Fact v truth – a #letsblogoff

karl marx

I once heard someone say that “The truth belongs to he who tells the story first and best.” I think there is some truth to that.

As I was writing this, I was listening to a speech by yet another social media expert who asserted, “The world has changed…” and I thought that was the most absurd thing I had ever heard. That is not a truth. That is not even a fact. The fact is this moment has changed from the last moment and the moment before that. “The world is ALWAYS changing…” is more the truth. The truth is most people either did not notice the changes or lied to themselves about them happening.

The truth is they admit that the world has changed because they can no longer reconcile the facts with their truth.

I grew up Catholic and for most of my life, I have heard the truth that things are “God’s Will.” God wants us to suffer to prepare for the afterlife. It is God’s will that he took Uncle Conrad home to him so young. It is God’s will that your dog Rusty got hit by that car.

The truth is God does not will anything. God — if he exists — does not care. People are the Universe. We make our own “luck” by the relationships we form, forge and maintain with others. We create our own “truths” by what we are willing to admit as fact to ourselves.

Facts are that rain and snow fell, that waters rose, that wind patterns blew, that the Earth buckled under strain. Fact is that people are attracted to the coast, the ocean, the river banks and choose to build there. Fact is that these elements destroy things we build. Fact is nature is more powerful than our puny stuff. The fact is that most people who are affected by bad luck failed to or were unable to plan for the rain.

I used to think there was one Universal Truth, that the Aristotelian A is A was something that we could achieve if we all pulled in the same direction and thought hard enough about the facts. If we could use the right words to define something so narrowly that there would be no ambiguity, we could get to “the truth” about a thing. I remember taking a Marxism class in college and the only things that stuck with me were* a) the professor was very strange and had a bad habit of snorting inappropriately and b) the cornerstone of Marx’s philosophy of physics was A is in the process of becoming A. As I get older, I’m thinking that maybe Marx had it right all along.**

The only problem with Marx’s truth is he admits uncertainty as fact. That loss of control makes lots of people uncomfortable. The truth is this post was going to go an entirely different direction, but I found the words I had originally taken out and arranged to be entirely inappropriate for the task at hand. If it seems like this post wanders around and has no point, then my work here is done. It is a blog post in the process of becoming a blog post.

I believe that all events are neutral, that the Universe is impartial and indifferent. Events are given meaning by people within their understanding of the Universe. The truth is many people don’t strive to understand the Universe because it is depressing and fatalistic. In the end, the only fact is that truth hardly really matters.

*b was probably the more important point, but that snorting is now an indelible part of the story. I’m telling it here, ok?
**I think this theory was disproved or fell out of favor or some other thing, but so what, don’t care.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, What is the difference between fact and truth? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx

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Your mind is on the weekend

It’s already Thursday and your mind has wandered out onto your deck and settled itself on the grill. You can smell the succulent steaks sizzling on the top rack, while your friends laugh and chatter in the background, their wine glasses click as they offer each other a toast.

What? Your grill is a run-down mess and ruining your picture-perfect weekend? Then you need to pay attention and fix that picture.

Modenus, in cooperation with Capital Cooking is announcing a giveaway that has us all hot and bothered (in the best way) because it exemplifies the best of everything we hold dear: long warm nights spent with friends, breezes that gently cradle the aroma of summers bounty, both book-ended by endless plates of food that have been grilled to perfection. Did we just say grill? Yes Virginia, yes we did.

Entries will be accepted through May 17 2011, 5pm EST and the winner will be drawn by 7pm EST on May 17 and notified via email. You may enter once a day for the duration of the give-away. The event is of course void where prohibited and there is no cash value. Shipping is included within the continental US. Shipping cost to other countries or territories will have to be carried by the winner. No purchase required.

Register to win here!

Disclaimer: No dog is getting paid for this post nor are we entering to win the grill. This is just a cool thing we are doing for the good folks at Modenus. So click on over and win a grill.

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Ideas through fear – a #letsblogoff thingie

I’d like to wax romantically about how I get my ideas strolling along on dog walks, but that would be a lie. I spend most of my time watching out for speeding cars, white reverse lights and kids on bicycles who think dogs know to move over to the right.. or left.. as they weave in and out along the sidewalk. Walks are for the vigilant. I spend most of my brain power strategizing on how to carry 200 pounds of dog should anything unfortunate happen.

So, dog walks are not really fertile idea grounds. Neither is the time spent mowing the lawn, shopping for groceries, strolling the mall, walking in the park, standing in the shower — all of those stereotypical settings people go on about. Sure, I get ideas in those places from time to time, but mostly not.

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A day at Sallie’s Park

There is an abandoned housing project just down the road from Northmont High School that we’ve kinda taken over as an off-leash dog park and renamed Sallie’s Park. Sallie gets all excited when we turn in, so that is why we named it.

Anyway, today she went in back by the tractor and came out with this huge bone that became the game of the afternoon. I have no idea what creature this bone came from and it’s probably best I don’t ask. We left it at the park.

Here are some photos:

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Me and the Wall Street Journal finally broke up

I have had a long-standing relationship with the Wall Street Journal. We’ve been through my business career together, traveled the country hand-in-hand and kept each other company in many lonely airport lounges when flights were delayed or during long layovers. I could always find a story I had not explored fully in her ample pages.

She was the third newspaper I ever read. The Saint Paul Pioneer Press was the first, the Dispatch was the second. They got merged in the mid ’80s and it got a bit awkward, as these things usually do. So, I picked up the Wall Street Journal just in case… well, you know.

And the Journal did some good reporting from a capitalist point of view. They didn’t wade too far afield into politics, knowing that both Democrats and Republicans were equally capitalistic. Both believed in making money regardless of their politics.

But when Rupert Murdock bought the Journal in 2007, I was skeptical but hopeful that the newspaper could maintain its reporting above the fray of politics and focus on stories as it pertained to business, reporting the political climate but not taking sides or laying blame.

My friends tried to warn me I would get my heart stomped on, but I remained loyal. Good business operates in any environment. Good businesspeople know this as David Rich points out in his blog post today. There are no “bad environments,” just bad business people who can’t see the upside.

Mr. Murdoch told the Bancrofts that ‘any interference — or even hint of interference — would break the trust that exists between the paper and its readers, something I am unwilling to countenance.’ … Mr. Murdoch and the Bancrofts agreed on standards modeled on the longstanding Dow Jones Code of Conduct.

In the ensuing years, I noticed slight changes in editorial word use as more and more “adjectives” entered the stories. As the health care debate ramped up, the Journal broke with AP style and started referring to the Affordable Care Act as “Obamacare.” All sorts of red flags started rising.

But the stories were still compelling enough to continue reading as I categorically ignored the editorial pages and OpEd pieces by Karl Rove and his ilk.

Last Tuesday, the Journal ran a story on the state of college education in India. Several paragraphs into the story, they printed this:

India’s economic expansion was supposed to create opportunities for millions to rise out of poverty, get an education and land good jobs. But as India liberalized its economy starting in 1991 after decades of socialism, it failed to reform its heavily regulated education system. Business executives say schools are hampered by overbearing bureaucracy and a focus on rote learning rather than critical thinking and comprehension.

Subtle, until you recognized the general environment of the country. In Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and other states the Republican governors were waging a war on education, demonizing teachers as bureaucrats and the public school system as “heavily regulated.” Across the country, the Tea Party stirred up hate against President Obama by calling him a socialist. The Republicans joined the chant and FOX News amplified the drum beats.

Any good copyeditor would have struck those lines out in her sleep. I assume the editors at the Journal are not stupid nor careless, so the editorial comments in the story and the inference that the United States will be in the same state as India given our current “socialist” political climate were intentional, making the Journal reckless, incendiary and irresponsible. According to its point of view, to be a capitalist in the United States is to also be a social conservative, aligned with the ideological positions of the GOP and Tea Party.

That was too much to swallow.

It is one thing to take an editorial position on the Editorial pages, but it is quite another to weave your political views throughout the stories. It was skillfully done, but done nonetheless. I suppose the average reader would not have picked up the reference as readily as someone who has worked at a newspaper and has an APStylebook resting on the corner of his desk. As the discriminating readers leave quietly, one by one, the Journal will be left with those who either agree with their political position or who can’t discern the difference between capitalism and zealous conservatism. In the end I suppose public education will win out, but not because it is socialist, but that the conservatives will have driven out the best and brightest. But that is an argument for another day.

As I was talking with the Journal rep who was begging me to stay with every possible turn, I found myself getting angry with her. She was the one who had changed. She was the one who wanted to remake me. She was the one who failed to accept me for who I am and respect my differences while appreciating what we had in common.

I hung up the phone in a mingled state of loss and anger.

I’m sure I will move on, but it won’t be the same. Long-term relationships change a dog and the next newspaper will suffer the pangs of betrayal, my inability to get close and trust and my issues with intimacy. I will forever be asking “what does she want from me?” as I read each story printed in any newspaper.

The Wall Street Journal kicked this poor puppy right in the ribs. It kicked hard, harder than any newspaper should have kicked a dog. I may not recover from this one.

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I’m a picker, I’m a grinner, I’m a lover and I’m a sinner… but mostly I’m a plumber who writes poetry and works as a barista on the weekends

264 tailor New York

This photo got a fair amount of ribbing on Twitter all last week by the interior design community, architects and some other folks who will remain unnamed. It was a good bit of fun as we poked at how this current recession was driving folks to diversify skills and service offerings from one store front. It also produced a lot of puns that, in hindsight, are probably a bit too embarrassing to recall. You can check my twitter stream for the fun and mayhem if you want. I think the photo was discovered by @concretedetail

By the way, this is a real tailor shop in New York. Their Facebook fan page is here. I suggest you like them for all sorts of reasons that might occur to you after you read this post (you are gonna stick around for that long, right?)

Most people are confused when they get to this blog for the very reasons that it is having problems getting traction. It can’t be defined in the nine-second sound byte requirement. And I’m sure I lose readers because I don’t get to the point fast enough for them to decide to stay. On the other hand, I am convinced I keep readers because they give me some patience and trust that eventually I will be worthwhile reading, like a Steinbeck novel or a Thurber story. (Seriously, guys if you picked up the pace in the first few chapters….)

“So, is it a dog blog? Oh, wait, you talk politics… now you’re talking social issues and education…” thoughts wander off, finger clicks…

“Oh, good you rant about the evils of society just like me and … wait, are you a dog? thoughts wander off, finger clicks…

“Another one of those personal branding…. no, wait, he’s talking marketing? …. design? thoughts wander off, finger clicks…

My publicist rails against me for not being able to focus and write about any one thing for too long. “I don’t know how to package and sell you,” she laments between deep sighs, during which time I’m almost sure she is slinging back the remains of a bottle of Syrah she popped at the beginning of our conversation ten minutes ago. “Media wants experts at SOMETHING.”

I’m giving her some time to think about my “packaging.” She’ll find something eventually because she is the very best at her game. And she will be super-passionate about it because she will have solved this huge puzzle of “What is DogWalkBlog” that has been hanging over me since I started writing this little collection of stuff in 2005. I’m not in a rush because I’m enjoying the journey too much. I’m not sure I’ll like the destination.

I’ve always had this condition. I want to be everything all at once all the time. In college when I absolutely had to declare a major, I picked English because to me that signified a juxtaposition* of the absence of a commitment and the presence of a full-on commitment. “You’ll never get a good job with an English degree,” my narrow-minded idiot of a freshman advisor warned. She was right, but that has not stopped me from having a fantastic experience. And making a ton of money off employed and mentally-jailed people along the way.

Wait a minute.. I thought you were a dog? How can a dog do all that stuff? *Sigh* Move along quickly… you’re gumming up progress.

And because of my condition, I worry that I am entirely unemployable. I look at job sites all the time and get befuddled by the continually narrowing of choices I am required to select. Geography, industry, sector, specific job… forget it, I’ll just stay out here paying my own insurance until that cost becomes too painful. I don’t envy friends between the AARP and Medicare age who are out looking for a job. They have too much life experience to stuff into one job description, yet they must to appease the hot-shot HR folks.

I have the same problem with my corporation. I write a blog post or an article and then look on Businessweek, OPEN, Digg or some other cataloging site and just stare at the categories I’m supposed to smash this multi-faceted gem of knowledge into. I end up not doing anything which probably hurts my SEO and Google ranking and all that crap. Chris Brogan kinda lamented the same thing a few blog post back, only not in such a whiny howl as I’m doing here. (I searched for the post; I couldn’t find it right away so I’m hoping Chris will drop the URL in the comments.)

I worry that I have not taught my son well. During a recent lunch with Saxon Henry, she turned to him and asked, “So, what is it that you do?”

Without drawing a breath, he said, “I cook.”

I was dismayed and proud all at the same moment. He had his elevator speech nailed down which showed that he was paying attention to my rantings about getting a good carnival bark. He got it that the world expected short, direct, decisive answers to direct questions.

On the other hand, I was secretly hoping he would say something like, “I breathe! I live! I create art! I ensure the survival of the human species! I am changing the world and being here with you now, having this conversation, I am changing your perspective on one little thing which you will share with another and they will share with another and eventually that spark of an idea will move a mountain.” Maybe he did it during the course of the conversation and I missed it. Maybe he does this in the company of his close friends. I hope he does.

Maybe the good-natured ribbing of the twitter this past week was an uneasiness with our own insecurities about our life choices or the fact that the skills we all worked so hard to master and hone will be marginalized and eradicated by the job market within weeks during the next recession without apology or remorse. Maybe it is an admission to our inner selves that we have “sold out” our humanity by defining ourselves as just one thing; Joe the Plumber, Bob the Builder, Frank the Blogger. Maybe some of us define ourselves more narrowly on the outside so that we can be more free to be ourselves inside without others imposing expectations on us.

Maybe the world really is mostly made up of one-dimensional people and I’m out here being strange with a few other lost folks.

I’m ok with that.

*That is my street cred. If you can’t work “juxtaposition” into something that runs at least 1,000 words, your English degree ain’t worth a tinker’s damn.

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How I accidentally learned German and the real meaning of cheating

I was going through an old high school yearbook and came upon this photo above. It reminded me of my typing class a very long time ago.

My dad worked at a heavy equipment dealer that sold bulldozers, backhoes and road-laying equipment. He used to bring home tons of stuff that the company would just throw out anyway (at least that what he said.) Among our valued possessions as kids were typing stands, huge nuts and bolts, big boxes of railroad marking chalk, a large slate chalkboard and lots of manual typewriters the company was getting rid of when electric ones came out.

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Public sex is just for animals, not humans

Northwestern University Logo

Apparently there has been a big bruhaha over a Northwestern professor having a live demonstration of a sex act* performed for students as part of a human sexual psychology class.

Ok, so what.

Sex is part of nature. It’s primary function is for procreation. But, unlike animals, humans have the good fortune (or mis-fortune) of also having a brain with curiosity and a need for recreation attached to the same body as their genitals. When we deny that fact and refuse to study the psychology behind human sex, we’re not really exploring our entire humanity. What’s wrong with demonstrating a sex act as part of an academic exercise for the purpose of studying emotional and psychological reaction? Was it the practical application of a theory that upset people the most or was it just the fact that it was sex? Or maybe it was the modification of a perfectly good power tool?

Studying the psychology of human sexuality without a practical lab is like studying architecture and never building a bridge. Do you really want that guy in charge of the project?

Oh my god, dog, you are going to hell for those thoughts!

Actually, all dogs go to heaven, so I’m not really worried. And even if you believe God made you in His image, certainly He knew what He was doing when He gave guys danglies and women innies. He did it a lot so with your logic, He is either a genius or a pervert.

Secondly, sex acts are neutral. They are neither good nor bad. What makes them good or bad is all this morality and cultural crap we attach to them.

Thirdly, sex is a very large part of who we are (unless of course, you are married.) Why not study it more fully? Why would we not want to know everything about what makes us tick? Why does something like sex make us all giggly or nervous or outraged or ….

The rules of sex are not established by nature. They are established by the class of humans in power. Like every species in nature, the ones allowed to procreate are the ones best suited to advance the species. In the animal kingdom, we have the most cunning, the fastest, the most powerful, etc. In the human world, we have the class most willing and able to dominate the others. That class will use social norms, religion, laws, peer pressure, shame or any other means necessary to impose their will on others. Depriving the “weaker” classes of the means to procreate is the ultimate dominance one human can have over another. (Don’t even get me started on non-hetrosexual sex. I have no idea why anyone wants to prevent that or why they feel it threatens them. Maybe that deserves more study.)

Ever wonder why virginity is prized above all else in some cultures? There is no natural reason for it. It doesn’t destroy a woman or make her any less fit for companionship or procreation. Yet a “ruling class” gets that idea impregnated (pun intended) into a class (women) which prevents them from consenting to intercourse outside of a sanctioned union, i.e., marriage. When a women violates the rules, she is ostracized and in some cultures, killed. A population is now controlled by their own morality. Really simple crowd control, ain’t it? That statement is over-simplified, but you get the idea. You can apply the same kind of thinking to any type of sex. Attach a moral penalty to it and you control a population. Start from there and study outward.

Did you have a strong reaction to Professor Bailey’s demonstration? Why? Like him, do you eventually arrive at a logical, academic reason for not being curious about the psychological basis of sex-toy-induced orgasm? Did you recoil? Did you ever ask why you had that reaction? You probably should.

It seems an unfair symptom of our culture to know what sex is all about almost five decades into life rather than in the prime of youth. It not only robs you of some great interactions with other people, but also a deeper understanding of works of literature like The Awakening, The Scarlet Letter or Sister Carrie. Read them when you are young and intimidated by sex because of fear or confusion and you learn nothing. Read them when you are older and know a bit more and it produces anger and resentment. (Maybe I’m just projecting here.. sorry.) When we fail to give sex cultural or moral power it does not naturally posses, we also free ourselves from the power others wield over us.

And before you go on about “think of the children” and other such nonsense, I am not advocating sex awareness that is not appropriate for children. But as a parent, have you crafted your exit strategy on sex before your child turns 18? Why not; it’s your job. Why are parents getting involved with the class demonstration that happened at Northwestern? Didn’t you give your off-spring the skills to determine his or her own sexual choices? If not, shame on you. You had eighteen years!

Ok, your turn. I’ve already said my piece.

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*Apparently the sex act was a dildo attached to a modified reciprocating saw where the woman disrobed and consented to the man using the device to penetrate her vagina. I’m not sure what the class was studying, but if they were studying reactions to facsimiles of a penis during intercourse, I’m pretty sure they got some interesting ones. Does my saying penis and vagina upset you? Does my description of the act above? Why? Be honest with yourself, please, even if only in your head. It’s the only way we grow.

And the title? It was a tweet I received yesterday from a fan in response to my 140 opinion on this mater. I promised I’d write more today. It wasn’t really public sex; it was in a classroom, as an academic study with everyone in the room an adult and with full consent.

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Is it storytelling or curating? #letsblogoff

Jim Henson’s character “The Storyteller” and his dog. It is what pops into my head when I hear storytelling and it is the standard by which I measure all stories. Probably not fair, but it is what it is.

I wrote this earlier, but it applies now, so I republished for this #letsblogoff.

A while back, many bloggers decided they wanted to throw off the image of being one guy and his dog, hanging out in his parent’s basement ranting in his pajamas. They set about becoming “journalists.” And then that kinda didn’t set right because that was rather limiting their right of personal expression when they didn’t really have any facts and so they become “writers.” The latest metamorphosis for bloggers is to become “storytellers.”

Everyone now is a storyteller.

Only they are not really telling stories. They are curating facts. They are collecting events and regurgitating them. It’s the same thing they were doing as a blogger with a “new and improved” label stuck on the front only it is neither new or improved. The basic ingredients of storytelling are missing.

I recently received an invitation to Storify.com. They tout on their web site:

Turn what people post on social media into compelling stories.
You collect the best photos, video, tweets and more to publish them as simple, beautiful stories that can be embedded anywhere.

That’s not telling a story. That is assembling an exhibit piece for The Museum of Social Media. Bleckkkk.

If storytelling is not what most bloggers are doing, what is storytelling? I didn’t know myself until I received a tweet from @SaxonHenry this past Wednesday morning with a link to her blog. And with the following sentence, everything clicked.

Simply recording the boys’ actions wasn’t nearly enough! I had to determine how I would have responded to what they were doing. (I encourage you to read the entire piece.. after you get to the bottom of mine, of course.)

Saxon tells stories. I defy you to read this account of boys playing outside without feeling that film of grit between your skin and your sweat. Or read this poem and not smell the mix of old grease and pancake batter crisping at the edges, while getting an uneasy urge to run away from a life that has become banal and dull. Her choice of words, the cadence, the rhythm expresses her reaction to the story she is telling.

Jane Devin also tells stories. Her style is intense and many times uncomfortable but succeeds in ripping away a social mask that most of us have spent years affixing to our true faces. In her latest post, I defy you to read the entire post without choking back anger and a primal fear that you have been discovered for who you really are by those who have become the closest to you instead of the person you wish them to see. Jane’s choice of words, her intensely-packed paragraphs followed by a short, controlled release before she plunges you back with a half breath expresses her reaction to the story she is telling. It is almost like literarily waterboarding the reader.

In a culture where anyone can become a published author, claiming the title of a writer or storyteller without honing the craft is unfair to those who have. It cheapens their work. It disrespects their gift.

If you want to become a storyteller, then work to become one. Don’t just claim the title. Examine the elements of story by reading books like A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. Watch episodes of The Storyteller. Watch the last scene of Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome over and over. Read books by Joseph Conrad, John Steinbeck and Kate Chopin. Read Ben Zander’s book The Art of Possibility and watch his TED presentation. And read Jane Devin and Saxon Henry. Buy their books when published.

And tell stories. Lots of them. Like acquiring any skill worth holding on to, practice, practice, practice.

And while reading and listening to all of the materials I suggested above, think about why their stories work. And work to be as good as they are in telling a story that has your reaction embedded throughout.

Or stick to curating and leave storytelling to those who choose to reach beyond their five senses.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “answering the question, “What makes a good story?”” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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Football’s “Big Game” ads

On Monday, every blogger will turn into a marketing expert and analyze the ads from The Big Game* fifteen different ways in hopes that you won’t realize they don’t know crap about marketing or advertising. Several of them will actually know what they are talking about, but those people will be so non-confrontational that you probably won’t read them anyway.

Over here at the DogWalkBlog, we’re going to stick with what we know; dogs and dog-related accessories. Our entire criteria on judging the effectiveness of any Big Game ad is whether or not they have a dog in them. Then, we will list them further on down this page and tell you why we think they were cool or lame.

Fair enough?

Good.

*Super Bowl is a trademark of the National Football League (NFL) and DogWalkBlog did not pay any money for the rights to use it. So, we’re saying “The Big Game” (until the NFL clamps down on that one as well)

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Winter and dogs

Here are some “Winter and Dogs” photos taken during the storms of 2011, mostly because I have not posted photos in so long, but also because a crystal blue sky after a snow/ice storm is probably the most magnificent thing nature shows us.

Right behind a deeply colored rainbow in the summer after a rain storm.

It’s as if she is offering us an apology, which we always accept.

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You knew I was a dog before I knew ya. What is love, a #letsblogoff

A letter from my dog to me. I found it on my desk when I woke up this morning.

Dear you;

You asked me what love was last night as you were nuzzling my ears on the sofa, watching the late night news because you couldn’t sleep. You may not have been aware that I heard you, but I did and thought I would pen you this letter to put your mind at ease. Or at least help. I hope it does.

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