June Pieces Of My Mind #2

Nyckelviken's folly Nyckelviken's folly
  • Dropping off Jrette at sailing camp for her 2nd summer. Just like her brother in '09. Just like me in '86.
  • Heard new interviews with Andy Weir and Larry Niven on Planetary Radio. I love the Internet!
  • Kelley Johnston on self-defense training for daughters: "I'd rather bail you out of jail than identify you at the morgue".
  • Depeche Mode's 1984 Some Great Reward was the first album I bought. I just listened to "Blasphemous Rumours" for the first time in decades and was impressed.
  • Starting from the lines "Taken away to the dark side / I wanna be your left hand man", I began writing a tongue-in-cheek occult interpretation of Vance Joy's sweet 2013 hit song "Riptide". But then I found that there are already several serious ones on-line.
  • Oh how I hate web apps like Google's that show you your documents long before they start taking input from the keyboard. I always hit the search key and start typing shit that ends up in my document instead.
  • Layne Staley should still be recording.
  • I love streaming music so much that I sometimes look for housework just so I can listen.
  • The nuns are enthusiastic about visiting my dig.
  • The first tea plantation in India was established in about 1820 by the British. In Assam.
The neglected rosebush I've been nurturing has started to bloom! The neglected rosebush I've been nurturing has started to bloom!
A roomful of used speculative fiction at the Fantastika 2016 scifi con! A roomful of used speculative fiction at the Fantastika 2016 scifi con!

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The nuns are enthusiastic about visiting my dig.

I recall some of the background behind this statement, but if I didn't I would read rather more into this sentence than you presumably intended. It's an illustration of why walking into a conversation (virtually as well as in meatspace) is dangerous.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 20 Jun 2016 #permalink

A lot of those books look familiar, but I can't decide if it's because I have them and by some miracle the covers are the same in Europe as in the US, or if all sci-fi/fantasy paperback look the same on the spine.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 20 Jun 2016 #permalink

"I don't want to sprerad blasphemous rumors
but I think God has
a sick sense of humour"
And then came Trumpman. And Brexit. No further questions, your honor.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 21 Jun 2016 #permalink

Study: China could go big on wind power—if it adjusts its grid operations http://phys.org/news/2016-06-china-big-powerif-adjusts-grid.html
"A roomful of used speculative fiction at the Fantastika 2016 scifi con!"
Goddammit! I should have shipped you a couple of containers, so you could give away the stuff at the con.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 21 Jun 2016 #permalink

#4 - The Bantu expansion was already pretty well understood, as was the existence of substantial Eurasian admixture in Ethiopia. It is not clear from that news article whether they have revealed anything new or not.

By John Massey (not verified) on 21 Jun 2016 #permalink

Birger@5: China turns out to have a similar problem as the US when it comes to wind power: the best parts of the country for producing wind power aren't close to the big cities. There is a wide swath of the US, from western Texas to eastern Montana and extending into Canada's prairie provinces, that has reasonably reliable winds. But very few people live in that part of the US; it is, as we say, "miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles."

The link doesn't specify which parts of China are the windiest, but my guess is that it would be Tibet and Xinjiang, the two most sparsely populated provinces in China. As with the Great Plains, being a bit downwind of a major mountain range helps.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 21 Jun 2016 #permalink

#8 - Tibet also has more hydro power potential than the rest of the world combined. I have known that since I was 17 and wrote my first year thesis on alternative energy. The problem is...yep...miles and miles and miles from anywhere.

By John Massey (not verified) on 21 Jun 2016 #permalink

The mass shootings are primarily a USA thing, not Anglo-Saxon. Australia passed some sensible gun laws in 1996 and haven't had a mass shooting since. The UK has the occasional shooting, but it tends to be one or two victims at a time (e.g., the recent assassination of MP Cox). Guns are widely available in Canada (although not to the extent of the US) because many there have legitimate needs for hunting or wildlife protection, and its violent crime rate is much lower than the US's.

I'll grant a degree of government dysfunction in the US, UK, and Australia, but Canada elected a reasonably functional government in the last year or two. I suspect the difference here is Rupert Murdoch: he is a major news media player in Australia, the UK, and the US (Fox News is his US TV network and he owns the Wall Street Journal), but to the extent that he has a presence in Canada it is not a major presence.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 23 Jun 2016 #permalink

I will try to make a comment on Brexit without regurgitating too much of what has been written before (and more eloquently than I can do).
A lot of the comments in media draw the wrong conclusions, like criticizing Cameron for promising a referendum, the idea being that democracy is a danger and the proles too dumb to be entrusted responsibility for their own fates.

Yes, the EU rules have allowed a huge influx of immigrants and yes, they have been willing to work for lower wages, dumping the general level of wages in Britain. But the answer is not less democracy, but more social justice. Member states must be allowed to set a lowest permitted standard for wages (as well as a highest permitted level of pollution etc).

The nationalist parties in Europe attract voters because they feel marginalised, without any power to influence the competing political blocs (in Britain, less than two thirds of voters actually use their right to vote).
And economic insecurity makes people desperate and prone to choose “traditional” (that is, populist and xenophobic ) solutions offered by the extreme right.
The economic insecurity is to no small amount the fault of Cameron and the Tories: Even the International Monetary Fund, normally a bulwark of conservative economists, is admitting that “austerity” economics during recession actually makes things worse (a conclusion already made during the Great Depression but wilfully ignored today).
Cameron and his arty pursued an ideologically motivated austerity program during the recession, and the slow recovery of the British economy must have been to the “Brexit” campaign what kerosene is to a bonfire.

In regard to migration, the immigrants provide a big chunk of British taxes, and skilled foreign professionals make up a huge part of the workforce of the National Health Service. Meanwhile more than a million British citizens live and work in other EU countries. The consequences of brexit will hurt badly.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 25 Jun 2016 #permalink

#15 - By painstakingly collecting and analysing financial data for America over the space of a couple of hundred years, Peter Turchin, who specialises in cliodynamics, showed very clearly that when viewed on a scale of decades, high immigration resulted in higher gross GDP, but on a personal level the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Periods of low immigration resulted in lower gross GDP, but on a personal level the rich became less rich, while the poor became better off.

These are consistent trends throughout recent American history.

But of course, Turchin is a hated Russian, so he can be dismissed by a wave of the hand as obviously inherently evil and therefore to be ignored, despite being the only person who could be bothered to collect and analyse enough data to know what he is talking about.

Never let the facts get in the way of your personal ideology.

The consequences of Brexit may be painful short term while the 'system' (e.g. NHS) adjusts, but in the medium term, the average British citizen living in the UK is likely to be better off.

By John Massey (not verified) on 26 Jun 2016 #permalink

Birger@15: Cameron's mistake was not so much in having the referendum as in not having a contingency plan if Leave won. I'd be hard pressed to think of an upper class twit more deserving of being hoist on his own petard. But I can't take pleasure in it, because this is going to hurt a bunch of people badly, and I know some of those people.

It doesn't help that the leading pro-Brexit politicians went on national TV the next morning and basically said, to quote a famous line from Animal House, "You f---ed up. You trusted us." Also, Scotland is fuming--they voted to remain in the UK in order to remain in the EU, and every council district in Scotland voted Remain, most by wide margins.

John@18: One of the main things London had going for it is that it has been a major world financial center. Much of that depends on having easy access to the EU. That's in serious danger now. They also export a bunch of manufactured goods to the EU. Likewise, EU agricultural subsidies have been keeping large parts of Wales and Cornwall afloat. Any gains from Brexit will be decades coming, and only after lots of pain.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 26 Jun 2016 #permalink

#19 - Commentators I have read who have focused on Scotland's and London's vote not to leave the EU have all failed to mention that Wales also voted not to leave.

IOW, people who have been benefitting by being in the EU voted not to leave; people who have not voted to leave, evidently believing they have nothing more to lose. As Razib Khan has observed: "in a democracy with one person (adult) one vote the outcomes are not always going to be congenial to elites."

In a democracy, you have to respect the will of the majority. You don't get the luxury of rejecting the outcome if it doesn't suit you or your buddies. No one should need to point that out to Americans, with the presidential candidates you have ended up with.

By John Massey (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

I'm not gloating, by the way. I'm generally mortified by the whole mess, including the state of the EU and the US presidential election, but I don't get a vote in any of this. They are predictable outcomes of globalisation, and the resulting widening wealth gaps in developed economies. Globalisation has also dragged a lot of third world populations out of abject poverty, so it's swings and roundabouts.

My observations on Australia are that white jingoistic nationalism and racism have been continuously rising since the early 2000s, and that if you exclude the mining and agricultural sectors, the country has been in continuous recession since 2008. Open resentment of Chinese people and condemnation of China as a country has grown in direct proportion to the country's dependence on China for trade.

By John Massey (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

"Open resentment of Chinese people and condemnation of China as a country has grown in direct proportion to the country’s dependence on China for trade."

Just wait until the Americans realise the Chinese economy actually is the larger one! There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth (and of course, they will blame lagging behind on the lazy latinos and n*ggers instead of the entrenched oligarchy).

I do not in any way condone the undemocratic rule of the communist party, but they have not been seduced by the "austerity" economic theories that has been the ideological fashion in so many western counntries.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

Black people don't make up a large enough group in America to make that much of a difference one way or another, and never will - currently around 10% and projected to remain 10%. They might matter on an individual city or even state basis, but not nationally, except as a voting bloc who traditionally vote Democrat but who are Social Conservatives (e.g. most Black Americans oppose same-sex marriage).

The same is not true of Latinos/Hispanics/whatever people call them - this is not a homogeneous single grouping, despite the US Census grouping them as such.

By John Massey (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

As for American realisation about the Chinese economy, what about the infamous 'pivot to Asia'? (Which loosely translates as establishing a threatening military presence in the Western Pacific and South China Sea under the guise of 'protecting the freedom of SCS shipping lanes', which are far more important to China than America).

You'd think that America is already embroiled in enough ill-advised foreign wars without looking for more, but that is not the way it is behaving, or the way that Clinton is talking. As for Trump...nah, forget it, I'm not going to grace his ravings with a comment.

By John Massey (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

Changing topic slightly, I was amused by tennis player Garbiñe Muguruza's response to the question "Who have you been following in the football?" She didn't utter a word in reply, she just did this:


First round match for Garbi at Wimbledon tonight, to be watched nervously by myself + daughter. We sooo want her to win this one. Although Serena equalling Steffi Graf's record wouldn't kill us, either.

It's a big stretch to think that Venus could win a 6th Wimbledon at the age of 36, but stranger things have happened, and that wouldn't kill us either.

Venus will also be playing her first round match at her 19th Wimbledon tonight, so it's going to be a long, nervous night in my household tonight, with no doubt a lot of raucous cheering to disturb the neighbours.

By John Massey (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

Dept. of What The Fuck:
”Christy Sheats posted this on her facebook page last March.
‘It would be horribly tragic if my ability to protect myself or my family were to be taken away, but that’s exactly what Democrats are determined to do by banning semi-automatic handguns.’
You know exactly where this is going, right? Sheats is dead, shot by the police after she refused to drop that handgun, after she’d used it to murder her 17 and 22 year old daughters.”

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

Blimey. Cherrapunji gets 10x the annual rainfall in Hong Kong. I wonder what their hourly and 24 hour intensities are like.

On 23 July 1994, Tai Mo Shan (tallest peak in Hong Kong) got one metre of rain in 24 hours. In 1992, the highest hourly rainfall recorded was 138mm, but that has subsequently been exceeded. I don't recall the highest recorded hourly figure, but it was lots.

By John Massey (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

My new bicycle seat is loudly and proudly labelled ARS - seems appropriate to those who speak English correctly.

(ARS = anatomical relief saddle)

By John Massey (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

in latin "ars" means something more noble.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

Ars archaeology is what Martin teaches!

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

The Metro Goldwyn Mayer movie studios have/had the motto "Ars gratia artis". Which I think approximately translates as "art for art's sake", but I don't know enough Latin to be sure of that.

I wonder if somebody has come up with an Anatomical Relief Saddle, Enhanced. The acronym of which is how the word in question is spelled in UK English.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

Regarding rainfall records: Wikipedia has a list of records over various periods. The one-hour record is 305 mm at Holt, Missouri, USA on 22 June 1947. The 24-hour record is held by a site on Réunion in the western Indian Ocean: 1825 mm during Tropical Cyclone Denise in 1966. Cherrapunji holds the records for wettest 48 hour period (2493 mm) and year (26470 mm). But the highest annual average is a different site in the same Indian state: Mawsynram averaged 11872 mm over a 10-year period.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

Commentators I have read who have focused on Scotland’s and London’s vote not to leave the EU have all failed to mention that Wales also voted not to leave.

That would be because Wales as a whole did vote to leave. According to the map I have seen, only three council districts in Wales voted Remain: one on the west coast (Aberystwyth) and two on the Severn estuary (I think one is Cardiff but am not sure, and I don't know Wales well enough to identify the other one). The rest of Wales voted Leave, as did Cornwall.

You may be thinking of Northern Ireland, which overall voted Remain. There, in a curious reversal of the urban/rural pattern seen in England, the Belfast region voted Leave while the countryside voted Remain.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament: "The British have violated the rules. It is not the EU philosophy that the crowd can decide its fate".

So much for Democracy, then. If it is not the People who can decide the fate of the EU, who does? And where are these 'rules' written down?

I think this shows succinctly why the leavers won the referendum.

By John Massey (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink

Meanwhile, at Wimbledon:


Had to stay up to 1.30 am to keep my daughter company watching Garbiñe Muguruza's win against Camila Giorgi, who is a real pocket rocket who hits way above her weight class. Great match to watch. Not surprising to learn that Giorgi was a gymnast before she became a tennis pro. She should be in the Top 10, but has had a bad run with a back injury. The way she hurls herself around a tennis court and rotates her body so violently into every shot, I'm not surprised she got injured.

But when are the stupid Wimbledon commentators going to get the point that Giorgi is Italian, not French? Her name is pronounced 'Jor-jee'. They pronounce it like everyone mispronounces Beijing. It's BeiJing, with a hard 'J', but with the tip of the tongue more forward against the back of the teeth than for an English 'J'.

By John Massey (not verified) on 27 Jun 2016 #permalink


And the name of the guy who scored the first goal, -Ragnar Sigurdsson- is so "viking saga" that it is mental. If someone in Game of Thrones had had a name like that it would have been too much, but this guy is for real.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 28 Jun 2016 #permalink

Re. John @ 37

The US Green Party’s Jill Stein issued a excellent statement that had as good and succinct an analysis of the Brexit vote as you will find anywhere and that is presented below in its entirety.
“The Brexit vote reflects the rejection of neoliberalism by economically stressed voters saying no to the neoliberal agenda of austerity, corporate free trade and globalization that serves the economic elite.
The Brexit vote also reflects the deplorable and dangerous anti-immigrant, anti-Moslem, anti-refugee anger that neoliberalism generates. Economically stressed voters are vulnerable to demagoguery, and have been lulled into blaming immigrants for the economic crisis caused in fact by the economic elite.

In reality, immigrants are themselves refugees from neoliberal militarism and economic domination – and have been forced to flee their homelands in search of safety and economic survival.

The only answer to this crisis is truly progressive policies – fair trade agreements, economic equality and security including the right to a job at living wages, health care and education as human rights, the cancellation of student debt, and respect for the needs and rights of immigrants. We must honor diversity and stop causing the immigration crisis through predatory economic and military policies of neoliberalism.
In order to achieve progressive policies that can address the growing crisis, we must also demand real democracy, both in the EU and the US. Only then can we begin to create an America and a world that works for all of us, that puts people, planet and peace over profit”

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 28 Jun 2016 #permalink

But when are the stupid Wimbledon commentators going to get the point that Giorgi is Italian, not French?

I think we have had this discussion before. When it comes to butchering the pronunciation of names of foreign origin, it's hard to beat Anglophones generally and the English in particular. The English seem especially prone to thinking that pseudo-French sounds more sophisticated. But Americans have issues as well: place names like Berlin (BER-lin), Milan (MY-lan), and Versailles (VER-sails). And while most people in states bordering Mexico get the Spanish J right (it's pronounced like an English voiced H--in some dialects, including Castilian, it's closer to the German hard CH, but that's one of the few Indo-European phonemes absent in English), the double L is almost always pronounced with its English value (depending on dialect it's either Y or LY in Spanish), and vowels are frequently butchered (e.g., the Los Angeles suburb of San Pedro is pronounced as if it were "San Pidro").

In the case of Beijing, one irony is that the French still call that city Péking, which IINM is approximately how it's pronounced in Cantonese.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 28 Jun 2016 #permalink

In Cantonese, Beijing is pronounced "bak ging", where 'bak' is pronounced approximately like 'buck'.

According to Wikipedia, the romanization "Peking" was created by French missionaries from the Nanjing dialect pronunciation, some time in the 17th or 18th Century.

By John Massey (not verified) on 28 Jun 2016 #permalink

I had a friend from the Dominican Republic who was adamant that Spanish people do not speak Spanish correctly. It didn't seem to occur to him that he spoke 16th Century Castilian, possibly with some Basque pronunciation.

Garbiñe Mugurutha's name gives the tennis commentators the horrors. She very sternly corrects anyone who addresses her as 'Gar-been', but they struggle over 'Muguruza' in total confusion. I think that's partly because it's a Basque name that is pronounced 'Mugurutha' in Castilian but 'Mugurusa' in Basque. I have never heard her say her own last name (she signs herself as Mugu), but I imagine she uses the Basque pronunciation, as her father is Basque.

By John Massey (not verified) on 29 Jun 2016 #permalink

Struggling myself - I meant Garbiñe Muguruza. Having trained myself to say Mugurutha, I probably need to go back to pronouncing it as Mugurusa.

By John Massey (not verified) on 29 Jun 2016 #permalink

But interestingly (or not), Garbiñe Muguruza pronounces 'Beijing' absolutely correctly, which puts her one up over most of the English speaking world.

By John Massey (not verified) on 29 Jun 2016 #permalink

Nope, I found it, finally - she pronounces it 'Mugurutha'.

By John Massey (not verified) on 29 Jun 2016 #permalink

"The US Green Party’s Jill Stein issued a excellent statement that had as good and succinct an analysis of the Brexit vote as you will find anywhere and that is presented below in its entirety."

Typical political bullshit which tries to spin everything to conform to one's own worldview. Considering that the UK is considerably more neoliberal than most of the rest of the EU, especially big countries like France and Germany and, to a lesser extent, Spain, which are socialist by comparison (not to mention small (in population) countries which are organized quite differently than England), claiming that Brexit is a rejection of neoliberal politics demonstrates a huge amount of ignorance or a huge ability to lie.

Yes, some refugees suffer from neoliberal politics, but this is way down on the list. Way down.

Most of the racist sentiment in the UK is not a result of neoliberal politics.

And so on.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 29 Jun 2016 #permalink

"it’s closer to the German hard CH, but that’s one of the few Indo-European phonemes absent in English"

There are two: back (as in "Bach"), and front, as in "ich". The front version definitely exists in English, at least in some dialects: it is the "H" in the American pronunciation of "Houston", in "Hugh", and so on. It's also relatively easy to explain as a voiceless "Y".

Both also exist in Swedish, but, at least in some dialects, it is also used at the beginning of a syllable (where some would have something closer to the English "sh" sound); this is difficult even for speakers of German learning Swedish. And Dutch has the voiced variant of the back "CH".

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 29 Jun 2016 #permalink

John@45: Pronouncing Z as TH is a peculiarity of Castilian Spanish. Most other dialects that I am aware of pronounce it as S. So pronouncing her surname with an S sound isn't wrong--if she grew up in Madrid, she probably modified it from Basque to Castilian. Many Americans have done similar things with their surnames; e.g., an American named Weiss would probably pronounce the first letter as W, rather than V as is done in the old country (Germany).

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 29 Jun 2016 #permalink

I don't know which dialects you are aware of. Most dialects? Certainly, since all American dialects (and some in Spain) use the "s" pronunciation. In Spain, the majority don't:


Most make a distinction, some pronounce both "s" and "z" as "s", some even pronounce both as (similar to) "th".

There is a legend that the "th" came about due to the lisp of Philip II.

By Phillip Helbig (not verified) on 29 Jun 2016 #permalink

#51 - Yes. She moved to Spain from Venezuela when she was 6, and I'm guessing she grew up in Spain speaking Castilian, which is what she speaks now (in addition to very good English), so she pronounces her Basque name the way Castilian speakers would.

By John Massey (not verified) on 29 Jun 2016 #permalink

A somewhat larger perching robot would be perfect in large numbers for guarding a rchaeological sites from looting, or guarding rhinos from poachers.
"Scientists have invented a tiny flying robot that can perch to save energy" http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-have-invented-a-tiny-drone-that-…

-and once an intruder is detected, a larger unit can be sent to follow the lawbreakers as fast as any landrover can travel, until rangers can intercept.

By Birgerjohansson (not verified) on 01 Jul 2016 #permalink

John@58: I get a fair amount of spam similar to what the authors of that paper get (not the same journals/conferences, of course, but similarly dubious). I've been training my spam filter to recognize these as spam--unfortunately, the iPhone and the iPad do not have spam filters.

I also get political spam--somebody sold my e-mail address to a Republican politician, Frank Guinta, who is currently my alleged representative in Congress. So I recently got a fundraising e-mail from Donald Trump, similar to the one that was sent to MPs in the UK, Iceland, Denmark, Australia, and Canada.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 Jul 2016 #permalink

Addendum to the above, in case anyone is wondering what's so scandalous about Trump soliciting campaign funds from foreign politicians: It is against the law for a US political campaign to accept donations from people who are not US citizens or permanent residents. US citizens are unlikely to be politicians in other countries. (Boris Johnson was born in New York, so he might be a US citizen, but that situation is rare among politicians.)

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 01 Jul 2016 #permalink

#59 - I want one. Actually, I want a fleet of them. My daughter fantasises about keeping a flock of trained 'attack ducks' that she can mobilise to fly out and crap en masse on anyone who displeases her. But flying robots would be less messy, and not disease-prone. And you could arm them with something more serious than duck shit. Although, admittedly, duck shit can be pretty serious stuff.

#60 - My phone is big enough so I no longer need the iPad mini that I previously made huge use of, and it's synched to both the office mail server and my desktop at home, so I have effective spam filters on everything.

In addition to the usual conference and journal crap, I did have a problem with internal company spam. I work for a multi-national company that now has more than 100,000 employees world wide, so to try to keep this massive international network synergising and all doing the right stuff on occupational health & safety, anti-corruption measures, etc., and to keep us all feeling how lucky we are to work for such a great company, it keeps up this veritable barrage of internal mail that I don't need to read, because I know it all and could have written the manual on it for them.

So I trained my computer at work to recognise all of the internal company stuff as spam, with the exception of the very few things I actually want to see, like my pay slips, pay-out notifications from the group medical insurer and such like. Everything else just goes straight into the spam folder in my office computer, and because my phone is synched to the office mail server, it never appears on my phone.

When my boss found out that I never read, or even see, any of this massive avalanche of email that the company sprays around, he started laughing and couldn't stop. He doesn't usually laugh about much, but that got to him.

#61 - I can't see Boris volunteering some campaign money for Trump; certainly not now. But on reflection, it would almost be worthwhile for me to make a contribution and make sure the Feds know about it, just so they could nail him for illegally accepting it.

By John Massey (not verified) on 02 Jul 2016 #permalink