Why I love bees

I was a gardener once, and when I was out among my blossoms I enjoyed seeing the honeybees and bumble bees visiting the bright blooms, their sonorous buzzing all around me.


I can tell when they are happy by their buzzes. Low-pitched means contentment; high-pitched means irritation. They warn you for a while before they get serious.

But most of the time, they just buzz happily and work around you. I’ve actually bumped my forehead on a bumblebee once, and he didn’t even mind.

Bees like blue-colored flowers the best, but they’ve visited my zinnias, dahlias, gladiolus, lilies, and hibiscus almost as much as my anise hyssop, salvia, lavender, chamomile, and mint. I like to think of them making really tasty honey with all of those sweet scented herbs.

Bees are fun to photograph if you have patience and a decent camera. The average iPhone does and okay job, but for those amazing shots like the one in this article, you need a macro lens on a single lens reflex camera.

Bees are not mean at all, except perhaps killer bees. The only bee that ever hurt me was a dead one I stepped on. I’ve been stung by wasps, yellowjackets and hornets – but never bees.

And their honey is heavenly, especially when the hive’s main source of forage was orange blossoms or clover. My vegan friend Valerie once told me that eating honey is frowned upon by vegan purists, because you’re basically eating their food source for their young and wrecking their shelter. In addition, sometimes bees get stuck in the honey as you pull it out and can drown, which I agree is unfortunate.

There is always agave nectar, which is coming down in price as it becomes more popular. It’s kind of neutral in flavor, but maybe you can season it with orange juice.

Sadly, the world’s honeybees are in the fight of their lives: these little champions of pollination not only have to fly farther and farther to reach decent nectar sources because of human population growth and the desctruction of natural open spaces, they must also deal with a virulent new strain of deformed wing virus which is being rapidly spread by the parasitic Varroa mite. And this isn’t just a catastrophe for our little fuzzy friends – the U.S. has a $10-15 billion honey industry.

I remember two very remarkable bees on film. The first was “Invasion of the Bee Girls,” about women that turn into “bee women” and kill innocent men by having sex with them. They wore shades at night so men couldn’t see their scary compound eyes before they went in for the kill.

Invasion of the Bee Girls

My other favorite bee appearance is the Bee Twins from The Tick animated series. El Seed, a matador-esque animated sunflower, is trying to take over the world with these sexy bee henchwomen.

The Tick Bee Twins

Perhaps the most inspiring and quirky thing about bees is the bee dance. When they go out into the world and find this totally awesome stand of prickly pear cactus in full bloom, or a tea herb garden, they have a way of helping others get there.

When they get back to the hive and run into their buddy, they do this little “nectar dance” where they turn this way and that, frst clockwise, then counterclockwise, like a combination lock. This means something to the bee watching the show along the lines of “go tree tree tree tree turn right go tree tree tree turn left turn left go tree turn left turn left.”

There ya go. Don’t tell anyone else you know where the nectar is.

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Thoughts on hope

It’s Easter Sunday, a time we Christians look to for hope and joy as we reflect on Jesus’ journey and what it means for us. But I was not raised a Christian, although I began attending church when I was 13. So for me, the Easter holiday was always a little bewildering.

One thing I think about Christmas and Easter is that we gather to deliberately bring a little light and hope into the hearts of those we love.

Pastor Keith Wiseman at the First United Methodist Church in Big Spring, Texas, gave a wonderful sermon for Easter in about 1984, around the time I elected to be baptized and joined that church. I still hear his voice when I long for hope:

“Feed my sheep. Tend my lambs.”
“Faith, hope and love.”

For me, I cannot feel hope just because it’s Easter. Peeps and colored eggs are awesome, but that’s not a source of hope for me, and neither is reading about Christ being risen from the dead.

Heather stood up in my Quaker meeting today and said love is not an act, but a process. So true.

From my life experience, I understand that happy and sad things will happen in my life, and in my forties, I find the balance of events to have been sad.

Perhaps hope is a deliberate choice, like contentment. I have a harder time with it, though. There is a child within me that still cries out for reassurance that everything is going to be okay. And I am not good at providing that reassurance, having lost my mother and many others dear to me.

I see vast and wonderful potential in my stepkids, who are all teenagers. But I also know that they have already and will continue to experience many unfair and sad life events.

I have been worried about My husband’s back pain, because I see that it has struck him down in so many ways. So many things are now excruciatingly painful or just impossible for him. He doesn’t appear to have a good way forward back into health, and as he waits, his body suffers more and more. I was overwhelmed with thoughts of hopelessness yesterday while I sat with him. I told him I couldn’t feel any hope and that it was so painful to feel that despair.

He held my hand and looked me in the eyes, and told me that this was only temporary, that he would take steps to get better. Eventually I was able to take some hope from his assurance and let go of my cares for a time.

In thinking about hope this morning, the truth in my heart is that hope is a choice, just like happiness is a choice. And we must help each other to make that choice. And every day is a new day with new potential for both hope and despair, contentment and sadness.

Mom often said, “Sylvie, you get discouraged too easily! Stop defeating yourself with negative thoughts!” My reaction was frustration; I thought of her as being incurably Pollyanna-ish.

Years later, my boyfriend Rich told me while playing a game of Magic that I gave in to my despair too easily. He said it’s not over until it’s over, even when I m only a point away from a loss. I resolved to try to hang on a bit longer, and discovered I won at least half of the games I had found to be hopeless. This informed my thinking on hope.

I also remember my own experience listening to my heart when I feel despair. What I know is that there are certain things I know to do which give me hope if I do them. They are the small things that, taken together, could turn the situation eventually. In this way there is hope in the process and process in the hope.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Chatham, NJ

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Tunisian ‘morality cops’ make asses of themselves over topless feminist

A feminist protester in Tunisia who goes by ‘Amina’ has been going topless with provocative phrases written on her chest in Arabic. Lately she’s been inspiring death threats by the local moral authorities who worry that her behavior could spread.

It’s so chilling (and backwards) that Almi Adel, head of his little virtue club, is advocating savagely killing her for this nonviolent expression.

“Tunisian newspaper Kapitalis quoted the Wahabi Salafi preacher Almi Adel, who heads the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, saying: ‘The young lady should be punished according to sharia, with 80 to 100 lashes, but [because of] the severity of the act she has committed, she deserves be stoned to death.

‘Her act could bring about an epidemic. It could be contagious and give ideas to other women. It is therefore necessary to isolate [the incident]. I wish her to be healed.'”

So, viciously and painfully hurling rocks at a harmless female is healing? I think he’s cutting off his nose to spite his face.

The weird part is that because he feels honor bound to one-up her little rebellion, that makes me feel like all females in that country should rise up and make it understood just how much they are needed by the male half of the society.

These guys are behaving like thugs – bullies. Because they have more strength and savagery than a woman they believe that gives them the right to control, force, beat, whip, and stone their women with very little oversight or review.

The Commission for the ‘Promotion’ of Virtue and Prevention of Vice should be ashamed of themselves!! I hope they get leprosy and western hospitals refuse to treat them because they’re dangerous criminals.

Here’s the Huffington Post report

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My idea of surrender, and why I need it

I think about surrender a lot, because I am over forty and have learned how to control quite a bit of my life.

Something happens when a person reaches that age group. As a twenty-something I would often remark on how bitchy forty year old women were. They just seemed angry and bitter about everything. Well, it’s amazing how the life journey can give you some perspective on that.

To my twenty-something friends, you aren’t wrong about that observation! I’ll tell on myself a bit there. :-). Here’s why that bitterness tends to rear its ugly head at that time in a woman’s life (men too, I imagine). Since I can only speak for myself (others are undoubtedly wiser than me), I will cast this information in light of my own experience.

1. I’ve been working really hard in my career without sufficient regard to my other life needs…when I really need to work smarter.
2. I think I can keep the house clean all the time, even with four teenagers and animals and a full time job.
3. I fail to fully consider how I spend my commute to and from work.
4. I overlook the mathematics of the value of my time and give away too many hour of work to my employer.
5. I have been responsible for everything so long that I have forgotten how to be irresponsible – how to delight that inner child.
6. I stay too wrapped up in what didn’t go right yesterday and what I’m worried about for tomorrow to realize that in this little moment called NOW, there is a sunbeam and the coffee is awesome and the og is less than five feet away.

From my atheist / agnostic upbringing as a child, my concept of surrender is more practical than holy, although it certainly works to have a holy idea of surrender to God.

Surrender = acceptance of a bigger idea or plan than I cannot know all of at any one moment.

It also involves letting go of the idea that I can control what happens to me, and opening myself to serendipity that can move me forward spiritually. Even writing this line, I feel resistance within myself. Sometimes someone I care about makes a suggestion for something fun to do. If it wasn’t already in my plan for the weekend, maybe I will say no to it because I might see it as a distraction or predict it is not going to give me the contentment I am after.

But I also must acknowledge the truth that when I spend my weekend in exactly the ways I intended, the probability of feeling dissatisfaction by the end of the weekend is about the same. So what’s really going on here?

Lots of stuff, most of which I call ’emotional static’ that’s a result of not centering down enough. Emotional static is caused when there is a lack of discipline in my mind. I might be wrapped up in ‘shoulds’ about others in my life (i.e., things I cannot control) – cleaning up meal dishes without being asked, not leaving socks under the couch, not sticking toast with peanut butter behind the couch, not eating all of the cereal in one sitting.

It makes me tired just thinking about it! And just so you know, I still haven’t learned what the perfect balance is to living with teenagers, and I am still exhausted when I spend more time at home, and I am still relieved to send my days in a more predictable office environment.

Emotional static also comes from sensing others’ moods without being consciously aware of them, being mad at myself for lack of action or too much action, and nervousness over something that still needs to be done (like bills or taxes).

I can describe the problem of not surrendering in great detail – what I need to do next is describe the process of surrendering in great detail. I see it as a series of many decisions throughout the day to let go of things.

Sometimes it’s impossible to let go of a particular moment, but maybe it’s better then to say, well, that’s one moment, let’s try for the next. Maybe some days are so bad that I am doing great if I can just snatch one innocent, happy, expectation-free moment in the entire day.

If any of you also have this challenge (and fighting for survival in New Jersey seems to make this more prevalent), I suggest a few starter activities that won’t require too much of your time and energy (and thus will be harder to blow off).

While taking one of these little moments, remember to stop your thoughts and take a few deep, slow breaths, focusing on one pleasant thing about it at a time – the simpler the better. On returning to the routine, practice a little emotional discipline and avoid letting negative thoughts slam back into your mind – refocus on the pleasure of that moment.

Here’s the thing I noticed about these practices – they will not appear to be worthwhile when you first think about doing them. You will slowly get more joy from them as you continue practicing with the intention of contentment.

First thing in the morning:
While waiting on the dog to do her business or the child to eat, find a sunbeam if you can, listen to birds singing, or take a sip of something delicious like coffee or juice.

On your way to the office:
If you drive, play songs that make you happy and sing with them. It’s hard to frown while doing so. Or listen to stories to take your mind elsewhere.
If you take public transportation, sit someplace that’s a little more pleasant if you can. I walk all the way down the train to the quiet car on the end and sit on the east-facing side so the sun shines on me.
Also when on trains or buses, watch the people. if they don’t make you smile, go sit or stand somewhere more entertaining. It’s okay to have fun and notice other human beings in a crowded place.
If it’s cold, wear your softest, warmest, happiest scarf and hat even if they look funny. Especially if they look funny because others will smile at you.
If you walk, play tunes on your headphones that make you happy.

You get the idea – there is one of these moments in every part of your day – give it a try for a week and see if it helps!

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Collaborating with your family using social sites

Our family is totally digitally connected. To wit:

  • We have high-speed (N class) wifi throughout the house and a digital telephone line and all six of us can be streaming at the same time with very little slowdown. This is such an important feature of our home that after Hurricane Sandy blew through and we had endured 10 days without power and 12 days without heat, the first question from the kids was “is the wifi back on?”
  • In this house, we have the following functional technology: five Apple computers, one gaming PC, two iPads, one Kindle Fire, four iPhones and one iPod, an Airport Extreme and two Apple TVs. There are also two cheapie phones.
  • Every person in this household has at one time had a WordPress-themed blog on our own domains.
  • Every person in this household knows what cloud computing is and how to use Google Drive.
  • Every person in this household has been in Second life, a 3-D virtual world.

After saying this, it’s with a bit of shame that I admit to you that we STILL can’t keep track of each other’s schedules, what’s needed at the grocery store, and who fed the pets.

Jim and I are productivity tool hounds and we religiously use such apps as Evernote, Dropbox, Remember the Milk, OneNote, IFTTT (If This Then That) and dozens of others. We have long conversations about the things you can do with the various services. Cross-posting to social networks? Yep. Saving Google Reader articles to Instapaper? You bet.

How are families sharing information using shared apps, social sites and other tools?

What platforms would these tools need to be present on? IOS apps, PC and Mac app downloads, web access?

What are the tools that work? Family checklists and shared notebooks including Evernote and ….?

Cool ideas?
What’s for dinner and when
Plans to go out to eat
grocery list
recipes
Chore reminders
Individual calendars including work schedules for those with jobs
Pet care daily checklist
Shareable videos and photos
Links to great articles and essays
Shared music and art
Plug-ins, apps and tabs
Family game stats
Email and SMS reminders, event invites
Family-only online games

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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Frozen rice mix – great for vegetarians

I’m enjoying a fine vegetarian lunch that was easy to prepare and nutritious. I commute to work by train, so the lunch I take has to be compact and sturdy. Frozen is okay since I have access to a microwave.

I have the use of a sink, can opener, refrigerator, and a knife. I own a bowl, a plate, a personal set of bamboo cutlery and a cloth napkin which I reuse a few times before washing at home. I also have a shaker of salt, a shaker of nutritional yeast flakes (rich in B vitamins), and a shaker of seasoning mix, so pretty much anything I make has to be workable with these basics.

I wish my kitchen at home were that simple – imagine if each of us in our 6-person household had only those items. How much less of a mess would the kitchen be if we knew we had to wash our single dish to have something on which to eat? I guess I’d choose a bowl if I had to make a choice of plate vs. bowl.

The ingredients of today’s lunch are:

Frozen steam-in-the-bag rice with vegetables
Frozen veggie mix to fill out the veggie count – portioned in a glass food container with rubberized lid for safe reheating
One frozen vegetarian patty – today’s was bruscetta flavor
One peach from the Amish fruit stand downstairs

Heated until all ingredients were hot in the microwave and then mixed together on plate. Sprinkled with seasoning mix of choice and dug in!

If I have more time I could make a higher fiber rice like brown or a pilaf mix, adding vegetables at that time and freezing portions for quick lunch packing. If veggie burgers are not in the budget, I can use scrambled egg (cage free would be great) or reconstituted TVP – texturized vegetable protein. This stuff acts like ground beef in recipes but is not as greasy. It needs to be seasoned because it is bland.

I sometimes start with a soup (I like lentil, minestrone, black bean or veggie noodle) and add some leafy greens like spinach or collard greens before heating. Afterwards I stir in a tabIeoon of nutritional yeast, also called brewer’s yeast. If low on protein, I throw in a cut up veggie patty, some TVP, or cubed tofu.

For snacks on the train, I carry raw almonds, a handful of whole wheat crackers, and an orange. I also have a great thermal coffee cup which I carry back and forth – fits in the side pouch of my backpack.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Hudson St,Jersey City,United States

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Quaker meditation – getting focused

Sitting with the Quakers in silent worship one morning, I found a way to settle down into the silence that helped me. It’s like a song with three verses – you can repeat each verse as many times as you like until you reach the right mental state. Chant aloud or silently – it’s up to you. If you try this, I’d love to hear how it worked for you.

breathe in while saying or thinking,

I rest

 

breathe out while saying or thinking,

I give thanks

 

(repeat as many times as needed to give yourself grace for this process)

 

breathe in while saying or thinking,

I give thanks and open

 

breathe out while saying or thinking,

I wait and listen

 

(repeat as many times as needed to begin to clear the mind)

 

breathe in while saying or thinking,

I wait and listen

 

breathe out while saying or thinking,

(silence)

 

(repeat as many times as needed to stay in this listening state)

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Usability, customer service will be key for Linden Lab in 2011

A very down to earth and open-minded Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble (Rodvik Linden) spoke August 13 at the Second Life Community Convention (SLCC) in Oakland, Calif., and his message centered around focusing on making the user experience better and easier. Translation: bug fixes, not bright shiny new features.

However, there were plenty of hints at new features as well, although most were solidly in the usability category.

He seemed to be saying he wouldn’t replicate the Google+ stink about their insistence on people using actual names when he said that in our modern life, we have to wear a lot of hats – we have to be different people at work and when we come home from work, and that has to happen. “We want to be able to choose who we share those various identities with,” he said.

Many of my Second Life friends who are on Google+ have been complaining that they are not permitted to use the same avatar name in the new social network. Some have been banned or their accounts curtailed; others still have their SL names. All feel passionately that they have a right to segment their lives and have each with a different identity or style. I don’t worry about people knowing that Sylectra Darwin is Sylvie Dale, but I support the desire of any of my friends to keep those things separate as they choose.

Humble also said that Linden Lab is about more than just Second Life, although Second Life is by far their more important creation. In anything they create, they want to bring forth the principles of shared creative spaces, privacy first, customer-created content, and shared and social environments.  “It’s important for us to be as free as we can when it comes to content.”

The first half of the year was spent on creating the new Viewer 2 (with mixed levels of acclaim), making it easier to sign up as a new user, and making it easier for new users to get in-world and start interacting with others. The second half of the year and beyond will remain focused on bug fixes, improving usability, and improving the quality of customer service.

Among planned improvements Humble mentioned:

Usability:new viewer(?), search improved. Goal: Be able to give our family members a SL account and have them send that to any average intelligence computer user and have them be able to enjoy it and use it easily. Being able to move around the world, sign up, find things. Halfway through that project and ahead of schedule on some things (new viewer a big role?).

Lag: cache larger, region crossings improved

Service: Polish, bug fixes, ticket times bumped up, improve quality of customer service, make life unpleasant for griefers

Big initiatives coming out this year: gaming – no HUDS, hit one button for permission and have everything enabled. Premium members – more value coming, marketing and PR campaigns should bring in more users/customers for merchants. Engineers are looking at voice recognition and facial recognition at some point in the future.

Tablet and mobile devices: Massive threat to virtual world is the rise of tablet and mobile devices. We don’t now  address mobile devices and you will see us participating in mobile devices with SL and with a new product coming out (!).

Q&A:

Pricing structure: he would not talk about or answer questions about pricing, though he said they have plans to further enrich the experience of premium members.

He acknowledged that Viewer 2 still has a lot of improvement to do. They don’t want to completely redo it because it took so long to get the new codebase; they really need to continue fixing the one they have instead. He’d like to get rid of the sidebar or at least change the way it works, but it’s unlikely to happen until maybe 2012.

Advertising: They might consider channel ads for in-world merchants, but they won’t be spamming us with Colgate banner ads in the viewers.

They’ve been removing barriers to signing up as new users, using the viewer in basic mode, and using the Destination Guide to meet people and socialize, but the next big step is helping people to buy and wear objects, build objects, and do some of those more advanced activities.

Monthly uniques – nice growth in new users in-world – 16,000 new signups per day on average; no other stats forthcoming (big decrease in tier payments??)

See the video courtesy of UStream on the Metaverse Journal article: http://www.metaversejournal.com/2011/08/15/linden-lab-ceo-were-growing-but-were-not-sure-why/

 

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Doctoral student of psychology running body image study in virtual worlds

A Ph.D. candidate in Melbourne, Australia, is looking for a few good men.

Jon-Paul Cacioli, a clinical psychology student at Deakin University, is conducting a study on body image in the virtual would to see if the avatar can give us any insight into possible real-life psychological properties, he said in an email appeal to the author of this blog.

According to Cacioli, He has already conducted one study into this and requires some additional information, asking that males age 18 and up visit the link below and fill out a 20-minute survey. The focus of the survey is adult males who use avatars in Second Life or online games.

http://www.deakin.edu.au/psychology/research/virtualimage/

“Previous research has shown that the way people feel and interact with each other can be influenced by the individual’s perception of themselves. A discrepancy between how an individual perceives their own physical appearance compared to how they wish to look can lead to depression, higher levels of stress and anxiety and a poorer overall quality of life. The Internet has recently reached a level of sophistication whereby an individual can create a digital representation of themselves, such as an avatar, controlling each physical dimension. The purpose of this project is to investigate the differences between individuals and their avatars and examine their experience of how appearance affects them in real life and on the Internet, such as in programs as Second Life and World of Warcraft.”

A total of 300 people, all males over 18 years of age, will participate in this project. Participants are entered into a drawing for a $100 AUD Amazon.com gift
voucher, Cacioli said.

Jon-Paul Cacioli
Candidate, Doctor of Psychology (Clinical)
Deakin University
221 Burwood Hwy
Burwood, Melbourne, VIC, 3125

 

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Reason and passion (and appreciating point of view)

There are some learning experiences that are inspired by interactions within Second Life groups. I belong to a group called Play as Being, which gets together in Bieup to discuss things like meditation, mindfulness, the self, and play. Over time, we have evolved an inclusive method for discussion that helps all participants to be understood and appreciated.

It’s a gentle way to communicate, and especially well-suited to a virtual environment where we cannot see on anothers’ real life faces and so we must make an effort to show positive sentiment in our written chats.

In a Yahoo Group email list, we began to discuss an article written by one of our members, who is known as Bleu.

http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge342.html

Edge Seminar speaker Jonathan Haidt explored:

Why are humans so bad at reasoning in some contexts and good at reasoning in other contexts?

“Reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments. That’s why they call it The Argumentative Theory of Reasoning,” Haidt said.

Another friend responded with this exploration of reason and passion (Hume was one of my required readings a long time ago in college):

“That reminds me of Hume’s argument that ‘reason is and ought only to be the
slave of the passions.’

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/emotions-17th18th/LD8Hume.html#ReaOugOnlSlaPas

To this, our group founder and leader, who goes by Pema Pera in Second Life, related Play as Being’s way of gently exploring issues. He said:

“Once we realize that reasoning is mostly arguing,
a way to consolidate your already existing opinions,
we can discern different ways of doing so.

“The simplest way to reason/argue, is to confront
someone else saying ‘I disagree.’ Here is an example:

“A: I think X.

“B: I disagree. I think Y.

“Clearly, that’s neither very helpful, nor very pleasant.
Chances are than immediately both sides harden their
position, drawing battle lines, and defending X and Y.

“The PaB way of reasoning, as it developed very quickly
and is still developing, is more along the lines of:

“A: I think X.

“[ B thinking: X??? How odd, I’m pretty sure it is Y !!!
how interesting that a nice person like A can have such
a strange idea — I want to know more about that ]

“B: can you say more?

“A: … (saying more) …

“[ B thinking: aha, now I have more of an idea where A is
coming from and the context for thinking X. But let me
make sure I understand, before comparing with my ideas ]

“B: ah, how interesting. So you think X, because of …
(this and that) …

“A: yes, but not quite like that, more like … (such and
such) …

“[ B thinking: okay, that is very helpful, now I have a
more clear picture — though I still think that Y may
be more correct. Let’s see whether we can figure out
our differences. ]

“B: I see. That helps me to understand why you think X.
I myself had thought Y, but I may have to reconsider.
My main argument for Y, rather than X was … (gives
argument) … How does that fit in with your picture?

“At this point, A happily can extend the picture already
sketched and shared, in order to point out how A sees
things differently from B, and they both can walk around
the issue, looking from different angles, while together
finding new vistas.

“Initially, I had not clearly realized that this had become
the PaB way of reasoning by playfully ‘comparing notes’.
It only became clear when we had a few visitors joining us
for a while who were not operating in that mode. Their
much more jarring way of reasoning (like in many academic
forums, or political forums) was very helpful to bring out,
in contrast, what it is that we are all sharing here.”

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