I don’t live here anymore

I haven’t updated this blog in forever. And probably won’t anymore.

I write for sportsnet.ca now, mostly football and probably some baseball. I’m also one of the senior editors at (and an occasional feature writer for) Sportsnet Magazine, which offers all the NHL/NFL/MLB/NBA you could wish for, and almost every other sport, too. Seriously, it’s worth checking out if you care about sports.

You can things a tad more opinionated on my twitter–@TheGameSheet–and I have a feeling that might be a fun ride during the fall 2012 US presidential campaign.

So I’m totally done with this blog, but I reserve the right to reactivate it for self righteous rants or bragging eloquently during a particularly long Wings playoff run.

Thanks for reading!

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The Playoff Meditation Exercise

Since my heart can’t take much more of these Game 7s (and there’s two more tonight!) and the Wings and Sharks series is sure to screw with my fragile balance of sanity, I figured now would be the time to share the Playoff Meditation Exercise I developed last year.

Fair warning: This is no joke. Reader’s Digest, Sun Media and an Ottawa radio station I spoke with today would have you know I am a certified mindfulness meditation expert. And well I really am not, I do practice regularly, I am prone to fits of nervousness and anxiety and these are doubled and even tripled — but generally in a good way — during the playoffs.

Being a fan of a Western Conference team in this day and age, however, means exciting games ending around 1 a.m. Which, in turn, means a racing heart rate just before bedtime. So, rather than a final shot or two of whiskey to force you into unconsciousness — though that probably works better after a loss — we offer How To Mindfully Experience An NHL Playoff Game.

Step 1 – Don’t think of the implications: You are watching one game, not the three or four games that came before it and not the (you hope) many games that will come later. Just this game. It’s the meditation embodiment of an athlete’s oldest cliché — take it one game at a time.

Step 2 – Enjoy it: Even the overtime. Especially the overtime. When you have a rooting interest, this is a near impossible task. I cannot even imagine how Canucks fans could savour the last ten minutes of Game 7 last night, but they must. You love sports, and this is as good as it gets and you don’t know what you’re going to see, or if it’ll ever be like this again. Things change. uncertainty is certain. Savour the damn overtime.

Step 3 – Intermission Mindfulness: This, actually, really helps. I don’t mean it helps you watch the hockey game. I mean, it’s just good for you. Intermissions are 15 minutes long. Occasionally they are longer, but never shorter. Give yourself those fifteen minutes, in silence, to sit or lie down and just breathe. You don’t have to get all Zen and The Art Of Stickhandling. You don’t have to think about hockey at all. It’ll start again in 15 minutes, and the quiet break is way better for you than any wisdom Don Cherry might spew.

Step 4 – Be A Child: Experience things. They teach you this sort of thing in mindfulness, usually by giving you a raisin or grape and having you spend 10 or 15 minutes slowly tasting and chewing it, noticing every little thing about its taste, texture and consistency. It helps you (okay, me) remember to slow down and enjoy things instead of eagerly waiting for what comes next. So, pick a player on whichever team you like best. Watch his shift, from start to finish. Notice where he goes without the puck and how he manages to meet up with it later on. Try to experience the game through his eyes. I’m not being obtuse here — try to see what he’s seeing when he flinches and dumps the puck a second before the hit arrives or when he tosses a blind pass to a teammate he somehow sensed was arriving to fill the space.

And … when all else fails. Then you can grab the whiskey. But do it mindfully, and savour the flavour. Especially if it’s expensive.

We’ll have more when the second round becomes official tomorrow.

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Filed under Geekdom, Hockey!, Life Lessons, NHL Playoffs

Obligatory Overlong Charlie Sheen Essay

I am writing the introduction to this essay on a Saturday night in March, when I should be out Doing Things and Being Social. I am not doing those things. Not even close. I am watching Charlie Sheen’s brief run at celebrity transcendence implode spectacularly, and watching my own theory about What It Meant combust along with it.

Sheen is hosting a live webcast, right now, the culmination of hours of shameless online self-promotion, and the bottom of the player features a running counter of how many people are watching ‘Sheen’s Korner’ at this second. That counter is the most interesting part of any of this.

It’s like a voter reaction dial in a presidential debate, only it manages to be less important and more meaningful at the same time.
For the benefit of those reading this in the future, a brief explanation is in order: The past two weeks, spanning the end of February and the beginning of March, 2011, have consisted of nothing so much as a steady diet of Charlie Sheen mania (in the sense that we are maniacal in our consumption of him, as well as in the sense that he is simply manic). It has been a reality-television era narrative on the end result of either the ravages of addiction, the narcissism produced by a life in the spotlight, or both of these, or simply the most calculated experiment in human marketing Hollywood has ever witnessed. Sheen took initial tabloid coverage of his apparent drug overdose and ran with it, spinning Sheen’s An Addict into a multiplatform entertainment odyssey, complete with history’s fastest-to-one-million Twitter feed, some of the most-watched network television interviews since Michael Jackson fondled children (it feels good to not have to write ‘allegedly’ there), and catchphrases that will certainly, possibly even by the time you read this, be available for purchase on any number of official commemorative items.
Make no mistake, people will buy — have bought even, though probably not the official versions, they’ll come later — myriad items adorned with the words ‘Winning’ and ‘Tiger Blood’ if only to say we were here, online, right now, watching the rise and fall of Charlie Sheen. Heck, I will buy such a mug, and it will go in my cupboard next to my girlfriend’s official Charles And Diana wedding mug, both of us drinking from vessels commemorating historical trainwrecks, hers simply purchased a few years in advance.
So anyway, Charlie Sheen, owner (“winner”?) of the last two weeks of first-world history — maybe it’s a title he’ll end up sharing with Moammar Gadhafi, but I doubt it, because Gadhafi doesn’t Tweet — is hosting a live webcast. I’ve been watching for fifteen minutes now and I am, like a lot of others who bought into the promise of Live Craziness On The Internet, starting to get really fucking bored.
Sheen is, basically, hosting a shitty morning radio show, complete with stories plucked from the news, the introduction of regular features (should this ever happen again, I suppose) and shout-outs to fans. He’s saying ‘winning’ a lot, but he’s really just hanging out with two scruffy sidekicks and the lone remaining porn star who lives in his house. (The other, hotter, one apparently having left that morning and taken her semen-soaked Twitterfeed with her.)
So, the show. It sucks, and Sheen is struggling, stammering and saying ‘umm’ far more than anyone who talks in front of a camera for a living has any right to do. And none of this matters, because the numbers on the screen are riveting enough on their own.
Which is good, because the actual content of this travesty is rapidly proving me, once again, exactly the sort of idiot who wants to see the best intentions in the worst kind of people. (I also tend to see the worst intentions in the best kind of people, but that’s a topic for another celebrity meltdown.)
I thought — and proclaimed loudly, in person and online, but not over the phone, because nobody talks on the phone anymore — that this was all a brilliant put-on by an actor who had decided to turn his most successful role — Drink And Drug-Addicted Asshole — into real-life performance art, to cut out the middleman once and for all and prove to the public, the media and everyone else who’s been watching him instead of Gadhafi this week exactly how shallow and easily-ensnared by bullshit they have become.
I wanted this to Mean Something. To be a Grand Statement of the sort made by people who capitalize words that don’t need it in order to drive home Points. I think a lot of people wanted that, probably because the alternative was too unsettling to contemplate.
The alternative was that we have snuck somehow over the edge of a decidedly unsympathetic cliff, and entered into a severely worrisome freefall in which we now take pleasure at watching celebrities (and possibly even normal people too, were we able to access it) throw their lives away in self-destructive binges of insane madness, right in front of us, in Real Time, rather than shaking our heads or cackling (depending on our feelings toward the person involved) when we hear about it the next day.
It’s one thing to slow down and gawk at a traffic accident. It’s another to gleefully watch a person wander obliviously into oncoming cars. Most of us don’t want to think of ourselves as the kind of person who would do the latter. But maybe we are.
When I heard about this live webcast, I was wasting a Saturday evening anyhow, so I immediately clicked on the link.
So did seemingly everyone else on the internet. I got up and running and the number of viewers was already above 50,000. Over the next ten minutes, while Sheen stumbled through  introductions, offered congratulations to ‘winners’ everywhere (“Winners”, by the way, is a term that referred to successful people when I was small, was used sarcastically to refer to dumb people — ie, “yeah, she’s a real winner” — for several years, and now apparently refers to successful people again. I feel privileged to have witnessed the full cycle.) and smoked at least two cigarettes while swigging from an unlabeled bottle, that number grew to more than 125,000.
Then, about two minutes after I called for my girlfriend to come watch figuring the craziness was just around the corner, I realized that it wasn’t — it wasn’t even on the horizon — and I got bored.
So I started watching other people getting bored, too, in real time — all of us turning on the saga that had hours ago collectively enthralled us faster than any event in online star-making history.  I doubt even Sheen, in the most self-hating depths of his depressive side, would imagine we would collectively bolt this fast. I mean, this had pretty much gripped most of a the continent for two weeks, at the same time as Arabs were crying for democracy on the other side of the world. God, we really are an awful continent, aren’t we? That’s pretty terrible.
Anyway, we were all watching the same thing, and we were all watching one another stop watching. At least I was. The counter refreshed every couple of seconds, and Sheen was hemorrhaging viewers. 117,000, 116,600, 115,900, 115,341, 113,917 … Is this what it looks like when your five minutes are up?
Was anyone relaying the numbers to Sheen, now lurching and reeling his way through giving a ‘Winning’ award to an old lady who had reached out to tell him, he said, that his approach to life had allowed her to reclaim her youth and vitality? (He grabbed an eagle carving from his desk and awarded her the prize as a sidekick took a Polaroid.)
Did he know that, less than 17 minutes into this thing, he had already peaked and was now rolling downhill, gathering steam like a giant snowball of suck? (Probably, since he would say the next day that the webcast was ‘treason’ and would improve for, yep … next time.)
And why is a man who ‘wins’ every minute of every day spending his Saturday night in a dull wood-panelled room, hosting a poorly-lit webcast, with two chumps and a somewhat nasty-looking porn star applauding his every fractured sentence? Even my night was better than that, at least until I turned this thing on.
Were other celebrities watching this, seeing the numbers fall and the relevance fade and taking mental notes not to screw with the producers of their sitcoms and movies? Were they struck, watching this, by just how much the medium makes the man and just how large and impervious to this kind of embarrassment a bland, overproduced network laugh track can make you?
Charlie Sheen is spending his Saturday night trying to prove to the world that being a celebrity can be reduced to a couple of catchphrases, a je-ne-sais-quoi madness, a willingness to act like you are on drugs even when you are sober and a good marketing plan. That celebrity can create its own platforms, and not the other way around. And that celebrity superstardom, once attained, is durable, despite the opposite appearing to be true. He was “winning” for two days, which is kind of like awarding a baseball team the World Series after a strong Spring Training. He is now “losing”, at least tonight, and probably the foreseeable future. It’s much harder to make water flow uphill again, once it has started trickling down.
This, I had argued, was meta-art so deep as to be sublime. It seemed so mad that it had to be calculated. So well-orchestrated and precision-timed — the rumours, followed by hospitalization, followed by claims of sobriety, followed by less-than-sober seeming behaviour, than a show cancellation, half-mad interviews buttressed with negative drug tests, a flurry of memes that exploded just before what had to have been a well-planned debut on Twitter, which is the online equivalent of inviting the media to just hang out in front of your house with a mic on 24/7 in case you have anything interesting to say — that it couldn’t have possibly been a sad and desperate coincidence. And now, that’s what it looks like.
The number of viewers of Charlie Sheen’s webcast is down to less than 100,000 and it is still falling. The show has not gotten any more interesting. If this was indeed part of the well-orchestrated playbook I wanted so badly to believe existed, it’s an awful call and the coordinator should be fired. This move, if it was at all calculated, is the celebrity equivalent of taking a knee three times on the opponent’s 5-yard-line, and then missing the field goal on fourth down.
I did not want to believe that Sheen was simply careening from one opportunity to the next, spinning whatever insights his drug-addled mind was capable of producing into the Profound Truths of a Level Nine Warlock. But maybe that’s all it is. Maybe Sheen is an opportunist who foolishly went all-in, and somehow doubled up, so now he’s playing every hand as if it were the same lucky aces he just used to cash in, and nobody is man enough to tell him to step away from the table.
Whatever he is, he is no longer an actor on television’s highest-rated comedy and he sure as hell is not any sort of live radio or television host. Now he is just another train wreck, and less than 75,000 people are watching. The numbers are still falling.
A friend of mine compared Charlie Sheen to Hunter S. Thompson a couple of days into this saga, and on the surface there are similarities. Substance abuse, obviously. A strange spoken eloquence. Dramatic adventures, whether real or imagined. A cathartic need to expose the public to the lifestyle they believe it lacks — full of risks, indulgence and self-importance — and to give them the sense that there are greater existences out there, like theirs, that exist for us to reach for, but are too dangerous to actually touch.
Underneath the veneer, however, the two are nothing at all alike. Hunter S. Thompson was a man of passionate beliefs and fiery political stances and staunch convictions. Charlie Sheen is passionate about nothing so much as Charlie Sheen.
Sheen — now live on the internet wearing a shirt with a dollar sign, an ugly fedora and a mumbling behind a cigarette — is playing Johnny Depp playing Hunter S. Thompson. He’s a facsimile of a facsimile — pallid and ghostly; stretched thin, like butter over too much bread, and not nearly deep or compelling or entertaining enough to warrant anybody’s attention as soon as the volume drops below 11. A one-trick pony who will only perform in his own decrepit circus.
I wonder if Martin Sheen is watching this right now? Soon, he might be the only one.

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Filed under Endtimes, Entertainment, Geekdom, Life Lessons, Media, Random Stuff, Stupid And Amusing

Stupid Wars:NHL All-Star Game vs. Sarah Palin

This is a new theme here, in which we compare two brutally idiotic things that are in the news at the same time, in a most likely misguided attempt to determine which one is, in fact, stupider and deserving of our scorn.

Today, it’s a thoroughly meaningless hockey game taking on an evil, power-hungry and mind-numbingly retarded (though some might say it’s willful ignorance) politician.

RELEVANCE

NHL All-Star Game: The NHL All-Star Game is not relevant, and has not been relevant for years. This year, in an attempt to change that, the ‘captains’ of the All-Star teams, chosen by the NHL in some process that doesn’t matter, won’t be revealed and sucks goat ass, will pick their teams, street-hockey style. They will pick from a list of 42 players the NHL has selected as all-stars. This is, supposedly, a great way to kindle fan interest, because everyone loves fantasy hockey. In reality, however, people enjoy fantasy hockey because it’s THEM picking the players, not some millionaire the NHL has decided is a captain. Anyway, it’s stupid; the players will pick their friends and teammates; the game will still be played at half speed and nobody will throw a body check.

Sarah Palin: She’s as relevant as ever. That is to say, she’s extremely relevant to about a third of Americans, relevant in a repugnant way to a little over another third, and in keeping with American tradition, pretty much a nonentity to a clueless 28% or so. Her relevance today, however, is based upon that dude who shot the politician in the head. Many people would like that to be Sarah Palin’s fault. For my part, I hope to God that it somehow really is, but doubt we can lay the mountain of blame at her doorstep because, well, Sarah Palin did not shoot that politician in the head. This fact does not mean she did nothing to contribute to the heated level of rhetoric that led to it, just that the person responsible is the dude who pulled the trigger. But she’s not here because of the blame, she’s here because of the manner in which she defended herself:

Within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

Sarah Palin continues

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently … But when was it less heated? Back in those ‘calm days’ when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols?

Wow. That’s tragically stupid. Relevant? Very. So Palin wins this round. But earth-shatteringly dense.

DUMBNESS

NHL All-Star Game: Of the 42-player list mentioned above, the Maple Leafs have one representative. So do the Detroit Red Wings. I don’t say this to complain, because as a Wings fan I would much rather see Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Jimmy Howard and Niklas Kronwall get some rest. And hell, if the NHL wants to make Phil Kessel an all-star so that Brian Burke takes a little less heat for the worst NHL trade of the last few years, that’s cool, too. It is devastatingly brain dead of the league to imply that this roster includes all the stars. Especially when the league tacitly admits it listens to requests from teams to avoid selecting certain players. All this for a game nobody cares about or exerts any effort in an attempt to win.

Sarah Palin: See quote above. We’re comparing the current political climate to the Burr-Hamilton duel? Were there really no ‘calm days’ in the TWO HUNDRED AND SIX FUCKING YEARS between that duel and the current political climate?! God, I don’t know if I can finish this post. Writing about her makes me want to break my blog.

Winner? Sarah Palin, because she’s just so fucking dumb. And I hate the NHL All-Star Game, but dumb is dumb. Now fuck this game. This wasn’t a fair fight.

CONCLUSION

We only needed two categories. And really, we didn’t even need those. I will continue to insult that idiotic, discourse-destroying bitch in about 100 words, but can I have a moment here? Thanks.

  • I used to write about politics in this space with regularity. A while ago, I stopped. I didn’t stop because some of the hockey fans didn’t agree with me. I didn’t stop because the election ended and it got boring. It sure as hell did not get boring. I didn’t stop because the aftermath of Obama’s victory was less thrilling than the historical campaign, though that is certainly true. I stopped because it became very difficult to critique a contest that eschewed any attempt at nuance or subtlety. It’s difficult to judge a debate that turns into a screaming match. And English teacher attempting it would just fail both debate teams, or simply throw up his hands and leave the room. I guess that’s what I did. And even now, it feels like it was the right decision. I don’t entirely approve of everything the Obama administration is doing in the United States. I don’t entirely disapprove of everything Stephen Harper is doing in Canada. But the trenches have been dug so deeply it would feel like treason to openly discuss it. And that, more than anything else, is the great evil that seems destined to be Sarah Palin’s legacy.

And aside from all that, she’s a fucking cunt, and I only wish she could run in a race against Hillary Clinton one day, so that there would be no sexism defence when her smarts are openly questioned and her qualifications torn to shreds and tossed like confetti to the floor in front of her. Preferably on national television, and definitely while I am watching, drunk.

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Filed under Endtimes, Hockey!, Media, Politics, Sports, Stupid Wars

How many rivers we’ve crossed…

I don’t have much time to post today. Indeed, in keeping with the pattern of the last couple of years, the instant I get into a routine that affords me time to sit down and write for free, things change and forces conspire to keep me on my toes.

But … a promise is a promise, and I saw this video this morning and, well, if you’re sad or tired or depressed, all of the above, or even just a well-adjusted human enjoying a morning perusal of obscure blogs written by people you know, it will move you.

I spent years of my life not travelling much further than the next province over, and it’s only in the last few years that I’ve found the urge to sacrifice savings and comfort and routine for visits to unfamiliar places. I’ve been the sedentary creature humanity sometimes evolves into when all of our basic needs are well seen to and no threats loom at the gates. It got boring. It took awhile, but it did. Maybe it always does.

Anyway, this is a fan-made NASA commercial and it’s far more effective than anything the space agency has produced in recent years. I like it. It’s awesome. It made me want to recycle and book a plane flight at the same time.

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Some comforting words…

… from a man who looks like this, basically all the time:

Just ease up a bit guys, okay?

When that dude is telling you you’re being too hard on someone, you’ve probably gone overboard with the whole criticism thing.

Mike Babcock is the sort of coach who has, on more than one occasion, called a timeout, brought his team over to the bench and then stared angrily at them for all 60 seconds without saying a damn word.

He spends summers hunting rare and possibly endangered animals. He’s in a class of three professional athletes, along with Dave Stewart and Mark Messier, know for something called The Death Stare.

If one performs a Google image search for “Mike Babcock”, one quickly finds that the ratio of angry:smiling pictures of him is about 9:1. Of those pictures that fall into the ’1′, about 90% of those feature him hoisting the Stanley Cup.

So yes, if he tells you you’re being overly critical and you need to loosen up about something — particularly when that something has to do with hockey — you’ve probably gone off the proverbial deep end.

“I don’t believe 18-, 19-year-old kids should feel as if they let the country down. That silver medal is a heck of an accomplishment. That medal means you gave yourself an opportunity. It’s so easy to be on the bandwagon of bashing.”

He’s unhappy at the whole ‘choke artists’, ‘epic failure’, ‘bunch of bums’ mentality that’s been directed towards the second-best group of junior hockey players in the entire world. And he’s absolutely fucking right to call everyone out.

If Babcock’s Canadian Olympic team had choked in the gold-medal game in Vancouver last year, I wouldn’t mind the inevitable ‘national disgrace’ headlines so much. I mean, I might pull one of those keep-it-in-perspective-nobody-fucking-died things that journalists everywhere tend to run with when everyone’s covering the same story to such an extent that covering the coverage is an acceptable use of column inches.

But I really wouldn’t care. If Iginla and Luongo and Crosby and those guys had to take some heavy lumps in the press? Whatever. They can cry themselves to sleep for a couple of nights on impossibly expensive sheets with an an insanely high thread count, then charter a flight back to their NHL city. They’d be devastated, sure, but after losing in Cup finals and making millions doing it, I expect them to have thicker skin.

These kids, though? I mean, put yourself in their shoes. Whatever it was you did best at the age of 18, imagine being considered one of the best youngsters in the world at it. Now imagine, at the same age, being asked to prove it in front of millions with little margin for error and heaps of scorn awaiting any vague whiff of failure.

And then imagine succeeding to the point where you come within a hair of being the very best in the entire world, but falling short and settling for second place … and still finding yourself berated as though you’d never even sniffed victory.

So thanks, Mike Babcock, for at least trying to remind some of us that they’re fucking kids. And they won a fucking silver medal. Now let them go and do their thing in junior for a while.

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Filed under Blatant Homerism, Hockey!, Life Lessons, Media, Quotes, Red Wings

Psyche-d out

Why yes, I am kind of depressed today. How did you know?

 

Oh. Right.

 

 

I have resolved countless times in my adult life not to let the number of times a round ball or black oval enters or does not enter a metal-and-twine contraption determine my mood. But my resolution this year (a New Year’s Resolution too, not just a random I-ain’t-gonna-do-that promise; something I can feel guilty about breaking) was to absolutely let it bother me. Why the hell should I be ashamed of emotions generated by things that don’t have a direct impact on my life? Wouldn’t that be the same as resolving never to be moved by a song, or brought to tears by the ending of a good movie?

Like most of us, I yearn to be a part of a collective experience. It’s why I haven’t thrown up my hands and gone to live in isolation on my farm, growing my own fresh vegetables and scraggly beards and aiming shotguns at any of them outsiders who dare to trespass. So who cares if it’s because of a trivial sporting competition (note to non-sports readers: Do not refer to international hockey championships as ‘trivial sporting competitions’; I can do it because, clearly, I care; you’ll just sound like a jerk) that 75% of the country will be walking around today looking like somebody kicked their puppy?

I will just enjoy the experience of being grumpy for the same reason everybody else is grumpy.

This is not a feeling to be taken for granted, this idea that the cause of your bad mood is also the cause of (most) everyone else’s bad mood. How often does this really happen?

I can think of a couple of obvious ones: The weather, which is both too regular and transient of an occurrence to have much of an impact; and national (bad) news events, like when a plane smashes into a building say, or Rob Ford wins an election.

And even then, in the latter case, someone’s usually pretty happy about it. In the former case, while I’m being something of a jackass making the comparison, so I’ll stop here. But an embarrassing national hockey collapse? Yeah, we’re pretty much all varying degrees of sad up here today.

But it’s cool. That means I’m one of the bunch. For so much of the year, there are days when I’m ecstatic because a team from Detroit beat a team from San Jose in a game that started at 10:30 p.m. and ended at 1 a.m. … and nobody gives a shit. Or on a Monday or Tuesday morning, when my pretend collection of football players has either triumphed over or fallen to another pretend group of football players … and there aren’t even another fifteen people in the world who know it’s happened. And there aren’t three of those fifteen who really care.

So, yes, I am happy that this is one of those times when the same thing that upsets my strange and delicate sports-fan psyche is also upsetting people with more “normal” equilibriums. It’s a shame we can’t all be in a good mood today for the same reason, but I’ll take what I can get.

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