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Back home

Posted March 10 into House keeping by John Birmingham

I've been back in the country for a couple of weeks and working on a long post – "What I did on my holidays". Turns out mostly what I did was avoid catching the coronavirus. I was actually in Milan about a week before everything blew up. The city was crowded, busy, pumping. Even though the weather was cold, grey and drizzly. It's odd to imagine the streets empty and most of the businesses shuttered just a short time later.

And now of course the whole country is in lockdown. I imagine it won't be long before the rest of Europe is the same. And here too.

I've been pondering my current audiobook series – the Zero Day books – and wondering whether I should ramp up the background plague. Probably. On the other hand I'm also going to talk to Jason Lambright about doing a quick pandemic series. Something based on the reality of COVID 19, but fictional.

In the meantime I'm waiting for the hammer to fall. I have jujitsu tonight, and I don't think it'll be long before the health authorities shut us down. Gyms too. And bars, and restaurants, and public gatherings and the rest of it. A lot of businesses are going to go under in the next 3 to 6 months, and they're going to take a lot of people with them.

I think the virus will spread just as widely here as everywhere else, but it probably at a slower rate. Australia has an incredibly powerful Quarantine Act which hands a lot of the decision-making in these sorts of crises to medical professionals. Politicians get cut out of the loop. The Chief Medical Officers of the states and territories and the Commonwealth are teleconferencing a couple of times a week. Possibly every day. Managing the medical issues. It's up to the government to look after the economy.

(Spoiler: The economy is probably doomed.)

But the power given to the medicos means that all things being equal, the rate of infection will be slower here than it is in many other places, meaning that the health system can hopefully absorb the ever increasing number of patients.

For now, I'm just trying to get in as many gym visits as I can. I, er, put on a little bit of pastry and pasta weight while I was away.

11 Responses to ‘Back home’

Barnesm mutters...

Posted March 11
I have heard during a pandemic that one of the first things we run out of is books, so I urge everyone to go out and stock up on books perhaps an uncompleted trilogy about the end of the world might be a good idea.

At the media press-conferences, I wish they would just let the Medico's speak rather than having politicians mugs popping up and trying to parse the advice of the Chief Health Officers.

Though it has been worth it to see the expression on the medicos faces at the pressers when Donald Trump says something and they realise they will need to speak up afterwards and explain how wrong what he just said was.

Naut swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 11
And books can double as toilet paper if things get really desperate.

insomniac puts forth...

Posted March 11
How about a Kindle?

Bondiboy66 asserts...

Posted March 12
Not sure I want to wipe my arse with a kindle....

Speaking of uncompleted about a girl and a bloke travelling through time....or a superpowered anti hero fighting demons...perhaps an epic space opera with splodeyness etc.? No pressure of course!

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Dave W would have you know...

Posted March 11
I think this mob here in Oz have an ideological blind spot on the main issue - both in terms of how to avoid and how to mitigate- of a recession. They will do anything to avoid doing what Labor did in 2008, giving cash money directly to people through the welfare and tax systems. So they will call it economic stimulus and hand it to businesses.

I reckon that this will result in businesses banking it, handing it to shareholders and/or ensuring that their senior managers continue to be well remunerated. I strongly doubt that it will result in the maintenance of many jobs- which is the purpose of a stimulus package. Recessions hurt ordinary people- those who earn wages and salaries. Many of the people who lose their jobs in a recession will never be able to return to their preferred industry.

I also strongly doubt that the a lot of people in the current Government realise that some victims of a recession will never work again.

This might be slightly off topic, but I've wanted to get this off my chest for the past week or so.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted March 11
I think its a pretty good call. The millions of people forced into casual and gig work with no sick pay or leave benefits the last ten years has created a massive vulnerability in both economic and epidemiological terms. They can't afford to stop working for weeks at a time and their inability to take time off creates a huge population of potential carriers.

FormerlyKnownAsSimon asserts...

Posted March 16
i have a mate in the music industry - doing BOH work. Pretty much that whole area is screwed. He said gigs were put on for free during the whole bushfire crisis to help raise money and it was all done with no complaints (because they are human) but he is waiting to see what happens to that industry after this (he suspects SFA). He said he still has his van and can adapt to short term jobs if he is able but there are a lot of people that are going to have to queue up at centrelink.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted March 11
i need to panic buy a haircut - in serious need of one and i want to get in before they all shut down too. While i'm there i'll get a couple. : )

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insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted March 11
So you've been to Korea and now you've been to Italy. Is there a pattern emerging? Are you the superspreader?

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Quokka asserts...

Posted March 18
We've both had colds this week. The nasty type with aches, fevers, chills, which actually had me reaching for the panadol. We never get sick - my GP of 30 years used to roll his eyes when I rocked in for a maintenance check & say 'Get the hell out of my clinic and let me treat the sick people'. We did the sea & tree change a few years ago so my new GP probably thought the same thing when we walked in today, and all he could detect was lungs at 98% oxygenation and two mildly inflamed sore throats. The thing is, the man of the house works in health and they refused to test him unless he had the symptoms that the really sick people are getting, or unless we'd had contact with some from OS who is CV-19+. I know that the government are short on testing kits but they announced that they are expecting 97,000 this week. So my bugbear is this. I am horribly healthy. The virus is unpredictable but I have no risk factors and it's reasonable to assume that forty years worth of yoga and lentil dahl have put me in the category that may well only show mild symptoms of the kind you'd expect from seasonal flu. I have a health science degree and I had to do a unit on understanding data. Maths has never been my strong point but I know enough to understand that if you are only testing the sector of the community who fall into the high risk category - and have been in touch with someone from overseas - then this is what you call 'skewing' the results. It smacks of manipulating the data. One of my besties lives in Singapore - she says she can't exit the building without someone taking her temperature. She's back in the country and is stunned at how slack the response is, here. The thing is, if we'd been tested today, we'd have a result soon and we'd know if we had a negative result, to continue to be cautious. If we had a positive result we'd know to stay TF at home until given the all clear - and then we'd be out contributing to the economy again. Because I don't know - and won't know - I'm looking at the next six months of practicing caution and not doing stuff and not spending, and this won't be good for the local economy. It just seems like a no-brainer to test widely, as Singapore does. I've heard that only 1% of their tests return a CV-19+. But what that means is that the people have certainty and they have confidence in the government. My GP wouldn't meet my eyes today when he explained the government had set strict guidelines for who could be tested. He said that if it was up to him, he'd offer us both the test so that we had peace of mind. Probably we do have the bog standard bugs that circulate at this time of year, but if we can't test at the same level as Singapore, then the response isn't good enough.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted March 18
It probably won't help, but there is a shocking cold going around. Everyone in our house but me has had it.

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My year of not complaining

Posted December 12 into House keeping by John Birmingham

I had some thinky time while I was travelling. Getting ten thousand klicks away from your daily routine is good for that. Apart from filing a couple of columns, I didn’t work. Every time my thoughts strayed to work, I lured them away with contemplation of chicken and beer.
It cleared my head.
One of the first things I resolved to do was spend a lot less time on the Hell Sites of Twitter and Farcebuck, and more time here. There’s no escaping the Hell Sites. I do a lot of business there. But there is a cost, a heavy fucking cost to being there.
That led me to my second resolution. If I was going to spool up the engines on the Burger again, I didn’t want to simply repeat here at length, that which I was doing there.
Bitching and moaning, basically.
Ninety percent of everything online is bitching and moaning now. The rest is cat and dog videos, adverts inserted into cat and dog videos, and shameless self promotion.
But mostly bitching and moaning.
It’s not just human nature. The platforms have tweaked their software to preference ugliness because like the tabloid editors of yore they have learned that ugliness sells. If it bleeds it leads, as we used to say in the fish wrapping business.
Or to update the model, it if enrages it engages.
I’ve had enough. We’ve all had enough.
I can’t change a damn thing by putting on a happy face, and to be honest, it’s not appropriate given the accelerating collapse of our civilisation and ecosystem. So I’ll still be raging over there.
But here I want some peace and quiet. So for the next 12 months I’m going to try a new approach to blogging. Niceness. Gentle humour. Good vibes.
In service of this new beginning I’m going to run some of my favourite and most gently written pieces from my old private column, Alien Side Boob.
Starting with the piece above.
How To Cook the Perfect Steak.

7 Responses to ‘My year of not complaining’

insomniac would have you know...

Posted December 12
I'm not on social media so I don't really know how ugly it is. I do have a Guardian presence though, and while there is some ugly, there is much dumbness, mainly from the gubbermunt troll army. That can be depressing, especially if I haven't had my Vegemite for a few days. On the other hand there are many not dumb peeps concerned about where this country is headed, and their comments are most welcome.

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andrew is gonna tell you...

Posted December 12
I don't do the social medias as such either, but I imagine that it probably isn't any better than the comments sections on news sites and some blogs. Not the high signal-to-noise ones like yours of course.

Used to be that whinging in public would get you shunned. "Don't feed the trolls" seemed to mostly work, on usenet for a while. Perhaps its time has come again?

I particularly like the approach of David Byrne's blog "Reasons to be cheerful". It's not always good, but I think that it's heading in a useful direction.

There's a lovely piece on "How to do nothing: resisting the attention economy" that I read last month. Perhaps it would help:

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted December 12
This is a good link. Thanks.

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted December 12
Good luck, let me know if there is anything I can do to help. Remember the advice from The Meaning of Life movie
"I've had a team working on this over the past few weeks, and what we've come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts.
One. People are not wearing enough hats.
Two. Matter is energy.
In the universe, there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source, which act upon a person's soul. However, this soul does not exist ab initio, as orthodox Christianity teaches. It has to be brought into existence, by a process of guided self- observation. However, this is rarely achieved, owing to man's unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.

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Rob reckons...

Posted December 12
Its the sameness that bugs me. (and the lack of humour) Everyone wants everything to be exactly like everything else. Every new video is a copy of a copy of a copy. Copies sell, and then everyone wants their new creation to look like the last cool thing. 10 minutes on tiktok and you can just see these poor kids all trying to emulate the last faddish thing, to capture exactly the same appeal of that thing.

And the Karens & Sharons all commenting 'exactly' & 'this' on the endless parades of tedious positivity memes, love yourself first posts, 'my husband left me because of ptsd not because I'm a totally annoying miserable asshole' statements.

Mind you that's all not too gentle or nice I'll try harder in the new year JB.

Dave W has opinions thus...

Posted December 12
A friend of mine was constantly posting those passive-aggressive meme things. Another friend of his replied to one saying "I've noticed you've had a few of these up here lately. Is everything okay? Give me a call if you want to talk."

That was the end of the posts. I'd like to think I'd do the same and treat these annoyances with a positive response.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon asserts...

Posted December 12
i took a 45 odd day break from twitter myself. It was on the back of seeing some person tweet "if you have to log off from twitter you are doing it wrong". It incensed me, then made me think "why the eff do i care?" - closed it down completely and logged off (but went back in just to refresh the login before the 30 day cutoff). Went back after the much needed rest. Everyone was still there drawing out the same old type of jokes, making comments about shit that suddenly did not make any sense (or more to the point I didn't care about). It was weird - so i posted my bird shots recording the species that visit my place and commented less myself. The only thing i could relate it to was one new years eve myself and the better half had no plans, turns out no invites to parties (everyone was away that year), first year in our new place, so decided we'd wander down to the fireworks in the harbour. But what to do till midnight? Ahh we'll go watch the new Lord of the Rings movie, that went for four hours or something - good waste of time not requiring us to spend too much. It was daylight and normal when we went in. When we came out we thought it was the apocalypse. Normally I get a bit disoriented after sitting in a movie in the dark and you emerge blinking in the sunlight. But this was different. It was just after dusk. Everyone had turned into drunk zombies - it was frigging 9 oclock for gods sake. People vomiting in the gutter, agro guys trying to punch you out, girls collapsing in a heap. We had decided to walk up to the harbour but as we got closer it got worse. A total bin fire. We reached circular quay and just kept going - got on the train and went home . . . . and figured we could see the tiny explosions from our balcony anyway. So, twitter is a bit like that . . . . i may jump on that train yet to get out of the bin fire.

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I have logged out of Twitter

Posted May 3, 2019 into House keeping by John Birmingham

Like, literally. I haven't deactivated or deleted my account. I simply logged out. I did delete the app from my phone (and wrote about it) last year, but I found myself sliding back to the toxic bird's nest via Safari. So I tried to delete Safari.

Not possible.

I looked for site blocking options. Not possible on iOS.

So instead I've logged out, hoping that the simple speed bump of having to log back in will prevent me from mindlessly scrolling my time line, especially during the election. It is almost entirely shit. And toxic political shit at that.

I have books to write. I don't have time for shit. I do have reason to turn the fire hose of Twitter traffic on at Blunty or even here sometimes, but I know I can just login to do that. Then log back out.

Oddly enough, I feel zero compunction to browse Facebook. But I logged out there too on general principles.

7 Responses to ‘I have logged out of Twitter’

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted May 3, 2019
Well I think Twiter and facebook are a little poorer for your absence but it sounds like it was the right choice for you.

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NBlob reckons...

Posted May 5, 2019
Twitter is like bad fast food. Facebook is good fast food. Both have little to no nutritional value, both come with more fat & salt than you need in a month, but at least Facebook tastes good like the Colonel's hot&spicy.

FormerlyKnownAsSimon ducks in to say...

Posted May 6, 2019
I would say the opposite! although maybe bad fast food and worse. I'm not really sure why i'm bothering with twitder either. The interesting articles are getting further and further apart. I hear more and more people doing the JB thing. Rats/sinking ship and all that. (not that i'm saying JB is a rat . . . just a bit smarter than the rest of us)

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 6, 2019
I still enjoy dropping in every now and then, but I've become really concerned about mindless scrolling and time suckage.

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Bondiboy66 is gonna tell you...

Posted May 7, 2019
I'll admit to being a bit of a FB tragic (useful for not only time wastage but family connections and clubs/sports stuff)....but I have not ever had any truck with Twunter.

Dave W puts forth...

Posted May 7, 2019
And as for that Whatsapp thingy, or snapchat and instragram...I think I reached my technical dotage with Facebook.

My employer wants us all to be using Teams to communicate with each other. There are no words for this feeling.

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Therbs puts forth...

Posted May 9, 2019
Not an FB devotee. Stopped regularly using twitter last year.occasionally I'll look at it now and then and a few times a year post pics of country pubs when I'm on a drunkytour. and abuse people.BB King once sang;

"The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away."

Yeah, the fun of Tweeterville seems to have left the building.

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Posted February 5, 2019 into House keeping by John Birmingham

Quite a few peeps have emailed and messaged me directly about being unable to comment. I’m aware the comment fuction is wobbly and will probably get some renovation work done on it in the next few weeks, depending on cost. But I’m also looking at a site overhaul and don’t want to burn money on work which I then throw away in a month or so.

4 Responses to ‘Comments’

HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted February 5, 2019
Sheeez. If I can make it work then those that are somewhat disenfranchised with the functionality might want to reconsider their positions.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon would have you know...

Posted February 5, 2019
Mine did a double post a couple of days ago but i was working off the mobile.

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she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted February 5, 2019
Perhaps the site has become sentient and is moderating your readers comments based on its definition of the commentee's status as a favourite? If this is the case I welcome our AI overlords, please don't kill me :D

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Naut puts forth...

Posted February 5, 2019
All my comments are appearing with less wit and cutting insight than they had when I typed them.

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Free martinis

Posted February 1, 2019 into House keeping by John Birmingham

The post below is an extract from The Seven Stages of Drinking Martinis, the anthology I collected over two years of writing Alien Side Boob. But specifically the non ranty, non political bits. Looking back, they're my favourites.

Because I've grown so weary and sick in my soul of social media, I'm making a real effort to pour the energy I would've spent composing tweets or drooling thru Facebook (not a typo) into slowly renovating the ol' blog here.

I like the idea of a quiet clubhouse where I can retreat from the madness of the online world. And I gotta feeling I might not be alone. So although I've published Martinis as a book—Kindle exclusive for now, so its free for KU readers—I'll be running a piece here every now and then. Partly to pimp the book, but mostly to warm up the joint.

I get so little joy from Twitter anymore. And I've pretty much always hated Facebook. Opening those sites and apps feels like compuslive self abuse, and not the good kind.

So pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink and get cozy. But observe the one and only house rule. Be awesome to each other.

11 Responses to ‘Free martinis’

Barnesm puts forth...

Posted February 1, 2019
Good to see you Mr Birmingham, things have been awfully dull around here... Now you're on this, I hope we are going to see some gratuitous sex and violence.

Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted February 1, 2019
Never Say Never Again.

Excellent film.

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Leftarc would have you know...

Posted February 1, 2019
Good to see you back in the saddle JB.
Whilst I enjoy a short, pithy snark as much as the next person, watching you dismember a topic or person limb by limb (sorry, watched Kill Bill this morning) in the long form is something to savour.

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HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted February 1, 2019
I fkn SECOND BARNES'S FKN MOTION. I for one find the OTHER fkn worlds out there to be all of the above and somewhat more. Actually, a FKN LOT FKN MORE to be honest! And when I say that, I mean, full of the unwashed, tree huggin, lets slap somebody within an inch for a small comment, lets get angry and protest, lets not fk about, buut be PC and fear to tread ANYFKNWHERE!

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DarrenBloomfield would have you know...

Posted February 1, 2019
Hazzuh! Normal service has been resumed.

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HAVOCK21 has opinions thus...

Posted February 1, 2019
Um, when you mention the house rule, is that with the same " intent" as the house rule at the former CBG Smack Down, octagon that was eighty versions of pure fkn awesome? Just trying to qualify what ya sayin.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 1, 2019
We all know the rules don't apply to you.

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tqft puts forth...

Posted February 1, 2019
In a fit of efficiency a few weeks back I added the burger to the list of startup sites.
I could add it to my rss feed script but that almost guarantees not being read.

To ditch twitter or not, I don't know. If I had a life outside of work I might.

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jason swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 1, 2019
I may be missing something here. Exactly where do i get the free martini. It's 5 o'clock on a Friday so a casual libation would be appreciated.

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Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted February 1, 2019
Hell, I might have to resurrect The Pondering Tree.

Then again, I might want to work on some new fiction first.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted February 1, 2019
Yes, you might.

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Shorter of breath and one year closer to death

Posted December 31, 2018 into House keeping by John Birmingham

So that's good! Another year survived here at the end of our collapsing civilisation. Not everything survived, however. I pulled the plug on Alien Side Boob last night, something I'd been intending to wind down gently over the next week or two. But Gumroad does not do gentle. As soon as I hit the button to turn off the subscriptions, it nuked the entire thing.

Oh well... I guess I got there a little quicker than I imagined.

For anyone paying attention, you can get the collection of kinder, gentler (and to be honest... funnier) Monday columns on the Beast of Bezos for free right now. But not for long.

It's here.

One of the reasons I pulled up stumps at the Boob is that after a three pretty hard years I'm starting to get the wind in my sails again. I have a bunch of projects underway, some of them not at all the sort of thing I've previously earned my quids from. (And some, like WW 3.1, exactly that sort of thing). I want to get this year right and part of that means saying no to some shit so I can bring all my guns to bear on the main targets.

I'm taking a couple of weeks to chill and reset before the year spins up again, which I'm taking to mean Jan 16 when I launch Alicia Wanstall-Burke's Blood of Heirs at Avid Reader in West End. I finished it the other day. Really fucking impressive bit of work. I find myself in the unsual position of tapping my toes impatiently waiting for the next in the series.

Don't you fucking hate it when authors do that to you?

8 Responses to ‘Shorter of breath and one year closer to death’

jl asserts...

Posted December 31, 2018
Totally agree on the Blood of Heirs thing- awaiting Alicia's next installment. Re: ASB. It was good while it lasted, and it was pretty darn good. Happy New Year to everyone at the 'Burger!

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she_jedi would have you know...

Posted January 2, 2019
Ugh, authors taking their sweet time about releasing the next in a series are the WORST. Oops, did I type that out loud?

Blood of Heirs is in my To Be Read list, which is growing horrifyingly long. Looking forward to getting stuck into it after I finish the novel of Alice Isn't Dead.

Happy New Year good Burgerers!

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted January 2, 2019
i got no where near enough reading done in my break (zero) but i do have a shiny new lens for my camera to occupy me. I spent Chrissy doing that australian of all australian things - putting up a trampoline in 35 plus degree heat. Bugger that. Then i went back to work today sat down at my desk and realised i'd left the laptop at home. Not all bad as i could log in and tap at the keyboard looking at trees etc instead of working on my inner fluorescent glow.

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Bangar ducks in to say...

Posted January 3, 2019
The waiting is part of the joy of reading the new stuff, just don't do a Martin

Brother PorkChop puts forth...

Posted January 4, 2019
No, it's not part of the joy at all. There no joy in waiting for the next installment. The joy is in getting it, and settling in for the read. The only joy in waiting is when I make a nice coffee, maybe a piece of Christmas fruitcake or shortbread immediately before I put the barricades up to read. If there was joy in waiting, we'd all be in raptures by now waiting for George to finish.

she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted January 4, 2019
I wish I could insert a Meryl Streep applauding at the Oscars gif into this comment to illustrate how strongly I agree with your statement :)

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Oldy ducks in to say...

Posted January 7, 2019
Happy New Year, JB. Can't wait to see what 2019 brings, and especially WW 3.1 (no pressure).

And moar End of the World!

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Brother PorkChop swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 10, 2019
JB, thanks for the freebie!! Still reading it but getting funny looks in the lunch room with the laughs it is generating.

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