11 July 2024

Travel Gear Sales/Escaping the USA/World’s Best Airlines

Nomadico issue #112

A weekly newsletter with four quick bites, edited by Tim Leffel, author of A Better Life for Half the Price and The World’s Cheapest Destinations. See past editions here, where your like-minded friends can subscribe and join you.

A Great Week to Buy Travel Gear

If you are an American who decides to shop from an air-conditioned room instead of grilling burgers and hot dogs outside this steamy 4th of July, you’ll find lots of great sales on travel gear and clothing. Even online retailers that seldom run a sale are having one, like Zappos and REI, and you’ll find some big discounts at Amazon, including 58% off a Kindle Fire tablet, 35% off a lot of camping equipment, and discounted summer clothing.

Your USA Escape Manual

There’s been a huge spike in Google searches this week on moving out of the USA, so here’s a reminder that I wrote the book on how to do this—and how to cut your expenses in half at the same time. You can get the 2nd edition of A Better Life for Half the Price in paperbackaudiobook, or e-book form. The latter option has some community and consulting options too if interested.

Religious Festivals More Dangerous Than Music Festivals

You probably won’t see that headline in the media, but it has certainly been true in 2024. As far as I can tell from my research, there have been 3 music festival deaths this year (1 drowning, 2 hit pedestrians), but 1,421 people died at just two religious festivals: the Haj in Mecca and a Hindu festival in Uttar Pradesh, India. (Mostly extreme heat in the former, a stampede through a too-small exit in the latter.)

World’s Best Airlines

Skytraxx released its annual survey results of the world’s best airlines and as you’d probably expect, there weren’t a lot of U.S. airline execs showing up for the awards ceremony. The top 5 were Qatar, Singapore, Emirates, ANA, and Cathay Pacific. The North American showings in the top 50 were Delta at #21, Air Canada at #29, and United at #42. Asian and Middle Eastern airlines dominated nearly every category, including budget airlines: AirAsia was on top for the 15th year in a row. Budget carrier Allegiant showed up at #6 in the “Most Improved” category.


09 July 2024

Happy Punks 1 2 3 / SHAG: The Collected Works

Books That Belong On Paper Issue No. 22

Books That Belong On Paper first appeared on the web as Wink Books and was edited by Carla Sinclair. Sign up here to get the issues a week early in your inbox.


Happy Punks 1 2 3: A Counting Story
by John Seven, Jana Christy
Manic D Press, Inc.
2013, 32 pages, 7.6 x 0.3 x 10.7 inches, Hardcover

Buy on Amazon

Is punk all noise and nihilism, or is there fun and frolic to be found in the music and movement as well? At one of the last concerts ever held at CBGB, a muscle-bound skinhead invited all of us to embrace him. Amidst a maelstrom of colliding bodies slam-dancing and pogoing in place, more than a few of us took him up on his offer. The lesson to be learned amongst the shared grins and hugs was that punk is also about building a community that can find and have a good time together.

Enter Happy Punks 1 2 3. Husband-and-wife team “john & jana” took a conventional children’s literature staple, the simple counting book, and infused it with technicolor whimsy and abundant joy. Here the reader is invited to count a dozen playful punks let loose in a city where robots run corner delis, ornery penguins push gelato carts, cavemen run pizza shops and a supporting cast of nattily-dressed or immaculately groomed giraffes, hippos and elephants cavort in the streets and dance during the big concert at the end of the story. The punks themselves are as unique and distinctive as the world that they inhabit, encouraging the reader to peruse and linger a bit before turning each page.

So what are readers of Happy Punks 1 2 3 of any age to make of the book? john and jana create a vibrant, candy-colored party and invite readers to come out and play with their cast of literally and figuratively colorful characters. The authors convey that punk isn’t always a clenched fist. Sometimes it’s an open hand extending to the next generation, inviting boys and girls alike to take hold of it.

– Lee Hollman


SHAG: The Collected Works
by Josh Agle
AMMO Books
2017, 192 pages, 9.0 x 0.8 x 12.2 inches, Hardcover

Buy on Amazon

Whenever I’m drinking rum, which is fairly often, I imagine myself living in a Shag painting. Josh Agle, better known as Shag is a pop art master. His paintings are highly sought after, and for good reason. The brightly colored scenes of Shriners, swingers, tiki, and the surreal is always evocative and entertaining. I’m lucky enough to have a few prints of his, and dream of one day having my whole house filled with Shag art. This book is the most comprehensive collection I’ve seen, including details about his past, his process, and how his art has changed over the years.

I could, and probably will, spend hours paging through this book, enjoying each one of his paintings, prints, and merch. That’s one thing I love about Shag, is that there always seems to be something new to find in his paintings. It’s also really interesting to see how his work has evolved over the years. From his early days creating album covers, to his most recent utopic scenes, you can really see how his style and tone has changed.

This is a must have for any mid-century obsessive, tiki deviant, or pop art lover. Display it proudly on your coffee table or liquor shelf.

– JP LeRoux


08 July 2024

Ultralight Hiking

Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 94

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, and the links to them may or may not work. We present these vintage recommendations as is because the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Super ultra-lightweight camping

Trail Life

The joy of hiking is inversely proportional to the weight of your pack. Carry nothing and your pleasure is unbounded. No one has articulated the benefits and the know-how of carrying little as Ray Jardine. He can show you how to liberate yourself from your tent, water-filter, stove, and most of the rest of your gear. He also has the best tricks for completing long through-hikes. The best times I’ve ever had in my decades of trekking have been when I was carrying little more than what I was wearing, and hiking the way Jardine preaches. —KK

  • Compare one of my packs – weighing 13 ounces and costing $10.40 to make – to a store-bought backpack weighing 7 pounds and costing $275.00. My pack is 12% of the weight and 4% of the cost.

    I should point out, too, that the majority of nights we hikers spend in the backcountry are mild. We are not automatically going to encounter the ultimate storm the minute we step out the back door with lighter-weight gear. But should it happen, a properly pitched tarp will handle it. Pitching a tarp is not difficult, but the method differs from that of pitching a tent. The best way to make the transition from tent to tarp is to carry both on a few short outings. Pitch the tarp and sleep under it, and keep the tent packed in its stowbag and close at hand, just in case.
    The reaction of these backpackers was typical of the many we met that summer. On paper, our lighter-weight methods may seem “radical” and idealistic. But when these people saw how easily we were doubling and sometimes even tripling their daily mileages, they tended to become less skeptical. The irony was that we were exerting ourselves no more than the backpackers. We were using our energy mainly for forward progress, rather than for load hauling. I see mileage as an effect rather than a cause. Not something to be struggled for, but merely a by-product of a more efficient style. My main focus is on the natural world, my place in it, and how that relates to the joys and the lessons learned along the way. I also find that when we reduce our barriers — our detachment — from the natural world, we stand to better our wilderness connection.
    According to conventional backpacking wisdom, giardia contaminates all wilderness water, and we hikers and campers need to purify every drop that we drink; as well as what we use for cooking and brushing teeth. You can read this in hundreds of magazine articles and books. Jenny and I followed this rule faithfully during our first four mega-hikes. And I was sick with giardia-type symptoms many times.
    Obviously, something was wrong. If we were being meticulous about filtering our water, then why was I not staying healthy? Jenny remained healthy, and she was drinking the same treated waster as I. Apparently my immunities were lower than hers. But the fact remains that somehow I seemed to be contracting parasites despite the assiduous use of the water filter. The filter cartridges we were using were common, brand-name varieties, and we had no reason to suspect they were not working properly.
    Clearly, the conventional wisdom was not working. So we abandoned it and tried a different approach. While training for our fifth thru-hike we drank directly from clean, natural sources, a few sips at first, then gradually increasing in quantity over the weeks and months. In this way we helped condition our bodies to the water’s natural flora. Then during the actual journey we drank all our water straight from the springs, creeks and sometimes the lakes – after carefully appraising each source. And for the first time in years I remained symptom-free; and Jenny stayed healthy also — I doubt whether my illness had anything to do with the filtration or lack thereof. Rather, it had to do with the nature of the water sources we were using. During the initial journeys we were collecting from all but the worst sources, and treating it. In several cases that I can think of, I feel that this treatment — or any other available treatment — was incapable of making that water safe to drink. This is why, on that fifth trek, we collected water only from clean sources. Based on these experiments and their successful outcome, the following are my recommendations: Learn to recognize pristine water, and treat it if you prefer. Learn to recognize water that could be microbially contaminated, if only mildly, and treat it thoroughly. And most importantly, learn to recognize water that is beyond treatment, despite any reasonable degree of clarity. Such water can be extremely virulent, and no water treatment system available to hikers is capable of making that water safe to drink. Do not filter, boil or add purification chemicals to this polluted water. Do not use it for cooking or bathing. In the next section we will learn how to recognize such highly contaminated water.
    Stealth camping. If you can manage to camp away from the water sources, and from the established campsites, then the many wonderful advantages of stealth camping will be yours. Stealth camping is a cleaner, warmer and quieter way to camp, and it offers a much better connection with nature. In all likelihood no one has camped at your impromptu stealth-site before, and the ground will be pristine. Its thick, natural cushioning of the forest materials will still be in place, making for comfortable bedding without the use of a heavy inflatable mattress. There will be no desiccated stock manure to rise as dust and infiltrate your lungs, nor any scatter of unsightly litter and stench of human waste. The stealth-site will not be trampled and dished; any rainwater will soak into the ground or run off it, rather than collect and flood your shelter. Bears scrounging for human food will be busy at the water-side campsites, and will almost invariably ignore the far-removed and unproductive woods. Far from the water sources you will encounter fewer flying insects, particularly upon the more breezy slopes and ridges. Above the katabatic zones the night air will be markedly warmer. And you can rest assured that your chances of being bothered by other people will be slim.

    The drift box. On our longer hikes, Jenny and I often use what we refer to as a “drift box,” or “running resupply box.” This is a small parcel that we send ahead rather than home. It contains items that will probably be needed later, but not presently. These might include spare shoes and fresh insoles, extra socks, a spare water filter cartridge, an extra camera battery, a small whetstone, a utility knife with disposable blades, a tube of seam-sealing compound, a spare spoon, an extra sweater, and a roll of boxing tape. The drift box gives us occasional access to these items without having to carry them. We send it First Class to a station approximately two weeks ahead.
  • Most large backpacks on the market weigh from five to seven pounds, and more. Yet the pack adds nothing to the journey, other than acting as the container for the equipment, clothing and food. To me, it makes no sense that the container should be the heaviest article of gear.
  • This is because the gear needed for camping one night in the wilds is about what is needed for camping a hundred nights. The same holds true for the clothing, rainwear, and so forth. The only real variation is the supply of food.
  • Where to fordAs a general rule, if the river is swift and knee deep or deeper, we do not attempt a wade. Rather, we scout the bank for a natural bridge. We have hiked as much as five miles along a creek in search of a safe crossing.
  • If we find a place that appears safe to wade, but where whitewater lurks immediately downstream, we do not risk it. One slip, and the current could sweep a person quickly into the rapids.
  • Also, if the creek is swift and its bed is solid rock, as with many places in the High Sierra, we look elsewhere. In all likelihood that riverbed has been polished by grit and coated with a translucent layer of algae that can be unimaginably slippery.
  • Another technique that can help extend the miles is to use waypoints as springboards. Shelters, creek crossings, lakes, and trail junctions can serve to urge us several more miles. But the temptation might be to say to ourselves, “four more miles to Green Lake Shelter; I think we will stop there for the night.” This is letting the waypoint dictate progress. Instead, we could say to ourselves: “once we reach the Green Lake Shelter, we will continue for one more hour before makingcamp.” The idea is to use the waypoints as incentives, rather than as destinations.

Going light by going fast

Extreme Alpinism

I’m struck by any book on a dangerous subject that looks as though it escaped the inspection of lawyers.Extreme Alpinism (with the exception of the title) is the best book I have read on any outdoor subject. It’s devoted largely to author Twight’s theory and practice of alpinism — his drastic gear weight reduction methods go far beyond simple ultralight camping. Twight has combined new ways of using clothing, equipment, nutrition, and training to survive impossible situations and achieve incredible feats. The sections on Twight’s own failures are a rarity and probably the best part. While I’m not an alpinist myself, this book has been inspirational in all my outdoor activities. — Alexander Rose

  • Extreme alpinism can mean different things to different climbers. In this book, we define it simply as alpine climbing near one’s limits. We use “extreme” to denote severe, intense, and having serious consequences. To survive in the dangerous environment where ability and difficulty intersect, the climber must visualize the goal and the means to realize it. After training and preparation, the climber tackles the route, moving as swiftly as possible with the least equipment required. For a fully trained and prepared athlete at the top of his or her game, only the hardest routes in the world offer sufficient challenges to qualify as extreme.
  • We look upon both the preparation for climbing and climbing itself as a process of self-transformation, of character building. Character means more than strength or skill. We will belabor this notion because it is the core truth at the heart of hard climbing. Extreme alpinism is a matter of will. We all know this to be true. In every endeavor, people who concentrate and refuse to quit become the elite.
    An alpinist needs to acquire facility in rock climbing, ice climbing, weather forecasting, snow safety, approach methods, retreat techniques, bivouacking, energy efficiency, nutrition, strategy and tactics, equipment use, winter survival, navigation, and so forth. The more you know, the safer and more efficient you will be in the mountains.
    In a dangerous environment, speed is safety. Climbing routes at the edge of the possible is akin to playing Russian roulette. Each time the cylinder spins, the chance of firing a live cartridge increases. Therefore, “Keep moving” is the mantra of the extreme climber. The idea of speed permeates this book.
  • It’s impossible to stay fully hydrated while actually climbing, so rehydrating at the end of the day or during breaks between hard effort is essential. Because of the climbing, your body will be dehydrated, your stomach and your entire system will be highly acidic, your muscles will be holding onto metabolic waste, and your glycogen reserves will be gone. First and foremost, you must drink. Plain water is fine. Once you are a quart ahead, start adding your recovery foods and supplements. Avoid acidic food and drink. Your body already is in an acid state, so look for foods that buffer it. Acidic foods also are more difficult to absorb. Citrus juices, for example, are acidic and the high sugar content will impede gastric emptying.
  • Light and fast as a style results in the ultimate autonomy and self-determination — but any time you decide to pare food, fuel, and gear down to a marginal level, you accept great risk and must therefore accept great responsibility. If your style is too light, or you drop a crucial piece of gear, or the weather turns bad, you must retreat. Or if you are too high on the mountain, then you have to fail upward as quickly as possible. You must keep moving at all costs. Movement is your only safe haven.
  • On the other hand, there may be no way in hell to do the route without sleeping on it. If that’s the case, live with the minimum. Do not pursue comfort. Aim for success only. On a one-bivy route, don’t plan on a good night’s sleep. Never take a cup and a bowl. The water bottle and the pan for the stove will do. Each climber may carry a spoon — that’s it. Forget your manners. Forget the Ten Essentials. No matter how long the intended route, carry only the genuinely essential.

07 July 2024

Animal/How to stay calm/Better pet grooming brush

Recomendo - issue #417

Sign up here to get Recomendo a week early in your inbox.

Eccentric animal podcast

Writer Sam Anderson travels to distant places in order to encounter his favorite animals eye to eye. He made a highly entertaining podcast series, called Animal, about these encounters for the New York Times. The podcasts are super great, creatively edited.  A large part of their appeal is their unusual style of reporting. Sam is warmly idiosyncratic and the animals are mirrors to his own internal life. I’ve not heard any other podcasts like it. My favorite in the series is Puffins. — KK

How to stay calm in stressful interactions

Compassion-Focused Therapy helps manage your threat system and activate your safeness system during stressful interactions with other people. The four main points are recognizing triggers, practicing mindfulness, using soothing techniques like rhythm breathing, and responding with compassion. For instance, when provoked, pause, breathe deeply, and express your feelings calmly to avoid escalating conflict. For more, read “How to take the high road” at Psyche. A shorter version: “Be polite to rude strangers – it’s oddly thrilling.” — MF

Better Pet Grooming Brush

To manage pet hair shedding, we recently upgraded from our Furminator to the Maxpower Planet Pet Grooming Brush. I’m amazed by how well it works and how much hair it removes from our dog. We also use it on our outdoor cat, who always has matted knots and debris in her long-hair coat. Both pets are now better groomed, and I’m not constantly vacuuming pet hair from my office carpet. — CD 

Phone track pad

When you are entering text on an iPhone and many Android phones, you can turn the space bar on the keyboard into a trackpad. While pressing down the space bar, slide the cursor to exactly where you want it on the screen. Much more accurate than tapping. — KK

Exploring the Emotion Wheel

I recently stumbled across an interactive wheel designed to help explore the complexities of human emotions. This wheel displays eight basic emotions and illustrates how they relate to each other, intensify, and combine to form more complex feelings. Although I don’t know much about the organization behind it, Six Seconds is a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the world’s emotional intelligence. What I found most fascinating and useful is learning the typical sensations that one feels in the body based on the emotion, because that is how I tend to recognize an emotion before naming it. It’s a great tool for anyone looking to enhance their emotional literacy or better understand the nuances of their own feelings. — CD

Advice from books

Recomendo is just one of several newsletters we publish. This week, I want to highlight Book Freak. With over 12,000 subscribers, each issue offers short pieces of advice distilled from a wide range of books, including both popular and obscure fiction and non-fiction. The goal is to share practical wisdom and insights in an easy-to-digest format that you can apply to your daily life. 

Here’s an example from BJ Fogg’s book, Tiny Habits, from issue 61:

 Change your behavior with this 3-step plan

“In order to design successful habits and change your behaviors, you should do three things. Stop judging yourself. Take your aspirations and break them down into tiny behaviors. Embrace mistakes as discoveries and use them to move forward.”

Before making a decision, ask yourself these two questions

“Will it help you do what you already want to do? Will it help you feel successful? The answers to those questions is freeing because if the change program doesn’t satisfy these two requirements, it’s not worth your time. ”

For more advice from useful books, subscribe to Book Freak. — MF


04 July 2024

Rechargeable Travel Toothbrush/Skip the Rental Car Line/More Local Co-working

Nomadico issue #111

A weekly newsletter with four quick bites, edited by Tim Leffel, author of A Better Life for Half the Price and The World’s Cheapest Destinations. See past editions here, where your like-minded friends can subscribe and join you.

An Electric Toothbrush Built for Travel

In the early days of this newsletter I highlighted a USB rechargeable electric toothbrush that was compact and easy to pack. Unfortunately, it crapped out on me six months later (dead battery I think) while my wife’s Philips One by Sonicare version is still going strong. I’ve ordered one of my own from this link because it comes with replacement heads as well in a bundle.

Going Straight to Your Car With Hertz

I encountered high summer rental car rates in Richmond and Atlanta across the board on this current trip, so I went ahead and rented with Hertz. I was glad I did because I found that they’ll let you upload your driver’s license and take a selfie to check in ahead of time from your phone. When you get to the garage, you go straight to the spot number they texted and drive away, no waiting in line. You don’t have to book directly with them or be a loyalty member either: my second booking was via Priceline. (National does this as well, but is mostly aimed at biz travelers.)

Changing “Low Season” Travel Trends

I was recently at a travel blogger conference meeting with the rep from a city in northern Germany and she told me, “Don’t come in December, the hotels are all full then.” I wasn’t surprised: add remote work, home schooling, and global warming together and you’ve got major disruptions in what we used to think were set patterns. I wouldn’t go as far as this article that has “The End of Low Season” in its title, but don’t automatically assume a destination is going to be empty just because it used to be at that time of year in the ‘00s.

Goodbye WeWork, Hello Hyper-local Co-Working

This interesting article from Wired highlights the fact that WeWork’s demise does not mean that there isn’t a strong demand for co-working spaces. We just need people who can run them better and put them in the right places. In many cases, those places are, not surprisingly, outside of the city business core where offices used to be. There are a lot of potential trends popping up for community work spaces (some billed as “clubs”) and it’s nice to see creative repurposing of buildings to serve a whole different purpose.


02 July 2024

The Card Catalog / How to Eat a Lobster

Books That Belong On Paper Issue No. 21

Books That Belong On Paper first appeared on the web as Wink Books and was edited by Carla Sinclair. Sign up here to get the issues a week early in your inbox.


The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures
by The Library Congress
2017, 224 pages, 7.5 x 1.0 x 9.0 inches, Hardcover

Buy on Amazon

When I was an eggheaded teenager growing up in a sleepy Southern Baptist town, I lived for my little local library. It was like a desert oasis to me and I spent hours in it, perusing the books and magazines, browsing the card catalog, and requesting strange and obscure books that made my librarian frown and twist her lip up funny.

Of the many features of the library, it was the card catalog that held a unique fascination for me. Being a budding information junkie, the card catalog seemed almost magical, my gateway to all sorts of exotic ideas and adventures, buried amongst the mundane, waiting to be unearthed by the eager flicks of my fingertips. I loved everything about the card catalog: the thick oak cabinet with numerous tiny drawers that slid out easily with their heavy loads of often crammed-tight 3×5 cards. The knurled brass knob and rod that held the card stacks in the drawers. The cards themselves, sometimes neatly and perfectly typed out, other times, hand-written or heavily annotated, struck through, and carefully painted with white-out. Some cards seemed to have acquired plots and stories of their own. I can even remember the satisfying thunk the drawers would make when you pushed them back in. And the smell! The thought of that smell is a like a Proustian moment that easily invokes this part of my childhood.

So you can imagine how excited I was when an unsolicited review copy of The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures showed up on my doorstep. If the subject-matter and the lovely cover, with its card catalog half-wrap (featuring Whitman’s Leaves of Grass), didn’t win me over, they had me after I opened the book up to discover a pocket and library check-out card on the inside front spread.

The book includes a history of the card catalog, the Library of Congress, and the automation technologies that eventually killed analog card systems, but the heart and soul of this book are the photos of the actual cards of famous books in the Library’s collection and covers of the books themselves. The majority of The Card Catalog is a series of facing pages with a photo of the book on one side and the catalog card on the other. There are also pictures of library supply catalogs of the turn of the century (showing catalog cabinets, typewriters, and various types of date and other stamps), and plans and photos of the Library of Congress under construction. There are also lots of interesting facts and trivia throughout the book. Like, I had no idea that, from 1901 to 1997, the Library of Congress actually produced library catalog cards and supplied them to local libraries. So, many of the cards in my local library were likely not produced on-site, but rather, came from Washington.

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures was released this week to coincide with National Library Week. Now, more than ever, we need to be celebrating book-learnin’ and a culture of intelligence, truth, and inquiry. This lovely volume will likely be a potent reminder of the power of learning and exploring ideas, at least for bookworms of a certain age.

– Gareth Branwyn


How to Eat a Lobster: And Other Edible Enigmas Explained
by Ashley Blom, Lucy Engelman (Illustrator)
Quirk Books
2017, 160 pages, 5.0 x 0.7 x 6.6 inches, Hardcover

Buy on Amazon

Say you’ve ditched your frozen dinners, gotten swept up in foodie culture, and, with new found enthusiasm, eat out and order seafood. You wax poetic about the merits of sustainable fish farming, but your smile suddenly wanes when your server brings the fish — whole. Or maybe you’re a college student embarking on your very first unpaid internship company lunch meeting. You arrive at the office looking sharp in that smart new number you scored off the clearance rack, only to discover that the boss has a hankering for barbecue. Or maybe you simply love food and self-improvement and are dying to find a new book to meet your niche! Whatever the case may be, How to Eat a Lobster has you covered.

The book’s guidance is served up in three courses, each packed with easily digestible bites of how-tos. Tricky Techniques covers dissecting and devouring everything from escargot to pig’s head. Etiquette Enigmas finesses table manners like sipping soup and dividing up a bill. Foodie Fixes goes inside after the bite with tips for handling spicy food and bad breath. It’s even small enough to fit neatly in your bag in case any unanticipated food adventures pop up and leave you scratching your head over which fork to use. If you plan to sneak away to reference check your etiquette in a bathroom stall, just be sure to read the How to Excuse Yourself section before you take your seat at the table.

– Mk Smith Despres



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The Wondermill

Countertop flour mill

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3D Tangrams

img 03/22/10


Offsite data backup

img 01/1/09


Personal outsourcing

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Show and Tell #404: Adam Hill

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Show and Tell #403: Mia Coots

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Show and Tell #402: Josué Moreno

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