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Doobie-ous Choices

As a thriller writer, I make my living by writing scary scenarios and then finding ways to make them worse.  But, wow, with all the scary stuff going on in the world right now, what have I got left to work with? I hate to say it, but it might be time to cue the zombie invasion.

I’ve done what I can to mitigate my risks of catching or spreading the flu, so that leaves me a couple of ways to deal with my residual anxiety:  1) Cower in my home and obsess over every sniffle; or 2) occupy my mind with childish humour.

Guess which one I chose?

It wasn’t actually a conscious choice — after I finished the draft of Book 15 this week (hooray!), my brain started scrambling signals just for fun.

For instance, I was surprised and not a little disturbed to discover an email in my inbox titled “What to expect from federal prison”.  It’s not reassuring to receive that sort of advice from one’s online brokerage.  Much to my relief, the title turned out to be “What to expect from federal pension”, so I guess I don’t need to look for escape routes just yet.

Only a few days later, flu symptoms must have been on my mind when I read “It’s a spectacular series of snots” on a photography website.  That would be “shots”, not “snots”.  But at least my inner child got a giggle.

And while I was writing the last couple of chapters of Book 15, that same naughty inner child decided that the root word of “dubious” is “doobie”.  Now I’ll never be able to hear, speak, write, or read the word ‘dubious’ without smirking.

With my inner child thus occupied, my outer middle-aged adult began to contemplate how retirement might look if I ever get to the point where it’s something I want and can afford (neither of which seems likely).

“Well-dressed charity board member” would be a laughably bad fit; mostly because my idea of “well-dressed” is a T-shirt without holes in it, and my lifetime allocation of patience for meetings was used up at least a decade ago.

“Pillar of the arts” might work if I had enough money to actually be a pillar; but right now my budget is more “toothpick”.  And I’d probably have to dress up, too; so that’s out.

After considering and discarding a few other possibilities, I’ve finally decided to become the reprehensible old hippy who spends all day in her garden, sits on her front porch smoking the recreational herbs she grows, shouts insults at passersby, and occasionally moons people just for fun.  (Her fun; not theirs.)

Like all good retirement plans, this will require some advance planning:  I’ll have to learn to smoke, acquire some marijuana plants, move to a place where there actually are passersby, and practice my mooning.  I’ve done it by accident a few times, but I suspect the intentional act is trickier than it looks; particularly if one’s balance is impaired by recreational herbs.

So, having settled on these doobie-ous choices for my future, I think I’m ready to relax a bit.  Anybody want to join me on the front porch?  (At a safe six-foot distance, of course.)

Book 15 update:  The draft is DONE!  It’s already been vetted by the first beta reader, and now I’m into my first round of revisions.  Title and release date coming soon!   🙂

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I Think He’s Happy To See Me…

This week a few things have popped up and surprised me.  I’d tell you to stop snickering and get your mind out of the gutter; but you know me too well.  So snicker away — I did.

It all started with a pop-up man…

(And now I want to write some flash fiction beginning with that line. That would be ‘flash fiction’ as in ‘an ultra-short story’, not as in ‘fiction about flashers’. And that’s not even a digression, because the pop-up man started with flashers.)

It was dusk. The lights were on in our house and the yard was cloaked in near-darkness. We live in the country so I don’t worry too much about privacy, but I do draw the blinds at night.

So I was heading for the window when I noticed a truck with its flashers on, backed into our driveway outside the gate. I wasn’t unduly surprised because sometimes people do pull into our driveway when they’re lost and need to check their GPS.  (Which does them no good at all because we’re out in the middle of nowhere and our road isn’t on any GPS map; but anyway…)

I stood at the window watching the vehicle for a few moments.  Then as I reached for the blind cord, a dark-clad man popped up out of the gloom, staring in at me.

He waved. His hand, fortunately.

I must have looked utterly dumbfounded.  He gave me a conciliatory smile and waved again, pointing to his clipboard. Yep, the UPS guy had let himself in our gate and come to the front door (which we never use).

I felt more than a bit awkward as I opened the door and stammered a half-assed explanation as to why I’d apparently been standing there gawking brainlessly at him.  He seemed happy enough to complete the transaction, but he probably went back to the depot and regaled everyone with the story of this weird creepy broad who stood there staring out at him instead of answering the door.

Next, we were digging the last of our carrots when this popped up:

Hubby speculated that the carrots were mutating into some sort of new ambulatory vegetable. Then we turned it around:

I think he’s happy to see me; in a twisted sort of way…

My last surprise was this guy (or gal — who can tell?):

S/He doesn’t look particularly happy to see me; but since I don’t think eagles are capable of looking pleased, I’m going to pretend s/he’s smiling.

I was sitting outside with my tea when this eagle flew by about ten feet away from me, and only a few feet off the ground. Wow, what a surprise!  I’ve never been that close to a wild eagle before.  (And after a glimpse of those vicious talons and beak, I don’t want to get much closer.)

Any surprises popped up in your world this week?

Book 15 update:  An excellent plotting week!  I have the story almost all mapped out now, and I’ve written up to Chapter 18.  Aydan just got a big (and pleasant, for a change) surprise!

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Artificial What?

I’ve been pressed for time this week, so I was late getting started on the draft for this post. As I paced the floor wondering what to write, Hubby piped up helpfully: “You know, you need an AI program to create your blogs for you.”

That made me laugh, for a couple of reasons. First, I grew up on a farm. Long before anybody ever thought of calling computer programs ‘Artificial Intelligence’, AI stood for ‘Artificial Insemination’. That might be apropos, considering that some of my posts are pretty screwy; but the accompanying mental image is, um… let’s just say unwholesome.

The second reason for my laughter is that my blog’s spam folder is full of AI ‘creativity’. (Just to clarify, I’m referring to Artificial Intelligence in this case; although considering some of the eye-popping porn in there, both definitions of AI may be equally accurate.)

Here’s one of the (non-X-rated) gems from my recent spam:
“An unconfused perk of living in a multicultural gentry is the wide-ranging variety of foods that enhance ready. X Field notes may document empirical details, methodological issues, dear thoughts, prolegomenon analyses and working hypotheses. Some are within the Checklist to ensure angelic physical environment mistress’s authority over, others not.”

Wow, I wish I’d written that! (Or not.) On the up side, I learned a new word: “prolegomenon”, which is “a critical or discursive introduction to a book”. Who knew?

But that aroused my curiosity. How do spammers develop their content? So your intrepid reporter dove deep into the questionable waters of the internet, and guess what I discovered? There are online generators for everything! Random words, nouns, adjectives, names, numbers, phrases; even complete sentences. So of course I had to try them out.

Fun was had and time was wasted, but despite my dedicated research I didn’t uncover any intelligence, artificial or otherwise.

It didn’t do much for my own intelligence, either. I could practically feel the IQ points slipping away; which may explain why I’ve developed a disturbing tendency to lose focus and stare blankly off into space waiting for my brain to reboot. (It’s not advancing age. Or so I keep telling myself.)

And on that note…

Lately I’ve been spread too thin, so I’m going to scale back my internet presence and concentrate on writing Book 15 for the next little while. I’ll post regular progress notes to prove I’m still alive and working, and I’ll write sporadic ‘real’ posts when I have time.  And of course, I’ll look forward to your comments as always — your comments are the best part of this blog!

“Talk” to you soon!

Book 15 update:  I’m on Chapter 14 and going strong!  Arnie’s having a tough time, but Aydan and John are there for him as always.

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Bruce Can Fly!

In my previous post I introduced Bruce, our newly-minted sourdough culture.  At the time, I mentioned his godlike power of raising the bread; but I didn’t realize that was only a fraction of his abilities.  Last week, I discovered that Bruce can fly.

As you might guess, this was not a happy revelation.

For the last forty-some years I’ve made my bread by hand; but Graubrot is new territory for me, so I was following the recipe.  And the recipe said ‘It’s best to use a stand mixer with dough hooks’.

Right there:  That’s when I should have asked some probing questions.

“It’s best” implies “it’s better than something else”; but the recipe didn’t specify “better than what”.  The whole fiasco was probably better than undergoing a root canal performed by a drunken chimpanzee; but since I’ve never had a simian dentist (inebriated or otherwise), I can’t accurately state that the dough hook experience was “best”.

Blindly optimistic, I scraped my rye starter dough and wheat starter dough into the mixing bowl and added the liquid and seasonings.

(Useful knowledge:  Wheat flour has a lot of gluten, which makes its dough elastic.  Rye has very little gluten, and its dough is like modelling clay.  Bruce occupied the rye starter dough.)

Even at their lowest speed, the dough hooks rapidly churned the wheat starter into a compact springy ball while the rye starter formed a slurry with the liquid.

Then (in a fit of temper or maybe malicious glee), the dough hooks seized the ball of wheat dough, flung it high, and slapped it down into the slurry at approximately thirty miles per hour.

And Bruce flew.

Oh, my, did he fly.  Ev-er-y-where.

That would have been bad enough, but the starter doughs have to ripen for at least eighteen hours before use.  So if I wanted to bake that day (and I did), I had to salvage the slurry.

It took about half an hour, but I managed to scrape most of Bruce off various surfaces and back into the mixing bowl.  I did try to use the dough hooks again, but when the mixer started to smell like burnt wiring (did I mention that Graubrot is VERY heavy?) I turned the dough out on the counter and kneaded it by hand, as I should have done in the first place.

After all that foolishness, the bread turned out fine; but I’m haunted by the knowledge that there are probably still microscopic particles of Bruce throughout my kitchen.  And now that he’s both all-powerful and omnipresent, I’m really hoping he turns out to be a benevolent deity.

But if there’s no blog post next week, you’ll know what happened…

Book 15 update:  In between rounds of company and dicing with death atop a 30-foot ladder (because our brand-new house needs most of its exterior re-caulked, grrr, don’t get me started), I didn’t make much writing progress this week.  But I’m nearly finished Chapter 5, and hoping for more writing time this week.  Fingers crossed!

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Meet Bruce (Almighty)

Our household has a new member!  We’ve christened him Bruce.

This is where I’m supposed to gush about how adorable he is, and fill my post with photos of Bruce napping and Bruce playing and Bruce looking at us with love in his eyes and Bruce, Bruce, Bruce.

So… here he is:

This is Bruce napping, playing, etc.

Awww. Isn’t he adorable?

No, I haven’t lost my mind (any more than usual). I have, however, managed to grow a sourdough culture.  And in the process of researching recipes and techniques I discovered that it’s traditional to name your sourdough starter, since it’s a living organism you have to feed and care for (potentially for years).

That tickled my funnybone, so I decided to name ours after the main character in Bruce Almighty.  It seemed appropriate, since Bruce has godlike powers:  He can raise the bread.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

I learned to bake bread when I was about thirteen, and I’ve been at it ever since.  I enjoy fluffy buns and sweet breads, but my ‘daily bread’ is deliciously packed with whole wheat, flax and chia.

Hubby, on the other hand, dreams of a heavy Black Forest rye like the bread he ate as a kid in Germany.  (He’s a Canadian Air Force brat who grew up mostly overseas.)  Thanks to the magic of the internet we found some recipes, and the inaugural loaf came out of the oven on Monday.

I can only describe it as, um… solid. Dark and aromatic and heavy as lead.  If I hadn’t created a loaf like that on purpose, I’d have hurriedly chucked it before anybody could assume that it was a fair representation of my bread-making skills.

Spawn of Bruce

But Hubby says it’s close.  Apparently the weight is correct and the Brotgewürz (bread spice) is good, but this loaf is 100% dark rye and on reflection he thinks the magic bread was probably Mischbrot (mixed bread) or Graubrot (grey bread) or Bauernbrot (farmer’s bread) — different names for similar breads made with a blend of rye flour and white/all-purpose wheat flour.

So Bruce will be kept busy while I try out more recipes.  And as long as I never find him cuddled up on my pillow in the morning, everything will be fine.

Anybody else harbouring family members in their fridge?  (If the answer is ‘yes’, I’m not sure I want to know…)

*

P.S. Our next round of houseguests arrives on Monday, so my next post will be October 2.  Yikes!  I can’t believe October is that close!

Book 15 update:  Despite the busy-ness of guests and garden, I’m well into Chapter 5.  Looking forward to some good writing time in the next few days!

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More Juggling (But Not With Fish)

September is shaping up to be a crazy month!  (Lucky I’m crazy enough to deal with it.)  I’m still picking piles of fruit and veggies from the garden, and we’re busily socking it away to enjoy throughout the winter.  The considerable overflow goes to our friends and neighbours as well as the Food Bank.

We might have been just a teeny bit over-enthusiastic when we were planting the garden, but… look at all this glorious food!

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

A single picking of tomatoes. (I pick a couple of times a week.)

 

Ten gallons of chopped carrots all ready for the freezer.

 

50 pints of pickles, 22 pints of jam, 7 pints of salsa, 28 pints of beans (another 20 pounds frozen), 24 pints of tomatoes and lots to go, and still a bit of space left for the rest of the beets and tomatoes and pickled hot peppers. YUM!

 

But our autumn isn’t only about food.  The flowers are still gorgeous, too, and the bees and other wildlife are hard at work stocking their own pantries:

This little black bear has been feasting on the wild cherries only a few hundred feet from our house. Don’t be fooled by his casual pose — he’s actually about 30 feet up a tree. (He’s a little blurry because Hubby took this shot using a LONG zoom — we have a healthy respect even for small bears!)

 

This little guy has been hard at work snipping off pine cones and stashing them away.

 

I’m not sure whether it was my camera or the tiny white spider (near the centre of the flower) that chased this bee off the zinnia. Either way, he’s buzzing off.

 

The snapdragons are still putting on a show.

 

One of our newest rhododendrons, Medusa, is a bit confused as to whether it’s spring or fall, but she’s beautiful anyway!

 

We’ll have a couple more rounds of houseguests this month, so maintaining my writing schedule for Book 15 will be a juggling act.  (Fortunately not with fish.)  To salvage some time I’ll dial back my blogging schedule to every second week for the month of September, so my next post will be September 18.

How’s your September shaping up?  Are you harvesting any goodies from your garden?

Book 15 update:  I’m bombing along on Chapter 4!  Hellhound would normally be voted “Most Likely To Get Arrested While On Vacation”, but Aydan’s the one who’s ended up in handcuffs…

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A Fishy Tale

I seem to end up looking like a doofus in public more often than most people. I prefer to think it’s sheer coincidence, and nothing to do with me personally.  (Denial:  Not just a river in Egypt.)  Last month it was my disintegrating shoes.  This week I entertained the crowd by juggling a dead fish at the pumps of a PetroCanada gas station.

It could only happen to me:

We had driven down to Victoria, and on the way back we stopped for gas. As I was fuelling up, Hubby’s uncle drove in beside me. That was an unlikely coincidence, since neither of us lives close to that PetroCanada station.  Also coincidentally, he was returning from a fishing trip.

“Hey, I’ve got a fish for you,” said he. “Do you want it now?”

Ordinarily I would have declined, since I have no way of carrying a gutted and beheaded fish home in my car without causing grievous harm to upholstery and equanimity.  But (another coincidence) I had taken a load of vegetables down to inflict on share with our friends, so I had a large empty cooler with ice packs.  I also happened to have a plastic bag, so I could put the fish in the bag and tuck it tidily into the cooler. Easy-peasy, right?

Not even close.

Hubby’s uncle was on his way to the ferry and I didn’t want to delay him, so I hustled his catch-bag over to where Hubby had helpfully opened our cooler.  I grabbed my plastic bag with one hand.  I grabbed the salmon with the other.

You’d think that very little could go wrong in the few inches between fish and bag; but you’d be oh-so-sadly mistaken. Freshly dead salmon are slippery. I had grabbed it just above the tail, and (being fish-shaped and all) it tapered considerably at that point.

That fish shot out of my grip like it was jet-propelled.

I made a panicked grab for it, which accomplished nothing except to add a tumble to its trajectory. Fish-slime flew in all directions, splattering my shirt, face, and sunglasses.  The fish did a belly-flop into our cooler, where it spitefully rubbed its dead self all over the ice packs and the inside of the cooler.

And there I stood in the middle of the PetroCanada station:  be-slimed and befuddled, with the empty plastic bag dangling impotently from my hand.

Then came a short ridiculous scene in which I juggled the frictionless fish a couple more times before finally cramming it into the bag.  (Don’t ask me why putting the fish in the bag still seemed important, since the cooler and ice packs were already thoroughly slimed.  By then I wasn’t thinking straight due to a severe case of the giggles.)

I scuttled into the station to wash my hands and clean my sunglasses, then hurried back to the car and drove away without looking around to see how many people had witnessed the debacle.  I didn’t hear anybody laughing; but I wasn’t listening too closely, either.

I did manage to get the salmon filleted and into our freezer without further mishap, and soon we’ll eat the evidence.

But I might not go back to that gas station for a while…

Book 15 update:  I’m back in action after last week’s hiatus, and looking forward to a good writing week!

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Smackdown! (Or Not.)

Whenever something strikes me as odd, funny, or otherwise blog-worthy, I drop a little note in my blog file.  This week I discovered two entries in close proximity:  “tornados vs. earthquakes” and “facial tissue vs. bathroom tissue”.  I half-expected to see “Godzilla vs. Kong”, but I guess that’s been done.

So apparently it’s smackdown time, or at least I assume it is.  Those were the only notes I made, and I don’t actually remember what I meant to say about them.  But what the hell, I ain’t a fiction-writer fer nuthin’.  So here goes:

“Tornados vs. earthquakes”:  I’m hoping to never find out firsthand which of these would win in a smackdown.  But I do know this:  I feel less threatened by earthquakes.  Which is silly, since I live in the most active earthquake zone in Canada.

Tornados strike terror into my heart.  There’s something so damn personal about them.  An earthquake shakes up everybody equally, but a tornado circles around to scope out its potential victim(s).  Then it extends a finger of destruction down from the sky and WHAM!  It smites its target, taking out one building while leaving another standing untouched only a few feet away.  That just freaks me out.

I’m tempted to give tornados the win for sheer intimidation-factor, but I don’t want to tempt earthquakes to provide me with a comparison.  We’ll just call that one a draw.

“Facial tissue vs. bathroom tissue”:  Until I moved to a house with a septic system instead of city sewers, I didn’t see the point in differentiating between the two tissue types.  I’ve since found out that bathroom tissue is designed to fall apart rapidly in water, thereby not plugging up my septic system.  (Thank you, toilet paper.)

The only other difference seems to be that bathroom tissue is often made from recycled paper, although the label wording is a bit vague.  The first time I saw a package of toilet paper blazoned with “Recycled Bathroom Tissue”, I was seriously concerned.

I had visions of some poor schmuck employed in the Sewer Department, painstakingly separating, um… let’s say, ‘the wheat from the chaff’… and feeding the salvaged bits into a giant bleach barrel.  At least I sincerely hoped there was a bleach barrel.

Much to my relief, I discovered that the recycling source was other types of domestic paper.  Whew.  But honestly, there was nothing on that bathroom tissue package that specified what it was recycled from.

So facial tissue gets points for strength, and bathroom tissue gets points for beneficial wimpiness with sinister undertones.  I’m going to call that another draw, just in case toilet paper is ungracious about defeat and decides to take revenge on my pipes.

And that’s my equivocation for this week.

*

P.S.  We’re having guests for a while so my next post will be August 28/19, but I’ll still check in to reply to comments.  Wishing everyone a happy summer with no smackdowns of any sort!  🙂

Book 15 update:  I hit Chapter 3 this week — it’s great to be writing again!  Arnie and Aydan are off on an adventure, and John will join them soon.  Things get interesting when secret agents go on vacation!

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Down The Rabbit Hole

Last week I mentioned that in addition to my shoe breakdown, my deodorant had also failed. That got me thinking about sweat and its associated etiquette. (Sweatiquette?)

I lived most of my adult life in Calgary, where it’s so dry that your sweat glands have to work overtime just to keep you from shriveling into a desiccated mummy. Perspiration was never a problem there.

But it’s humid here on the West Coast, and now I get clammy clothes and a sticky sheen on my skin just from strolling down the sidewalk.  So here’s my dilemma:

When you a meet a friend you’d normally hug, is it more awkward to say, “Don’t hug me, I’m gross and sweaty”; or to go for the hug and subject them to full sweatitude with a bonus whiff of gamey armpits? (And why don’t I have friends anymore?)

When I consulted the internet (about sweatiquette, not my social problems), I was confronted by an ad demanding, “Are you a heavy sweater?”

I blinked away the mental image of a bulky cable-knit pullover.  Nope, last time checked I was still a regular-weight human.

And down the rabbit hole I went.

‘Sweater’. It’s kind of an icky word when you think about it. I mean, I guess it’s descriptive enough:  When you’re cold, you want something that might induce sweat; so you put on a ‘sweater’.  But, ew.

Our friends in the U.K. more politely call them ‘jumpers’; but even though there’s a lower ick-factor, the word makes no sense at all. What does jumping have to do with a garment you pull over your head?

Although I guess it makes as much sense as our North American ‘jumper’: A sleeveless, collarless dress worn over a T-shirt.  (As opposed to a ‘jumpsuit’, the one-piece coverall worn by skydivers who jump out of perfectly serviceable airplanes at high altitude. At least the terminology is logical even if the sanity is questionable.)

And that reminds me of a joke:  “Parachute for sale.  Used once.  Small stain.”

Which brings me full-circle to sweat and other bodily emissions:  If anybody ever forced me to skydive, I guarantee the stain would be a large one and the parachute wouldn’t be salable afterward.  The person who coerced me probably wouldn’t be in great shape, either.

And that’s the bottom of this week’s rabbit hole.  (Should I mention that a rabbit is also a ‘jumper’?)

Happy landings to all!

Book 15 update:  The first words are on the page, woohoo!  I’m thrilled to be writing again — I’ve missed Aydan and the gang. 🙂

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I’ve Learned My Lesson

I thought I was so prepared.  Usually I write blog post drafts on Monday, but I finished this one on Sunday evening.  Secure in my (perceived) efficiency, I didn’t look at it again until 9 PM last night.

That’s when I recalled that I’d been drunk when I wrote it.  Oops.

I think it was the novelist Peter de Vries who said, “Write drunk, edit sober”. Clearly he was a more talented drunk than I; or who knows? Maybe he was just messing with us, and he actually spent every ‘morning-after’ rewriting all the crap he’d spewed while under the influence.  That’s what I was doing last night.

I’d like to say it wasn’t my fault; but… it actually was.

We’ve been saving our pennies lately, but Sunday we decided to splurge and go to the pub. I ordered a pint, and when Hubby discovered that they no longer stocked his favourite Smirnoff Ice, I bullied him into trying a different vodka cooler. When the drink arrived, he hated it; but I thought it was yummy.  So we kept it and Hubby ordered a Caesar instead.

So now I had two drinks.

Have I mentioned that I haven’t been out lately?  And I rarely drink at home; so it had been a while since I’d had anything alcoholic.  And I’d forgotten that I’d taken an antihistamine earlier in the day.

By the time we finished our appetizer, I’d polished off my beer and was completely snockered.  After the vodka cooler, my teeth were numb and I couldn’t feel my feet.  I thought this was hilarious, so I rushed home and wrote a blog post about it.

Isn’t it funny how drunks think they’re funny? (Now that I’m sober, I know the correct answer is ‘no’.)

My draft was lame. The whole thing amounted to, “I’m drunk, hee-hee!” Gut-bustingly funny when you’re inebriated; but it probably should have occurred to me that if I couldn’t feel my feet, my brain might be disconnected, too.

So I’ve learned my lesson.  From now on I’ll drink MUCH more frequently so I’m in shape to handle it… um, I mean… I’ll live an exemplary life of sobriety and restraint.

Yeah. Sobriety and restraint. That’s me in a nutshell.

Wait, why is everybody laughing?

*

P.S. Speaking of ‘learning my lesson’: Thank you, everyone, for all your helpful comments and votes on the cover redesign!  Apparently the original covers ain’t broke, so I’d better not fix them.  I may enlarge the title font a bit so it’s more readable in thumbnail sizes, but that’s all… for now… until I second-guess myself again…

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