2:00PM Water Cooler 6/13/2023

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/13/2023 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

California Thrasher, Coal Creek OSP, San Mateo, California, United States.

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“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles

Biden Administration

“President Biden’s current health summary” (memo) [Whitehouse.gov]. On Biden’s gait:

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But what does “an extremely detailed neurologic exam” mean? What tests were done? NYU lists these “Common Neurological Tests”: Cerebral Angiogram, CT Myelogram, CT Scans, Nerve Conduction Studies, Nerve Conduction Velocity, Lumbar Puncture, MRI Scans, and a 5-part Neurological Examination, involving “mental status, cranial nerves, motor function, sensory function, and reflexes.” Were any of these tests performed on Biden? In particular, Biden has had Covid. We know that Covid, and especially Long Covid, has neurological effects. Has he been tested for them?


I guess it’s time for the Countdown Clock!

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

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“I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison

Resources, United States (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC, Biobot; includes many counties); Variants (CDC; Walgreens); “Iowa COVID-19 Tracker” (in IA, but national data).

Lambert here: Readers, thanks for the collective effort.

Resources, United States (Local): AK (dashboard); AL (dashboard); AR (dashboard); AZ (dashboard); CA (dashboard; Marin); CO (dashboard; wastewater); CT (dashboard); DE (dashboard); FL (wastewater); GA (wastewater); HI (dashboard); IA (wastewater reports); ID (dashboard, Boise; dashboard, wastewater, Central Idaho; wastewater, Coeur d’Alene; dashboard, Spokane County); IL (wastewater); IN (dashboard); KS (dashboard; wastewater, Lawrence); KY (dashboard, Louisville); LA (dashboard); MA (wastewater); MD (dashboard); ME (dashboard); MI (wastewater; wastewater); MN (dashboard); MO (wastewater); MS (dashboard); MT (dashboard); NC (dashboard); ND (dashboard; wastewater); NE (dashboard); NH (wastewater); NJ (dashboard); NM (dashboard); NV (dashboard; wastewater, Southern NV); NY (dashboard); OH (dashboard); OK (dashboard); OR (dashboard); PA (dashboard); RI (dashboard); SC (dashboard); SD (dashboard); TN (dashboard); TX (dashboard); UT (wastewater); VA (dashboard); VT (dashboard); WA (dashboard; dashboard); WI (wastewater); WV (wastewater); WY (wastewater).

Resources, Canada (National): Wastewater (Government of Canada).

Resources, Canada (Provincial): ON (wastewater); QC (les eaux usées); BC, Vancouver (wastewater).

Hat tips to helpful readers: Art_DogCT, B24S, CanCyn, ChiGal, Chuck L, Festoonic, FM, FreeMarketApologist (4), Gumbo, hop2it, JB, JEHR, JF, JL Joe, John, JM (9), JustAnotherVolunteer, JW, KatieBird, LL, Michael King, KF, LaRuse, mrsyk, MT, MT_Wild, otisyves, Petal (5), RK (2), RL, RM, Rod, square coats (11), tennesseewaltzer, Utah, Bob White (3).

Stay safe out there!

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Look for the Helpers

Not Covid-related, but a reminder that some doctors remain humane. The whole thread is worth reading in full:


“‘My silence is not for sale’: Bellingham doctor fired for COVID concerns refuses $2 million settlement” [KING5]. “In March of 2020, Lin posted a video critical of PeaceHealth administrators for not having proper protective gear or protocols in place to keep patients and staff safe. Shortly thereafter, he was fired. ‘It was kind of humiliating, in a way. You feel like an outcast,’ he said. Lin filed a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination, saying the hospital accused him of ‘posting misinformation’ and creating a ‘toxic environment.’ Three years later his lawyers told him he should settle the suit for $2 million, but Lin refused. He believes the hospital should publicly admit wrongdoing, especially since, he says, it eventually ended up instituting much of what Lin requested. ‘It’s like a bully out there terrorizing people. Unless the bully acknowledges what he did wrong, you never solve the problem,’ says Lin. PeaceHealth spokesperson Beverly Mayhew tells KING 5 the hospital ‘can’t comment specifically on active litigation, however, it’s important to emphasize that patient and caregiver safety is and always has been, our top priority. This commitment drives all clinical decision-making at PeaceHealth.’ For Lin, walking away from $2 million is just the next step in his march toward justice. ‘Taking the money would just say that it’s OK for corporations to just pay people off to be silent,’ Lin said. ‘My silence is not for sale.’ Lin’s attorneys dropped him, so he is currently seeking new representation.”

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Names matter:

I don’t know why the third thing that one might, er, “identify as” needs to be “secret,” but I do agree that “Because I’m Covid cautious” isn’t the best answer to “Why are you wearing a mask?” “Because I’m a member of The Order Of Spun Woven Fabric” isn’t all that great either. Perhaps there’s an alternative. Readers?

* * *

I file this here with some hesitation:

Some hesitation here too:


We’ve regressed:

We also gave a corrupt and despicable public health system jurisdiction over an engineering problem, already solved in industry. And speaking of corrupt and despicable, I present the Brownnose Institute–

“Forest fires and n95 masking” [Vinay Prasad’s Observations and Thoughts]. The deck: “Masking without evidence is an untreated mental illness plaguing public health.” Commentary:

I love the part where Prasad says breathing in wildfire smoke is “a choice.” You gotta admire his commitment to the bit! Methodologically, however, Prasad just volunteered to be the control in a parachute RCT! And his article is a fine example of epistemic tresspass:

Masking is an engineering problem (including social engineering). Doctors should never have been involved at all (unless in cooperation with aerosol scientists).

Covid is Airborne

“Viral emissions into the air and environment after SARS-CoV-2 human challenge: a phase 1, open label, first-in-human study” [The Lancet]. A challenge study of pre-alpha wild-type SARS-CoV-2. From the Summary: “We aimed to correlate viral emissions, viral load in the upper respiratory tract, and symptoms, longitudinally, in participants who were experimentally infected with SARS-CoV-2…. Two individuals emitted 86% of airborne virus, and the majority of airborne virus collected was released on 3 days. Individuals who reported the highest total symptom scores were not those who emitted most virus. Very few emissions occurred before the first reported symptom (7%) and hardly any before the first positive lateral flow antigen test (2%)…. We observed that a minority of participants were high airborne virus emitters, giving support to the notion of superspreading individuals or events. Our data implicates the nose as the most important source of emissions.” • Hmm. I wish I could say that Omicron was the same, but I don’t see how that can be done. Readers?

“Covid moves like smoke”:

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If only Covid were visible… That would be a good use case for Apple’s VR headset.

On “diffused responsibility”:

Note, however, “they.”

“Building a PC Fan Corsi-Rosenthal Box” [Joey Fox, It’s Airborne]. “The Box Fan Corsi-Rosenthal box was the original DIY air cleaner, known for its cost-effectiveness and effectiveness in cleaning the air. However, it may not be suitable for all environments. To address this limitation, the Clean Air Brigade on Twitter introduced an innovative solution using a parallel array of PC fans. These fans operate quietly and, although a single fan alone may not provide substantial air purification, when combined in parallel, they offer the most effective method for achieving a high clean air delivery rate while maintaining a low noise profile. The main issue with the PC Fan CR boxes is that they are much more difficult to build and require more parts to purchase. Here’s how I did it.” • I could file this under “Look for the Helpers” too! (I’m too lazy to look for it now, but I believe Rosenthal compared Classical CR boxes to PC CR boxes, and concluded their efficacy was comparable.)

Censorship and Propaganda

“White House sends guidance mandating face masks, social distancing for unvaccinated at ‘College Athlete Day’” [FOX]. The email was sent out by mistake. However, FOX includes this quote: “There is just no evidence that they make any difference. Full stop,” Tom Jefferson, the study’s lead author, said in an interview. When asked specifically about fitted N95 masks in health care settings, Jefferson said: ‘It makes no difference – none of it.’” • “The study” is, of course, the infamous Cochraine “fool’s gold” standard study, debunked. Cochrane itself had to rebuke Jefferson for tendentiously distorting the conclusions of his own study, specifically this quote.


“The Rise of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Omicron Subvariant Pathogenicity” [Cureus]. From the Abstract: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, variants of the Betacoronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the etiologic agent of COVID-19 disease, progressively decreased in pathogenicity up to the Omicron strain. However, the case fatality rate has increased from Omicron through each major Omicron subvariant (BA.2/BA.4, BA.5, XBB.1.5) in the United States of America. World data also mirror this trend. We show that the rise of Omicron pathogenicity is exponential, and we have modeled the case fatality rate of the next major subvariant as 0.0413, 2.5 times that of the Alpha strain and 60% of the original Wuhan strain which caused the greatest morbidity and mortality during the pandemic.”


“The emergence of multi-drug-resistant bacteria causing healthcare-associated infections in COVID-19 patients: a retrospective multi-centre study” [Journal of Hospital Infection]. “Our results reveal a striking association between healthcare-associated bacterial infections as an important complication of COVID-19 and fatal outcomes.” • Sometime I have to put on my yellow waders and look at nosocomial infection. It seems to me that people with an awful lot of power over healthcare policy — big hospitals — are doing a pretty bad job at a task that should be central-to-mission.


“Something Awful”

Lambert here: I’m getting the feeling that the “Something Awful” might be a sawtooth pattern — variant after variant — that averages out to a permanently high plateau. Lots of exceptionally nasty sequelae, most likely deriving from immune dysregulation (says this layperson). To which we might add brain damage, including personality changes therefrom.

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Elite Maleficence

They know:

They just don’t want you to know. Hence the enormous propaganda effort, in which the hegemonic factions of the PMC gleefully participate, having engineered it. So committed to the bit they don’t wear masks at their conferences, and create superspreading events!

Hospital Infection Control preparing to whack more patients. From Canada:

The mask — a “Baggy Blue,” naturally naturellement — is hanging off the “E” in “FUTURE,” at right.

* * *

Case Data

NOT UPDATED From BioBot wastewater data from June 5:

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Lambert: Oh no….

For now, I’m going to use this national wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.


NOT UPDATED From CDC, June 10:

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Lambert here: Looks to like XBB.1.16 and now XBB.1.16 are outcompeting XBB.1.9, but XBB.1.5 has really staying power. I sure hope the volunteers doing Pangolin, on which this chart depends, don’t all move on the green fields and pastures new (or have their access to facilities cut by administrators of ill intent).

CDC: “As of May 11, genomic surveillance data will be reported biweekly, based on the availability of positive test specimens.” “Biweeekly: 1. occurring every two weeks. 2. occurring twice a week; semiweekly.” Looks like CDC has chosen sense #1. In essence, they’re telling us variants are nothing to worry about. Time will tell. Looks like the Walgreens variants page isn’t updating.

Covid Emergency Room Visits

NOT UPDATED From CDC NCIRD Surveillance, from June 3:

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NOTE “Charts and data provided by CDC, updates Wednesday by 8am. For the past year, using a rolling 52-week period.” So not the entire pandemic, FFS (the implicit message here being that Covid is “just like the flu,” which is why the seasonal “rolling 52-week period” is appropriate for bothMR SUBLIMINAL I hate these people so much. Notice also that this chart shows, at least for its time period, that Covid is not seasonal, even though CDC is trying to get us to believe that it is, presumably so they can piggyback on the existing institutional apparatus for injections.


From Walgreens, June 12:

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NOT UPDATED Death rate (Our World in Data), from June 7:

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Lambert here: Theatre of the absurd. I can believe that deaths are low; I cannot believe they are zero, and I cannot even believe that all doctors signing death certificates have agreed to make it so. Looks to me like some administrative minimizer at WHO put the worst intern in charge of the project. And thanks, Johns Hopkins of the $9.32 billion endowment, for abandoning this data feed and passing responsibility on to the clown car at WHO.

Total: 1,166,713 – 1,166,663 = 50 (50 * 365 = 18,250 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

Excess Deaths

Excess deaths (The Economist), published June 13:

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Lambert here: Still some encouragement!

Lambert here: Based on a machine-learning model. (The CDC has an excess estimate too, but since it ran forever with a massive typo in the Legend, I figured nobody was really looking at it, so I got rid it. )

• Changing the baseline in Europe:

• What could be the cause?

‘Tis a mystery!

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Core Inflation Rate” [Trading Economics]. “The annual core consumer price inflation rate in the United States, which excludes volatile items such as food and energy, eased to a 1-1/2-year low of 5.3% in May 2023, as expected, from 5.5% in the prior month.”

Small Business Optimism: “United States NFIB Business Optimism Index” [Trading Economics]. “The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index in the United States slightly increased to 89.4 in May 2023 compared to the previous month’s reading of 89.0, surpassing market expectations of 88.5. Still, the index remained below its 49-year average of 98 for the past 17 months, indicating ongoing concerns among small business owners regarding future business conditions.”

* * *

Retail: “Anchor Brewing Company ends national distribution, kills beloved beer” [SGATE]. “In an interview with SFGATE, Anchor Brewing spokesperson Sam Singer explained that the company is focusing on the California market because it accounts for 70% of its sales. Still, Singer said it was a difficult decision based on challenging economic realities the company has faced for years. ‘The inflationary impact of product costs in San Francisco is one factor,’ Singer said. ‘Couple that with a highly competitive craft beer market and a historically costly steam brewing technique. [They’ve] probably been mulling over this decision for a year. It’s not something they take lightly.’ Another big change: Anchor Brewing will no longer make its iconic holiday beer, Christmas Ale. The spice-laden winter warmer has been a brewing tradition since 1975 and something that Northern California beer lovers look forward to every November. Singer said costly brewing and packaging requirements led to the change. It’s also a time-intensive brewing process, he said.”

The Bezzle: “‘But the SEC let us go public’ and other flawed arguments in Coinbase’s defense” [Molly White]. A takedown of Coinbase talking points. or example: “‘There is no path to compliance.’ I’ll give it to them, they might be right on this one. Coinbase thinks this is an issue with the securities laws. The SEC thinks this is an issue with Coinbase. If a company went to the FDA and said ‘hello, we’d like to start selling heroin to the public for recreational use’, and the FDA said ‘no, you can’t do that’, the company could loudly complain that the FDA was not giving them a path to compliance. People would probably laugh at them.”

Tech: “Apollo’s Christian Selig explains his fight with Reddit — and why users revolted” [The Verge]. “The short version of a long history goes like this: in April, Reddit announced new terms for its API, the tool through which developers of third-party apps access Reddit’s data. Every time you post a comment, refresh a page, search for something, or take just about any other action in an app like Apollo, the app pings an API to get the data you need. Reddit’s API has been free for many years, leading to a flourishing community of third-party tools. But Reddit finally decided it was time to charge for access, both to recoup the costs of running the API and to help the company become more profitable ahead of its planned IPO. The logic made sense to Selig; the price didn’t. Ultimately, he calculated he would have to pay Reddit $20 million a year just to keep Apollo running, which he couldn’t afford. Other developers building Reddit apps came to the same conclusion and said they would be forced to shut down. Many users decided this wasn’t a fair business deal — this was a plot to crush third-party Reddit apps. So in response, Reddit users decided to push back. The battle reached its current peak when thousands of subreddits went dark on Monday, protesting Reddit’s new API policies and how they affected everything from app developers to the on-platform tools many users rely on. Reddit’s response? It’s just business. ‘We’ll continue to be profit-driven until profits arrive,’ CEO Steve Huffman wrote during an AMA session over the weekend. ‘Unlike some of the [third-party] apps, we are not profitable.’” • Until?

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 80 Extreme Greed (previous close: 78 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 75 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 13 at 1:47 PM ET.

The Gallery

“White Noise by Kathy Anne Lim” [Drawlights]. “The body of work by photographer Kathy Anne Lim focuses on themes of memory and displacement—contents of which mix absolute certainty and misty ephemerality. Her series White Noise ties in with this topic in a certain way, if you don’t know what the white mist in her photographs actually is, you might find the creeping mist mysterious and romantic. In fact it’s not, it is fumigating to repel insects in various parts of Singapore.” • A sample:

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Class Warfare

“Let Them Eat Plague!” [Red Clarion]. A must-read (I missed it in January). Grab a cup of coffee. Here is the key section, from the second part of the article

Actually solving the pandemic was never in the cards for the U.S. and the rest of the capitalist world. It would have necessitated deep international cooperation, massive investment in clean air infrastructure, a persistent information campaign (and censoring of hazardous misinformation), efforts to build public trust in government, guaranteed paid leave, nationalization of key industries, and more. Basically, it would involve massively undercutting the philosophy of free market capitalism.

Instead, the explicit goal of the ruling class has been to make the pandemic simply disappear from public perception. Any reminder of the existence of a highly-transmissible, highly-dangerous, mass-disabling disease could trigger panic, or worse: organized, militant labor action. Averting this crisis required a careful campaign of culture-crafting; the people themselves needed to become convinced that there was no reason to fight. Consent for protracted mass infection needed to be manufactured.

There are three main ways this hegemonic narrative around COVID has been propagated to the public: official rhetoric, public policy, and media framing. These three facets of idea propagation feed into each other, and all three are maneuvered in various ways by the interests of capital. The process by which a hegemonic narrative is crafted in the capitalist sphere is not quite as straightforward as one might expect. It’s not a simple matter of a state propaganda department deciding on a central doctrine, issuing scripts to paid actors, and imprisoning all who dissent. There is no party line for the capitalists, no single convocation of business elites, and relatively few shadowy backroom deals. Explicit planning meetings are held — independently — among the leadership of different ruling class parties and distinct business interests, and their similar class interests lead them to similar priorities. But the way narrative unity of this sort is achieved is not through an all-powerful conspiracy. Instead, the “decision” for how to frame events arises organically from the interplay of the many individual sectors that comprise the ruling class propaganda machine.

The tone struck by what we think of as official sources sets the stage for the broader social response. This rhetoric comes from a variety of places — heads of state, government agencies, individual experts, think tanks, and other entities imbued with a sense of authority. These are voices that we are socialized to pay attention to. When they speak, they easily garner media attention. A news outlet that ignores or disputes these sources loses access to them and invites flak, thereby harming their ability to sell more news. These voices are generally in the room when policies are crafted — or crafting the policies themselves. What “the experts” say matters, and the particular experts being promoted by governments and corporations have steadily coalesced around rhetoric that minimizes the public health threat of the virus.

The first part of the article is a long popularization of Covid medical information. I could quarrel with some detail if I dug in, but it’s useful too. So what happens when the sleepers wake, coughing, one too many times? Will they wake?

“How Striking Writers Are Disrupting Hollywood Shoots” [Wall Street Journal]. “The WGA’s strike, aimed at extracting contract demands from Hollywood studios including better pay, higher residual payments and protections against artificial intelligence’s encroachment on the movie industry, has entered its guerrilla tactics phase. In the six weeks since Hollywood writers’ rooms closed, the union has interrupted or halted shoots from Los Angeles to New York with the help of fellow unions representing truck drivers, makeup artists and actors. The cat-and-mouse game between strikers and studios will determine how many films and TV shows reach living rooms and theaters across America in coming months.” • If all the supply chain unions ever got together….

News of the Wired

“In praise of blowing up your life” [Sasha’s ‘Newsletter‘]. “Generally, I think blowing up your life is a good idea. Sure, not for Cocaine Bob, who is on his fifth marriage and tenth DUI. But for the relatively sane, by the time you’re mostly ready to leave a job, or a city, or a relationship, you probably have good reason to. Status quo bias is utterly pervasive. Most people are tremendously resistant to change, capable of coming up with countless ingenious stories about why something different will be worse than what we have. We will stick with familiar pain over variance, even if we are financially and socially secure enough that we will remain safe and fed after walking away. At any given time, your motion is being constrained by an agglomeration of previous decisions made by a previous you, decisions that might have little to do with your current wants. Maybe you spent years forming habits that you just don’t enjoy anymore, or you’ve carefully curated an environment that now feels stale. All of these factors, collectively, present a bulwark against change. It’s possible to modify your life while mired in this mass of ongoing circumstance, but it’s difficult. The human default is sleepwalking. However, in a dramatically new situation, you have no choice but to act your way into being someone else. That someone might be only slightly different in the end. But, on the other hand, that someone might be much more aligned with your real and present desires and potentials. My existence really started getting good when I started blowing up my life more regularly, with a substantial eruption every couple of years.”

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From wol:

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wol writes: “Daffodils.”

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