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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, today Eldest Gel headed back to college to start her sophomore year.

What an incredible difference a year makes.  This time last August, it was a convoy of cars, enough clothing and gear to outfit a regiment, various lines for sign-ups and orientations, and a very long, very trying day of Mrs. Robbo and Self getting the Gel settled in, capped off by the teary farewell hugs and the more or less silent, contemplative drive back to Port Swiller Manor.

This year? The Gel loaded only what she needed in her car, said “Well…bye“, and tooled off.

I talked to her after she got back to school and got into her dorm room (which, funny enough, is Sistah’s old room) and she seemed pretty chipper.  I think she’s going to have a good year.

All this got me thinking about young birds and nest-leaving.  I don’t clearly recall a great deal of my own misspent yoot, but one point I remember very, very clearly is the day I suddenly realized that I had, myself, left the nest-  that what all my life I had thought of as “home” was now becoming “my parents’ house”, that I could never, ever go back (well I could, of course, but not in the same relationship), and that one chapter of my life definitely had closed and another was beginning.

It was Christmas break of my own junior year in college.  When the idea hit me, I burst into tears and sank my head on The Mothe’s shoulder.

Ah, yoot.

I don’t think this idea has come anywhere close to crystalizing in the Eldest’s mind, yet.  I’ll be very interested to see what happens when it does.

Meanwhile, the other two are starting their senior and sophomore years in high school next week.  Middle Gel is doing the college boogaloo herself this fall, and Youngest (hopefully) has finally realized that yes, grades matter and yes, if you want good grades you’ll have to actually work for them.

But the best part of all? Mrs. Robbo goes back to work at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method and has to start getting up in the morning again instead of wallowing a-bed while Ol’ Robbo stumbles off to the salt mines at zero-dark-thirty.  Heh, indeed.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is home from his hols up tah Maine.  Normally in this apres-vacatione post, I’d go on about the relaxing time I had and various quirky incidences thereto, but I feel compelled this year to go straight to a more somber note.  You see, my mother died last Saturday, and if the hols weren’t exactly overwhelmed by this, they were certainly affected.  Private burial on Wednesday, Memorial service on Thursday, and of course, the general topic of discussion in between.

Yes, although “only” 81, she contracted Lewy body dementia some time last winter – a condition my brother (the doctor) tells me is 100% fatal and also incurable.  I knew something was wrong earlier this year (and perhaps began bracing myself) when she started repeating herself during our weekly phone conversations and then later seemed increasingly disoriented about various basic facts.  What I didn’t know is that her motor skills were also cutting out and that she was taking tosses.  The last one, two weeks ago, resulted in her landing on her head.  They rushed her to the ER, but she never really regained consciousness.

The good news is that all our family were planning to congregate for the hols anyway, and that we all got up tah Maine in time to see her before she went, even though she was unconscious throughout.  The grandkids all spent time in her room Saturday morning, talking to her and to each other.  My sistah, brothah, and I eventually shooed them and our spouses out, and spent the last hour or two quietly talking to her and each other.  I’m pretty morally certain that she waited to hear all our voices before slipping away.

Requiescat In Pace.

Anyone who has hung around here over the years will remember that she used to comment regularly under the handle of “The Mothe”.  She was the strongest person I’ve ever known, and grounded me in everything I’ve learned about life, humanity, religion, and civilization.

For some reason or other, an anecdote about her keeps popping into my braims, perhaps because it is so illustrative of her character:

Some time in my misspent yoot, early on in my Awakening to the Outer World, I said something to Mom about how unfair “sex discrimination” in employment was.  I don’t remember exactly how I teed it up, but I vividly remember her explosive response:

“The first woman to get her medical degree in this country, Elizabeth Blackwell, did so in 1849.  Since then, no woman who really wants to be a doctor has had any excuse not to, dammit!”

Yet for that, she often used to say that she’d gladly give up her right to vote if it meant no other woman could do so.

I guess you had to be there.

A remarkable woman.  And that’s about all – in the end – I’ve really got to say.

UPDATE:  Thankee very much for your kind words, my friends.  I truly appreciate them.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

On the eve of his last day of work before a very much needed summah hols, Ol’ Robbo finds himself mulling this and that:

♦  Long time friend of the decanter Diane asks:

– How did it get to be August? Seriously, I feel as if July just poked her head in the door to say hello, then disappeared. I realized this morning that in another week, maybe two, I’ll be driving to work in the dark again. Oy.

Ain’t it da troot?  At least  for myself, I have a ready explanation:  In the past six weeks, I’ve had to make three trips out west for work, including the two-week trial-prep/trial one I just finished up.  Still scary to contemplate how quickly it goes by.

And now we’re rolling into another interesting Fall of Things: Eldest Gel starts her sophomore year in college; Middle Gel is doing the college application thing (with her sights set on early admission at one place in particular which I will go into at another time); and Youngest starts her sophomore year in high school….well, staying out of trouble and hopefully realizing now that if she hopes to get good grades, she’s actually going to have to, you know, earn them herself.

Diane also goes on to note:

– Something is up at my elderly neighbor’s. When I came home Monday, they had a trailer backed in to their parking bay, and a van pulled up in the center. One of their sons and his wife were loading things up, and I overheard bits of “Goodwill or toss?” conversations. As of today, the parking bay, which had been a sort of extra storage spot for the couple, is pretty much bare. Not sure if this is just a huge purge, a purge because they plan to move, or something else. Have never met the son and wife, so didn’t want to pry.

I’m guessing I know exactly what is going on there.  I won’t get into details in this post, but I expect that part of my upcoming hols is going to be devoted to the very same scenario.  The Mothe is not at all well.

♦  Well, okaaaay, then!

♦  Ol’ Robbo has come to a very succinct formulation of a belief that applies to his interpretation of much of what is occupying the headlines these days:  Government is a necessary evil, and politics is a false god.

Kinda covers the bases, don’t you think?  Aaand discounts most of them.

What’s that, comrade? Get my coat, we are going for a ride? Very well, but……..

♦  In the Department of Complete Random, yes, yes I just did indulge myself by purchasing a Sam Grant bobblehead.  Got a problem with that?  I pass his Memorial every day on my lunch-time walkies, and never fail to ruminate on what a decent, modest, but firm and clear-headed fellah he was.

♦  We just destroyed our first yellow-jacket nest of the year.  (Well, we had an exterminator do it for us.)  What would summah around Port Swiller Manor be without a yellow-jacket nest manifesting itself somewhere in the grounds?  At least this year I didn’t discover it by walking straight in to it and getting numerous stings as a result.

♦  Gimme.  No, I am not kidding….

Okay, that’s probably enough for now.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Long time friends of the decanter will know that ol’ Robbo usually puts out a post some time in late July bemoaning how burnt out he is and how he hopes that his upcoming summah hols will recharge him.

For some odd reason, I’ve no inclination to put up that post this year.

I am burned out, in fact.  I’ve been working like a dog on this project that just finished for about 15 months now (indeed, I missed my summah hols last year altogether because of it).  I’ve also got all kinds of cares on the home front to wrestle with.  (Don’t worry, they’re nothing out of the ordinary for a responsible family man in his 50’s, but they’re draining nonetheless.)

Perhaps the big difference is that, at least so far as Ol’ Robbo has seen, we’ve been blessed with a relatively temperate summah so far here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.  This was capped off by a gen-u-ine cool front that rolled through here over the weekend, bringing positively September-like conditions for a few days.  (I’m sure that Big Climate will condemn this observation utterly and insist that we are STILL on the path to Mother Gaia being burnt to a cinder because I won’t listen to my betters and resist switching out my lightbulbs for LED alternatives.  Or something.  Because shut up.)

Well, I guess maybe this post is that post after all, but I still say there’s something different about it all this year.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is once again posting from the comfort of Port Swiller Manor’s back porch, a nice big cup o’ kahfeh at his side on this gloomy Saturday morning, after getting back yesterday afternoon from his nearly two weeks on the road.

Thank Heaven.

And what was ol’ Robbo doing all that time, you may ask? Why, he was first chairing a bench trial in federal court out west, that’s what.  Last week, we put nearly 900 miles on the rental car roving hither and yon to prep witnesses, and then this week we had the actual trial.  (No news on the results likely for another couple weeks, but we were pretty pleased.)

Ol’ Robbo’s braims don’t yet seem to have come to the realization that it is all finally over and done, as I kept having dreams last night about the next witness we need to call.

In the course of things, Ol’ Robbo managed to pick up a very nasty head cold which quickly got into his ears and  lungs as well.  I spent so much time hacking and gasping this week that the judge himself remarked on it, albeit sympathetically, and the clerk practically buried me in cough drops and kleenex.  (The court reporter told me that this sort of thing happened a lot in their court, apparently as a result of the combination of stress-induced exhaustion and high altitude.)

In a way, the sickies actually helped me out, insofar as yesterday when we flew home, we landed in the middle of a thunderstorm.  All the way down from the point of our initial descent, we  bucked and pitched all over the place.  Under normal circumstances, I would have been in something close to heart-attack mode, but I was just too tired and miserable to give much of a damn anymore, so I calmly kept working on my crossword (or at least staring at it blankly) even as people around me were grabbing on to the seats in front of them to keep from being pitched about too much.  (Although once, after a particularly violent lurch, I did mutter, “Next time, Jack, write a goddam memo!”, much to the bewilderment of the woman sitting next to me.  (Spot the quote.)

Also, the change in pressure coming down caused me to go something close to stone-deaf, giving me a wonderful sense of detachment from the whole biznay.  That’s the key to controlling fear, by the bye.  You can’t be afraid of something that doesn’t engage your attention.

Now here’s something I didn’t know:  Just after we landed, lightning bolts started coming down all around the airport.  As a result, they wouldn’t let us come in to the jetway, but made us loiter around for about 45 minutes on the tarmac.  Apparently, although the plane itself and the main terminal are safe enough, a lightning strike on a jetway is bad biznay for anyone who happens to be in it, so there is a “rule” that they have to wait 10 minutes after the last bolt before letting anyone on.  (That’s what the pilot said.  Nonetheless, just after they opened the hatch and people started filing out, there was a hell of a bang nearby.  We kept exiting nonetheless.  Go figure.)

Aaaaanyhoo, it’s good to be home again.  There’s a country song from the ’90’s called “Just Another Day in Paradise” – I’m too lazy right now to look up the singer – which “gets” the particular “felicity of unbridled domesticity” in all of its manifestations.  And so it is here: When I got home in the middle of said driving thunderstorm, the driveway was flooded and water was getting into the basement again.  Half the first floor lights don’t seem to be working (despite my ardent flipping of circuit-breakers last evening).  Eldest Gel was in her usual sass mode.  Youngest Gel was in her usual too-noisy mode and had chosen that evening to have a friend sleep over.  I had to kybosh Middle Gel’s plan to drive down to King’s Dominion today because the weather threatens to be as bad as yesterday.  The dog was barking at shadows.  The cats were fighting each other for the right to jump into my lap.  Mrs. Robbo, fearing infection, booted me on to a downstairs sofa for the night.

And I smiled.

It’s also lovely (although strange) to have nothing in particular to do, for once.  The only item on Ol’ Robbo’s agenda today is to retrieve La Wrangler from the shop where she’s been having her rear differential rebuilt.  Otherwise, I intend to do nothing but chill.

Oh, and some good news?  Ol’ Robbo’s long-awaited summah hols start this Friday!  (I missed vacay entirely last year due to this same case.)  We’re headed back to Maine, which I haven’t seen in three years, there to have a Robbo Clan Reunion.  Can’t.  Wait.

UPDATE:  Yep,  I’ve definitely put on my “Dad” hat again.

Fixed the lights.  It was the circuit breaker after all, but it was only this morning that I remembered what an electrician had once told me.  The proper way to make sure a tripped circuit really re-engages is to flip it off, wait about five seconds, and then go:  On……Off……ON!

Phil Vasser (or possible Vassar) is the name of the fellah who’s song I reference above.  Rascal Flatts (whom I dislike) also did a song on a similar theme around the same time, as did somebody else who’s completely escaped my memory.  I’ve long had the suspicion that Nashville songwriters keep an eagle eye out for what themes sell and then quickly try to get their own version up in order to get in on the profits.  This has probably been true of artists since the Dawn of Civilisation.

Picked up La Wrangler.  The horrible noise is gone, and she seems steadier on her pins, but it’s going to take a couple days of re-acclimation for me to finally decide if her overall ride is improved, since, as I say, I’ve spent the past two weeks cruising about in a tricked-out, comfort-heavy SUV.

By the way, I mistakenly referred to our rental last week as a GMC Yukon.  It wasn’t.  Instead, it was a Chevy Tahoe.  Very nice drive, but it reminded me of those awful Chevy commercials on the tee-vee these days with that nasty little Beta-boy pretending he’s Mike Rowe or somebody and trying to hang with the Bro’s and talk Truck with them.  Is anyone else put off by that, or is it just me?  (And I say this as a 5’10”, 160 lb., desk-jockey whose work with his hands doesn’t usually go beyond yard maintenance and minor home repairs.  It’s the pretense that bugs me.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  Ol’ Robbo finds himself lazing on the back porch of Port Swiller Manor this Sabbath, contemplating the cat sleeping opposite me and getting somewhat sleepy myself as a result.  Just a few thoughts to keep the braims cranking over:

♦  First thought is that, considering it’s already mid-July, Ol’ Robbo is really rather lucky to be able to sit out like this in comfort.  We had dinner on the porch last evening too, and it was quite pleasant.  (I’m sure the Meteorological Community will tell me this is all in my own head, 2017 is in fact shaping up to be the Hottest. Summah. EVAH!, and we all know who’s fault that is.)

♦  On travel this past week, Ol’ Robbo walked into a hotel with two of his biznay colleagues and beheld a sign by the registration desk that read, “Welcome, BLM”.  “Black Lives Matter?” I said, “Why would they want rioters?  Oooh, that must be Bureau of Land Management.”  (This was out West.)

My colleagues were……shocked.  Oopsies!

♦  So it seems that the Beeb announced today the 13th Doctor of the long-lived “Doctor Who” series and it’s……a woman.  Middle Gel, who is the big Whovian of Port Swiller Manor, is less than impressed with what she considers to be a pure casting stunt.  If the Gel is any straw in the wind to go by, this won’t end well.  (And lest you think Ol’ Robbo has some kind of problem with the concept of female Time Lords (or, more properly, Time Ladies) in and of themselves, I’ve got two words for you: Lalla Ward. Mmm, mmm, mmm…..)

♦  We had a handyman out yesterday to finally fix up the breakfast room ceiling, in water-stained tatters for months owing to the umpteenth overflow of the gels’ bathroom potty directly above it.  This was a new guy for us, recommended by a friend, and I’m here to tell you that it was a revelation to me.  I expected him to take most of the day banging and stamping about, but he had the whole job done, painted, and cleaned up in two hours flat.  (And he charged about half what our regular people had quoted us.)  I asked him about his speed. “Yeah,” he said, “We get a lot of calls from people having parties that evening and needing things to be fixed fast, so we just sort of developed this technique.”

Impressive.  Most impressive.

♦  Not so impressive was the way the next door neighbor dealt with a 3 to 4 inch diameter branch that had fallen out of one of the maples out front when he was mowing his yard yesterday:  He simply drove right over the damned thing.  Cut it to match-sticks (as it was quite rotten).  Now, Ol’ Robbo is hardly the kind of fellah who wishes ill on anyone, but by all rights this neighbor should have had his blades bent back about 90 degrees from pulling such a silly move.  (He drives over things all the time with impunity.  Why his mower hasn’t died a thousand deaths already, I simply don’t know.)

Whelp, I suppose I should be be-stirring myself, as it’s almost the cocktail hour and this is my last evening of freedom for the next two or three weeks (during which time I probably will post very little, by the bye).  I’ve organized a little family movie night for later – either “Megamind“, which I’ve seen and like a lot, or “Monsters University“, which I haven’t seen but heard good things about.  (And I recall liking the original.)  I’ll let you know later how it all turns out.

UPDATE: Went with “Megamind”.  A good choice, even though Ol’ Robbo doesn’t think much of the cynical tone of the movie or of most of the vocal talent involved.  It’s still pretty entertaining and a good time was had by all.

Oh, and what was really weird? Saying to the Elder Gels just before putting in the DVD, “Oh, by the way, can one of you pick me up at the Metro tomorrow evening? Thanks!”

Yep, I’ma gettin’ old.

Oh, BTW, I determined this evening that I’m going to bring my personal  laptop along on my biznay trip, so hopefully will keep up the blogging.  Just so you know.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

WHO put the “bop” in the bop-she-bop-she-bop?

WHO put the “ram” in the ram-a-lam-a-ding-dong?

The world wonders.

Ol’ Robbo apologizes.  As mentioned below, I’ve a trial coming up eftsoons.  We’re scheduled to go on up to Maine on hols almost immediately afterwards, in large part to visit the Mothe, whose health has declined rather significantly this year, but there is some small but hideous chance that said trial will interfere with said trip.

I find myself…somewhat stressed by the possibilities of both legal combat and familial disruption, and thus prone to such apparently inane lines of thought.

UPDATE:  As I typed, Middle Gel got home from an evening out with a gentleman friend seeing the latest Spider-Man reboot and going out to dinner.  She mentioned that she had wasabi, which immediately brought to Ol’ Robbo’s mind a Budweiser advertising meme that flared and died before she was even born.  Those of you old enough will recall it, I’m sure:

The rest of you? Lawn. Off.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last fall (I believe), the Family Robbo won a set of primo tickets to a Nationals game from an auction at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method – about seven or eight rows right behind the Nats’ dugout and a parking pass.  Ol’ Robbo was looking mighty forward to going to the game.

Whelp, that game was today.  And it was a sweet, sweet win.

Alas, Ol’ Robbo didn’t wind up going after all.  Because he is head honcho on one side in a trial coming up in a couple weeks with a wicked pre-trial schedule in front of it, he instead found himself spending most of the day moodily pouring over deposition transcripts and other legal falderal.  (And if you don’t hear much from me between now and August, now you know why.)

At least it was a genuinely pleasant day in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor – warm, but not too hot, quite dry, and comfortable enough that I could sit out and do my work on the porch.  Also, Middle Gel (who did go to the game, along with Mrs. R and a couple of family friends),  was sweet enough to give me the Nats tee-shirt she snagged when they were being thrown into the stands.

So I got that going for me….

Anyhoo,  a few things:

♦ One break I took was to go to Mass, of course.  We had a guest priest today, a padre from somewhere else in the Diocese.  He mentioned that he had a brother who is a Brother at Clear Creak Abbey out in the Diocese of Tulsa.  Co-incidentally, ever since I swam the Tiber, I have bought rosaries, books, CDs, and calendars from this abbey, but I don’t recall that I have ever explicitly plugged it here.  For those of you who are interested, consider it plugged now.

♦ Another, somewhat more earthy break was to fool with the Port Swiller Manor clothes-dryer, which after 17 years of service suddenly is producing no heat whatsoever, although it still tumbles and blows air.  My suspicion is that we have been less than diligent about clearing out the overflow from the lint trap and that some accumulation of same has probably shorted out the heating element.  (Mrs. R is going to see if we can get this replaced before we go plunking down dosh on a new dryer.)  Anyhoo, this afternoon found Ol’ Robbo digging around in the space below the lint trap slot with an old coat-hanger (surely there’s a better way to do this?), and dredging up all kinds of things.  In addition to the accumulated lint, I discovered a $5 bill, another $5 in loose change, several hair twisties, a couple lost earrings, innumerable old “Hi, My Name Is…” nametags, and a pair of miniature keys to what I believe was an old locket.  I would not have been the least surprised to find the bones of Piltdown Man in there, too. UPDATE: Mrs. R had a repair guy out today. It was just the thermostat.  He replaced it and cleaned the whole thing out.  MUCH cheaper than plunking for a new one.  Ol’ Robbo is happy.

♦  Regular friends of the decanter will recall that Ol’ Robbo had a duff steering damper replaced on La Wrangler a couple weeks ago in order to alleviate a bad case of the “death wobble”.  Whelp, as I feared, the fix appears to be more of a Band-Aid than anything else.  The wobble is gone, to be sure, but I can still feel the front wheels fighting with each other.  Also, in the past couple days, the right front has begun making an ominous howling noise that is definitely linked to rotation velocity.  I believe an alignment check is in order, but I now fear that the fellah who recommended the damper replacement may not have actually checked the rest of the steering mechanism.  I don’t want a ball-joint going as I swing down the G-Dub some fine morning, thereby flipping me into the Potomac.

♦  In re culchah-related matters, I’ve been on a bit of a John Wayne toot this weekend, watching back-to-back, “Hondo” and “The Comancheros“, two of my favorites.  (I confess that I also have “The High and the Mighty” at home.  It’s pure cheese, but I like to think that Robert Stack was gamely parodying his performance in it years later when he did “Airplane!“.)

Whelp, that’s about all that occurs to me at the moment and is suitable for discussion over the Stilton and walnuts.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Independence Day!

Ol’ Robbo really has nothing planned to mark the occasion this year.  Indeed, as is sometimes the case, I am bacheloring it this week at Port Swiller Manor, as the Gels are scattered about at camp and visits to grandparents and whatnot.  So right now I’m just sitting out on the porch with the cats, the dog, and muh coffee (covfifi?), enjoying the cool of the morning, and trying to muster up the energy to go spread a couple bags of mulch and zap some weeds before it gets too hot.  Depending on whether or when we catch a thunderstorm later, I’ll grill up a bacon-cheeseburger and some corn for my dins and then sit back out on the porch and listen to the fireworks.

Hey, I’m not known as the World’s Most Exciting Man for nothing.

Anyhoo, a few thoughts:

♦  I see the usual crop of “Whither America?” essays out there today bemoaning the polarized state of politicks and the debasement of our so-called culchah, and wondering How Much Longer We Can Go On As A Nation.  My guess? We’ll probably muddle through somehow.  (And I’d have said the same thing even if She Who Must Not Be Named had been elected.)  I still believe that when push comes to shove and people are shaken out of their complacency, there is still enough of the American Character in the majority of the population to see us through.  (Okay, I admit this sounds trite, but it’s either this or a ten-thousand word essay, and I’ve not nearly enough energy for that this morning.)

♦  Good for The Donald for coming to the defense of poor little Charlie Gard and his family.  (Go on over to the linkie to get Ace’s background and take.)  To me, this whole wretched situation illustrates perfectly the monstrosity of single-payer, State-run “health care”.  When Leviathan is lord and master, you are nothing but a slave and your life is nothing but a statistic.  (Oh, and one cheer, I suppose, for Papa Frankie, who finally voiced his support for the Gards as well, although it took him long enough to do so.)

♦  This article on a proposed global nuclear weapons ban and the high art of virtue-signaling made Ol’ Robbo smile nostalgically because it brought back to mind his time at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT in the mid-80’s when, in response to that crazy summbich Reagan threatening to blow up the world, it became very fashionable for various city councils and campus student governments to pass ordinances and resolutions declaring themselves to be “nuclear-free zones”.  (For some reason, Providence, RI stands out in my mind as an example.)

In response, I drew a cartoon for the conservative paper on campus featuring a handy-dandy, do-it-yourself, “personal” nuclear-free zone:  It featured a hippy with a paper bag over his head.

Curiously, there were those who didn’t think this was s’damn funny. (They were the same crowd who were distraught over the campus health center refusing to stock cyanide capsules to be used in case somebody dropped The Big One.)

(A glass of wine with Vodka Boy over at the Puppy-Blender’s place.)

Whelp, better go spread that mulch……

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A little grace-note for your consideration this evening:

This week, Eldest Gel has been helping out with Vacation Bible School at Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church.  This year, as in the previous two or three, she has been in charge of hospitality – essentially making sure the kiddies get their daily snacks and organizing an ice-breaker potluck suppah at the beginning.  She really seems to enjoy this sort of thing, and to enjoy even more being put in charge of it.

Anyhoo, this evening she showed me a thank-you card one of the campers had made for her, apparently all on his own.  It was just a piece of construction paper folded in half and scrawled with a few words saying how much fun he had and thanking her for being part of it, but I could tell she was genuinely moved.

So was I.

That’s all.   It was just a very nice little gesture.  Good for the kid.  And good for the Gel, too.

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