Archive for category Habitats and Humanity

Is climate change the new gay marijuana?

The most important thing about this graph (source) is that it signifies not an increase in the general public’s understanding of climate science, but a trend toward greater trust in science and scientists as a whole. The former is not vital but the latter clearly is.

65AGW

This is good news, but — and forgive me for my glass-half-shattered outlook here — it only further exposes just how foolish the many remaining holdouts are.

I have a degree in a physical science, and I try to keep current on important (or sometimes simply interesting) scientific issues. But I don’t pretend to have more than a passing knowledge of what climate scientists do in terms of information gathering and data analysis and computer modeling. What I do know for certain is that their conclusions are not whimsical or capricious or, worse yet, products of influence-peddling or part of a conspiracy aimed at making a few climate scientists rich. Yet we live in a country rife with “bloggers” who apparently think that climate-change data is the result of a few guys from NCAR sticking a ruler and a thermometer into the Antarctic ice shelf once a year and bleating “Owned, Inhofe!” as they scribble bullshit into their little notebooks. They are the ones who aren’t joking when they point at May snowfall in Colorado or a sub-freezing day in Tallahassee as proof that human-caused climate change — or hell, global warming, period — is an elaborate hoax.
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Razzle’s dazzle

Cats like to mess with stuff, and so I like to mess with them in return. If I get my own orange tabby cat, I’m going to name it Tang, Clockwork, Mandy (as in Mandarin), Navel, or Agent.

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The world of the calico cat

The creature below is Puzzle, a cat of indeterminate age and size. It is a calico cat and like virtually all such cats is female — coat color in cats is X-linked, and since males have only one X chromosome and females have two, males (except for the very rare XXY ones) cannot exhibit the mosaic patterns of fur coloration.

I haven’t seen anything about calico cats tending to be overweight, and there’s no reason I would since “calico” describes a color, not a breed. But almost all of them I’ve encountered have been felines of size, and Puzzle’s no exceptions. She sounds like she has sleep apnea and when awake tends to make some unusual noises.

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A nature video stream-u might enjoy

I shot this short, moving film at the Briley Farm in Orange County, Florida during a ten-mile run yesterday. My primary motive was playing with a friend’s new camera, but I also like checking out the animals at the farm.

The first time I ran past the place it was just past dusk and when I spotted was a was fairly certain were the silhouettes of an African antelope and a five-foot-tall bird side by side, I was pretty sure I was imagining things, since I was nowhere near the Animal Kingdom. But I was right — the place is a funky little preserve of sorts and is right next to a running/rec path that extends for at least 20 miles with few road crossings.

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Rocky’s road

I’m still not sure what’s going to happen to Rocky. Earlier today I was fairly certain he might be gone by nightfall in the form of an Animal Control paddy-wagon, but they didn’t come for him today and upon reconsideration we’ll take him someplace ourselves even if AC does show up on Tuesday. It is possible that he will wind up in the care of the Central Florida SPCA, assuming we can skate on a couple of their requirements. I also posted this, and while there are no takers as of 9:30 EDT, I did get some good advice about what shelters to bring him and what ones to avoid.

There is some chance that I will be able to keep Rocky myself, but it may take a few days to clarify this. He now knows how to sit, at least for treats, which is pretty cool since he came into my life full of love and knowing no commands at all. He does seem to be housebroken. He loves to be around people — his whining when he has to be behind a closed door without me because of the cats is heartbreaking — and enjoys jogging and eating grass. He’s handsome, sweet, not neutered, has great teeth, eats with surprising delicacy, and by Christ if this isn’t starting to read like the Match.com profile of a demented person.

So, nothing new to report, really, so in lieu of information here are some more photos.

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He’s Rocky, for now

On Friday afternoon, I and my training partner set off for a run. I say “partner” in the sense that we start our runs at the same time but, per her preference, do not actually run together much of the time. And I say “training” as though the ambitious limping I do for about an hour at a pop these days represents anything greater than a rehearsal for the even more ugly limping I’ll be lucky to do as I skate further into my fifth decade.

Anyway, I set out toward the east on this trail while my partner-of-sorts headed west, each of us planning to do 30 minutes out and 30 back. I turned around a little early out of boredom, and as I drew within a half-mile of the starting point a young-looking dog ambled hesitantly out of a nearby thicket and started toward me. I immediately pegged him as homeless, and not just because we were near the equivalent of this city’s ‘hood. He was thin (but not slat-sided), not neutered, collarless, and trusting in that “someone who looked kind of like that gave me a bite to eat recently” way. So I switched off my MP3 player, which had been playing “Rocky Mountain Way” by Joe Walsh, and greeted him formally. Read the rest of this entry »

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The poorest town in the USA is full of fundamentalists…

…but not the kind you probably think. The Orthodox Jewish settlement of Kiryas Joel in Upstate New York owns the dubious distinction of being America’s most impoverished, by a lot. Read the rest of this entry »

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The most appalling PETA commerical not made by PETA

I had never heard of “halal” before today and rather wish I hadn’t. In a nutshell, Islamic dietary law (why is there inevitably an aspect of ancient and mindless superstition accompanying every contemporary example of persistent barbarism?) dictates that animals must be slaughtered in a certain way in order to render their remains fit for consumption. Under halal, this means cutting the front of the throat, severing the windpipe and vasculature but leaving the spinal cord intact so that the animal bleeds out while alive and conscious, supposedly resulting in “purer” meat.

Obviously this is as painless and humane as a nearly instantaneous death per electrocution. Actually it’s not — I’m just seeing if you’re awake. If you are able to get more than a third of the way, you have a lot more resolve than I do.

I suppose the natural question morphs into a number of interrelated slippery-slope considerations: if it’s not OK to cruelly kill other animals for food when we don’t need to, why is it OK to kill them at all? And if cows and sheep are partially or entirely off-limits, why is it OK to eat chicken, fish, oysters, or even ants?

All I know is that I am already not much of a red-meat fan and think this marks a good time for me to strongly consider limiting myself to foods gained from the wholesale slaughter of things that grow on trees or vines or in the ground. I get plenty of protein from egg whites and skim milk and don’t enjoy meat enough to justify the thoughts that have often crossed my mind and are now assured of doing every time I dip a fork in the direction of anything that once bled. I don’t know how the people in that video can do their jobs.

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Hot Water Heat Pump

For most folks, the second most energy intensive activity in the home (after living space heating/cooling) is heating potable water. For a great many people the obvious choice is storage-based or on-demand fired by natural gas. But lots of folks (like me) don’t have natural gas service so we usually rely on storage-based electric water heaters. They’re relatively inexpensive to purchase (maybe $300-$350 or so for a halfway decent 50 gallon unit) but expensive to operate. Standard government estimates run around $500-$550 per year. This figure depends a lot on your usage and local electricity rates.

By themselves, electric resistive water heaters are relatively efficient in simple terms. Generally, between 90 and 95 percent of the electrical input is translated to heating water. This, of course, does not account for generation and transmission of said electricity, and as the average consumer is many miles from a generation plant, the system efficiency is much, much lower. In other words, bringing the fuel to the consumer (e.g. natural gas) and having them burn it on site achieves a much higher system efficiency.

Ultimately, an electric water heater is not much different from a toaster or space heater: You pass current through a resistive element, the element heats up, which in turn heats the water (or the bread, or the air).  So how do you make a system like this more efficient and less costly to operate?

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“the biggest, costliest, most complicated plumbing job in the history of the human race”

And it is.

I shit all over Florida every chance I get, but I really shouldn’t. I was there thanks to the sweetest girl I ever knew and her equally sweet parents. We didn’t agree on all manner of stuff politically, although we both felt that Lawton Chiles had been a good governor and that Jeb Bush was for shit. Now Charlie Crist, who started with much promise, is turning out to be yet another shill and a sell-out.

The Florida Everglades
, which I lived less than a mile from for a good stretch, constitute a genuine treasure. They are the sole reason I was glad to be a Floridian, unless you count living in Boca Raton and staring at big fake tits as a benefit, which I tend not to do. I’m a guy who likes his 30-degree days, his hills, and his absence of company, and there was none of that here. But there is no replacing this huge swath of land once it goes. It’s not a place you want to be, really. It’s ugly and buggy and not very hospitable, as my trips out there with C. and Soup taught me. But it’s also home to a huge array of species that could never live elsewhere.

The other day I wrongly reported the number of living panthers in Florida as 20 or so. The number is closer to 80-100, still dangerously low. One day I saw one of these animals, broken and starving and dazed, on the way home from work on the Sawgrass Expressway in northwestern Broward County, maybe in Tamarac. (It may have in fact been a cougar.) It was wandering in the breakdown lane. The whole thing was swallowed up by the fact that some shithead was driving about 50 up the median toward me at the time, with at least two police choppers and several newsies overhead. That’s South Florida for you. I called the Florida Dept. of Wildlife when I got home and never found out what happened. If that poor fucker was not run over I’d be amazed.

If any place allows more legal violations of natural life, I haven’t seen it. Florida actually has a law that allows for the plowing under of turtles for purposes of construction. Fortunately there exist voices of resistance to such shit, and Florida actually lost population in 2008, reversing a decades-long trend. Of course, here I sit bitching about this having moved to the place as an outsider with no discernible purpose for living there except to have a girl and experience hurricanes, in no particular order.

The Everglades are worth saving even if the rest of the state may not be.

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Sticky Snow

Lots of people tend to think of snow as some amorphous blob, kind of like sand that melts. It comes down, it piles up, it blows about, it lays around. But under the right conditions snow can behave in odd ways.

Here are some photos of snow behaving oddly at our house recently. First, we have snow that has decided to stick upside down to some PVC pipe:

Upside down snow

The pipe is a frame used to hold a bird net for blueberry bushes. Not to be outdone, we find snow behaving like a snake and undulating along the handrail of our deck:

Snakey snow

And finally, we have snow that has decided to behave like a torn sheet of fabric, and peels itself off of a car cover:

Fabric snow

I like the twisting effect particularly.

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What a Richter 8.8 earthquake means

I was just reading a comment on a blog from a Chilean citizen that says so far (as of 2 1/2 hours ago, anyway) there were 122 confirmed deaths from this morning’s earthquake in Chile, which rang up an 8.8 on the Richter scale.

Most folks immediately thought of Haiti when they got the news. The power of this quake compared to the one that wrecked Port-Au-Prince is enormous. The Richter scale is logarithmic, meaning that a quake of magnitude 7.5 is 10 times as powerful as a 6.5 and 100 times as powerful as a 5.5. The Haiti quake was a 7.0, so if I did my calculations right, the Chile quake was 63 times as powerful. The difference in surface energy release between quakes different by one unit of magnitude is event greater: 10^1.5 rather than 10^1. So today’s quake yielded some 500 times the amount of effective destructive potential as the Haiti quake, although the latter was far, far more catastrophic in terms of damage and loss of life.

Not to trivialize what’s happening right now, but I’m glad that Haiti didn’t have to suffer an 8.8 quake, hard though it is to imagine things being any worse than they already are.

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Gribbit’s latest hilarity

In a post attempting to address the “ClimateGate” “scandal” that naturally turned out to be complete horseshit (and if you want a sound analysis of this, read this post on EnviroKnow and this one by Chis Mooney), Gribbit writes: Read the rest of this entry »

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Amy’s story

This is printed by permission from Amy Lane, a combat Marine in the U.S. Armed Forces who hopes to run Boston this coming spring. I won’t bore you with the details of how I came in touch with her. Just read.


My running life began when I was 19. I had joined the Marines during my senior year of high school after 9/11, and shipped right off to boot camp once the cap and gown were put away. I was the fastest girl in my section in boot camp, though I still wasn’t a runner. I just ran fast because people were yelling at me, and the faster I ran the further behind they fell. Read the rest of this entry »

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Speculation

In 1973, a familiar thoroughbred horse named Secretariat, encumbered by a 126-pound jockey, ran 1 1/2 miles on a dirt track to win the Belmont Stakes in 2:24.00. Earlier that year, he had won the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby in 1:59.4. Those remain records for these events, and coupled to Secretariat’s victory at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, made him the first U. S. Triple Crown winner in 25 years. (There have only been two since–Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978; there have been only eleven Triple Crown winners in all.)

Secretariat’s Derby record works out to an average of 37.6 miles per hour, and his even better run at Belmont Park has him at 37.5 for a longer distance. Seemingly, these racehorses, often doped to the gills (OK, they don’t have gills, but bear the metaphor) would kick the shit out of any wild horse if forced to cover large amounts of ground, right?

Wrong. Or so I think.

Welcome the North American feral mustang. These roaming and self-sufficient animals, introduced to what is now the U.S. by the Spanish Conquistadores, have been beleaguered, dwindling in population from a high of two million in 1900 to 33,000 or so today (most of them inhabiting the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia). They used to be routinely poisoned and slaughtered from airplanes, mostly for food. Thanks to a 1971 act of U.S. Congress, this is not permissible anymore, and if you fuck with at least this form of free-roaming wildlife, you risk a stint in federal prison.

My (admittedly limited, at this point) understanding of these horses is that they can survive anything. They can cover huge amounts of territory at once and take care of each other. I’ve seen mustangs in action, when I was out West myself a few years back and doing some runs in canyon land. You want to talk about strength and grace? Watch a mustang in full flight. They go and go…

My point here is musing about what would happen if you pinned a trained racehorse against a wild ‘stang in a race at some intermediate distance–say, five miles. This would take at most 11 minutes for the winner, I am guessing. I’m sure the typical reader’s instinct would be “sure the racehorse would win.” But I wouldn’t count on it. From a physiological standpoint, we’re talking about a two-mile race between 800-meter world-record-holder Wilson Kipketer (who has the sweetest stride I’ve ever seen in a human being) and Kenenisa Bekele (the owner of the fastest-ever 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters). It doesn’t take a track scholar to figure out who would win that one.

Still, I may be making a few too many assumptions about mustangs. I doubt it, though. I’d be interested to hear from people who actually know something about the racing milieu and horses in general, since I don’t. And don’t even get me started on the sordid dog-racing industry, which I would abolish in a flash if I had the power to do so.

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Grief in the (other part of) the primate world

For some reason this is just heartbreaking.

From the November issue of National Geographic magazine.

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Walking through Mirkwood

A few of those Chimp Refuge readers who inexplicably followed the troop to this new already beshatted domain are not doubt familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, soon to be released as cinematic fan fiction under the guidance of Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy 1 and 2 — although I think Quentin Tarantino would have been the better choice for director) as The Hobbit Movie. Anyway, I live in Mirkwood or something that approximates it. Let’s compare:

More yammering and photos below the fold including flower porn

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21 polo horses doped to death in Florida

This is one of the more revolting stories I’ve seen in a long time.
In spite of my connections to endurance sports, I’m not a fan of the combined horse racing-polo scene (yes, I realize these are two different forms of exploitation, and don’t get me started on dog racing), and this is as unfathomable as it is infuriating.

The head of a Tallahassee-based pharmacy admitted Thursday that it incorrectly mixed a medication that was given to 21 horses that mysteriously collapsed and died before a polo match over the weekend.
Jennifer Beckett, chief operations officer for Franck’s Pharmacy, said an internal investigation revealed the strength of an ingredient in the medication was flawed. In a written statement, she did not name the medication or the ingredient involved.
”We will cooperate fully with the authorities as they continue their investigations,” she wrote. “Because of the ongoing investigations, we cannot discuss further details about this matter at this time.”
The news came as the politically-connected Venezuelan multimillionaire who owns the 21 horses indicated he suspects his team’s own veterinarian may have played a role in the deaths of some of the polo ponies, according to a letter from a Philadelphia lawyer.

The compound in question is a substitute for Biodyl, a vitamin supplement that is banned in the U.S. and contains vitamin B, selenium, potassium and magnesium–at least in theory. I am wondering if the horses, all of which perished within four hours of receiving the medication, died of cardiac arrest from the potassium. But magnesium poisoning is nothing to mess with either, and who knows what was actually in this drug.
I wouldn’t go purchasing stock in Franck’s Pharmacy of Ocala and Tallahassee, Florida anytime soon. It’s not clear from the article whether the team vet was in fact complicit in any way; he can’t necessarily be held accountable (although legally he might be ) for the pharmacy frigging up the formulation.
Bizarre, and very sad.

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When low-wattage ideologues retort

Gribbit hates it when I call him on his lies and errors, which has led him to do everything possible to not even know when I’m doing it. Typical of nutjobs, he’s banned my IP address (not even a small inconvenience) and tried to disallow hotlinking from this domain to his (ditto). But because no one–present sad company excluded–pays him any attention, he can’t resist the urge to call me out when he thinks he has me and the anti-wingnut world on the whole over a barrel, so he’s come up with another bad interpretation of an already slipshod FOX News article about Antarctic ice levels.

I’ve been saying it for years … Undoubtedly that imbecile Kevin the Chimp or Kemibe or whatever he wishes to call himself this week will again leave a message for me on Twitter and the #TCOT

Blogging tip: When you’re Gribbit, don’t use yourself as a source.
Undoubtedly I spend precious little time on Twitter (Facebook is enough of a time sink) and I have no idea what #TCOT is, but Gribbit never lets such considerations stop him. I will, however, write a post about him. In terms of his yen for being punished, the guy is like a starving man chowing down on Ex-Lax, and now he’s not even pretending otherwise.
No kidding he’s been saying the same thing for years. He’s also been relying on “news” and inspiration from WorldNut Daily, Michele Malkin, and Ann Coulter for years. He’s been living off the government teat, sitting at home and blogging about the evils of taxation and socialism, also for years. What Gribbit spews continually is not a mystery.
Of course, when you read the article he links to, you see that it doesn’t express what Gribbit claims it does, biased though it is. Gribbit’s post is a direct result of reading headlines of stories and, at most, one paragraph of those stories, and then letting fly with feral-grunt posts that render him a laughingstock, inasmuch as anyone notices.

The results of ice-core drilling and sea ice monitoring indicate there is no large-scale melting of ice over most of Antarctica, although experts are concerned at ice losses on the continent’s western coast … ice is melting in parts of west Antarctica. The destabilization of the Wilkins ice shelf generated international headlines this month.

Then there are alternatives to FOX News, not that this wild concept resonates in dipshittian circles.

Australian Antarctic Division ice expert Dr Tony Worby says there’s been a very significant decrease in sea ice and a net loss in shelf ice in Antarctica.
Sea ice is different from shelf ice on the continent, and its melting does not affect sea levels.
Fresh research from the British Antarctic Survey says Antarctica’s sea ice surface area – not volume – is increasing, in parts.

From Reuters:

The U.N. Climate Panel says seas could rise by 18-59 cms (7-24 inches) by 2100, without taking account the possible acceleration of a melt of ice sheets in Antarctica or Greenland.
Even a small thaw of Antarctica and Greenland would affect sea levels since together they lock up enough ice to raise sea levels by about 65 meters (215 feet) if they all melted.
Following are responses to questions from Reuters by a leading glaciologist as part of an ad-hoc global series of top climate change scientists, policy makers and academics.
Ian Allison is leader of the Australian Antarctic Division’s Ice, Ocean, Atmosphere and Climate program and a researcher within the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center.
He has been involved in Antarctic science for over 40 years.
HOW GREAT IS THE THREAT FROM ICE SHEETS MELTING?
“I think it is now unequivocal that warming of the world is occurring and I think the last IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) conclusively showed that a major cause of warming is greenhouse gas emissions from mankind.

Teaching point, Grib: This is what people mean when they say climate change. It’s not a cop-out substitute for global warming. I know this is difficult for parochial-minded rage-a-holics to understand, but the temperature of the planet does not have to rise uniformly in every region of the earth in order for net warming to occur. The extent to which human activity has engendered this is an open scientific question. Idiots who have never seen the inside of a college science course slamming the door on the idea merely because they hate Al Gore and Negro presidents is not.
Of note is that Gribbit constantly wails about the bias and untrustworthiness of the International Panel on Climate Change and other scientists who present data opposing his position, yet has no problem accepting at face value claims made by similarly experienced and credentialed scientists that (he thinks) support his preconceived, solid conclusions. This is a cardinal sign of ignorance and ideological commitment, not that Grib hasn’t displayed this in IMAX brilliance a hundred times already.
Wingnuts as a group have no problem maligning scientists the 95 percent of the time science lays waste to their foolish ideas, while quoting the the other 5 percent. Gribbit, like his equally blinkered peers at shitblogs such as Stop the ACLU and elsewhere, is as dishonest as he is stupid, although I really wouldn’t want to have a horse in that race.

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Yah! Fight the power and burn dem bulbs!

Between 8:30 and 9:30 tonight (Eastern Daylight Time, US), I “observed” Earth Hour, which meant turning out all of the lights in the house for an hour. (I admit that I didn’t unplug my laptop and go to battery power.) I was having Internet connectivity problems at 8:30, so I decided the dog could use another walk. This afforded me the opportunity to gauge how many of my neighbors at least appeared to be on board, but this wasn’t easy because it’s kind of a sleepy community in any case. I suspect a lot of the people around here were unaware of the suggestion to go dim for an hour anyway.
But there were plenty of people who were well aware of Earth Hour who were not content to ignore it, instead using it as one more means of proving to the world how stupid they are. If anyone still needs convincing that wingnuts place ideology not only ahead of thinking but before self-interest, posts like this should do the trick.

Seriously. I am going to turn on every light, plug something in to as many sockets as possible, turn BOTH of my ovens on, the TVs and the stereo will be blasting… Oh, there’s gonna be a GRAND ol’ parTAY here at the CatHouse tonight.
“Earth Hour.”
PFFFT! Those bleeding heart eco-freaks make me nauseous…
UPDATE: My dear blog-brother, Scott is upping the ante… You go, man!

Yeah, that’ll help. And then when this moron’s electric bill comes next month, she’ll probably bitch about how high it is and claim this is a result of excessive government regulation.
There is no good reason at all why self-described conservatives should view energy conservation as a strictly liberal cause; even haters of Obama and everything else with a (D) after its name are, in theory, concerned with their utility bills even if they don’t give a rip about the environment in general. I guess the road to being a REAL AMERICAN is paved with lame little quasi-protests aimed solely at symbolically spitting in someone’s face. I think the U.S. has some kind of a national prayer day every year, but you won’t see atheists gathering en masse in church parking lots in GOD SUCKS T-shirts or leaving Freedom From Religion Foundation newsletters all over the place on that day (a comparison that fits only politically and breaks down at the level of practicality; energy conservation is useful, prayer a waste of time).
In short, people are under no obligation to follow Earth Hour, and indeed they are welcome to flaunt it. It’s just that doing so exposes people now and forever as motivated only by hate and scorn. I think the only thing that gives some of these nuts genuine pleasure is war and death.

Then again, what does anyone expect of a clone of Jerri from Strangers With Candy? She had serious issues. And do you know which one is which? (Image and inspration courtesy of meatbrain.)

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