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Monday, July 7, 2014

The Future of Birth Control: Remote Control Fertility

The Future of Birth Control: Remote Control Fertility


The Future of Birth Control: Remote Control Fertility

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 11:20 AM PDT

We may be just years away from the longest-lasting and most hassle-free contraceptive ever invented.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced that it is backing a Massachusetts biotech company that is developing an implantable contraceptive that can be activated and deactivated by the user, the MIT Technology Review reports.

Current contraceptive implants—inserted into a woman’s upper arm where they release the hormone progestin—last about three years and are the size of a matchstick. MicroCHIPS Inc. is building a wireless device that is only 20 millimeters long and that would last 16 years. The chip, which would lie under the skin in the buttocks, upper arm or abdomen, slowly releases levonorgestrel, a hormone used in some types of the Pill, in some types of hormonal IUDs and in Plan B.

If the chip works as intended, women could “deactivate” their birth control without a trip to the doctor, which can be a major barrier for women who don’t have easy access to health care, such as in the developing world. The chip’s long lifespan would also minimize doctor’s visits: Currently no type of hormonal birth control lasts longer than five years. The non-hormonal copper IUD lasts 12. (Read more about IUDs here.)

The device is currently being tested for safety, efficacy and security. MicroCHIPS hopes to introduce the product, which would need FDA approval to be used in the United States, in 2018.

[MIT Technology Review]

Let’s Stop Talking About Star Wars Casting News

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 11:19 AM PDT

By now, Star Wars fans will have heard the latest casting news: the highly anticipated Episode VII will feature Crystal Clarke and Pip Andersen, who were found at open casting calls.

This is great news for Clarke and Andersen — but not necessarily so great for Star Wars fans. Clarke and Andersen, for all I know, are great people who deserve every bit of recognition they’ll get. They may be stars and fan-favorites in the making, who will see many more headlines in their time. But, as someone who doesn’t need to read about Clarke and Andersen in order to get excited for the movie, I wince every time I see another bit of information about Episode VII out there. So here’s my personal plea: let’s stop talking about every little bit of Star Wars news, at least for a little while.

In the months since Episode VII was announced, tidbits of information have been released at a fairly steady pace. Some of it is newsy (Harrison Ford’s on-set injury) and some of it is legitimately interesting (the casting of some very famous women, after initial skepticism over the gender imbalance in the initial cast report). Some of it is meta and some of it is fake. But a lot of it — like the photos from the set — is just the normal goings-on of making a movie, hyped up because this isn’t just any old movie. Buzz-building marketing is unsurprising, and it’s natural that the world wants to know what’s going on with Star Wars, but there’s just so much buzz that it’s already, for me, mixed with a touch of dread. At this pace, how is it possible that we won’t reach peak excitement far before it’s possible to pre-order tickets? How can the two hours or so spent actually watching it live up to years — years! — of analyzing its creation?

Consumer psychology has shown that buying something can be less gratifying than thinking about buying it, especially for people who care more than most about material acquisition. New York magazine’s long-running feature on “the undulating curve of shifting expectations” traces a similar phenomenon when it comes to pop culture: wanting something too much often gives way to backlash, and the inability to enjoy the thing once you have it. (And, lest anyone believe that Star Wars is immune from backlash: Jar Jar Binks.) The research firm Gartner has dubbed it the Hype Cycle, a theory that shows that technologies experience a “peak of inflated expectations” followed by a “trough of disillusionment.” The journal n+1 has declared that the way to deal with cultural Hype Cycles, the overwhelming and ever-more-present nature of buzz, is to be too cool to care.

Episode VII doesn’t come out until December of 2015, and that’s plenty of time to reach Star Wars overload — or, perhaps worse, to feel like the movie itself is merely part of a marketing machine. When I pitched this story, my editor compared the constant flow of news to being fed a meal ingredient by ingredient, which feels right but worrisome: Yoda forbid the movie feels like half-digested mush, with no way to admire the finished product — nutritious though it may be.

When I saw A New Hope as a kid, it was with fresh eyes, not knowing a Carrie Fisher from a Calrissian, and the experience was one of not just joy, but also surprise. I later sought out information about how it was made because I loved the movie; I didn’t love the movie because I already knew what went into it. There’s no way to recapture that freshness for Episode VII — not with six movies coming before, not with my being an adult, not with the Internet existing. And there’s no reason to be super secretive about things like the casting of minor characters, since that’s — in itself — a form of buzz-creation.

But hundreds of movies a year get made without the world having to study each new development. Extreme fans will find the information on their own and be able to sustain multiple years of regular Star Wars thoughts without wanting to think about something else (I thought about Buffy the Vampire Slayer every single day for multiple years without hitting the backlash stage, so I know it’s theoretically possible), but more casual consumers and mid-level fans are better off without it.

Years from now, when they’re super famous, if Crystal Clarke or Pip Andersen hurts an ankle filming Episode XVII, that will be worth reporting. But for now, let’s leave them alone so they can do their jobs. The world will still be interested in a year and a half.

Fireworks Superstore Explodes in a Blaze of Irony

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 11:06 AM PDT

A fireworks outlet near Knoxville, Tennessee, went down in flames Sunday night in a tragic display just two days after July 4, by far the year’s biggest day for colorful explosions in the sky.

The fire, which began Sunday afternoon around 4:15 p.m., sent the Campbell County building crumbling to the ground, local ABC affiliate WATE reports. About five employees and eight customers were inside when the blaze began but everyone managed to get out safely.

As the flames grew, sending dark smoke whirling into the sky, fireworks began to go off, causing additional fires near the store. Soon, police shut down both lanes of the nearby interstate, causing traffic to back up for several miles. In the meantime, police are still investigating the cause of the fire.

Travel + Leisure Names World’s 50 Best Hotels

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 10:42 AM PDT

For 19 years and counting, T+L readers have voted for their favorite hotels and resorts, evaluating them in categories like value, food, service, rooms, and location. More than just a list of the best properties, the World's Best Awards results also highlight bigger travel trends. A significant number of this year's winners are close to home, with the share of U.S. properties growing by more than 19 percent over last year.

No. 1 Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, MT
Score: 97.44
A luxurious mountain retreat, Triple Creek Ranch knows how to pamper its guests (adults only). Itineraries are tailored to fit your preference of activities, among them, scenic hikes, wildlife spotting, wine tastings, cattle drives, and helicopter tours above Glacier or Yellowstone National Parks. When you're ready to come indoors, upscale log cabins set a romantic mood with wood-burning fireplaces, hot tubs, and locally woven woolens. And staffers are on hand to welcome you with fresh-baked cookies—or recommend a bottle from the 2,000-strong wine cellar. Don't be surprised if you feel one stay wasn't enough; approximately half of all visitors are repeat guests.

No. 2 Nayara Springs, La Fortuna, Costa Rica
Score: 97.00
At Nayara Springs, each of the 16 villas comes with its own plunge pool, drawing on mineral-rich spring waters from Arenal Volcano next door. Venetian mirrors, hand-loomed rugs, and hammocks add to the easy-breezy vibe at this secluded jungle retreat, complete with a spa and yoga or Pilates offered daily. Get to know your neighbors—namely howler monkeys and blue morpho butterflies—on a tour with one of the local guides. It's just one of the experiences that your personal host can coordinate.

No. 3 Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest
Score: 96.91
Once an apartment complex during Hungarian Communist rule, this 179-room hotel is now one of the Four Seasons' grandest properties. The luxury brand gave new life to the 1906 Art Nouveau structure with a $125 million restoration, and ever since, the hotel lobby has wowed visitors with its stained-glass windows, mosaic tiles, and custom-made crystal chandelier. Opt for a Danube-facing room, and plan your visit during summer to check out the nearby Festival of Folk Arts at Buda Castle.

No. 4 Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia
Score: 96.27
At Southern Ocean Lodge, each of the 21 suites is outfitted with limestone floors, works by local artists, and an outdoor terrace. Don't look for an AC switch—it's unnecessary here: the lodge was built to take advantage of natural weather patterns on Kangaroo Island. Book the glass-walled Osprey Pavilion suite for a private plunge pool and hand-carved granite bath, or try your luck fishing Hanson Bay. Chef Tim Bourke will incorporate your catch into a dish along with local produce.

No. 5 Ocean House, Watch Hill, RI
Score: 96.20
A Victorian oceanfront hotel renovated to the tune of $146 million, this 1868 property is as grand as ever. Croquet lawns nod to old-world glamour, while 49 light-filled guest rooms and 22 private villas feature modern bathrooms and custom-made furnishings. Consider visiting in the off season—moody skies, long walks on the private beach, and cozy treatments at the hotel spa make for a romantic stay. We recommend requesting the Grand Deluxe Room 301 for its ocean views, freestanding tub, and blue-tiled fireplace.

READ THE FULL LIST HERE.

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PlayStation Owners Can Hop Into Bungie’s Destiny Beta on July 17

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 10:34 AM PDT

Bungie’s official Destiny beta has a date: July 17 at 10:00pm PT. That’s a Thursday, so you might as well take Friday off and make a long weekend of it. Just pretend it’s Labor Day come early, or the Fourth of July come late.

The catch is that it’s only available on the PlayStations 3 and 4 on July 17. If you want to mess with it on the Xbox One or Xbox 360, you’ll have to wait slightly less than a week longer for those versions to drop: July 23 at 10:00pm PT.

To be fair, PlayStation owners won’t have it for a full week. According to Bungie, the beta will be offline on July 21 and 22 for “scheduled maintenance.” And then it’ll only run through July 27 at 11:59pm PT. When I spoke with Bungie at E3, my understanding was that they were planning multiple beta phases, so this probably won’t be the last chance you’ll have to play Destiny before it launches on September 9.

Activision’s using the beta announcement to highlight its collectible tiers, which I won’t bother detailing here (I dislike collectibles, mostly because companies often send them my way unasked for, stuffed with generally forgettable junk). Suffice to say, you can pay $60 for the base game, $90 for the “Guardian Edition,” $100 for the “Limited Edition” or $150 for the “Ghost Edition,” each with various physical or digital download additives — the full details are here.

What Should I Do About My Early-Life Crisis?

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 10:15 AM PDT

Answer by Marcus Geduld, Shakespearean director and teacher, on Quora.

Here’s a secret: there are four types of people in the world:

1. People who, from an early age, know exactly what they want to do and are still doing it in their 50s and 60s. My friend Meggin is like that. In elementary school, she was already writing. By high school, she had written several novels. Now she’s the best-selling author of “The Princess Diaries.” It’s incredible because it’s so rare. A tiny percentile of people are like her. You’re not like her; I’m not either. Get over it.

2. People who, from an early age, think they know what they want to do. They often have big surprises in their 40s, realizing they don’t actually enjoy what they’ve committed to. Many of the apparently-directed people you see are in this group. You’re feeling lost now. They’ll go through what you’re going through later, but it will be much more complicated, because they’ll have husbands, wives, kids, and mortgages. So as nuts as it seems, you’re lucky.

3. People who don’t care about big goals. They know how to follow rules (e.g. do the homework, study for the test, do what the boss demands) and the enjoy dotting I’s and crossing T’s. They coast.

4. People like you who are lost.

Most young people are in that final category. Some hide it better than others. Some even hide it from themselves. Do your peers all seem more confident and directed than you? They’re not. Most of them are faking it or just aren’t as introspective as you are. Talk to them in 20 years and they’ll tell you how frightened and confused they were back when they were in college. So the first thing to realize is that feeling lost is part of being a 20-something.

To be honest, it’s part of being a 40-something, but those of us who don’t have midlife crises tend to embrace it. I enjoy being lost, because it allows me to be surprised. I prefer to have life hit me than to hit life. Anything could happen!

When I first started directing plays, I was terrified because I didn’t know what I was doing. My goal was to come up with a plan so that I could have some confidence. It took me 20 years to figure out that the fun was having no idea what I was doing. The fun part of directing is making it up as I go along. So I’m just as lost now as I was back then. But when you’re lost, you can either view it as a scared child, alone in the woods, or as a brave explorer, open to experience.

We can subdivide lost people into two groups:

1. People who are truly lost. They really do have no passions. Their emotions are blunted. This group may be clinically depressed. If you’re a member, I urge you to seek professional help. There are treatments for depression. There are ones involving meds and ones involving talk therapy (e.g. cognitive-behavioral therapy) that can be quite effective. If you’re clinically depressed, Quora can’t help you but a doctor probably can.

Also note that lots of people use “my career” and “my major” as proxies for their real concerns. When I was in college, most of my complaints about lofty things (“what am I going to do with my life?” “what’s it all about?” “how can I find meaning?”) really came down to panic that I didn’t have a girlfriend.

2. People who have bought into cultural norms of what they’re “supposed” to do. For example, George loves video games. They really, really excite him, but he’s been told “you can’t make a career out of that” or “that’s not for grownups,” so when he wonders what he’s passionate about, he doesn’t count gaming and decides he doesn’t have any passions. Be he does have a passion. A passion is a passion, whether it’s a sanctioned one or not.

Or Mary, who has bought into the idea that she has to choose a major in college, and that whatever you choose should be your passion, and that this choice is all tied up with a lifelong career. What Mary most loves is singing. But she doesn’t have a great voice, and she’s been told she’ll never make it as a professional singer. So she doesn’t even consider majoring in music. As far as she’s concerned — based on what she’s been told — she has no passion.

Or Dan, who dreams about being a dad. No career interests him, but he really, really wants to have children. Or Amy, who longs for a boyfriend. She’s very passionate when she imagines being in a relationship, but she feels guilty because modern women are “supposed” to be independent.

If you’re in this group then you’re not really lost. You just don’t fit well in generally-accepted categories. Well, then that’s your lot in life. If you love doodling, you can’t make yourself stop loving it and start loving banking instead. What you can do is work to arrange your life so that you can have as much doodle time as possible. You can stop confusing what-you’ll-get-paid-for with what-you’re-into.

Some people are lucky enough to get paid for their passions. Many aren’t. It’s a fact of life, and it’s one you can cope with. I’m 30 years into an adulthood in which I can’t make money doing what I most love. I don’t even think about it any more. I have a great life. I have a day job that’s interesting and a night-and-weekend life that’s thrilling.

Adrian Thomas suggests some ducks you should line up. He’s right. Do that. Then quit worrying about what you’re supposed to do. Your major? It’s not important no matter how many people tell you it is. Your passion? You have one or you don’t. Maybe you don’t have one now but you’ll have one later. It doesn’t matter. Just work to give yourself opportunities.

One last piece of advice: how much have you traveled? How often have you ventured out of your comfort zone? Consider taking a year off and backpacking around the world. Do it with little or no money, paying for your room and board by working in restaurant kitchens or whatever. Let Planet Earth and its peoples and sights shock you into becoming a passionate person. Many young people can’t be passionate because they haven’t been exposed to enough sensations and experiences to be awakened into the possibilities of the world.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What should I do about my early life crisis? More questions:

Even Super Hot Parents Who Only Make One Movie a Year Feel Guilty

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 10:06 AM PDT

If even Megan Fox feels guilty about parenting, let’s just give up now.

The Transformers star told Parenting magazine she never feels like she’s the perfect mom to sons Bodhi, 4 months, and Noah, almost 2, even though she’s cut her moviemaking down to one film per year.

As a mom it's hard because I don't feel like I'm ever giving either one of them 100% of my attention or 100% of myself, so I carry a lot of guilt. Do they each understand how special they are and how much I love them? And are they understanding that they're unique? It's hard to make each one feel like an individual when you have to raise them together and manage them together all of the time.

Fox said she has cut down on her hours on the set so she can spend more time with her boys, but feels it’s important to keep making movies so that she can support them in the future (next up is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, out in August.)

I've never been an extraordinarily ambitious girl or career-oriented, but especially once I got pregnant with my first son and now [having] my second, it's so hard to be a working mom especially when your heart is not in your work, when your heart is with your family. I have to make one movie a year because I have to invest in their future and I have to be able to pay their way through college and be able to provide for them. I'm looking for movies that will shoot in Los Angeles, for projects where I'm part of an ensemble so I can shoot in and out in 10-20 days. It's all about trying to spend as little time away from my kids as possible.

So she works 10-20 days a year and feels guilty? Gwyneth Paltrow knows how that is.

How to Delete Yourself from the Internet

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 10:02 AM PDT

Americans love the Internet, with 87% of us active online. We have accounts everywhere, letting us kill time at work on Facebook, check Twitter for the latest news, cruise Pinterest for inspirational moodboards and hit Amazon for great shopping deals. On top of that, most of us also have a pile of inactive accounts created for discounts or one-off purchases.

With our digital footprints expanding, we are relaying more personal data than ever to trackers, hackers and marketers with and without our consent. Are we sharing too much? Do we have the right not to be tracked? Is withdrawing from the Internet entirely to preserve your privacy even possible? Let’s go over each of these issues.

Data dangers

Creating profiles at sites you use regularly has many benefits, such as ease of log-in and better suggestions for links or products you might like. But with growing concern over privacy terms that change at the drop of a hat, the sale of personal data by less scrupulous websites and the challenges of keeping stalker-y exes at bay, more and more Americans are deciding to reclaim and delete their personal data.

If you’re among the roughly 23% of Americans who use a single password for a handful of accounts, deleting inactive accounts is an important security measure. If a hacker cracked that password, you could suffer a domino-effect hacking of your other accounts too, especially if they are linked via a common email address.

Aside from the accounts and profiles we willingly create, our data is also exposed as hundreds of people search websites that comb police records, courthouse records and other public records such as real estate transactions, making our personal data publicly available to anyone who looks for it. Deleting this data isn’t as easy as you might expect — and many companies won’t remove your personal details fully.

Deleting your online presence

Tracking down all your data won’t be easy. There is no one service that will trawl the Internet for pieces of you, so start by tearing down your social profiles.

Start with JustDelete.me

A site called JustDelete.me provides an incredibly comprehensive list of email, social media, shopping and entertainment sites, along with notes on how difficult it is to completely erase your account and links to actually get it done. This is a great resource to help you remember and find unused profiles as well as gauging how much effort you’ll have to expend to shut it down.

Find other open accounts

Next, review your email accounts, looking for marketing updates and newsletters to get wind of other accounts you may still hold or companies that have bought your email address. Then go through your phone and check for apps that have required you to create accounts.

Once you’ve created a list of accounts, you then should sort them according to how often you use them, if at all. Delete any you don’t use. "Data is an asset to these companies," says Jacqui Taylor, CEO of web science company Flying Binary. “Not only are these companies able to monetize you as their product, you aren’t even receiving a service in exchange."

Working off your list of accounts, head back to JustDelete.me and use it as a springboard to start deleting accounts.

Downloading and removing your content

If there’s data you’d like to keep — say, photos or contact lists — you may be able to download them before deleting your account. Facebook and Twitter data can be downloaded in the respective Settings tabs, while LinkedIn contacts can be exported via Contact Settings.

At many sites such as Evernote and Pinterest, you won’t be able to delete your account. You can only deactivate it and then manually remove personal data. At sites such as Apple, this process includes a call to customer service.

Don’t forget background checking sites

To find out which background check websites have posted information about you, check out the list of popular sites on this Reddit thread. Then go to each and try searching for your name. See if you pop up in the first few pages of search results. If you do, the same Reddit thread has information on opting out, but get ready for a hassle: usually calling, faxing and sending in physical proof that you are who you say you are. After that, expect to wait anywhere from 10 working days to six weeks for information to disappear.

Sites that don't allow complete withdrawal

A large number of companies make it impossible to delete all traces of your accounts. According to JustDelete.me, this list includes Etsy, the online marketplace for home crafters, which retains your email address no matter what; Gawker Media, which retains the rights to all posts you made; and Netflix, which keeps your watch history and recommendations "just in case you want to come back."

Then there’s Twitter, which signed a deal with the Library of Congress in 2013 giving it the right to archive all public tweets from 2006 on. This means that anything you’ve posted publicly since then is owned by the government and will stay archived even if you delete your account.

To prevent future tweets from being saved, convert your settings to private so that only approved followers can read your tweets. (Go to the settings in the security and privacy section.)

Shut down your Facebook account by going to Settings, Security and then click "Deactivate my account." You can download all of your posts and images first by going to Settings, General and then click "Download a copy of your Facebook data."

However, you’ve already agreed to the social media giant's terms and conditions, which state that Facebook has the right to keep traces of you in its monolithic servers. Basically any information about you held by another Facebook user (such as conversations still in the other person’s inbox or your email address if it’s in a friend’s contact list) will be preserved.

The divide between companies that make it easy to delete your data and the companies that make it difficult is clear. "If you’re the product (on such free services as the social platforms), the company tends to make it difficult," Taylor says. Monetizing your data is the basis of the business model for such companies.

For services like eBay and Paypal, Taylor adds, you aren’t the product (both collect fees from sellers), making it easier to delete your account and associated data.

The right to be forgotten

Being able to erase social and other online data is linked to a larger issue: the right to be forgotten online. In the European Union, a recent Court of Justice ruling gave EU residents the right to request that irrelevant, defamatory information be removed from search engine databases. However, no such service is available to the residents of United States.

"You should be able to say to any service provider that you want your data to be deleted," Taylor says. "If someone leaves this earth, how can their data still be usable by all these companies?"

When erasure isn't an option

Much of our personal data online is hosted on social platforms that regularly update their terms of service to change how our data can be used. A privacy policy that you were comfortable with when you signed on could evolve to become something you don't agree with at all.

"Your digital footprint is not under your control if you’re using these free services," Taylor says.

But in an increasingly connected, virtual age, it can seem inconceivable not to have a footprint at all. Most of us use a social account to log in to dozens of other sites. Some sites require that you do so: for example, Huffington Post requires a Facebook log-in, while YouTube commenters need a Google+ log-in.

Employers frequently perform background checks through Google or dedicated third-party social media checkers. In many professions, an online portfolio of work on the likes of WordPress or Tumblr is a necessity. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to communicate socially without the aid of a Facebook or Twitter account.

Given the realities of our connected world today, not being online can be seen as a negative. The key, Taylor says, is to take ownership of your data. Control how much of your personal data is available online by pruning inactive accounts. Create new accounts selectively, and post with the understanding that within a single update to the terms of service, your data could become publicly shared or further monetized.

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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These Are the Most Stressed Kinds of Parents

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 10:00 AM PDT

Being the parent of a teenager is just as stressful as being a single parent, at least according to a new survey. NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health teamed up to poll 2,505 Americans about their experiences with stress in the past month. The nationwide survey found that the following groups reported the most stress:

People with poor health (60% reported high stress)

Disabled people (45% reported high stress)

People with chronic illnesses (36% reported high stress)

People with income less than $20,000 (36% reported high stress)

People who experience dangerous work situations (36% reported high stress)

Single parents (35% reported high stress)

Parents of teens (35% reported high stress)

The stresses associated with single parenting seem fairly obvious: trying to juggle many responsibilities on your own. But why is raising teens particularly stressful? One reason could be the looming cost of college: problems with finances was the number two overall stressor after “too many responsibilities” on the heat map of stress.

Coldplay and Cat Power Team Up for Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here: Listen

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 09:57 AM PDT

Coldplay kicked off the soundtrack to Zach Braff’s Garden State in 2004, so it’s only right that British rockers team up with the writer-director for his second film, Wish I Was Here, a decade later. Braff says the brand-new song, which borrows its title from the movie (out July 18) and features the smoky voice of Cat Power, is his favorite song on the record. That’s saying something, since the competition is steep: Wish I Was Here also features contributions from the Shins and Bon Iver.

Braff explained how the song came together to NPR, where the track premiered:

“Chris had the idea that it would be sung by a woman. I thought that was a genius idea, because one of the things the film is about is a strong woman [Kate Hudson's character] becoming the matriarch of her family. When Chris and I were talking, we both kind of simultaneously said, ‘Cat Power.’ I reached out to Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) and she and I met and really clicked. I set her up to watch the film in her apartment. The whole time she was watching she kept texting me all the different parts she was loving. She said yes the instant it was over.”

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