Salad Power Rankings! Top 13 Ingredients of 2015


“You don’t make friends with salad.”                                Homer Simpson, nucular technologist

It’s 2015 and we’re all leaf eaters.

We drown our salads in delicious dressings with names that take us to happier places, places that are miles from Saladtown: Italian (Italy), Champagne (a bar in France), Ranch (a distant uncle’s house), Thousand Islands (one of many islands). We capitalize the first letter of all dressings out of respect and gratitude.

But the point of salad is not to eat good. It’s to eat well.

So we’re ditching the dressing by isolating the best parts of a salad. Next time you cruise the fridge or size up the salad bar, try a dressing-free salad with at least 3 of the following 13 ingredients. Avoid the 6 or 7 or 8 bad ones I couldn’t avoid listing. And if you still don’t like how it tastes, I recommend you add salad dressing.

1) Cucumbers

Famously known as “the watermelon’s cousin,” cucumbers do it all. Good crunch, good health-feel, watery flavor. Feeling ambitious? Take the peel off for better taste. Feeling tired and sad because you’re about to eat salad? Leave the peel on because of something about nutrients.

All side salads come with a single big cucumber front and center. That lone cucumber is the restaurant’s way of saying “yeah, we’re not sure what to do here but we can’t lose too much on cucumbers.”

2) Olives (green)

Olives are a food version of salad dressing because they make salads better and are probably not good for us. The green olive packs the most flavor and salt. Use sparingly.

3) Olives (black)

Most store-bought black olives don’t exist in nature, unless you count jars that cost $1.19 as natural. (Do you?) The best black olive, according to scientists, typically comes from the “Medium” store-brand jar.

4) Iceberg lettuce

By far the crunchiest and least work-appropriate member of the lettuce family. Iceberg lettuce commands respect with its evocative name and out-of-this-world structural integrity.

Iceberg lettuce may not have sunk the Titanic, but…well, I take it back. The Titanic would have no problem sailing through iceberg lettuce (assuming it was on top of lots of water).

5) Tomatoes tomato

Tomatoes taste far worse than tomato sauce but  better than tomato juice. Smaller bites are best. I recommend buying the small cherry tomatoes and cutting each one into sixteenths for just the right tiny and controlled flavor explosion.

Big tomatoes look cool and taste more like their ancestor, the V-8 juice. Points for looks and color. Negative points for unpredictable amount of juice per bite.

6) Avocados

Whoever came up with the idea of “good fat” can take a bow. Avocado makes everything a little better unless you’re eating it by itself. Kinda weird by itself.

Pairs nicely with the tomato.

7) Red onions

Wild card!

8) Croutons

Croutons drenched in salad dressing taste quite good. But you’re also ruining the point of the salad, which is to punish yourself with healthy food in order to justify the pizza. For that reason, beware the mighty crouton.

9) Spinach

The hearty deep green color lets everyone know you’re serious about your health. And isn’t that kinda what we’re doing here? I like spinach (not for eating though).

FUN FACT: Spinach is considered the most forkable member of the lettuce family.

10) Fruit

Fruit always makes vegetable-based salad taste better, but it’s never quite at home, either. Let’s exclude fruit salads, and let’s not get into the actual definition of fruit.

Let’s forget I brought up fruit.

11) Cheese

Cheese, go away. This is salad.

12) Carrots (matchsticks)

The more colorful the salad, the better. Apart from oranges, carrots are the only food that is consistently orange. TIP: Make sure you use the matchstick version of carrots. WARNING: They’re expensive for some reason. TIP: If you must use baby carrots, make sure to sharpen your forks before guests arrive. TIP: Just buy new forks.

13) Kale

I love kale because it tastes the way I feel when I tuck into a salad: a little sad, a little angry, a little proud, a little bitter. Kale just gets it.

TIP: Avoid kale.

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18 months (from March 2014)


6:30 am

You wake up and turn your music player on. Somehow, you spend the next 40 minutes playing in your crib with your friends Lamby (#1), Raccoony Looney, Doggy, other Doggy, Beary, Bear Arguedas (new name), and two monkeys. You sing and point around the room.

7:10 am

You’ve been a good sport for long enough. Now it’s time for mom and dad to wake up and hang out.

Standing in your crib you try a variety of yells and shouts aimed toward the door. With the monitor sitting on mom’s bedside table, these shouts are highly effective. Mom and dad groan a little and mom heroically gets up and goes into your room, giving dad an extra 5 minutes.

When mom walks into your room, your eyes light up and you start pointing at things, like little marks in the walls. Mom showers you with greetings and kisses as you squirm around the crib. When dad comes to get you, you chuck yourself from one side of the crib to the other to avoid his grasp and the impending diaper change. It is hilarious.

Mom lifts you and gives you a hug before gently laying you down for your diaper change. She comments on what she finds in there because she is an expert, and because earlier in the week some rogue googling led your parents to suspect a case of hepatitis. That led to an emergency call to the doctor, who was less than pleased to return mom’s call at 9 pm to assure us it’s probably nothing. Google is bad for new parents.

Mom puts your diaper on with your “help,” which can include giving mom extra diapers and helping to take out wipes. You also declare the old diaper “trash!” and know where it needs to go. As mom picks out some warm gray sweatpants (it was zero outside when we woke up) and a long-sleeve t-shirt, you stand on the changing table and grab things from the high shelf. Lot of fun to be had with Q-tips.

Now that you’re dressed and mom has picked you up, you point to the door. You’re ready to go.

7:20 am

Mom brings you into the bedroom to say hi to dad. You continue to point to the stairs. Dad can wait.

7:30 am

Mom starts your breakfast, which includes an egg, an eggo, and some blueberries. Dad stumbles downstairs as you’re going into your breakfast chair, which is a cool attachment that hangs on to the breakfast table. You graduated from your high chair (read: you despise your high chair) this week, so it’s only the second morning that you’re sitting at the big table. You look like a big boy to us, two days after your first hair cut, kicking your legs and devouring your Eggo.

Jack, your dog, liked the high chair better. He had a better vantage point and more crumbs on the floor. With the new chair, Jack is forced to sit away from the table and whine and daydream about what used to be. You don’t seem to notice this yet because you don’t seem to feed Jack as much.

After cleaning up the dishes, mom and dad join you at the table with their breakfast of yogurt and fruit and a bagel with cream cheese that mom made for them. Mom is the best. You like all of those things, too, so you participate in their breakfast. You’re not sure about being restrained in any capacity, but you seem to concede that the breakfast table, and company while eating, is an upgrade. You see Jack outside of the window and acknowledge it by saying “Jack.”

You’re eating an epic breakfast. After finishing your food, you take down some bites of dad’s yogurt and fruit. Then you see dad settling down with his bagel and demand to get on his lap. Your first bite is a bad one because it’s too hot, and you make a “what is wrong with you?” face. Your second bite is just right. Dad has to hurry to earn a portion of the bagel in between your bigger and bigger bites.

8 am

You take the family into the living room, where you show off yesterday’s impressive block tower. Dad gets on the floor with you and hands you extra blocks, which you carefully place throughout the tower. You’re not interested in height so much as structural integrity, so you find gaps in the construction and try to plug the holes with new blocks. Dad thinks you’re smarter than him. Dad only builds up.

8:05 am

You demand that dad open one of your juice-squeeze thingees. It’s a gamble because you just ate a big breakfast, and once these are open they might go bad. But you insist, so dad unscrews the top and hands it to you. To your parents’ delight, you stop everything and focus on drinking the squeeze thingee. Dad brags about this to mom because it’s the little things.

8:15 am

While impersonating an angry, barking Jack at the top of the stairs, you remember how fun it is downstairs in the playroom. Dad heads down behind you to make sure you don’t fall – or if you do fall, that you don’t fall more than a couple of steps. Mom and dad think you are too good at stairs.

Now that you’re downstairs, you zero in on your favorite activity down there: dots. Mom bought you big dot-making markers in bright colors, and when mom or dad unscrews the tops, you can hammer the sheets of paper to create beautiful artwork. Experts (probably) call this dotilism. Your favorite color is either green or blue, although you know the word “purple” best of all. Yellow doesn’t really show up on the paper.

Yellow is the worst.

While you’re dotting, dad sneaks off to the corner to continue putting together the downstairs coffee table. This involves 4 screws and 5 minutes of work. Progress is slow. As soon as you notice that dad is playing with a screwdriver,  you make your way to the table, grab the screwdriver, aim it at the screw, and start helping. But it’s hard to get the screwdriver into the screw, so you decide that instead of helping, you should make your way into the cabinet that you can close behind you. With the screwdriver.

Dad is done building.

Until dad has an idea, and gets you the new toy screwdriver you got from Grammy. Satisfied for a minute, dad is able to complete one screw. He is so happy.

8:30 am

Mom comes down and tells dad he can go upstairs to start his workday. Dad hangs around for a minute before going upstairs, where he makes a coffee and heads into the guest bedroom, steeling himself for the inevitable emails and phone calls ahead. He hears a “Dada” from downstairs and feels grateful that he is living most of his day-to-day life under the same roof as you and your mom.

We’re watching you grow up.

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5 Fun Facts: Platypus Edition!


                                                                          Image from National Geographic

The humble platypus is a living dinosaur and one of nature’s most random animals.

To help us get to know these 3-pound bottom feeders from Australia, I gathered 4 facts and one myth to test your zoological wits.

Can you spot the imposter?

Fact #1: Platypus males are venomous while females are not.

Fact #2: The platypus is the last living member of its family and genus. All of its known relatives are fossils.

Fact #3: It’s featured on the back of Australia’s 10-cent coin.

Fact #4: The first scientist to study the platypus thought it was an elaborate hoax. Frank Wilson, an early 19th-century illustrator known for combining animals into unique creations, initially claimed credit for the hoax. He was interviewed by the London Times on July 7, 1813, and this is how he explained the animal’s creation:

I was borrowing an old school friend’s science laboratory in Cambridge in order to conduct research for my next story. With help from the London Zoo, I was able to attain specimens of a mallard duck, an otter, and, of course, a beaver. Within weeks, to my delight, I had assembled the world’s first platypus.

Spotted in Hawaii: part peacock, part rooster.

Another Wilson creation? This peacock rooster was recently seen in Hawaii.

The hoax sparked a brief uproar across 3 continents. One Russian editorial titled “The Mad Illustrator,” for example, called for Wilson’s head in order to connect it to a duck body. For a time, Wilson was an international celebrity. He attempted to capitalize on his newfound fame by publishing a manifesto, How to Help Mother Nature, which was essentially a list of possible animal combinations with corresponding illustrations. It sold nearly 4,000 volumes in its initial run.

Two years later, in 1815, a traveling English scientist spotted a platypus family in New South Wales, Australia. Word quickly spread that the hoax was a hoax.

For Wilson, the fallout was severe. His illustrations were never published again, and after years of depression and rumored alcoholism, he was committed to the Nottingham Mental Health Hospital. A follow-up story published in 1827 revealed that in spite of the natural record, which by then could trace the mammal back millions of years, Wilson lamented the “deficit of cultural imagination” that led scientists to tarnish his claim and to smear his good name. Asked whether he had any regrets over the incident, he remained firm. “I will never apologize for inventing the platypus.”

Fact #5: A platypus can track its prey through electrolocation, which enables the hunter to sense electric fields generated by its target’s muscle contractions.

Could you tell fact from fiction?

Fact #2 is fiction. The platypus is actually on Australia’s 20-cent coin. Not the 10-cent coin.

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Recapping 2012: with Ryan and Jack Looney

boston background jack

(transcript from today’s podcast)

Ryan: Test, test. Test, test.

Jack: Ruff, ruff.

Ryan: OK, Jack. Another year in the books…your first full one, I suppose. Thoughts? Impressions?

Jack: Yeah, plenty, Ryan. I remember last winter, being not even an entire year old, and just feeling like things were always spinning a little out of control. You guys were new. I missed my dog family, even missed some of the crazy mutts I used to board with. But 2012 was a little different. The people and dogs seemed calmer. Weather was nicer.

Ryan: If I can cut in here for a second, it’s funny you say that, Jack. Because before you were one, I thought you were the one who was out of control.

Jack: Nah, just young, you know? Older now, wiser.

(White dog walks by outside. Pause for insane barking, then a 5-minute crate cool-down. Ryan sends some work emails.)


Ryan: Test, test.

Jack: So, Ryan, getting back to our theme here, let me turn the spotlight back on you for a sec. Big year for you, buddy. You turned 30, you guys had a kid, a cool little guy who’s starting to grow on me or so I would have you believe.

Ryan: Yeah, 30 was a bit of a trip. Milestone year, surprised all my friends by turning into a dad…

Jack: (sarcastically) “30 was a bit of a trip,” he says. Do you know how old the oldest dog who ever lived was? SEVEN! Seven years old!

Ryan: Ha ha, true, true. I shouldn’t complain.

Jack: He was ####### SEVEN!

Ryan: Ha ha, it’s a good point. I really feel like dogs should live longer.

Jack: We do, too. If I could ask evolution for two things, do you know what they’d be?

Ryan: Longer lifespan and hands?

Jack: No. Two ####### treats!

(White dog walks by, heading home. Pause for frothing, maniacal barking, followed by whimpering and a 5-minute cool down)


Ryan: Test, test.

Jack: OK, we’re back and recapping 2012, the year that was.

Ryan: Yes. As I was saying, big year in terms of milestones. Great year in terms of traveling, time with old friends, time with new friends, and becoming a dad. It was also a big year for family.

Jack: In what way?

Ryan: When I was in my late teens and 20s, Ali and my friends were the center of my world. The baby brought family back into the fray right away — it was family down there in the waiting room, family calling to visit, family flying in from California to hang out with the little guy. I got a big kick out of it.

Jack: No more trying to explain your job, you mean?

Ryan: Ha! Well, yeah, exactly. Family isn’t too interested in what Spencer said to the bartender no matter how hilarious or the Summer of Dominance competition or the two birdies…

Jack: …hashtag humblebrag, doesn’t mention the other 500 holes…

Ryan: But the baby really unites family, heir to the Looney throne and all…

Jack: Heir to your student loans…

Ryan: Those too. So I’ll remember 2012 as a big year for family and the start of our own.

Jack: I was here in 2011 but yeah, OK.

Ryan: Just mean in terms of humans. You’re the original addition if you don’t count the fish.

Jack: I know. And I don’t.


Ryan: 2012 was also a solid year for friends. Weekend in New Orleans, wedding in Hawaii, Ali’s birthday BBQ, fun weekend in NYC, 30th party at the Cape, Looney Bowl II. Between the Cape and the Looney Bowl we have a couple good excuses to get together more often than we would otherwise. Would have liked to see some friends more, but being back near Boston made it a lot easier to get in some good hang-out time.

Jack: How do you think you’re balancing friends with the new family?

Ryan: It’s an adjustment for me. 2013 will be easier in that respect.

Jack: How so?

Ryan: I’ve never really been much of a planner. Gotta ease into the idea of planning drinks and golf and hang-out time instead of just letting it come up. Historically Ali’s been the planner.

Jack: So what?

Ryan: I don’t know.

Jack: You want your wife to plan your drinks for you?

Ryan: No.

Jack: Want her to walk you and fill your water bowl in 2013?

Ryan: No. I’m saying planning is something I’ll get better at in the new year.

Jack: Just having a little fun with you.

Ryan: I know.

Jack: Tug of war?

Ryan: Sure.

(Pause for tug of war)


Ryan: Test, test.

Jack: You know how many treats I had in 2012?

Ryan: A lot. 500?

Jack: Not enough. Not enough treats.

Ryan: What are you talking about? We give you treats every time you a) behave, b) misbehave, or c) need something to do.

Jack: That is not how I see it. At all.

Ryan: How do you see it?

Jack: There are, like, millions of seconds in a day. And I get treats for like 100 of them.

Ryan: That’s because you eat ’em too fast.

Jack: Compared to what, a human?

Ryan: Compared to other dogs. Other dogs get a treat and they make it last for like two months. You throw them down the hatch like Kobiyashi, like someone’s timing you.

Jack: Well, maybe I’m hungry.

Ryan: Maybe. But you eat toys the same way.

Jack: Maybe I’m hungry for toys.

Ryan: You’re greedy. Those things cost money.

Jack: Don’t hold me treat-hostage, man, is all I’m saying. I get upset. Next year would be a lot more fun if I had more treats, and I’m a dog, so I can’t exactly dictate how many I get.

Ryan: Are you OK with lower-quality treats?

Jack: Have you seen the sh1t I eat?

Ryan: Ha ha, yes, I have.

Jack: Literally! Have you seen it? I literally do sometimes.

Ryan: I know you do. OK, OK, higher volume, lower quality in 2013, Jack. You have my word.

Jack: Thank you. Also, more baby pacifiers.

Ryan: #### you, not funny.

(Baby wakes up, Ryan takes 5)


Jack: Test, test.

Ryan: Let’s move to pop culture.

Jack: Pop culture recap! For dogs: I was glad to see fewer dogs in human clothes in 2012. Hope the trend continues. I also kind of got into those bone marrow things from the supermarket, especially when you stick ’em in the freezer for awhile.

Ryan: Did you notice how you were such a mutt all year?

Jack: Yeah, very funny, I’m a mutt, ha ha, never gets old.

Ryan: And not so much a detective anymore?

Jack: Yes, got it, I was a mutt.

Ryan: Because you messed up that case and got too involved with the witness who was a purebred?

Jack: Let. It. Go.

Ryan: My favorite movie of 2012…

Jack: Was Love Actually

Ryan: No that was 10 years ago, nice try though. My favorite movie of 2012…

Jack: Was Cutting Edge

Ryan: Another classic, but no. It was Moonrise Kingdom.

Jack: Why that one, is it because you love Wes Anderson and you think you’re friends with him?

Ryan: Partly because I love seeing the world through his lens and partly because nothing else blew me away or seemed as original. Batman was great, Lincoln was fun, but Moonrise Kingdom gave us the story of the year. And Bill Murray.

Jack: I have trouble with movies.

Ryan: Why?

Jack: I dunno. Framerate too fast for dog vision? They look like slideshows. OK how about music in 2012. What stood out?

Ryan: My home-office playlists. Key players included Muse, King Charles, Tenacious D.

Jack: And which ones are you holding back?

Ryan: Regina Spektor, Coldplay, Imagine Dragons…Coldplay…

Jack: And?

Ryan: And what?

Jack: About 1000 hours of house music videos on YouTube?

Ryan: True. Guilty.

Jack: Song of the year?

Ryan: Three-way tie. “Heartbeat” by JJAMZ, “39” by Tenacious D, and “Stop” by The Chain Gang of 1974.

Jack: Acceptable. Are you ashamed of Fun. and Gotye?

Ryan: Yes. And burned out.

Jack: Understood. Favorite book?

Ryan: “Swerve” by Stephen Greenblatt. The one about the 15th-century Italian book hunter whose discovery swerved Western thinking by planting seeds in the minds of those who read it. I’m at least 75% Epicurian and I didn’t even know it.


Ryan: Time to wrap this thing up. What are you looking forward to in 2013?

Jack: Cheap treats and lots of them, hopefully more dog park action, and a more mobile new guy so I can play with him more.

Ryan: Achievable goals. I like your chances.

Jack: How about you?

Ryan: Maximum time with the new-and-improved Looney family (you included) peppered with new adventures with friends. Trying my best to enjoy and appreciate it all as the time flies.

Jack: Hear, hear. I wish you well my friend and owner and I’ll be seeing you outside. Happy New Year to you, big guy. Well everybody, that wraps up our little podcast for today.

(loses interest, wanders off)

Ryan: As the mutt was saying, thank you for joining us and a special thank you to the random forces of the universe that conspired to make 2012 a memorable one. Happy New Year, amigos.

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When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

(Watching and losing interest in last night’s presidential debate brought this Walt Whitman poem to mind)

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

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A New Dad’s Guide to the First Few Days

Our house is filled with books on baby development. But other than a picture book for dads that my friend Greg bought me, there’s not much literature on how new dads develop.

Is that because the scientific research on new dads is limited, or because nobody cares? The answer is probably both, because the new dad is low man on the metaphorical totem pole.

That’s what makes us so important. Just like low men on real-life totem poles, new dads need to hold the whole thing up so the world can take pictures of the top of the totem pole, where the magical things are happening.

Fellow noobs, let’s face it. There’s nothing magical about walking the dog or taking the trash out. Even when you drop the bag directly into the can from your second-story deck and pretend it’s no big deal, like it’s something you see every day, most people wouldn’t consider it “magical.”

Where am I going with this? I thought it was pretty clear, Greg. Listen, you don’t have to read this if you don’t want to.

As a dad of a 3-week old, I hereby draw on my vast parenting experience to impart the 3 rules of being a brand new dad.

Rule #1: do stuff

A useful resource without too many words

As a new dad, you are at worst the 3rd-most tired person in your family. And you have new dad strength, which you’ll first notice in your forearms.

Your job as the most untired and forearmed person in the house is to do stuff and to get things done. So go do some dishes or throw the ball at with the dog. Change a diaper. Make sure the DVR is jam-packed with shows that new mom can watch with new baby.

Just keep doing stuff. All day long.

I’m gonna go sit down for awhile.

Rule #2: make sure your hands are clean

There are two essential aspects to this rule. Number one, fill your house with several of those hand-cleaning dispensers that don’t require a rinse. Don’t worry: this part will be done for you. The second part, and this is important, is to communicate that your hands are clean before, during, and after touching the new baby.

Bookending conversations with a subtle reminder tends to do the trick. For example, “I think Tom and Caitlin are swinging by a little later. My hands are clean.”

Or, “My hands are clean. I recorded Bachelor Pad.”

From time to time, someone else will start a conversation. Even if they’re not personally invested in the baby’s welfare, I recommend playing it safe:

“Nice day today.”

“Yeah, clean-hands weather!”

Rule #3: learn non-crying tricks

The first few days are a mixture of joy and a lot of crying. It’s typically the baby who’s crying, but I guess in some cases it could be you, the dad. Don’t worry, lots of people cry. Mostly babies though.

If you find your tear ducts are acting out of sorts, there are two things you can try:

  • Stop watching The Notebook your whole life
  • Even when you’re not watching it, don’t even think about The Notebook (like when you’re cleaning your hands and your mind starts to wander)

If you realize you’re not the one crying, congratulations. You’re a pillar of emotional stability, as symbolized by your new dad forearms. Just remember that nobody’s too concerned about you — much like the head nurse wasn’t concerned when the guy in the nursing home broke through security to read his wife her own autobiography in The Notebook, which has a 52% score on Rotten Tomatoes by the way.

F- seems harsh

If you find that it’s your baby who’s crying, good. That’s far more appropriate given the circumstances, and after 3 weeks of fatherhood I consider myself a bit of an expert in this department.

Here are tried-and-true ways to calm a baby who’s crying starts making people wonder:

  • Try moving the baby to the other arm
  • Change his diaper
  • Rock or something
  • Uh…keep rocking
  • Maybe the other arm was better?
  • Nothing yet?
  • I am at a loss
  • Change chairs maybe
  • Try the swing
  • No the other swing
  • Walk in a circle without making the dog think he’s going outside (good luck!)
  • Ask nicely
  • Change his diaper again
  • Beg
  • See where mom went
  • Make a face that says “classic baby hijinx”
  • Gently shake in your seat
  • But don’t shake like that, it’s too much
  • What do you want from me, man?
  • Count backwards from 1,000
  • Sing a song about clean hands

Eventually something works. And there’s no greater victory or feeling of satisfaction than soothing a sad little guy. Ta-da!

You have successfully troubleshooted Level I of my crying. You are ready for Level II.

If you found this guide helpful, well…I would be incredibly surprised.

Stay tuned for more insight as the adventure continues.

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Introduction to Palm Sunday, by Kurt Vonnegut

This is a very great book by an American genius. I have worked so hard on this masterpiece for the past six years. I have groaned and banged my head on radiators. I have walked through every hotel lobby in New York, thinking about this book and weeping, and driving my fist into the guts of grandfather clocks.

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