Sunday 28 February 2016

Dangling Snowmobile

    Yesterday Skye and I were walking along the beach beside the Fraser River, when I heard the “Whop, whop, whop,” of a helicopter way off toward the Rockies.  As soon as I heard it I was pretty sure it was a chopper ferrying out a snowmobile, because it is not an uncommon occurrence around the Robson Valley in the winter.
    I stared and scanned the snowcapped range, and finally I spotted a small speck in the sky with a smaller speck below it.  The objects slowly became larger.  It flew a wide circle in the distance as it slowly worked to lose elevation.  Soon it was flying right over me as it headed for the airport to drop off the snowmobile.
    It was an expensive delivery for some snowmobiler, whose “sled” either broke down way out in the faraway alpine, or who got himself into an area that he couldn’t get out of.  No matter what the cause, having to hire a helicopter at more than $1000/hour to get his sled back was probably something he hadn’t planned on.

My photo-realistic paintings can be viewed at:

Saturday 27 February 2016

Reflecting Pond

    I always look forward to seeing the ice disappear on the pond and having open water to reflect the distant mountains.  Well I have the reflection in the water, but the ice is still there.  Our unusually warm weather (11C 52F) is starting the melting process, but it will probably be another month before all the ice actually disappears.

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Friday 26 February 2016

Fraser River Ice and Water

    Walking along the Fraser River yesterday, I saw many patterns created by the interplay of water and ice.  Above is a closeup.  Below you can see the current mix of ice and open water on the Fraser.

My photo-realistic paintings:

Thursday 25 February 2016

Jane Eyre

     The McBride Library Book Club meets monthly.  Normally in book clubs, members all read the same book and then discuss it.  Here in McBride, a theme is chosen and everyone can choose any book they want from that theme.  Since February is associated with Valentine’s Day and love, the theme was “True Love.”   This time the librarians wrapped up suitable books for the theme in newsprint and the readers had to choose one of the books without knowing what it was.
    The book I picked ended up to be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  That choice was alright with me since I like the time period and had seen several film adaptations of the novel.  I was curious to see how the book differed from the movies.   I took the book home and began to read.  Right away I realized that I was going to have trouble with the vocabulary.  I was running into a lot of words I didn’t know.  
    Then I thought of downloading the book and reading it on my iPad.  Old books like Jane Eyre are no longer copyrighted, so you can get them online for free.  I just downloaded a copy from Apple’s iBooks.  One of the advantages of reading digitally is that when you come across a word you don’t know, you can just touch the word and it’s definition comes up.  This made the book a whole lot easier for me to read. 
    Here is my review:
      The first part of the book reads like a Charles Dickens novel.  Young Jane, unloved and abused by her guardian  (an unrelated aunt) is sent off to an orphanage where she again is made to feel, unloved, shamed, abused, and starved as well, by a cruel, arrogant, and pompous minister who is in charge of the place, however because of the friendship of an older girl  (who soon dies) and a teacher, Jane begins to thrive and the orphanage begins to feel like home.
     Jane remained at the orphanage becoming a teacher, but at the age of 18, yearning for life in the real world she knew so little about, and seeking employment elsewhere, she put an ad in a newspaper and was offered a teaching job at Thornfield, an isolated mansion in the moors.  There she lived, teaching a young French girl and living with the housekeeper and staff, employed by the absentee and unseen landowner, Mr. Rochester.
      When Rochester finally makes an appearance, he is a moody, mysterious fellow, old enough to be Jane's father.   Slowly they become friends, and one night Jane is awakened by strange laughter and smoke, and upon investigating discovers Rochester sleeping amidst a flaming bed. Jane saves his life, but is left in the dark as to what had happened.   Rochester holds her hand and mysteriously asks Jane not to mention the incident to the rest of the staff, saying he will make up a story to explain to them. 
       After that night Jane realizes she has developed deep feelings for Rochester and is very shocked and hurt the next morning when she is told that Mr. Rochester has departed from the house, his return unknown, perhaps even a year.  The good news for Jane is that Rochester is only gone for a couple of weeks, the bad news is when he returns it is with a group of neighbors, one of which is a beautiful young lady who he is rumored to marry.  
     More mystery is added to the mix when an unexpected guest is stabbed and bitten during the night and Rochester asks Jane’s help deal with it, but to keep it all secret.  Soon after, Jane gets an unexpected letter saying her former guardian, the one who treated her so horribly as a child, was on her death bed and had requested Jane's presence.
    Being such a decent and good person, Jane goes to her.  The woman confesses she hated Jane's intrusion into her family, and despite her promise to care for Jane, had spitefully kept a letter from her, sent by one of Jane's long lost relatives, who wanted to adopt Jane. 
       With the death of her former guardian, Jane returns to Thornfield and Rochester.  It is spring and love is in a the air.  Rochester speaks of his upcoming marriage and Jane, heartbroken knows she must leave, then Rochester lets it drop that his intended bride is not the beautiful neighbor but--wait for it--Jane!
        The morning after the night after the proposal took place, Jane was told by her student that a great tree was split into two pieces--a foreshadowing of things to come?  Jane was in a state of ecstasy as the date of her marriage approached, but then the night before, her sleep was wracked by a nightmare that that the Thornfield mansion was in ruin, and then she awakens to find a strange woman in her room who tears Jane's  wedding veil in half.  The night's activities fills her with foreboding despite Rochester's attempts to cheer her up. 
     During the wedding ceremony when the pastor asked whether there was any impediment to prevent the union, from the congregation came the reply, "Yes" and then came the reason:  Rochester was still married to someone else.  
     Jane's bright future suddenly reverses as she learns that the screams and night visitations she had experienced were made by Rochester's wife, who is totally and utterly mad and has to be restrained.  In complete devastation, Jane flees Thornfield venturing out aimlessly and is soon destitute in the heath moors, waiting to die.  Will Jane and Rochester ever find love and happiness?
     I will quit the narrative at this point, 2/3rds through the novel, and  leave it to you to find out how this story resolves,. 
      Why does this novel make such a good love story?  I think it is because of all the pity we have for Jane, who seems so decent and honest, but has suffered such an abusive childhood. We want something good to happen to her as a reward. Rochester, as we learn more about him, has also suffered.  His arranged marriage by his father to the mad woman has saddled him with torment for life, but he tries to be noble in his situation. 
     We want both he and Jane to get together and be happy, but things just seem stacked against them.
      One interesting thing that struck me in reading Jane Eyre was the importance of foreheads, something I never placed too much importance to, but foreheads seem to have been quite an important part of the anatomy at that time. Statements such as "Does my forehead not please you? And "What a sweet tempered forehead he has" left me puzzled.  The word "forehead" occurred in the book 30 times. 
     I really did enjoy reading Jane Erye, and was thankful I downloaded and read it on my iPad, where I  had the definitions of all those unfamiliar words at my fingertips. 

Take a look at my paintings:

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Our Other Dog

    Yesterday, as I was walking along out sidewalk, I glanced over to the flower garden beside the house to see if the mild weather was causing any flower bulbs to peek though the leaves. (None yet.) Then my eyes came to rest upon this ugly ceramic canine, that has resided amongst the flowers for forty years, but is generally obscured by all of the plants.
    This dog pottery piece suddenly and unexpected appeared one day without explanation.  We assumed some playful friend was trying to confound us, and the gesture worked.  After all these decades, we still don’t know how it got there and who did it.  The main suspect died years ago without a confession, so I guess the mystery will forever remain unsolved.
    Meanwhile the dog stays where it was, and gets uglier as time passes.  Before I took this photo, I took mercy on the creature and used a magic marker and created pupils for its eyes because it looked even more ghastly without them.

You can see my paintings at:

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Wind Proof

    McBride can be a windy place, especially in the fall and winter, as strong weather fronts move in and out of the Robson Valley.  I have gotten a lot of mileage out of our local wind, using it as a subject in cartoons and blogs.  The other day when we were walking the dog down by the Fraser River, Joan pointed out these information signs in the riverside park.  They give a pretty good indication of the power and direction of our winds.

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Monday 22 February 2016

A "Remarkable" Photo

    First off what I mean by the title is not that the photograph itself is remarkable, (although, I have to admit I am really proud of it) but the “remarkable” thing is all the circumstances that had to be in play in order for me to be able to capture this image .  While on the face of it, it seems pretty simple, this photo was the result of a lot of coincidences.  Here is how it happened.
    The dog, cat, and I were taking our evening walk around the pond.  The sky was mostly clear, but there were a few scattered clouds in the sky and they were reflecting the orange of the setting sun.  As I walked along our path, I happened to look out over the icy pond.  At that exact moment, one of those orange clouds was being reflected in the small pool of open water that was surrounding some cattails, and I recognized the interesting effect.
    Had I been a few steps farther along, or farther back on the trail when I looked up, had I been taller, or shorter, had I been 5 minutes earlier or later in my walk, had the colored clouds been in a different spot in the sky, had the sun been a bit lower or higher, this photograph could have never been taken.  Thinking about all those conditions, makes me realize just how remarkable this shot was.
    Of course there are two other points that led to the photograph.  I had to have my camera with me and I had to have the sense to recognize an interesting situation.
My photo-realistic paintings can be seen at:

Sunday 21 February 2016

Time For Mud

    The Northern and Southern Hemispheres have four seasons.   Here in the interior of British Columbia we have an fifth season called “Breakup.”  Breakup is characterized by the melting of all of the winter’s snow, the thawing of frost, and the creation of a lot of mud.  Breakup usually occurs later in March, but it seems to have arrived early this year.
    Above you can see a section of Mountainview Rd, beyond the point where it is paved.  We drove through this yesterday to get the community pasture, where we were going to walk the dog.  Needless to say by the time we got home, I had to get the hose out and wash down the truck, to get it back to its original color.
    When we bought our place back in 1977, our road was unpaved, and we often had to drive through conditions similar to what you see in the photo just to get to our house.  We got our clothes dirty every time we accidentally brushed up against our vehicle.  You can imagine how happy we were when our section of the road was finally paved.

My paintings can be seen at:

Saturday 20 February 2016

Bands of Color

    Yesterday we took Skye down to the Fraser River to do our walk on the sandbanks.  When I looked across the water to the opposite shore, I was struck by the yellow and orangish color of the naked willow trees that provided a nice accent to the other bands of color in the scene.

My paintings can be seen at:

Friday 19 February 2016

Cat Cartoon

    Sorry, no time to write a blog today; the cat wants out again.

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Thursday 18 February 2016

Lava and Ferns

    I have enjoyed taking nature photos all of my life.  In 1969 a whole new world of nature was opened up to me when I joined the Peace Corp and was sent to the “Big Island” of Hawaii for training.  I couldn’t believe the colors and vibrancy of the place.  I craved the free time we received during our training, so I could explore the tropical island I found myself on.
    The photo above is one of my favorites from that time.  It is probably the first photo I ever took that really inspired me philosophically.  It is a photo of a fern growing out of a hardened lava field.  Ferns are the first plants that are able to establish themselves on the newly formed rock.  Somehow the thought of fragile life struggling to survive on barren rock inspired me.  
    A similar thought came to me during my painting of “Petroglyphs.”    In that painting is was the image of people holding hands on the unforgiving massive rock of Earth that struck me.

You can see my painting, "Petroglyphs" at the top of my website:

Wednesday 17 February 2016

My Grandfather's Mandolin

    As children, my cousin and I loved to climb the twisted staircase of my grandparent’s house and enter into the dark, shadowy, and cobwebby attic to explore.  There were two objects there that most captured our interest.  During those days of the Davy Crockett mania, the most fascinating object to be examined was the long heavy percussion rifle, after that the object that most peaked my curiosity was my grandfather’s mandolin.
    I loved to open the old canvas case, take out the instrument, and plunk around on the out of tune strings, pretending to play it.  We never saw my grandfather play the instrument, as it seemed that he had lost interest in the thing, thus its place in the attic.  Later in life, after the death of my grandparents, my cousin ended up with the rifle, and I ended up with the mandolin.
    I brought the mandolin with me when we immigrated to Canada, and for the most part, it had become a decorative object, resting untouched on the bookcase of our living room.  This week that mandolin has become more of a focus in my life, when I heard that the Robson Valley Museum Society was sponsoring an exhibit of old musical instruments at the McBride Library until April.  I cleaned and polished the hundred year old and put on a new set of strings, (since there are no place in McBride to buy mandolin strings, I ended up using some guitar strings to complete the set of 8).
    I always thought that the bowl-backed shape of the mandolin made it pretty unique, because I rarely see such instruments.  I was surprised then, when I took the mandolin to the museum to discover that someone else had brought a very similar mandolin (and one that was much more decorative) that had belonged to her grandmother.
    At last night’s opening of the exhibit, I got to play a song on grandpa’s mandolin to the attendees.  

    About my mandolin:
    It was made by Isaiah Nightingale in Evansville, Indiana, between 1893-1903.  Nightingale, a luthier, patented the oval-shaped object that can seen in the hole of the instrument.  This is part of a second sound board in the mandolin, designed to give the instrument a stronger and sweeter sound.
    Nightingale’s factory, which made both Nightingale guitars and mandolins, was destroyed by fire in the early 1900’s and that seems to have ended production.  There are only a handful of Nightingale instruments known in existence.  

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Tuesday 16 February 2016

February in the Canadian Rockies?

    Yesterday when we took our dog walk out on Jeck Road, we had to give our heads a shake.  Here it was, February, in the midst of winter in the Interior of BC, and we were walking in jackets and running shoes.   The temperature was +6C (43F) and on both sides of us were bare fields.  The only snow in the valley bottom was that which had accumulated in the ditches.  It sure didn’t feel like winter.
    Most of middle and eastern Canada and the US are presently experiencing very cold weather and snow.  El Nino filled BC with very mild weather, which forces the cold Arctic air to go north of us and sweep down on the eastern side of the Rockies into the midwest and even into the southern states.
    It’s hard for us not to think that winter is over.  In our hearts we know that it isn’t, but it sure feels like it.

You can check out my photo-realistic paintings at:

Sunday 14 February 2016

What Kind of Dog

    I found an entertaining time waster last night.  It is a site that allows you to upload a photo of your dog and it tries to tell you what kind of dog it is.  Our dog Skye is a rescue dog and so we have no idea of her breed.  At the animal control center where we got her, they thought she was a Bearded Collie or “Beardie” (Don’t let the “Collie” part of the name fool you, Beardies look like Sheepdogs.)
    Anyway when I discovered the “” I right away started sending in photos of Skye.    The result comes back showing your dog in a big photo with information about their guess as to the breed.  The small stamp-like photo gives you an image of the breed they are guessing.  Each photo I sent generated a different answer.  I was surprised when the first one came back “Skye Terrier” since the name of the breed was the same as our dog’s name.
    We have often thought our dog was a Bearded Collie, or Dandie Dinmont Terrier (because of the eyes), but even though this site often seemed pretty far-fetched in its results, it was a lot of fun to see what it would come back with.  Below are all the results I got for Skye.

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Saturday 13 February 2016


    I am making a change in my life. 
    For 60 years I have been wearing denim jeans.  In all that time when I make a purchase and have been given change, I have just slipped the coins into one of the big pockets in the front of the pants.  Then later when I buy something else and need the coins, I have to dig deep, passed the handkerchief, past the car keys, down to the bottom of the big pocket,  then clutching the coins with my fingers, I have to pull the money out, passed the car keys, past the handkerchief, so that I can use them.
    The other day, as I was putting on my jeans I happened to notice the small change pocket that has been there for the past 60 years.  I thought to myself, “I ought to start using that little pocket for my change instead of putting it buried deep in the big pocket.  It would make using the coins a whole lot easier.”  
    So that is how I am going to change my life.  I hope I can overcome the life time habit of putting the coins into the big pocket of my jeans.   Hopefully, this old dog can learn a new trick.

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Thursday 11 February 2016

Far West Cedar Mill

    In 1977, we moved to McBride, BC.  I had been teaching school (3 years in a one room school & one year in a 2 room school), but we didn’t have a home of our own, having lived all those years in teacherages (houses provided by the school district for teachers).   We had been able to save a lot of money, and we bought a 5 acre hobby farm in McBride.
    For a couple of years, I tried to get a teaching job in McBride, but all I was able to do was be a substitute teacher.  So by 1979, we were beginning to run low on money, so I took a job at Far West Cedar, a mill where they manufactured cedar rail fencing.  I soon learned that the place was also called “Far West Finger Mill” because it was so dangerous and workers were always loosing fingers in accidents.   There were an outrageous amount of accidents during the 1 1/2 years I worked there.
    The photo above shows “splitting” one of the most dangerous jobs at the mill.  The worker has to hold the long piece of cedar on the machine, hit a lever with his leg, then a large vertical steel blade quickly moves toward the piece of cedar, and when it hits the end of the wood, the operator has to quickly let go of the wood before the blade gets to his hand.  In the photo, you can see the blade just above the guy’s wrist.
    I was pretty safety oriented and refused to do splitting.  My main job was to drill the holes in the fence posts.  That was relatively safe, but I was also required to bundle the finished fence posts with steel bands, and in 1980 I finally had my accident; while on top of a bundle tightening a steel band , the band broke throwing me off balance, and I fell 4 ft. (1.2 m.) to the cement floor, breaking my wrist.  I felt lucky that my accident left my body in one piece although damaged.  
    I spent several months recuperating on Workman’s Compensation.  Luckily, I didn’t have to go back to Far West.  By the time I had healed I was able to get a job working for the BC Forest Service drawing maps.  Although the money wasn’t as good, It was an amazingly civilized job, compared to Far West.  I remained working for the Forest Service for 23 years.

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Wednesday 10 February 2016

Winter, Where Art Thou?

    I guess I really shouldn’t complain, but this sure doesn’t feel much like winter in the Robson Valley.  Here is a photo I took yesterday as we walked up an down the tarmac at the McBride airfield.  As you can see, the snow is pretty much non-existent and the temperature was +5C (41C).  That does feel a bit unusual for a Canadian February.

Take a look at my paintings:

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Good-Bye Old Subaru

    We said good-bye to our old Outback, as we sold it to a friend yesterday.  We have driven it for 13 years, racking up 310,000 km (192,000 miles) in trips through mountains. across the prairies, and deserts the US, and braving the sometimes horrendous snowstorms just driving into town in BC.  It has been a good dependable car for us.
    We bought it back in 2003 when they closed the McBride Forestry Office and I was forced into early retirement.  When that happened we thought we had better buy a new car while we still had money.  We recently bought ourselves another new one, thinking that with the falling Canadian dollar, we had better buy a new car before the price rose to high.
    I have always liked the photo above, which was taken on a driving trip we took to Zion National Park in the US.  I thought our Subaru, sitting in front of the red sandstone mountains, always looked like a car ad in a magazine.
    Having a new car always creates a problem in our little community, where people always wave at each other as they drive past.  Having a different vehicle confuses people, because everyone is so identified with their car that when that car changes, everyone is left shaking their heads, wondering who just waved at them.

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Monday 8 February 2016

1974: Fort St. James Adventure

    Yesterday I talked to my cousin Dan, who reminded me of one of the stories I used to tell about my early experiences in Canada.
    In the fall of 1973, I took a job teaching in a one room school up near Takla Lake in BC.  The school was in a lumber mill camp and there were no roads into the place, so Joan and I had to drive to Fort St. James and fly in to the camp on in a small float plane.  We weren’t sure what to do with our truck, but NT Air (Northern Thunderbird Airlines) allowed us to park our International Scout truck in their parking lot, which we happily did.  We didn’t know when we would be back to get it.
    Because the camp was so isolated the only way in or out was either a very slow train, or to fly.  Unfortunately, the “Sched” (the regularly scheduled flights by NT Air) only came on weekday mornings, and so we could never use it and keep the school schedule.  That meant that we had to stay in the camp until Christmas break when we were able to fly out and back in, but those flights were in the mill’s DC3 to and from Williams Lake, so we couldn’t use our truck which was in Ft. St. James.
    In March during the school’s spring break we caught the sched to Ft. St. James and were going to drive down to Vancouver Island.  This was on a Friday.  When we got to the NT Air office, the photo shows how we found our car--it wasn’t going anywhere for a while.  We walked over to the house of some teachers we had met and were able to borrow a shovel from them.
    I didn’t get the path I shoveled into the truck completed until dark that day, but we still weren’t going anywhere.  The battery was dead and so I had to buy a new one.  Way back then, a battery only cost $30.  When I installed the new battery, for some reason, one of the cables was too short, and I ended up having to get the car towed to a garage to get that fixed.  Since it was the weekend, they couldn’t work on it until the following Monday.  Once the work was done.  We we headed for Vancouver Island.
    People are always talking about global warming and it is clear from my diaries that winters were a lot more harsh back in those days.  It has been a while since I have seen that much snow accumulate over the winter.

Take a look at my photo-realistic paintings:

Sunday 7 February 2016

An Icy Fraser River

    Here is part of the upper reaches of British Columbia’s mighty Fraser River as it can be currently seen outside of McBride.  The Fraser always freezes during the winter, but normally at this time of year the ice is covered with snow.  As you can see the snow has melted and has been replaced by a slick of water.  

Take a look at my photo-realistic paintings:

Saturday 6 February 2016

It's Always Clear in McBride

    If only that was true.  McBride is that white rimmed dot in the middle of the satellite map above.  All those orange lines show upper level winds, but just ignore them.  That big green and blue area is where snow and rain are falling.  You will notice that McBride has been remarkably spared from all that weather.  At least you would think so by looking at the weather map.
    You would be wrong.  The reason that McBride always looks like it is clear on weather radar maps is because the radar never gets past the mountains that surround our little village.  When I captured this image off of my iPad, it was raining and snowing in McBride, it just never shows up on the weather radar because we have no local radar and we are too far away from those places that do.

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Friday 5 February 2016

Old Robson Valley Homestead

    Here is a calendar-like shot of an abandoned old homestead east of McBride with the Cariboo Mountains standing tall in the background.  It was the combination of the wide open agricultural valley and the mountains that attracted me to the Robson Valley.

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Thursday 4 February 2016

What Was That Coyote Doing Last Night?

    The other morning when Skye and I did our walk around the pond, I noticed that the night before a coyote had been hunting mice in the pasture and had dug several holes through the snow to catch them.  Skye caught a whiff of the coyote and walked over and was quite intrigued by the holes.

My photo-realistic paintings:

Tuesday 2 February 2016

Clouds and Mountains

    Yesterday on our walk, I caught the clouds nicely framing a mountain back the Castle Creek drainage.  

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Monday 1 February 2016

2016; Year of Pulses

    A few weeks ago I was listening to a CBC radio program, the theme of which was that 2016 has been proclaimed by the United Nations the “Year of Pulses”.  They then went on with a discussion of chickpeas and lentils.  I had never heard of the word “pulse” in reference to something to eat and so I went on line to get more information.  Sure enough, the word pulse refers to “Legumes harvested solely for dry grain and includes such things as: lentils, beans, peas, and chickpeas.”  It does not include legumes that are harvested green.  
    Unknowingly, I have been a big fan of pulses all along.  I love beans, and chickpeas.  Not only do they taste good, they can help prevent diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  When they are grown, they fix nitrogen in the soil, so actually improve the soil.  
    I love them in salads, Mexican food, and other ethnic cuisine.  No one has ever accused me of being a gourmet, so what I am about to tell you may be offensive to those who do consider themselves to be gourmets.  Above is a concoction of some of my favorite things that I created and really enjoy having for lunch.  It is a salad consisting of red cabbage, chickpeas (or other types of canned beans), ranch dressing, with a bit of garlic.  When I start eating a bowl of this, it is hard for me to stop.
    A warning:  I sometimes have to pay the price later in the day if I over do it, because of the often referred to gaseous side effect of eating beans.  In my mind, all those healthy aspects of pulses, far outweigh the one negative.
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