Now I really do feel that the way the iPad fits in to my life has matured and stabilized … Read the rest of this entry »
So, today is Saint Valentine’s Day. I will adopt my usual practice and ignore it. It is not because I am unromantic. It is just that it has become an excuse for lots of people to sell stuff. It used to be the day on which you sent a message of love/admiration/passion/desire to somebody you had your eye on. In other words, it was a special day for single people. However, nowadays, all the big marketing companies have figured out that singles are a minority and sell to couples, as they have the largest pool of available cash.
Today has drawn my attention to something important, which is commonly used in Valentine’s greetings. I speak, of course, of chocolate … Read the rest of this entry »
Here in the UK our currency is the pound, which is divided into 100 pennies. Technically, they are “new pennies”. Prior to 1971, there were 20 shillings to the pound and 12 [old] pennies to the shilling. In the US and Canada, the dollar is divided into 100 cents, which are colloquially called “pennies”. The Euro is also divided into 100 cents, but I do not believe that anybody calls them pennies – not even in Germany where the Deutsch Mark used to be divided into 100 pfennigs [which is essentially the same word].
The term penny is very ingrained in the English language, but that may be temporary … Read the rest of this entry »
I have always been interested in technology and innovation. I do not think of myself as a “gadget freak”, though others might have a different view. However, when something new comes along, even if I am not an “early adopter”, I am always on the lookout for things that might improve my life.
Sadly, I am often disappointed. So often a device either does not work at all or simply fails to live up to expectations. This is making me more cautious. I thought that this was just a phenomenon that was associated with age, but I recently discovered that it is much more general … Read the rest of this entry »
Meeting that Special Someone in this day and age is tough. The workplace is fraught with difficulties and, if you have a challenging job, you may be limited in off-hours social possibilities. As I have written about before, I am a strong advocate of online dating. Used right – that is, as a means to meet others who are broadly compatible and “in the market” – it is an idea solution. I have very good reasons to believe in its success.
I recently ran into an old friend who took a rather different approach … Read the rest of this entry »
This is an old story – almost definitely an urban myth. But I think that it makes some good points, so I do not apologize for telling it again.
When life just seems too hard and there simply are not enough hours in the day, remember the mayonnaise jar and the two pints of beer… Read the rest of this entry »
In 1888, 125 years ago, George Eastman coined the slogan, “you press the button, we do the rest”; and the world was never the same again. With the advent of the Box Brownie, photography went from an elitist activity, that was only within the financial reach of the idle rich, to become an everyday activity for almost anyone. The technology was rapidly accepted and snapshot photography was born.
I read somewhere that every day more photographs were taken than on the previous day. This got me thinking about how everyday photography is developing … Read the rest of this entry »
First off, I hope that you had a good holiday and I wish you all the best for 2013.
I am not overly excited about Christmas, but I do think that a mid-Winter holiday is a good idea. I also like the forward-thinking attitude that most people take to New Year as well as looking back and taking stock. For me, 2012 was a great year that I will look back on fondly; for other people that I know, it is a year best forgotten. There is another reason why I like to celebrate New Year: my wife’s birthday is 2 January, which could easily get lost in the holiday celebrations. So, we usually like to do something special, which is normally a trip away. This year, we went to Berlin … Read the rest of this entry »
I am sorry that my posting yesterday was less than cheerful. I just needed to get that off of my chest.
This will be my last posting of 2012. Thanks for reading my ramblings through the year – I always appreciate the comments and emails. I will be here again on about 3 January.
If you celebrate Christmas, I hope that you and your family have a joyful holiday. For all of us, I hope that 2013 might even be prosperous, but, above all, let’s hope that it is peaceful. Happy New Year!
Today I am going to break my self-imposed rule, with regard to what I discuss in this blog, and touch on two subjects that I normally avoid: politics and religion. I normally avoid these because most politicians are idiots, who have no understanding of the real world, which means that most politics is just a farce, but a lot of people take it seriously. I find religion very interesting, but do not subscribe to any particular faith myself; all “believers” therefore think that I am wrong because I do not sign up to their program.
The events of recent days have touched me, as they have people all over the world, which is why it is clear to me that something must change … Read the rest of this entry »
One of my main hobbies is photography, which I have talked about before [here and here for example]. To me, it is the pictures that matter – taking them myself and looking at images at every opportunity. That might sound obvious, but there are actually quite a few people, who I run into at camera clubs etc., who seem less interested in the pictures than the technology. Often, this is manifest in someone who always has the latest camera/lens/gadget and is for ever “testing” it. Or it might be the geek who knows all the most obscure Photoshop shortcuts and spends more time in front of the screen than with their camera.
I do, however, have some strong feelings about photographic equipment, where I think the best interests of the consumer are not being served and some people may even be put off of photography … Read the rest of this entry »
There is a saying: “Be careful of what you wish for, as you might just get it.” It is odd how often this seems to apply to life. In my case, I wonder if there is a valid variant: “Be careful about having wacky ideas, as they might just come true.” I commonly post here about ideas which are not 100% serious, but hopefully have enough validity to not be beyond the realms of possibility. An example was my plan for the 8 day week.
When I was a student, in the late 1970s, I spent one year of my course working in industry. There was a young man working in the lab who had a problem: he could not get a girlfriend. He was a nice guy – kind and friendly, with a good sense of humor. And, I was told by female friends and colleagues, he was good looking too. I always felt that he went about it the wrong way. He would spend Friday and Saturday nights hanging out in bars and clubs, hoping to meet someone. From time to time he did “get lucky”, but these encounters never blossomed into a meaningful relationship. I was unsurprised, as the kind of girl he wanted was unlikely to be hanging out in bars.
Eventually, we persuaded him to take another approach: to spend a little money and let modern technology solve his problem … Read the rest of this entry »
Today I have something that is nagging me and I just need to get it off my chest. I hope that you will forgive me for having a little rant.
I am mostly in favor of the European Union and the UK being part of it. I am strongly against discrimination and unjust practices. I am really offended by the implementation of laws that, whilst having good intentions, have not been thought through and are fundamentally flawed … Read the rest of this entry »
I have always thought of myself as a shy person. I can find social interactions difficult. For me, a party is rarely fun, unless I have a “job” – taking photos, handing around drinks, etc. Just hanging out and chatting mostly does not appeal.
However, there is a paradox. On the one hand, I do not like to be the center of attention, on the other I enjoy presenting to an audience … Read the rest of this entry »
I read a lot and I have posted before about my enthusiasm for e-books and Kindle. I read various kinds of books: fiction, biographies and other non-fiction. Whatever I am reading, I hope that I will learn something. That might expand my knowledge of the world in many ways. I could be history, geography, science or just about other people’s way of life.
The book, that I am reading at the moment, is the autobiography of a guy who is a recovering drug addict trying to get his life back on track. He was in rehab and trying to make some money by busking on the streets of London. Then he found an alternative way to make a living …
Anyone who has spent time in the towns and cities of the UK will have encountered people on the roadside calling out “Big Issue!” and trying to sell passers-by a copy of a magazine. I had a vague idea what it was about. “Big Issue” is a weekly magazine, which is sold exclusively by homeless people and gives them a better option than begging. But now I know there is a bit more to it.
The Big Issue Foundation was set up to help people who have hit rock-bottom. People for whom employment is not a possibility and social services or begging seem like the only options. Their philosophy is grounded in the idea “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for life.” Their strap line is “A hand up, not a hand out”, which I think are fine words.
Each person who wants to sell the Big Issue is vetted to ensure that they meet the necessary criteria – primarily their housing status is checked. After some training in how to operate and in the strict standards of the Foundation, they are given 10 magazines and allocated a “pitch” – a regular location from where they can sell. Big Issue sellers are only allowed to sell from their allocated pitch.
Although, every seller is given 10 magazines to start them off, thereafter they have to buy them. The cover price is currently £2.50 [about $3.75] and that is the price that sellers must ask. They purchase them with a 50% discount. They can buy as many or as few as they like. If they get too few, they miss the opportunity to sell more. If they buy too many, they can find themselves with redundant stock when the next issue comes out. The idea is that sellers do not simply make money from selling magazines, they also learn something about how to run a business.
This is a rather simplified view of what the Big Issue Foundation is all about. But I was interested to learn about the way they operate and I am likely to take a much more sympathetic attitude to sellers that I encounter in the future, who occupy a world quite different from my own [and most readers of this blog, I would guess].
My daughter told me a curious story. In the city where she lives, there is a Big Issue seller, who has an odd accent or speech impediment. When she calls out, it sounds like “Big Tissue”. A guy, who seems to live on the street nearby and spends most of his time drunk or stoned, thought this was amusing. He took to sitting on the curb with a large box of Kleenex, chanting “Big Tissue”. The odd person even took one and put a coin in his hat.
I do not watch much TV. The medium seems to be dominated by sitcoms [that I do not find funny], reality TV [that seems very unreal] and talent shows [where the word "talent" seems to have been redefined]. It is the last of these genres that I know least about, to be honest. I have heard of the shows – “Britain’s Got Talent”, “X-Factor”, “Pop Idol” – maybe there are others, but I just do not watch them.
However, I do enjoy going out to live performances, as I have posted about before. A few weeks ago I received an email from a venue in a nearby town, which we visit from time to time, promoting an upcoming event. They included a link to a YouTube video of the performer’s appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. For some reason, I took a look … Read the rest of this entry »
About 30 years ago, my late wife and I bought a sofa. That may sound like nothing to be excited about, but it was the first “serious” piece of furniture that we ever bought. It came from Habitat, which was très chic in those days. The name of the product in the catalog was Hannibal, so that was how our new sofa came to be known. The sofa was an indulgence, as it was very expensive – leather furniture cost much more in real terms back then. But we never regretted the purchase.
Hannibal lived with us over the years, as we moved from one house to another – 5 in all. It was sat on, slept on, climbed on and generally abused in the way that only a family can. Two years ago, when I moved to my current house, I sadly concluded that Hannibal was probably coming to the end its life … Read the rest of this entry »
Although I enjoy my job [mostly], weekends and other time off is important to me. Last weekend was particularly interesting because I took a day’s FTO to extend it to 3 days and there were some contrasting experiences.
Although I do not normally publish a journal of my life, I will see whether I can give you a flavor … Read the rest of this entry »
I am always fascinated by coincidences and wrote about an interesting one a while ago. Although experiencing such events can make me feel as if there are hidden forces at work, I do not actually believe that. A coincidence is just the surprising alignment of things/people in time and space.
One such alignment occurred recently that proved very interesting … Read the rest of this entry »
Having choices is a good thing. At least that is what we, in the Western world, tend to believe. I am sure that, in many respects, this is true. The more affluent you are, the more control you can exercise over your life and, hence, the more choices you can make. Most of us have a significant degree of choice when it comes to employment, where we live and with whom we share our lives.
Although the choice we have in bigger things may be great, I wonder about the benefits that we gain from smaller choices … Read the rest of this entry »
There are places in the world, which I have visited, that evoke a simple question in my mind: why? One such place is Las Vegas. In most deserts, there is loads of sand with periodic oases, that provide a haven for travelers where water and shade are on offer. Las Vegas started off in that kind of way. The artesian wells in Las Vegas Valley meant that it was an obvious railroad stop. Long after its importance to cross country transportation passed, the city re-invented itself to become the place it is today. A place that, IMHO, really should not exist.
I visited Las Vegas once – more than a decade ago. My memories of that visit persist and, if I were a betting man, I would put money on things not having changed a whole lot since then … Read the rest of this entry »
I have often mused on what constitutes intelligence. We all know people who are, perhaps, academically brilliant, but useless at practical matters. Another person may possess an intuitive understanding of, say, machines, but be barely literate. IQ is not really a measure of anything useful. Even though I get a high IQ score, I do not really regard it as a test of anything more meaningful than my ability to do IQ tests, as I mentioned a while back when talking about mind mapping.
I think that the best definition of intelligence that I have come across is that it is the ability to connect ideas … Read the rest of this entry »
I have been on a week’s vacation. After a long, wet, miserable Summer in the UK, it seemed only sensible to go find some sun. With that in mind, the Greek island of Kefalonia (also spelt Cephalonia or misspelt by tour companies as Kefalinia) seemed just the ticket. I visited the island a decade ago and thought that it would be interesting to see how it had changed. But now I am on my way home (about 7 miles over Albania as I write) and back to real life.
As I ponder this sad situation, I muse on what happens to my intellect when I have down time and relax … Read the rest of this entry »
Speakers of the English language love euphemisms – we say one thing when we actually mean something else. As far as I can tell, this is a universal practice, though some of the actual euphemisms vary between countries [the US and UK, for example]. I have often wondered whether this practice is confined to English or do users of other languages do the same thing?
I am thinking about a topic which is second only to sex in the amount of euphemistic terminology that is applied to it. I want to talk about the – ahem – smallest room in the house … Read the rest of this entry »
I recently wrote a blog post about a number puzzle, which provoked a few interesting comments. One of them, in particular, made me think. My colleague Brooks suggested that another [unconventional and therefore incorrect] way to perform the calculation would be to perform the operations from right to left.
I never thought of that. I am stuck with left to right thinking … Read the rest of this entry »
I quite like puzzles and “brain teasers”. Although I would never describe myself as a mathematician, I do like playing with numbers and I am quite good at mental arithmetic [even though I am rarely far from a calculator, having bought my first one in 1973]. So I was interested in a recent puzzle that has been doing the rounds on Facebook.
The puzzle is expressed as 5 + 5 + 5 – 5 + 5 + 5 – 5 + 5 x 0 = ? The options for answers were 0, 15, 20 and 40. What answer did you go for? … Read the rest of this entry »
If you had asked me about the Olympics two weeks ago, I would have dismissed the discussion with “I don’t do sport.” That was true. I have almost zero interest in watching sport. I could see the point of useless activity providing healthy exercise. Doing it was OK, but why would you want to watch someone else doing it. I have been known to draw parallels with pornography, but I am not going to pursue that here. In short, I was, as a lady on the radio so eloquently described herself, an “Olympic Refusenik”.
But all that has changed … Read the rest of this entry »
I recently wrote about the concept of having fun. At the time, I commented that happiness is easier to identify, but elusive nevertheless. The pursuit of happiness is a major driver to all of mankind’s activities. Indeed I can quote from the United States Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
I would describe myself as basically happy, but I have “down days”. That is when I try to find things to make me happy … Read the rest of this entry »
We all have habits. Some of us have addictions. I am not 100% certain that I understand the difference. I guess that, in most situations, an addiction is really just a very strong habit. Interestingly, the term “drug habit” is normally just a euphemism for drug addiction.
I am very interested in analyzing my own behavior and motivations in life and I have paid some attention to my habits and possible additions … Read the rest of this entry »
I often ponder on the nature of being happy and having fun. Happiness is elusive, but we all have an idea of what it is about. I will talk about that another day, as I think there are some interesting angles.
But there is the question of having fun. I have more trouble identifying that … Read the rest of this entry »
A while ago, I wrote about Evernote – the cloud computing platform that I use all the time. Although most valuable when I am traveling, Evernote helps me on an everyday basis too, as it lets me access and update information from all my “toys” – PC, iPad and iPhone.
Evernote is available free of charge. The free version gives plenty of capability for most users, but this can be enhanced for a modest month/annual fee. Having used the software/service for quite a while now, thought that I would share a few hints and tips … Read the rest of this entry »
For my American friends and colleagues, yesterday was a special day. I hope that everyone had [or is having] a great time. But, for me, today – 6 July – is very special. I am to be married … Read the rest of this entry »
I have always been interested in science and took that route through education, ending up with a science degree. I guess I am rather left-brained and certainly tend to look for a methodical way to do something, as opposed to an intuitive one. Having said that, I enjoy photography, which is something of a fusion of science and art, and I am told that I have a “good eye”. I also enjoy hearing, seeing and generally experiencing other people’s artistic endeavors.
I have often wondered whether scientists – or technical people generally – might learn something from the approach taken by artists … Read the rest of this entry »
If I were to tell you that manufacturers of certain very popular electronic devices had a policy of producing newer, higher technology versions of their products at frequent intervals, you would, I am sure, be unsurprised. However, if I could show that some of these newer, “better” devices were actually inferior to their predecessors in some key respects, that might be news.
The technology, to which I am referring, is close to my heart: digital cameras … Read the rest of this entry »
Sometime or other, all of us hold hands with someone else. Whether it is with a “significant other” or with a child, it is just something that humans do. You would probably imagine that there was very little to say on this topic, but you might be surprised.
Researchers have been looking into hand holding. I have to admit that I would like to see their application for funding for this work. I heard about the results of their investigations and decided to do a little research myself … Read the rest of this entry »
About The Colin Walls Blog
This blog is a discussion of embedded software matters - news, comment, technical issues and ideas, along with other passing thoughts about anything that happens to be on my mind.
- Book review [part 1]
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- Gone flying
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