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The Cynical Cleric Sez Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Josh" journal:

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January 3rd, 2012
09:50 pm

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Writer's Block: Words to Live by
What is your favorite quote?


"The greatest tragedy is not your death
but a life without reason
that your life had no purpose"

That's actually a song lyric by the band Anberlin.

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June 3rd, 2011
10:08 am

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In & Out
I've been thinking lately about Introverts and Extroverts and which I am. For most of my life, I have assumed I am an introvert. In recent years, I came up with the idea that I am a socially awkward extrovert. But now some Facebook posts by paladinofnature about Introvert Myths that have me rethinking things again.

Most people I know I think I can fairly easily sort into either Introvert or Extrovert.

Lets look at some Introvert Myths.

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.


Seems to describe me pretty aptly.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.


Am I shy? I certainly feel a bit more private than some. But I've also seen people much more extroverted than me not start a conversation with another person where I took it and ran with it. Though the examples I can think of all related to gaming or some other personal interest so maybe it proves the point.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.


Seems to describe me pretty aptly.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.


While the counterpoint seems to describe me aptly, the myth is also accurate: I don't like people. I think them generally self-centered and immoral and I'm easily off-put. But my negative opinions on the human race may have nothing to do with Introversion/Extroversion.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.


Here we get into murky waters. A couple people I know that I would be quick to label as classic Introverts definitely show off the "recharging by myself" behavior. I don't. I usually try to go full-throttle all the time to make maximum use of my time. Social situations don't drain me, though they can bore me. But I only need "alone time" when I've got a To Do list that's not getting done, which is about the task and not interaction or lack thereof. I do burn out periodically and need to recharge, but that simply involves slacking and not being productive for a day or weekend and usually leaves me feeling annoyed I didn't accomplish anything (though too tired to actually do so).

Of course, I spend alot of alone time on a weekly basis so maybe I get so much I don't need more? On the other hand, a day where I don't go out my front door feels strange to me.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.


I definitely love sharing my discoveries and it bugs the hell out of me to feel like my thoughts and opinions are not reaching an audience. I'm definitely a ponderer and a puzzler.

But my alone time (or not alone time) tends to be task-specific and frequently not voluntary. I like to read and can't do that with other people. But I enjoy watching movies with others. I like to geocache with others; I frequently geocache alone simply because I have nobody to go with. I enjoy gaming which requires other people, though I became frustrated over the years by not liking many of the people available to game with and/or not being able to form friendships with them.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.


While I agree with the counterpoint, this myth is kind of pointless because it depends on how you define "weird". Some behavior by Introverts feels weird to me.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.


Again I agree with the counterpoint, but I'm going to quibble with the Myth because if someone called me an aloof nerd I would agree.

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.


Dead on. Lots of stuff I do to have fun isn't relaxing. If I'm shutting off my brain, I'm probably neither relaxed nor having fun.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.


Doesn't seem relevant to my ponderings here so I'll just include it for completeness sake and move on.

Further research on Extraversion suggests I don't fall on that side of the scale. I'm not a partier, thrillseeker, or assertive. Nor do I get bored by myself; on the contrary, I'm the one chiding those who make Facebook posts bemoaning their boredom.

The real answer may involve understanding that Introvert/Extrovert is not an A or B condition but really a scale. As with my tendency to be seemingly constructed of many contradictions and not properly fit most categories, here too do I seem to fall somewhere in the middle. Maybe 75% Introvert 25% Extrovert?

FWIW the Myers-Briggs test did put me on the Introverted side (I forget how far).

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May 28th, 2011
07:18 pm

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From The Movies That Need To Be Made Department
Inspired by my Western Civilization class...

Two linked movies: "Quetzalcoatl" and "Cortes", forming "The Rise & Fall Of The Aztecs".

"Watch a man become a god; watch peoples' heads a-roll!"

"Quetzalcoatl" sees some Vikings exploring beyond Vinland and becoming horribly lost. Wrecked by a storm on the coast of Mexico, there is only one survivor. He comes into contact with a Native American tribe who nurses him back to health. In exchange, he shares great knowledge with them and leads them to conquer neighboring tribes. Thus the Aztec Empire is born. But longing for home, the Viking builds a longboat and sets sail hoping to reach home. He promises to return some day, but instead sails into oblivion - dying in a hurricane like that which shipwrecked him in the first place. The Aztecs decide this great warrior possessing great knowledge was no man but a god. They call him the serpent god because of the shape of the boat he both arrived and left. They will sacrifice captives in his name and await the return of Quetzalcoatl.

"One man brought down an empire."

"Cortez" begins with a young boy and his father observing the parade of Christopher Columbus from his first voyage. The boy vows to bring even greater glory to Spain. As an adult, he arrives in Mexico. Mistaken for Quetzalcoatl, he seizes advantage of this. Driven by greed and enabled by great cunning, he manipulates the Aztecs and rallies the fringes of their empire, he crushes the Aztecs for gold and glory.

The details are fuzzy and knowingly float on the fringes of historical fact, mixing in legend and myth and Spanish claims of dubious accuracy. But I think the story would be epic.

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May 16th, 2011
09:31 pm

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Jesus Would Not Approve
While I'm mostly not anti-religious, my European History (Western Civilization) class is currently covering the Renaissance and Reformation. And I am reminded of a pet peeve: how much money has been wasted in human history to make churches - especially Catholic Churches - really big and really fancy.

The gaudiness of churches runs counter to the basics of Jesus aka the foundation of Christianity: humility, simplicity, the son of a carpenter. That part of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" where Indy realizes the real Holy Grail is the lone plain cup not any of the gold ones studded with jewels.

But I think what bugs me more than whether the gaudiness is hypocritical or how the money could be better used (charity, etc) is how it's simply wasted by being used on a church. Most churchgoers show up for one service a week, which lasts 60-90 minutes. That's it. Even the more devout types are probably not going more than 2-3 times a week (Wed/Sun and maybe Saturday or confessional during the week).

If you're filthy rich and build a multi-million dollar mansion at least you're living there, experiencing the grandeur pretty much every day possibly spending more time there than not there. (If you have several multi-million dollar homes then you're just a rich asshat and I'd like to find a golden spoon to smack you with, but that's another topic.) Gaudy churches are a waste and I hate waste.

If I ever get over to Italy, I'm pretty sure I'm skipping the Vatican. Because really fuck you, historical Roman Catholic Church, for all the money you wasted to build Saint Peter's Basilica. Christianity was largely ironclad and undivided for 1500 years before you pissed off the wrong guy by selling indulgences so you could fund your stupid fucking Biggest Church In The World!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And then in classic Catholic behavior, when thusly called on your made up bullshit, you excommunicated Martin Luther for telling you that the Emperor had no clothes.

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February 25th, 2011
08:42 pm

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The Man With The Five Daughters
Curious dream last night. Not strange, but still unusual.

I go with 3 friends to the end of a street where some houses are for sale. The houses are large, but we have determined it is fiscally prudent to combine our monies for one of the homes (a 5th person may join us as well, but they are not sure yet about their financial situation).

There are 4 homes that all look pretty much the same, all next to each other around a cul-de-sac. I wonder if they are all pretty much the same inside as well as outside, but one of my friends says they are all very different inside. The first house we visit the family still lives there and we meet them.

At this point, the dream shifts plots and the house purchasing is never mentioned again. The family I/we meet at the home is a man and his 5 daughters (I don't think the wife/mother is ever mentioned). His daughters are spaced out in age, something like 25, 21, 15, 10, and 8. I don't think I ever learned their names, but for some reason I feel all their names started with "A".

For some reason, all of the daughters become infatuated we with. All of them show it in different ways. The 15 year old is especially bashful (Ginny when she first met Harry Potter comes to mind as a good comparison). I'm not sure what to make of their behavior or exactly why they are so interested in me. I'm only really interested in the two older daughters of course.

Details get a little fuzzy here. I think I was around the family for awhile and attended some large social function with them (the wedding of friends of their family perhaps). I am sitting on the arm of a chair or sofa getting ready to leave when the oldest daughter (the 25 year old) walks by and stops. Of all the daughters, she has been least open about interest in me.

"I bet you'd like a big kiss goodbye?" she asks. She says it not with excitement nor bashfulness; clever confidence is the description that comes to mind.

I began to say something in response, sort of an calm agreement. She cuts me off by planting a huge kiss right on my lips...and then walks off, leaving me stunned.

I woke up shortly after that. (Must've realized that is only the kind of thing that can happen to me in a dream! LOL)

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February 20th, 2011
09:42 pm

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Alan Jackson
Everything right and wrong with country music can be found in the musical works of Alan Jackson.

To repeat a tell I often tell: from the late 80s until the late 90s, I listened to quite a bit of country music. Along with oldies, those were the two genres my parents listened to thus the two genres I listened to. I grew in to country at the right time, when there was a rock influence moving it beyond its folk roots* then grew out of it not only as I finally discovered classic and modern rock but also as the pop influence in country became stronger. If my ears hadn't been opened to other genres, the Dixie Chicks rode in on the head of a wave of change that would've driven me out of country.

Which brings us to Alan Jackson. I actually consider Garth Brooks to stylistically and chronologically be the best example of my country listening era. But it was Alan Jackson who endures to this day (Garth remains semi-retired and looks like hell) and it was Jackson's "34 Number Ones"** CD that I recently picked up from the library (because it was new).

Alan Jackson can rock out when he wants to, from the lively "Chattahoochee" to his classic haunting melody of "Midnight In Montgomery" (a tribute to Hank Williams, Sr - not that you need know that to appreciate the song). I can enjoy "Gone Country" even though I have gone in the opposite direction. Energy aside, some of Jackson's songs are really good heartfelt positive pieces, from praising ideals of family and paying tribute to his father to the merit of being a hardworking simple folk (which I'm sure resonates with his prime demographic) to a positive portrayal of the importance of Christianity and Christian values. Even his party anthem teamup with Jimmy Buffett "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" is pretty mellow stuff compared to anything on "Appetite For Destruction".

The problem is Jackson can't escape the country music cliche of "there's a tear in my beer": if 1/3 of his songs are about good life and good values, at least another 1/3 are some whiny, twangy tune about lost lost and heartbreak. If the average person made a soundtrack of their life using only Alan Jackson songs and assigned a sad song to every breakup and denied relationship they had with not repetition, I think they'd have songs to spare. It gets real damn old. The values it espouses are also it's downfall as Jackson can't praise what amount to traditional Southern values without praising Southern culture. For most of us who do not own anything with the Confederate flag on it, this too grows old. And frankly while I commend the old style of "Summertime Blues", the lines "didn't go to work / told the boss I was sick / now I can't use the car / cause I didn't work a lick" are about as sympathetic as people complaining when they get ticketed for knowingly doing something illegal. Even some of the positive stuff gets old: the older you get, the more depressing it becomes to hear people sing about their long happy marriages to high school sweethearts when that's a joy you will never be able to know. It speaks to you alot more when you're a teenager and such a thing is still technically a possibility for you.

I commend Alan Jackson for being good at what he does, but for the most part what he doesn't isn't good for me.

* Which is not to say I don't enjoy some older stuff by Johnny Cash, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Eddie Rabbit, and The Highwaymen.

** Alabama preceded Jackson by a decade or so with a double CD of 40 number one hits and I believe one of the new tracks of their album gave them #41. I don't think anybody in pop and certainly not in rock can provide the hit-making power you find in country. Probably a matter of limited competition and narrower audience.

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January 27th, 2011
10:20 pm

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Multilateralism
After a pretty interesting start to my American Foreign Policy class, the subsequent 2 classes haven't been particularly noteworthy. The one topic that was interesting is the Unilateral vs Multilateral debate. The professor pointed out that Gulf War II (Operation: Iraqi Freedom) is considered by most to be a Unilateral effort yet over 30 nations sent forces. If that's not Multilateral then what is?

Let us compare to what is clearly a Multilateral effort: Gulf War I aka Desert Shield/Storm. Going off a Wikipedia count: 34 nations were in Gulf War I yet 40 were in Gulf War II. That IS pretty surprising.

But let us look deeper: who was involved? Gulf War I saw 956,600 troops; Gulf War II less than 200,000.*** In both cases, the US was by far the largest military contributor and had about the same percentage of the total forces (about 70% the first time, 75% the second). The UK, bless their cheeky souls, contributed almost the same number of troops to both wars.

Past the US and UK, the story is VERY different. In Gulf War I, Saudi Arabia contributed over 50,000 troops and Egypt sent another 35,000. France sent 18,000 - yes, FRANCE who famously hemmed and hawed about their NATO participation and sold Iraq nuclear reactor parts in the 80s! Morocco send over 13,000 as did Syria(!). Rounding out the 1000+ troops department were Oman, Pakistan, the UAE, Qatar, Bangladesh, Italy, Canada, and of course the escaped Kuwaiti military. Additionally, out of $60 billion cost for the war, $36 was paid by Saudi Arabia with another $16.6 billion by Germany and Japan (who did not sent troops).

In Gulf War II, the other nations committing 1000 or more troops were Italy, Spain, South Korea, Poland, Georgia, and Ukraine. Totally absent from the list is a single Arab or Muslim nation.

And I don't think numbers alone tell the tale. Saddam's invasion of Kuwait was condemned almost worldwide. The war had the full sanction of the UN. The Arab League even condemned it. The second war was hotly debated and controversial and without real UN authorization. France, Germany, and the Arab League - who had all supported Gulf War I - opposed Gulf War II.

Let's look at something else considered multilateral: Afghanistan. 48 countries have been involved since 2001, with contributions of 1000+ troops by: France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Spain, and Australia.

(I must commend the Poles for their diligent involvement in foreign affairs.)

So to me to be Multilateral I don't think you can just go in with 1 or 10 or 40 other nations. You need the sanction of an multi-national organization, be it regional like NATO or the Arab League. The blessing of the UN is important, but not always realistic due to Russia and China having veto power. The backing of a majority of Europe is more significant, as well as other nations in the region involved. And generally speaking, the vague concept of "world opinion".

*** Sending 20% of the forces to defeat and occupy a country that you used a decade early to defeat without occupying them seems pretty dumb on paper. However, Iraq's military was enormous on paper in 1991 (4th largest in the world, if memory serves me) and never recovered by the second war. The Gulf War came at the end of the Cold War; I suspect the military downsized during the 90s. The military was also committed already to operations in Afghanistan in 2003. Still, I believe there were some estimates at the time of the invasion in 2003 that indicated the US and nominal allies had insufficient forces for the occupation and like guerrilla war.

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January 25th, 2011
10:54 pm

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Geocaching
A quick survey of posts and tags from 2010 leads me to a surprising realization: I have barely written about geocaching. Given that I spent a fair amount of time and fun with that new hobby in 2010 and aim to spend even more in 2011, I should rectify that.

Let's start simple: what is geocaching? Answer: a GPS scavenger hunt. Containers are hidden at various locations throughout the world and information on how to find them is posted online on one of several websites (mostly geocaching.com). People use this posted information in conjunction with a GPS device (in recent years this includes smartphones) to find the container where they sign the container's logbook, optionally swap out items in the cache for items they have ("trading swag"), and log the find online to keep track of what caches they have found. Containers range from tiny nano blinkies to military surplus ammo cans to a wide range of homemade containers of all sizes.

The game began in May 2000. After the accuracy-limiting system for non-military GPS recievers was disabled, a member of the GPS Usenet group (yes, USENET - kicking it real internet old school) hid a bucket of items in rural Oregon and posted the coordinates online. Other GPS users from the Usenet group started finding the "GPS Stash", others started hiding their own stashes, and the game/hobby rapidly took off. The increasing quality, capacity, and accuracy of GPS devices over the years has increased popularity but the biggest boon has been smartphones. Especially now that the phones have actual GPS receivers rather than only triangulating off cell towers.

Geocaching.com currently has 1.2 million active caches (and goodness knows how many archived caches - those no longer listed for various reasons) and roughly 4-5 million active geocachers. The most successful cacher in terms of sheer number of Finds has over 48,000 Finds; second place has a distant 32,000+. (I compare it to the statistical difference between Jerry Rice and Every Other WR.) There are about 250 cachers with over 10,000 finds which is pretty much the threshold to be 'prolific' (not an official geo-term; I'm just picking a good adjective).

Geocaching is really more of a hobby than a game. There are lots of statistics and some semi-competitive geo-events, but lots of finds gives you nothing more than good feeling and some prestige amongst your geo-peers; there are no financially meaningful prizes and pretty much all the "full-time" geocachers are retirees. This weekend I met a couple with over 12,000 finds; they have also visited every US National Park (there are 293) so I think its safe to say they would be traveling far and wide no matter if there were geocaches to find.

How did I become a geocacher? I have been aware of geocaching for some unknown amount of time, possibly having heard about it during my time working at the library. enigmajoe2002 became aware of it in late 2009 and asked me about it. Since Joe has an iPhone, we decieded to give it a try. January 2, 2010 we went to Halpatiokee Park in Stuart in search of our first caches, finding 3 of the 4 we searched for before Joe's phone battery ran low. It was fun and over the subsequent weeks and months we made several short trips to find caches in local parks. With a borrowed GPS, I started looking for a few on my own - usually quick grabs in urban settings - in addition to those I would find with Joe.

I'm not sure at what point I really got hooked on it, but I definitely am. It might've been around the middle of the year when I started trying to solve lots of puzzle geocaches. Joe's move during the summer certainly put a damper on things, but I have continued to cache and wracked up over 500 cache finds to date (and have hidden 5 of my own, with a few more on the way).

This past weekend was Cacheapalooza 5 at Jonathon Dickinson State Park, conveniently less than a half hour drive away from me. 402 people signed in for Saturday's main event. Besides the gathering of cachers to hunt freshly nearly 200 freshly placed caches (most of the caches in the park are removed every year then new caches are put out in preparation for the annual event) and socialize with fellow cachers, there was a dealer selling geocaching-related items, a large trackable item exchange, games including an ammo can toss, a raffle, a geocaching poker run, a volunteer event to perform some maintenance for the park, and a presentation about things you can do with a program called Geocaching Swiss Army Knife (GSAK) - a hugely useful program and hugely informative presentation. I found about 50 caches between the three days, met geocachers I knew only by name, socialized with those I had met before, got 5th place in the ammo can toss, 2nd place in the Junk In The Trunk event, and generally had a great time.

So what's the appeal? I was hiking, kayaking, and camping before I was geocaching. I'm going to be out in the woods for fun and recreation anyway. This adds an extra dimension to that, gives it more purpose and direction, and even lets me use my brain more. In doing so, it merges my two otherwise divergent broad interests: the outdoors and geekery. It takes me to places I wouldn't otherwise go. It's predominately adults, which does have the drawbacks of mostly interacting with people old enough to be your parents. But it also means, typical American boozing aside, geocachers tend to be a little more mature than most people in many other hobbies I've had. And the nature of the competitive aspect means the people don't really have incentive to be cutthroat or unfriendly; you're not trying to defeat anyone and you can chose not to search for caches of a style, in a location, or hidden by a cacher you don't like.

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January 19th, 2011
09:19 pm

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Tomboys
And now for a follow-up commentary on that last post that I did on a whim when I pulled up LJ this evening.

"Tomboy: a girl who behaves in a manner usually considered boyish."
-Merriam Webster Dictionary

Tomboy is a term I'm reluctant to throw around. Growing up, "tomboy" seemed to carry a double meaning: she acta like a man and she looka like a man too.

It's like this: give me a girl who prefers jeans to dresses, who thinks makeup and nail polish and lipstick are a waste of her time, who views getting "gussied up" (as Eryn called it) is a more a chore than a good time, who can count the pairs of shoes she owns on one hand, whose favorite color is not pink, who likes sports, who likes the outdoors, who likes watching cage matches and action movies. (Those are not dealbreakers; it's more like a wish list.) I don't suppose there's a better word to sum all that up than tomboy? But one who looks like a woman and still has some romantic sensibilities.

I'm sure I ask too much. Tis better than to ask for not enough.

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08:44 pm

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Writer's Block: Almost Like A Song
How would you describe your ideal romantic partner in six words?


Intelligent
Responsible
Confident
Geeky
Childfree
Tomboy

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