Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Hopeful

Hey remember that time I was despondent over Trump being elected and I sat “staring at an empty screen for a disconcertingly long time, trying to figure out what to write”. So I’ve been experiencing that again. There’s so many horrible things going on in the world right now that I don’t even know where to start to unpack it all. I suppose I can start with the US ban on Muslims entering the country – or should I say the ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries where Trump doesn’t have business dealings? It’s thrown the lives of so many people into chaos, it’s racist, it’s xenophobic, and sadly, it’s something that Trump told everyone he’s going to do and lots of people voted for him anyway.

Then there was the terrorist attack on a mosque in Quebec City, where a far-right extremist white man opened fire and murdered six innocent men and injured many others. The accused in this attack (who I’ve just read probably cannot be charged with terrorism because he had no ties to an organization – even though it’s clearly an act of terrorism) was apparently speaking about the Muslim travel ban – and his belief that only white people should be allowed to immigrate to Canada and Quebec – the day before the attack.

Even closer to home for me, neo-Nazi posters were left near a local church and there was anti-Muslim graffiti written on the wall of the building directly across from mine.

And while there’s been so much chaos related to the US Muslim travel ban – both with it being unconstitutional and racist, and with it being implemented without warning so that the people expected to enforce it, and the people being affected by it, were blindsided – Trump’s slipped in a whole bunch of other actions, including looking at how to remove financial regulations1, delay the implementation of a law that would require financial professionals who advise people on their retirement savings to actually put their clients interests ahead of their own financial gain2, authorize the building of a wall along the US-Mexican border, banning federal funding to groups who provide abortions (or even talk about abortions, really)3, starting the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, reinstating the Keystone pipeline, gagging scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, and, in what might be the biggest oversimplification I’ve ever seen in my life, a rule that says for every regulation that a federal agency introduces, they have to get rid of two other regulations.

But there are some glimmers of hope. People are coming together to protest this bullshit, whether it’s the people who gathered in my city to protest the hate literature and demonstrate that the community will not put up with this, the vigils across Canada to show solidarity with the Muslim community in the wake of the terrorist attack in Quebec City, or the millions worldwide (including all seven continents) who participated in the Women’s March to protest Trump. Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General stood up to Trump, telling Department of Justice lawyers not to defend Trump’s Muslim ban law. She was fired for standing up for what is right, and the fact that she was willing to stand up for what is right is heartening. A March for Science is being planned for April 22 – Earth Day – to protest things like the gagging of scientists; denial of the overwhelming scientific evidence that supports that climate change is, in fact, a thing that exists; and the general shunning of science and facts; to celebrate and support science and the scientific community4.

So while there is a lot to be despondent about, I’m going to go to bed tonight thinking about all the good people coming together to support one another in these dark times. To quote the late, great Jack Layton: “”My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

  1. You may remember insufficient financial regulations being a major player in the financial crisis of 2007/08. Trump wants to disembowel the Dodd-Frank law, which was created to prevent that sort of thing from happening again. []
  2. I mean, heaven forbid that someone who seeks professional advice on their retirement savings would actually get advice that is the most useful to them! []
  3. And not just to prevent money going to these organizations to be used for provide abortion care, but to prevent any money at all going to these organizations for any of the other healthcare (or other) services they provide. []
  4. There has been a lot of talk about the intersection of science (and academia more broadly) and the Muslim travel ban. Academics have been debating if they should boycott conferences in the US, since those from the banned countries are denied the opportunity, or if conferences should relocate outside of the US so that people from the banned countries can attend (except that would mean that anyone from the banned countries who are currently in the US wouldn’t get to go because they wouldn’t be able to get back into the US afterwards. There is also talk of how scientific collaborations are being hampered by the travel ban, as some researchers aren’t able to travel to take part in collaborative work. []

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Kondoing my Condo

So I finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – a book by Marie Kondo, a Japanese tidying consultant. Because apparently that’s a job. Her basis premises for tidying is that:

  • you should start by discarding a bunch of stuff before you even think about storing stuff
  • you should sort through everything by category (as opposed to, say, by room) in the following order1
    • clothes
    • books
    • paper
    • everything else except mementos (she refers to this “everything else” category as “kimono” or miscellany)
    • mementos
  • for each category, you put every single thing you own from that category into a big pile, then one by one, pick them up and use the following single criterion to decide what to keep (and, therefore, what to discard): “does this item spark joy in me?”
  • once you have decided what to keep, then decide where to store it
  • whenever possible, store things vertically and in drawers
  • store all of the same category in one place and one place only (e.g., don’t store some clothes in your bedroom closet and other clothes on your spare room closet)

piles of papers

On a general level, I can get behind these premises. I’ve held onto things that I never use and don’t really like for reasons like “someone gave me that as a present”, “I might need it someday”2, and “I paid good money for that”3 None of these are actually good reasons. When you think about it, it’s kind of silly to feel guilty for getting rid of a present but not to feel guilty about leaving that same present at the bottom of a drawer where it never sees the light of day. Surely the gift giver didn’t intend that for it to be its fate. The other two excuses comes from my cheapness – I would hate to get rid of something only to then have to go buy that same thing later when I have a use for it. But Kondo points out a good way to think about this – if you think about the cost your home, do you want to use it to store stuff you don’t like/never use or do you want to actually enjoy your space? It’s like my supply chain management prof used to always say: inventory is evil! And saying “I paid good money for that” is just the sunk cost fallacy – you don’t get any of that money back by holding onto the object and if you aren’t using it/don’t enjoy it, you aren’t getting your money’s worth by holding on to it. And, when you think about the cost of your home and your limited square footage, you are essentially spending more money to store it! If it’s a useful object, you may as well donate it so at least someone can get some value out of it. Kondo’s other suggestion that is useful in this realm is to think a bit differently about the value that an object brought to you. For example, you can be grateful for all the times you got to use a piece of clothing that is now worn out. Or perhaps a gift served its purpose by making you happy that the giver was thinking of you and gave you that present (so it’s purpose was fulfilled when you received it). Or maybe a piece of clothing taught you that orange really isn’t a good colour on you, so now you’ll know not to buy any more orange shirts. I think it can be useful to think about things in this way so you feel less guilty about discarding them, and thus it will be easier to let go of them.
Cassetti della memoria della Terra, sistemati e messi in ordine da Marie KondoThis, however, gets to the part where I can’t take seriously what Kondo instructs the reader to do. Basically, she tells you to talk to objects as if they were a person. Thank them for their service before you put them in the trash/donation pile. Say hello to your apartment every time you go home. Take every single thing out of your purse every time you arrive home and put it away, because don’t your objects deserve a home to rest in after they work hard for you all day?? How would you like it if you didn’t have a home?? Similarly, her rationale for storing things vertically is because the poor item on the bottom of a pile will suffer from bearing the weight of all the other items on top of it (as opposed to focusing on the idea that if you store things vertically in a drawer, you can see all of your items, whereas if you stack them, you forget about the item that’s on the bottom because you never see it, which is why I find it useful).

She also makes some outlandish claims. Like her claim that *none* of her clients have ever regressed to being untidy once they have followed her program. Or that if you follow her program you will lose weight, have clearer skin, find your dream job, have better relationships, etc. Of course, there’s no proof of any of this being what really occurs and it would far too easy for her to say that if anyone doesn’t achieve these things, they didn’t follow the program exactly. You didn’t take everything out of your purse when you got home. You weren’t sincere enough when you thanked that pair of jeans for their service. So basically anyone who remains tidy after completing her program must have done the program right, and anyone who doesn’t must not have done it right. She can’t lose!

At any rate, I feel like there’s enough stuff in the book that’s worth trying – I’ve already noticed a few items in my closet that I’ve thought “That doesn’t bring me any joy,” so I know at the very least I’ll purge some items that I’ve been holding onto for years. I also know that I have way too much in the way of papers and Kondo’s advice when it comes to papers is pretty much “throw all of it away!” She does make an exception for a few things that you should hold onto – she keeps talking about holding onto warranties (whereas I would have said to focus on keeping legal documents – tax returns, the deed to my home, my divorce papers, my will) – but for the most part, all the other papers people hold onto have a very low likelihood of ever being needed; if you do end up needing it, you can probably get that information online (or perhaps through contacting, for example, your bank to get an old statement should you ever need it). Even in the event that you need to do that, it will probably take less time than searching for it amidst piles and piles of papers (not to mention not needing to store all the paper that you don’t ever use). I think when I get to the papers category, I’m going to have a giant pile of things to get rid of!

I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures of my before and after piles and there will be a spreadsheet to track how much stuff I end up getting rid of vs. keeping. Because spreadsheets spark joy in me! I’m not sure exactly when I’ll start – I think I’ll need to find some dedicated time, as I think you need to do a category (or at least subcategories) all at once. But when I do, rest assured there will be photos and a spreadsheet. And probably graphs.

The Crash of 2016


Image Credits:

Footnotes:

  1. Am I the only one who finds these categories a bit unbalanced? I mean, it’s like she thought of three categories and then went “fuck it, plus everything else!” To me dishes/pots/pans is a major category, as is toiletries, but she just lumps that together with everything else in your home. []
  2. Why is it that so many of us hold onto old clothes saying “I might need it someday when I paint a room!”? You know how many rooms I’ve painted in my entire life? Exactly zero. []
  3. Just ask Sarah how much useless crap I transported across the country when I moved to Vancouver, as she helped me pack it all while I constantly used those excuses when she said “Are you sure you want to keep this [insert name of piece of junk]?” I’ve gotten better at getting rid of stuff since then, but I still have a long way to go! []

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Plumbing Edition

One of my goals for 2017 was to learn 12 new things – an average of one per month. I didn’t decide on what those things needed to be – I figured I’d be inspired throughout the year with things to learn. And my first source of inspiration was the discovery of some water on my bathroom floor, which turned out to be coming from a leaky toilet supply line. The toilet supply line, for the uninitiated, is the tube that runs from your wall into the bottom of your toilet tank and it’s how the water gets into your toilet tank so you can flush your toilet.

It looks like this:

toilet supply lineIMG_5016

So anyway, mine was dripping water, which is not a thing you want your toilet supply line to do. I did some googling and figured out that (a) that tube is called a toilet supply line and (b) it’s relatively easy to replace. You just need to turn the water off with that handy dandy handle on the bottom, flush the tank so there’s no water left in it (and it won’t get refilled because you turned the water off), then unscrew the metal nut at the bottom and unscrew the white nut at the top, and then replace it with a new tube, which you can buy for $7. So I thought “Excellent! I can fix this myself for $7 (as opposed to having to pay for a plumber’s visit) and I’ll learn something new in the process!”

New toilet supply line ready to be installed

A shiny new toilet supply line, ready to be installed!

I followed the instructions and while the metal nut at the bottom was hard to unscrew, I managed to get it undone after some hard work.

Step 1, unscrew the bottom part of the toilet supply line

Step 1: Unscrew metal nut at the bottom

The white nut at the top, however, was a much tougher job. I tried and I tried and I tried… and then instead of the white nut becoming unscrewed from the toilet’s fill valve, the fill valve just cracked right off! I guess my toilet supply line was just so old that it had pretty much fused to the fill valve!

Step 2, try to unscrew the toilet supply line, but break the toilet fill valve instead

Step 2: Break things

At this point I may have freaked out a bit, because I had only googled how to replace the toilet supply line – I had no idea what that piece I just broke was and, since I like having a toilet that can flush and I only have one bathroom in my apartment, I needed to figure out how to get this fixed quick! I did some googling and managed to find a company called GVA Plumbing1 that had a good rating on Homestars.com and the main guy happened to be heading into Burnaby (from Langley) for a job and was able to drop in to fix my issue for me that same day!  Mehmet was super friendly and even, upon my request, explained what he was doing as he replaced the toilet fill valve. It was actually not that complicated and I probably could have done it myself, had I not been too freaked out by breaking something and thus afraid I would break something more. At any rate, after $200, I had a newly installed toilet supply line AND a newly installed toilet fill valve, and now nothing is leaking. Hooray!

Also, I would like to point out that the exact wording of my goal was to “learn 12 new things (1 per month). They can be small things, but just something I didn’t used to know!” It does not say anywhere in the goal that I have to successfully execute the thing that I learned. So I have learned something about toilet repair: how to replace a toilet supply line and a toilet fill valve! And now I only need to learn 11 more things this year to achieve my goal!

  1. As per usual, I have no affiliation with this company other than that I paid for their service and I thought they did a really good job. []

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Happy adoptiversary to my kitties!

Three years ago today I adopted my little fuzzballs, Watson & Crick. When I first got them, they were very much people cats, but they’ve gotten even more cuddly and affectionate. Crick started out as a kitty who would like to be curled up next to me on the couch or in the bed, but now she’s a full on lap cat, who will sit on my lap when I watch TV and who more often than not curls up on my chest to go to sleep at night. Watson still likes to sit just out of arm’s reach and meow at you because you are not petting him when you sit on the couch, but now he’s willing to curl up next to me on the couch or the bed and on the weekend he even sat in my lap while I watched two full episode of The High Man in the Crooked Tower! I was in heaven!

In honour of their third adoptiversary, I bought the kitties a cat house that looks like a shark because that’s hilarious. Here’s a video of them checking it out when I first gave it to them:

I like that they politely took turns getting into it. Much unlike their cat tree situation, where Watson inevitably attacks Crick if she sits on any level of the tree, even though he only ever wants to sit on the very top.

So far, Crick seems to like the shark more than Watson, as she spent a fair bit of time hanging out in there:

Cat in a shark

Watson went back in again after that, but quickly got out once I started taking pictures:

Cat in a shark

Happy adoptiversary, my sweeties! You make my life better every day!

Watson on the small cat tree

Crick

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Scientists Like Lasers

Two words for you: laser tag. Anyone who didn’t celebrate their milestone-birthday-whose-number-shall-not-be-named by playing laser tag really missed out.

Laser tag for my birthday!You will not find a finer group of laser taggers than this crew.

I knew I wanted to do something different for my birthday this year and after much deliberation, I settled on laser tag. I hadn’t played laser tag since high school, but I remembered it being really fun and also, it seemed like something epically ridiculous to do for my birthday. And hence, I scheduled two private games of laser tag (or should I say “lazer” tag) at the laser tag place in New West and gathered a group of peeps who were up for the challenge of spending an hour shooting at each other in a dark labyrinth. The first game was a free for all, where it was every man, woman, and child for themselves. In this game, I learned that I have terrible aim and was very glad that there is no cost for ammo when it comes to laser tag. In the second game, we were put into two teams and your objective was to only shoot people on the other team while not shooting people on your own team. As it turns out, Team Red’s strategy of strategizing bested Team Blue’s approach of not strategizing. Who knew? Despite my poor performance, I had so. much. fun! It was even more fun than I remembered it being! Everyone else was also raving about what a blast they had too (even a few who had been skeptical before the game), which made me very happy!

After the games were over and we all had a chance to examine our score cards in detail1, we headed over to my place for the after party, where we (along with some other peeps who weren’t up for (or available for) laser tag but who were up for partying) ate, drank, and were merry into the wee hours. As usual when it comes to parties, I didn’t get nearly enough time to chat with anyone as much as I wanted to, but I did really have a great time and was reminded that I have the best friends ever.

Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate with me. And if anyone wants to go play laser tag again, I’m game!

  1. For the record, in game two I only shot one of my own team members, though I did shoot her twice. []

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Happy Bething Day!

As we all know, Bething Day is the Bethmas equivalent of Boxing Day, so I naturally had to go out and buy myself something. Or I happened to go out to do a bunch of errands and happened to buy myself something while I was out doing said errands and then I happened to retroactively called it a Bething Day purchase. For the record, I got a new purse at Winner’s. Actually, I also got myself a couple of speed pourers when I was at Canadian Tire1, so they count too.

The less exciting part of Bething Day was the errands part. I had to go out to a mail depot to pick up my mail which has been piling up at said mail depot since Canada Post smashed up my mailbox in mid-December. So I finally got all the Christmas cards that everyone sent me! I also had to go pick up a package from Amazon that was at the Puralator depot – a package that I didn’t even know was waiting for me (because they never bothered to leave a notice or call me) until I got an email from Amazon that was all “how do you like that new thing you bought?” and I was all “weird, I never got it” and then checked Amazon tracking and found out they’d supposedly tried to deliver it four days earlier. When I walked into the Puralator depot, the woman at the counter was telling a customer “Well, they should have called to tell you it was here”, so I guess Puralator just has really crappy customer service. After that I had to pick up my duvet from the dry cleaners because one night Watson decided to attack Crick in the middle of the night while we were sleeping and literally scared the piss out of her. Poor Crick! And poor me, because it’s been eighty billion degrees below zero and that is not a time to be without a duvet! I also had to go to the grocery store and the liquor store to stock up for my Bethmas party this weekend2. Anyway, after all of that, I felt like I deserved a purse3 for Bething Day!

I hope y’all bought yourself something nice today too! 🙂

  1. Where I also got some light bulbs, which hardly counts as a present for myself. []
  2. And tomorrow I will have to go to Costco to do more stocking up. []
  3. I also was in need of a new purse to replace on that I have that is falling apart. []

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My 21st birthday is old enough to go out drinking

40 anos UniritterSo today I turned 401. It seems pretty hard to believe because I don’t feel a day over 26 and I’m pretty sure I don’t look a day over 35! But the calendar tells me that it was, in fact, 40 years ago that I came into this world. I’m so lucky that it’s 2017 and we have the technology to keep people of my advanced age alive!

Birthday festivities started on Monday when some co-workers surprised me with a birthday cake and diet Pepsi (clearly, my co-workers know me well!). I was lured to this surprise by a meeting invitation, so I showed up ready to talk about the health care IT adoption and instead was greeted with singing and cake! Yesterday, my team took me for a delicious sushi lunch! Last night, birthday wishes started coming in from friends who live in the future (i.e., Australia and Japan), where it was my birthday already.

Today I treated myself by not having to set my alarm, since I have today off. I woke to find a bunch of birthday wishes from my Ontario peeps, who also live in the future (just not as far in the future as Australia or Japan) – including the first ever text that I have received from my mom! I spent a leisurely morning enjoying coffee and some French toast and then did some planning for the birthday party I’m having on the weekend. As per my usual party MO, there will be enough food for at least three times as many people as will actually be at the party.

Right now I have some tradespeople installing some new shower doors on my tub, since the ones I had previously got broken2, so I guess my birthday present to me is that I will no longer have to take showers with a cheap shower curtain duct taped to the frame of the old shower doors. #Adulting The cats are trying to decide if they are more curious or scared by all the noise – Watson has just come out from under the bed, where he’s been since they got here, so I guess curiosity is winning. Crick ran under the bed at first but soon came out to see what was going on, though she’s tending to stay close to me. Ooh, and just as I was typing that last sentence, one of the tradesmen ripped a piece of paper packaging and Watson bolted back to the bedroom!

Tonight I have not one, but *two* hockey games to play, which makes me a happy camper. And my new boy is coming to watch my hockey games, also making me a very happy camper indeed!

All in all, although I am a less than 14 hours into this whole being 40 thing, I don’t think it’s quite as bad as I was thinking it would be – but probably because I still kind of don’t believe it’s true!

Image Credit: Posted by Thainá Gaieski on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

  1. For my American friends, the legal drinking age here in BC is 19, so my math in the title is actually correct. In two years, my 21st birthday could go down to Seattle to go drinking. []
  2. For the record, it was not me who broke them! []

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Goodbye Grandpa

My grandpa died today. He was 94 years old – would have been 95 in March. He had family with him when he went and my mom tells me that the care providers at the facility he lived in, despite having only been there a few weeks, knew him and were very kind to him and to my family. It’s always hard when someone dies, but at least when they are 94 years old you can say that they had a good long life. And he wasn’t doing well of late – hence having moved into a care facility that could take care of his increasing health needs – so I am grateful that he didn’t have to experience prolonged suffering.

When I think about my grandpa, I usually think of him as being about 65 years old (despite that actually being 30 years ago!). I remember going out tobogganing for his 65th birthday. The whole family, laughing and careening down the hill on our various types of toboggans. All wearing orange and white toques with the Howard Johnson logo on them1, as that was where my grandpa worked at the time. I also remember eating venison that he’d hunted. And the jokes he would tell. And drinking tea at my grandparents house. I have a duck that he carved – a male buffelhead to be specific – in my home office, next to my Dad’s french fry cutter and one of my Granny’s china tea cups.

I didn’t get to see my grandpa when I was in Ontario for the holidays. A combination of a short trip, bad weather, and being sick (and not wanting to bring germs into a facility full of frail elderly people) kept me away. The last time I saw my grandpa was the previous year, on Boxing Day, at my Aunt Wendy’s house, watching World Juniors hockey. He loved hockey, as do many in my family, including me, so it’s a nice memory to have to add to a lifetime of other memories.

You will be missed, Grandpa.

A duck my grandpa carved

A male buffelhead carved by Des Snow.

  1. I also remember these Howard Johnson disposable toothbrushes my grandparents used to have at their place – they had some sort of powdered toothpaste in the brush so you just had to add water and brush. I thought they were pretty cool. []

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Goals for 2017

I’ve been hemming and hawing about what to do about my goals for 2017. I typically do a lot of the same things – earn a certain number of race medals, knock a certain number of items off my 101 list, and perennial favourite goal that I never manage to achieve (run a sub 2-hr half marathon), but given my abysmal performance on my 2016 goals, I’m wondering if I should shake things up? I do have my three things that I’m not prepared to blog about just yet (two of which lend themselves to goals) brewing, but since, as you may remember from earlier in this sentence, I’m not prepared to blog about them, I can’t really set them as publicly stated goals on my blog, now can I? #VagueBlogging. Wait. Unless I write #VagueBlog goals (and then I’ll have to write myself a private note somewhere else as to what those actually mean!). Of course, this plan means that I’ll officially be the most annoying person ever for the 7 people who actually read my blog1. So perhaps I’ll write some specific ones and some vague ones and I can either fill those vague ones in once I’m prepared to blog about such things, should I become prepared to blog about such things at some later point in time.

OK, here goes:

New goals:

  1. Learn 12 new things (1 per month). They can be small things, but just something I didn’t used to know!
  2. KonMari my condo. Just started reading Marie Kondo’s book on organizing and I think it’s worth giving it a try.
  3. Do yoga at least 2x per week (either at home or in a class). I think I’ve done enough stretches to rehab my injured hip and it’s time to work on building up my strength and flexibility.
  4. Establish a weight training program and actually do regular weight training, where “regular” = at least 2x per week for at least 3 out of 4 weeks per month. Building up my strength should also be helpful to prevent re-injury (not to mention improving my running (when I get back into it) and hockey!)
  5. Get back to journalling regularly (where “regularly” = once a week).
  6. Travel somewhere awesome. Haven’t made any vacation plans yet this year. Need to get on that!
  7. Get gum graft surgery done. I’ve been putting it off – I should just bite the bullet it and do it already!
  8. Get a Nexus card. Been meaning to do that for a while.
  9. Send an actual physical birthday card on time to all my family members and close friends. Step 1 will be to make a list of when everyone’s birthday is!

Classic goals:

  1. Bring my lunch to work 80% of the time.
  2. Complete the 100 push up challenge. See above re: getting stronger!
  3. Submit 5 papers for publication. I have one that is almost ready to go and another one that I’ve done a lot of the research for (plus I have someone who said they are willing to read it and provide suggestions for me), so then I just need to come up with 3 more!
  4. Read 17 books.
  5. Make 17 new foods and/or drinks that I’ve never made before.
  6. Write 117 blog postings!

Vague goals:

  1. Finish the plan for mystery thing #1.
  2. Finish the letter of intent for mystery thing #2.
  1. If you are one of those people and actually want to know what the hell I’m talking bout, feel free to email me 🙂 []

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Happy New Year!