Jul 30 2009

Hello world, meet Maya

Published by Ari under blog

As of 1:30am last night, I’m no longer just a father, I’m also an uncle and Rachel is an aunt, and Sasha has a younger cousin. My younger brother’s wife gave birth to a little girl last night, after 18 hours of labor. Her name is Maya Nicole Berman. She is 6lbs 10oz, and 19.5″ long. We’re so excited for them, as parenthood has been a remarkably rewarding experience for Rachel and I. I can’t wait to meet her and to introduce her to her older cousin. Here’s the cell phone picture that was sent this morning:

Maya Angel Berman

Maya Nicole Berman

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Jul 28 2009

Good quote

Published by Ari under blog

I came across this quote today:

“Life is a comedy for those who think… and a tragedy for those who feel.” – Horace Walpole

My question is this: what happens to those caught in the middle of thinking and feeling like me? Is life a tragic comedy?

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Jul 14 2009

Strange Dream

Published by Ari under blog

I woke up yesterday morning after having a really odd dream. I was standing in some mythical location that looked a lot like the bay area, except that there was a lot less city, the surroundings were a lot more tropical, and there were way more craggy rocks around the Golden Gate. Oh, and there wasn’t a bridge there. Anyway, I was standing on the shore opposite the Golden Gate (essentially in Oakland) with Rachel and Sasha and we were looking out over the water towards the ocean. The sun was setting, it was beautiful. Out of nowhere, the space shuttle took off from the middle of the bay and started to climb up in the air. After a few seconds of climbing into the air, the shuttle unfurled a number of old Spanish armada-style sails out of the top of its hull. This all seemed perfectly normal to me. It made perfect sense that the launching space shuttle, which was launching straight off of the water in the middle of a bay that doesn’t exist, would unfurl some sails to help it on its way into orbit. Obviously.

After a few more seconds of sail powered vertical ascent, something very bad happened with the shuttle. It started to tilt in the direction of the sails (downdrafts?), and then the massive plume of fire and smoke coming from its thrusters shut off all together. The shuttle then dropped like a lead brick back to Earth and exploded the instant it came into contact with the water, sending out this massive shockwave that moved very quickly towards us. I had just enough time to throw Rachel and Sasha to the ground before I felt the shockwave approaching and promptly woke up.

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Jul 10 2009

New blog: Newton’s Concussion

Published by Ari under blog

Once again, my personal blog time has been reduced to zero. This has mainly been due to the fact that my postdoctoral fellowship is drawing to an end on Nov 1. As such, I’m frantically looking for a new job, something that is always difficult to do in science, and something that is especially difficult right now under our current economic condition.

Anyway, I decided to start a more professional blog, both to improve my professional visibility online and because the maintenance of the new blog will help me in a lot of ways and will provide a unique place on the web for multi-discplinary science discussion. The name of the blog is Newton’s Concussion. As I alluded to, I plan to review a new scientific article or finding every week and to have a discussion on the topic at hand in the comments of the blog. Since the blog will cover a wide range of scientific disciplines, each review will be very basic and will have ample background information so that most people can follow the review. I’m really excited about it, and I hope others will enjoy the content. So, whether you’re a closet science geek, or just want to learn something new, go check it out at http://www.newtonsconcussion.com. Please register so that you can comment on the articles. I really want a good discussion to come from each article. Enjoy!

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May 04 2009

A letter to Sasha

Published by Ari under blog

Dear Sasha,

I’ve been wanting to write you this letter for a long time now. I’ve heard of other dads doing it, giving their children some small peek into their past to a time that they couldn’t possibly remember. There are few things that I want to tell you while you’re still a baby that I won’t be able to say as well when you’re older, so that’s why I’m writing this.

By the time you read this letter and understand what it all means, we’ll all be older, maybe a little wiser, and hopefully just as close to each other as we are now. Sasha, you are the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. You are my light, you bring nothing but joy and love to my heart, you make each day better than the rest, and I can’t wait to come home to see your smiling face and to be with you and play with you. I wish I could bottle this feeling and hand it to you with this letter, but the letter alone will have to do.

As I write this letter to you, you’ve just turned one year old, and I can honestly say that this has been one crazy year! The year started with your amazing arrival on April 20, 2008 at 10:01am. Your mom worked so hard all night long to get you out, and then, there you were, as healthy and happy as a newborn baby could possibly be. It was an interesting experience for me, seeing you born. The second your little head popped out, a world of possibilities opened up and I asked myself, “What did we get ourselves into?!” What happened next was something that I’d heard of, but never expected. The second you were all the way out, you immediately lifted your head up, looked straight at me and started to cry. In that instant, I experienced an onslaught of emotion that I wasn’t prepared for. I fell instantly head-over-heels in love with you and knew immediately that I would do anything for you. And then, you were handed to your mom. You were so beautiful and perfect, even the doctor and the nurses were talking about how perfect and alert you were. I cried, I couldn’t help it, there was just too much emotion to hold back, so it came out, along with your name, Sasha. We were torn between Ellie and Sasha, but when we saw you, you were obviously a Sasha. You were awake and alert and staring at everything for the next few hours, which is a lot for a newborn. Most babies are only awake for 45 minutes or so, so this was a treat to see you awake for so long. Grannie Annie was in the room already and Grandma Nancy was on the bus from the airport, I left to get her and you were still awake when I got back. So, she got to see you within about an hour of your birth (after you’d been cleaned up and tested for everything). We spent the next two days in the hospital with you, learning everything there was to know about taking care of a new baby (because we had no clue how to do it). All of our friends came by to celebrate your arrival by throwing a huge margarita party in our room (I’m sure you’ll see the pictures, it was pretty amazing). We were also trying to recover from the 18 hour day that lead up to your birth, and trying to get ready for being awake every 2 hours for the next four months with you.

I’ll never forget that week. Our lives were forever changed and you became the first of the next generation of Bermans/Schillers. Over the next weeks and months, you grew so fast, you learned a lot of new tricks, traveled all over the world (you were always great on airplanes), and before we knew it, five months had passed and it was time for mom to go back to work. At the time, we didn’t have enough money to pay for daycare or a nanny, so, since my job was really flexible, mom started working in the mornings, and I went to work after lunch and worked into the night. That schedule was really hard on me, but it had an amazing benefit: I got to spend a lot of time with you. Most dads don’t get that chance, and, because of that schedule, you and I developed a special bond. You’re almost as comfortable with me as you are with your mom, and that is something that is very rare, and something I will always treasure. I know that this schedule can’t last for much longer, and I’m really going to miss spending those mornings with you, but I will always treasure those moments. We played together, we laughed and sung together, we read books, chased each other around the house, took Izzy on walks, went for runs together, and really enjoyed each other’s company. I’ll definitely miss those times, but I know that there are many special times ahead and that you’ll just keep getting more amazing as time goes by.

Now, as you are just over one year old, you’re walking (more like running) all over the house, you’re talking all the time, sometimes with real words, sometimes with your own cute language, and you understand a lot of what we say and do. Right now, you think that everything is a doggie. Dogs, bears, cats, flowers, trees, and even mommy sometimes. It is so cute. You love water. You love to drink it, you love to look at it, you love to play in it. You call it wawa, but you always call it the right thing. The thing you probably love more than anything else though, is books. You LOVE reading books. You always want us to read to you. You bring us books any time and get mad at us when we don’t want to read them. But, you usually just sit down and try to read them to yourself. And, you just keep getting more and more beautiful with each passing day. You’ve passed out of the weird alien baby stage and into the little kid stage. Every day you look and act more like a kid than a baby, and it is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. You are so smart, so sweet and loving, and the most special and treasured thing in my life. You’re my little girl, and I can’t tell you how amazing that is.

Well, Sasha, I hope you read this and understand how special you are to both your mommy and I, and that you get an idea of just how much we love and adore you. No matter how hard things get in the future, no matter how mad at me you get sometimes, no matter how much you think I’m just your dorky dad who embarrasses you in front of your friends, just know that I would do anything for you and that I will always love you more than life itself. I want nothing more for you than to grow up happy, healthy, fulfilled, and to be a good person. Hopefully, you’ll love us as much as we love you, but as long as you are happy, it doesn’t matter. I love you so much Sasha! You’ll always be my little girl, and I’ll always cuddle with you whenever you want to. I hope you’ve loved your life up until now, because we’ve loved having you in ours. You’re the best, thanks for blessing us with your presence in our lives. We will never be the same, and we are better for having you here. You’re awesome!

Love Always,


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Apr 15 2009

I think she’s walking!

Published by Ari under blog

I hate to be the poster of only Sasha news, posted in infrequent bursts of blog goodness, but I’ve been crazy busy and fighting migraines for the last several weeks. In the mean time, Sasha has basically begun to walk. It isn’t her primary mode of transportation yet, but she’s very close to switching over, and she’ll be 1 year old on Tuesday!! That’s a lot of craziness in one sentence. Anyhow, here’s a video of her taking her steps:


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Mar 23 2009

Do the Sasha two-step

Published by Ari under blog

We are quickly approaching Sasha’s one-year birthday, which is the most insane thing that I can think of. I feel like she just got here, but she is quickly turning into a sweet little girl, as opposed to a cute alien blob thing that we love a lot. She is most definitely on the move and can crawl almost as fast and I can walk behind her. Occasionally, she’ll be sitting there playing with something and then suddenly decide that it is time to go somewhere else, and, with an excited yell and a could of dust, takes off down the hall as fast as she can. It is super-cute (but then, anything your own child does is super-cute, with a few exceptions).

Anyway, her development continues at an alarming rate. Her latest tricks are as follows:

  • She loves clapping, and will do it any time she remembers that she can
  • She now has two teeth, and we think more are very close behind
  • She will wave bye-bye after a few minutes of pre-processing that we’re telling her to wave bye-bye
  • She furniture-walks like a pro and can traverse most of the living room on foot by going from furniture to furniture
  • When she’s not distracted, she can stand on her own for quite some time, but it is usually short-lived because she almost always sees something on the floor that she wants in her mouth and sits down to go after it.
  • She loves to feed herself and will eat almost anything, even the foods she doesn’t like, if she can feed it to herself.
  • She also wants to eat absolutely everything that Rachel and I are eating, whether she’s hungry or not, and she makes a big stink about it too. She’s very expressive.
  • And, finally, the pieste de resististance, SHE TOOK TWO STEPS ON HER OWN YESTERDAY!!

That’s right, she took her first steps on her own yesterday and both Rachel and I were there to see it. It was pretty incredible, actually, and we were all really excited about it. The sad thing is that we couldn’t reproduce it, and, in fact, can’t even get her to stand up since then. But, she’s going to walk any time now. She’s so close and is realizing that it is a lot faster and easier to be on foot than crawling. We’re excited about it, though most people tell us that we shouldn’t be.

Fatherhood continues to be an amazing and fulfilling experience. I want to be around her all the time and cherish every second I get to spend with her. I know, I’m screwed. She’ll be able to get me to do anything she wants me to when she gets older. Oh well, as long as I admit to it now, it’ll be fine. :)

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Mar 19 2009


Published by Ari under blog

I’m alive and continue to exist on the left coast. I’m sure you knew that already, but I’m not sure my blog knew that. So, I felt the need to inform my blog that I’m alive and haven’t dropped off the face of the planet, entirely.

Me: Blog, I’m alive

Blog: Good to know. I was feeling neglected.

Me: I think about you all the time

Blog: I know you’ve been cheating on me with Twitter! You twit!

Me: I, um…. stammer, stammer, kick the dust gingerly…. um….

Blog: Don’t deny it, I have RSS just like everyone else.

Me: This isn’t what it looks like. I can explain!

Blog: Go explain it to someone who cares.

Me: I love you.

Blog: Really?

Me: Only on Tuesdays.


And, now that we’ve accomplished that randomness, I’ll return to you to your regularly scheduled reality.

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Feb 25 2009

Immune system failure

Published by Ari under blog

It seems that I’m sick again, which is amazing because I’ve been sick more times in the last 10 months than in the prior five years combined. The 10 month time point coincides almost perfectly with Sasha’s arrival into our lives. Kids are great at picking up any germ they come in contact with, amplifying it, and then spreading it throughout their household. Though, for some reason, I’m the only one who gets the illnesses. Rachel somehow has a Matrix immune system and is never sick. I’m jealous.

Anyway, this latest bought seems to have occurred like this. I had a massive allergy attack for a few days, but being that I never have allergy attacks anymore and I just got back from a ski trip, I wasn’t sure if it was a cold or allergies. So, I did what any good citizen would do and ignored it. The allergy attack (due to oodles of blooming trees around the bay area, thanks to all of our rain) turned into a full blown sinus infection. The sinus infection, which weakened my immune system, allowed me to pick up the flu, which I think I just got over since my achiness is gone and I’m starting to feel like I have energy again (or it could be the Advil). Anyway, I took a sick day yesterday, which was a good call since I had the concentration ability of a dead ant, and it kept me from infecting the rest of my lab, which was also good (and a courtesy that they don’t often return).

So, I’m starting to wonder if I’ve consigned myself to a lifetime of getting sick by having a child. This may, in fact, be my reality for the next few years, but I’m sure things will improve once Sasha has a fully developed immune system.

I’ve also been pushing myself pretty hard over the last few months, trying to wrap up a few things at work. I always get sick when I push myself too hard, which forces me to rest, but not in a relaxing I’m-glad-I-rested-today kind of way. But more of an I’m-glad-I-rested-today-because-my-head-would-have-imploded-and-I-would-have-been-resting-for-a-long-time kind of way. Forced rest is never the right kind of rest. Maybe I should take more relaxing vacations. Anyway, I’m on the mend, but I’m getting very tired of getting sick.

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Feb 20 2009

Winter Park 2009

Published by Ari under blog

Well, I didn’t manage to post much while I was skiing, but that was mostly because we were skiing like maniacs! The skill level of the group of eight guys we had together this year ranked in the high-intermediate to expert category, which meant that we could ski some of the more interesting terrain that Winter Park has to offer, and not have to wait for a long time for everyone to meet up after the run. The combination of skill level with the drive to satisfy our collective skiing itch for the year (for most of us) led us to, by far, the most epic ski vacation I’ve ever had the privilege to experience at, what is still, my favorite place to ski in North America, Winter Park, Colorado (of course I’m a little biased having grown up skiing there).

We arrived in Denver late on Thursday night, grabbed the rental car, and headed up to the resort to check in and try to get some sleep before heading out for our first day of skiing the next day. The drive up was mostly fine, but it started snowing almost as soon as we got into the mountains, which, of course, made us very happy. However, the snow and ice made the drive over Berthoud pass slow going, especially in a minivan. But, we made it to the Iron Horse Resort and checked in, got into our rooms, unpacked the groceries that my friend Ken so kindly picked up for us, and finally got to sleep at around 1:30am. The next morning, we woke up, started breakfast, packed our lunches, got the rental crew over to the rental shop, and were ready to hit the lift by just a few minutes after it opened at 9:10am or so. We were very psyched because the mountain had received six inches of fresh powder the night before, and it was still snowing. I was particularly excited because Ken would finally get to experience the legendary Colorado powder, instead of the heavy and unpredictable California cement. We were sure that this was going to be en epic day.

Now, prior to the trip, my brother Ben had asked me to make up a run plan for our three days of skiing. I originally thought this was a silly idea, since I know Winter Park so well that I usually just take the group to the places that I feel like skiing and it usually works out well. But, being the anal scientist type that loves the opportunity to plan what ever I can in advance, I ended up making a run plan after all. It was ambitious. An average of 15 runs/day and a grand tour of the entire Winter Park resort at all skill levels. So, we set out to make the run plan happen. We started slowly, on one of our favorite blue runs at Winter Park, Cranmer. The first time down was a warm-up, the second was a bomber run to really get our ski legs back under us, then we headed off to the rest of the mountain. We were hitting moguls by the fourth run and were heading up to the bowl by the sixth run. By the time we decided that we were hungry enough for lunch, we had exceeded the morning’s plan of seven runs by two, totaling nine runs for the morning. After lunch, we headed back up the bowl to continue with my plan, only to decide to deviate from it to hit a black run called Belle Fourche, which is a tree run off of the backside of Parsenn Bowl. I had never skied that run because it is always closed due to the top part being covered by rocks. But, it was open today, so we had to try it. I can’t even describe in words how amazing that experience was. The top part of the run was just at timberline and descended into the forest through knee-deep fresh powder. Every now and then, we would burst out of the trees upon an open meadow filled with knee-deep, untouched powder that would ride like we were skiing on pillows. This run was pure bliss. It was difficult, because the whole run was in the trees, and it was moderately steep with of trees that were rather tightly packed. But, we all made it out of the run with huge smiles on our faces. We loved it and it is permanently on my list of must-hit runs at Winter Park. The only problem with it was the traverse out to the lift along the valley floor. The path was very flat and required a lot of pushing. It was especially difficult for the snowboarders in the group. But, they agreed that the push out was worth the effort since the run was so awesome. After that, we headed back to Mary Jane to do some black mogul runs. We finished up the day having done 20 runs, which exceeded the plan by four runs, a real accomplishment. We headed back into the lodge to rest our aching legs in the hot tubs and enjoy some great beer (that we used to wash down the Advil). That night we headed back to Idaho Springs to have legendary mountain pies at Beau Jo’s pizza. All kidding aside, this place serves some of the best pizza I’ve ever had and it is always a treat to go there. We slept well that night.

I’m not going to go into excruciating detail about the rest of the days, but I will say this. We continued at our blistering pace and pushed the limits of everyone’s abilities each day. Day two found us traversing the majority of Mary Jane, including two runs down Jeff’s Chute (a very narrow and steep (~60-70% grade) double-black run that requires you to ski out through a long field of moguls and jumps in order to get back to the base, but it is a total blast for those that can overcome their fear of heights), and parts of Winter Park and ending the day with 22 runs under our belts and more fresh snow for us to play in. And yes, we went back to Belle Fourche, twice. After some more hot tubs, beer, and hot chocolate and bailey’s, we headed out to get some alpine fondue at Gasthaus Eichler in downtown Winter Park. During this epic night of cheese consumption, Nick ordered a boot of beer. For those that don’t know, a boot is a 2 liter glass of beer in the shape of a cowboy boot totaling about 68oz of beer, or 4-1/4 pints. He finished it off like a pro! It was pretty impressive and I’m pretty sure there are pictures around to prove it.

Day three was equally epic and included a very balsy eight guys taking the skis and boards off to go for a one mile hike at 12,000ft to go ski the famed Vasquez Cirque, a head wall with at least a 60% grade and tons of knee deep powder. I was pleasantly surprised that the entire group chose to go. Some people thought they should go for the experience, but were convinced that they were going to die in the process. Others had never been there and thought it was a great opportunity to see what they were missing. Everyone had a blast getting down the headwall, and man, it is one hell of a rush to drop off of the cornice at the top and muscle your way to the bottom through the heavy powder, then run out into the tree line to wait for everyone else (the powder on that face was heavier than the powder that we had been blessed with on the other parts of the mountain, since the headwall was a sun-facing slope and was wide open, it being 1,000ft above timberline). Everyone made it down safely and had a blast doing it. The cherry on top was the very nice tree run to get out of the valley, which unfortunately ended up back at the long traverse that we encountered after Belle Fourche. But, we all got to the lift and welcomed the eight-minute ride back to the top to rest our bodies. The 30 minutes of high-altitude hiking in ski gear followed by the 2-mile ski-out had taken its toll on us. We were tired and ready for some lunch, so we headed down to the Mary Jane base to relax for a while. Then, since we only had three hours left to ski, we took off with a vengeance. Some of the group was just blasted and took some speed runs, while the rest of us took off on one of the longest black mogul run at the resort, Derailer, followed by one of my favorite runs, Retta’s Run, also a black run filled with moguls. I was really tired after that, so the next natural thing to do was head to the terrain parks and jump off of some 15 foot jumps for a while and to play around in the superpipe. After that, we went down Cranmer one more time, then headed over to our final lift up the mountain, which we managed catch with only 10 minutes until the lifts closed. We rode to the top, and had a toast led by Chris (who wore a helmet with bunny ears on it the whole time for the sheer awesomeness of it).

Following the toast, it was time for the naked run, and tradition started by Chris six years ago. It usually consists of Chris stripping some amount of clothing off, usually down to his boxers, and then performing the final run of the ski trip as nearly naked as is possible without breaking laws and scarring young children for life. All of us usually follow him down to watch the spectacle. This time, however, I joined in, and so did Ken and Nick. Ken and I stripped down to nothing but matching red spandex pants, while Chris was wearing only camouflage hot pants. Nick won the prize for wearing nothing but tighty-whities. We all got stripped down, our clothes packed into our backpacks which were handed to our support crew, and we headed off for our final run down the Mary Jane Trail. It was 22 degrees out, a little breezy, the sun was well on the opposite face of the mountain from this run, and the Mary Jane Trail is around 2.5 miles long and a fairly difficult blue run. Warmed by our toast with a shot of straight vodka, we took off down the run. I ski a lot slower when I’m almost naked (so that I don’t fall on my ass and get snow burn) but I was still faster than the others, so I stopped and waited for everyone to catch up so that all four of us could ski together to get the full effect of four guys skiing down the mountain in next to nothing in freezing temperatures. The effect of four guys skiing down the mountain nearly naked, one after the other, was as close to performance art as you can get while having a great time. We definitely got a lot of attention. Just about every person I saw going down the mountain was taking pictures or video of us and were cheering us on. Now, Chris and I did this same thing last year at Alpine Meadows in Lake Tahoe and got a lot of shock and awe out of it, since most people up there had never seen anything like this before (it was also nearly 20 degrees warmer). However, at Winter Park, this sort of thing happens all the time during the spring festival. So, in late April, it is not unusual to see people skiing down in their underwear in the Colorado Rockies. But, this was early February and it was most definitely NOT springtime. So, we got a lot of points for doing it out of season on the warmest of the last three days (which was still pretty cold). By the time we had skied to the back door of our condo, Ken and I were the same color red as our spandex, but we still weren’t that cold and felt surprisingly fine. It is amazing that the amount of endorphins released allows you not to get cold while doing this. In fact, once we stopped, a breeze picked up and it actually felt warm in comparison to the skiing-induced wind. Anyway, this was really fun and, after doing it twice now, I’m definitely in for all future ski trips.

That night we headed out to our favorite restaurant in Winter Park, the Untamed Steakhouse. We were especially excited because they had added a microbrewery to the establishment this year called the Wild Creek Brewery. The beer was excellent. The brew master at this place really knows his stuff and made some really enjoyable brews. Unfortunately, that was where our good impressions stopped. The meal was just not good for 80% of us. Ken and I had ordered Elk medallions, which sounded fantastic. To be sure, they tasted really good, but we each got two medallions that were a little larger than a quarter. It can’t have been more than 3oz of meat. It was kind of ridiculous, especially for a dish that cost $25, not to mention that we were starving from skiing our brains out all day long, and this $25 meal barely took the edge off. Most of the others ordered steaks that all came out either cold or over cooked or both, and it took over an hour for the food to get to the table. We were baffled because this place used to be phenomenal. I can’t state that strongly enough, it was one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, and all of the sudden it sucked. A lot. Apparently, the restaurant had changed managers two weeks prior to our arrival and he had decided to change a bunch of things around (why mess with a good thing?). None of the changes were good and I fear for the future of this place. Suffice it to say that we were so disappointed that we probably won’t be going back there in the future. We’ll have to find a new favorite place in Winter Park.

So, that was sad, but we weren’t about to let that spoil our last night. We stopped by the grocery, picked up some dessert, went back to the condo, cracked open some really great barleywine and ate German Chocolate cake. It was a great last night. We got all packed up, woke up at 6am, cooked breakfast, settled our accounts, and headed out to the airport to end our really fantastic trip. One of the guys on the trip said, “I’ll forever measure the success of future ski trips against this one.” He’s totally right. I’m not sure how we keep doing it, but every year seems to be more epic than the last, and this one was light-years ahead. So, thanks to everyone for coming along and making this trip awesome, and thank you universe for letting me go on a MUCH needed vacation. I feel much better! Until next year!

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