You gotta keep ’em separated

Any Thunder-Warriors game is apt to be fierce, but this one seemed even more so than usual. Andre Iguodala, who killed the Thunder with a buzzer-beater in Oakland, wasn’t on hand, but sophomore forward Harrison Barnes had a career-high night; Klay Thompson, bottled up for the first half, came alive in the second; and Stephen Curry was, well, Stephen Curry. What’s more, Kendrick Perkins was lost early on — dislocated a finger — and Russell Westbrook might have been perplexed by all that noise about “rust.” With 24.3 left and the Thunder up 104-103, Thabo Sefolosha, unable to retrieve a Kevin Durant miss, settled for fouling David Lee. Lee missed the first freebie, and the Thunder called time out. (Somewhere, Phil Jackson is smiling.) Lee connected on the second, tying the score; Durant’s fadeaway just before the horn faded, and five more minutes appeared on the clock.

Usually overtime starts out fruitful for the Thunder, but they were unable to get much of anything going, and the Warriors ran off six straight points to take a 112-110 lead with 38 seconds left. Half a minute later, OKC was still looking for two to tie; and then Westbrook did unto Golden State what the Ig had done to the Thunder, draining a trey with 0.1 left. The Warriors had one chance left: pitch to the rim and pray for a dunk. KD answered their prayer with a forceful No, and it was OKC 113, Golden State 112.

Radio guy Matt Pinto pointed out that this was the fourth time this season that the Thunder trailed after three and still won. A lot of things have to fall into place to make that work. Here, it was Westbrook putting together a 34-point performance with seven assists, five steals and only one turnover; it was Serge Ibaka double-doubling again with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks; and it was KD, making up in defense what he was lacking in offense, if you can call a guy who scored 25 (albeit 7-22 from the floor) “lacking in offense.” Oh, Durant also had 13 rebounds and four blocks. Twenty-five of those 113 points came from the bench; the Warrior reserves managed nine.

But damn me if Golden State doesn’t live up to its gilded name. Curry rolled up 32 points on a 13-26 night; Barnes piled up 26 for the first time ever; the three other starters also finished in double figures, though Lee, who averages about 18, was held to 10. Still, both Lee and Curry earned double-doubles, splitting 23 rebounds between them. And Jermaine O’Neal may be old, but he’s ferocious.

Five and 0 for this homestand, and two losses avenged. The third? Let’s see what happens Sunday night when the Timberwolves get here.

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Not diving from the fourteenth floor

I have an occasional tendency to drop into a random page in the archives and then read a couple weeks’ worth, just to refresh the memory and see if my thinking has changed in the interim.

Which in no way inspired Rebecca Black to sit through the original video of “Friday”:

Well, most of it, anyway.

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With six you get ponies

A wondrous artifact over at Pergelator: the instrument panel from a 1929 Hudson Super Six. I got to wondering why a ’29 specifically, and it turned out that this was Hudson’s biggest year ever, third in US sales, behind Ford and Chevy but a smidgen ahead of your choice of Chrysler brands. (Chrysler, in 1928, had introduced Plymouth and DeSoto and bought Dodge; there persists a story that DeSoto was created specifically to use as a club against Dodge, should they refuse Chrysler’s overtures.)

The Super Six was Hudson’s top-selling model back then, and though Hudson, in a fit of corporate apostasy, went to eight-cylinder cars in 1930, the postwar line reintroduced the Super Six, which became their best seller for the next several years, largely because the old straight-eight cost about 10 percent more and delivered only seven more horsepower. By 1951, Hudson was winning races with a 308-cubic-inch six, which in civilian form kicked out 145 hp, more than the old eight, and which the company offered with some serious go-fast parts: the “Twin-H Power package” had dual induction and twin carburetors, offering 160-170 hp, and the factory-racer version (dubbed 7-X) was good for 210. The old eight-holer faded into oblivion. Unfortunately, so did Hudson, which was merged with Nash in 1954 to form American Motors; both brands were killed off after the 1957 model year in favor of Rambler, previously a Nash sub-brand, which was selling better than either.

There is, incredibly, one active Hudson dealer remaining: Miller Motors in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

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Still your best friend

Yours truly, from earlier this month:

I’m not entirely sure what The Last Thing I Ever Expected might be, but there’s at least a reasonable chance that it might be a solo album from a former member of the Shaggs.

Ready! Get! Go!So here’s Dot Wiggin, now somewhere in her sixties, still doing what she did in front of her sisters four and a half decades ago: singing intensely personal, fiercely melodic, idiosyncratic songs that don’t match up to any genre you’ve ever heard of. There is much to learn here, starting with a refutation of this Citation Needed remark in the Shaggs article at Wikipedia:

Reportedly, during the recording sessions the band would occasionally stop playing, claiming one of them had made a mistake and that they needed to start over, leaving the sound engineers to wonder how the girls could tell when a mistake had been made.

Jesse Krakow, who organized the project, produced the recording and wrote the liner notes, is here to tell us otherwise:

I got a package in the mail containing Dot’s handwritten charts to “Your Best Friend”, “My Pal Foot Foot”, “Philosophy Of The World”, and the lyrics to “Banana Bike” and “The Fella With A Happy Heart”. And there they were. The long, non-repeating melody lines, the choppy rhythms, the odd pauses, the unpredictable instrumental breaks, the playful lyrics, the inimitable way that the lyrics, melody, and chords were stapled together. They were all written out. Which was shocking. For all of their supposed ineptitude, The Shaggs (specifically Dot) wrote all their songs down in traditional musical notation. In fact, Dot told us that whenever they performed they always had the sheet music onstage. So to all of those musical experts who love The Shaggs because “they didn’t know what they’re doing”, guess what? They did!

The material here is all Dot with occasional contributions by Krakow, except for “Wiggin Out,” a goofy surf-styled chant assembled by Krakow, and “The End of the World,” which you know from several thousand cover versions already. Apparently it’s Dot’s Favorite Song Ever. There are two tracks bearing the title “Speed Limit,” the first a new Dot song about the Need for Speed, the second (officially titled “Speed Limit 2”) a 1970 song the Shaggs never recorded, turned here into some weird desiccated blues that suggests the need maybe isn’t so important after all. (Dot, we are told, drives very fast.) “Banana Bike,” Dot’s tribute to sister Helen, might be the obvious single here, but the track I keep coming back to is “Eh,” a tribute to diffidence and the avoidance of same, despite its title containing no Canadian content whatsoever.

Why this is on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label, I don’t know. I don’t really care. But I thank him for turning it loose onto a world that needs the Shaggs’ philosophy more than ever.

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Old MacDonald had a stack overflow

Once upon a time, in the early days of software, there was something called “documentation”: if your program somehow went awry, you were obviously unhappy with the situation, but at least there was an explanation of what had just happened.

Today, however, you’re left to twist in the electron wind:

One of the things the guy in his garage had to do, in order to even have a shot at success, was to go through all his error messages one by one and make sure every one of them accurately described what went wrong, in a way that the user could speedily fix or at least address the problem, with confidence, ALL OF THE TIME. All five hundred of the goddamn things, or ten thousand, or however many of them there were. Not like they were professionally edited or anything. Some of them had appealingly rustic little grammar errors in them, but there was some good old honest-to-God work involved in not confusing or annoying the user, because the user was the customer. Think of a hotel maid doing her best not to completely screw up the room, so the hotel doesn’t get a bad rating on the social media … even though her English is broken, she puts priority on it, and these small-business or one-guy software shops put the same priority on their error messages for the same reason.

Our standards with regard to error messages have slipped to an abysmally low depth. It’s like, nobody even stops to question it any more. The application burbles out some bit of nonsense … “web site does not exist” or “you do not have permissions,” or something else that doesn’t even bear a passing resemblance to what’s really busted. Or what we had going on at work this week, “Error 126.” You take this little string of characters, which amounts to nothing more than a — let’s call it what it really is — SIGNATURE. You take it and Google it and open up some “knowledge base” pages with comments from others who have run into the same error. From that, you figure out what’s really going on. The software publisher might as well insert random snippets from children’s nursery rhymes.

I got a wonderfully inscrutable — yet perfectly understandable — error message from a printer last week:


Bad hammer coil! Bad, bad hammer coil!

The numbers probably would have run out to 130 had there been space on the display panel. A call to tech support yielded up a “Wha…?” An actual tech was dispatched, on the sensible basis that they weren’t going to send out a new shuttle (manufacturer’s suggested retail price, about that of a Nissan Versa) on spec, and the truth of the matter was ascertained.

And that truth was weirdly complicated. There’s a teensy bar magnet superglued into the top of the dust cover. What it’s there for, I haven’t a clue. And at the moment, it wasn’t there anyway: ten years of vibration and dust and more vibration had loosened its hold on the plastic cover, and the magnet made a beeline for the first metallic object within the gravitational field.

Which was the cooling fan for the hammer bank.

Shuttle overheats, inscrutable message is generated, printer shuts down to Not Ready.

Then again, this printer is a decade old. Its younger sister on the platform is prone to coming up with uninformative information like “HALT CW1ZX,” which I tend to interpret as “Cycle the power and hope it goes away.” Sometimes it even does.

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Cruella de Ville

Cadillac’s Elmiraj concept car is something to behold:

Cadillac Elmiraj concept

Will they build it, or at least something like it? For now, it’s a definite maybe:

Last July GM CEO Dan Akerson confirmed that the automaker’s Cadillac brand was working on a flagship sedan larger than the XTS, to play in the big leagues with the BMW 7 Series, the Mercedes-Benz S Class and the Lexus LS, on sale by 2015. While at the recent Los Angeles auto show media preview, Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North American operations, strongly hinted that the big rear wheel drive platform may first appear as a coupe, not a four door sedan. “That’s the car Cadillac needs,” Reuss told USA Today. “You make a statement with a coupe. You don’t make a statement with a sedan.”

One might argue that the statement being made here is “We don’t give a flying Fleetwood what you think about how it looks,” but if a Cadillac isn’t supposed to look distinctive to the point of distraction, what good is it? If your eyeballs hurt, well, there are Buicks for that.

Besides, apart from the oversimplification of the Caddy crest to the point of removing the wreath — to be honest, I still miss the ducks — only one thing really bothers me about this car:

[It] may either have a proper name or be called LTS.

No. No more farging alphanumerics. Leave that to the Germans and to the Japanese wannabes. Bring “Eldorado” out of the trademark closet, if you have to. This car deserves better than three random consonants.

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All this for two bucks

A bit of snark from earlier today:

Of course, this being Thanksgiving Day, the advertising carries far more weight — several pounds, in fact — than does the editorial stuff.

Or does it? From page 2A, a letter from editor/news VP Kelly Dyer Fry:

As you pick up the newspaper today and rifle through the many Black Friday ads, I hope you will also take a few minutes to read the stories.

Of course, if nobody read the ads, there’d be no stories to speak of.

Still, this is the statistic that startled me:

We captured more than 31,000 photographs [last week]. That’s right, 31,449 to be exact. That was just Monday through Friday. It’s a good thing we switched to digital cameras or that would have been more than 800 rolls of film.

Which really makes me wonder about the Chicago Sun-Times, with triple the circulation and no photography department at all.

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And I’ll send it along

Buckle up: this is going to be a tricky little ride.

In 1981, the Dutch operation known as Stars on 45 issued a medley of Beatles soundalikes which took up an entire LP side. The US version ran a startling 15:33, which turned out to have been edited down from the 15:48 European release. The reason had to do with clearance from music publishers, or lack thereof.

When John Lennon and Paul McCartney set up shop as songwriters, demand was pretty slack — until, of course, it wasn’t. They’d placed eight songs, two of them (“Love Me Do,” “P. S. I Love You”, making up their first Parlophone single) with EMI’s publishing unit, six which Brian Epstein shopped around to the highest bidder. Enter British publisher Dick James, who suggested, sensibly enough, that the band should own its own publishing, or at least a percentage thereof; Northern Songs would be owned 50 percent by James and his partner, 20 percent by Lennon, 20 percent by McCartney, and 10 percent by Epstein. The company went public after two years.

After Epstein’s death, things got complicated: Lord (then Sir Lew) Grade’s ATV acquired a majority of the shares, including the Dick James holdings, and, unable to wrest control of the company themselves, Lennon and McCartney sold out. In the early 80s, after Lennon’s death, McCartney and Yoko Ono tried to buy out ATV, but couldn’t close the deal; McCartney busied himself by acquiring other music copyrights, and happened to mention to Michael Jackson that he’d earned a ton of money by so doing. ATV Music was put up for sale in 1984, and neither McCartney nor Ono put up a bid, reportedly because the price was too high. It wasn’t, however, too high for the King of Pop, who closed the deal for $47.5 million.

When all was said and done, the Northern Songs catalog — Northern Songs itself was dissolved in 1995 — was owned half by Sony and half by the Jackson estate. As for the eight Beatles tracks outside Northern Songs, McCartney now owns “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You,” and rights to the six others — “Misery,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “There’s a Place,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “She Loves You” and “From Me to You” — were acquired last year by Adage Group and Round Hill Music from New York-based Gil Music Corp. And it was “From Me to You” that had been stricken from the American Stars on 45 release for lack of clearance.

Interestingly, one of the principals in Round Hill is Richard Rowe, who had negotiated the merger of ATV with Sony, who had been president of the Sony/ATV combine — and whose father, the late Dick Rowe, was the A&R guy who supposedly turned down the opportunity to sign the Beatles in 1962, ostensibly because groups with guitars were on the way out.

This is what happens when you start digging into a stash of foreign tracks. Please note that publishers and songwriters both collect royalties when a recording or transcription of a song is sold; in the States, should you record a cover of “From Me to You,” you pay 9.1 cents a copy to Round Hill/Adage, which then sends about 4.55 cents to McCartney and Ono, who split it down the middle. Now the only cover of “From Me to You” with which I’m familiar is Del Shannon’s on Big Top, of which I actually have a copy, which did better on the US charts than did the Beatles’ original on VeeJay. And Bug Music, the little publishing firm founded in 1975 to control Shannon’s catalog, eventually grew to one of the largest independent publishers before being sold to BMG — and eventual administration by Adage. Everything that goes around seems to come around.

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A plausible price point

This person seems to understand some of my automotive thinking:

Though neither 10 year old luxury nor a new econobox is an impressive thing, I find the former far more appealing.

Maybe it’s driven by the original owner, who now has it paid off and continues to enjoy the quietness, build quality etc. This type of owner is too intelligent to waste more money on another new car just for the sake of newness.

Or, it’s driven by someone who bought it from the first owner, likely in cash, and is now enjoying a quiet well-built car for less than the cost of a new econobox. This owner is smart because he’s not paying interest, and he’s not driving a brightly colored billboard advertising his low biweekly payments.

I’m somewhere in between: I am indeed a second owner — the first, as it happens, was an actual dealership guy — though I did not actually pay cash for the car. (I did, however, put down 50 percent, and I paid off the note early.) And while it would be nice to have a proper Aux input or a backup camera, the lack thereof is not compelling enough to draw me to the showroom.

Why did I not select a new econobox? It’s not any antipathy toward small cars: I spent nearly two decades whirling around a pocket-sized Toyota. It was, rather, a reflection of the fact that my previous ride had been taken out by one overenthusiastic member of the family Cervidae, and the idea of stepping down a couple of size classes because of some tedious little ruminant offended my sense of propriety: it’s as though I fought the deer, and the deer won. (Since she did not survive the encounter, it was a Pyrrhic victory at best.)

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Pit stop

Officially, DeAndre Jordan is at best a frenemy. (It’s that team-rivalry thing, doncha know.) But there’s one thing we have in common:

DeAndre Jordan is a 6-foot-11, 265-pound pro basketball player for the Los Angeles Clippers — and you’ll never guess what kind of deodorant he puts on before a game.

“I use Secret,” says Mr. Jordan. The 25-year-old Texan prefers the aerosol form of the product marketed to women because, he says, it is light and doesn’t leave behind any visible white residue. “I’m always powder-fresh during the games,” he adds. “I’m sure my opponents love that.”

Okay, we’re not entirely the same here: I buy a similar product from Avon’s women’s line, and I prefer the roll-on. But the motivations are identical.

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This day needs no color

Today you might have what is laughingly called a “day off.” Not everyone is so fortunate, as Jennifer is very much aware:

You know what, back when it was an option, I volunteered to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was a waitress and our tables were always full. You had to make your reservations a month in advance if you hoped to get a table without waiting more than an hour. I worked those days because I’m a greedy capitalist and knew that I would make serious money off the tips. Maybe I should call the restaurant up this year and see if they need an extra hand…

If the plight of the employees truly moves you, do something for them. Take them a plate so they don’t miss out on the meal. Make them cookies or pie. At the very least, be kind. Tell them “thank you.” They don’t hear it much particularly this time of the year.

Especially this time of year, I suspect. (I venture to no retail facilities until Saturday at the earliest, and I think it’s been ten years since I ate out on T-day, mostly because that was the week of the Big Move, and actually preparing a meal was totally out of the question at the time.)

And then there are these folks:

And while you are preparing those meals for the put-upon cashiers and bag boys, think about the emergency personnel that have to work the holiday too. Police, ambulance, and fire departments are still there to respond while you are enjoying the game. Or those families with an empty chair because their loved one is deployed, their prayers being that next Thanksgiving they can be thankful for a safe return.

While I’m thinking about it: some of you good folks are moved to help out at local charities on Thanksgiving and Christmas, which is always nice, but you know, they need help the other 363 days too.

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You shall not shoot

If you yell DEFENSE! loud enough — and they do that routinely in Loud City — eventually the Thunder get the message. After trailing much of the first half, OKC cranked the lid shut on the Spurs, holding them to 15 points in the third quarter and long stretches of scorelessness in the fourth, abruptly ending their win streak at 11 and sending them back to San Antonio with a 94-88 loss.

What is perhaps most remarkable is that while Batman and Robin were on hand to do their thing, it was the rest of the Justice League that did the heavy lifting. To borrow a comparison made by Darnell Mayberry, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb went 15-21 (3-5 on treys) for 35 points, while Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were 12-39 (1-10 on treys) for 30 points. The Caped Crusaders aren’t exactly ready to be replaced yet — Westbrook, while stuck in Brick City most of the night, made some fairly startling plays and improved on his assist average, serving up eight, and Durant still had a double-double (game-high 24 points, 13 rebounds) — but you gotta cheer for the new kids. Serge Ibaka, who with Lamb took the Spurs apart in the third, finished with 17 points and 11 boards.

San Antonio’s Usual Suspects were deployed in the usual manner, but to less effect than usual: they shot less than 40 percent, hit only seven of 27 treys, and missed five of 14 free throws. Five Spurs made double figures, led by Tony Parker with 16. One thing they did well was steal the ball: 11 instances, four by Kawhi Leonard. However, they blocked only three shots, two fewer than Ibaka. (Leonard had the only San Antonio double-double, with 14 points and 10 boards.) And one truth seems indisputable: tonight the Spurs’ sixth man — Manu Ginobili — was not quite as good as the Thunder’s Jackson, who tied his career high with 23 points.

Maybe it’s karma. In the second quarter, Derek Fisher collected three fouls in less than twelve seconds, mostly the result of Jeff Ayres poking at him; once Ayres got caught, the momentum seemed to shift just a hair. Or maybe that’s me being pleased about it.

The Warriors will be here on Black Friday, perhaps without Andre Igoudala, who killed the Thunder with a buzzer-beater in Oakland not so long ago.

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Twice as Swift

Here we have singer/songwriter Taylor Swift, first Showing Off, then Not (Quite) Showing Off.

Taylor Swift for Victoria's Secret

Taylor Swift hiking in Franklin Canyon

The latter was an excursion by Tay and Ed Sheeran to Franklin Canyon Park, on the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains. Ed, of course, has been opening for her on the Red tour, and they’ve written and recorded a song together, which of course doesn’t mean that some day she won’t sit down and pound out something called “Bite Me, Ed.” I’m thinking that for now maybe Ed’s helping to keep her grounded, which is probably a Good Thing if you’re a superstar at a couple of weeks short of twenty-four.

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Quiet on the set

As anyone who’s ever worked with anything electric can tell you, sooner or later a strain relief doesn’t.

About three years ago I bought a cassette adapter to play my little MP3 Walkman in the car, and it worked like a charm, though I always thought it looked just a teensy bit fragile. With this in mind, earlier this year I picked up a similar beast that had been sold by XM Radio to its subscribers in ancient vehicles. Backup, right? Backup, wrong: when the original cord finally frayed itself into silence, I duly unpacked the new one, which spun at near-dreidel speeds in the tape slot but never deigned to cough up any sound. Okay, it’s a cheap piece of crap; I addressed myself to Monster Cable, which might be overpriced but which never vends truly cheap crap. Same results.

I dialed around the Web for guidance, and found an Instructable that didn’t quite address the same issue. The author had tamed his device’s bad behavior by pulling the little gearset that contacts the drive pin.

Eventually I figured out the problem, and it stems from Bose’s design for this head unit: if the tape or tape-like object is not making good contact with the drive pin, the mechanism, in the interest of preventing jamming, withdraws completely. (It even disengages when you shut the car off, which should have been a clue.) I am not even considering spending however many dollars it takes to re-stereo this car, which leaves me basically three options:

  • Try to get hold of the manufacturer and see if there are any more of that model to be had anywhere;
  • Whine to a group of owners and see which devices they are using;
  • Buy a new plug, which is easy, and then try to solder all these tiny little wires I can barely see, which is less so.

Step One is already underway.

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Appeal may not be successful

As fraud cases go, this one is not particularly slick:

One night in early August, Maurice Owens was riding an elevator at the Potomac Avenue Metro station when, he says, he slipped on a banana peel as he was getting off, injuring his hip and leg. The District Heights man sued the transit agency for $15,000 — in part to cover $4,500 in chiropractor bills.

Problem is, the whole incident was caught on tape — and the tape showed something different. The claim against Metro was thrown out, and Owens, 42, ended up being charged with second-degree fraud, a felony.

What’s on the video? Pretty much what you’d expect:

Near the end of the video, as the elevator doors open, Owens can be seen flipping something onto the floor behind him. According to a Metro Transit Police report “this object was later identified as a banana peel.”

In a dramatic gesture, Owens falls to the ground — half his body inside the elevator, half outside.

With those mad flopping skillz, Owens might as well try out for the Washington Wizards, or at least the Generals.

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Home, home again

It was ten years ago this very week that I took possession of the palatial estate at Surlywood, by a considerable margin my longest stay at any single address ever, and this observation from the first few days seemed like something worth fetching from the archives:

I’m just now learning the sounds of the new house. Of course, “new” is a relative term: the house is actually fifty-five years old. You might expect a bit of creak here and there, and indeed the wooden floors do have a recognizable jounce/rebound pattern, each room slightly different but none of them at all silent. And while the gas furnace is not particularly noisy, there is a pattern that repeats whenever the thermostat commands: a low-pitched grunt, as though the giant had been awakened from his slumber (“Fee, fi, fo, farm/Suppose this twerp would like some warm”), then a rumble as the gas valve opens, finally a snap of metallic fingers and the rush of warm air.

Of course, the house is now sixty-five years old, and in arguably better shape than its slightly younger owner; the furnace noise seems louder today, but only because over those ten years I have embraced a lower level of background noise.

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