Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction by Tom Raabe (BR00013)

PLOT OR PREMISE:

A mixed-tone argument that you can be “addicted” to reading and owning books, with some examples of book hoarders from years-gone-by.


WHAT I LIKED:

There are some really good “humour” lists, kind of like a Letterman top ten list for:

  • Moving when you have a lot of books;
  • A Biblioholic’s test (how big is your problem);
  • The snobbish Discovery Index (I knew the author when..);
  • Reading in restaurants;
  • Latin explanations of literary taste: “De gustibus non est disputandum” — Everyone to their own non-disputable tastes; and,
  • Ten Commandments for the Book Handler.


WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

The author can’t seem to decide what the book is — a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek ode to book hoarders everywhere or a serious tome about an actual mental illness. The book starts out with a light-hearted look at those who feel an overwhelming urge to buy books i.e. “biblioholics”. By the end, however, he treats it like a real mental illness that requires awareness and treatment. Either approach could work, but bouncing between one and the other wears out really fast. Perhaps this would have been better as a collection of small articles for a small newspaper, and even then, in dire need of an editor to give it better focus and less repetition. But even in a series of newspaper articles, I suspect the reader would tire of the subject matter very quickly — the metaphor is dragged out far past its prime.


THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET:

Well-researched, but yawn…

Year of Release Publisher ISBN/ASIN Series
1996 Fulcrum Group 978-1555913786 Stand-alone
My Rating (Original: February 18, 2001)

bookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_blankbookreview_blankbookreview_blank

Legend: ♥ Finished ♥♥ Not bad ♥♥♥ Good ♥♥♥♥ Enjoyable ♥♥♥♥♥ Excellent

DISCLOSURE:

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him on social media.

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I have no idea how single parents survive…

HOUSE

I’m not talking the big stuff of single parenting, co-parenting, anything of that sort. I’m not talking money, emotions, dating, responsibilities, decision-making, any of that. I’m talking about something actually quite simple.

How do you handle it when your kid is sick in the middle of the night?

My cub had a bug last weekend, and seemed to have fought it off. Or so we thought. Until just about midnight last night when my wife heard him making weird noises in his bedroom, checked on him, and he’d thrown up on the big comforter, his sheets, his bedspread, his pillows, himself. So she yelled for me to come help, and we divided up duties like we always do when this happens.

One of us is on hair holding duties, comforting, rocking, keeping him warm and sanitary, while the other is on clean-up duty. I did clean-up last night, stripping beds, getting chunks out of various clothes and sheets, getting the FIRST load in the washing machine and dryer. All while Andrea kept him calm and comforted. Probably a half-hour for each of us. Fast forward 90 minutes, and a suprise round 5 was underway, this time with a mess in the guest room rather than his bed which had no sheets. Another 20-30 minutes of comforting and cleanup, each.

Sometimes she’s doing the cleaning, sometimes it’s me, but either way, we aren’t trying to do the comforting while the mess continues to soak in elsewhere. We can get to it, and deal with it properly.

If we were single, we couldn’t. I’ve always known I would not make a good single parent even on the best of days; most of the time I’m not even sure I qualify as a decent co-parent since Andrea handles a lot of the daily load. Maybe parental assistant. But on the simple bad days, I’m not sure how anyone handles it alone.

I’m grateful to my wife that I don’t have to find out.

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The sex assault trial does not go well

goals_general

The sex assault trial this week should be primarily about prosecutors laying the groundwork for overwhelming evidence of four crimes. For the case against Ghomeshi, the prosecutor should have the witnesses damn near bulletproof at this point. They even have their own lawyers to help them prepare. And yet, the defense attorney has picked them apart with relative ease. Not even after days of grilling, or horrendous cross-examinations that people expect. But rather, just pointing out major problems with their stories.

The first complainant said he assaulted her by pulling her by the hair so hard it bent her over the back of her carseat. Except she said she was wearing hair extensions that were clip-ons — how did they not come off? She also said that he was driving this cute little VW car. Except he didn’t buy it until long after the day of that alleged assault. Neither of those details have anything to do with the assault, except they are part of her evidence of how she remembers the details of the day so clearly. Corroboration of her story, if you will. You see it as a plot device in TV shows and movies all the time — the witness who remembers the person was wearing a watch with a red face, because it was the same as their father’s. Or who remembers that it was 11:02 p.m. because they checked their watch at 11:00 as their TV show ended. Blah blah blah. Insignificant details that show the rest of the story is true because memories don’t lie.

Except they do lie. Memories lie all the time. Maybe she didn’t wear the extensions until later that week, maybe she took them off, maybe she remembers it as a VW bug because that’s what she saw him drive later and that’s what she pictures him driving on the day of the assault too. In her memory. Maybe he was wearing a red shirt, and she remembers blue. Irrelevant to the facts, but not irrelevant in a court trying to judge credibility of the witness based on their sworn testimony.

But even if you bypass those “details”, there’s a big one that cannot be missed. She didn’t say anything to anyone about a kiss in any of the initial reports, even to reporters, even denying to reporters that there was anything remotely intimate like kissing. Yet then there would be a problem, if there was no kiss. No kiss, no sexual assault. Still an assault, but nothing sexual to make it sexual assault. Gender-based violence, a sexist assault, but not sexual. And the defense attorney pointed out that now she claims there was a kiss too, but she had to think about it for awhile to “remember it”. She remembers hair extensions that don’t come off when yanked, all the steps involved in him yanking her hair, but not a kiss that happened at the same time? Or maybe she just didn’t want to report the kiss, because she thought it would look consensual (which by her accounts was somewhat). Either way, bulletproof is not the word for her credibility. With those holes, I’m surprised a prosecutor would put her on the stand let alone take her case to trial.

She also claims there was a second attack later at his house. One that devastated her. And that she cut off all contact with him, couldn’t stand the sight of him, was traumatized every time she saw him on TV etc. A good story. Which is what she told the detectives. Which they wrote down. And never questioned. Until the witness stand when the defence pointed out that she had, in fact, contacted him twice later by email, very friendly, solicitous even, and included a photo of her in a bikini. She now claims she was trying to trick him into contacting her so she could talk about their last encounter. After she claimed she never contacted him at all. She forgets a kiss in the middle of an attack and doesn’t remember it until they tell her it’s a key element of the crime, and she lies about not contacting him or anything. Again, she should have been prepped to the point of being bulletproof. She wasn’t.

However, if you asked me if there is any truth to her story, then I would probably say possibly yes, maybe there is. But that’s not enough. The prosecution’s case should have left me feeling overwhelmingly yes, not flip a coin. The defense hasn’t even started yet. Even a basic prep or some investigation by the detectives would have added some evidence to fill some simple credibility gaps. Instead, it looks like a rookie was prepping her.

But no worries, she’s just the first accuser, right? Two more to come.

So #2 testified today. And it entered Bizarro territory. After the brutal assault, she stayed at his house for another hour. Went out with him again several more times that weekend. And when it was all over and she was back home? She sent him flowers to thank him for the weekend. She says it’s because she’s a pleaser. Psych talk to explain when someone does something that makes no sense whatsoever, at a psych cost to them, because they want to please the other person as a compulsion.

Not unheard of. But she also posed for pics after the assault. Hung out with him when she had other alternatives. With him ALONE, albeit mostly in public.

Again, like the first complainant, I believe she’s likely telling some version of a truth and something happened. But anyone who thinks he is innocent and it’s all a big conspiracy will be chortling with glee; anyone who thinks she’s lying her butt off has ample reason to think so now; anyone who thinks it’s a giant shitshow (her words) where there was a dating relationship that was consensual and likely some sexual behaviour that was not also saw lots of evidence of that.

Yet, again, this was the prosecutor’s star witness. She should be completely 100% bulletproof. She had to be better prepped than the other, lots of work done to make sure she shone on the witness stand. Instead, she got blown out of the water. Not by a grilling of her sexual history or that she was outright lying, but that the details around her story are not corroborated by her behaviour. If they fit the narrative, she included it; if they didn’t, she left it out. That’s what people are seeing.

Two witnesses, two bad appearances. At this point, the case is so weak, Ghomeshi doesn’t need to do much to refute it. The only caveat, the one that would otherwise allow him to avoid taking the stand at all, is that if he doesn’t take the stand, the only evidence on the record is the complainants, which is presumed to be at least somewhat reliable if there’s no counter story to challenge it. In murder trials, they call it an alternate theory of the crime. In this case, it is an alternate interpretation of reality.

For the first charge, the assault in the car, he could likely argue they kissed, but there was no hair pulling. The second charge? That it never happened. Instead, he found her clingy and lost interest. For the third, either it didn’t happen or there was some basic rough sex that was fully consensual. Depends on what the fourth charge says. But a ten-minute primary testimony would be all they would need to do, they’re nowhere near having to fight reasonable doubt territory.

Which means, as was part of my concern from the beginning, that a high profile sexual assault case stands a good chance of looking ridiculous for everyone involved, with no conviction or even a chance at conviction, and thus putting a giant chill on future reporting. Yet not because of the standard arguments that the justice system is biased, or that the accusers get their sexual history ripped apart, or that they were cross-examined relentlessly to the point of emotional collapse in a confrontational Law and Order-style trial. In fact, they’ve been mostly cross-examined about the inconsistencies in their surrounding stories, not the traumatizing assaults.

No, they stand a good chance of losing because they are trying a high-profile sexual assault trial with such poor evidence and poorly prepared witnesses that a first year law student wouldn’t even take to trial.

With a giant repercussion that is even more likely now — the big threat for Ghomeshi was never the criminal outcome, it is the likely civil suit right afterwards. The same way O.J. Simpson was “punished” — not guilty on criminal charges, but guilty in a civil suit by Nicole Simpson’s parents. Why? Because a civil suit only has a 50/50 evidentiary threshold, while criminal has the much higher “beyond reasonable doubt” threshold requirement. However, for Ghomeshi, the testimony and handling of the accusers so far has been so bad, that he could use all of their testimony against them in a civil trial and likely have no trouble staying below 50%. It’s been so bad so far, even their BACKUP options are in jeopardy now.

And that is a failure of the system for everyone.

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The House on Mulberry Street by Maan Meyers (BR00012)

PLOT OR PREMISE:

Esther Breslau is a Jewish immigrant who has found a job working as a photographer in the graft-filled world of 1895 Manhattan. John Tonnerman is an honest cop, a rare commodity on a police-force filled with those on the take and in a city where your innocence depends on the size of your pocketbook. Esther takes a picture during a riot and the thugs notice and come after her. A reporter she has been working with has the plates but the thugs worry about what he knows and take matters into their own hands to silence him forever. John and Esther try to figure it all out.


WHAT I LIKED:

The research was impeccable, and the epilogue is a nice touch to separate fact from fiction. The writing is first-rate and the settings are alive with the time. Each image portrays the world of the time, and the reader is transported easily with each page.


WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

A couple of small nit-picky points — there are a a lot of characters, which can be a problem to track in mystery stories, but they are sufficiently different here that they don’t run together as much. A few of the characters (such as the reporter) were fleshed out a little TOO much, but I’m assuming part of that was with a view to them showing up in future stories too.


THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET:

One of the best historical mysteries I have read

Year of Release Publisher ISBN/ASIN Series
1996 Bantam 978-0553097061 Tonneman (#5)
My Rating (Original: February 18, 2001)

bookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_whole

Legend: ♥ Finished ♥♥ Not bad ♥♥♥ Good ♥♥♥♥ Enjoyable ♥♥♥♥♥ Excellent

DISCLOSURE:

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow her on social media.

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Photobook fun

personal_experiences

So I’ve been spending a lot of time uploading old photos to my website, and now that I have a healthy base to work with, I’m working on some photobooks. Nothing too “fancy”, mostly just “year in review” type books.

I’ve used Shutterfly before, and while it puts out a decent book, I have two reservations with it. First, because they aren’t produced in Canada, you end up spending a heavy chunk of cash on shipping. Not exorbitant, just enough to notice. Price goes higher the faster you want it, as it would be anywhere.

Second, and a little more vague, the photo places often ship them overseas for production to Asia, and there is little regulation for either labour or the production methods used in a lot of the hot spots. We recently had a canvas print shipped from Malaysia (by Photobook Canada, not Shutterfly) and it came in smelling like musty canvas — turned out it was a lacquer they used on the finishing. There’s no way it would be allowed to be shipped in that condition in Canada, would never pass the sniff test, literally. The print stunk bad enough I had to put in the garage for a few days to air out. It’s relatively fine now, but not the most reassuring of experiences. And Shutterfly uses the same printing options/places.

On the plus side, they are reliable, they have regular sales, their coupons are stackable (i.e. 30% off for a sale, $10 off on books, free shipping etc. — most sites would make you choose one, Shutterfly usually lets you apply all of them to your order at once). I recently did a full year in review book with them, haven’t received it yet, but it has a LOT of extra pages (80+, when standard is 40) and price is about $75 in the end, including shipping, etc. Not great, not horrendous. None of the extra bells and whistles. And their software has a couple of painful omissions (an ability to duplicate or move pages, for instance). A solid 8 / 10 for sure on quality, software and price.

Mixbooks is the big blogger darling in the U.S. at present, with lots of people saying it is 10/10 for quality and software, maybe 8/10 for price. They are competitive with the other companies, but coupons are not stackable and their sales are not as frequent or as deep. I found the software good, but unwieldy at times. In the end, I bailed before completing an order.

Photobook Canada is one that everyone likes to say is better because it is supposedly Canadian, but the stats on their production in Canada are extremely limited. Most of their cheap stuff they farm overseas, maybe they used to do their stuff and prints here in Canada but looks like it is all off-shore now. The smelly canvas came from Malaysia, two calendars came from Malaysia. A small astronomy book I did awhile ago came from Asia somewhere. I’ve just ordered a small book as a gift, and I suspect it will also come from Malaysia. Software is not as good as Mixbooks or Shutterfly, but functional, and their cheap options are good for price at least, if not enduring quality.  Their other fantastic feature, in my view, is that their software is 100% downloadable. You can build the entire book on your own computer and just connect when you’re done. It takes a while for everything to upload at that point, but it’s better and faster than working in the cloud the whole time. I used them for the calendars (and make a rookie error with them) and the canvas print (that was initially smelly and is okay now), but I should also give them credit for the fact that my vouchers had expired (I didn’t realize they did that when I bought them last January), and they extended them with no trouble at all. Nice.

I checked out a bunch of other sites this week too.

Shoppers Drug Mart has a good basic option, software seems a little limited, and prices are okay but competitive. Their big “savings” offering is that it is free shipping to their local stores (I discovered their options earlier this week when sending some simple prints to a remote store). However, the software crashed completely in basic options working with both Firefox and Microsoft Edge. I’m not willing to invest any time in buggy software.

Uniprix seemed okay, nothing flashy. Basic software, prices were okay, seemed more geared to the pamphlet-style softcovers than some of the other bigger companies. I don’t know that I gave them a truly adequate test though.

Loblaws was a surprise for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t know they had a photobook option — it strikes me if they were kicking butt, everyone would know about them. Second, their software is the SAME as Shoppers Drug Mart. Whoever is their backend supplier has given them the same front-end interface, with only minor differences. Seemed good, not as big and powerful as Shutterfly, Mixbooks or Photobook Canada, but decent enough. I even found some default templates I liked. But here’s the weird part…I chose a special template with some contemporary features i.e. not everything was blocky, squared designs. About half the default pages had a bit of a scrap-book feel to them, a common design feature. Except when I then went to the layouts feature to see what the options were for additional pages, none of those scrap-book layouts were available to select. All the rest were blocky, perfectly squared line ups. No obvious option to copy the existing templates either, unless I wanted to copy a page element at a time. But then it got even weirder…I chose a default template, added it to a page, and the photo sizes were completely wrong. I had the book set for 9×12″ size, and it put photos down as if they were going in a 6×6″ book. In other words, just part of the page…and no option to drag them as a group to make them bigger. You could manually adjust each and every photo individually. Nuh-uh, no way. That would be incredibly time consuming if I add some 50-60 additional pages, all of which required custom layouts. However, I have discovered that you CAN duplicate the original pages, just a bit of extra manual work to do it, kind of counter-intuitive.

Lots of people have used Costco and while I admire their commitment, the software was the worst one of all. Slow, few options, etc. If you had, say, 75 photos, and you wanted it to pre-populate them into a book template, it might be okay. But 10 minutes in and I’d already found 3 things I couldn’t do in the format. Not an option. Most importantly they had a lower limit on number of pages allowed. I was two-thirds of the way through a photobook when I came to a screeching halt — I couldn’t add anything else, and couldn’t copy the project to another project (I would have just split it into two books).

Henry’s has a site that has the same back-end as Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart (same themes, etc.) but a completely different interface. Looks okay, but it won’t actually let me load any photos from the album into the layout to try it. It didn’t want to sync with other sites either. Kind of hard to do a photo book if you can’t get photos into the layout! Fail.

I think I’m going to give the Loblaw’s one another go. We’ll see if it works out. Might try UniPrix after that, based on a friend’s recommendation. In the end, I’m likely to end up back with Shutterfly, but it won’t be for a lack of trying to find a Canadian supplier.

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The Black Shore by Greg Cox (BR00011)

PLOT OR PREMISE:

Janeway and her crew are in desperate need of shoreleave…and they receive an invitation from an uncharted planet to visit and enjoy the paradise nature of the lands. All is not necessarily as it seems, including the citizens’ treatment of their pets, the Neffaler, which seem surprisingly intelligent, almost sentient.


WHAT I LIKED:

Good descriptive prose, with lots of little sub-stories — Kes’ pre-occupation and disturbing telepathic forces, Paris’ involvement with the daughter of the leader, and Torres’ desire to find the source of some dilithium signatures.


WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

The sub-stories don’t come together as well as they could, so the overall story is long and rather confused at times. Many of the characters seem “off” from their TV version, perhaps reflecting the author’s pre-occupation with the characters’ lives early in the series’ history. Lots of descriptions are heavy on the visual, which would be impressive if it was a TV episode rather than a book, but it doesn’t work as well here. The ending is rather fragmented, focusing on three different groups’ of actions at the same time.


THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET:

Would have worked better as an episode than a book

Year of Release Publisher ISBN/ASIN Series
1997 Star Trek 978-0671560614 Star Trek, ST:VOY (#13)
My Rating (Original: February 18, 2001)

bookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_blankbookreview_blank

Legend: ♥ Finished ♥♥ Not bad ♥♥♥ Good ♥♥♥♥ Enjoyable ♥♥♥♥♥ Excellent

DISCLOSURE:

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow him on social media.

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Ruined by Reading: A life in books by Lynne Sharon Schwartz (BR00010)

PLOT OR PREMISE:

Schwarz starts with a commentary by a Chinese scholar that some people are handicapped by reading too much, and not thinking enough about what they read. From there, she looks at the books she has read in her life and the role they have played. It is not a heavy analytical tone throughout, but rather a personal commentary on the books that have been important to her in her life, and the elements of her life that took place in and around books.


WHAT I LIKED:

There are a number of sections that are quite well done, such as:

  • Emptying your mind for meditation vs. filling it up during a life spent reading (pg. 14);
  • On the un-importance of the authors vs. the impact of the words themselves (pg. 17);
  • A life spent reading (pg. 96);
  • Choices of reading material (pg. 107);
  • Ruined by reading (pg. 114); and,
  • On self (pg. 119).

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

Some of the sections could have benefited from a bit more analysis and historical context, not just the personal impact in her own life.


THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET:

Tone was pleasant, but not a serious work

Year of Release Publisher ISBN/ASIN Series
1996 Beacon Press 978-0807070826  
My Rating (Original: February 18, 2001)

bookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_blankbookreview_blank

Legend: ♥ Finished ♥♥ Not bad ♥♥♥ Good ♥♥♥♥ Enjoyable ♥♥♥♥♥ Excellent

DISCLOSURE:

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow her on social media.

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Roasting a chicken

Joke of the Day

The street chef was roasting a chicken on a portable rotisserie and had begun to hand-crank it to ensure all areas were evenly done. It was now getting golden brown and juices were causing some flames to lick the chicken as he turned it.

Just then, a passing drunk stumbled into the guy’s cart, looked at the scene and exclaimed: “Hey buddy, not only is your music box not making any music, but your monkey’s on fire!”


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Motion to Suppress by Perri O’Shaugnessy (BR00009)

PLOT OR PREMISE:

Misty Patterson has problems: an abusive domineering husband and amnesia from her childhood. And now she has a new problem: her husband gets abusive again and she conks him with an Eskimo statue, hard enough seemingly to hurt but not to kill. Then she blacks out. He’s found dead a few days later after having been hit a second time with the same statue and dumped in the lake. And Misty doesn’t know what happened. Enter her lawyer, Nina Reilly, who is newly separated from her husband, newly separated from her neat legal firm, and new to the Lake Tahoe area. And her idea of a perfect introduction to the area is NOT a high-stakes murder case where everyone thinks Misty did it. Maybe even Misty herself.


WHAT I LIKED:

The Lake Tahoe community comes alive as do some of the characters — Nina, herself; Misty; Nina’s assistant. Lots of interesting facts about the area and the impact of the lake on a dead body. Well-written, all the characters are real, and adequately developed for the story. In fact, it’s an impressive array: Nina’s ex-husband on the peripheries along with her brother, sister-in-law, and Nina’s son; Paul, her investigator who’s warm for her form; a string of Misty’s lovers and their very jealous wives and girlfriends; Misty’s parents; and a couple of doctors who are trying to help Misty remember her past. A few loose threads are left for the next story in the “series”, if it does indeed become a series. And, on the legal side, the solution is handled in an interesting courtroom finale that is not like simple Perry Mason reruns. A good beginning for “Perry O’Shaughnessy”, which is a pseudonym for two sisters: Pamela (a lawyer) and Mary O’Shaughnessy (a writer).


WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

The point-of-view switches from Misty to Nina to Paul in various chapters, and the switch does not really develop Misty’s or Paul’s character enough to justify the switch. Unfortunately, I figured out the three key elements of the “mystery” before the end of the story. Didn’t expect the ending, at least not exactly, but I did expect the “baddie”. There are a couple of places where it is a little heavy on the “legal” side, interpreting case law, which is a likely result of one of the two authors being a lawyer.


THE BOTTOM LINE / TWEET:

Should have suppressed some of the legal side

Year of Release Publisher ISBN/ASIN Series
1995 Delacorte Press 978-0385314107 Reilly (#1)
My Rating (Original: January 21, 2001)

bookreview_wholebookreview_wholebookreview_whole bookreview_blankbookreview_blank

Legend: ♥ Finished ♥♥ Not bad ♥♥♥ Good ♥♥♥♥ Enjoyable ♥♥♥♥♥ Excellent

DISCLOSURE:

I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I am not personal friends with the author, nor do I follow her on social media.

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Getting older

Joke of the Day

Three old ladies are sitting around talking. One said, “Sometimes I catch myself with a jar of mayonnaise in my hand in front of the refrigerator and can’t remember whether I need to put it away, or start making a sandwich.”

The second lady chimed in, “Yes, sometimes I find myself on the landing of the stairs and can’t remember whether I was on my way up or on my way down.”

The third one responded, “Well, I’m glad I don’t have that problem, knock on wood,” as she rapped her knuckles on the table. Then she told them, “That must be the door, I’ll get it!”


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