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Sunday

In this periodic table, you’ll see element boxes. Each box has 2 separate numbers, the one on the bottom (below the element’s symbol) being my focus. The top number is the atomic number, revealing how many protons there are in each atom of that element. The bottom number reveals different things.

Image result for periodic table

(If you can’t see the small numbers too clearly and would like to make the image bigger, you can, for one thing, (if you’re using Chrome, at least) right-click the image and open it in a new tab. Or maybe you’d like to zoom in.)

The bottom number is called the atomic mass number, because one thing it shows is the mass (in amus) of one atom of that element (more or less). For each element, this number is reached by taking the average of the masses of all of the element’s naturally-occurring isotopes.

This number also shows the molar mass of the element (in grams). That is, if you have one mole of the element (6.022 x 1023 atoms of the element), it’ll have a mass of x grams, x being the number.

Here’s an example. Locate the element oxygen, O, in group 16 and period 2. (Groups are columns; periods are horizontal rows.) Anyway, oxygen’s atomic number is 6. That’s irrelevant. The other number is rounded to 16.00.

I hate to say it because it’s not totally accurate because of isotopes and their different masses–but 16.00 is oxygen’s atomic mass number and thus each oxygen atom has a mass of 16.00 amu. (Technically, I think I should say ‘amus,’ but it’s less common and unnecessary for understanding, so I’ll drop it. Also: units matter! Last post, (or was it the post before that…?) I explained the meaning of amu, but I’ll tell you again pretty quick. Amu = atomic mass unit. 1 amu has the mass of a carbon-12 atom’s mass, divided by 12.)

But in addition, 1 mol (mol is short for mole) of individual oxygen atoms (6.022 x 1023 oxygen atoms) weighs 16.00 grams.

So basically, atomic mass number (amu) = molar mass (grams).

That’s right, the molar mass of a substance is the mass of 1 mole of that substance. Knowing the molar masses of the elements is useful, because compounds are made up of elements, and we can figure out the molar masses of compounds in this way. How? I don’t expect that to make total sense yet, let me explain.

Compound: “a thing that is composed of two or more separate elements; a mixture.”

Let’s take a compound like H2O. Suppose we want to know the mass of 1 mole of H2O molecules (6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules). Visualize here, just a bit. In 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules, there are 6.022 x 1023 O atoms, wouldn’t you agree?

So:

6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules = 6.022 x 1023 O atoms + the hydrogen atoms.

Hmm, how many H atoms are there? Well, that 2 is there, meaning each H2O molecule has 2 H atoms. If it wasn’t, there would be 6.022 x 1023 H atoms. But… there is twice that amount. So there are 2 * (6.022 x 1023 ) H atoms in all those H2O molecules.

So:

6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules = 6.022 x 1023 O atoms + [ 2 * (6.022 x 1023 ) ] H atoms.

This is important!

Don’t forget what we are looking for: the mass of 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules (aka 1 mol of H2O molecules).

What if we knew the mass of all the oxygen atoms in those H2O molecules, and the mass of all those hydrogen atoms in the H2O molecules? Why, then by adding them we would discover the mass of the H2O molecules, right? (Those H2O molecules are merely a sum of their parts.)

So the part that is not bold is what is unknown:

mass of H2O molecules = mass of O atoms + mass of H atoms.

Or:

mass of 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules = mass of 6.022 x 1023 O atoms + mass of [ 2 * (6.022 x 1023 ) ] H atoms.

Sure, the other parts of this equation so far seem unknown. But we can figure them out. Let’s start with the oxygen. We want to know the mass of 6.022 x 1023 O atoms. Or basically, we want to know the mass of 1 mol of O atoms. (See how it connects?) The mass of 1 mol of oxygen… why, you can find that off the periodic table!

Listen… this stuff doesn’t come effortlessly to anyone, I don’t think. I have to make an effort too, of course. I feel like many people wrongly think stuff like this is too complex for them, but it’s not. It’s really very simple. Well–it is complex, but the most complex things can be broken down into biteable pieces, chewable pieces that make logical sense anyone can understand. Very often, difficulties are due to knowledge gaps–no intrinsic fault, no lack of ability.

Just wanted to say that.

According to the periodic table, the molar mass of oxygen is 16.00 grams.

So:

mass of 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules = 16.00 grams + mass of [ 2 * (6.022 x 1023 ) ] H atoms.

Now we must find the mass of 2 moles of hydrogen. According to the periodic table, each mol of H is 1.01 grams; 2 moles are twice that amount: 2.02 grams.

So:

mass of 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules = 16.00 grams + 2.02 grams

That’s simple math now.

mass of 6.022 x 1023 H2O molecules = 18.02 grams.

Or:

mass of 1 mol of H2O molecules = 18.02 grams.

We have our answer. What did we do? We used the molar masses of the elements H and O to find the molar mass of a compound (specifically, H2O). The point of that activity was to see exactly how the molar masses of elements can be used to find the molar masses of compounds.

I hope you enjoyed that. I did. It’s important for us as humans to engage in activities which challenge and stimulate us without overwhelming us. 🙂

No one wants to be stressed, but no one wants to be bored. Neither is good. This blog gives me an opportunity to do what I long to do–learn and explain things. That is one of the things in this life that bring me true satisfaction.

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Now, the process won’t take this long every time you want to find the molar mass of a compound, because you can trust this and use it every time: the molar mass of a compound equals the molar masses of all its constituents. All compounds are made of elements, so you can find those molar masses on the periodic table. You must also multiply the molar mass of a certain element by the number of atoms of that element there are in the compound. The compound H2O had 2 hydrogen atoms, which was why I multiplied hydrogen’s molar mass by 2. You already know that this works–I showed it to you in the example.

I’ll walk you through another example so that you see how one can do it faster, taking the shortcut which we can take because we already know that the shortcut works. Let’s find the molar mass of sugar, C12H22O11. Because sugar contains atoms belonging to more than 2 elements, it is a compound. Remember, the molar mass of sugar equals the molar masses of its constituent elements, multiplied by the number of times they appear.

Here’s how I lay it out:

C –> 12 x molar mass

H –> 22 x molar mass

O –> 11 x molar mass

——————–   +

molar mass of sugar

Or:

(12 x C molar mass) + (22 x H molar mass) + (11 x O molar mass) = sugar’s molar mass

Use the periodic table to find the molar masses of the individual elements.

(12 x 12.01 g) + (22 x 1.01 g) + (11 x 16.00 g) = sugar’s molar mass

342.34 grams = sugar’s molar mass

That is, 1 mole of sugar (6.022 x 10^23 molecules of sugar) has a mass of 342.34 grams.

Ha, you can also see why it’s useful to know substances’ chemical formulas. ^.^

Monday

The U.S. government consists of 3 branches: the Executive Branch, the Judiciary Branch, and the Legislative Branch. The Legislative Branch is the most powerful and it consists of Congress. Congress is divided into the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are committees within each, and congresspeople (‘congressmen’ doesn’t apply anymore, so I don’t know why people still use it) are often in multiple committees. A standing committee is a permanent committee that meets regularly.” Each committee has a head, called a chair or chairperson.

Special or select committees also exist, created to deal with matters beyond the abilities of standing committees. Some of these select committees have only advisory abilities, meaning they can’t actually write laws and can only advise. The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is only an advisory committee. That explains much of Congress’ response to climate change.

There are joint committees, which consist of congresspeople from both houses (both the Senate and the House), as well as conference committees, which serve the purpose of reconciling bills “when the House and Senate write different versions of it.” Bills are not laws yet, they are merely laws proposed by congresspeople. All laws were bills once, and all bills have the potential for becoming laws.

Committees exist because laws are written more efficiently in smaller groups, and because the congresspeople in certain committees can be allowed to develop expertise on those subjects.

Proposal power is the power of all congresspeople to propose bills. If a bill is proposed by a senator, then it must pass through a committee before it is introduced to the rest of the Senate. (Sorry about my wacky capitalization, but to be frank I often don’t know which words to capitalize…) If a bill is proposed by a representative, it must also pass through a committee before it reaches the rest of the House of Representatives.

When bills get passed to the appropriate committees, committee chairs decide which bills are considered. This power of committees to choose which bills make it through is called Gatekeeping Authority. If a bill does not receive the majority of votes, it does not pass through a committee, and it is said the bill died in committee. Mark-up refers to the authority of chairs to manage the writing of bills.

Committees also can kill bills by refusing to vote on them, though in the House, committee members can be forced to vote on a bill with a discharge petition. Another important power of Congress is its ability to oversee its laws being implemented.

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I was a bit bored writing about this. And that wasn’t good news because if I don’t enjoy this, what do I do it for? I wondered if maybe I simply didn’t enjoy government as much as other subjects, like chemistry, for example. I didn’t want this to be true, but I thought that maybe I didn’t enjoy telling you facts just like that–I thought that maybe I preferred being able to explain parts of a system to you. I’ve always loved systems. I’ve always loved how parts within systems make sense and fit so nicely with each other. It’s why I loved math, and chemistry. I love explaining systems, no matter what the subject is. I thought that maybe my source of boredom was due to my desire for precision taking over me and making me write you every fact as soon as I learned it, instead of waiting to take it all in and see how things fit together and then explain it to you.

Whatever the case, I decided to stop writing and just watch the video. As I learned about how things fit together, however–how things were related like a system–I suddenly wanted to explain this to you. And so I paused the video and came to write this down, for future reference, because the more I understand myself, the easier it is for me to keep myself happy and balanced.

The more I understand what makes me happy, the more I can increase that in my life.

So. Newt Gingrich was once the Speaker of the House. The Speaker has the authority to decide which committees to refer bills to. Gingrich increased the power of the Speaker, changed the rules for appointing committee chairs, and reduced the number of subcommittees.

Subcommittees are committees which contain some members of a larger body (e.g. a committee/ board) and which report to them.

Whereas before Gingrich’s changes, the chosen committee chairs were the longest-serving members of the dominant party, after his changes they were elected through the voting process.

Tuesday

It’s nice that, no matter how few reads a given post gets, there’s always at least someone that benefits from my writing. Sometimes there are many reads. Sometimes there are not.

Yesterday I said that maybe my lack of motivation was due to the subject, or me not allowing the subject to get complex enough and me not having enough of relationships to explain. Now, a different idea occurred to me. It may be that I have this feeling that my work is pointless and won’t be read. Probably because last post was a post I put a lot of effort into, and not many benefit from it.

I know the barrier is in my mind. If I believe my work has meaning and purpose and is beneficial to others, then I can really feel motivated to teach and I really get something out of that work. I find it satisfactory. I believe this post ought to get at least one read, and that one person should be enough!

Let me tell you then, reader, about U.S. government.

Speakers also have influence over those who become chairs in the voting process.

Friday

Sorry I didn’t tell you much about U.S. government.

When there are lengthy sections of bold text in this post, the writing is not mine.

The Internet May Be Changing Your Brain In Ways You’ve Never Imagined

“Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words,” he wrote. “Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

In the book, which became a New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Carr explored the many ways that technology might be affecting our brains. Carr became particularly concerned about how the Internet seemed to be impairing our ability to think deeply and to focus on one subject for extended periods.  

 

I’ve heard this before. I don’t seem to have difficulty focusing/ concentrating… but then again, I engage in mentally stimulating activities all day, every day. I also have important values where I care about precision and understanding everything. I read carefully and don’t skim.

I don’t use social media because I don’t want to be distracted from my work. I read books and don’t use Google’s plethora of answers to cheat my way through school like some other students do.

Part of the reason I don’t use social media (or my phone in general) is because it’s always been a huge distraction for me. Social media offers instant gratification. Posting pictures on Instagram and getting likes feels good. Having the option of texting friends when I’m doing something difficult that requires considerable mental effort and focus would not be good for me… I would most likely seek pleasure from aesthetics as I have always done in the past. Being constantly distracted would make it more difficult for me to focus on my work over time. Just giving into temptation once would make it easier to make the same mistake next time.

But I suppose the strongest reason might be the fear I have that my emotions will gain strength if I sit back and let them operate as they wish. The more I get instant pleasure, the more I please my id. Back when I was id-dominated… I had less control. I don’t want to go back to that. I don’t want to lose control and not care about my future as much. I want to make sure I’m driving in a good direction, and I don’t want to focus on shallow things…

So what has  changed since Carr wrote his seminal work five years ago? We chatted with the journalist and author about how our increasing interactions with mobile technology might be affecting the most important organ in our bodies.

“Since you wrote this book, the Internet has only taken on a bigger role in our lives. What are some of the main changes you’ve observed in the way we interact with technology?”

 

When I wrote the book, the iPhone was still very new and the iPad had just come out. Social media wasn’t as big as it is today. So when I wrote the book, I was thinking about laptops and computers but not so much about smartphones. Of course, now the main way that people interact with the Internet is through mobile devices.

 

Yes, I use my computer but not my phone. On my phone, I can’t really do any of the things I can do with a computer. Some websites and blogs don’t load/ load properly, articles are harder to read because of the smaller text… phones and tablets do seem better for social media, however.

In the book, I argued that what we created with computers and the Internet was a system of distraction. We got the great rewards of having basically unlimited information at our fingertips, but the cost of that was we created a system that kept us in a state of perpetual distraction and constant disruption. 

What psychologists and brain scientists tell us about interruptions is that they have a fairly profound effect on the way we think. It becomes much harder to sustain attention, to think about one thing for a long period of time, and to think deeply when new stimuli are pouring at you all day long.

 

I guess it doesn’t help that my schedule has been one that, for about all year, has required me to pay a certain subject attention for a mere hour or so before moving to another subject. I had so many things to do, you see, and I didn’t want anything to be gotten around to too late, so I minimized the amount of time I spent doing each thing… at the moment, I’m not using my schedule. I’m not in school anymore (summer vacation) and my time is being used up by family events and obligations. Basically, things are different than they were before. As a result, I can do less things each day… but I decided to quit my schedule, at least for now. Now, I’m doing what pleases me–and I’ve been mostly reading articles and books. (That’s not all that pleases me.)

It used to be so hard to read…

…to really focus on more practical, difficult topics. Now it’s a lot easier, now it takes a lot less effort. I wasn’t used to it, that’s why. I had never really read nonfiction and then I sat myself down, properly motivated, and I did it. The driving force came from within me. I read the book Evolution: the Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer. It was hard at first, but I had solid determination, and I changed my brain. The more you practice, the better you ought to get.

Image result for evolution the triumph of an idea

It was a very beautiful book. I really do love reading. For me, it’s one of the most wonderful things to do. To be able to read is one of the most precious gifts in my life.

I argue that the price we pay for being constantly inundated with information is a loss of our ability to be contemplative and to engage in the kind of deep thinking that requires you to concentrate on one thing. 

To me, all the things I worried about have become much worse now that we carry around this permanently connected device that we’re constantly pawing at. Things are very different in a way that makes the things I worried about worse. 

“Research has found that millennials are even more forgetful than seniors. What do we know about how technology is impacting our memory?”

 

There’s something I want to say. If technology really does make it more difficult for us to concentrate on a single subject and we go less deeply into it as a result, I can see how that could affect our memory of the subject. My junior year of high school just ended. That year was divided into 4 quarters, or 2 semesters. At the end of each semester, I had a final. The finals I just had for almost all my classes tested our knowledge of material covered this past semester.

My math teacher didn’t teach well. He gave procedural instructions–he taught how to do certain problems. He taught us tricks and the general rules. I was able to remember how to do these problems for about a week–long enough to do associated homework and the quiz or test that came with them. But I didn’t remember how to do these problems long enough for the final exam because he taught us too shallowly. He didn’t explain the why. He didn’t explain the importance, or how things work. The information he gave us felt irrelevant. Interesting, but irrelevant. The knowledge I have in my head relates to reality, explains aspects of reality, and pieces of information in my head relate to other pieces of information. Within my internal model of reality, there is a network of connections between information. Same for you. But when he gave me this new information, I didn’t have connections between this information and other information in my knowledge bank, because he didn’t provide them. He taught only shallowly, not deeply.

So I had to study like crazy for my math final, because I didn’t remember anything. Because I didn’t go deeply into it. Sad. But–no worry. I will go back and deeply learn what I could not in that classroom–on my own time. I won’t abandon math like that. Math is beautiful–but much of that beauty lies in the way its ideas connect. In the relationships, in the why. In how it is a structure, a system. My geometry teacher my freshman year was a blessing to me. She showed me the relationships, and that was the year I first fell in love with math. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way about math because I’ve been distracted, but I can still remember that breathless feeling, that euphoria as I sat in that desk, learning of the system and how nicely it all fit together, and that feeling was so intense, so passionate.

It’s not lost. It’s just been a while. I can’t return to math right now, because I’m doing other things now. But I will eventually, and I will love it just the same.

I really can’t remember the feeling too well… but I do remember that the subject left an extremely deep impression on me. Math was the most beautiful subject I had ever seen. Absolutely logical. I should remember this when choosing my career.

Anyway, my chemistry class was taught by someone who actually cared about subject. The teacher seemed to be constantly frustrated by students’ lack of interest, and I could understand that. It is sad to love something, but to feel that no one else does. In the beginning of the year, I had an aggressive attitude toward my math teacher because I was frustrated by his lack of love for math. (A main cause of aggressive behavior is frustration. Understanding this has helped me control my frustration to control my aggression so that I am less hurtful when upset.)

But I always cared about chemistry, and she saw that. Part of the reason my love for chemistry was limited was because I didn’t really see the spark in anyone else. Remember that I told you that I feel that without people, ideas don’t have meaning? Without others to care, the most beautiful ideas seem to be dying. I know others care, but this knowledge isn’t enough to satiate my emotions. My emotions need to see others caring.

Anyway, I went into chemistry a lot more deeply. The teacher told us to read the chapters, and I did–until I got too busy. Semester 1, I read all the chapters. Semester 2, not really. I took excellent notes. We got study guides and work sheets. We went over it in class. We got this awesome packet every chapter testing our deep understanding called a POGIL. I loved POGILs. I always was a bit… afraid that I wouldn’t manage it, but I always did. POGILs were challenging and required me to think. They were spectacular. I can’t even explain how much they helped me understand/ go over the basic ideas.

Chemistry is easy, okay? Yeah, it requires work. Sometimes it’s challenging. But everyone can do it. It irritates me to no end that people don’t believe they can follow something as easy as chemistry or math as far as I have. Simple, logical concepts are the building blocks of complex ideas.

Eh. The class average on tests was always like a 60%. I always got a good grade though, and not because of natural talent. Many kids didn’t actually try, and that’s why. It was a shame. It was their loss. I don’t hate them, I understand them, and I would give them an infinite amount of opportunities to try again.

I just want others to care.

The point is that I went deeply into chemistry. Want to know what effect that had on my memory of the subject? The teacher posted a test with 100 questions online, 70 of which would be identical to those on the semester 2 final. Yeah, I had to go through my notebooks in search of formulas. But just formulas–not concepts. I’d say that I remembered at least 95% of the stuff on the online test. (As a result, there was almost no studying required.) I surprised myself immensely with how much I remembered, and I sought an answer. Why? Why had I remembered so well? It was the depth. It was the connection of ideas. It was the time I put into it.

That’s what I had to say. Maybe the deeper you go and the more time you put into something–maybe the more you focus and the more you think about something, maybe the more you understand the concepts, the why, and how things fit together–the better you remember. If technology is making people do this less and less, one can see why people’s memory of things may be suffering.

“Research has found that millennials are even more forgetful than seniors. What do we know about how technology is impacting our memory?” 

Technology definitely has an effect on our memory. What happens is that to move information from your conscious mind (what’s known as the working memory) into your long-term memory requires a process of memory consolidation that hinges on attentiveness. You think about the information or rehearse it in your mind in order to form a strong memory of it, and in order to connect it to other things that you remember. 

If you’re constantly distracted and taking in new information, you’re essentially pushing information into and out of your conscious mind. You’re not attending to it in a way that is necessary for the rich consolidation of memory. 

Since I wrote The Shallows, there have been some very interesting studies which show that we seem to be less able to form long-term memories than we used to, thanks to technology. One study out of Columbia University showed that when people know that they’ll be able to find information online easily, they’re less likely to form a memory of it. 

“Are you also concerned about this lack of depth, or shallowness, in our social interactions?” 

That isn’t something that I’ve studied much, but I think there are some indications that this kind of culture of constant distraction and interruption undermines not only the attentiveness that leads to deep thoughts, but also the attentiveness that leads to deep connections with other people. 

One study I mentioned in the book seemed to show that the more distracted you are — the more your train of thought is interrupted — the less able you are to experience empathy. So distractions could make it more difficult for us to experience deep emotions. 

“In the book you talk about the “dark side” of brain plasticity. What does that mean?” 

Neuroscientists have discovered that the brain is plastic, meaning that it’s very malleable or adaptable. Our brains are constantly adapting at a physical level to our environment. You can imagine that what’s really changed our environment in the past 10 or 20 years is the Internet and social media. 

A lot of people will assume that if our brains can adapt, then our brains will adapt to the flow of information and all will be well. But what you have to understand about neuroplasticity is that the process of adaptation doesn’t necessarily leave you a better thinker. It may leave you a more shallow thinker. 

Our brains adapt, but the process of adaptation is value-neutral — we might get smarter or we might get dumber, we’re just adapting to the environment. 

“Are you optimistic about any of the ways we currently seem to be adapting?” 

No. It’s the ease with which we adapt that makes me most nervous. It doesn’t take long for someone to get used to glancing at their smartphone 200 times a day. We’re creatures of habit mentally and physically. 

When you develop that habit of distraction, it becomes harder and harder to back away and engage our minds in deeper modes of thinking.

Part of the reason I don’t touch my phone if I can help it–part of the reason I don’t take it anywhere and I usually forget it exists–is because I know what it’s like to engage in such shallow thinking. I told you. I was id-dominated.

I had an Instagram account which allowed me to gain instant gratification. I was addicted to it. I was much more ignorant than I am now. My life didn’t have much deep purpose, I wasn’t interested in being patient and in long-term relationships, I preferred fiction to reality. I focused on aesthetics, on writing, on roleplays–on emotions. I focused on art, mostly.

I think I’m a fairly visual person. Back when I satisfied my id’s desires instantly and was under my id’s control, I spent most of my time looking at pictures. I don’t know why I enjoy that, but doing that can entertain me for hours. Pictures, gifs. Searching for beautiful drawings and paintings, beautiful digital art, beautiful characters. My id still wants to do that sometimes. It is when I am most emotional that I am most vulnerable to my id’s desires. Just yesterday after I woke up, I wanted my brother and I to engage in a Zootopia roleplay between Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde (I’d be the latter). As I looked up pictures of the former character out of an eagerness to interact with her, I became more and more deeply involved in the activity of looking at images and I was again whisked away by my id’s wishes. I left my computer at my grandma’s house when going to my other grandma’s apartment, annoyed and disappointed in myself, as well as not trusting myself to “behave.” Instead, I took a book.

Yesterday was an exception. I think yesterday happened because I have been ignoring my id’s desires for too long. Why? Because here I have no privacy (I haven’t even a room of my own) and I have less time to myself, and it always embarrasses me to look at aesthetically pleasing pictures in front of others because I don’t want them to know what I find visually beautiful/ attractive.

judyhopps

…especially because my aesthetic appreciation knows no gender (and people still have problems with diversity in this regard), and because I often find people beautiful/ attractive without feeling attracted to them.

 

“Is there anything we can do to keep our mental faculties intact, or is it pretty much hopeless at this point?”

Well, you can use the technology less and set aside your phone and spend a good part of your day trying to maintain your focus and not be interrupted. The good thing about that — because of the plasticity of our brains — is that if you change your habits, your brain is happy to go along with whatever you do.

 

My id eventually desired change, and for a shallow reason. It desired power, and I knew knowledge would give me more of that. That’s when my superego began to operate. I developed this idea of who I should be and the goal of perfection became my focus. I knew that my brain was plastic and malleable–that the activities I engaged in would change my brain–and so I tried to change myself and mold myself into the person I wanted to be.

Here is the rest of the article.

I hesitate to move on to other things and make this post too lengthy, including too many different subjects, because potential readers may not be interested in all these subjects and may avoid reading the post altogether.

That aside, thanks for reading!

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