By MBPDLPayday Loans

Pennsic Prep

Garb creation and mending are underway, the tent dags are coming along at pace, and I am simultaneously cleaning the garage/house so that I can have a garage sale. This cleaning will accomplish three goals at once:

1. I will be forced to sell stuff I don’t need when i discover I have no room for it.

2. I will make some money.

3. It’s good exercise. (The weather has also been unbearably hot, but I work mostly in the shade.

When I move, timeline unknown, I hope I will have the good sense to keep everything organized from the start. Life is so much better when you commit to cleaning weekly. I won’t describe in lurid detail the horrors of cleaning a mice-infested garage out that’s been left messy for a decade, but I guarantee you that it is gross. I thought my parents would never want to have their house look like their parents’, but it seems I was wrong. Having seen the cumulative effects of aging, multiple pets, and slovenliness, I will never let my future family live like that. It doesn’t help that we rarely throw anything out. This is my weakness, too: I scrapbook, I save, and I collect. But I do organize my stuff.

This year, I will finally finish that fully-boned washable corset that’s been sitting around for two years. All it needs is the edging. I am also planning on making Mary of Burgundy’s black and gold portrait gown, redoing my 2005 masquerade ball costume, and finishing a couple of other pieces. Lots and lots of work ahead over the next few weeks.

If I've enlightened, inspired or enslaved your mind, please consider buying me a tea. Hell, just buy me one anyway. I'm still poor.

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The Hidden Value of School Libraries

There was a disturbing article in Teleread a couple of days ago that said schools are increasingly likely to eliminate library budgets or treat them as luxuries. We all know what happens to luxuries during economic recessions.

Even in our low-budget elementary and primary schools, our teachers made sure to emphasize the use of libraries, and I usually read several books a week. In high school, our library was a godsend. The librarians knew I was eating lunch in there when I wasn’t supposed to, but I didn’t leave a mess, so then turned a blind eye while i munched away in the nonfiction sections. That was when I was a sophomore and couldn’t drive home for lunch. The librarian taught me how to use WorldCat to find articles from Time Magazine covers I had seen as a kid and wanted to read years later.

We often had free periods in the middle of the day when I wanted to study All of our classrooms were usually offices for the teachers as well, so I couldn’t work in those, and 47 minutes is not enough time to make driving home for work worth it, even if I could. I used the desks in the library to prepare for memorization exams for Latin, Theater, English, Chemistry, and who knows what else. I owe several As and A+s to that school library.

The town library was small, underfunded, and swamped. This surprised me, as we were one of the two wealthiest towns in the greater school district comparatively speaking. The town next door over where I was born and grew up was more blue-collar and middle class, but it owned a larger building that it shared with the police and fire departments at one time and thus had leftover space when those moved out for expansion. Sometimes I suspect that the “town” town residents – those who lived in the oldest buildings directly in the heart of our new town — were either wealthy enough to afford to buy books they couldn’t find in the library or wanted to keep the library in its current space because they liked things “the way they were.” In any case, our branch was rarely useful for anything but checking out CDs and audiobooks or the occasional hardcover from the 1970s. When I went on my Arthurian binges, they usually involved going downtown to the largest branch or to the local university or hopping from one regional branch to another for a book here, a book there.

I can only imagine what it would have been like in high school if we had no alternative to working in the cafeteria, the hub of all social activity in high school, where halls run undivided down both sides and you have to cross it to go to shop class, gym, the auditorium, or the parking lots. Don’t get me wrong, once I went to college, the dining hall was my favorite place to be, but  studied there because I have a sleeping disorder and the noise and constant activity would keep me awake. Also, I was still a perfectionist in high school and had trouble blocking out the constant stream of people walking by the tables. A socially conscious girl who wanted to please her friends, not look too antisocial, and pay attention to her crush who just walked over to the soda machine would have had issues with willpower and focus.

I didn’t think that much about the library in school because I expected it to always be there. From childhood, I knew that schools had libraries and books for me to read or reference. It was an extension of my computer room and study desk at home, an empty classroom with infinite knowledge available, an alternative to slackerdom and smoking several things on the hill just beyond school property, a refuge from social isolation when I has just moved to town and had no friends. The library was an extension of me. I used it almost every day.

Lest someone say that everyone has internet and a computer at home, this NPR story talks about a girl in high school who has to type all of her written work ON A CELL PHONE:

[Rosemarie Bernier, president of the California School Library Association and librarian at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles,] spoke of a student with a first period English class who came to her in tears because she didn’t have enough time to transfer and reformat the essay she had written on her cell phone. Since she doesn’t have a computer at home, the student’s cell phone is her only hope of completing assignments that need to be typed.

I can sympathize. I convinced my parents to buy me a laptop when I went back to university to finish college after a several year lapse. That was in 2009. I soon discovered that virtually NO ONE used desktops in college anymore except in the libraries. One of the classes I took had in-class online exams. The professors just ASSUMED we all had laptops. They assumed. Had I been less successful in convincing them, had the previous Christmas season not been in the midst of the financial crisis when electronics companies halved their prices, I would have flunked that course.

I am sure that there were a few students who had to live in the 24-hour library because they had no laptops. They couldn’t take most technology courses.

This is the problem with assuming everyone has what you have: often, you are the privileged one. Others are not always as fortunate, and those are the people you forget about when you cut funding, shutter programs, and just assume that bureaucracy will magically redistribute and reallocate resources and give everyone a happy ending.

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Back from the Dead.

I’m alive. I just spent three weeks recuperating from the stress of finals period, when I was awake for a week straight doing nothing but writing papers. It took me the better part of Christmas to snap out of drone mode. Now I have 20 more days before SENIOR SPRING OMFG.

I’m really torn as to what fiction I should be working on right now: contest entries/anthology subs, other short stories, or a novel-in-progress. It would be nice to actually have something to show before I sink into the time drain that is college again, but I may never have this much free time where I don’t have to look for a job, and I could concentrate on making daily writing a routine, therefore a task less likely to drop off during stressful periods. Thoughts? Suggestions?

I need to cut down on my sugar intake. Maybe cut down on calories altogether. Urg.

If I've enlightened, inspired or enslaved your mind, please consider buying me a tea. Hell, just buy me one anyway. I'm still poor.

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Justine Larbalestier and the Case of the Whitewashed Book Cover

IMPORTANT NOTE: I’m so pissed off about this and various episodes of -isms this month that I had to take a step back. When I returned, this post was what came out. I hope you’ll be able to forgive me for my sarcasm. I’m trying not to throw things in frustration here, so I’m writing something for the sake of my furniture’s well-being. After all, I don’t even own most of it.

Somewhere in the Seedy Underworld of Teen Lit…

Most of you who follow the same blogs as I do will have heard about Justine Larbalestier’s upcoming YA release, Liar and the controversy surrounding it, so you can skip a few paragraphs here.

For the rest of you fortunate enough to have not heard the latest piece of rage-inducing publisher!fail, let me give you a not-so-quick summary.

The protagonist of Justine’s novel, Micah, is biracial and looks black with short, curly hair (described by Micah as “nappy” –  I can’t bring myself to use that word regularly since the whole Don Imus imbroglio). Micah is also a pathological liar. The book is her point of view on the unfolding of a crime.

Now, one would presume that of the many subjects she could possibly lie about, possibly the one thing she really wouldn’t lie about to other character’s faces (or to the readers) is her appearance. I mean, she’d have to have a lot of makeup for that sort of thing. Right? Right?

(Yeah, I know you’re all hopeless cynics. Quiet! I order you to be quiet!)


*cue ominous music to indicate YET ANOTHER episode with Publishers of Apathetic or Ill-Intent*

What’s this white, straight-haired girl doing on the cover of the U.S. edition? Why is it so offensive?

As to the first question, many, many other people are wondering about the answer to that one besides just me. As to the second one: O HAI THAR WHITEWASHING.

Perhaps some (white) people have never noticed this, but there aren’t many black faces on books outside of the “African-American Literature” section. The sales and marketing people at major publishing houses erroneously believe that books won’t sell if they have black people on the covers. There is also unconscious bias at play in our standards of beauty as well, which doesn’t help. Both are undoubtedly part of what happened here — Bloomsbury wanted to feature Larbalestier’s book as their main release this fall, and they rolled big on the release being a hit and didn’t want anyting to potentially cost them customers.

I have yet to see any research bear these theories out, but I don’t have their numbers to study. What I *do* have is a firm moral line in terms of dehumanizing people that I will not knowingly cross for any reason. This goes beyond the pale. I don’t care how scared you are about print media dying; one non-serialized book will not save your companyif you’re headed for bankruptcy, and in any case, it’s not worth selling your soul to save your job. But that’s just my opinion.

I’ve never been chewed up and spit out by the corporate machine. Well, that’s not ENTIRELY true; I have worked at Blockbuster and Target and for my university’s corporate whatever. But I was never high enough in the food chain to have to weigh my scruples against my paycheck. But being unethical in general and knowingly perpetuating racism in art because “that’s the ugly truth,” “that’s just the way the world works” or “we can’t make consumers politically correct” are two entirely different things. I can’t even contemplate staying at a job where I knew this kind of stuff was happening unless I planned to change it, right then, right now.

As you’ll read in a minute, they didn’t even have to use a person at all. Putting abstract art on a book because you want to avoid using black people is awful, but no one would have called Bloomsbury on it and been able to prove anything. It’s not nearly as bad as pulling a bait-and-switch, thinking that no one would notice or care when they picked up a novel with a white person on it and discovered it was actually about a black person.

I can only imagine pre-ordering this for my friend who reads YA and having her open it in front of me, too late to replace it with something else. “So…how’s the family? Oh, and I bought you a book about a white girl who’s actually just pretending to be black, or at least I think that’s who she is. Actually, I have no idea. Wait, don’t you want my present? WHY DON”T YOU LOVE ME?”

White-washed U.S. version of Liar

White-washed U.S. Edition of Liar

 I will gladly admit that it is a striking image. Arresting. It makes you stop and look at the way her hair is covering her mouth.

It’s also a stock photograph. Presumably, with all of the starving artists out there in NYC desperate for work, Bloomsbury could have found one black teenage girl with short hair and a photographer to take a few pictures of her in an hour without spending a fortune.


[In Which The Poster Rants About the Stupidity of Book Covers in General]

[Now, I've never been a fan of novels with either photographic covers OR covers with faces on them. For me, photography implies non-fiction, something I'd find in the discount section of my local Barnes and Noble, a discount book that someone spent little time designing or caring about, so why should I care enough to read it unless the plot is to die for? And I mean "I literally will not survive if I don't want out of the store with this book in my arms this second" to die for.

Not exactly the kind of associations or expectations one wants to cultivate in a finicky reader.

I know -- judging a book by its cover is incredibly shallow. I'm secretly ashamed deep down inside, I promise.

The second problem I have with some covers --  the ones with faces on them -- is that they color (HA! Not in this case!) my perceptions of the fictional people they are supposed to represent. I want to imagine characters based on the author's descriptions, and with a face or faces on the cover, it's difficult to do that, especially with faces I find distasteful, unrealistic or too beautiful to fit, or incongruous with the author's vision. The damn cover image will pop up in my head at various intervals, and I'll see it every time I close the damn book.]

All this notwithstanding, faces of color are hard to find on novels, particularly children’s literature and YA. The sea of white girls that accosts me whenever I browse the Teen Lit section at my local store branches, cut-off heads and voyeuristic angles notwithstanding, is indicative of the kind of mindset we’re fighting against here; the publishers have found a ‘look’ that sells, and so they assume it’s the only look that will sell.

I don’t think they expect much out of teenage readers, and I’ll be damned if they think girls like anything besides pastels. My mom refused to buy me anything that looked like it imposed stereotypical desires on girls. Hell, she made me pay for the Babysitter’s Club, Nancy Drew, and Sweet Valley series on my own. The covers on those were godawful. Don’t they understand that people who read (or used to read) a book a day or more often buy books not because of the covers, but in spite of them?


Writer vs. Editor(s), & Publishers, Privilege,  Donald Trump, the World, etc.

Justine was receiving so many questions and concerned speculation over the stark difference between the cover girl and Micah’s self-description that she finally gave in and wrote a daring, honest explanation of the cover art process from her side of the fence.

I think her post should be a call to action for authors to demand final author approval of cover art. The cover defines a book in many ways. It’s the first and last shot to convince a reader to give the story within a chance. Sure, there are some authors out there who probably have no taste and no sense of what would make a good cover. That doesn’t mean that they can’t pick a good choice over two or three or thirty bad ones. Honestly, I can’t always imagine the perfect cover for my stories, but I can recognize attractive cover art when I see it, and I’m pretty well-versed in successful cover copy, enough to identify genre, possibly author and title without the full context.

You know the  black and white hands holding the red apple? I think that one did pretty well.


…Yeah. Back on topic. And the topic is Racism. NOT COOL, BLOOMSBURY. SO NOT ON.

Justine wanted a cover with the word “liar” spelled out in human hair, but Bloomsbury rejected it. The publishers sent her other drafts of non-black girls. I think this was the point in her post when I realized that a “consultation clause” is just a nice way of making the authors believe they have influence over the cover design, when all they really have is the option to look at all of the options, spot the worst one, and make bets on whether or not the publisher will roll with it.

So. She received many, many pale girl options. They didn’t work. She rejected all of them. They went with this one, despite her repeated protests. Apparently, her contract with Bloomsbury did not include final author approval of cover art. That blows.


To the Failboat, Batman!

Larbalestier did the best she could to promote the cover (presumably with a sour taste in her mouth while doing so), because the book is her work, and who wants to shoot themselves in the foot?

Q: Who in the hell would WANT to shoot themselves in the foot?

A: Bloomsbury does.

In the above ‘article’ that reads like part-press release, part CYA media spin, the editor Melanie Cecka claimed that (Surprise!) they meant to confuse readers all along! This protagonist always lies, so she may or may not be lying about her race!

Oh, wait. Justine directly contradicted this.

I worked very hard to make sure that the fundamentals of who Micah is were believable: that she’s a girl, that she’s a teenager, that she’s black, that she’s USian. One of the most upsetting impacts of the cover is that it’s led readers to question everything about Micah: If she doesn’t look anything like the girl on the cover maybe nothing she says is true. At which point the entire book, and all my hard work, crumbles.

The best thing to do when you’ve committed a racist act is to admit that you did something wrong and try to fix it, and if it’s impossible to fix — which I don’t think it is — you promise to try and do better the next time. You don’t treat your PR department like this is a presidential election and use the most plausible misdirection you can find that contradicts your author’s own statements just to avoid the appearance of being bigoted. Why? Because guess what? It won’t work.

I don’t buy the BS Bloomsbury is spewing, and I won’t be buying the American version of the book. I’ll be ordering the Australian version with the infinitely superior cover here.


Oz Does It Better

Aussie Edition of Liar.

Aussie Edition of Liar.

The Australian book cover is Made of Win. Not only is it simple yet creepy, it evokes both the imagery of blood and of those hungover t-shirts with the fuzzy words that make you question your sanity/eyesight when you try to read them at 7:30 in the morning.

An additional bonus: adults won’t be embarassed to read it, thus, there is a wider potential audience, thus, a wider potential market!

I really, really don’t understand why it is so difficult to contract cover art for all versions of a book. Come on, lawyers, make it happen. International variety is only fun if it’s good.


But what about Justine’s U.S. sales? Don’t you care what happens to her career? What about the [insert random staff person at Bloomsbury who will be paid regardless of any loss in book sales]? What about the white people?

Some bloggers are concerned about what this will mean for Justine’s sales here in the U.S. Here’s my response to those concerns.

The key to the decision to buy elsewhere for Justine is whether or not people actually state their reasons for doing so. I have no doubt that Liar will sell more than half of the print run regardless of controversy, and print run numbers are usually inflated (IOW, probably they’re printing more like 60,000).

Justine has a dedicated audience. Bloomsbury knows this. She and her husband are both excellent writers. I don’t want to hurt her career — which is why I bought a copy of How to Ditch Your Fairy yesterday (despite Bloomsbury being the publisher) and will definitely follow through on ordering an Australian copy of Liar, no matter what the effort. (What good does it do to give Bloomsbury any money at all? It makes a difference to me what titles pay them.)

That being said, if the only reasons Bloomsbury will listen to have dollar signs attached to them, then consumers have to speak to them in a language they will understand. As long as they know why we make the choices we do, I think the best thing we can do now is to speak with our wallets.

No one has called for a boycott of anyone or anything (yet). But it’s important to keep in mind that boycotts in general affect innocent parties as well — which is precisely the point. The affected people and the people lower on the food chain force the corporations to change their practices.

Someone else cited this example on LiveJournal during the RaceFail debate when people complained about others saying they would not buy more Tor books, and I think it’s apropos, even if the scale of action is nowhere near the same:

E. M. Dixon and MLK Jr. did not ask the permission of elderly, infirm, and disabled people of color before they started the Montgomery Bus Boycott. People lost their jobs, the White Citizen’s Council convinced they city to fine taxi drivers for charging bus fare in stead of normal fare, walking citizens faced fines and arrest, and white people beat some of them just for being on the street.

But it worked.



I will not be silent. I will not stand by and let greed shape the international psyche of children of color when I can do something about it. I will not let this story drop.


If you feel so inclined, here is the contact information for Bloomsbury. I recommend spending some real postage, as emails can be deleted far too efficiently.

Bloomsbury Publishing
Distributed by Macmillan
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010

Melanie Cecka: melanie.cecka ~AT~

Marketing: marketing ~AT~
Publicity: ~AT~

F: (212) 780-0115 or (212) 982-2837

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Some of the Best Hi-Res Photos from Inauguration Day

The Inauguration of President Brack Hussein Obama, 44th President of the United States of America.

Go. Save now. You know you want to.

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Help the Village of Emmonak.

This is basically cut and pasted from Karnythia’s blog, but I don’t want to start on a rant about Alaska’s political corruption or Sarah Palin (*shudder, shudder*), so I’m just going to give you a link so that you can read the news article:

Emmonak Alaska needs help surviving the winter. Palin is…Jesus I’m at my desk crying. Palin is doing fuck all and there are kids going to bed hungry in the cold and the dark. We’re donating tomorrow.

If you would like to help the people of Emmonak:
Emmonak Tribal Council
P.O. Box 126
Emmanok, AK 99581
(907) 949-1720


City of Emmonak, (907) 949-1227/1249 (They will take donations by credit card.
Please specify the donation is for heating oil!)

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The Fastest Way to Remove Yourself from Facebook

Mark Scoble, previously banned from Second Life for letting his twelve-year old son use his adult account, found out recently that a script he was using to scrape his social networking data from Facebook caught the attention of its bots. Scoble was temporarily banned from Facebook, and all of his user information seems to have followed him into the nethersphere.

Keep this in mind, people. In their power-grab for data, Facebook’s managers seem to care more about retaining the information of their users as a group more than they care about keeping your identity on Facebook as an individual. Previous attempts to wipe individual profiles from the social networking site have been time-consuming, tedious, and fraught with inconsistencies.

Recent methods of deleting one’s profile have become easier of late, but remember that ‘deactivated’ is not the same as ‘deleted.’ There are ways to aggregate data without pissing Facebook off (see comment #8 here), but they aren’t well-known enough to make it easy or risk-free. There are several inferences one can draw from the escapades of those who attempt to control access to the data from which corporations make their money. None of them are pretty. In the not-too-distant future, Google and Facebook will have more showdowns, and the losers in the battle of privacy and access will be us — the consumers.

I think it bears repeating: whosoever controls the personal information rules the world.

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My Blood Pressure Is…WHAT?

Normally it’s 92/65 or 103/72 or something like that. It’s always been low, even when I’ve been overweight. But today I measured it at 138/75.


Actually I measured it again. The first time, it was insanely high at 150 or something. O.o But the machine has been known to be inacurate.

Seriously, if this is what two nights of less than seve hours of sleep can do to you, I shudder what the one month of little exercise has done to my body. NOT COOL.

The good thing is that if the elevated blood pressure is from lack of sleep, one good night’s rest should restore it to normal. If it’s the ack of exercise, however…uh oh.

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WordPress 2.6.x Is Craaaazy.

I just thought you should all know (all five of you who check back here every month or so) that I am not dead. I was locked out.

This is the third blog that WP has decided I am no longer worth of controlling and subsequently refused my password when I updated to a newer version. Damn you, secret key! *shakes fist*

Anyway, I entered agent Nathan Bradsford’s first paragraph contest for kicks with my one literary WIP.  I read some of the entries for a couple of minutes. Then my eyes started to glaze over.


Well, for one, there are currently over 800 of them up as of 1:17 a.m. PST (that’s 4:17 a.m. EST for me) on Wednesday, 2008·12·10, and the contest ends on Thursday.



You know how people tell you things to debunk common myths about their jobs, and you don’t believe them? I couldn’t imagine how a bunch of completely isolated individuals could all start different stories in different genres with nearly identical sentences. Once again, truth is stranger than fiction. Er, published fiction. But of course, none of my novels start that way. At least, I don’t think they do. Right? Right?

The genre ones need revisions. I’m not happy until everything is perfect (except for typos, gah! I always miss those even after five passes) before I submit anything to anyone for professional review, so there was no way most of my WIPs would have gone up there. NarcoLexy, however, has a focused opening, IMHO, and the reader should be able to have a clear sense of my voice by the end of the third sentence or so. Want to read it? No? Well, too bad. Here it is:

When I filled out my application to Harvard, I literally spent about fifteen minutes on the essay. I’m a procrastinator, and I wrote it the day it was due. I’ve managed not to tell most people that minor little detail. There are several reasons for this:
a) People will hate me.
b) The average listener will not believe me / will think I am bragging.
c) Someone might pass on the unquestionably bad advice that “procrastination pays” to an impressionable high school student. Terrible Things happen. Lexy sad now.
d) In an ironic twist of fate, the story will reach the ears of my professor, who secretly harbors a grudge against students he perceives to be ‘lucky.’
Yes, I have had many occasions in which I chose to procrastinate and I pulled through, but my sanity is not the better for it. Deadlines are vindictive, sanctimonious, stubborn little bastards. It is always better to deprive them of their powers before they have a chance to strike.

~ Chapter 1, NarcoLexy

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14 Days and Miles to Go Before I Sleep.

I am now working on the Obama campaign every single day. I’ve been making phone calls and knocking on people’s doors trying to convince them to vote for Obama since the week of the Democratic National Convention at the end of August. Lots of our volunteers here in PA have become complacent, thinking that victory is a sure thing, which is absolutely not true, and the few of us hardcore workers have been trying to pick up the slack.

I have a commission-based job to plan out after the election, a NaNoWriMo novel to outline, a request from an editor for a short story partial, and re-enrollment at Harvard (my last chance) for next spring to worry about. I finished my voice acting projects earlier in the month, but more work is coming. It is so hard to keep up with the several blogs on which I’m supposed to be working, much less my RSS feeds to which I am normally addicted. There is never enough time as it is without the 2008 Election, and now that we’re down to the wire, everything is surreal, and I’m just trying to capture and catalogue it privately for future reflection as best I can.

I think the racists have intimidated a lot of our earlier canvassers who were people of color – everyone is so brave to put up with some of the crap people hurl at you. Just the other day, my boss’s white mom took a black woman out canvassing with her for the woman’s first canvas. The first house they approached, a woman looked out the window, saw the two of them, and screamed that if they didn’t get off her property in ten seconds, she was going to call the police and Thre Would Be Trouble. No Obama pins, no posters, no visible campaign materials. It was seeing a black woman on her doorstep that made her freak out.

The crap that ignorant (usually white) people will say to you when they think you’re white is really, really scary.

Als, the word socialist is bandied about a lot here. I don’t think it means what conservatives think it means. Libraries are socialist. The Post office is socialist. The Veteran’s Administration, Social Security, Medicare and the Wall Street bailout are socialist programs. Obama? Not so much.

Interesting links for the week:

· (where the candidates fall on a political spectrum – you’ll probably be surpised)
· (I can say without a doubt that the shocking examples of PA political behavior do not surpise me. At all.)

If I've enlightened, inspired or enslaved your mind, please consider buying me a tea. Hell, just buy me one anyway. I'm still poor.

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