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The Bubble’s Edge

Figure 1: The Event Horizon of Black Hole M87 in the Virgo Constellation.  Light approaching the black hole is bent around it towards the viewer.  Brighter light on the bottom is moving towards us and dimmer, away.  No light escapes the circumference of the event horizon.  Nobody knows what lies in its black heart.

My Dearest Confidante,

There are moments in life that define us.  At moments like that, or rather slightly after while sitting in the back of the RCMP cruiser, I like to reflect on some of Jack Handey’s wisdom:

“If you’re in a war, instead of throwing a hand grenade at the enemy, throw one of those small pumpkins. Maybe it’ll make everyone think how stupid war is, and while they are thinking, you can throw a real grenade at them.” — Jack Handey

Now the 2019 NASH Flow Regatta can’t be legitimately compared to a war, but sometimes competition does bring out the worst, and the best, in the participants, just like a good battle, although no battle is good.  There is probably more singing in a war too, but we tried our best, nonetheless.

I can’t say I’m proud of how I behaved.  Sometimes, you just go on autopilot and Nature takes over.  Before you judge me, please give me a chance to tell my story.  Certain details that make me look bad have been redacted. 

I’m writing this letter in confidence; please do not share with anyone!  There are revelations contained within that could topple government departments and provoke revolutions in Hydrometry.

I’ve taken the liberty of providing headings in this letter as I know how weird you get about organization.  Really weird…

~

The Rising Bubble

The 2019 NASH Flow Regatta took place of the foot of the Blue Mountains (not real mountains) on Pretty River (more of a creek) in Ontario, Canada.

The crowd was hyped; we’d had a very engaging and exclusive NASH session on Wednesday afternoon where the Rising Bubble Method (RBM) was introduced and a laser water level system described both by NIWA’s own Captain Fantastic Jeremy Bulleid (I don’t know how to pronounce his name, just say “Bull” then mumble the rest).  NIWA is the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research.  They really undertake world class scientific R&D and take innovative technology risks like Jeremy’s projects demonstrate.  They put the “fun” in fundamental science.  To Jeremy’s credit (?) he’s taken on the RBM like a madman escaped from a lunatic asylum and looking for revenge of some imagined wrong. like an opium addict wandering around Qing Dynasty China looking for a den. like a WWII pilot who went down in the Jungle of Africa days before the end of the war and is living on bugs and snakes, boiling water in his own boot, before he can make it back to civilisation to learn that the war was over weeks ago and the allies won, but refuses to accept this fact, and even decades after still wakes at night with nightmares of being hunted through the jungle by giant monkeys wanting to buy him a drink,  like a real nutbar, like Einstein trying to solve General Relativity, like a scientific pilgrim.  That’s Jeremy B. in a nutshell.

The RBM is a fantastic method whereby the average horizontal velocity is determined by measuring  the distance a rising bubble travels downstream from its point of origin on the bed (excluding relativistic time dilation effects; the bubbles aren’t rising that fast).  Figure 2 is stolen sampled from Jeremy’s presentation and shows the method behind the madness.  It’s almost as magical as the Salt Dilution equation.  And now, if your mind isn’t already blown, prepare for it to be blown:  the Q is equal to the area drawn by the rising bubbles multiplied by the bubble rise velocity, as shown in Figure 3. Pkk!  It’s much like the Holographic Black Hole theory that suggests the 3D information of matter is projected onto the 2D surface of the Black Hole’s event horizon.  Others argue the event horizon is a firewall where matter is scorched out of existence!  Still some believe that the entire universe is 2D and we just experience it as a 3D Hologram!  We are living out our flat lives on the edge of a rising 3D bubble.

Jeremy also gave preliminary results of their LWL6001-S laser level instrument that has a resolution of 0.1 mm, an accuracy of +/-1 mm, and is non-contact up to a range of 60m!  Pretty impressive.  This instrument is in prototype stage.  Please contact Jeremy for details and to purchase a unit to beta test.

Figure 2. Theory behind the Rising Bubble Method (Courtesy Jeremy Bulleid)

Cousin Salvador Peña of Photrack in Switzerland also presented, once again trying to convince the hostile mob that there was no need for any instrument other than their cell phones and the Discharge App (I’m trying to convince them to change its name).  Progress continues with their world domination, the APP IS MORE STABLE NOW, that’s my take away, besides it being amazing and cool.  They’re also working on integration with Aquarius Time Series software.

Christoph Sommer, heir to the Sommer Throne, presented their RQ-30 Radar technology velocity and range (water level) insisting that he can measure flow on a 200 m wide river with a 4 m wide Radar beam and a very accurate hydraulic model.  Well, the plums are in the pudding they say.

I stunned the crowd with a non-linear stream of consciousness slideshow of International AutoSalt Installations and a Fuzzy Calculus derivation of Uncertainty with respect to Salt Dilution flow measurements (the best method in turbulent watercourses: full stop).

Figure 3. RBM Magic 

Derek “The Bruiser” Brzoza (pronounced Bru-Zo-Za, currently NASH’s President du jour, but we’ll see how long that lasts, again, don’t speak a word of this, but… well, just keep reading) presented an excellent summary of BluEarth’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for maintaining rating curves at hydropower compliance monitoring sites using QiQuac salt dilution flow measurement kits exclusively.

Figure 4: Post Nash Session De-stress

After the 2 hour marathon NASH session, the crowd (about 4 people, 2 of which were IT Support, the other 2 were presenters) dispersed and surprisingly ended up in a nearby pub to discuss the shocking results of the session.  That’s when Laura Gilbert (no not Gil-Bert, pronounced Jeel-bear with a soft “r” and said with a sulky pout while flickering one’s eyelids) and Aidan, just Aidan, from New Jersey, and Georgia, and somehow McGill, showed up and everything went to hell.  Figure 4 is a shot of the group just before it went sideways (Derek is still wearing his pants, for example, off camera).  Salvador  is  sporting his  best  Carey  Grant smile,  Aidan  is  beaming  with  youthful  confidence,  Laura is  working  the  camera,  and Dan on the left is trying to convince us that he has a lot of followers on Twitter, but  he  refused  to  tell  us  his  twitter handle,  which  was a little  strange, I have  to  admit.  And  I  didn’t even  know  Derek  was  taking  a photo, I was just enjoying my beer.

Figure 6: Yell Singing Fleetwood Mac, Plate 2

Figure 5: Yell Singing Fleetwood Mac, Plate 1

About 27 minutes after this photo, we found ourselves singing Karaoke at Kaytoo.  Plates 1 and 2 document the scene.  Nobody clapped for us, for your information. Laura wants you to know she was completely sober here and deserves some credit, but I wonder: “Does she?”

Have you ever been subjected to the extreme pain of hearing yourself sing karaoke after the music is stopped?  I have.  Its not punishment you’d wish on your worst enemy. “You’re done, bar’s closed” said Madison the head waitress, as Aidan, Laura and I belted out “..wayyy, You can call it another lonely day”. In the end only I remained singing while Derek filmed and giggled. “Get him outta here!”  Said Madison. “And don’t come back!” Avery and Ella threw me to the ground.

I continued to sing off key while my new friends drove me back to my airbnb. “I’m fine!” I said as I stumbled out of the car and into the bushes. “My glasses fellov.” “Get them in the morning” yelled Laura and peeled off, annoyed. “Get them in the mornin’” I sang, and fell into what I hoped was my bed.

“Sometimes when I reflect back on all the beer I drink I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the brewery and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this beer, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, It is better that I drink this beer and let their dreams come true than to be selfish and worry about my liver.” — Jack Handey

Figure 7: Salvador Peña-Haro

The Crucible

Figure 8: Self Explanatory

In the brutal morning light, I observed the crowd assembled before me at the abandoned warehouse near Pretty River, Collingwood.  People had assembled and seemed to expect some form of organized event.  “Where’s Derek?” I wondered aloud.  With no sign of Derek on the horizon, I mustered my courage and words started coming out of my head.  To my surprise, the words seemed to make sense to the group, and we all moved off towards the regatta site.  Before any of the official shenanigans took place, the crowd was full of innocent excitement while I took down their SWAG, or Scientific Wild Ass Guess.  These varied wildly, from 15 cms (to which I shook my head and muttered “too high”) to 0.78 cms.

Eventually Derek crashed into the event in his typical brash manner, wearing dark shades and stage-whispering to me,

“I don’t even know where I slept last night,”–Derek Brzoza

and belched and, I swear to god, the foulness of that air would have smelled sweet to Beelzebub–lord of the underworld, indicated a serious health issue, shook me to the core and had me questioning my sanity, was so very very VERY bad, caused me to reel and I almost stumbled off the bridge, but thankfully Leland caught me just before I went over.  Leland is 6’2″ of handsome and charm, carries himself with an easy grace, had teeth I would kill for, literally, works for the Toronto Conservation Authority and they maintain several gauges alongside WSC gauges.

That’s when the dinosaur showed up, showed in Figure 8.  I mean the blue dinosaur, not Derek.  He’s not that old, honestly.

Results are  summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Summary of Flow Measurements

Image Velocimetry

Figure 9. showing velocity field measured by the Discharge.ch app

Image Velocimetry (IV) comes in several flavours: Large Particle IV, Surface Structure IV, Space Time IV, and probably more.  Each uses a similar approach of measuring the displacement of image features between consecutive frames in a video.  The resulting velocity vector field is matched with a depth profile and an assumed (or measured) alpha value that relates the surface velocity to the average column velocity. Putting these together , along with some special sauce and hocus-pocus, results in a Q value from video and channel geometry alone.  It’s an incredibly exciting technology with great potential.

Salvador wowed the crowd with this Discharge.ch app slight of hand, which actually worked pretty good this time!  I think they’ve got that app stable now.  Photrack has built all the necessary math into an Android app, and it’s pretty amazing, especially the level setting.  It blows my mind every time.  Figure 9 shows the velocity vector field from a measurement showing a Discharge of 1.435cms.  The red line on the opposite bank shows the water level and indicates the geometry solution is working well.  For accurate results, the channel geometry should be surveyed, which is what Salvador and I did the day prior.  Here are some numbers for you to ponder:

Number of people who took a measurement: 5
Number of measurements: 12
Median discharge: 1.46 m3/s
Standard deviation: 0.061

Flow Tracker 2

Steve and Brian from Water Survey of Canada provided our reference measurements.  Brian waded at 9:30 and measured 1.486 cms+/-6% with the Flow Tracker 2, the standard hydroacoustic method for flow measurement.  At 12:30 the water level had dropped by 2mm and the Flow Tracker 2 wading measurement was 1.42 cms+/-6%.  Although these numbers are not statistically significantly different (1.06*1.42=1.50), the fact that Q dropped with water level indicates at least the relative Q values are correlated to stage.  These measurements were used as our reference values.

Sommer RQ-30

Sommer manufactures a portable Radar surface velocity instrument, the RQ-30.  This device measures both the water level (+/-1mm) and the average surface velocity (+/-0.01m/s;+/- 1%FS).  Of course the Q must then be calculated based on the bathymetry.  The RQ-30 resulted in a Q of 1.486 cms at 12:00.

Rising Bubble Method

Jeremy assembled a “portable” rising bubble system consisting of a Nitrogen tank, several hoses and levers, levels and tubes, a custom made PVC bubble chamber, a small quantum computer, and custom bubble injectors.  The revolving figures below show the assembly process and the finished product.  With great trepidation, Steve waded out into the creek with the possibly explosive contraption.

“The other day I got out my can opener and was opening a can of worms when I thought, “What am I doing?!””– Jack Handey

Salt Dilution

Figure 10. the average ant can carry between 10 and 50 times its own body weight.

The real battlefield was the Salt Dilution hypothesis.  While, sure, we’re all there for the betterment of hydrometry and community building, seething just below the surface is a fierce international rivalry between me and Christoph Sommer and by corollary Frank Van DerHave, the Old World vs the New World, The Incumbant vs the Upstart, Solid Engineering with plenty-o-money vs Wing on a Prayer Engineering and a misplaced, malformed, ill-timed, off-kilter sense of humour.  The Austrian Sommer Tracer-Q vs The QiQuac (pronounced Quick Quack).  This is how it played out:

  • First Salt Dilution Instream Q (SDIQ): 2kg.  QQ 1.54+/-10%, Tracer Q….Nothing, “There was a problem with the software” explained Christoph in his best Terminator impression.
  • Second SDIQ: 6kg QQ 1.48cms, Tracer Q: Nothing… What?
  • Third SDIQ: You know how Sherlock has a nemesis, Dr. Moriarty?  I’m pretty sure Christoph is my Dr. Moriarty.

My horror at his crimes was lost in my admiration at his skill.”― Arthur Conan Doyle, Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Christoph and Frank whispering.  They called over Derek M.  They gave instructions.  I was so busy being bitten by the omnipresent red ants, shown in Figure 10… I couldn’t focus on the content of their discussion. Once the QQ was setup I went back to hobnob and flit about the crowd.

James asked “Can you show me the QiQuac?” (James works for WSC and is the rightful winner of the GBGH award but didn’t attend the awards ceremony).

“Sure!” I replied cheerfully and we made our way down through the red ants to the QQ site. I showed him the nice brass dial, the handsome sheen of the custom white finish, I pointed out the IP67 waterproof rating, then I looked at the actual data… “1.1 cms, WTF?” here I totally forgot I was presenting to a customer and all my language filters switched off. “That makes no f!#%%$$ sense?” I said looking wildly around past James.  “Who threw the f$(@#$$$ salt in!” A few pedestrians were startled as they walked across the bridge and quickened their step.  Derek B stopped explaining salt dilution to some participants and a frown formed on his brow. I saw Frank and Derek M and Christoph standing in a small huddle, and they seemed to be snickering a bit.  “Who was it?” I said stumbling up the embankment.  Derek B excused himself from his group to intervene, sensing what almost always eventually occurs at these events: an all-out brawl on par with that from Anchorman.

“It was I,” said Derek M, “I threw in 6kg.”

“Well… did you do anything differently?” I questioned frantically.

“I divided it into two and threw them in sequentially.”

“That wouldn’t cause this issue. What are you getting with the Sommer system?” I turned on Christoph.

“1.3-1.4, but I shut it down,” he said in a thick Austrian accent.

“But it’s not done!” I protested.

“Oh, you’re done, “ said Christoph and smiled his sly smile. “It’s time to move on, Gabe, let it go.  Frank, let’s get the RQ30 setup,” and they moved on.

I was in a pickle, or rather I was a pickle in a salty brine.  If the 1st SDIQ was 1.54±10%, the second 1.46cms±5%, the third 1.1cms±5%, well, that was looking pretty random.

  • Fourth SDIQ:  As a hail Mary, I did a 4th SDIQ and I measured the salt myself and got 1.46cms. “Pheuph”, I thought.  But I needed to figure out what happened to the 3rd SDIQ.  I couldn’t go to the mob yet with my wildly unfounded accusations.

“Gabe, you ok? “ said Derek B, “You look kinda frantic and wild-eyed.”

“I’m fine, I just, I have to go… mail something,”  I lied.  “I’ll be back… later.”  I packed up my QiQuac Quickly, and peeled out of the warehouse parking lot.

I could not rest, Watson, I could not sit quiet in my chair, if I thought that such a man as Professor Moriarty were walking the streets of London unchallenged. — Arthur Conan Doyle, Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

The Bubble’s Edge

Figure 11. Choosing the Start and End points here results in a Q of 1.53 cms+/-7.34%.

I drove the streets of Collingwood aimlessly, thinking, always thinking. “How did I get 1.1 cms, does the method work?  How does it work?  Why are those people waving and shouting at me?  Can we ever see inside the black heart of the truth?”  I finally pulled into a Tim Hortons.  I uploaded all the data to the Salt Portal. Figure 11 show the 1st and 2nd traces.

If we choose the Start and End points shown in Figure 11, the Q is 1.53cms± 7.34% (fyi 7.34% lower than 1.53 cms is 1.41 cms).  If the Start and End are those shown in Figure 12 the Q is 1.47cms±6.4% . So these two interpretations of the same injection are not significantly different at the 95% confidence interval.  This highlights the uncertainty in a measurement, but also the influence of background noise, especially at relatively high EC.T values.

I looked at the 3rd SDIQ, 1.1 cms using 6kg as reported. But if I use 8kg,  I get 1.46cms.

“Hmmm,” I thought.

“Hmmmm,” I thought again.

It was time to dance…

Figure 12. showing Injection 1 again.  With these Start and End points, the Q is 1.47cms +/-6.4.  This uncertainty is attributable to the relatively high BG ECT, and can be reduced by increasing the Salt Dose, which is what we did for injections 2, 3, and 4.

“To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there’s no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other.” –Jack Handey

Heart of Darkness

“Kaytoo” I thought out loud. “Perhaps they won’t remember me.”  I walked through the doors and instantly saw light reflected in Madison the Head Waitress’ multifaceted eyes through the gloom.  She watched me as I made my way across the sticky karaoke floor.  She made an “I’m watching you gesture” with her fingers.  I took my place at the table, strategically across from Derek M, and waited.

“You’re beginning to dislike me, aren’t you? Well, dislike me. It doesn’t make any difference to me now.”– W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge

Figure 13. Cousin Salvador entertaining himself with the Discharge.ch app.

As usual cousin Salvador entertained himself with the Discharge app, measuring the velocity of the rising bubbles, shown in Figure 13.  I attempted to blend in with the group, joking and conversing, as if nothing at all was up.

I waited for Christoph to report his bogus number to the group (he reported 1.39 cms even though I was getting 1.1 cms at the same time with a mass of 6kg, but the mob consensus was coming out at 1.48 cms). I started chatting Derek M up, ordering him beer after beer.  And when I could see him starting to relax, I sprung my trap.  During a lull in the conversation, I said, “So Derek, if I use 8kg I get 1.46cms. There were 4x2kg empty boxes. Are you sure you didn’t use 8kg?”

“Well, let me think about … well, yes, I used 3x2kg boxes and 4×0.5kg bags, so yes, actually I did use 8kg.  Ha! Go figure.”

That’s when I totally lost it. I stared at him for a beat, then I lunged across the table, spilling the pitcher of beer onto Brian (Brian is the very likeable WSC tech who did the 2 wading measurements, shown in Figure 14). I grabbed his Hoskinssss golf shirt and tried to pull him towards me but Steve (Steve with WSC did a great job organizing the venue for us) and Leland had grabbed me at this point and were trying to pull me off,  but I wouldn’t let go of his shirt so they dragged me and Derek M out onto the patio. The hydrometric mob started chanting “fight, fight, fight!” so Derek M and I found ourselves locked in a brutal cage match. I saw Salvador taking bets out of the corner of my eye. Derek M again claimed it was an honest mistake and that I was taking it way too far.  I was starting to believe him when he tackled me and we both went off the edge of the deck into the ornamental pond.  We broke a teak deck chair in our fall so Madison called over the Kaytoo security to fish us out of the water.  I really scratched myself on my ribs and the chlorine in the pond stung.  We were marched off to the washroom by our shirt collars to dry off.  Someone had left some Hoskinss emblazoned bath robes to give us, really nice plush ones (but how did they know we’d need them?).

“Fight, fight, fight!”–The 2019 NASH Hydrometric Mob

That’s when I felt maybe I hadn’t behaved as a good host should, so I apologized to Derek M. Derek, again, said it was an honest mistake.  We shook hands and hugged, and sheepishly went back upstairs to face the group.  I saw a smirk on Christoph’s face when I apologized.

Score one for Moriarty.

“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”  — Jack Handey

Figure 14. The Hydrometric Mob

The Holographic Universe

Derek B came over to me and weirdly rubbed his hand on my back and smiled benevolently.  I think he was a bit buzzed and just liked the plush robe. “So let’s figure out who the winner is, shall we champ?” I think he was being sarcastic and he didn’t actually believe I was the champ.

Figure 15. Iryna genuinely happy to have won the SWAG swag from Hoskinsss our gracious and benevolent sponsor.

We reckoned that the water level was falling over the morning.  The Flow Tracker 2 measurement dropped form 1.486cms at 9:30 to 1.42 cms at 12:30.  We perused the list of SWAGs, weighed it against who we liked and didn’t like, and decided that Iryna met all of our criteria with a SWAG of 1.50 cms.  But first we had to humiliate the high (Go Big or Go Home or GBGH) and low (DFL or Dang Forking Last) “winners”.  Dave with Credit Valley Conservation group won the DFL award for his conservative (snigger) guess of 0.85 cms.  In the past, I’ve praised those competitors who have enough swagger to guess high.  I generally try to achieve the GBGH award, but I get nervous right before I utter my guess and end up with a relatively conservative, realistic SWAG.  So I’m conflicted to announce that Christoph won the GBGH award with a guess of 1.78cms.  The crowd cheered, totally unnecessarily, when Derek announced this and Christoph just shrugged his shoulders and smiled slyly, staring right at me and said, in a very strong Austrian accent “What can I say, we like to go big in Austria!  Thank you! Thank you!”

“I wish I would have a real tragic love affair and get so bummed out that I’d just quit my job and become a bum for a few years, because I was thinking about doing that anyway.” Jack Handey

As I sat in the back of the RCMP cruiser and recounted my side of the story to the constable, I reflected on the nature of black holes.  Some say that as matter falls beyond the event horizon, all of its information is projected onto the surface of the sphere, while its mass, that which gives it substance in this universe, is annihilated in the singularity where density becomes infinite.  Others believe that black holes are wormholes into alternate universes where all of the unexplained dark matter in our universe has a reciprocal mass on some cosmic scales.  As I pondered these things, I saw my own reflection in the tinted glass of the window.  Beyond my reflection, from Kaytoo emerged Christoph in a very cinematic fashion, wearing a black Sommer branded fedora.  He smiled slyly, and waved to me in slow motion as he made his way to his Sommer branded black SUV.  His Sommer Branded driver climbed in and they peeled away from Collingwood.

“Almost all the people who’ve had the most effect on me I seem to have met by chance, yet looking back it seems as though I couldn’t but have met them.”– W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge

“If we could just get everyone to close their eyes and visualize world peace for an hour, imagine how serene and quiet it would be until the looting started.”– Jack Handey

Fathom Five National Marine Park

Figure 16. Fathom Five

Figure 17. Fathom Scientific Ltd. Logo on the shores of Lake Huron

Dearest Confidante, I don’t mind telling you that I was quite distraught as I drove north to Georgian Bay.  I guess I was drawn to the name of the place: Fathom Five National Marine Park.  And sure enough when I arrived, our patent-pending Fathom Logo was displayed prominently on the shores of Lake Huron.  The water sounded heavy and cold as it lapped against the ancient rocks.  The marine park is a destination for divers who enjoy exploring the well-preserved wrecks that haunt the small bay’s depths.

~

On the recommendation of my friend XTina, I decided to camp at Cypress Lake Campground in Bruce Peninsula National Park.  I managed to pick up a sleeping bag from a Canadian Tire in Collingwood, and the rental company generously gave me a Ford Escape with fold down seats.  After scouring the town of Tobermory for a lighter and some paper, I managed to start a fire that I could stare into. and sob uncontrollably.

Sure, maybe I got burned this time around, but in the end, we all learned something.  We all had a good laugh, at my expense, and Christoph and Frank sold some equipment.  I was afforded a rare glimpse inside the black hole of truth.  I also got a free plush robe.

In summary, the 2019 Nash Flow Regatta and Crucible was a win-win for everyone involved.  I hope you can join us at the 2020 NASH Flow Regatta in Kenora, Ontario, where you too can project your information on the event horizon of the singularity!(?)

Figure 18. “The universe seems neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.”– Carl Sagan

~

P.S. The 8kg injection really was an honest mistake and Derek M. was a perfect gentleman and invaluable assistant at the regatta.  Likewise, despite being my hydrometric nemesis, Christoph was generous and helpful and all the Sommer products are top-drawer.  Frank, Frank was downright deplorable and he’d be the first to admit it.

“One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. “Oh, no,” I said, “Disneyland burned down.” He cried and cried, but I think deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.”–Jack Handey

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