Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for June 22nd, 2009

Interesting site for wine lovers

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Take a look. From the intro:

Welcome to winepsych.com, the first website dedicated to the psychology of wine.  Read more about me and the aims of the site here. In a nutshell, to provide an entertaining and informative overview of psychological insight into the world of wine.  Please look at the blog to see the latest news.   The wine research section outlines studies that you are unlikely to find collected together anywhere else and also contains articles and information about psychological theory and the world of wine.  There are also book reviews, and  I have included sections on wine courses / education.

My wine tasting notes are collected together in the wine tastings section.   I have also included bar/restaurant reviews as I know these are popular.

An important part of the site is the forum, please use this to contribute your views and make contact with others who share your interests.  A main aim is to support groups of people in coming together to talk about wine and to form interest groups, research partnerships and Tasting Clubs (along the line of Book Clubs).  A 21st Century virtual Symposium.

I can be contacted here for inquiries and welcome constructive feedback.  Please look at about page for background information and details of consultancy and support that I offer.

Enjoy.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 5:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks, Food

Savant art

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Fascinating slide show of art by various savants. Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Science

Are we in control of our own decisions?

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A good TED talk. The intro:

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive (and sometimes shocking) research findings to show how we’re not as rational as we think when we make decisions.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Are we in control of our own decisions?", posted with vodpod

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 5:34 pm

Posted in Daily life

The Simple Dollar reviews Mindset

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I think highly of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck. Indeed, I think it’s essential reading for any parent, teacher, coach, or other shaper of young minds. Now Trent Hamm has a review of the book over at The Simple Dollar. Check it out.

And while you’re at it, read this review as well.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 5:19 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Education

Lameness in action

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Interesting exercise:

First, read the column by the NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard explaining why NPR will not use the word "torture" to describe US interrogations of terrorists under Bush.

Second, pick apart what’s wrong with what she writes.

Third, read Glenn Greenwald’s analysis of the column.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media

Plugging the Medicare donut hole

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Good news from Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent:

President Obama today made official an $80 billion deal with the pharmaceutical industry to cut prescription drug costs for the nation’s seniors.

As it is, Medicare patients are forced to pay the full cost for their prescription drugs when annual expenses fall between $2,700 and $6,154. Under the new agreement, drug companies would pick of 50 percent of the tab for some of those patients falling into Medicare’s so-called doughnut hole.

“This gap in coverage has been placing a crushing burden on many older Americans who live on fixed incomes and can’t afford thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses,” Obama said today, with key Democratic lawmakers and the head of AARP by his side.

Our goal, our imperative, is to reduce the punishing inflation in health care costs while improving patient care. And to do that, we’re going to have to work together to root out waste and inefficiencies that may pad the bottom line of the insurance industry, but add nothing to the health of our nation. To that end, the pharmaceutical industry has committed to reduce its draw on the health care system by $80 billion over the next 10 years as part of overall health care reform.

For the industry, it’s not quite the sacrifice it appears to be. Big Pharma has already profited handsomely from the creation of the prescription drug program. And, as The Hill’s Jeffrey Young points out today, their $80 billion commitment could pay dividends in the end: …

Continue reading.

UPDATE: Also note this follow-up story by Mike Lillis, who also wrote the story above.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 2:12 pm

Justice Department: what’s going on there?

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Matthew DeLong in the Washington Independent:

From The New Mexico Independent:

[T]he U.S. Justice Department is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the descendants of legendary Chiricahua Apache leader Goyathlay (a.k.a. Geronimo) aimed at recovering his allegedly stolen remains.

The lawsuit claims that the Skull and Bones Society located at Yale University — but not technically affiliated with the school — stole Geronimo’s bones in 1918 from a burial plot in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

According to Alexandra Robbins, who wrote a book on the subject, Prescott Bush — former U.S. senator, father of George H.W. and grandfather of George W. — was one of the Bonesman involved in the alleged tomb-raiding.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 2:08 pm

Stories from the war

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Via Spencer Ackerman, this excellent article by Greg Jaffe on the war in Afghanistan:

Konar Province, Afghanistan The father arrived at the gate of Capt. Michael Harrison’s base earlier this month cradling the limp body of his 9-year-old daughter.

A few minutes earlier, the little girl had been playing with her cousin by the rutted main road that runs through Harrison’s sector. A Taliban bomb intended for an Afghan army convoy had exploded. It missed the convoy and instead struck the girl, known by the single name of Akhtarbabi.

Her face was blackened from the blast. A piece of charred shrapnel was lodged in her temple. Harrison ordered two of his medics to take the girl’s cousin, who was bloody but still conscious, to the base’s aid station, a plywood shack about the size of a toolshed. Other medics set Akhtarbabi on a cot in a dark concrete bunker just outside the aid station. They crouched over her, searching for a pulse.

"She’s dead," Sgt. Ed Welch, the chief medic, whispered to Harrison.

It was up to Harrison, a 27-year-old company commander who oversees U.S. military operations in a sprawling, isolated and violent swath of Afghanistan near the Pakistani border, to figure out how to take advantage of the opening the Taliban had given him. The question consumed and frustrated the Virginia native for most of June. It also laid bare the challenges facing the Obama administration and U.S. commanders as they try to reverse the course of a war that has grown increasingly dire in the past year.

Harrison faces two enemies in Afghanistan. The most obvious is the Taliban, whose fighters lurk in the mountains along the border. The other is the overwhelming frustration that Afghans feel toward U.S. forces. Eight years of airstrikes, civilian casualties and humiliating house-to-house searches have left the Afghan people deeply suspicious of the U.S. troops who are supposed to be protecting them.

As Harrison’s medics hovered over the girl’s body, her cabdriver father, Jonagha, squatted on the ground outside the aid station. A summer thunderstorm swept over the base. The father placed his face in his hands and prayed as the rain drenched his bloodstained tunic.

Harrison and his interpreter knelt beside Jonagha. The American captain draped an arm around the man’s shoulders, leaned in close and delivered the news that his daughter was dead. The man sat frozen, his face still resting in his palms and the rain pelting his back.

"I am very sorry for your loss," Harrison said. "I want you to come back here whenever you want to come back. I want to help your family." He paused to let his interpreter translate. Then Harrison pressed a soggy $20 bill into the father’s hands.

The Taliban had shown their brutality. Akhtarbabi was their civilian casualty.

* * *

Harrison, a native of Rural Retreat, Va., has spent more than 20 months leading troops in Konar province over the course of two tours. The West Point graduate wasn’t supposed to take command of a 140-soldier infantry company until 2011. But when Harrison’s commander learned that his battalion, part of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, was returning to Konar, he asked Harrison to take command early.

Between his two tours, …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 1:16 pm

General McChrystal’s guidance to the troops in Afghanistan

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From the Small Wars Journal:

Commander
Headquarters
International Security Assistance Force
Kabul Afghanistan
APO AE 09356

Commander’s Initial Guidance As of: 13 June 09

To the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Civilians of ISAF,

The situation in Afghanistan is serious. The outcome is important–and not yet decided. Our actions this year will be critical. We must, and will, succeed.

Success will be defined by the Afghan people’s freedom to choose their future–freedom from coercion, extremists, malign foreign influence, or abusive government actions.

The outcome will be determined by our ability to understand and act with precision, the values we display, our unity of purpose, and our resolve.

The challenges to Afghanistan are complex and interrelated. Solutions will not be simple. The ongoing insurgency must be met with a counterinsurgency campaign adapted to the unique conditions in each area
that:

– Protects the Afghan people–allowing them to choose a future they can be proud of
– Provides a secure environment allowing good government and economic development to undercut the causes and advocates of insurgency

This effort will be long and difficult–there is no single secret for success. As imperatives we must:

1. Protect and Partner with the People. We are fighting for the Afghan people–not against them. Our focus on their welfare will build the trust and support necessary for success.

2. Conduct a comprehensive Counterinsurgency Campaign. Insurgencies fail when root causes disappear. Security is essential; but I believe our ultimate success lies in partnering with the Afghan Government, partner nations, NGO’s, and other to build the foundations of good government and economic development.

3. Understand the Environment. We must understand in detail the situation, however complex, and be able to explain it to others. Our ability to act effectively demands a real appreciation for the positive and negative impact of everything we do–or fail to do. Understanding is a prerequisite for success.

4. Ensure Values Underpin our Effort. We must demonstrate thru our words and actions our commitment to fair play, our respect and sensitivity for the cultures and traditions of others, and an understanding that rule of law and humanity don’t end when fighting starts. Both our goals and conduct must be admired.

5. Listen Closely–Speak Clearly. We must listen to understand–and speak clearly to be understood. Communicating our intentions and accurately reflecting our actions to all audiences is a critical responsibility–and necessity.

6. Act as One Team. We are an alliance of nations with different histories, cultures, and national objectives–united in our support for Afghanistan.
We must be unified in purpose, forthright in communication, and committed to each other.

7. Constantly Adapt. This war is unique, and our ability to respond to even subtle changes in conditions will be decisive. I ask you to challenge conventional wisdom and abandon practices that are ingrained into many military cultures. And I ask you to push me to do the same.

8. Act with Courage and Resolve. Hard fighting, difficult decisions, and inevitable losses will mark the days ahead. Each of us, from our most junior personnel to our senior leaders, must display physical, mental, and moral courage. Our partners must trust our commitment; enemies must not question our resolve.

You have my thanks for all that you have done, and will do. I promise to be the best partner I am able to be.

//Original Signed//
STANLEY A. McCHRYSTAL
General, U.S. Army
Commander,
U.S. Forces-Afghanistan /
International Security Assistance
Force, Afghanistan
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 10:02 am

Speech on failure

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Paul Tudor Jones gave this speech to a 9th grade graduating class this month. You can download it as PDF, Word document, or text file. Good speech.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 9:53 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Excellent column by Frank Rich

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Frank Rich’s column in Sunday’s NY Times was excellent. It begins:

THAT First 100 Days hoopla seems like a century ago. The countless report cards it engendered are already obsolete. The real story begins now. With Iran, universal health care, energy reform and the economic recovery all on the line, the still-new, still-popular president’s true tests are about to come.

Here’s one thing Barack Obama does not have to worry about: the opposition. Approval ratings for Republicans hit an all-time low last week in both the New York Times/CBS News and Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls. That’s what happens when a party’s most creative innovations are novel twists on old-fashioned sex scandals. Just when you thought the G.O.P. could never match the high bar set by Larry Craig’s men’s room toe-tapping, along came Senator John Ensign of Nevada, an ostentatiously pious born-again Christian whose ecumenical outreach drove him to engineer political jobs for his mistress, her cuckolded husband and the couple’s son. At least it can no longer be said that the Republicans have no plan for putting Americans back to work.

But as ever, the lack of an adversary with gravitas is a double-edged sword for Obama. It tempts him to be cocky and to coast. That’s a rare flaw in a president whose temperament, smarts and judgment remain impressive. Yet it is not insignificant. Though we don’t know how Obama will fare on all the challenges he faces this summer, last week’s big rollout of his financial reform package was a big punt, an accommodation to the status quo. Given that the economy remains the country’s paramount concern — and that all new polling finds that most Americans still think it’s dire — this timid response was a lost opportunity. It violated the Rahm Emanuel dictum that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste” and could yet prompt a serious political backlash.

A tip-off to what was coming appeared in a Washington Post op-ed article that the administration’s two financial gurus, Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, wrote to preview their plan. “Some people will say that this is not the time to debate the future of financial regulation, that this debate should wait until the crisis is fully behind us,” they wrote by way of congratulating themselves on taking charge.

Who exactly are these “some people” who want to delay debate on the future of regulation? Not anyone you or I know. Most Americans were desperate for action and wondered why it was taking so long. The only people who Summers and Geithner could possibly be talking about are the bankers in their cohort who helped usher us into this disaster in the first place. Both men are protégés of one of them, Robert Rubin, the former wise man of Citigroup…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 9:37 am

Growing jalapeños

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I can’t find ripe jalapeños anywhere, so I’ve decided to grow my own. I just ordered these seeds. If they grow as well as the shiso, I’ll be happy.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 9:29 am

Posted in Daily life

Robert Reich’s advice to Obama

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Good article in Salon.com:

Dear Mr. President:

Momentum for universal healthcare is slowing dramatically on Capitol Hill. Moderates are worried, Republicans are digging in, and the medical-industrial complex is firing up its lobbying and propaganda machine.

But, as you know, the worst news came days ago when the Congressional Budget Office weighed in with awful projections about how much the leading healthcare plans would cost and how many Americans would still be left out in the cold. Yet these projections didn’t include the cost savings that a public option’s bargaining power could generate to lower drug prices, doctor fees, and hospital costs, and force private insurers to be more competitive. Projecting the future costs of universal healthcare without including the public option is like predicting the number of people who will get sunburns this summer if nobody is allowed to buy sun lotion. Of course the costs of universal healthcare will be huge if you leave out the most important way of controlling them.

If you want to save universal healthcare, you must do several things, and soon:

1. Go to the nation. You’re not only a powerful orator; you’re also capable of motivating, energizing, and mobilizing the American public. You must go on the road — building public support by forcefully making the case for universal health care everywhere around the country. The latest Wall Street Journal poll shows that three out of four Americans want universal healthcare. But the vast majority don’t know what’s happening on the Hill, don’t know how much money the medical-industrial lobbies are spending to defeat it, and have no idea how much demagoguery they’re about to be exposed to. You must tell them. And don’t be reluctant to take on those vested interests directly. Name names. They’ve decided to fight you. You must fight them.

2. Be LBJ. So far, Lyndon Johnson has been the only president to defeat the American Medical Association and the rest of the medical-industrial complex. He got Medicare and Medicaid despite their cries of "socialized medicine" because he knocked heads on the Hill. He told Congress exactly what he wanted, cajoled and threatened those who resisted, and counted noses every hour until he had the votes he needed. When you’re not on the road, you have to be twisting congressional arms and drawing a line in the sand. Be tough.

3. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 9:23 am

Live long and prosper

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Paul Krugman in his blog:

Via Andrew Gelman, Greg Mankiw describes the use of international comparisons of life expectancy as part of the argument for reform as “schlocky.”

Grrr. Not many serious advocates of reform use the life expectancy differences to argue that health care is clearly better in other advanced countries than it is in the United States; when it comes to care, the general assessment seems to be that it’s comparable, with no advanced country having a clear advantage. The reform argument actually goes like this:

1. Every other advanced country has universal coverage, protecting its citizens from the financial risks of uninsurance as well as ensuring that everyone gets basic care.

2. They do this while spending far less on health care than we do.

3. Yet they don’t seem to do worse in overall health results.

So Greg suggests that maybe it’s all because we have an unhealthier lifestyle — what Ezra Klein calls the well-we-eat-more-cheeseburgers argument.

Three things. First, surely the burden of proof here is on Greg. I mean, we’re spending 6 or 7 percent of GDP more on health care than other countries — call it a trillion dollars a year — without any clear advantage. That’s not the sort of thing you wave away with a casual suggestion that maybe we have bad habits.

Second: you know, people have thought about this — and tried hard to measure it. For example, the huge McKinsey Research Institute study on the cost of US healthcare tried to quantify the costs of lifestyle-related issues — and found that it didn’t explain much.

Third, read Atul Gawande!

Bottom line: this is the most important domestic policy issue we face. It deserves more than casual just-so stories about how the kids American health care might, despite all appearances, be alright.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 9:21 am

Posted in Daily life, Healthcare

The Authoritarians

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I’m greatly enjoying reading The Authoritarians. I downloaded the PDF and am reading it on the Kindle DX, but I’ve written to the author to ask that he release a Kindle version (so I can add my notes to the text, clip passages, etc.). I do note that a paperback edition of the book is available from Lulu.com, or you can download a PDF here.

Highly recommended. The PDF version is free.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 9:18 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Science

Krugman on the healthcare fight

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From his column today:

… The Republicans, with a few possible exceptions, have decided to do all they can to make the Obama administration a failure. Their role in the health care debate is purely that of spoilers who keep shouting the old slogans — Government-run health care! Socialism! Europe! — hoping that someone still cares.

The polls suggest that hardly anyone does. Voters, it seems, strongly favor a universal guarantee of coverage, and they mostly accept the idea that higher taxes may be needed to achieve that guarantee. What’s more, they overwhelmingly favor precisely the feature of Democratic plans that Republicans denounce most fiercely as “socialized medicine” — the creation of a public health insurance option that competes with private insurers.

Or to put it another way, in effect voters support the health care plan jointly released by three House committees last week, which relies on a combination of subsidies and regulation to achieve universal coverage, and introduces a public plan to compete with insurers and hold down costs.

Yet it remains all too possible that health care reform will fail, as it has so many times before.

I’m not that worried about the issue of costs. Yes, the Congressional Budget Office’s preliminary cost estimates for Senate plans were higher than expected, and caused considerable consternation last week. But the fundamental fact is that we can afford universal health insurance — even those high estimates were less than the $1.8 trillion cost of the Bush tax cuts. Furthermore, Democratic leaders know that they have to pass a health care bill for the sake of their own survival. One way or another, the numbers will be brought in line.

The real risk is that health care reform will be undermined by “centrist” Democratic senators who either prevent the passage of a bill or insist on watering down key elements of reform. I use scare quotes around “centrist,” by the way, because if the center means the position held by most Americans, the self-proclaimed centrists are in fact way out in right field.

What the balking Democrats seem most determined to do is to kill the public option, either by eliminating it or by carrying out a bait-and-switch, replacing a true public option with something meaningless. For the record, neither regional health cooperatives nor state-level public plans, both of which have been proposed as alternatives, would have the financial stability and bargaining power needed to bring down health care costs.

Whatever may be motivating these Democrats, they don’t seem able to explain their reasons in public.

Thus Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska initially declared that the public option — which, remember, has overwhelming popular support — was a “deal-breaker.” Why? Because he didn’t think private insurers could compete: “At the end of the day, the public plan wins the day.” Um, isn’t the purpose of health care reform to protect American citizens, not insurance companies?

Mr. Nelson softened his stand after reform advocates began a public campaign targeting him for his position on the public option.

And Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota offers a perfectly circular argument: we can’t have the public option, because if we do, health care reform won’t get the votes of senators like him. “In a 60-vote environment,” he says (implicitly rejecting the idea, embraced by President Obama, of bypassing the filibuster if necessary), “you’ve got to attract some Republicans as well as holding virtually all the Democrats together, and that, I don’t believe, is possible with a pure public option.”

Honestly, I don’t know what these Democrats are trying to achieve. Yes, some of the balking senators receive large campaign contributions from the medical-industrial complex — but who in politics doesn’t? If I had to guess, I’d say that what’s really going on is that relatively conservative Democrats still cling to the old dream of becoming kingmakers, of recreating the bipartisan center that used to run America…

Read the whole column.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 9:14 am

The reason we need healthcare reform now

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Karen Tumulty in TIME magazine:

Paul Begala took note of our post the other day about some terribly tragic health insurance stories that had been told before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversights and investigations. And he pointed out something else:

It was as dramatic as congressional testimony gets. Yet it got no airtime on the networks, nor, as far as I can tell, on cable news, although CNN.com did run a story. Time‘s Tumulty was all over it, as was Lisa Girion of The Lost Angeles Times. But the story did not make The New York Times.

Nor The Washington Post, which found space on the front page the morning after the hearing for a story on the cancellation of Fourth of July fireworks in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, but not a story on the cancellation of health insurance for deathly ill Americans who’ve paid their premiums.

Stupak, and the Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Henry Waxman, D-California, did their job. Why didn’t the media do its? Why were the outrages uncovered by Stupak and Waxman un-covered by most of the media?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized what a missed opportunity this had been. There’s no way I could possibly tell Robin Beaton’s story nearly as powerfully as she did herself. So I asked C-SPAN’s omnipotent Howard Mortman to dig up the clip out of their video library. Please watch this. It could happen to you or to someone you love: …

Be SURE to watch the video here.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 9:10 am

Printable travel checklist and packing checklist

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Excellent memory jogger and useful organizer. Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 9:06 am

Posted in Daily life

Miss Megs in the entryway

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Megs-in-entryway

Megs this morning, hanging around while I photograph the shaving set-up.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 8:43 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Orange-scented morning

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SOTD090622

Wonderfully fragrant shave today, beginning with the Wild Orange shave stick from QED, which, with the Simpsons Duke 3 Best, produced a fine lather. The Mekur Slant bar, with a used Feather blade, delivered a good shave, but the Feather was on its last legs, and the Feather (at least for me) delivers tiny nicks as it dies—inexplicable nicks, in a flat expanse of skin. Nothing serious and easily stopped with My Nik Is Sealed, but still… One of the reasons I’m no longer so fond of the Feather as I once was. Royall Mandarin was a fine orange-scented aftershave.

I’ve read that there’s no word in English to rhyme with “orange,” but I knew a poet at the Writers Workshop at the U of Iowa who thought that “door hinge” would serve as a rhyme.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2009 at 8:42 am

Posted in Shaving

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