Tag Archives: photo Paffooney

Making Photo Paffoonies

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I have been a picture-maker since childhood, drawing skeletons in the margins of my textbooks.  I used to use pencils, crayons, and colored pencils.  I don’t know why I said “used to” because I still use them… just not crayons so much any more.   In fact, I have tried, despite being a living antique my own self, to adapt to modern technology.  Computers and digital photography have made the picture-making thing easier in many ways, though my goofy old brain still has so many fossilized pathways to navigate to get anywhere new that it takes gobs of time to get it down.

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Having rampant hoarding disorder and being a collecting maniac proves useful, because I have stockpiles of junk and stuff to make pictures out of.  The only thing I have to get better at is my photographic light awareness.  I have spent too much money on different light bulbs and lighting equipment.  But practice makes perfect Paffoonies.

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It doesn’t hurt that I constantly paint and make arty-stuff to take pictures of either.  Here is my effort to use puff paints to add snow to Toonerville structures.

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And I need to work on my background awareness too.  But being at home alone while important things are going on elsewhere has given me one thing that I don’t often have.  Lots of time to work on stuff like this.  Scary how the mind of an artist often works, ain’t it?

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Crazy Old People Driving

You can probably tell that the photo Paffooney is totally staged.  I am not a good enough actor to manage the lookcrazy old driver2 of absolute blood-curdling horror that would be on my face if I were actually driving in the Dallas Metroplex.  My gray Gandalf-hair would be standing on end more, and my eyes would be more popped with horror… especially if I had really seen Suicide Sadie in her death-dealing super-WASP-rocket.  Honestly, I’m risking my life to reveal it, but one of the greatest perils of life in the suburbs in Texas is running afoul of the Texas Killer Grannies.  Yes, there is a secret, Illuminati-like organization of blue-haired old menaces driving big, expensive black battle-boats that try to kill as many other Texas drivers as they can… as well as pedestrians, cop cars, squirrels, poor-people’s children, and ceramic lawn gnomes as they can focus their myopic old granny glasses on.

To Texas Killer Grandmas, slaughtering the innocent on the roadways while your back seat is full of knitting baskets and tins of cat food is a Satanic ritual that gives them special and unnatural powers over life and death.

They all drive at least five-miles-an-hour faster than the speed at which they can actually control the vehicle.  For some of the most deadly grannies like Suicide Sadie and End-It-All Emma that is between 95 and 205 miles-per-hour, though the nearly-as-deadly Grandma McGillicuddy can be almost as guaranteed fatal at only about 35 miles an hour.  They cut in front of you without signalling, and traffic lights are interpreted far differently than normal in the presence of a Texas Killer Grandma.  Green means go.  Yellow means go faster.  And red means floor it and brace for impact.  Now, of course that is the granny interpretation of the light.  For me, green means proceed ultra-cautiously while scanning for hurtling BMW’s, Cadillacs, or Lincoln Town Cars with old ladies at the wheel and skulls painted in white on the driver’s door.  Yellow means pull over to the side of the road at a dead stop and make myself the smallest target possible.  And red means park on somebody’s lawn and wait for the intersection to become clear of all vehicles for several blocks all around.  Sidewalks are not safe either with a Texas Killer Grandma around.  You’re safer walking if you walk down the center of the road.  Of course, the more normal drivers will squish you like road-kill then, and the Texas Killer Grandma knows she was ultimately the cause of this suicidal death, so if they are close enough to see it in any sort of blurred clarity, they automatically count it as a kill.

You never see a Texas Killer Grandma charged with anything in the local media or even in court records.  They are not old ladies unconnected to persons of power.  Rich husbands, rich children, and sometimes even rich boyfriends see to it that they are never prosecuted.  They are immune to the wheels of justice.  Crazy Cat-Lady Clarice is immune to prosecution even though she doesn’t own even a nickel.  We think it is because she is so supremely skilled at vehicular homicide that even the police are afraid of her.  And how does she pay for gas in that 1965 Chevy Impala SS she drives with a blood-smeared hood and the driver’s side of the car painted completely white with skulls?

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Retirement Sinks In…

There comes a time in every career when the career is over and it has to end.  I spent 310 years teaching in Middle School and High School and loved every minute of it.  (Okay, divide the years by ten and subtract about twelve thousand minutes from the love… but I did love it.)  And I was good at it.  (At least, in my own confused little mind… I have photographic proof that I did help students get some quality sleep time in, but… hey, English is supposed to be boring.)

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Eight years ago I was forced to make the decision to leave the job I loved.  Failing health and failing finances made it increasingly hard to do the job.  I was never a sit-behind-the-desk teacher.  I had to do the dance… up this row, down that one… lean over the spit-wad shooter before he could adequately aim and pull the stray cafeteria straw out of his mouth… suggest the verb needs to have an “s” on it if the subject of the sentence the student just wrote for me is singular…  stand in front of the boy who can’t listen to my wonderful teaching because the girl across the room is wearing a dress and I have to block his view… and he doesn’t even like that girl, but she’s wearing a dress… you can see her legs… and he’s a teenager… you know, the dance of teaching.  When you walk with a cane and have a back brace on every single work day, the dance becomes harder and harder as the year wears on.  I got to spend my days with Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut and Maya Angelou and Robert Frost… and even more important I got to spend my days with Pablo and Sofie and Ruben and Rita and Keith…  I had so many more favorite students than I ever had those black-banes-of-a-teacher’s-existence kids that other teachers were always talking about in the faculty lounge.  (I rarely hung out in the faculty lounge because they tended to talk bad about kids I really loved and enjoyed teaching… and besides, I had crap to actually do before the next class came in.  Lounging was rarely an option.)

I confess that I have spent a good deal of this school year depressed and feeling sorry for myself.  No kids to talk to on a daily basis except my own, and even with them, only after school or work.  My wife is still teaching… so I rarely see her.  (Am I married?  I need to double-check.)  I fill the lonely hours with writing and story-telling and recollections of days past… and I am beginning to come to terms with my loss.  In retirement I can do more of the things that I always wanted to do… but never had time for.  I can draw and paint and write and sing (pray hard I don’t start posting videos of me singing!) and play with my toys… I have even decided to write a novel about people playing with toys.  Would I ever teach again if suddenly I was healthy and could do it again…?  YOU BETTER BELIEVE I WOULD!  In fact, I was able to be a substitute teacher again from the Fall of 2019 to the start of the pandemic in 2020.  IF ONLY IT COULD’VE LASTED A LITTLE BIT LONGER!

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Being Iowegian

I was born in the 1950’s in Mason City, Iowa… the town that produced Meredith Wilson, the creator of the Broadway Musical, The Music Man.  Yes, River City in The Music Man is Mason City.  So I was born into a unique Midwestern farm-town heritage where swindlers came to town and saved the day with music and an eleventh-hour change of heart.  I was born into the land of Chmielewski Fun Time on the black-and-white TV, Lawrence Welk champagne accordion music, and the Beer-Barrel Polka, courtesy of loads and loads of German ancestry.  I am that unique crossbreed of Scandahoovian and sqare-headed Deutschmann  known by the only slightly racist term of Iowegian.

Corn Country!

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And if you ask an Iowegian if he loves Iowa, he will answer, “You bet!”

And if you ask a northern Iowegian the same thing, he will say “You betcha!”

Iowans talk funny, don’t you know…

There are still corner stores and farm supply stores, though they have gone to brand names now, like Casey’s, BP, and Tractor Supply Co.  You can still find HyVee and Safeway grocery stores.  There are still a precious few family farms that haven’t been swallowed whole by big corporations and agri-businesses.  If you go to the county fairs, you will still find kids showing the cattle or pigs that they raised for 4-H projects, and if you go into the barns after the auction, they are still producing tearful kids hugging and kissing that calf that won a red ribbon and now has to be sold… and they will never see poor Barney or Moo-berry again…

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“You betcha!!!”

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Hoarding Disorder

Pinkie PieI am writing this post today to celebrate two things.  My doctor’s visit today not only came back with positive post-op results (no cancer cells  in the cyst), but it was free.  And while I waited at Walmart for my prescription to be filled at the pharmacy, I found the two Equestria Girls that finish my collection.  I spent the co-pay (that I didn’t have to pay) on Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy (I made that rhyme without a try!)  Yay me!

But I have also come to the sobering realization that my collecting mania may actually be a form of mental illness.  After all, my daughter is now 20 and not really interested in My Little Pony any longer.  That excuse no longer flies.  My wife has lost interest in collecting also (although she still collects clothes and shoes with a gusto that shames Imelda Marcos.)

So why do I do this collecting thing so relentlessly?  Is it a serious mental disorder?  As always I turned to the internet to diagnose myself with life-threatening conditions based on one, or possibly  two symptoms.   I may be doomed.  What I found was an explanation of Hoarding Disorder.

Yes, I inherited it from Grandma Beyer.  She hoarded all sorts of stuff in her little house in Mason City, Iowa.  In her basement, when they cleaned out the house, she still had wrapping paper from Christmases in the 1930’s.  It was in stacks. neatly folded and ready to be re-used.  According to the Psychology Today website article about extreme collecting, one of the first signs of the disorder is the inability to part with personal possessions no matter their actual value.  Never in all the years we spent Christmases together did I ever notice Grandma re-using wrapping paper.  She actually kept that stuff for the memories they invoked and the sentimental value they held for her.  My mother ended up throwing out all that wrapping paper when the house was sold.

Another indicator is the extreme cluttering of the home, to the point of rendering living spaces unlivable.  One glance at the upstairs hallway sends shivers down my weak little hoarder’s spine.

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There are any number of things that might concern a psychiatrist in this hallway.  Of course, the blocked door in the back is where the old non-working air-conditioner is stashed, so there is no room in there for stuffing more stuff.  This picture reveals that I have a vast collection of collections… not merely one.  I collect stuffed toys, HO model railroad stuff and trains, Pez dispensers, stamps, coins, comic books (in the boxes in the back corner under the stuffed toys), and books… gobs, and gobs, and gobs of books!  (“Gobs” is Iowegian for “lots”, not “sailors”.)  In fact, the door on the left is actually the door to the library.

A quick scan of Toonerville along the tops of the bookshelves reveals the full extent of my madness.  Here you see HO-sized buildings, most of which I painted myself or built from kits.  You also see the Pez dispensers that suck money out of my pockets at $1.50 a shot. Downtown Toonerville Downtown Toonerville2My trains have been around for many years.  I shared that obsession with my father (Grandma Beyer’s eldest son) when I was a boy and most of these trains were either gifts from him, or purchased with allowance.  (I haven’t bought anything new in seven years.)

Pez Supers Pez Toons

So, the evidence makes it clear.  One day soon I will be locked up somewhere in a padded room.  I hope, at least, that my children still like me well enough to sneak in Pez dispensers when they come to visit.

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Cardboard Castles

After a long, lonely week by myself, unable to go with my family to Florida for Spring Break due to poor health, my isolation ended suddenly as they returned early.  I woke up to find them already here yesterday morning.  They were tired from travelling, having arrived in the middle of the night, and so they needed to sleep in… and I was suffering horrible cabin fever.  It mattered little, though, that I longed to get out.  I was still ill and unable to breathe outside of my sealed bedroom.  My arthritic back ached and I needed to lie in bed on the heating pad for the better part of a Saturday.  So, what could I do but use my creative talents to take me on a journey into imagination.  I built a castle.

cardcastle1 cardcastle2 cardcastle4  I used an old computer program I previously found at Half-Price Books, the big superstore thing on Northwest Highway in Dallas.  I printed out castle parts on white paper with colored ink.  I gathered pieces of reusable cardboard I had been saving for the purpose.  I began to cut and paste and tape.

cardcastle5 Cardcastle6 cardcastle7  I nearly forgot the most important step.  I put on a Dr. Who DVD I snagged at Walmart.   It was An Adventure is Space and Time starring David Bradley (who was playing William Hartnell who was the first Dr. Who, so it was a movie about an actor playing a part in a BBC fantasy series in the 1960’s played by another actor who looked like the original actor… I mean, it was a story about telling a story and it was the true story of the telling… Oh, I give up!  You figure it out.)  (That was the second longest parenthetic expression I have ever written, by the way.)  It also had a full four episode adventure from the very first Dr. Who story, An Unearthly Child, starring the real William Hartnell.  So I watched and cut and taped and pasted and built castle all day.

Cardcastle8 cardcastle9 cardcastle10  It begins to get exciting as the pieces fit together and it actually starts to look like a castle.  Of course, once it was finished, I had to play with the dang thing.  I am old, and this is my second childhood after all.

cardcastle11 cardcastle12 cardcastle14  Now, if only I can figure out how to keep female vampires dressed in red from invading my castle.

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On a Frosty Morning

Frosty Morn

Yes, there was frost on the ground in the Dallas suburbs today.  A bit of fog too.  And I mean that both literally and figuratively, in a very Robert Frost-ian sort of way.  The air was clean and cold and crisp for a change.  I could see, hear, breathe, and think well for a change in this gawd-awful city of death and decay.  It was poetically, virtually, and monumentally a moment of clarity… such clarity that only three adjectives could possibly be enough to provide the complex understanding of my Robert Frost moment.

My typical apology for living, and for writing this, and for making you read it comes in the second paragraph today.  You have to forgive me for being so much of an English teacher.  Do you know who Robert Frost is?  Frost is a great american poet who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry four times in the 20th Century.  Does that really tell you who Frost is?  Of course not.  Only this does;

The Road Not Taken

a poem by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,,
And that has made all the difference.

Yes, like Robert Frost, I took the road less traveled by in life.  Having a gift for creative writing, drawing cartoons, and generally being seriously silly and obtuse (and claiming that meant I was funny), I chose to not  be a novelist and cartoonist when I was young.  I chose to be a school teacher.  Of course, if you pin me down and ask me, requiring me to answer before you let me up, and threatening to spit on my nose if I don’t answer, I will tell you that God really decided I needed to be a teacher.  After all, I developed arthritis that effected how often and how long I could spend drawing.  I had the usual novelist’s problem of a keen awareness of how to write, and no real life experiences to write about.  But even though it was a holy mission from God, it was my own decision to become a teacher.

And look what I got from it.20150216_152544  This is a picture of Freddy.  I started this picture in 1986, drawing the portrait from a photo and from real life.  Freddy was a vato loco from Cotulla.  He is the sort of kid that teachers dread.  He is the kind that if you let him sit in the back of the room, he will shoot spit-wads into the girls’ hair… but if you put him up front, he is constantly putting on a show, a stand-up-sit-down-again comedy routine for the entire classroom.  And I had the honor of being his favorite teacher both in his seventh and eighth grade years.  He made me laugh almost as much as he was laughing at me.  He claimed he was a Mexican even though he was born in the U.S. and has always lived in the U.S. and if he goes to Mexico, they won’t understand his Texican version of Spanish without an interpreter.  (Now, you probably already know that I never use real names of people I write about in order to protect the innocent… or in Freddy’s case the only-mildly-guilty.  But I haven’t actually revealed his name in this post.  Alfredo Giovanni is such a common name in Texas that you will never be able to find him through research.  And Alfredo Giovanni is a name I made up anyway.)  By the time I actually put the color on this picture, Freddy will no longer look even remotely like this.  He’s in his late forties and Hispanic.  He probably weighs at least ten times what his tiny self did back in 1986.  But I was honored to know him and teach him, even though I have more than a few gray hairs on my head that he specifically caused.

And that brings me to my final movement in this classical opus.  Here is the difference I have made by choosing the path I chose.  Now that poor health has forced me to retire from teaching, and I have a limited time left to me to pick up the novelist/cartoonist thing again, I have done so with passion and insight that I would not otherwise have had.  I have crafted a novel in The Magical Miss Morgan based entirely on my experiences as a classroom teacher.  It is the best thing I have ever written in my life.  And one of the main characters, the rapscallion leader of the Pirates’ Club, Timothy Kellogg… is Freddy in fictional form.556836_458567807502181_392894593_n  Oh, it is true that the character is the son of a high school English teacher in my story, and he does have a lot in common with my own oldest son… but he is actually Freddy.  The things he does and says (translated from Texican into Iowegian) and thinks and feels, are all Freddy.  And how do I know what Freddy thinks and feels?  Come on!  I was Freddy’s favorite teacher.  There is no way I would still be alive and sane unless I could read minds.

Two roads diverge on a frosty morning pathway in the park… One over the bridge into an entirely different life that I didn’t choose… and one that leads straight on into the new dawn… whatever the consequences of following it.

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Sanctuary

This is my library, the place where I keep my books.  It is also a place for my doll collection and the Dungeons and Dragons game that I’ve been playing with my kids for more than a decade.  It is a place to read and think and… oh, yeah, there’s an X-Box also.  Well, that’s one way to get the kids to spend time there too.

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I do realize what a jumbled mess it is.  The shelves are all cheap Walmart kits that I built myself.  Some have been damaged over time and travel.  I have rebuilt them, restocked them, and rearranged them time and again.

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This reading nook is currently being used to display parts of my Captain Action collection.  The Captain America costume on the left is my original property from Christmas 1967.  The Steve Canyon costume next to it is an E-bay purchase and a rare find from a decade ago.  Aquaman is a combination.  The mask, trident,conch horn, and swim fins are from my original set from Christmas 1966.  The suit itself had to be replaced from E-Bay because I played with it until it was no more than a mass of frayed thread.  The gloves come from a innovative toy company called Classic Plastick run by Wes McCue.  http://classicplastick.proboards.com/  You may notice cups and junk left by kids in my library.  Cheetos wrappers from food that my daughter the Princess loves are often found crammed in between the books.

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This alcove is where I store my customized Star Wars’ Twi’leck Barbie which I made myself with acrylic paint, Sculpey plasticine, exacto-knife, and Crazy Glue.  It also is where I store my antique book collection, some of which are a hundred years old or more.  (I have books from my Grandparents’ libraries as well as some from my own childhood.)

Let me show you the Star Wars shelf.  (It is not big enough for all my twelve-inch Star Wars action figures, but… oh, well.

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Here is the back side of the shelf.  (How did topless Mermaid Barbie get in there?)20150110_134644

I also have a corner for the X-Box and the TV it is attached to.  (But Dr. Evil is holding it hostage at this writing.)

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And finally, let me bore you with the fact that the small upstairs bedroom that is now the library does not have enough room to contain all my books.  The library also fills up the upstairs hall and large portion of my bedroom/studio.

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It has been said that my library is as cluttered as my mind is.  But don’t you believe it.  My inner world makes this manifestation in the outer world look Spartan by comparison.

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When Comes the Dawn?

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We never seem to see it coming,

When the dark times are here,

Depression, black… is out of whack,

And everything looks drear…

And then a glimmer… maybe hope?

When will the sun appear?

But gray men in their dread gray suits,

Make the paperwork loom near…

And we must fill out in triplicate,

The forms you sign right here.

This dawn you want is pink and blue?

The proper form, my dear…

Sign it, scribe it, write in ink,

And make no mistake appear

And then you write and write and write…

To make the dawn shine clear.

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I guess the thing to do… sometimes… when everything is going against you, is to write a poem… or take a picture of the sunrise… maybe two.

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What You Should Know About Filipino Families

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Not everyone pictured in this post is actually a family member by marriage, but my wife has a big family and everyone who is even remotely related to a Filipino family… or even imagines that they are… is family.

I am about as much of a white-guy WASP-type as you can find in Middle America, having grown up in Iowa and teaching for my entire career in Texas.  But I know a thing or two… or three about other cultures.   I taught in South Texas for 23 years with students who were over 85% Spanish-speaking.  And then, in 1995, I married into the Pinoy culture of the Philippine Islands.

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Me and my Filipino-American familia… circa 2003.

There are some things I have learned about this other culture that you should probably be aware of.

#1.  The United States is being invaded and colonized by the Philippines.  They are coming here in waves, getting jobs in education and medicine that not enough of home-grown America are willing to take up.  My wife came here with a placement company as a teacher.  Three of her group of Filipino teachers landed in our little Cotulla school district.  When she got here, she was met by her cousin and her cousin’s family.  There was a Filipina woman and her young son in the Valley that also took an interest in helping her get settled in Texas.  All of these people… and all of their friends and relatives are still a part of our lives.  My wife’s sister and her family lived in California where dozens of cousins also lived.  They and my wife’s parents have since moved to Texas, along with two other sisters and their families.  You get the idea.  They are taking over.

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#2. As you can see, Filipinos love to take pictures.  Above is a picture from class where my niece goes to school back in Floridablanca in the Philippines.  People complain about pictures of food on Facebook.  My Filipino family puts the Food Network to shame.  Sometimes I can’t tell if they are eating another exotic Filipino dish with rice and meat or they’ve been putting firecrackers into fish and exploding them.  And the fish eyes are a delicacy.  Eeuw! My sisters in Iowa won’t even let me talk about the food at Filipino gatherings.  I have to be extremely careful of what I share on Facebook.

1013267_10201161984785458_2113452340_n #3.  To know about Filipino culture, you have to understand what Jollibee is all about.  Jollibee is the Filipino MacDonald’s.  Of course, it is cheaper… and better tasting.  There are a  few of them around the country here.  California has more than Texas.  They are like a giant Filipino magnet.  You go there to find the Filipino community in any American city.  But other people love the food too.  You have to sort the Filipinos from the Hispanics and white folks that are not too proud to eat cheap and delicious.

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Well, those are only about three things that you should probably know about Filipinos and Pinoy culture.  I haven’t even gotten into the thing about Matrilineal social orders or the evils of Karaoke addiction… but enough is enough for one day.  I have no idea how much trouble I am now in for revealing cultural secrets.  It could be a long cold night in the dog house.

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