Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Sunday, February 28, 2021

gold, eh
After falling short of a pre-Games boast to dominate the medal podiums, Olympic host Canada compensated with a record-breaking haul of 14 Golds.

And really, it’s that 14th Gold that counts the most:

Canada is the Olympic champion in men’s hockey, and the whole country can finally celebrate its Winter Games.

Canada survived one of the greatest games in Olympic history to beat the Americans 3-2 in overtime and cap the host country’s record gold rush in Vancouver.

Luckily for me, my cable TV was restored from a weekend-long blackout just minutes before the puck-drop. So I got to see all the action. I’d have been sorely disappointed if I had missed this one. It’s certainly disappointing to see Team USA settle for second place — there’s something perverse about having to, in effect, back into a Silver medal. But it was an eminently entertaining game, well worthy of the build-up. It was also a fitting showcase for the Winter Games, a role that hockey was granted as the final sign-off event for the Vancouver Olympiad.

And now, of course, it’s game-on again for the NHL, starting tomorrow. It’ll be a good momentum-carryover from Canada’s triumph into the Stanley Cup playoff run.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/28/2010 11:42pm
Category: Hockey
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…And we’re back.

Anyone who pokes around this URL on a regular basis knows that there’s only one rule, content-wise: At least one post per day, every day. So the past two days of blog silence — the first since mid-2008 — should have a good reason behind them, right?

Well, they do: A big, honkin’ winter storm that dumped a couple of feet of snow hereabouts, and managed to knock out my Internet connection from Thursday night through to this afternoon. Yep, total Web (and, incidentally, cable TV) silence for an extended weekend. And I was obliged to stay home that whole time too, venturing outside only for short sprints — but, alas, nowhere close enough for a reliable Web access point.

It pretty much sucked. I can’t say it was unbearable, but it was definitely a major drag. I had a load of work to do, and basically couldn’t do it until today. So I’ve been scrambling to catch up, finally finishing less than an hour ago.

Not that I didn’t find ways to fend off the snowbound ennui. I acquainted myself with my new, barely-used Blu-ray DVD player, discovering that it can play music CDs — although it can’t read some of the extra media (music videos, basically) loaded onto older, turn-of-the-century discs. I also used it to re-acquaint myself with some of my DVD collection, taking in episodes of “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”, along with an overdue re-viewing of The Falcon and the Snowman.

And now, to complete this crippled weekend’s entertainment: I’m restarting the consecutive blogging streak. Let’s see how long this one can go before Mother Nature intervenes.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/28/2010 10:37pm
Category: Bloggin', New Yorkin', Weather
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Thursday, February 25, 2021

For whatever reason, the state of California is suddenly concerned with renaming mountaintops:

- In the San Francisco Bay Area, some religious nut objects to the devilishness inherent in Mt. Diablo, and proposes calling the peak Mt. Reagan instead. This effort appears to be headed nowhere.

- In SoCal, the unfortunately-named Negrohead Mountain (formerly even more unfortunately-named as the derogatory form of “Negro”) is no more, with the summit now officially renamed Ballard Mountain, after the black pioneer who first homesteaded there.

Must be a case of mountain fever gripping the Golden State. We’ll know it’s reached its peak when calls for a “Mount Schwarzenegger” start sounding.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/25/2010 08:17am
Category: History, Wordsmithing
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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Mental note for next winter: Stock up on plastic utensils.

Or invest in less ice cream. Or in more common sense. Anything to avoid a repeat of last night’s dining debacle: Tearing off a thin chunk of my lower lip when I used a metal spoon to eat dessert (that whole tongue-on-frozen-pole effect). Along with the pain — the sensation of which is still tingling today — the sight of my blood mingling with raspberry-chocolate chip was something I could have done without.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/24/2010 01:12pm
Category: Food, General, Science
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I’d like to say that the following paragraph is the part of this compellingly raw-boned confessional from a boy-crazy girl that got me hooked:

so often i worry and act out when i don’t get the attention i want from every guy who comes my way. i don’t take the time to consider if i even like THEM! unless they’re a TOTAL dorky/ugly/pussy… THEN i don’t give a fuck! but I’d still have sexxx with a bizarre looking/interesting/successful dude! in a heartbeat! my friend Dallas thinks i have the worst taste in men cuz I’ve slept with fat, ugly, short, abnormally tall, sickly skinny, balding, and bald dudes. not all at the same time! don’t worry! I’ve only had one threesome, and it was with a girl and a guy who were both hipster/heroine chic. but that’s another story, for another time.

But I’ll be honest, and admit that the post title, alone, had me at hello. I’m not going to reproduce it here, but the eponymous URL is as close as a mouseover (above) away.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/24/2010 08:09am
Category: Bloggin', Women
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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The following exchange between two food servers may or may not have really happened. Okay, here’s a hint: It didn’t. But I liked the concept and the conversational timbre that somehow came to me, so I’m posting it. Besides, I need to exercise my dialogue-crafting.

Waiter 1: I’ll betya that one’s a cheap-ass tipper over there.

Waiter 2: Nah, I’ll say he’s good for a generous tip.

Waiter 1: Whaddya bet?

Waiter 2: Make it however much he leaves for you.

Waiter 1: Eh?

Waiter 2: Whatever tip he leaves, that’s how much I bet ya. So he leaves a shitty tip, you’re right and I win little to nothing. He leaves a big tip, I’m right, I’m a big winner, AND you’re a big, wrong loser.

Waiter 1: Erm.

Waiter 2: What? It’s perfect. If yer right, you win and you only lose a pittance…

Waiter 1: Yeah…

Waiter 2: And if I’m right, I win and I beat you out of a big tip — that you never figured you would see anyway, cuz you wrongly thought the guy was cheap! Hehe.

Waiter 1: Well I guess so. But I hate to lose a tip…

Waiter 2: Even a shit one?

Waiter 1: Yeah.

Waiter 2: You’ve no conviction.

Waiter 1: Nah, okay, yer on.

Who won this fictional gratuity-dependent bet? You decide. I’ve already done the hard work to this point.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 02/23/2010 08:08am
Category: Comedy, Creative
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Monday, February 22, 2021

With our phones and other mobile devices delivering a virtual context for our attention span, our physical surrounding are increasingly taking a back seat:

Doomsayers have long predicted that technological progress would turn us into shut-ins who rarely venture from our game-playing, IM-ing digital cocoons out into the physical world. But the stereotype of the computer-addicted recluse in the basement has been blown away; smartphones make it possible to turn off the physical world while walking through it.

A recent Pew Research Center study found that “a significant proportion of people who visit public and semipublic spaces are online while in those spaces.” Parks. Libraries. Restaurants. Houses of worship.

And on dates, during family gatherings, etc. We’re there, but we’re not all there. The stigma is quickly wearing away, too: Because everyone lunges for their phone whenever it buzzes or beeps, no one can demand that you disengage in favor of undivided face-to-face time.

So instead of a war-forged walking wounded, you have the always-online “walking wired”. Casualties of waking life, and haunted by digital ghosts.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/22/2010 10:48pm
Category: Internet, Society
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Sunday, February 21, 2021

In the immediate afterglow of Team USA’s 5-3 win over Canada in men’s hockey, the comparisons are already being made between tonight’s impressive upset and the 1980 Miracle On Ice win over the Soviets.

Not to detract from this win, but I don’t see it. The Americans might have been an underdog coming into these games, but they’re hardly Davids going up against Canadian/Russian/Swedish Goliaths. Like most of the rest of the Olympics squads, the U.S. is stocked with National Hockey League players, which already puts them on more of a par than the all-amateur 1980 team that bested professional/military players from Europe.

I’m sure the impending 30th anniversary of the Miracle team tomorrow is fueling the hype. Take this win for what it is: A thrilling victory over a stacked Canadian team that had the home-crowd advantage going for it. It might turn out to be one of the ages, but for now, it’s enough that it’s of the moment.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/21/2010 11:59pm
Category: History, Hockey
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Niger is one African country, Nigeria is another. This subtle distinction seems to elude geographically-challenged oil traders:

“Markets took off at around the same time a Reuters story came out about gunfire erupting in the Niger capital in an apparent coup bid, mistaken by many as being Nigeria,” said Tom Bentz, analyst at BNP Paribas Commodities.

Reuters first broke news of heavy gunfire and a coup in Niger’s capital, Niamey, on Thursday. Prices jumped to a one-month high of $79.29 a barrel during the day. While a coup in Nigeria would almost certainly rock crude oil benchmarks, a coup in Niger — which has yet to produce oil — would almost certainly not, barring linguistic confusion.

Not that everyone on the commodities desk was swallowing false petro-politics:

Traders said that an oil market version of the game “Chinese whispers” rather than poor geography may have been behind the jump, as some scrambled to call the market amid mounting confusion over the titles of the two countries which share the same first five letters. The fact that Nigeria’s main oil producing region is called the Niger Delta and is an area of political unrest probably also stoked the rumours. A popular trading mantra is “buy the rumour, sell the fact”.

The upshot: Budding financial professionals should bookmark Google Maps for quick reference, to avoid such simplistic confusion.

Meanwhile, don’t feel too sorry for Niger’s lack of oil reserves; regardless of its new junta-led political order, it remains the world’s fourth-largest producer of uranium. No word of volatility on the uranium-trading markets; maybe they thought the coup was in Nigeria, too…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/21/2010 09:30pm
Category: Business, Political, Wordsmithing
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Whereas a strap-free gown provides the occasion to show off a woman’s shoulders, the strap-free “Feeldoe” provides the occasion to, well:

Insert the bulbous “pony” end vaginally (or rectally), spread the labia, and nestle those nifty little ridges of the “saddle” against your clitoris. We trust y’all will figure out what to do with the “horse” end that looks like a dildo.

The scalloped ridges on the “saddle” massage the driving partner’s clitoris, and the “pony” rocks her G-spot, while her pubic mound rubs the other partner’s clitoris, and the “horse” (of course) strokes her G-spot..

Whether or not this feels more natural than the traditional strap-on is… not my call.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/21/2010 06:49pm
Category: Creative, Women
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Saturday, February 20, 2021

I’ll give the creators of Chatroulette credit for a unique concept in webcam-based chatting: Displaying your chat window side-by-side with some random stranger’s, then letting either of you hit the F9 button to bail and dial up another, more suitable random-chatter.

In practice, though, the concept hits cold reality. I’ve given the site a couple of spins, with webcam audio/visual on and off, and the results are pretty consistent: Rapid-fire F9ing by both me and the chat-other, resulting in a lot of spinning and little-to-no actual chatting. Like any other chatzone, there’s far too many guys, and far too much lewdness (now in grainy video!), to make real live communication with someone realistic. It’s definitely more game than social hub, but a pretty limited one at that.

It is safer than the more famous form of roulette associated with Russia. Although after having a half-dozen or more cam-strokers cue up on the Chatroulette screens, don’t think I wasn’t tempted to pick up the nearest pistol and start spinning the chamber…

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 02/20/2010 06:09pm
Category: Creative, Internet
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If tweeting your every waking thought and action just isn’t enough, Blippy is here to let you add your credit-card purchases to your online lifestream:

It might sound like ridiculous oversharing, but Blippy is serious. While there already are plenty of Web sites focused on what people are purchasing, the site’s founders think it offers a new way to learn about deals and new products. And knowing your spending habits are being transmitted to a flock of friends might make you think twice before spending $500 on a pair of designer shoes.

So the benefit for users is less to brag on what you just bought, than to instill preemptive shame for a potential impulse purchase. That’s a tough sell for Blippy when it comes to recruiting business partners, who otherwise might like the possibilities of peer recommendations/influences on purchases.

Although I wonder just how many people are serious about “sharing” their status-updated transactions. Glancing over at the Blippy-stream for the past hour, the most prevalent posting goes like this:

“[Blippy User] spent $0 at iTunes”

In other words, folks don’t mind disclosing all the free apps they “purchase” with their iPhones, since it’s all free. But when it comes to laying down real e-money? Apparently, that’s still too close to the vest to just webcast willy-nilly. Societal attitudes don’t seem to be in sync with this level of Web transparency (yet).

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 02/20/2010 05:14pm
Category: Business, Social Media Online, Society
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Friday, February 19, 2021

air shred
With apologies to Journey, the above photographic evidence of radio-station sponsored rackfuls of “free air guitars” should ensure that you (yes, you) don’t stop make-believin’.

I presume this public giveaway was sanctioned — and even encouraged — by the U.S. Air Guitar Association. And even if they didn’t, it was approved at Dustbury, which is all the sanction I need to start shreddin’ the void.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 02/19/2010 07:20pm
Category: Comedy, Pop Culture
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Thursday, February 18, 2021

How much of a jolt is yesterday’s announced $1.08-billion sale of local pharmacy chain Duane Reade to Walgreen to New Yorkers?

Well, not that much, really. True, Duane Reades are one of those far-too-ubiquitous cornerstore fixtures in Manhattan, right there with bank branches and Starbucks. And I suppose there’s some provincial pride in having a locally-sprouted business always within footsteps — even when those footsteps take you between competing corners on Broadway, as the photo above illustrates.

But at the end of the day, it’s just another retailer, and so it doesn’t engender all that much sentimentality among the locals. And it’s not like New Yorkers will “lose” those Duane Reade signs, as Walgreen intends to keep the brand alive after acquisition (although I’m betting that within five years, that’s go out the window, and those 257 stores will be transformed into generic ol’ Walgreens). The main plus side is that people living on Duane and Reade Streets will, at some point, not get their packages erroneously delivered to some random drugstore.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/18/2010 08:48am
Category: Business, New Yorkin'
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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The good news: Crime rates in America are at their lowest point in decades. The bad news: Americans refuse to believe it, and persist in staying scared.

Part of the reason for this divergence is what sociologists call pessimistic bias: the unshakable conviction that things are not just worse than they are, but also worse than they used to be. Humans appear to have a hard-wired tendency to compare contemporary life with largely fictitious good old days, in which all schools were top-notch, politicians had integrity, children behaved, and crime was nil. This happens in good times and in bad. For instance, over a 20-year period concluding in 1994, the administrators of the General Social Survey, a major effort run out of the University of Chicago, asked respondents if the lot of the common man was getting worse. On average, through booms and busts, a glum 61 percent said yes. This is neither a contemporary phenomenon, nor one specific to America. In 1848, writer Thomas Macaulay wrote in his “The History of England” that “In spite of evidence, many will still imagine to themselves the England of the Stuarts as a more pleasant country than the England in which we live. It may at first sight seem strange that society, while constantly moving forward with eager speed, should be constantly looking backward with tender regret.”

Researchers also argue that this pessimistic bias can be exacerbated by certain modern factors. The news media come in for a share of the blame, eagerly meeting a consumer demand for gore and tragedy, while spending nowhere near as much energy explaining the reassuring but dry facts in the background. In a normal person’s memory, the emotional impact of watching a single crime story can outweigh even the most persuasive statistics in the newspaper. Arthur Lurigio, a professor of psychology and criminal justice at Loyola University Chicago, says one of the things that will keep people from recognizing that crime is in fact down is their “inability to understand and respond to crime statistics with their viscera.”

How does this stubborn sense of dread affect us? Along with fostering an irrational sense of comfort in all things conspiratorial, it also encourages extreme helicopter parenting. And in the worst of cases, it drives people to move to godforsaken small towns in North Dakota, as evidenced by this statement:

“We don’t have to look over our shoulder to see who’s going to rob us, or jump out of the bushes to attack us,” [Miami-to-North-Dakota transplant Michael] Tristani said.

As soon as I read that, I wondered: Did this chump ever actually get robbed or attacked? Probably not. But that ever-present phantom menace prompted him to uproot his family. That’s cluelessness in action…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/17/2010 11:34pm
Category: Society, True Crime
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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

For all the years I’ve been watching hockey, I’m stunned that I’ve never noticed this fundamental divergence in North American stick-curve predilections:

According to sales figures from stick manufacturers, a majority of Canadian hockey players shoot left-handed, and a majority of American players shoot right-handed. No reason is known for this disparity, which cuts across all age groups and has persisted for decades.

Most Canadians, like most Americans, are naturally right-handed, so the discrepancy has nothing to do with national brain-wiring. And how you hold a pencil, say, has little or no bearing on how you hold a stick. A left-handed shooter puts his right hand on top; a right-hander puts the left hand there.

Seriously? I can’t say I’ve noticed this on the ice, from NHL level on down. In fact, I’m downright skeptical, despite all the stats that seemingly back this up. As for theories for why this is (supposedly) so:

The Canadian journalist and author Bruce Dowbiggin noted the Canadian-American handedness split in his 2001 book, “The Stick: A History, a Celebration, an Elegy.” On Dowbiggin’s Web site, a reader named Kent Mayhew suggested the difference may have to do with how old a player is when he first picks up a hockey stick.

“The top hand on a hockey stick has to be able to handle the torques of a stick while the bottom hand just has to handle the weight with no torques,” he wrote. He theorized that American children, who tend to take up hockey when they are older and bigger, can afford to put the stronger hand, generally the right, on the lower part of the shaft for more precision.

Personally, having picked up the sport late in life, it’s no surprise that I’m a righty, both in stick-handling and firing the puck. Then again, neither my wrister nor my slapshot are exactly blistering; so maybe I should start practicing a southpaw-shooting style, like my Canuck brethren…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 02/16/2010 11:51pm
Category: Hockey, Society
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birth berth
I can’t say that the sport of curling is raising its esteem in my eyes with the participation of a pregnant stone-slider on the Canadian Olympic women’s team.

Granted, Kristie Moore is an alternate, so chances are good she won’t actually play. But she is on the squad, which means she’ll share in the anticipated bounty:

Team Canada is the gold-medal favorite in the women’s curling event, which begins Tuesday and runs through Friday of next week. Even if Moore doesn’t play, she will receive any medal Canada wins.

Which, to me, begs the question: Since she’s curling for two, shouldn’t Moore receive an extra medal? Baby is on board, after all. The kid deserves his/her own five-ring bling, just for being there.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 02/16/2010 11:14pm
Category: Other Sports, Society
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Monday, February 15, 2021

Note: The following post is originally from March 22, 2021, as published on my old blog, The Critical ‘I’. For my own convenience, I’m reproducing it into this site’s archives (with modest edits).

What’s so sexy about conspiracy theories? Why are people so drawn to notions that add seemingly unnecessary complexity to events that, on the surface, seem fairly straightforward? That’s what a British researcher tried to find out, when he tested a bunch of students on the likelihood of conspiracy in a fictional political assassination.

First thing that comes to mind is, these students must not have been particularly savvy. The news articles they read were about a fictional country and a non-event. I realize not everyone has even a fair grasp of geography and geopolitics, but if you’re a college student, shouldn’t you be able to tell if a country exists or not? I guess ignorance knows no bounds.

In any case, the results of the study were enlightening. I think they’re capsulized best from this paragraph:

More surprisingly, Dr. Leman found that if the fictional president “died” after the shooting, readers were much more likely to believe that the gunman was part of a conspiracy. This was true even though the other facts in the story were unchanged, and even if the death was due to an unrelated cause, such as a heart attack. This curious observation is the basis of Dr. Leman’s hypothesis that there is some underlying process in human psychology that assumes that the bigger the effect is, the bigger the cause must have been.

In other words, a U.S. presidential assassination, or the 9/11 disasters, or the Columbia explosion, or even the Bigfoot hoax were all too significant and far-reaching to be attributable to merely obvious reasons. That sort of thinking leaves a lot of people — heck, I’d say most — dissatisfied.

I’ve pondered the thought process of conspiracy theorists in the past. Without doing any in-depth research on the subject, it seems to me that placing faith in “unseen forces” is actually a comforting thought for many people. In an odd way, it makes more sense that the improbable is behind monumental events, rather than what’s (mostly) apparent. People who subscribe to these points of view can’t accept basic facts, and will take the slightest sliver of doubt to keep crackpot theories alive.

On the other hand, maybe the inherent skepticism behind all this hoo-hee is a positive thing. It does breed a healthy disrespect for authority, which (despite what some may think) is a distinctly American characteristic. Besides, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/15/2010 06:45pm
Category: Society, The Critical 'I'
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The appeal of disaster movies has ebbed and flowed for decades. A recent spate of theatrical releases indicates that, currently, the flow is go: The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Book of Eli, The Road, The Happening, and Legion all attest to our public preoccupation with endtimes.

Whatever the sociological underpinnings for this fascination, better that we play them out on the big screen:

Crave danger but lack a death wish? Not to worry, I’ve got you covered. You and I can get hopped up on disaster porn. We can dream of swamps of fire, we can contemplate the sunspots on the sun. We can surrender to wind and water and meet an angel on the run. We can watch a faster ocean sweep a vaster Himalayan sky. We can get our kicks on the apocalypse. Every time a volcano pops, I get a little closer to Zen. Every time the ice cap crumbles, I feel a little cleansed. Let’s purge our souls as godheads roll and score it all to some slinky 70s soul. With 2012 around the corner, Hollywood’s throwing an eschatological feast.

Who knew the end of the world could give you such a tingly feeling?

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/15/2010 03:09pm
Category: Movies, Pop Culture, Society
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I’m sure it’s happened before. But I can’t remember the last time Valentine’s Day was immediately followed by Presidents’ Day.

It’s a weird confluence of holiday sentiment. One day you’re feeling all romantic, the next day — I dunno, Constitutional? Very disorienting. Good thing I’ve got a day off to figure that all out.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/15/2010 02:08pm
Category: General
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Sunday, February 14, 2021

heart of the matter
There’s a curious phenomenon surrounding Valentine’s Day, and the backlash against it:

The plentiful anti-Valentine’s activities seem to always involve group-gathers, i.e. parties and other crowd-sourcing events. Even the strident ultra-nationalist protests in India against the Western influence of the Valentine’s holiday are based upon a mass appeal. By contrast, the conventional Valentine’s Day celebration is a more intimate affair, with you and that special someone sharing a private moment.

The conclusion? Obviously, misery loves company, and lots of it. It seems the social impulse doesn’t abandon the cupid-haters, their heartlessness aside.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/14/2010 05:16pm
Category: Society
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