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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Galapagos Diary, Day Two: Morning on Española

The next morning we were up at 6 a.m. to see Española (Hood) Island at Punta Suarez. The guide for our group was Grace.

Animals spotted: Sea lions, blue-footed boobies, red-headed (lava) lizards, mockingbirds, pink iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs, albatrosses, gulls, Nazca boobies, heron, Galápagos doves in the rocks on the path, and finches – cactus, warbler, and small ground finches.

Española is one of the oldest of the islands at 3.5 million years old. [Thanks to Scott Hatfied for the correction.] A baby sea lion was asleep right next to the path onto which we disembarked. A booby sat on the park sign. A mockingbird landing in the sand near me and squawked repeatedly. On the beach, a sea lion came out of the water and launched itself at our group while barking aggressively, and Grace made us back off. (She really didn't have to instruct us in this!) It sniffed the sand where our footprints were, then plopped down right there and went to sleep, while the mockingbird circled on its thin legs and squawked the whole time.

The path was difficult to negotiate, all large, dark volcanic rocks. Even I had trouble.

On the path, while Grace spoke, a blue-footed booby (right, and below left) sat down next to her and stared at her, then watched each of us in turn as we passed. The finches, according to Grace, attack the abandoned Albatross eggs, rolling them against the pointed rocks until they crack.

At the cliffs, a mockingbird ate from an opened albatross egg while we watched, and then a lava lizard charged the bird and scared it off, though it did not go far, and ate of the egg, too. Grace said that she had never seen before, so she took photos.

I took this photograph (below, left) of a juvenile Nazca booby that is standing on a rock just feet from me.

On the panga back to the ship we see three sea lions playing with an obviously dead iguana. Later we learn that this is a routine hazard for marine iguanas - the sea lions don't mean anything by it.


Okay, Back to Serious Stuff

I'm spending too much time with that juvenile LOLcats. Well, I'm middle-aged, what do you expect? I need laughs in my decrepitude - especially considering how decrepit my sense of humor is, anyway.

I'm still reading The Extended Phenotype. By my bones, I had another weird dream about it. (I've been having lots of weird dreams, such as Christopher Hitchens not liking my photos of the trip, me finding albatross eggs in my work desk, etc.) And it's becoming more and more difficult to summarize a text that is written with such economy and clarity - you may as well try to summarize poetry! ;-) I'm working on it, though.

Plus I've had an idea for a scholarly paper that I want to submit to one of the library journals. And you know what that means: I've put it off this long, but I cannot delay or deny it any longer. Yes. STATISTICS! What fun!

Actually, it is quite fun. That and calculus I am determined to conquer. (And The Extended Phenotype. And getting my fiction published.)

How are you spending your summer?

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Galapagos Diary: An *Hic* Aside...

I'm skipping ahead a little in my account because this is a funny story.

After our travels in the Galapagos, we disembarked from the ship and flew from the island of Baltra to Guayaqil in Ecuador. I was depressed because we were beginning the trip back home and didn't feel like touring the city with a guide.

So Jo Ann and I took showers, fixed ourselves up and went to the bar. She ordered scotch on the rocks with a twist, and I ordered kahlua on the rocks.

A what seemed a long time, the waiter came back with only one glass, which he set in front of Jo Ann. We both stared at it quizzically. It looked rather like Kahlua, but more watery and it had a, well, twist. And indeed it did! Jo Ann asked the waiter, "What is this?" and he replied, "That's your scotch and kahlua on the rocks with a twist."

BLEAH! Scotch and kahlua? Okay, I was a cocktail waitress - and I've never heard of that one!

Yuck! Jo Ann corrected the waiter, who looked sheepish. Finally, we received our drinks and toasted our trip.

That hotel in Guayaquil was a strange place.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

LOL Creationists

We're having some fun over at After the Bar Closes.

UPDATED: Oooh! Ooh! I got it, Science Pundit!

PS: I'm not a traitor, just didn't want a creationist to get eaten alive in the LOLcats den! See? I'm a nice person!

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Ken Ham's Petting Zoo Opens to Shut Minds

SECOND UPDATE: Greg in the comments asks what I'm afraid of.

I'm afraid of ending up like this. And praising God for it. Poor thing. He needs help!

I don't want to sound like a snob but I don't think these losers have anything to teach me - except how not to end up. And I'll betcha they're thrilled by the Creation Museum [sic]. Got it?

Be afraid; be very afraid.
UPDATED: Boy oh boy, what a proud day today is for America! Ken Ham's Creation Museum opens on Memorial Day - the one day when we should not be engaging in deliberate collective denial about our past.

Even the fucking Iranians don't believe this shit!

Just unbelieveable.

Ken Ham spent millions of dollars on this crap? It looks like Thomas Kincaid tried his hand at sculpture. The best part of it is Eve's hair. Yes, I'm sure that they had Breck Girls back then in the Middle East! (UPDATED: Notice that Adam and Eve are white. Still white. Well, at least they're not blonde. Sheesh.)

Yeah, I know just how he feels.

NICE GOIN', AMERICA! Visit that huckster Ken Ham's Museum of Creationist Bullshit and make sure to BRING THE KIDS!

It can be said that on this day the United States of America became a fourth-world nation. Be proud.

Well, despite what that nefarious Ken Ham claims about the past, we definitely co-exist with dinosaurs today. That’s indisputable.

If you thought it appropriate in a John Waters fashion that a Liberty University student was arrested for schlepping bombs (and that’s bombs, not bongs) to Jerry Falwell’s funeral, ostensibly to let all God’s little tweety birds sing their eulogies in the place of Fred Phelps, who was protesting Falwell’s death (what does Phelps want, Falwell alive again?) , take a gander at the museum built by dinosaurs for dinosaurs.

It’s opening in Kentucky, mind you. Kentucky, where apparently they don't believe that Adam had a penis (this according to a reporter from Esquire who visited this pile of rubbish). This is the house that Ham built.

If you thought that the collapse of a fat-assed former calypso playboy in his office while he waited for the Rapture was the height in hilarity, remember these song lyrics:

My friend says we're like the dinosaurs
Only we are doing ourselves in
Much faster than they
Ever did
We'll make great pets!
We'll make great pets!
We'll make great pets!
We'll make great pets!

Lapdogs for Jesus! That’s what these people want to be. That’s what this “museum” is about –domestication. They don’t want scientists telling us that evolution reveals our nobel, wild, free past, because this 10,000 year-old experiment in our self-domestication will not be complete until we’ve done in the entire planet, too.

So sit up and beg, just like the poor, burdened dinosaurs at the Creation Museum in Kentucky – Kentucky, that bastion of science education. Put on your saddle and run around with your tongue hanging out. Maybe the Master will give you a bone, or maybe He’ll kick you, but never show disloyalty, because whatever it is, it's always your fault. Even if He's not there at all (in which case, tag after the biggest dog in the pet store).

And don’t run with the wolves!

Or read my short story based upon Ken Ham's Creation Museum.

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One More Thought on Falwell

I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!
-- Jerry Falwell, America Can Be Saved, 1979 pp. 52-53.

You should have prayed, Jerry. Dare I say it?:
Jerry Falwell is dead.
--The public schools
But don't let us forget what this man stood for!

The Jews are returning to their land of unbelief. They are spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior.-- Jerry Falwell, Listen, America!

If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being.-- Jerry Falwell
(attributed: source unknown)

Oh, this is just the warm-up act, people.

Now we hear from rotterers like Sean Hannity (a reliable source, he!) about "all the things that Jerry Falwell did for single mothers." Oh, yes, single mothers. I am waiting for the other Strom Thurmon shoe to drop, myself. I shudder to think of what he "gave to all the single mothers" - probably the same thing he allegedly "did for all of the AIDS sufferers."

Not that he wasn't picky, of course.

The true Negro does not want integration...He realizes his potential is far better among his own race...We see the hand of Moscow in the background...We see the Devil himself behind it...It will destroy our race eventually...In one northern city, a pastor friend of mine tells me that a couple of opposite race live next door to his church as man and wife ...It boils down to whether we are going to take God's Word as final. .-- Jerry Falwell

And of course this assumes that his family and friends have not already cleansed Falwell's legacy against any Strom Thurmon-like revelations, perhaps by throwing his papers into that "eternal flame" which fatuously bedecks that sissified, nauseating, cheap little monument that he built to himself to match his nauseating, cheap little life.

A lot of people are going to die because of the nonsense preached by this man.
--Christopher Hitchens

Excuse me while I don't shed a tear for the death of Jerry Falwell.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Galapagos Diary, Day One: Las Bachas, Santa Cruz

That afternoon, we landed at Las Bachas on the island of Santa Cruz. To the left are turtle nests. Below is an interesting intersection of tracks (iguana and I don't know what), and to the left, Josh Timonen films Richard, with Diego, one of the naturalists, in the foreground.

Here is a close-up of a portion of the organic beach, not yet pounded down into sand. Below we see the remains of the barges ("bachas") that give this harbor its name.

Basalt lava with seaweed.
Note: Many of my photos are now available at Flickr.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Galapagos Diary, Day One: Landing at Baltra

Just before the CFI (Center for Inquiry) Explorer's Club left Quito for the Galapagos Islands, we learn that our itinerary has been changed; instead of San Cristobel, we land at the small airport on Baltra, a small island close to Santa Cruz that once served as an American military base. At left, an iguana sat on the runway and stared at us as we entered the processing center.

Below left, sea lions are splayed on the dock at which we enter our small dinghy, or panga, for our ride out to the ship. Below is the view of the harbor in Baltra from our ship, the M/V Santa Cruz, and below right is taken from the ship looking at an illegal fishing boat that is being towed. Jo Ann, in the white, is my roommate, is sitting on the jaccuzi steps with Sue, who had it not been for some cancellations would have been my other roommate.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Note About Women Traveling Alone

There are the usual dangers for a woman traveling by herself: sexual attack, robbery, pick-pockets, uncomfortable stares and whistling from men, etc. On this Galapagos trip I traveled with a group of (mostly older) men and women, and felt quite safe. I have traveled absolutely alone (to Europe) and also had few problems. (Beware of fiends hassling women in the Rhein Valley.) Therefore, it is a sad fact that the most likely problem that the lone female traveler will encounter is loutish chauvinism and unwarranted suspicion from other Americans in our supposedly enlightened culture.

How ironic that we’re “exporting democracy to Iraq” when I have already had to put at least one of my own countrymen in his place at the airport about my conduct, which was blameless, aboard the ship. I will not have – repeat, I shall not tolerate – off-color accusations or jokes made toward me either in person or on this blog regarding my trip to the Galapagos. (I notice that such accusations and jokes are always directed toward the female and not the male alleged tango partner.) If anyone out there wants to make such accusations and jokes elsewhere, there’s little I can do about it, unless the blogger wishes to deal with them, or if they are defamatory, in which case be assured I shall take action. I will not have my family or anyone else’s hurt, and I have done nothing to do so.

It’s sad that I even feel the need to say this (and I know I don't have to say this to most of you), but frankly, I encountered this same set of assumptions and nudge-nudge-wink-winky from certain jerks when I went alone to Germany and Austria years ago – just before the first Iraq War, and I felt the same sense of irony about American attitudes toward women travelers while we were “liberating” the Kuwaitis, the majority of whom, men and women, still cannot vote.

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Galapagos Diary, Introduction: Quito

I must confess that while I have wanted to visit Peru for some time, I did not give Ecuador much thought. However, I have a sponsor child in Quito (and I didn't contact them - she's quite small and we were scheduled to the hilt, and she would not understand why I could not stay long), and I found Quito to be a fascinating and beautiful city.

Above is the view outside of Jo Ann's and my room. Below is the Iglesia de la Compana de Jesus. Yes, we saw a lot of churches. I love architecture of all kinds.

Unfortunately, I did not get to ride the trolley or visit the Gold Museum (a few of us were organizing a group to go) due to time. It's a pity, but I'll have to visit again sometime.

Below, Vaughn photographs Toni and a street musician performs.

Here we had lunch at Restaurant El Crater, perched along the edge of a caldera:

This is the garden overlooking a section of Quito, and below is the caldera itself, shrouded in mist that would quickly and briefly lift to reveal farms within the ring itself.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Origin of Species

UPDATED: For those of you who are confused by the "Burn Kristine she's a witch" meme by Rich(ard Hughes) at Pharyngula and at After the Bar Closes, all I can say is, it's a long story.

Now that evil warlock Richard Hughes has photoshopped my photo with the good Richard!

I shall marshall my forces, and all my sea horses, to take my revenge. Stay tuned.
I brought Origin of Species and Descent of Man to the island that was Darwin's favorite, James (Santiago) Island.

Okay, I'll start the Galapagos Diary soon and stop gloating, I promise! (Today was a hectic day at work for me, if that makes you feel any better.)

However, this comment from Russ made my day:

When one of my favorite bloggers shares a significant event, I often go over the relevant blog entries with my family. It's a great way to kick off non-trivial conversations with my two kids, daughter, 14 and son, 16. Earlier this evening, I rounded up the kids(my wife was at karate) at a computer to share your entries about your Galapagos trip. When I scrolled to the "Origin of Species" entry, my teen son and daughter, in unison, said, "Hey! Isn't that Richard Dawkins." It made me feel quite proud that they both recognized him, but to top it off, they both knew that he is an important evolutionary biologist.

Whether one chooses to call it gloating, in jest, or sharing, in earnest, I think is less important than the way it can raise our awareness to the world and the people around us. As a parent I don't always know if my efforts to guide my children toward a clear perspective on the state of the world are getting through. All too often I have to ask: am I wasting my time? Then, like a shot something simple, like their response to your blog entry, Kristine, has a deep calming effect on me. It puts my heart at ease to think they're catching on, they're getting it.

So, thank you, Kristine. As you continue sharing your recent experiences, who knows what manner of epiphany - yours and mine alike - awaits.

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Jerry Falwell Deconverted on Deathbed!

UPDATED: Am I a good witch or a bad witch? Well anyway, thanks for stopping by.
While I was in the Galapagos the Rev. Jerry Falwell, as you know, walked into the funhouse mirror. (If you’re a Cocteau fan, you get this).

I was on the slower of the ship library's two incredibly slow computers when I saw the news. With my characteristic retraint and decorum, I turned to Richard Dawkins who was seated nearby and blared, "Jerry Falwell is dead!" As I've said before, I can be rather demonstrative - I get excited - and I meant to register surprise, not joy. Richard, however, glanced up from his laptop and gave me an incredulous look of gentlemanly astonishment, but merely asked, “What did he die of?”

Well, by now I was dying (if you’ll pardon me) to find out, but that wretched computer was so slow that I started shaking my head and laughing in frustration. I wanted to answer Richard’s question (let’s be honest, I wanted to be the one to answer before anyone else did), and here I was, still waiting for AOL News to load as if it were Godot. Richard, misinterpreting my reaction, leaned forward and teased, “And you’re not sorry? You’re not a very nice girl, are you?” That did it – I just cracked up, and I must have blushed right down to my fingertips.

“I am sorry,” I insisted. “I mean, I’m sorry that he was who he was, that he spent his life in this meaningless pursuit of nothing, and that there was no awakening or resolution – ”

“Precisely,” said Richard. “Well, I heard that he deconverted on his deathbed.” We both chuckled, and at this point, someone entered the library and announced the news. “Yes, Kristine just told me,” Richard continued to prod me, “with tears in her eyes!”

Well, let me say that I did shed some tears later – not for the man, Jerry Falwell, but for the person that he could have been. How dare he outlive the people that I care about who thought he was so wonderful. How dare he prey on gullible people who cannot see how dangerous this nutjob was and remains even in death. How dare he polarize this nation in such a disgraceful manner and push creationism in our schools and paranoia in our society. How dare he condemn to hell - and he did do so - anyone, including people of faith, who didn't believe his cartoonish superstitions. How dare he tell lies to children! Sean Hannity notwithstanding, someday this nation's grandchildren will ask their grandparents what anyone could have seen in this repulsive huckster.

Later that night, I was at Richard’s table [Edit: now I think this was wrong; I had dinner at Richard's table on Sunday night, and Falwell died on Tuesday. My memory is waterlogged, but at any rate, I was somewhere with a group including Richard] when someone asked how Jerry Falwell died. And if there was one moment in my life when I was ready with a clever answer, this was it.

“He had an attack where his heart should have been,” I replied.

I think that’s as good a diagnosis as any.

UPDATED: People forget Falwell’s legacy, the Moral Majority, who opposed women’s rights and equality, child abuse laws, and universal sufferage, and advocated the death penalty for homosexuality, and burned books and records. Want me to shed crocodile tears for Falwell? Sorry! Watch this video if you think that I should - it will show you of the birth of Christian fascism in America. I always knew Falwell would die; he is the one who didn’t think that he would, but he thought he would be snatched into heaven in the Rapture. I knew death would come for Jerry Falwell, since it comes to us all. May it come to Falwell’s dreams as well! May Falwell's movement die with him!

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Home Again

I got home around 12:30 a.m. or so last night. I'll post photos when I can.

Of course I have piles of laundry, and I must go back to work tomorrow.

How strange to be home again with my honey and my cats, one splayed out like a sea lion as always and the other, the Daddy's girl, toddling after John with her penguin waddle. They came running and greeted me at the door last night like the sweeties they are.

While I was sick I had strange dreams about the replicators of another, alien organism taking over, like outlaw genes, the Congressional seats and the presidency and the Supreme Court - which is pretty much what has happened over the last decade.

Friday night I had a dream that I was in downtown Minneapolis in my work clothes, clinging to a craggy lava flow while waves crashed around me, and inching my way along trying to get to work, and thinking, "We really need to improve mass transit in this town."

Last night my dream was vaguely of brackish lagoons, but that's all I remember. I know that I've changed; I'll never see the world in quite the same way again.


P.S.: I did not get much reading done, except in The Extended Phenotype, which gave me that crazy dream.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

New Friend

Please welcome Omniscopic to the blogroll!


Monday, May 14, 2007

Estoy Infermo

Well! It sure is fun being sick! ;-)

Don´t worry, we think that the worst is over. About ten of us spent a nasty night.

Getting sick - truly ´following in the footsteps of Darwin´! Sorry, that´s the best I can do.

I´m still glad to be here.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

I Snorkeled for the First Time

Okay, now you all have to do what I say. ;-) (Yes, this means you too, Scotius.)

1. Visit Ecuador - beautiful faces, colonial architecture, narrow alleys, iron balconies, majestic volcanoes.
2. Visit the Galapagos - stark beauty of the volcanic beaches, sea lions who try to steal your shirt, boobies who scope you for a new girlfriend, mockingbirds that live up to their name, frigate birds who poop on your hat with a thunderous plop, finches that fly practically right over your head, iguanas crouching on a rock next to your knee (to look up your shorts, maybe?).
3. Go snorkeling.

Listen, I was the worst swimming student in the world and I´m hooked.

Tomorrow I hope to see sharks! (And I bet some people over at Uncommon Descent wish that I would, too!)

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Monday, May 07, 2007

I'm Off to the Galapagos Islands!

Well, here it is.

I always feel that a planned trip becomes real for me when I have to wet my hand and rub it all over by day pack to get rid of all the long black fur from my cat Twyla, who loves my day pack.

Paul Kurtz e-mailed us to say that, due to his heart surgery in March, he cannot make the trip. That's not a surprise, but it is too bad. Richard Dawkins is still coming, of course.

On this trip, as on every trip, I'm taking too many books. I'm taking the requisite Origin of Species, of course, and Galapagos, A Natural History, as well as How Brains Make Up Their Minds by Walter J. Freeman, so that I can finally answer Crandaddy's questions, and The Extended Phenotype, by Dawkins. I'll finally get to finish it.

Oh, and I received two A's this semester! Woot! I was sweating it, because getting an A and a B last time put me right at the edge of the requirement.

I don't expect to be able to blog and check e-mail while down there so be good, all of you. Good like me, that is!

Whatever that means!

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It's Not Just Me

If I get passionate (alright, that's understating it quite a bit) about the issues of science, science education, and ideology, Pat again explains succinctly why these concerns are so important. This is about the continuation of our republic as a secular, religiously neutral, civil government without religious tests or compulsion.

The problem with this particular response to fundamentalist attacks on evolution is that it fails to grasp the fact that creationism is just one facet of a larger movement. The Discovery Institute, which presents itself to the public as an intelligent design advocacy group, is just one of the black pieces on the fundamentalist chess board -- science and scientists but opposing pawns.

The broad fundamentalist movement of which Discovery is a part is financed by Christian Reconstructionist Howard Ahmanson. The network of far right politicians, think tanks, and advocacy groups Ahmanson finances, work actively, if mostly under the radar, to replace America’s secular democracy with a Christian theocracy. It’s a movement former New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges calls American fascism.

In many respects, Ahmanson’s Christian fundamentalism is a mirror image of the Islamic fundamentalism we saw at work in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Islamic fundamentalists fight to impose Sharia law. Their Christian fundamentalist counterparts demand imposition of Mosaic Law. Both dream of exacting the cruel justice of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

This has been in the works for a long, long time. I saw this coming when I was still young and I thought it had ended in late 1980s with the demise of "creation science" and the increasingly faint calls for the death penalty for gays, "rebellious" women and children, etc.

While the aims of Christian Reconstructionists may seem fantastic, they are nevertheless firmly held by adherents who work diligently to achieve them. Ahmanson has invested many millions from his large personal fortune to put these ideas into action.

One of those aims is the destruction of the religious neutrality required by diverse, secular, democratic societies like those found in the United States and Western Europe. Scientists, whether or not they’re conscious of it, are utterly dependent on this framework of religious neutrality to do their work. Serious science is inconceivable under fundamentalism in either of its Islamic or Christian incarnations.

There is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government, says Gary North the son-in-law of Ahmanson’s friend and mentor the Dominionist theologian Rousas Rushdoony.

So the next time I hear someone say, "Well, I'm a Christian and I'm not a fundamentalist," I'm going to ask that person "Well, I'm not a mail-order bride broker or a pedophile, either. Does that mean we should do nothing about these people? Given what the fundamentalists are actually trying to do to all of us, when does 'not being a fundamentalist' become complicity?"

(And to everyone who's worried about my hurt heart, let me tell you, I'm simply more honest and demonstrative and don't give a shit who I shock than the believers burying their hurt hearts deep inside because they think their religion mandates that they have to be joyful all the time.)

Shimmies to RedStateRabble.

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Bwahahahaha! I Am "Good!"

How evil are you?
So you're all gonna do what I say from now on! ;-)

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