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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 01:33:25 PM EST) Reading, Listening, Watching, MLP, Theatre (all tags)
Listening: "Myth in Human History" Reading: "Gridlock Economy". Theatre: "Chekhov in Hell". Watching: "TT3D". Links.


Listening
Haven't been listening to many Teaching Company courses lately: I went through a lot of the more interesting ones, and they seem to be concentrating more on video versions lately. But I did get a few more courses the other day.

The first was Myth in Human History by Grant L. Voth. He concentrates more on the non-Greco-Roman myths since they're covered in other TTC courses. It's ordered by theme so you have creation myths, heroes journeys, goddesses, tricksters and so on. He covers both Joseph Campbell's "monomyth" but also the less well known Otto Rank who has a similar theory based on Freud instead of Jung.

A couple of things I found interesting. The Jewish origin story with humans being given dominion over the Earth's creatures is quite flattering: other myths have humans created just to do physical labour or provide sacrifices to the gods. A Chinese myth has the ruling class created by hand by the creator, and the lower classes made of offshoots of the clay, thus explaining their lower status.

According to one Amerindian myth from former Ontario Indians, the world was part created by a good brother and an evil brother. The good brother wanted all streams and rivers to be in pairs flowing in opposite directions, so wherever you wanted to get to you could go with current. Unfortunately the bad brother stopped him, which is why we have our inconvenient unidirectional versions. Overall, somewhat interesting. You learn some interesting myths and something about how they fit together. However, the length seems a bit awkward: sometimes by the third similar myth you start to get a bit fed up with them.

What I'm Reading
Finished Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Costs Lives, by Michael Heller Another book on how too-extensive property rights cause problems, written by a professor of law, though with a focus on the economics too.

Heller considers both intellectual property rights and physical property rights, without differentiating much between them. Examples of physical property rights include Native Americans in the US, as in the 1930s parts of reservations were subdivided and allocated to individuals, but arranged so that the plots would be subdivided amongst their heirs. The results are now patchwork of tiny pieces of land, each too small to be farmed independently, but which cannot be sold on because of the effort and difficult of persuading a large number of people to sell, any one of whom can block the deal.

The author claims to have invented the term "tragedy of the anticommons", which describes this kind of situation, where too many owners mean that development never takes place since someone is always bound to block it.

Another example he gives dates from medieval times, when castle owners on the Rhine river each imposed tolls on their section of river, such that it became impractically expensive to navigate it. The incentive of each owner to maximize his personal profit, sabotages the overall use of the system.

More generally, the problem depends on whether individual ownership is of complements or alternatives. Consider these two diagrams of routes:

     ----
    /    \
Here------ There
    \    /
     ----
     

Here --- A --- B --- There

The first diagram shows alternatives. If each route is independently owned, there is competition between them: if the owners act in their own self-interest they will try to undercut each other and prices will fall.

The second diagram shows complements. If each owner acts in his own self-interest, he will raise prices for his own section to the maximum level. Prices for the whole route will thus rise to unaffordable levels.

Heller gives many examples of how complementary ownership is causing problems in the real world. Some examples are familiar. One often cited is the Martin Luther King documentary series "Eyes on the Prize" which was stuck in limbo for years while rights to the interviews were slowly and expensively tracked down and bought up.

Creative expression is handicapped in a multitude of ways as they cannot piggyback on others ideas. Public Enemy-style hip-hop could not be created today as the large number of samples is not affordable. Today, Shakespeare could never produce Hamlet, updating a cheesy revenge drama where a guy pretends to be mad to avoid suspicion, into a crazed meditation on the meaning of life, madness, decision and death.

Another example is deeply disturbing if true, but is based on anonymous sources communicating with the author, so is hard to verify. Apparently medical research is being handicapped as so many tiny stretches of DNA are patented, it's not cost-effective to develop therapies: companies move their research resources elsewhere.

Apparently some academic researchers simply ignore the law, and research without the right rights, just hoping that they won't be sued. It's interesting that "piracy" seems to be essential despite the opprobrium attached to it by copyright maximalists. It seems the way things work is: make everything illegal, then trust the corporations to only enforce the rules when it's best.

However, the book is more optimistic than some others. He looks at some examples of where things have worked and where they've failed.

One example is Russia shortly after the change to capitalism, where he points out that the shops remained empty, while there were thriving kiosks outside. The shops were controlled by a large number of rights-holders. The kiosks were run by Mafia gangs, who extracted an amount of protection money modest enough for them to stay in business, and had exclusive control.

Another example is of Lobster fishermen who kept fishing to within acceptable limits in their own ports, again by forming gangs who would destroy the equipment of outsiders and overfishers.

He also provides legal examples is of how a compulsory patent pool was created for the aircraft industry in America in the First World War, and how a ceiling was imposed on the height of ownership over property, after landowners tried to charge early aviators for flying over their property at any height

In the last chapter Heller describes a "solutions tool kit" of how to deal with examples of gridlock. These include:

"Spot and name gridlock": identify where it's happening.
"Language up the problem": Add "anticommons" and underuse to your vocabulary.
"Look for the cutting edge": The emergence of new technologies and markets.
is a dangerous time, when governments can create too many property rights.
"Ask why the grass is greener": compare markets with different property rights.

He also describes when voluntary agreements should be sought, when governments should mandate "one stop shops" for regulation, and when laws should be changed, and when a gridlocked property should be forcibly confiscated and redistributed by the state.

He describes legal solutions like condominiums and "unitization", where a group of property owners can vote collectively to make decisions, but without any one owner being able to veto it. For instance, consider an underdeveloped city block with very many owners, that could be very valuable if sold as a unit. If it's confiscated by eminent domain, the property owners get little money. If you try to convince every owner to sell, a few are bound to hold up the deal. But under unitization, if the majority choose to sell, they can still get a high value for the land.

Overall, an interesting and worthwhile book, that goes further than other books on the subject by looking at solutions in detail.

Author website. See also Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars (review) and Against Intellectual Monopoly (review).

Theatre
Saw Chekhov in hell at the Soho Theatre. Mysteriously revived in contemporary Britain, the confused playwright Anton Chekhov, portrayed as a Candide-like innocent, wanders through a series of set-pieces satirizing modern Britain. He meets a Russian people trafficker, a pop star, a fashion designer, a web guru, a prostitute, a builder who's discovered that plasma screens are cheaper than windows, reality TV producers and so on.

The satire is sharp, brisk and funny. There are no costume changes and the props are mostly mimed, so it moves like a rapid series of comedy sketches. The recurring ultra-sympathetic, politically correct PCSO is particularly hilarious. There's some clever use of Russian or mock-Russian where the actors convey what's going on through physical acting and the odd English word.

I've only seen a couple of Chekhov plays, so I probably missed a lot of references to them. Does have a slight weakness in that the plot is more of a series of set-pieces , and some elements seem to be left dangling.

Overall though: a funny, clever play, neatly straddling the Soho theatre lines in theatre and comedy. Worth seeing. Review/

What I'm Watching
Saw TT3D at the cinema. Documentary about the Isle of Man TT motorcycle race, following the entertaining Guy Martin through his attempt to win his first race.

There's some spectacular 3D footage of the race itself, as the bikers blast inches away from street furniture around the spectacular course. But it doesn't overdo that: there are lots of interviews with racers, their family, their crews, the participants as it investigates why people are drawn to the race itself. The race is notoriously dangerous: there have been 231 deaths since 1907, and every year more seem to happen.

Overall, good documentary, worth seeing. Definitely worth a 3D screening if you can get to one.

Any suit advice?
Looks like I'll be job-hunting soon, and may need a new suit as I haven't bought one in about a decade. Any suit tips? The papers keep telling me double-breasted is back: is there any truth to this rumour? How many buttons, are we back down to 2 again?

Pics
Some pics from Kew Gardens yesterday.
Kew Gardens 7734

Kew Gardens 7788

Links
Video. Rolling through the Bay: dynamic matchstick model/sculpture of San Francisco. Camel, penguin tickling. US internment camp propaganda video (via).

Politics. AV campaigner gets superinjunction. Also married actor gets injunction because his children might be bullied.

Sci/Tech. I learned to program... Algorithmic pricing and Amazon's $23,698,655.93 book. BT and TalkTalk fail in challenge to Digital Economy Act.

Articles. Selling heroin online (single-page). How to dig a pirate's cave. The Bible is not a book of answers but a library of questions. Hyperbole-and-a-half: Simple Dog Goes for a Joyride.

Socioeconomics. Study shows management consultants can improve productivity. Dani Rodrik globalization parable, explained. Zombie tattoo guy does well.

Pics. Vintage pin-ups and reference photos. Shipwrecks.

< When the weather's hot... | What's wrong with you all? >
Take me to the nuclear wessels | 34 comments (34 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
DNA Patents Blocking Treatment Research by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 01:46:34 PM EST

Extremely probable.  So probable that I find it not worthwhile to disagree.






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Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
WIPO: Don't give a fuck by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #2 Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 03:44:13 PM EST
"Gridlock Economy" sounds interesting, but this is a cruel joke:

Native Americans in the US, as in the 1930s parts of reservations were subdivided and allocated to individuals, but arranged so that the plots would be subdivided amongst their heirs. The results are now patchwork of tiny pieces of land, each too small to be farmed independently, but which cannot be sold on because of the effort and difficult of persuading a large number of people to sell, any one of whom can block the deal.

The idea that this is even remotely related to the endemic poverty among Native Americans is just ludicrous.   They were systematically removed from all the best land and were forced on land that was considered unfarmable on the outset by whites.   (Not to mention that most weren't agricultural peoples in the first place. )   "Any one of whom can block the deal" is just wrong, and shows a complete lack of understanding of the politics of most of these tribes.  (They certainly don't have troubles banding together to build casinos!)
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

See by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #7 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 03:44:20 AM EST
Checkerboarding and the Dawes Act.

One example from the book is referenced in this long PDF:

A tract identified in Hodel v. Irving, 481 U.S. 704 (1987), illustrates the complexities that may arise as trust land becomes increasingly fractionated: Tract 1305 is 40 acres and produces $1,080 in income annually. It is valued at $8,000. It has 439 owners, one-third of whom receive less than $0.05 in annual rent, and two-thirds of whom receive less than $1. The largest interest holder receives $82.85 annually. The common denominator used to compute fractional interests in the property is 3,394,923,840,000. The smallest heir receives $.01 every 177 years. If the tract were sold (assuming all 439 owners could agree) for its estimated $8,000 value, he would be entitled to $0.000418.

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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
That changes nothing by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #10 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 12:02:58 PM EST
The idea that this has anything to do with anything is silly.  The land they have is shit that won't grow anything.  You take a group of nomads who have absolutely no history of growing much of anything, destroy the animals their entire livelihood is based on, and then put them on an infertile land with no access to water, and you think that the reason they can't grow anything is this!?
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Um by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #11 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 12:40:38 PM EST
I never said it was "the" reason. They've been messed up in multiple ways over multiple times: this is just one example.

But that plot of land seems to me a pretty good example of gridlock or a "tragedy of the anticommons". Tracking down all 439 owners and getting them to do anything as a group, when any one of them can veto it, or just not be bothered to sign for his $0.000418 share, would be almost impossible in practice. Too many people have rights over that property.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
"in practice" by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #14 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 03:14:14 PM EST
As I said, this betrays a lack of knowledge of tribal politics.  These things almost always get worked out if the (often corrupt) people running the tribes want them to.

It also ignores the larger question: what on Earth would they do with the land if it was consolidated?  I can tell you: exactly what they are using it for now.   The land is not productive.  There's no "tragedy of the anticommons" because this is not blocking anything productive that could be done with the land!

In rare circumstances were land has actually turned out to be of values (for instance uranium on Navajo lands) land ownership has had no blocking effect on land usage.

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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Well by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #24 Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 02:22:29 PM EST
Native American activists have been fighting long and hard over this. One recent attempt was overturned by a Supreme Court decision Babbitt v. Youpee. Around 500,000 were part of a class action lawsuit against this mismanagement.

Also, Michael Heller's a senior property lawyer, seems to know his stuff, and I tend to trust his analysis on this. Nobody's saying fractionation is the only problem Native Americans have, or even the biggest problem, but it certainly seems to be a problem.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
"Senior property lawyer" by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #28 Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 03:31:33 PM EST
Not something that would tend to give experience with Native American culture.  Has he actually seen the land?  Does he have an explanation of how you'd make a profit off of land that is a couple hundred miles from a major city, has no source of irrigation, and is mostly infertile?

Also, note that the fact that the BIA utterly mismanaged the recording of all this (as it mismanages everything) is not a matter of "tragedy of the anti-commons".  It's an instance bureaucratic mismanagement.

I'd also note that the issue in Babbitt v. Youpee is that the government wanted to put in place rules to stop fractionation in a way that doesn't compensate the owners (the ones who don't get the consolidated land) and these owners have sued demanding compensation.  Basically a Native American, William Youpee, willed his land to multiple heirs, and these rules would have basically kicked over the entire estate to the tribe as a whole.  Basically, the BIA created a system that is a management nightmare, and can't convince the people they are actually managing it for to make their lives easier.

So yeah, activists have been fighting long and hard over this...but on the other side!
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
OK, you win by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #29 Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 03:39:32 PM EST
I surrender. Fractionation is not a problem for Native Americans. Clearly, fractionation and poor land quality are logically exclusive problems: if poor land quality is a problem, fractionation cannot be. By this irrefutable logic, I now see that it is in fact perfectly sensible for a 40 acre, $8,000 tract of land to have 439 owners.

Happy now?
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
"perfectly sensible" by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #30 Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 03:47:35 PM EST
The 439 owners appear to think so.  At least, they appear to think it's better than having their interest just discarded.

To me, this just seems yet another instance where people on the outside are coming in and telling the Indians how they should do things, usually in ways that involve screwing the Indians.

Sorry if I am a little vehement here, but my father set up the mental health program for the Pine Ridge reservation.  I lived there for a year and feel some personal interest in Indian affairs.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Logically exclusive? No. by lm (2.00 / 0) #31 Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 07:11:16 PM EST
But in order for fractionation to be a problem of any significance, the whole has to be worth something. If the whole isn't worth anything, then how much it gets divided is pretty meaningless. No matter how many times you divide zero, you still have zero.

So, what I think ucb is saying, is that it's a poor example of why fractionation is a problem. It's not like the land would be actually worth anything if it wasn't parceled out among hundreds of owners.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
exactly. by gzt (4.00 / 1) #23 Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 11:13:02 AM EST
$1000 of income on 40 acres. The 439 owners don't give a shit about that land because it's utterly worthless.

[ Parent ]
Interestig choice of subdivision example by Merekat (4.00 / 2) #15 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 03:39:10 PM EST
I've more normally heard it used in the context of pre-Famine Ireland as contrasted against British primogeniture.

[ Parent ]
He mentions that too by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #25 Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 02:22:49 PM EST
But he gives a lot more space to the Native American fractionation problem, maybe because it's closer to home for him. I'm surprised at how long it's dragged on: re-reading that chapter, it started in the 1880s and still hasn't been fixed.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Suits: Don't Worry. by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #3 Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 03:59:30 PM EST
Men's fashions don't change all that much, so a ten year old suit should be OK, especially if you're in tech.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

I have to say... by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #4 Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 04:03:10 PM EST
This is one reason I like the left coast.  No suits required.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Not many places on the right coast either ... by lm (4.00 / 2) #5 Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 08:08:22 PM EST
I wear a collared shirt and a tie every day. I stand out like a sore thumb.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Suits by kwsNI (4.00 / 1) #6 Sun Apr 24, 2011 at 10:13:42 PM EST
Dark color, preferably black or dark gray/charcoal - avoid blue or stripes - single or double breasted, 2 or 3 buttons, doesn't really matter.  Seriously, look at any formal picture from the 30s through today and the ties and the hairstyles change, but it's the same dark suits. 

I would suggest that getting it tailored instead of off the rack is actually much more important than the number of buttons.  When I see people in suits, I'm much more likely to notice when it bunches up, shows too much sock, looks like it's about to burst when you move wrong, etc.  Bad fitting suits look bad - well-cut suits look badass. 

I'd even go so far as to say if budget's a problem, I'd go for a cheaper suit and that is tailored than to get a more expensive suit. 

Why not blue? by Merekat (4.00 / 1) #20 Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 03:52:56 AM EST
IMO dark blue > black. Black makes you look like a member of the blues brothers, an undertaker or a cult member.

You can get one 'off the peg' but think more from the peg of a proper gentleman's outfitters than from M&S.

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by mellow teletubby (4.00 / 2) #22 Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 07:10:02 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by mellow teletubby



[ Parent ]
Amazing. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #8 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 07:14:53 AM EST
Every new thing I learn about Chinese culture annoys me more than the last. Oh, well. Those reference photos are faptacular, thanks. Also, I'll take a pic after work to illustrate what can happen to stubborn property-owning holdouts in America. I'm certain it will bemuse you.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

I CAN HAZ EMIMENT DOMANEZ? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #18 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 08:52:13 PM EST
NO! NOT YOURS!

Ballard Blocks

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
He talks quite a bit about eminent domain by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #27 Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 02:26:48 PM EST
He seems to regard it as a bit of a blunt instrument. Occasionally it works effectively, but sometimes it unfairly penalizes the current owners; other times it's not applied when it should be; other times when it's not applied it leads to illegal/unethical harassment of owners by developers.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by mellow teletubby (4.00 / 1) #9 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 11:52:51 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by mellow teletubby



Single breasted by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #12 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 02:38:53 PM EST
I have seen no evidence of the double breasted coming back in, just talk of it.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

Double-breasted suits by tuscoops (4.00 / 2) #13 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 02:47:54 PM EST
Will be back in style in about 3 years, give or take. Fashion is trending downward from the 2000's and we're currently in the 1970's. Double-breasted suits were popularized in the 1930's-50's, so it's only a matter of time. However, although they may have lasted a couple of decades as a trend, as a style they are rarely flattering, unless you are a larger-sized gentleman.


[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by mellow teletubby (4.00 / 1) #16 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 07:05:28 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by mellow teletubby



[ Parent ]
They'd look better by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #17 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 08:03:13 PM EST
on you if you hit the gym for more than the treadmill.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
It never ceases to amaze me how much of by ObviousTroll (4.00 / 1) #19 Mon Apr 25, 2011 at 08:53:09 PM EST
Pennsylvania architecture seems to have been deliberately copied from  London's.  When I saw that picture of the green house, my first thought was "wait, don't I ride past that place on some of my Saturday rides?"

I had no idea Ott had copied his greenhouse from Kew Gardens.


An Angry and Flatulent Pig, Trying to Tie Balloon Animals
Greenhouse by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #26 Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 02:24:13 PM EST
It's Palm House, which is moderately famous. Apparently it's constructed like an upside-down ship.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Suit? by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #21 Tue Apr 26, 2011 at 06:51:23 AM EST
None. It looks sillyb on IT people because it is rearelly worn nowadays (even in very old fashioned stablishments).

Suits by duxup (2.00 / 0) #32 Wed Apr 27, 2011 at 12:30:00 PM EST
I've never been a fan of double breasted, but provided it is basic any suit should do for just about anything.
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I gotta go with Merekat by tuscoops (2.00 / 0) #33 Wed Apr 27, 2011 at 01:49:35 PM EST
Blue suits can be worn to dinner parties, interviews, work, weddings, are are the most often worn when buried (it's so good you can "take it with you" and wins the prize for "most often appropriate").


[ Parent ]
Charcoal by duxup (2.00 / 0) #34 Wed Apr 27, 2011 at 01:59:56 PM EST
I'm more of a charcoal suit man myself.  
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[ Parent ]
Take me to the nuclear wessels | 34 comments (34 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback