Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 
Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year’s Resolutions

Let's see, what are my goals for the next 12 months?
  • Write more
  • Read more
  • Lose more
  • Live more

Ok, but let's get specific. Vague goals aren't worth anything; they're too easy to let slide. Details; we want details!
  1. Write more
    • Finish my novel-I didn't get to 50,000 in November, but the story is still moving along nicely, so I'm going to keep at it until it's done. Probably sometime in May.
    • Post here regularly-There's going to be a new schedule this year. I want to add a little discipline to my writing habit, so here's the plan. On Mondays, there will be an essay length post dealing with one topic in depth. Wednesdays are for a new feature, photo essays. These will cover a variety of topics, mostly revolving around some of my hobbies. For example, expect pictures of the coral reef I'm building in my living room, along with shots of the tall ship model I'm building in the living room. Who knows what else will show up? Fridays are for another new feature, one I'm still working on, so I'm going to keep it quiet for a bit longer, but it's something I'm having a lot of fun puting together, so we'll see how it goes over. Tuesdays and Thursdays will be for random posts as the mood strikes me. There may be a lot there, or there might be nothing at all. We'll see what happens.
    • Submit at least three short pieces for publication somewhere- It's time to put my mouth where the money is, so to speak.

  2. Read more-There are 6 books on my nightstand that have been there for at least 6 months. I need to clear them out.
  3. Lose more-Yep, it's that ultimate of New Year's Eve Cliches, the diet. Except it won't really be a diet, just a few minor changes to my lifestyle to start getting a little bit healthier. I'm cutting out sodas completely, reducing other sweets, and I'm going to start walking more. My goal is modest; 5 lbs per month.
  4. Live more-This is the biggie. As a writer, I tend to sit back and observe more than participate. That's not good. This year, I plan on changing that.
    • I will play poker in a casino in Las Vegas.
    • I will go to a major sports event that doesn't involve cars driving in circles, the color orange or the words "minor league."
    • I will get out to hear more bands and see more shows.
    • I will sing in a band or with a group.
    • I will mix, mingle, and shudder date again.


So, there you have it; my resolutions for the next twelve months. Anything I should add to the list?


UPDATE: I also resolve to use spell checker more frequently. Darn it!

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

One Last Post:  The Grinches at the NYC Transit Unions

As if I needed another reason to be anti-union, the New York Transit workers have gone on strike, rejecting a 3 year 10.5% pay raise, and a compromise on the pension issue that would allow new workers to retire at 55, if they contributed more to the pension fund.

Nothing says solidarity like screwing over 7 million commuters on Christmas week because you feel like $55K for sitting in a ticket booth is an insult.

I also heard that the New York Transit Unions by law are not allowed to strike. To me, that means they all just quit. Let's hire up all the unemployed folks displaced by the "jobless recovery" and let those that want to work do the work.

And the outrageous demands by the MTA? Well, let's see.
  • They want the Transit workers to cover 1% of the cost of their health insurance. Does anybody in my reading audience pay that little? I pay 25%.
  • They want to extend the retirement age from 55 to 62, or require those who wish to retire at 55 to contribute more money to thier pension.
  • They've offered a 10.5% pay raise over the next three years when most city employees are getting about 6% over the same time period.


Yeah, these folks really need to be out on strike.

Look, there may be some unions out there that are needed and do good work. In fact, I'd bet on it. I know my ex wife's ex-father-in-law, a man I deeply respect, is a life-long union man. And it could be that the two unions I've had personal contact with are not representative of the whole bunch. But man, these yahoos in NYC sure make it hard for me to take unions seriously.

Posted by Rich
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Time for a Vacation

Today is the kids' last dqay of school before Christmas vacation, and I've decided to vacate with them. I'll be back Monday January 2 with more of the same stuff, and a couple of new things, one of which I'm pretty excited about.

It should be pretty cool.

So, for the next two weeks, I wish you all Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Seasons' Greetings, Happy Holidays, and even a Bah Humbug for you Scrooges out there.

Or as my daughter would say (and I hope I spell this right)
MEPPY CHRISTMAHANNAKWANZAKAH!


Posted by Rich
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Did He Really Just Say That?

I was in my car, listening to the local talk radio behemoth, WNOX, when Phil Williams did a quick intro to his next topic, a discussion with the parents of Johnia Berry, the UT student murdered last winter. Here is what Phil said, as closely as I can remember it:
"Just over a year ago, their daughter was brutally murdered, stabbed in the face." [soft chuckle] "Tough year."


The phrase 'heartless bastard' comes to mind.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, December 17, 2005

King Kong Is Killing Hollywood, and It’s a Good Thing.

I went to see King Kong last night (Short review: Good, but not as good as the buzz) and sitting there in the theater, I began to get a sense of why movie receipts are down so much, and where Hollywood is going wrong. I'll give you a hint. Here are the previews I saw, either trailers or coming attraction posters:
  • Mission Impossible 3
  • Miami Vice
  • Cheaper By the Dozen 2
  • Underworld 2
  • Pirates of the Carribean 2 and 3
  • ChiPs, the movie
  • The Producers
  • Poseidon
  • Saw 2
  • Harry Potter 4

Looking back over the last couple of years, I remember SWAT, 2 Charlies Angels movies, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Longest Yard, Doom, and so on.

Notice a trend? Like Xerox, Hollywood can't come up with anything original.

Hollywood has become the ultimate recycling bin, and many of us are not interested in dumpster diving, and the rest are willing to wait for it to come out on video. Hell, one of the best things about Million Dollar Baby was that we hadn't seen it before as a TV show or movie of the week.

The Producers, for example is a film adaptation of a Broadway musical based on an earlier film by Mel Brooks! That takes graverobbing to entirely new levels. Of course, Poseidon is almost as bad, remaking the original movie less than 2 months after a TV version aired. And earlier this year, The Longest Yard was virtually a scene by scene remake of the original, adding nothing new, other than the actors. Almost every time I go to the movies, I have the feeling that I've seen this before. Why would I want to pay to see it again?

But it's not all Hollywood's fault. There's a reason they keep recycling the same old garbage; it makes them money. Here's the top ten grossing movies of 2005:
  1. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  2. War of the Worlds (2005)
  3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
  4. Wedding Crashers (2005)
  5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
  6. Batman Begins (2005)
  7. Madagascar (2005)
  8. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
  9. Hitch (2005)
  10. The Longest Yard (2005)

6 of 10 are either sequels or remakes. The other 4 were formulaic variations on movies we've all seen before. Even though fewer people are going to the movies, the ones that go, go to see the stuff they're familiar with.

Hollywood is in a terrible bind. Movies are too expensive to make these days to take chances on something really new and different, which means that movie goers who want something more than yesterday's TV shows with added boobs are going to continue to stay away from the theaters. In order to hold on to the remaining audience, studios will cater to the remainder, accelerating the trend towards mediocrity.

Which brings me to King Kong. It's a servicable movie, certainly better than the Jeff Bridges/Jessica Lange disaster of the 70's, but the question I kept asking myself throughout the movie was "Why" Why spend $207 million dollars to make what is essentially the same movie as the original, despite the sledge hammer pretensions of writer/director/producer Peter Jackson? A deck boy reading "Heart of Darkness? Come on!

The movie is entertaining, and Naomi Watts is simply beautiful as Ann Darrow. Jack Black is good as Carl Denham, but Adrien Brody is weak as playwrite Jack Driscoll. We're told that he is a very demanding exceedingly picky person about his plays and scripts, but we see nothing of that in his actual performance. He just kind of sits there the entire movie.

The problem is there's nothing new here. If you've seen the original, or even the remake, you've seen this movie.

Now, for the second part of this essay. Why is this a good thing? Right now, our choices are limited. We can watch recycled crap from Hollywood or pretentious art house crap from, well, wherever art house crap comes from. Some film school probably. But our choices are growing. Small studios making independent movies are popping up everywhere. In a way, it parallels the rise of blogging. Technological advances are lowering the entry costs for film makers. Shooting with digital cameras means processing and editing costs are nearly eliminated. Distribution over the internet removes another massive expense. Working outside of the Hollywood unions and guilds means movies can be made for a realistic budget. George Romero and Kevin Smith have shown the way; there's no doubt in my mind that there are many budding DeMilles ready to follow in their footsteps. So while we can expect Spiderman 24; Peter Parker gets a Truss and Who's the Boss; The Movie from the major studios, we can also hope for more movies like Chasing Amy, Slingblade, or Knightriders from the independents.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, December 16, 2005

Safety Tip 2

Socks are even worse.

Posted by Rich
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A Good Loss

Renewal of the Patriot Act has been blocked in the Senate, and that's a good thing. I'm not a big fan of legislation that gives the government broad sweeping powers to monitor its own citizens while removing oversight. It's a recipe for government abuse. Even if I trusted the guys who propose the legislation, which I don't, given the nature of government to expand and trend to authoritarianism, these powers are simply too dangerous. Already we're seeing Patriot Act provisions used against drug dealers. Surely a noble goal, but what's next? How long before those tools are used for other, less noble efforts, say, stifling political activism?

We just found out that the NSA has been secretly tapping international phone calls. How long before they begin tapping domestic phone calls? If they haven't started already, that is. Again, this is a tool used against terrorists, but how long before it too gets expanded to other, less appropriate goals.

History is clear; governments tend to accrete power to themselves at the expense of the governed. The trend is inexorable and inevitable; the best we can do is fight continuously to slow it down. The PAtriot Act, no matter how well intentioned, represents a tremendous acceleration of the shift of power. As such, it must be allowed to die.

Now the instant argument on the other side is that "The Patriot Act saves American lives. Allowing it to end means that more Americans will die in terrorist attacks."

The answer to that argument is clear. Yes, more Americans will die of terrorist attacks because we allow the Patriot Act to sunset; I have no doubt about that at all. But if we take the steps necessary to insure absolute security for ourselves, we make ourselves subjects, not citizens, and lose the very thing we're supposed to be fighting to protect. I will accept the increase personal risk to keep that personal liberty intact.

Posted by Rich
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Safety Tip

Never walk barefoot in a house with a new puppy.

Posted by Rich
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Election Day

By the way, Iraq held elections yesterday with high turnout and low violence. Even more importantly, this time, the Sunnis are taking part in the elections, giving even more legitimacy not only to the resulting government but to the process of democracy itself.

This is a monster sized victory in Iraq.

You see, this is how the war on terror is won. This phase is to remove Iraq as a terrorist base. This campaign will not be won by American soldiers; the Iraqi people will win it by taking responsibility for their country themselves, and the only way for that to happen is for all major groups to participate in the process. The Sunnis have been holdouts until now. Their acceptance ofthe process brings the day that the Iraqi government will be truly able to care for its own people that much closer, and further isolates the terrorists.

And that's a good thing.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Why They Don’t Love It (But Won’t Leave It)

Via Huffington Post, I read this article by Emily Weinstein in which she recounts her shame at actually standing for the National Anthem.
Last weekend I did something I haven't done in a long time. Something I swore I'd never do again. Something I'm deeply ashamed of.

I stood during the singing of the national anthem.


Now the only reason for refusing to stand, and indeed, writing a post about it, is to provoke a reaction from those, like me, liable to be offended by it. Normally, I ignore deliberate attempts at grandstanding, but since this is Christmas, the season of giving, I've decided to give the lady what she wants.

But she probably won't like it.

First let's hear more from the lovely Ms. Weinstein
I won't stand for the American flag because I won't stand for what is done in its name. I won't stand for the current war in Iraq, I won't stand for the last war in Iraq. I won't stand for all the wars before that. I won't stand for its selectively faulty elecotral[sic] process and I won't stand for its unelected, renegade government. I won't stand for its medieval attitude towards sexuality and privacy, for its violent misinterpretation of Christianity, for its refusal to deal sanely with AIDS and all other global health crises, for its environmentally suicidal stance on climate change, for the hypocrisy of its practices, for the torture of its prisoners, for its executions and its drug wars and its oil wars.


Wow. That's some interesting stuff right there, boy. She won't stand for any of our previous wars? Let's do a quick run down on some of the causes the US has fought for.

  • In the Revolutionary War, America fought for freedom, independence from an imperial power, and for the idea that government derives its power solely from the consent of the governed.
  • In the Civil War the South fought for the same idea, while the North fought for the equally noble idea that all men, regardless of race, have rights.
  • In World War II, America fought against imperial aggression and against genocide.


Yet Emily will not stand for any of that. That's all far outweighed by the facts that America rejects same sex marriage and didn't sign Kyoto. Freeing millions from tyranny, saving more millions from the gas chambers is nothing compared to not allowing Jeff and John to get married.

I can see that.

OK, so what are we really talking about here? Does Emily hate America or is it just the current administration? Is she engaging in political protest, or does she hold all of America in contempt?

I'll let her answer that: "In my seventh-grade heart I felt no allegience to the flag of the United States of America, nor to the republic for which it stands, because I did not believe it had ever provided liberty and justice for all."[Emphasis mine]

Well, that's pretty much all inclusive there. Not just the current gov't, but the republic itself, whole and entire. Because America fails to live up to her lofty expectations, she's ready to wash her hands of it. Which makes me wonder: What is she doing about it?

Most of us will take some action to fix a problem we see. Instead of just living with it, we fix it. So what does Emily do to fix the terrible problems she sees in America?

She sits during a song.

Brava, dear lady, brava!

Isn't it odd how many liberal tactics involve doing nothing at all? What is a strike but a bunch of employees doing nothing instead of their jobs? A filibuster is a group of politicians doing nothing instead of...well, they don't do all that much most of the time anyway, so the distinction may be hard to make. Sit ins, lock downs, walk outs, strikes, marches; they're all ways to do nothing and feel really good about it.

The next qestion that springs to my mind is this: Is Emily alone in her disdain for everything American, or does she speak for a fair number of liberals? Isshe an isolated whack job, or are her opinions shared by others? Well, let's take a quick tour through the comments to her post and see:
  • Even though I am no longer proud to be an American and have been telling people I'm Canadien
  • I too hadn't stood for it for quite a while, before I expatriated myself. Honestly, leaving the country and seeing other places that are more civilised is the thing to do. Forget protests - Amerikkka's rotten, always has been, always will be.
  • they're showing that america isn't worth fighting for
  • Our nation is being nudged toward fascism on all sides
  • this nation is as deeply flawed, if not more so, than any other, and that it's certainly not the world's "last best hope."
  • Wow, Emily, you really got it right! I wonder how were you able to remain so untouched by the brain-washing national machinery.
  • We are viewed as hypocrites and likely so. We pollute more than any other country. We have a sickning[sic] habit of telling everbody how great we are. The truth is as a populace we are stupid...Oh by the way did I mention I served my country in Vietnam. I did not shirk my duty. I took a bullit[sic] for my fellow idiotic Americans and am not proud of it any more. I waisted[sic] my time.


You get the point I'm sure. Emily certainly doesn't represent the opinions of most liberals, but she's not an isolated voice either. A significant proportion of the left does indeed share her disdain for America

Getting back to Emily, the obvious question to ask is, "If you are so miserable here, then why are you still here?" Of course, if you ask the question, the champions of free speech and dissent will immediately label you a fascist for daring to suggest that Emily might be happier in a country that doesn't disappoint her quite so deeply even if you explicitly acknowledge her right to protest as she sees fit.

The answer to the question is equally obvious; despite her protest, she, just like Alec Baldwin, understands that America is indeed the freest country on the planet, as well as the richest, and she's not willing to give up the freedoms and creature comforts that go along with being an American, albeit a disappointed one. Or as another commenter said, on why he stayed in America despite everything Emily points out:
Personally, I love almost everything about America, ample parking, 200 channels on TV, loud sports fans, trailer parks. This is my kind of place.


Brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?

I'm going to close this not with my words, but with another commenter, who shows exactly how wrong Emily and her ilk are:

In April of 2003 I and my Army unit began a 12 month deployment to Baghdad. We fought, in our opinions, for many things, including freedom and and country. We fought so that people could in Iraq, and America (again, our opinon), could sit if they so choose during their countries national anthem. As much as the concept disgusts me, I will fight as often as necessary to protect your right to do so. All that I ask in return is that when you intentionally disrespect all of us who sacrifice on your part you remember that all the supposed courage you show through sitting pales so shamefully in comparison to that which I have seen firsthand. You might condemn me as a fascist, because yes, I cannot stand liberals due to their ridiculous acts such as this. But I will fight for your right to condemn for the rest of my life, no matter how often I wonder how it is that your type is capable of looking in the mirror.

Posted by: tcourter on December 15, 2005 at 03:23pm


Posted by Rich
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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Non Specific Theories

One of the knocks against Intelligent design is that it isn't specific to a question, that is, it can be used to answer multiple unrelated questions. For example:
  • Why do our eyes have blind spots? Because the designer made them that way.
  • Why do we have 5 fingers instead of 6? Because the designer made us that way.
  • Why do women need 37 pairs of shoes? Because...but you get the point.


In science, a theory that can answer questions that don't go together is regarded as suspect; it's more of a black box than a real theory, particularly if there's no mechanism behind the explanations, and especially if that answer yields no new knowledge, as is the case with Intelligent Design. In essence, appealing to ID is saying, "Hey, I don't know how or why this happened, so somebody must have planned for it to happen."

For this reason among others, most scientists dismiss ID, and quite rightly so. Ironically, there's another popular theory making the rounds that suffers the same defect, yet many scientist are happy to climb onto the band wagon on this one.

Of course, I'm talking about global warming theory, which is currently used to predict:
  • Rising global temperatures leading to a tropical climate
  • Falling global temperatures leading to an ice age
  • More and stronger hurricanes and storms
  • Fewer hurricanes and strong storms
  • Flooding
  • Drought
  • Massive short term changes to the environment
  • Only long term changes to the environment
  • Heating of the troposphere
  • Cooling of the troposphere
  • and chronic halitosis among garlic eaters


You get the point. It doesn't matter what happens with the weather; some scientist somewhere will make the case that it's all due to global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

There's an old saying that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Maybe it's time we looked for another tool, one based on the facts.

Posted by Rich
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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Short version: Excellent movie. I enjoyed it immensely. 5 out of 5

Long version:


Posted by Rich
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Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Point to Ponder

One of the latest liberal talking points about Iraq is that the US forces there are magnets, drawing terrorist attacks on them. The implication is that if we pulled the troops out, the violence would cease, since the targets would be gone. This would make perfect sense except for the inconvenient fact that MOST OF THE FREAKIN' ATTACKS ARE AGAINST IRAQI CIVILIANS!

Is this really the best they can come up with?

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Boys vs Girls: Financial Impact

While driving the girls to school this morning, I was listening to Marc, Kim, and Frank on the radio, when they had a very brief discussion about whether it was more expensive to raise girls or boys. Marc, who is raising two daughters, claimed that girls were more expensive, while Kim, who's raising one boy, disagreed. They called on Frank, who has one of each, to settle the dispute, but he bowed out, claiming ignorance. Now, as most of you know, I have 6 kids, 3 boys and 3 girls, giving me tremendous insight into this issue, so I thought I'd volunteer my expertise to solve the simmering controversy.

There is really no doubt about it; girls cost far more to raise than boys. In fact, the gap is so wide it should be intuitively obvious even to those without children, but for those of you who need proof, please feel free to peruse the following table













Clothing
 
Boys
Girls
UnderwearEither tighty whities or boxersPanties: bikini, low rise, hi rise, thong, g string, grannies, or control top; bras: full cup, half cup, quarter cup, strapless, halter top, underwire, sports, padded, push up, lift and separate, or mash and magnify; not to mention slips, chemises, bustiers, and various other underpinnings and foundations.
Footwearsocks: tube socks and the occasional pair of dress sockssocks: no-show socks, bobby socks, tube socks, toe socks, ankle socks, half ankle socks; not to mention tights, pantyhose, stockings, leggings, etc
Shoessneakers, one pair of cleats, and one pair of dress shoes for churchsneakers, cleats, pumps, mules, wedgies, sandals, open and closed toe, boots, knee high boots, thigh high boots, calf length boots, and at least three pairs of dress shoes identical except for color
Pantsjeans and khakis, 4 pair total, and one pair of dress slacksjeans, khakis, long skirts, short skirts, mini skirts, A line skirts, kilts, skorts, coulottes, tap pants, stirrup pants, and capris
TopsT-shirts, sweat shirts, or dress shirtsT-shirts, crop tops, tank tops, halter tops, tube tops, cammies, blouses, peasant blouses, turtle necks, and don't forget sweaters: V-necks, crew necks, cardigans, angora,
Dresses
NO
party dress, church dress, dancing dress, cocktail dress, sun dress, prom dress, wedding dress and the little black dress
Accessoriesa belt, a wallet, a watch and maybe a pocket knife 3 belts, 2 purses, 2 watches, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rings, ankle bracelets, clutches, barrettes, etc
Makeup
NO
Foundation, blush, highlighter, glitter spray, eye liner, eye shadow, eye brow pencil, mascara, lip stick, lip gloss, lip liner, nail polish, nail file, emory board, nail polish remover
ToiletriesBrush or comb, toothbrush, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deoderant2 Brushes and comb, toothbrush, soap, face wash, body lotion, makeup remover, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, mouthwash, deoderant, hair curlers, curling iron, hair crimper, hair straightener, hair gel, mousse, hair spray, hair pins, hair bows, hair clips, bobby pins, eye lash curler, compact
Monthly necessities
NO
From menarche to menopause


For goodness sakes, folks, just watch a guy and a girl pack for an overnight stay. The guy will put his stuff in a backpack and have room left over for his XBox; the girl will fill three bags, and dump out his XBox to make room for the rest of her stuff. And don't even get me started on closet space.

Moving right along, lets talk about activities. To sign a boy up for football costs roughly $60 for registration, insurance, and a mouthpiece. Sign a girl up for cheerleading and you're looking at $200 plus, more if there's a camp involved. Ballet lessons are significantly more expensive than a fishing pole and a bucket of worms. A boy wants to ride a bike. $100 at WalMart and you're done. A girl wants to ride a horse. $1500 plus monthly stable fees, and riding lessons. And tack, and of course a riding wardrobe.

Let's not forget about dances. A boy rents a tux ($75), gets a haircut ($12), buys a corsage ($15), and is ready to go for just under $100. Since I'm a traditionalist, he'll also buy the dinner, provide transportation, and buy the tickets, but his total expense is still under $200. A girl buys a dress ($150-300), shoes to go with the dress ($45), matching purse ($40), gets her hair colored and styled ($75-100) her nails done ($40), buys a boutonierre ($15) and is ready to go for $365-540.

Finally, there's the wedding. The groom's father handles the honeymoon, and can do quite well for about $2000. The bride's father handles the wedding, and $2000 barely gets you started, covering flowers and possibly some catering. Dresses, cakes, the preacher, the church, the reception hall, and so on, all cost money.

There's simply no doubt about it; girls, bless their high maintenance little hearts, are more expensive than boys.

Posted by Rich
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