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Energy gots me thinkin.

in South Texas, we have about eight perfectly gorgeous days a year. The rest of the time we are getting pounded with blazing sun and heat like machine gun fire.

I stretched 600 ft of PEX across open ground to borrow water from my neighbor, and during the day, the hot water's hot, and the cold water's HOTTER. Days when it's real bad , you can't take a shower past about noon--you'll burn the shit outta yourself. I wash my dishes on straight cold. They go steaming to the rack.

When I look at gardening books (the authors of which all seem to hail from the Arctic Circle or Saskatchewan or some such), I supress a giggle as they swear up and down about covering the ground with black mulch and wrapping up their poor little trees with thick blankets and warm woolen mittens and those cute little hats with them damn dangly things on 'em! When they break out the gas heaters, I drop the book. It's just too much.

Energy....hell: we've got too MUCH energy. Burn your ass right out of the chair. So much energy, it burns our trees. Fries the grass out of the ground. The chickens keel over.

If you come and look at my land at two in the afternoon in the summer (and it's pretty damned close to wall to wall summer here), you'll find that only the stupid animals are up and mucking about at that hour: the domesticated livestock, the dog, and his humans. Oh, and somehow the vultures--who seem to be positively beyond death, stretch their wings and glide silently through 110 F air.

All the smart animals are three feet underground by now if they can get it, hunkered in their bunkers.

And to any intelligent animal this is obvious--you sweat and strain to get your food and water, now for God's sake hold onto it. Get while the gettin's good, then get the hell out of the way and let the fire rip on through. An animal's equivalent to interest and savings is holding onto your lunch, and get the most out of it--growth, reproduction, tomorrow's hunting or further harvesting.

In the sun, even a scorpion won't skitter across that ground--because it's expensive, and it hurts! But wait 'til nightfall...temperature drops to a balmy eighty degrees...sometimes even seventy eight...

The place comes alive! Animals everywhere! Crickets and locusts so thick they cling to your clothes as you walk. Spiders all over your face. The ground is Times Square with scorpions and roaches and beetles and crickets and snakes and geckos and frogs and toads, all chasing each other round and round in the game of life.

Mice and rats and voles swing from the brushpiles like trapeze artists and the owls and coyotes and foxes are on the run, cooing and yapping and calling after them.

And why wouldn't they? It's the only way in the damned world a vole is going to get a THIRTY degree break in temperature to go about his business. He's up at night because he's hungry, and he got stuff to do, and don't wanna die doin' it.

Here we spend the vast majority of our energy costs not on incurring energy, but in getting bloody rid of it!

So my question to the constituency is, why the hell are we on the stupid end of this rifle?
 
pollinator
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Michael Sohocki wrote:Here we spend the vast majority of our energy costs not on incurring energy, but in getting bloody rid of it!



First, we have to dispel this myth; the law of physics states that "energy can neither be created, nor destroyed". At best we are just converting it from one form to another. Conservation is just a way for us to do that with the least resourses.

What we argue about amung humans is what constitutes as "best".

For instance, you could have a above ground PEX system in the summer instead of a hot water heater, and in the winter use an underground system to ease the burden on your hot water heater. That would be the best of both worlds, but a dual system would be expensive. For a die hard envirinmentalist it would be the "best" way to go and worth doing, where as for me, a very frugal person, the return on investment is too costly compared to using only the solar heating system and a propane hot water heater. Neither of us is wrong, just what our moral compass feels is "best".

Michael Sohocki wrote:So my question to the constituency is, why the hell are we on the stupid end of this rifle?



Typically there are no answers for "why" questions, but a look at history will explain this, and it has everything to do with electricity...and specifically air conditioning.

Before the advent of air conditioning, the majority of the population was NOT on the wrong end of the rifle, we were in the North where rivers powered by melting snow churned the industrial age, and people lived in comfort with trees providing heat. With the advent of air condioning though, where people could move to the south where it was hot, their cars, their homes, their stores all chilled to comfortable levels, yet all without dealing with snow and fridgid temperatures.

Which is better...the north or the South? Neither really. The southern group has a lot of need for cooling, where as for me my greatest need lies in heat. Due to the higher cost of energy though, a shift to the center of the country is happening, with some big name companies moving there. But that is how life works; in demographics, in relationships, and even in politics; first there is radical change, and then it moves to center. It is why the saying  "third times the charm", often holds true.


 
pollinator
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Travis Johnson wrote: Due to the higher cost of energy though, a shift to the center of the country is happening



I'm not totally convinced of that.

 
gardener
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Regarding Idaho having the fastest percentage growth, you have to consider the original population.  My city could be the fastest growing city if it goes from 1 resident to 3 residents.  The "percent change by region" is probably more indicative of overall population movement.

Regarding south Texas only being livable for vultures and night critters, I can just say that I'm glad I don't live there.  We suffer when it gets over 85 here, luckily that only happens a few times a summer.

Since you have all that energy, put it to work.  Heat water with it, photovoltaic some electricity with it.  Or dig a hole to live in like the smart animals (earth sheltered or wofati).
 
pollinator
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Any record of how the indigenous went about their day in that climate?

"IN FOUR DAYS' riding he crossed the Pecos at Iraan Texas and rode up out of the river breaks where the pumpjacks in the Yates Field ranged against the skyline rose and dipped like mechanical birds. Like great primitive birds welded up out of iron by hearsay in a land perhaps where such birds once had been. At that time there were still indians camped on the western plains and late in the day he passed in his riding a scattered group of their wickiups propped upon that scoured and trembling waste. They were perhaps a quarter mile to the north, just huts made from poles and brush with a few goathides draped across them. The indians stood watching him. He could see that none of them spoke among themselves or commented on his riding there nor did they raise a hand in greeting or call out to him. They had no curiosity about him at all. As if they knew all that they needed to know. They stood and watched him pass and watched him vanish upon that landscape solely because he was passing. Solely because he would vanish."  --Cormac McCarthy, "All the Pretty Horses"
 
pollinator
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I had a wtf moment last year in the heat extreme. I walked down to the pond and witnessed 2 raccoons walk to the edge of the water, swim about 2/3 out, turn around, swim back, then make their way back into the forest thicket.

Raccoons DON'T come out during the day. It was weird.

 
pollinator
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Got to say, this is why I never want to leave the west coast. Where I live now has or used to have an extremely mild climate, cool summers, mild winters, cool nights, warm days, 50% humidity. There are only about 8 days a year that it isn't comfortable taking my daily 3 mile walk. Where I'm moving it isn't nearly so mild, but it's nowhere near as harsh as most of the country, and it should be better for gardening.

As far as living in other climates, passive solar building design is critical for keeping energy costs down, as well as reasonable size housing, 200-300 square feet per person. And even, in my mild climate, I work outside in the morning and evening, and stay inside during the warmest parts of the day. And in winter, reverse.
 
Michael Sohocki
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I love McCarthy. That was such a beautiful book!

Hi Travis. I hope you realize I am treating the energy issue with a sprinkle of humor...I'z actual kinda smart.

What we've been hell bent on developing for a hundred years of HVAC technology is moving heat energy from one place---and usually the physical state of a gas--to another.

But all that shmiggle shmaggle in the grand tradition of human ingenuity boils down to pulling heat out of a "Mine" and dumping it where we don't care. This logic is beginning to bite us in the ass as we split up the Great Don't Care and make it into seven billion Mines, slap sheet rock around them and plug a window unit into each.

Humor aside, here is the takeaway: Texas weather is coming for you.

Daniel Quinn said it well, if you want to formulate a set of laws about flight, you would study birds--a study of opposums or marmosets or the average rainfall of the Amazon River basin would not serve you in this regard. If you want to solve an unknown, you must start with a study of what works in that department.

Scorpions work. And scorpions don't have air conditioning.

So to exploit the lesson of the scorpion, crawling into the deepest darkest moistest place you can find for the 2 pm fry is the way to go.

I am only passingly concerned about my personal comfort or future. Can I throw dirt on myself? Sure, and I'm going to try. But my life is temporary. More importantly, I can get in my truck and drive all day (and not reach the border of Texas!) and not see a wofati or an underground home. We don't do this.

It's just not done.

How long have we been tightening the bolts on our understanding of thermodynamics? Only just a couple thousand years? Like, uh, ten?

Have you seen City Slickers, the part where they're riding along and one guy is trying desperately to explain how you can record a show with a VCR even if you don't HAVE a televsion, and the third guy flips out, "ENOUGH! The COWS could get it by now! He's NOT going to get it!"

We KNOW the shit. We have no weakness in our understanding of the transfer of energy--or alternating current, or how to keep soil healthy. We are so, incredibly, unbearably, obnoxiously intelligent. Our minds can reach into the vast equations underpinning the gyrations of the cosmos and subatomic particles. The physical world lays at our mercy (well...mostly).

If--or rather, since--we are such geniuses, why have we made so little progress in formulating a collective understanding of how humans ought to live? Not just me, but my entire society is out here getting our heads beat in by blazing sun, as we staunchly refuse the lesson of the scorpion. Our brightest and bravest.

I'm tired of hearing the 'too little information' argument. The ocean is so big, and my boat is so small, ya ya ya. Wilbur and Orville Wright were small. Jacques Cousteau was small. Steve Jobs was small. They each cracked open their relative worlds and yielded its tiny bits. And people flooded after them like the Pied Piper of Hamlin.

Is our revelation here less...I don't what...
interesting...than flight?
 
John Weiland
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Michael Sohocki wrote:  .....since--we are such geniuses, why have we made so little progress in formulating a collective understanding of how humans ought to live? Not just me, but my entire society is out here getting our heads beat in by blazing sun, as we staunchly refuse the lesson of the scorpion. Our brightest and bravest.

I'm tired of hearing the 'too little information' argument. The ocean is so big, and my boat is so small, ya ya ya. Wilbur and Orville Wright were small. Jacques Cousteau was small. Steve Jobs was small. They each cracked open their relative worlds and yielded its tiny bits. And people flooded after them like the Pied Piper of Hamlin.

Is our revelation here less...I don't what...
interesting...than flight?



My favorite writer on the subject:     Paul Shepard

".....My question is: why does society persist in destroying its habitat? I have, at different times, believed the answer was a lack of information, faulty technique, or insensibility. Certainly intuitions of the interdependence of all life are an ancient wisdom, perhaps as old as thought itself that is occasionally rediscovered, as it has been by the science of ecology in our own society. At mid-twentieth century there was a widely shared feeling that we needed only to bring businesspeople, cab drivers, homemakers, and politicians together with the right mix of oceanographers, soils experts, or foresters in order to set things right.

In time, even with the attention of the media and a windfall of synthesizers, popularizers, gurus of ecophilosophy, and other champions of ecology, and in spite of some new laws and indications that environmentalism is taking its place as a new turtle on the political log, nothing much has changed. Either I and the other "pessimists" and "doomsayers" were wrong about the human need for other species and about the decline of the planet as a life-support system; or our species is intent on suicide; or there is something we overlooked....."
--Paul Shepard, 'Nature and Madness'

http://www.primitivism.com/nature-madness.htm

The weblink is a condensation of his thoughtful book by that same name, a writing that delves into the developmental and historical socio-psychology of what brought us to this point.
 
Michael Sohocki
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My initial reaction is, okay--excellent diagnosis. We'll go with it until we get some boots on the ground.

Now how do we get them to turn off Netflix, put down the Cheetos, peel their fat asses out of the couch and go do something?

Shepard says that we don't need a dramatic overhaul in "life-style", but I don't see how this can be so. As Shepard points out elsewhere this lifestyle of ours has caused--in a haze of arrested development of whiny, adolescent forty year olds--a dependence. Sure; it would be hard to lock swords with that assessment. 

I would add not just dependence, but insulation from outside influence (no, I don't mean Timothy Leary, I mean ACTUALLY outside outside, with birds and bugs and shit, the actual hammer on your actual thumb). Insulation from the call and responses of earth--and, well, of your fellow man. The naturally occurring cultures of response and exchange formed over milennia in the same way the wings of the grasshopper took their shape out of need and function.

The culture of individual right, materialism, protectionism, and Mine Mine Mine that Shepard calls the pursuit of "infinite possession" is a coccoon, and a coffin: that suspension tank of amniotic fluid Lawrence Fishburn pulls Keanu Reaves out of in the Matrix.

"Why do my eyes hurt?"
"Because you've never used them."

It doesn't just sustain life, it excludes otherness. Like stuffing cows full of corn and crude protein in stockyards, to obfuscate any discussion of grass that might (no, it WOULD) naturally occur. So that anyone arguing against Netflixification has a harder and harder time biting through that thick cotton candy insulation to get to the ears of the thinker.

(AV technology is probably the ultimate exclusion tool.)

Apartment complexes come in over a hundred units now and it is not only possible but likely that no two are connected by anything resembling village-ness.

Cell phone apps and earbuds and television shows have been specially designed by psychologists, sociologists, and other scientists to ring the right alarms in your brain and keep that melanin coming, keep you plugged in more thoroughly and longer every month every year.

Creating mental milk cows has proven staggeringly profitable: check out the Happy Meal. Media designers have paid subjects with brain wave leads stuck to their skull, and retina-watching cameras that track eye movement, ever more thoughtfully taking advantage of your body and brain's (dare I say, "natural") predilections.

Okay Google, get Shepard on the phone.

Now how do we crack open the pods?
 
pollinator
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I'm not sure what the point is, here.

What is the question being asked? And at whom is all this hate and disgust being directed?

I work a blue-collar job in Mississauga, Ontario, and I live in downtown Toronto.

Do I do so by choice? No, I don't. I work where I work and live where I live because that is the best job I could get for now, and that's the best place I could find to live with that in mind.

Why don't I just pick up and leave, find some land, and start up some permaculture? Mostly lack of money, an overabundance of debt, and the fact that land is expensive.

So I have to work towards what I want.

Does that mean that I'm lazy, that I work a nine-to-five (or 7:30 to 4:00) and that I watch Netflix sometimes in the evenings?

Sounds to me like the long-winded philosophers found their source of residual income. Maybe I should start throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks?

-CK
 
pollinator
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siesta = smart

= dumb     what was she thinking?     low end of the bell curve for sure
 
Michael Sohocki
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Hello Chris, thank you for your post.

The point of my topic is that the solutions to a lot of the damage we cause as a species are readily available, by now well researched, and doable.

For example, if we followed the example of animals who have no choice in the matter, we could build our houses beneath ground level, or change our living schedules to simply avoid the punishing temperatures. It is not only possible but practical and affordable to use earth as a base building material for houses--but we have even made this illegal in the 2018 universal building code (UBC).

I am not an armchair philosopher. I cook professionally, arc weld, repair plumbing, and raise animals for slaughter. I have three children and holes in my underwear. I built all my own fences, installed my own septic system, built my own own meter loop to power my house, incubate eggs and breed my own animals, and drag chicken coops and haul compost by the bucketload every morning. I live in an above ground house, and pay over $200 a month in electricity to cool this badly designed contraption off. While working 60-70 hours a week to do it.

What frustrates me is that we live in a culture where the solutions exist, are reachable, and would benefit every species--including our own--if we would only do them--collectively. But we don't. 
 
Michael Sohocki
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One more thing, Chris.

I am also cornered by my circumstance.

Just because we are cornered by circumstance doesn't mean we're out of choices.
 
John Weiland
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Michael Sohocki wrote:

The point of my topic is that the solutions to a lot of the damage we cause as a species are readily available, by now well researched, and doable.
..........

What frustrates me is that we live in a culture where the solutions exist, are reachable, and would benefit every species--including our own--if we would only do them--collectively. But we don't.



(my bold text added).....as that is Shepard's question as well.  With all of the evidence of the destruction ..... and some pretty darn good solutions as well....before us, why would we, as a species, willingly choose an almost suicidal path?  Although I haven't given the issue a great deal of thought, it could be (and without references nearby, almost assuredly has been) argued that the increasingly "amniotic" surroundings in which Homo sapiens finds itself at the behest of it's own hand is indeed species preparation for the "pod" existence that may, as a transitory stage, allow its survival after the planet is gone.  But it does seem sad that an actual visceral feeling of affection and attachment to the big blue marble has ebbed to such a low point,.....again at our own hand.  I find Shepard's arguments about maturity and socio-psychological "pruning" of vision and drive by society(s) to be quite compelling and certainly worth noting when pondering this issue.  As his book is an admittedly armchair attempt to trace the roots of the vision that culminated in the present technocracies, it nevertheless paints a long and winding road dating back to the dawn of agriculture.  As such, any modifying or reversal of the inertia moving this train forward will take time, wisdom, and a love that will not be around to see the fruits of its labors.

"I know as certain as death that there ain't nothing short of the second comin' of Christ that can slow this train."  -- Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, "No Country for Old Men".

But if that train is on tracks, those tracks can be ..... might be....moved ever so slightly back towards something more coherent with our past.  And although many will say "You can't go back....", it's always seemed to me that the argument should be whether or not "back" is a choosing a better or worse outcome,.....and not derided simply because it represents something from which we've "moved on".
 
wayne fajkus
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Michael Sohocki wrote:
Apartment complexes come in over a hundred units now and it is not only possible but likely that no two are connected by anything resembling village-ness.



A cop going home recently killed someone. She walked in her apt, saw an intruder. and killed him. The problem was she walked into the wrong apt. She lives on 3rd floor, she walked into a 4th floor apt.
 
Chris Kott
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Michael, if my response struck you as a personal attack, I do apologise; such was not my intent.

I have no issue with "crunchy" words, but what has been posted above seemed needlessly verbose for a relatively straightforward issue, as you made clear in your response to my post. And if I'm criticising something for being too verbose...

As Mike noted most succinctly, the siesta is an adaptation very much in the spirit of what you propose. Perhaps it would be a good idea to identify other traditional cultural adaptations to climate and whatnot that predate HVAC and the badly built stick housing that makes it necessary.

We are the smart animals, by the way. Not only that, but unless it hasn't been mentioned, labouring away through the heat of the day to the extent that other organisms, like our prey, couldn't compete used to be our evolutionary advantage, until our minds and our tools became more advanced.

I don't disagree with you. But I really don't see society moving away from the high-energy, climate-controlled workplace mentality, that does away for the necessity of adaptations like the siesta. HVAC, like the artificial light, is an adaptation designed to allow us to be more productive for longer.

It's really the greed motive that mucks things up. If not for the ability to hoard wealth, we might need to do seasonal burst work to get the crops planted and harvested, but other than that, we'd tend our perennial and animal systems and hunt whatever was in season for food for the year.

I don't see a solution to greed, but I do see a potential divide developing between those in constant climate-controlled living situations and those who have to accomodate extreme heat and other environmental pressures.

Honestly, I wouldn't mind following the animal model more closely, having a siesta for the four hottest hours of the day in the summer, and hibernating all winter.

-CK
 
pollinator
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There is a fundamental invention that changed the population center as Travis has alluded- the heat pump.

This means that to change a temperature by say 20F or 10c costs relatively the same amount either way from the predominant temperature. Michael lives in a place where for 9 months a year x 12 hours a day active cooling must take place. The COP (coefficient of performance) cares little whether this is from 100F to 80F or 80F to 60F (depending on refrigerant of course). Travis spends 6 months a year trying to change his temperature from 0F to 60F for six months a year 24 hours a day. Actually Travis is better just with a traditional combustion since the pump has no place to "waste" cold air. It costs less to live in Texas than in Maine in energy, both the cost per kWh and amount of kWh. Significantly, actually.

COP is probably around 4 (four times as efficient as combustion) for mild heating with a good HVAC, but drops to par at real cold temperatures. Of course the big win was that there was until recently no way to cool at all other than to make a subterranean house. They are not easy. I have studied this stuff as a dedicated amateur, lived in a partly subterranean house for years, and it is much harder to get the drainage right. We are getting a little stress test in a few days for our drainage, and if we get it wrong, we replace some shingles. Mike Euler would have a challenge to build his construction in our wet clay. I'm doing some little test buildings underground here, but its a whole nother thing.

So that is where we are. People weren't (aren't) stupid, just trying to maximize their comfort. I am probably not alone thinking we have gotten a little too comfortable, but I'm statistically anomalous.



 
Michael Sohocki
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Are you in the path of Hurricane Florence?
 
Tj Jefferson
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Not anymore, will see. Gonna get some rain but that has been all... summer... long. I normally harvest all the fish we need in the summer, and this year it looks like we are more of a red meat family.

 
Michael Sohocki
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Oh yeah, the coefficient thing.

Our day time temperature can top 110F, and nighttime can drop to 80--well, not likely, but it does happen. Humidity is high, 80-90% is typical, so evaporative  cooling don't work worth a shit around here.

Temp inside the house I would like to be 76 if I could help it, but I'll settle for 80. You'll sweat in your sleep but whatever, you'll live.

So day and night temperatures can be 45 degrees disparate! This swoop-and-crash parabola is damned hard on life forms. The things that cannot go hide (like, with roots, for instance) have to be tough as nails. Even the cactus (the cactus!) has skin burns on the upmost sun-facing side.

The amount of energy required to climb 45 degrees in either direction I can tell you is intense. AC motor works hard. I am currently researching desiccant disc coolers developed in Australia for life in the outback. The obvious things that one could do to help oneself are to block the sun, with a secondary roof on a metal frame to take the brunt of heat energy, paint upward-facing surfaces white, and create heat sinks, such as masonry or rammed Earth, which store heat energy and let it out gradually at a different time.

All of these solutions cost money of course. And we're back to the circumstance discussion.
 
John Weiland
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Michael Sohocki wrote:
All of these solutions cost money of course. And we're back to the circumstance discussion.



Given our structure of our society and background of our culture, the circumstance thing will be hard to contend with.

It's a bit comparing apples to oranges, but the general historical understanding of the indigenous population around the Red River Valley of the North was that......they didn't live in the valley!  [The "valley" as it is known is really the old lakebed of glacial Lake Agassiz....the Red River winds its way from the Minnesota-South Dakota border to Lake Winnipeg in Canada and then to Hudson Bay.]  The fertility of that lake bed is the reason for it being farmed, but that required a great deal of manual draining of the land from its swampy nature.  The swampy nature made it less desirable as a place to live for the indigenous tribes of the region, but a great place for hunting and gathering.  The woodlands just to the east provided the best areas for sheltering and living out the summers and winters.

The bitter point being.....there are just some areas that are not so hospitable for living *IF* you enjoy operating your own home economy/ecology as much as possible as well as enjoying your natural setting.  From observation, however, there are those that would be fine with a hermetically-enclosed existence in your region, with probably the need for outside inputs to make it happen.  I guess if I were in your same region and situation, I would exploit the sun as much as possible with solar electricity.....sounds like "passive solar heating" of your home is not a concern, but rather the other way around.  Water and food production would be a challenge for sure, ..... not sure how I would approach that, but would again look to animal life and past lifestyles of the indigenous in that area to see what worked and what didn't.
 
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