Caveat emptor

Earlier this year, I purchased a 2013 Fiat 500 Lounge with around 32,000 miles on it.

I was looking at cars, but thinking like a Mini Cooper or even a Ford Mustang (something to satisfy my inner teen). A Fiat wasn’t even in the running, but my wife spotted a little green metalic one on a lot we were going to walk right past after going to International Mini and being completely ignored. Snooty Bastards. What? We didn’t wear cashmire or designer label clothes?

We walked over to look at it. It was small and cute. I really only need a fuel-efficient car for commuting to work. The salesman came out, showed it to us, and let us take it for a drive. No pressure. The car literally sold itself.

I was very pleased and wrote a good review on their Facebook page (and read a lot of complaints).

Well, I took Gina in for her first oil change (I thought the Fiat had an idiot light like our Chevy that would tell us when to service it, but I guess not). I also had them do a 30k or 40k checkup and asked them to see if they could figure out this weird hesitation the car has on really cold mornings.

I turn the key and nothing happens for two or three seconds — as if the entire electrical system is dead — then it’s like the car goes, “Oh! You wanted me to start?” and then it fires up.

I left it there, went home, and then got a call back. “When was this serviced last?”

I assumed at the dealership before they sold it. Isn’t that what reputable dealers do: a multi-point inspection to make sure the car is roadworthy before they put it out for sale?

“We found a few issues. A bracket [I don’t recall which one he said, see first picture] is just hanging loose. No one attached it back after whatever work was done. Also, the cover to the timing chain is on wrong. It wasn’t bolted on correctly. And lastly, when we took off the bottom engine guard to drain the oil, a heavy piece of angled iron fell out (see second picture). Did you ever hear any rattling?”

No. I never heard any rattling.

“We ran the diagnostics but haven’t figured out the starting issue. We’ll keep looking, but your PCV valve is bad. We ordered a new one and it’ll get here tomorrow.”

Here is that unattached bracket:

And here is that chunk of metal:

So my $20 oil change turned into a $500 nightmare.

I’m angry and completely disenchanted with mankind (as if TheRump’s election hadn’t already put me over that edge).

How the flock can a dealership, even one that isn’t actually a dealership (they don’t service cars or back what they sell with maintenance plans, there primary business is business leasing of vehicles and selling those leased vehicles after they are turned in, as well as an occasional trade-in). I knew from the start that once I drove it off the lot I was on my own. (But I figured, what kind of problems could I have with a 4-year-old car that averaged only 7,500 miles per year? Especially since we were unloading a car that when we bought it was 6 years old and had averaged 16,000+ miles per year.)

I at least expected the car to be in running shape! That they’d at least do a thorough once over to make sure everything was mechanically sound, at the very least give it an oil change.

But it doesn’t appear they even did that much. Or if they did, the mechanic then put the iron piece back in the engine guard when he was done!

The mind boggles! And I’m composing a very strongly worded letter of disappointment, with the pictures my mechanic texted me, along with the invoice to fix those issues, to the owner of the business.

I’m debating if I should attach the letter to the iron piece and throw it through their window.

I got Gina back and she seems to drive much better. It might be my imagination, or it could be that she desperately needed an oil change. Or the new PCV valve makes that much of a difference. (They did change spark plugs and air filters, as well.)

Maybe those incorrectly attached brace and cover were important. Or possibly that iron piece was weighing her down.

As a sidenote: My Fiat 500’s rear headrests were missing when I purchased it. I was looking to buy some to replacements. When my wife was looking to replace her car, we stopped at a Fiat dealership to test drive a Fiat 500X.

I asked the salesman about buying replacement headrests for my car.

“What happened to yours?”

It didn’t have any when I bought it.

He looked aghast. “Those are considered safety equipment. They aren’t just headrests, but are head restraints. You can’t legally sell a car in Wisconsin without head restraints. I’d go back and tell them that.”

Well, I emailed them instead. I said since they are required safety equipment that they should provide them for me. The salesman emailed me back. He’d check with the previous owner and he’d email me back. Basically, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” And I kept meaning to follow up, but haven’t yet. I’ll add that issue to my letter of complaint.

What ever happened to good, reliable customer service?

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Just another random Friday

Friday Haiku

Christmas is coming

The children are excited

Adults, not so much

New ADHD-fueled interest

And just like that, I have a new interest. I should have seen it coming when I blogged about the knife I found from my father-in-law (I reworded that sentence to avoid making father-in-law possessive because I’m not sure if it is father’s-in-law or father-in-law’s).

My new sudden interest is, of course, knives. Since that blog, I’ve purchased a new folder by Schrade. It caught my eye because it’s aesthetically completely different from my 40-year-old Buck 503 knife.

I also purchased a knife sharpening system from Lansky because, well, I’ve never ever been able to figure out how to sharpen knives.

Sure, I’ve tried. I’ve had people explain it (but have never had anyone teach me), I’ve read books, and I’ve watched videos. Yet for whatever reason, the concept escapes me in actual practice.

I just can’t maintain a consistent angle as I drag the knife across a sharpening stone and more often than not the edge ends up as dull as when I started. I suspect I’m just not coordinated enough or don’t have the attention span to maintain a concise angle through the entire process.

Because of this ineptitude, I’ve resorted to those drag through sharpeners. Sure, you get a sharp edge, but those things also are very aggressive in removing metal. After years of use your nicely shaped knife blade has been reduced to nothing for than a icepick thick filet knife.

So after watching several YouTube videos of people getting their knives so sharp they can shave with them (one showed the guy splitting hairs! I’ve always wanted to split hairs), I decided I needed a sharpening system that held the knife and stone at the precise angle throughout the entire process.

Thus, the Lansky sharpening system. It’s inexpensive, especially when compared to those $300+ systems out there. I chose the Natural Arkansas hones because, well, I don’t know. Maybe natural and Arkansas triggered a more pleasurable response than their other offerings.

Maybe I’ll make a video sometime of shaving or splitting hairs.

Balisong

No, not the Bali Hai song, I’m talking about those flipper type knives known as butterfly knives that originated in the Philippines.

While in the Navy, an old salt was talking about those knives. He was telling me a story about why they were called butterfly knives. He said, when sailors were stationed in the Philippines, they’d often have Filipino girl friends. Jealous girl friends, who, if they thought you were cheating on them *snigit!* they’d suddenly flip open one of these knives and ask, not so gently, “You butterfly?” The appropriate response to which, if you wanted to remain intact and unpunctured, would be a wholehearted, “No! Me no butterfly!”

Anyway, that’s what I was told. It could have been just another sea tale for all I know.

Anyway, the reason I brought up the topic of balisongs or butterfly knives is because my ADHD has made them the next must have it now thing. So I’m reading up on them and watching YouTube videos. They’re like very sharp, very dangerous fidget spinners, so of course, I want one.

Although, I wonder how well I could flip considering my general lack of coordination. I haven’t even been able to finger roll a pen very fast (think of the Top Gun classroom scene where Val Kilmer’s character, Iceman, spins his pen), so I doubt if I can achieve moves like the following:

Maybe I should start with an unsharpened trainer first, since we never seem to have an adequate supply of bandaids in our house. I swear someone is eating them.

Flynn folds

If you’re a #Resistor there has been some good news today.

Mike Flynn has plead guilty to making false statements to the FBI, re: the Russian Probe.

Amy Siskind tweeted: Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on Friday that President Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s guilty plea is a sign that the House Judiciary Committee has enough evidence to probe the president for obstruction of justice.

Good times.

Not welcome here

The Orange Turd is such a bumbling jackass, who is not only straining all our relationships with our allies, but now he’s not even welcone to visit our staunchest ally, the United Kingdom.

Anyone who had the erroneous belief President Obama somehow made America a joke needs to open their eyes to what the Orange Turd is doing. No one is laughing at is, they’re embarrassed by us and don’t even want us to visit them any more.

The manchild is a witless buffoon who needs to be removed from office ASAP.

He’s campaigning for a child molester for Cripe’s sake!

Impeachment isn’t enough for him, we need to invoke the 2tth Amendment and get rid of him completely.

End note

Today’s the first day of December as many of us rush headlong into Christmas and debt. Try not to think about that and just have a great weekend.

I leave you with this:

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Shadows of downtown

I walked through the downtown Boston Store yesterday, to get some gift ideas, and I was shocked to realize they had cut it in half.

The street level store area used to extend from Wisconsin Avenue all the way back to Michigan Avenue and the second floor extended for the same length.

But now they’ve walled up the store halfway. I believe I read the other part will be office space and condos or something.

It makes me sad because the downtown Boston Store is all that remains of downtown’s glory days as the city’s primary shopping area and the place to go.

The Boston Store, as well as the former Gimbel’s, were the Taj Mahal’s of department stores and coexisted along side J.C. Penny, T.A. Chapman’s, and others throughout the 20th century.

Sure, all those stores had other locations at Capital Court mall, Mayfair mall, and other malls, but the downtown stores were special. They were a delight to visit. Mall stores were small in comparison, maybe two floors and at best 260,000 square feet for the Capital Court Gimbel’s.

But downtown? The Gimbel’s and the Boston Store occupied an entire city block and were 7 or 8 stories of shopping adventure.

Shopping at these stores was an event. You didn’t just run in, grab something, and run out. No. You spent the day there. Gimbel’s had a Tasty Town grill type restaurant, as well as a delicatessen, a bakery, candy shoppe, flowers and so on. And that was just the street level.

Each floor was like visiting a completely different store. The second floor had rainwear, coats, custom wigs, lingerie, and robes. The third level had men’s clothing, men’s hats, kid’s clothing, sporting goods, and toys.

The fourth floor had housewares, appliances, oriental rugs, small electrics. The fifth floor had furniture, bedding, televisions, stereos. The sixth had lamps, mirrors, china, glassware, a gift shop, import bazaar. The 7th floor was offices, but the eighth floor had a Forum Restaurant for fine dining.

And the Boston Store was very similar. Seven floors of anything and everything you could possibly need. These were the Amazon.com of their day. Whatever you could possibly need, or imagine, could be found at these downtown department stores.

But the short-sighted removal of the trollies, the growing number of malls and white flight to the suburbs slowly killed the glamour and adventure of going downtown and visiting the department stores.

Now, the downtown Boston Store, once a glorious seven story monument to shopping adventure, has been reduced to just a shadow of it’s former magnificence, an oddity in a world where people shop online or drive to a strip mall

If you never visited one of these shopping megaliths, it’s probably hard to imagine the hustle and bustle as crowds of people moved excitedly within to the roar of conversation. The elevators were always full as they moved up and down, floor to floor, while the elevator operator chimed, “Fourth Floor. Lamps. Paintings. Mirrors. Occasional furniture.”

Sadly, the only way for someone today to get a small idea of what downtown department stores were like is by watching old Christmas movies, like “Miracle on 34th Street” or “Holiday Affair.” Unfortunately, they’re in black and white, so they give no sense of how colorful and well-lit these stores were.

The buildings still stand, but they’re mere shadows harkening back to a past when downtown was the place to see and be seen.

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Typical Random Friday Stuff

A Friday Haiku

I ran this morning

First morning run since July

Damned dog wanted out

(Damned is just one syllable, right?)

Don’t let failure define you

Face it, we all have setbacks. Just when we think we have this fitness thing figured out — we understand to lose weight we must expend more calories than we take in, we’ve made our exercise routine a daily habit, we’re reaching our goals — something happens and we find ourselves finding reasons why we can’t exercise today and a day becomes a week and that ice cream looks damned tasty and suddenly we’re 7 pounds heavier. (Wasn’t that sentence cringe-worthy?)

Well, my friends, there is no point in beating yourself up over it. Acknowledge it happened and get back on that horse that threw you and pick up where you left off.

(Speaking of horses, I’ve only actually ever been on a real horse once or twice in my life, not including pony rides as a kid. Do they even still have pony rides and are today’s kids as excited as our generation was to ride one or are they too busy SnapChatting?)

Anyway, I fell off that horse, um, the metaphorical one, not a real one, and my running schedule had become erratic of late.

Once it was an every day morning ritual in June, but as the days grew shorter and the mornings became darker, I stopped the morning runs and told myself I’d run after work. That worked for a short time, but other areas of life started intruding and my runs became less frequent and the pounds I was so proud of losing found their way back.

Now I could just mope around and eat another pound and a half bag of Mrs. Fisher’s potato chips (did you hear they will have to reformulate the recipe because of the ban on partially hydrogenated oils? Nooooooo!) or I could get back on that horse (the metaphorical one, of course. After all, it’s been 40 years since I rode that real one and it’s probably long dead by now) and pick up where I left off.

Thus, I ran this morning. As the Friday haiku says, first morning run since July. Granted, I didn’t get up on my own. I had sone unwanted help from a little dog who needed to go outside, yet despite that I still did it. I could have just as easily let him out and returned to bed, but instead I carried my gear down, changed, and jumped on the treadmill.

It’s a start. And that’s all we can do — start and hope it becomes a habit again.

Accept each setback as just another challenge to be overcome. Failure is a bully and it feeds on your disappointment. Don’t let failure win; kick it’s ass and then laugh in its face.

Congratulations

I forgot to congratulate my niece, who ran her first half-marathon, the Minnesota Monster Dash Half Marathon on October 28th. I didn’t even know she was a runner!

Way to go, Erin!

Weigh-In Friday

My results here are all screwed up. I haven’t officially recorded my weight since it started rising. And I was so proud I had finally dropped below 200.

As I hinted at above, I had gained a bit, but this week I lost. I’m down 4 pounds from the peak weight a few weeks ago.

I’ll start posting real numbers once I drop below 200 again. Until then, let’s just pretend this never happened. OK?

Cold weather detailing

Now that the temperatures are dropping, I haven’t been detailing my cars every day or so like I was in the summer.

Each morning, or evening, I took some detail spray and a microfiber cloth to each car until it was clean and shiney, free of all the everyday dust and gunk that accumulates on them as they sit outside all day exposed to the elements.

My wife’s Jetta always came home with these long, thin brown nodules (around 1-1/2 centimeters in length and about 1 or 2 millimeters wide) that I’d have to loosen gently with my thumb nail before the detail spray could clean the area. She said they were from the trees around her parking lot and can’t be avoided. (Maybe in the dark of night some time I’ll go cut them all down.)

At least the cold weather has eliminated the problem of tree sap, but it brings another: How to keep the paint shining when it’s too cold to use detail spray? Or even handwash?

This is my first winter since I’ve become detailing knowledgable and I seriously don’t know.

I did put in some Klasse High Gloss Sealant Glaze to help protect the finish, but that doesn’t solve the desire to have the cars shine.

Do I bite the bullet and run the cars through a machine wash once a week? Or do I live with road salt and slush spray until it becomes warm enough to handwash again?

We ran the Jetta through a car wash last week. I didn’t realize until we were in line with no turning back that it used brushes. Oy. I still cringe thinking about it and the paint swirls it might have introduced.

How do you keep your cars shining in winter?

That’s all folks!

And that wraps up another Friday blog. For the sake of my own blood pressure, I avoided politics. Not that there isn’t anything to say, I mean, that ignorant orange turd provides plenty of fodder for commentary; as well as the House GOP passing a tax bill that lines the pockets of giant corporations and millionaires, including the orange turd himself, at the expense of the poor and middle class; not to mention that Alabama voters are going to show the entire world just how fucked up their priorities are by voting in a child molester just because they don’t want a liberal; and of course, after years of warning the public about how bad the XL Pipeline would be, fighting to prevent it from being built, the damned thing proved us right by causing a 210,000 gallon spill in South Dakota!

But all that shit would require dozens of column inches to properly castigate and instead I think I’d rather wish everyone a pleasant weekend.

We’re expecting some snow, but with luck, not enough to prevent me from putting up my outside Christmas decorations.

And so, I’ll leave you with a song to get the weekend started. Not a Christmas song, Hell no, it’s too freaking early for that. Just a fun, enjoy the weekend kind of song.

Stay warm. Eat right. Exercise. And don’t forget to punch a Nazi.

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The lonely forgotten knife

Several years before my father-in-law passed away, he was clearing out stuff he felt he wasn’t going to need much longer.

He gave me a beat-up old toolbox filled with a variety of well-worn tools. I’m not the handyman he was, by any stretch of the imagination, but I took the box graciously.

When I got home, I browsed through it, vaguely noting that it had pliers, wrenches, a partial set of sockets, long screwdrivers, a battered tape measure, a nub of a straw hand broom, and an old pocketknife. The knife was dirty, tarnished, with some paint specks on the rustic, imitation wood handle. It was not very attractive, so I left it inside the box and set the box in the corner of the basement and promptly forgot about it.

Until last night when I had an ADHD attack of I’m suddenly interested in this thing! Now! Get the thing! Where is the thing?! I need the thing!

Other ADHDers can relate.

So, I dug the knife out. Examined it and attempted to clean it up with Q-tips, some rubbing alcohol, and a little oil.

It looked like your average well-used, utilitarian four-blade folder with a 2-1/2 inch spear blade, a plain punch, a screwdriver-caplifter, a can opener, and a shackle (key ring?).

2017-11-15 07.55.102017-11-15 07.55.22

My wife said she remembered seeing it on her father’s nightstand after he emptied his pockets every night, so we determined it was probably his every day carry (EDC) knife.

There were no identifying markings on the knife, no name badge on the handle, but as I cleaned it, I noticed some illegible writing on the tang of the knife blade, which I speculated spelled out the word, “stainless” on the tang of the knife blade. It looked like my FIL’s EDC was just an ordinary, plain Jane, generic folder.

Not that I should have been surprised. My FIL was an unpretentious man who cared more about how something functioned than if it was flashy or had an impressive name. I liked that about him.

As I cleaned away years of accumulated gunk however, I saw that it didn’t say “stainless” after all. There was a brand name stamped there.

It said, “CAMILLUS, NEW YORK, USA.”

Yes! Now I could indulge in my most favorite hobby of all! Research!

Camillus, my research showed, was one of America’s oldest knife companies. It was established in 1875 by Adolph Kastor, a Jewish German immigrant, and they originally imported knives until the Dingley Tariff was enacted in 1897, which made it too expensive to import knives.

To survive, they needed to manufacture knives domestically and eventually, Kastor found a small knife manufacturer in Camillus, New York.

By 1910, with Kastor now at the helm, the Camillus Cutlery Company was producing close to a million knives a year.

Camillus was a very successful company throughout the twentieth century. They provided private label knives to Sears, Craftsman, and J.C. Penny and others, and created a wide range of collectible knives honoring famous people.

When WWII began, Camillus was contracted to provide knives to the military, including the development of their KA-BAR Fighting Utility Knife, which was adopted by the U.S. Marines. After the war, Camillus began producing a full line of official knives for the Boy Scouts of America.

As the twenty-first century arrived however, the company started to struggle. Revenue declined from overseas competition, and they suffered from poor management decisions, until they declared bankruptcy and went out of business in early 2007. Later that year, their product names and intellectual property were acquired by the Acme United Corporation (a shadow corporation of Wile E. Coyote, I’m told) for a mere $200,000 in a bankruptcy auction. In 2009, Acme relaunched the Camillus name.

But my FIL’s knife? Best I can figure by the tang stamp is it was possibly manufactured sometime between between 1946 to 1950.

It resembles the Camillus Camp knife, but lacks the badge on the handle that particular knife sports in their catalogs from that era.

In their 1946 catalog, they have a page showing their Army-Navy knives. The very first one, the Army General Purpose Knife, looks exactly like my FIL’s knife.

2017-11-15 11.44.09

My wife says that makes sense because her father would have been 18 years old in ’46 and he joined the Air Force a few years later. It’s possible therefore, that he either received the knife while in the Air Force or purchased it at the base PX.

And now that little folder, which once languished alone and forgotten in the bottom of a toolbox, now has an interesting history behind it and a prominent place in my collection.

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Thor’s Day

As a child, my parents gave me a children’s book on Norse mythology, “Norse Gods and Giants,” written and illustrated by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire.

The stories, adapted from the Norse myths that come to us from the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, captured my imagination.

(In school, I was disappointed in the obvious bias against Norse mythology. They never touched upon it, making it seem like there were only the Greek and Roman gods. Bah.)

In “Norse Gods and Giants,” I learned about the nine worlds, and learn about Ymir, the frost giant, his cow, the giants and trolls, the birth of the Aesir gods and their battle killing Ymir and creating the world with his bones, how Odin, the All-Father, lost his eye, how Loki, the mischievous one, was blood brother to Odin, the story of Fenris, the wolf, son of Loki and how Tyr lost his hand when the gods fettered Fenris. I loved these stories.

But above all, I really loved Thor, the hot-tempered, if dim-witted god of thunder. They drew as a bulky, angry God with fiery red hair and beard.

Often he’d fly into a rage at the mere mention of jotuns (giants) and throw his mighty hammer, which they drew as a roundish mallet with a very short handle. He’d throw it so often, the hammer would become red hot and he needed an iron glove to catch it so his hand wouldn’t burn. He road on a chariot drawn by two angry goats.

So this was my image of a Thor (and one I used when I wrote him into one of my still in progress novels). An image which is very different from Marvel’s version.

I mentioned Friday, I was reading the early stories of Thor when he first appeared in Journey of Mystery. I have almost finished that book, “Essential The Mighty Thor, Volume 1.”

It covers Journey into Mystery #83 (August 1962) through Journey into Mystery #112 (January 1965). None of these stories did I read as a child. I was still reading DC, Harvey Comics, Archie Comics, and Gold Key at this time.

Now for a really bad segue, when the Thor movies came out, I was very disappointed when they decided to make the Aesir aliens instead of actual mythological Norse gods. It pretty much ruined the movies for me.

Part of that was because at a young age, I came to love Norse mythology. And the Silver Age Thor I read, dealt with the mythical gods, not aliens.

Some people seem to think the comic book Thor was an alien, too. I don’t know if they recently changed canon, but I stopped reading Thor sometime in the mid to late 1970s, the Bronze Age, and he hadn’t been changed into an alien at that point.

To prove this point, one of my favorite features within the Thor comics were the “Tales of Asgard,” which began in Journey into Mystery #97.

“Tales of Asgard” was a wonderful feature illustrated by Kirby showing the majesty and grandeur of life in Asgard. He drew sweeping vistas of gleeming Asgard and momentous battles featuring Balder, Syf, Thor and others that really captured my budding sword and sorcery loving soul.

But to my point, the first several “Tales of Asgard” were essentially a retelling of the Norse creation myths. No aliens. No ancient galactic space travelers settling on Earth.

No. These were fairhful retellings of how the Norse gods came to be including the birth of Ymir, the frost giant, his companion cow, and how the first Aesir, Buri, grew out of the ice, took a wife, had a son, Borr. And that son had three sons, Odin and his brothers.

The “Tales of Asgard” mention the Yggdrasill, world tree, and even tell how the first man, Aske, and the first woman, Embla, were created from an ash and adler tree.

Granted Lee and Kirby took artistic license and told these creation stories in their own inimitable style, but they still followed the original Norse mythology stories.

In the beginning, therefore, Marvel’s Thor, Odin, Loki, et al were actual, true mythological Norse gods, never aliens.

So there.

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Writing Wednesday

Today is the beginning of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo where people will attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the next 30 days. (Forget for a moment that 50k is generally thought of as a novella.)

I won’t be one of them. I’ve tried, just so I could be considered one of the in-people, but I couldn’t do it. My best NaNoWriMo produced only 15,000 words. So, instead of feeling a part of it, I came away feeling like a loser.

I don’t know how anyone can do it. November is the worst month to hold a novel writing competition.

For many of us, there are only 10 or 15 free days in which to write. The rest of the time is taken up with adulting responsibilities.

Things like raking leaves, cleaning gutters, prepping the lawn for winter, storing patio chairs, putting away Halloween decorations, shopping for and putting up a Christmas tree, decorating for Christmas, and the biggest time-consumer, cleaning the house for the holidays, planning Thanksgiving dinner, shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and entertaining family on Thanksgiving. Not to mention many of us have a full-time job, as well. (Sorry. I guess I did mention it.)

Writing? Bah. Ain’t no one got time for that. If you somehow do, more power to you.

Me, I’ve never understood why they chose November. Worst.month.ever.

Good luck to you.

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