Reality check

We are all quite happy to have turned a new page into 2021. However, to be frank, the first half of 2021 will certainly be as bad as 2020. So don’t expect an overnight miracle! It will surely get worse before it gets better… Trump will still be in power until the third week of January and who knows what kind of horrors he can still come up with, we will soon experience a post-holiday jump in the number of COVID-19 cases, the new variants will spread more and more, we will still have to follow the sanitary measures (masks, distanciation, etc.) for a while and the vaccines will not start having any effect on the pandemic until spring, if not early summer. So, please be patient. Our sanity and decency will eventually be restored, hopefully before the end of the year.

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Happy / Joyeux Solstice

Like every year, I want to wish everyone a happy solstice. 

The celebration of the solstice goes back to the beginning of time (or at least, as far as we know, to the Neolithic). The winter solstice is when the polar axis of the planet reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun, making it appear at its lowest on the horizon and resulting in the longest night and the least amount of daylight. For all prehistoric cultures it probably meant the end of winter hardships and the promise of a new beginning. The sun dies behind the horizon only to be reborn, therefore the winter solstice festival is almost always linked to the cult of the Sun and the New Year. With time, those age-old rituals were integrated into each culture beliefs and evolved into the festivities of Christmas / Nativity (Western Europe), Dongzhi  (China), Festivus (geek culture), Hanukkah (Judaic culture), Karachun (Slavic cultures), Kwanzaa (African-American culture), Makar Sankranti (India), Saturnalia / Sol Invictus (Ancient Rome), Yalda (Iran), Yule (Germanic culture), etc.

Those festivities were also often linked with the worship of entities/deities that resurrected (they died and rose again) in correlation with fertility or after-life cults (many being part of mystery cults): Attis, Baldr, Dionysus, Dumuzid, Ishtar, Izanami, Jesus, Mithra, Osiris, Persephone, Quetzalcoatl, just to name a few. That’s what makes comparative mythology so interesting (for which Jesus is a fascinating study case).

Of course, this year everything feels different. We had a very bad year and we yearn for much better time. Therefore, whatever you are celebrating at this time of the year, I want to wish you all Merry Festivities (by yourself) as well as a happy and much better New Year ! Take care and be safe!

christmas-page-divider-6

Comme chaque année, je souhaite à tous un joyeux solstice.

La célébration du solstice remonte au début des temps (ou du moins, à notre connaissance, au néolithique). Le solstice d’hiver se produit lorsque l’axe polaire de la planète atteint son inclinaison maximale loin du soleil, le faisant apparaître à son plus bas à l’horizon et entraînant la nuit la plus longue et le moins de lumière du jour. Pour toutes les cultures préhistoriques, cela signifiait probablement la fin des épreuves hivernales et la promesse d’un nouveau départ. Le soleil meurt derrière l’horizon pour renaître, donc le festival du solstice d’hiver est presque toujours lié au culte du soleil et du nouvel an. Avec le temps, ces rituels séculaires ont été intégrés dans les croyances de chaque culture et ont évolué vers les festivités de Noël / Nativité (Europe de l’Ouest), Dongzhi (Chine), Festivus (culture geek), Hanoucca (culture judaïque), Karachun (cultures Slaves), Kwanzaa (culture afro-américaine), Makar Sankranti (Inde), Saturnalia / Sol Invictus (Rome antique), Yalda (Iran), Yule (culture germanique), etc.

Ces festivités étaient aussi souvent liées au culte d’entités / divinités ressuscitées (elles moururent et ressuscitèrent) en corrélation avec la fertilité ou les cultes d’après-vie (beaucoup faisant partie de cultes à mystères): Attis, Baldr, Dionysos, Dumuzi, Ishtar / Innana, Izanami, Jésus, Mithra, Osiris, Perséphone, Quetzalcoatl, pour n’en nommer que quelques-uns. C’est ce qui rend la mythologie comparéé si intéressante (pour laquelle Jésus est un cas d’étude fascinant).

Bien sûr, cette année, tout est différent. Nous avons eu une très mauvaise année et nous aspirons à de bien meilleurs moments. Par conséquent, quoi que vous fêtiez à cette période de l’année, je tiens à souhaiter à tous de joyeuses fêtes (par vous-même) ainsi qu’une bonne et meilleure année! Prenez soin de vous et soyez en sécurité!

Garland-divider-1

عطلات سعيدة للجميع

祝大家節日快樂

Feliĉaj Ferioj al ĉiuj

Frohe Feiertage für alle

Ευχάριστες διακοπές σε όλους

Happy Holidays nan tout

חג שמח לכולם

सभी के लिए खुश छुट्टियाँ

Buone Feste a tutti

すべてにハッピーホリデー

Beatus festis in omnes

Счастливые праздники для всех

Felices fiestas a todos

Chúc mừng ngày lễ cho tất cả

sample file

Thought of the day [002.020.282]

Debate after-thoughts

The VP debate was more civil but no one really answered the questions and Mike Pence was lying so much that, for an instant, I had the vision of the moderator being struck in the heart by the elongated nose of Pensoccio ! He was mild-mannered and yet as disrespectful as his master would have been to Kamala Harris. He should not even have been there as he should have been in quarantine in Washington because he was exposed to infected people and should be ready to take over the presidency if — gods forbid — something would happen to Trump.

All in all, it was another annoying debate that won’t change anyone’s opinion since everybody is already disgusted by American politics under this presidency. We cannot be nauseated more than we already are… However, Harris did well, stood her ground (I like the looks she gave Pence) but I am wondering if she should have avoided playing the same game and honestly answer more questions instead. On the other hand, Pence was so bland that he looked like a doll (Dull? Undead?). Even the fly on his head lost interest and flew over the cuckoo’s nest… Meanwhile Trump is planning to use his contagious personality in another rally hoping to make his campaign viral… Could it be a fetal mistake?

I can’t wait for November turd…

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Status report (end of September)

The life in the time of coronavirus continues… 

It has been a while since I wrote one of those… In the beginning of July, actually. This is my sixth status report and it has been twenty-seven weeks (or one-hundred-and-ninety-two days) since the beginning of the confinement. It has also been seventeen weeks since we started re-opening at the end of May and fifteen weeks since I restarted to work in a library in June. Time flies. Everything before that feels like an other life… Did we reopen too soon, too hard ? Or is it that (stupid) people are so quick to forget the danger of being in the middle of a pandemic ? As predicted, we are now starting the second wave. Lets hope it won’t be a tsunami… Last week, as the COVID-19 cases kept increasing, Montreal passed into yellow zone and today it switched into the red zone, the highest level of alert. To try to break the wave we really need to lock ourselves up again for the next month, avoid all gathering and social activities. Winter is coming and I am worried about what the fall will be bringing (I mean autumn, not “the” fall of civilisation — although that could still be a possibility; or at least the fall of democracy, the fall of decency, in our southern neighbour. 

csm_20-210-261W_courbe-detaillee-cas-covid_800x450_9463bc0a8c

Now, I must apologize to my readers. In the last month or so, I have been feeling lousy and I didn’t write anything of significance on the blog. I posted only pictures — mostly from my daily walks in the park, of cats and flowers. Although I still read a few comics & manga or watched movies and tv series (e.g. I finally finished (re)watching Battlestar Galactica — I’ll write about it later if I can), but just didn’t feel like writing about it. I was (physically and mentally) exhausted. As often, work and life (chasing clinical appointments, shopping for an electric bike or a new mattress) were taking all my energy. However, I still think that posting those pictures are important to me. Each time I talk about natural history, or show the picture of an animal or a plant, or an ancient coin, I think it is an opportunity (first for me) to acquire new knowledge and then to share it with others. After all, this is one of the main reasons why I am writing this blog: Sharing my enthusiasm for knowledge (that and spilling my brain out into words in order to stay sane !).

The reasons why I am feeling so lousy are complex. First, frankly right now, the world is depressing. If you are watching the news (which I very often do, mostly from our southerly neighbour), all you can hear is scandal this, corruption that, election this, election that, COVID this, COVID that, COVID all over (one million deaths around the world so far), and, in every cases, associated with the name Trump! It is tiring. 

Also, my work is rather frustrating. I am not working in my usual library, which is undergoing (since last December!!) some renovations. I’ve been relocated to another library, working with a different team. They are mostly nice people, but, let’s say, we’re not really sharing the same work ethic. Due to various delays (mostly unexpected structural weaknesses and COVID), the construction work has dragged on and the return to our rightful library has been pushed back several time. This situation is the cause of a great stress. (When I get too frustrated with my job, to blow steam, I just apply to another one…)

Finally, my life has become quite painful. On top of my usual ailments (being slightly overweight, back pain [due to an herniated lumbar disc with occasional sciatica], pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, hepatic steatosis, sigmoidal diverticulitis, occasional kidney stones and an unmentionable recurring abscess), earlier this month I started having chronic knee pain on the right side which the doctor diagnosed as probable osteoarthritis (the x-ray didn’t show anything). A little later, I also started having pain in the left hip. I’ve been prescribed some strong NSAID rubbing drops (a 1.5% diclofenac sodium solution) and also tried a similar product in cream, but their list of counter-indications and side-effects is longer and scarier than their benefits! I am quite wary of using them… I am still trying to exercice regularly, but I started to hate stairs (however I am still adamantly avoiding elevators). I just must learn to live with my pain. Pain is my friend. I will face my pain. I must not let pain change the way I do things. I will use my pain to keep a clear mind. And when the pain has gone I will remain active. (That’s my litany against  pain). Fortunately, there are some good days… but I’m really starting to feel old…

However, in the last few days I felt a little worse. I was more tired, depressed, having a congestion and a slight cough, a little dizziness occasionally, higher blood sugar (five days in a row over 7 mmol/L), some gastro-intestinal problems and a slight fever. It is probably simply exhaustion due to the stress of work and the change of the season, doubled with the beginning of a cold. Nothing more (hopefully). However, the protocol at work requires me to report it to my superior, call public health authorities and undergo COVID-19 testing. Which I did today. I didn’t go to work, got tested and now I am isolating myself in my man/writing cave, waiting for the result of the test (and my new mattress). 

I am planning to take advantage of this short pause to hopefully write a little (about life & do some book/media comments) on this blog (and maybe for the Club des Irrésistible also).

Continues with Notable News (late September)

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Update (2020/10/01): The test came back negative. I am feeling better now and back to work. Sorry again: I spent too much time writing the status report and notable news that I didn’t write anything else… (The mattress is a little disappointing, offering little improvements on the previous one. Feel a little too soft to my taste but the important point is that I sleep a little better).

March, vol. 2-3

Three years ago, in order to celebrate the Black History Month, I commented on the first volume of this biographical comics by John Lewis. And last month, as I was talking about the Congressman death, I urged people to read this series. Then it occurred to me that I should follow my own advice and read volume two and three…

Book Two

March-Book-Two-cov“After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence — but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before. Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the movement’s young activists place their lives on the line while internal conflicts threaten to tear them apart.

But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy… and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

[Text from publisher’s website and the inside flap; see also the back cover]

March: Book Two, by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. Marietta GA: Top Shelf Productions, January 2015. 192 pg., Softcover, 6.5″ x 9.5″, 19.95 US / $25.95 Can. ISBN: 978-1-60309-400-9.

Book Three

March-Book-Three-cov“By the fall of 1963, the Civil Rights Movement has penetrated deep into the American consciousness, and as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis is guiding the tip of the spear. Through relentless direct action, SNCC continues to force the nation to confront its own blatant injustice, but for every step forward, the danger grows more intense: Jim Crow strikes back through legal tricks, intimidation, violence, and death. The only hope for lasting change is to give voice to the millions of Americans silenced by voter suppression: “One Man, One Vote.”

To carry out their nonviolent revolution, Lewis and an army of young activists launch a series of innovative campaigns, including the Freedom Vote, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and an all-out battle for the soul of the Democratic Party waged live on national television. With these new struggles come new allies, new opponents, and an unpredictable new president who might be both at once. But fractures within the movement are deepening … even as 25-year-old John Lewis prepares to risk everything in a historic showdown high above the Alabama river, in a town called Selma.”

[Text from publisher’s website and the inside flap; see also the back cover]

March: Book Three, by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. Marietta GA: Top Shelf Productions, August 2016. 256 pg., Softcover, 6.5″ x 9.5″, 19.99 US / $25.95 Can. ISBN: 978-1-60309-402-3.

After introducing John Lewis in Book One and explaining how he cames to be involved in the civil rights movement by joining the Nashville students nonviolent protests against segregation, we see him pushing forward, in Book Two, by participating in the Freedom Riders actions. His determination, despite the increasingly violent response to the movement, bring him to a leadership position as the chairman of the SNCC and to a speaking spot at the landmark March on Washington.

Book Two, pages 47 & 150

In Book Three, Lewis is involved with the organization of the Mississippi Freedom Summer. College students flock to the South to register as many as possible Black voters. Despite the fact that the Fifteenth Amendment gave the African-Americans the right to vote, they were facing unjust registration suppression (poll taxes and literacy tests). The project goal was to publicize and counteract this injustice, but it was met with great terror and intimidation (including the tragic events recalled in the movie Mississipi Burning). They also created the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in order to put delegates at the Democratic National Convention with great controversy. It failed but prompted Lyndon B. Johnson to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The protests, and the violent response from the South authorities, continue to escalate up to the march from Selma to Montgomery (on March 7, 1965) where Lewis led six-hundred marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and was gravely wounded. This event was a turning point that brought national and international attention to the question and prompted Johnson to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Interestingly, through the recounting of his involvement, Lewis doesn’t shy from talking about the dissent within the various civil rights organizations (mainly the SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and SCLC) and even to sometimes criticize the positions of Martin Luther King or Malcom X.

Book Three, pages 30 & 86

The storytelling of March is excellent and compelling. It is well supported and illustrated by the pretty good black and white art of Nate Powell. However it is sometime quite dark (lots of ink!) and the text in some speech balloons is way too small for my eyes — I guess the artist wanted to express the sound level of distant speech. This book is a real history lesson, and the perfect way to learn about the Civil Right Movement.

Strangely, everything I read in this comics sounds familiar. It seems that what’s happening right nowBlack Lives Matter, the increasing violence against minorities and even from the government itself — is eerily similar to the situation during the civil rights movement. We all thought that our society had made great progress since then, but sixty years later we realize that we find ourselves at the same point! The disease is apparently running deeper. It laid more or less dormant for a while but seems to have been awaken by the “insult” of having a black president, creating a slow resentment. Now, with the strong encouragement and even its institutionalization by President Trump,  there’s an increasingly strong push back against all civil rights (of the ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender or all sort of minorities) by the conservative Republicans (mostly the religious right). The United States are really in need of strong and comprehensive reforms to address this pervasive problem…

History is repeating itself (to quote Battlestar Galactica, “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again” — which seems inspired by the Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:9) but it shouldn’t ! That’s why reading this comic is extremely important. If you understand the problem of the civil rights in the fifties and sixties — the what, why, who, where and how of it — you will understand what’s happening now: what it means, why it is so important. And maybe we will start to see how all this pervasive ethno-socio-economic inequity could be solved. 

Reading this book is an absolute must. It is an easy way to understand a complex problem that affects all our lives — but mostly the black lives. It really matter. Read it. Now. stars-4-0

For more information you can check the following websites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoogleWikipediaWorldCat ]

© 2015-2016 John Lewis and Andrew Aydin.

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Note

Il faut bien se trouver des raison de célébrer dans la vie, histoire de garder le moral et de se donner des objectifs pour marquer le passage du temps. Et bien je vous annonce qu’il ne me reste plus que 2500 jours avant la retraite !!! J’ai bien hâte de pouvoir me consacrer à temps plein à la lecture et à l’écriture…

🤣 🤣 🤣

You have to find reason to celebrate in life, just to keep up your spirits and to set goals to mark the passage of time. Well, I tell you that I only have 2500 days left before retirement !!! I can’t wait to devote myself full time to reading and writing …

Status report (early July)

The life in the time of the coronavirus continues… 

This is my fifth status report since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic (the other four were in March, mid-April, the end of April, and in mid-May). It has now been fifteen weeks (or one-hundred and seven days) since it has all begun. It has been forty days since the beginning of the slow re-opening and my return to work (thirteen days since we’ve restart taking the public in the library for a limited offer of service). 

On the domestic side of life, I can say that I feel I have not been doing much in the last month and half… I didn’t do much around the house (it was either too hot or raining). As usual, I probably watch too much television: like rewatching the Ghost in the Shell: Arise series and several movies (also, to fill the time, I started watching again the 2004 series of Battlestar Galactica). However, I have been reading enough to catch up on my tsundoku… (hurray!) and write a little about my readings (dBD #141, La sphère d’Or, Unbeaten tracks in Japan, I’ll never tell, De Gir à Moebius, and several other French comics that I covered in the article “Sherlock Holmes en bande dessinée (2)”).

Weather — The temperature was unusually warm lately (above average) and often quite dry. So much so that the vegetation in the parc often took a yellowish colour. Thankfully, it rained periodically enough to keep everything alive. In the last week or so it has been quite hot and humid. Enough to discourage any sustained outside activities, although we still take our daily walk.

Health — With the confinement (probably because of slightly bigger meal and less activity) I have gained weight. My blood pressure and glucose are also higher (maybe because of an increased stress?). I have also experienced digestive problems, my usual recurring pain at the end of the digestive track as well as some chest and shoulder pain (probably muscular). Overall, I feel in good shape but it could be better. Unfortunately, I know that with age nothing gets better…

Work — All is fine at work. My usual library being still closed for renovation I was assignment to another one. This new place is at a nice location (at walk/bike distance from home) and has a nice team (although, since the people of my library working there are in extra, we perform mostly boring jobs). However, there was one painful incident: a customer refused the answer the covid “questions” and to sanitize his hands upon entrance. As I was insisting (to follow protocol), he became increasingly disagreeable, up to implying that I was doing so because of my ego or because I was racist. I was just trying to do my job. I was putting my health at risk (and the health of my family) in order to give him access to the library and he has shown absolutely no appreciation or gratitude for it. All I ask is some respect. If I was hurt by being called a racist (and I will come back on this subject) what really pissed me off was that my colleagues didn’t show much support when I tried to explain that he refused to follow protocol and insulted me. I don’t know, maybe they just didn’t understand me well: it is hard to express yourself calmly when it’s hot and your are talking through a mask and a face-shield. What happened to “we must absolutely ask ALL the covid questions and not let anyone in that doesn’t answer properly”? And then they told me “you know, we get insulted all the time. You have to get used to it” implying that I was weak to let it get to me. We are supposed to have a policy of not tolerating any disrespect and bullying (no respect, no service) and, yet in the end, that man received the service he came for. If you are tolerating such disrespect OF COURSE people will feel empowered and continue with the same behaviour. It is the wrong attitude. Anyway, that incident bothered me for weeks as I kept thinking about it…

One thing that I spent a lot of time on lately, was shopping for a nice electric bike or scooter. In this epidemic, I want to avoid public transportation (bus & subway) and if my work place for now is at a walking or biking distance, it is quite tiring in the summer heat (and I am closer to sixty than fifty years-old after all). I rented one for a week and I liked it a lot, but when I wanted to purchase one not a single store in the metropolitan area had any in stock. I guess everybody had the same idea at the same time and I was too late. An electric BIKE looks cool (particularly the Banana Boss, the Rad Runner 1, the Maxie Large, or the Paris) but it is quite expensive and a standard bicycle seat is really hard on my backside. Strangely, a scooter is less expensive, as well as being much more confortable and versatile. I’ve been checking several nice models (Écolo, Tao Aquarius, Vienna, Gio Italia, Mignon, UQi Pro, etc.) but now I found a good store and I am just waiting for them to receive some stock later this month…

Many important events happened in the second quarter of 2020 ( the end of May, June and the beginning of July) but I don’t want to spend much time on those current events. However, the world stage was dominated by the three great plagues of the era. First, the coronavirus. So far, the world has suffered over 10 million cases of infection resulting in over half a million deaths! We dealt relatively well with it in Canada, but the U.S. in on the verge of total catastrophe as it reopened too soon and they are now seeing an horrible surge in infection (over fifty-thousand new cases each day!). 

The second plague is Trump. I would think that we would get used to it by now but his mishandling of the coronavirus response (no national coordination, not enough test and PPE, not urging confinement, distanciation, and wearing masks, etc.), his constant lying, and his rhetoric encouraging hate-speech and inciting to violence kept making everything worse. Sometimes, I think he just doing it on purpose. If he is not a Putin agent, he is certainly an agent of chaos. He loves it. I can’t wait until November… 

The final plague is racism. Following the death by police abuse of George Floyd and many other subsequent similar baffling incidents, the American urban areas erupted in spontaneous protests against this pervasive institutional racism that literally plagues the U.S. How did we moved from a pandemic to riots in the streets? (Without much social distancing hence the cases surge) We all hoped that it was getting better but I guess we got negligent — the coronavirus confinement and Trump inducement somehow seem to have put salt on the wound — as it now seems worse than ever. It must be dealt with once and for all. With police reform certainly (defunding, demilitarizing, new structure, call it what you want — I always thought we should have several level of policing: the unarmed street or biking cop, the patrol police answering to theft and hold-up, the inspector, the riot police and now we should have a force of psycho-social worker for domestic violence, teenage trouble, neighbour disputes, etc.), but the disease goes further than that. Social reform and massive investments to reduce inequality (in education, in job opening, in housing, etc.) are necessary. With the recent movements like Me-Too and Black Lifes Matter, I feel that the world is effervescent and on the verge of great changes, just like in ’68. However, we will have to be patient. Real change takes time. But now the seed of change, the idea that it is possible, has been planted in people’s minds. It only remains to take care of it and watch it germinate… But the first step toward that change is for American to go vote in November.

Racism has always bothered me. All my life I tried to treat everybody equally, not letting their opinion, behaviour, the size of their nose, the colour of their eyes, hair or skin (pink, brown, “black”, “red” or “yellow”) distract me from the fact that we were all the same. Human beings. I always tried to be tolerant (sometime failing: for a while I became quite intolerant toward religion, but now the only thing I can’t tolerate is intolerance — and stupidity). When I was a teenager I thought that the best way to solve racism was to intermarry and eventually we would all become of the same skin colour (that’s what I did, unfortunately I never had kids — too much trouble!). However, skin colour is just an excuse for racists: in fact they are just afraid of the difference (people thinking, dressing, talking, etc., differently than they are). There are many culture on this world and, if we just learn about them, we see there is no reason to be afraid. We discover that this difference is beautiful, that it is a wealth. Those people usually are against (or ignorant of) science. Science is telling us that, genetically, we are all the same and that there is only one race: the human race. I always wanted to write about this complex and touchy subject (and someday I will). Unfortunately, whatever you say or write will always receive criticism: you didn’t say this, the way you say that is discriminatory, it is not enough, it is too much, etc., so I am waiting to have the right words. However, if you stay silent,  it is worse because they say that you are complicit, that you are encouraging racism by saying nothing. I prefer to show support by my actions: I won’t protest in the street but I’ll always try to be equitable, unbiased, and just. If I see someone being discriminated (racially or otherwise) I will try to defend them. And I’ll stay silent. If I scold you for doing something wrong (like misbehaving in the library or trying to cut the waiting line to enter the bus) and you answer be accusing me of being racist, I’ll stay silent. But just know that calling me a racist is the worst insult that you could give me…

I feel the end of this year will really be difficult… Take care of yourselves and stay safe !

Also, I found time to stay a little acquainted with the affairs of the world and gathered a few notable news & links — which I now share with you (in both french or english, slightly categorized, but in no particular order — note that, to save on coding time, the links will NOT open in a new window), after the jump.

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