10 English Jokes to Lighten Your Thursday

Friday’s almost here, folks! I can’t make it move any faster, but I can share 10 English jokes to lighten your Thursday. Some of these I found, and some I wrote. I’ll let you guess which are which!

Examples of Puns & Wordplay for English-lovers
(AKA English Jokes)

It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.

Q: Why do writers have trouble sticking with one degree program?
A: They’re trained to change subjects.

Q: What does a homophone psychiatrist say?
A: There, they’re, their.

The future, the present, and the past walked into a bar. Things got a little tense.

I am the Ghost of Christmas Future Perfect Subjunctive: I will show you what would have happened were you not to have changed your ways!

Santa’s elves are just a bunch of subordinate Clauses.

Q: What foot problem makes you fall asleep?
A: Comma toes.

Q: Why do older women have trouble writing declarative sentences?
A: They don’t have any periods!

Q: What punctuation most disturbs doctors?
A: The semicolon.
English Jokes Punctuation

 

Happy Thursday! I hope the groans were interspersed with chuckles. ūüôā

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Should Lyrics Be Universal or Specific?

should lyrics be universal lyrics specific lyricsHave you seen Moana? Several of my family members have, and we ended up discussing a contradiction we encountered with the music – the music is¬†catchy, but the lyrics aren’t or aren’t as catchy as the music. Mostly because they’re so specific to the story. But is that really a problem? When should lyrics be universal or specific?

The Pros & Cons of Story-specific Lyrics

Like many of my random,¬†babble-analysis, I’m gonna have to define a few things. Not because you don’t know what they are but because my definition might be different and cause mad confusion. Or because I’m anal retentive. Take your pick.

Specific Lyrics v. Universal Lyrics

When I talk about specific lyrics versus universal lyrics, I’m talking about how well the song stands up taken outside the story. For example, many of Stephen Sondheim’s songs can be taken entirely out of context and still be beautiful songs. In fact, many of them are more beautiful separated from the story because the story is rather dark, and without it, the songs have a new, less disturbing meanings.

Here are some lyrics from “Unworthy of Your Love.”

I am nothing.
You are wind and water and sky,
Jodie. Tell me, Jodie, how I
Can earn your love.

The melody is sweetly lyrical. Put the music and lyrics together, and you have a sweet, pretty love song. You hear it and know that Charles and Jodie are singing about their unrequited love for each other. Bittersweet but beautiful.

That is, until you realize that it’s about two people who tried to assassinate different presidents singing their separate loves to Jodie Foster and Charles Manson (It’s from Assassins.). Not so sweet and pretty in that context, is it?

In that song, the only two words that are specific to its context and story are “Jodie” and “Charlie.” The rest are metaphorical, figurative expressions of love and feelings of unworthiness, which is what makes the song work outside of that context.

On the other hand, Sondheim’s “The Worst Pies in London” can’t really be taken out of context. It tells that it’s about a pie maker in London who makes awful pies because of a meat shortage. That’s what I mean by story-specific lyrics.

Think of it as explicit versus implicit. Story-specific lyrics are explicit: the story is stated clearly in the song. Universal lyrics are implicit: the story is implied in the song through more big-idea words and imagery.

Why Pick Universal over Specific Lyrics?

Because you can sell it to more people. There. I said it.

Ok, ok. Greedy capitalism aside, universal lyrics do have the potential to appeal to more people simply because they make sense out of context with the story. If you’re trying to spread a message or simply share your art with as many people as possible, universal lyrics might be more your cup of tea.

Why Pick Specific over Universal Lyrics?

If your main goal is advancing the story, vague details may not cut it. Especially if the character is having a major epiphany or making an important decision in the song. You can try to portray that through universal lyrics, but if you can’t, are you going to sacrifice the strength of the story for a single song? I’m guessing not. (I hope not.)

Which Lyric Style Is Best?

Assuming that you’re using the song in a story, the best option (IMHO) is to do a nice mix. If you can make it a little stronger on the universal side without sacrificing any plot strength, then, that’s great.

Compare Moana‘s “How Far I’ll Go” to Frozen‘s “Let It Go.” “How Far I’ll Go” weaves from specific to universal and back again. Sections of it are very compelling and can be taken outside the story. Other sections don’t make a lot of sense outside of the story. And the universal ones tend to be catchier (so meter and rhyme might be involved, too).

“Let It Go,” on the other hand, uses lyrics that support the story but can also stand on their own out of context. To me, that makes its lyrics more impressive. Don’t get me wrong – “How Far I’ll Go” is a catchy song,¬†but the island-specific imagery and language aren’t as catchy as the melody. At least, that’s the best reasoning I can think of.

What do you think? Am I totally off-base? Should lyrics be universal? Or should they be specific? Does it matter at all?

People Don’t Listen: 7 Dialogue Tropes to Give Them Away

people don't listen dialogue tropes ear plugs

“la la la la I’m not listening!”

People don’t listen. You know it. I know it. We’ve probably even heard it but didn’t realize because we weren’t listening. And since we’re so familiar with people who don’t listen, using that idea in our stories adds a lot of realism. That makes these 7 dialogue tropes really handy for giving them away. So handy, in fact, that I’m sure you’ll recognize them from books, movies, etc.

7 Signs for When People Don’t Listen

These signs or tropes are really reflections of why the people aren’t listening. It’s a sign of their motivation and relationship with the person who’s talking. And how much they care about the¬†subject. Ergo, which one you use is all about characterization, setting, and plot.*

 1. The Clueless Question

A.K.A. “Sorry. What?” Best said with that vague, re-focusing air.

Stereotypical of husbands tuning out their wives, this technique is used when the person in question was unaware that someone was talking to them because they’re

  1. in a crowd when the question could’ve been directed to someone else,
  2. focused on something really intently (to the exclusion of other sounds and their surroundings), or
  3. really tired (it’s easy to tune out when you’re exhausted).

Granted, wives do the same thing. Husbands and teenagers just have a worse rap.

2. The Circular Credit

Used in every comedy ever, this trope occurs when a duo is plotting, especially if¬†a dominant character has already been established. The situation goes something like this –

Strong Character: What should we do? Hmmm… What about – no.
Weak Character: We could always try Plan A.
Strong Character: No, that would never work. … I know! We’ll try Plan A! Genius!
Weak Character:¬†[mutters] I’m so glad you thought of it.

Examples include everything from Once Upon a Mattress to Inside Out, etc.

3. The Talk-over Takeover

This one comes up when a person isn’t listening because he or she won’t stop talking. It could be from arrogance, nerves, or a garrulous nature.

Here are some situations where this might be familiar:

  • The talkative, nosy type who can’t resist “fixing” someone and telling someone¬†what to do or what he/she is going to do to help that person (you know – those favors you don’t want?). Aaand doesn’t stop talking long enough for that person¬†to really object. In fact, it’s the type who interrupts any objection and assumes what the poor “helped” soul¬†was going to say…
  • The arrogant, narcissistic type who interrupts because whatever you’re saying can’t possibly be as important as what he/she is saying, so stop wasting time blathering and let him/her talk. (Grrr.)
  • The nervous date or job interview who talks so much that everyone else eventually gives up on getting a word in.
  • The focused person so intent on telling a story or talking about a favorite topic that he/she doesn’t realize the surrounding conversation¬†has moved on (and left him/her behind – still talking).

So… great for annoying, enraging, or funny characters!

4. The Deceptive Dismissal

Here’s where a show of politeness mixes with a lack of caring.¬†People do this all the time when they want to appear that they care about what the person is saying but actually don’t. It’s a two-step process:

  1. Start with a sympathetic phrase. A.K.A. a platitude: “I know what you mean.” “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.” “How awful.” All said with a kind of tsk or a sigh.
  2. Segue into what you want to talk about. Generally, it’s something about you (“You” meaning whoever’s doing it. I know that¬†you would never do such a thing.).
  3. Pretend that what you’re talking about is related to what the other person says. People who do this might even believe it’s related – after all, they weren’t listening!

Don’t have characters you want the reader to like do this unless there’s some excuse. Like being distracted by something really important. And they’d better apologize when called out on it.

5. The Fuzzy Faker

This person actually does care about what the other person thinks. Maybe, not enough to actually pay attention (for this moment) but enough to try to hide that he/she wasn’t paying attention. Inevitably, however, vital details get crossed or overlooked and out the person’s lack of listening skills.

This dialogue trope is useful for

  • employees trying to impress/pacify a boss who’s especially boring and tends to monologue
  • spouses who want to avoid getting in trouble for not listening
  • students caught not paying attention in class

Sounds familiar, right?

6. The Redundant Reveal

To me, this one is an everyday kind of accidental slip that busy people make. You’re doing something, you’re moving fast, and you end up saying something before your brain catches up with what you heard. You know, when¬†the brain assumes someone is going to say one thing and responds before you realize, nope, that’s not it (like a variation of the talk-over takeover but on a smaller scale).

Here’s an example from one of my favorite websites,¬†Not Always Right.

(My mom is offering my little brother a snack, but she’s in the other room and he doesn’t quite hear her.)

Mom: Do you want any popcorn?
Brother: No, just popcorn.

How many times have you said, “You’re welcome,” when the other person said, “Have a nice day.” It’s that kind of brain glitch. Also known as autopilot.

7. The Taciturn Tune-out

So… back to conceit¬†(Conceit and not listening go well together, yeah?).

In this situation, one person is giving instructions, and the other person is ignoring every word. Usually, it’s a case of arrogantly assuming that he/she knows better and doesn’t need to listen. This person may not even bother to respond or says, “Yes,” “right,” and “uh-huh,” at appropriate intervals.

Unfortunately, this is extremely common with customers and business. Businesses will pay lots of money for consultants, It departments, trainers, etc. And do people listen? Sometimes. Sometimes, they just do their own thing, break stuff, and then blame someone else. (Read not always right if you don’t believe me.)

Even thinking about it is frustrating.

Of course, that’s the point. Frustrating, funny, enraging –¬†when people don’t listen, it causes an emotional response.¬†I’m sure you have stories you could share for all of these dialogue tropes.

So why don’t you? Change the characters and put them¬†in your stories. Believe me, your readers will empathize.

*Something about the word, ‚Äúergo,‚ÄĚ feels pretentious. But it fit the sentence. I‚Äôm so conflicted…

A Comedy of Thoughts (AKA In Lieu of an Article)

What is a comedy of thoughts? I don’t know. As far as I know, I just made it up. In this case, it’s like a comedy of manners but in your head. Sounds awful, right?

Responsibility: Weren’t we supposed to do a post today?

Panic: You mean, we didn’t do it? We-

Memory: Relax. We did one.

Responsibility: We did? I don’t see it?

Memory: We scheduled it.

Responsibility: Are you sure? When did we do it?

Memory: Last weekend, we did both posts – you remember.

Wit: No. You remember.

Memory: Right.

Responsibility: And you’re sure we did this week’s? Because I don’t see any listed.

Logic: If they’re not in the list of posts, we didn’t schedule them.

Memory: Doesn’t matter. We did them.

Logic: Then, they should be in the drafts.

Memory: This is a private conversation.

Responsibility: They’re not in drafts.

Logic: He must be remembering last week.

Memory: I am not!

Responsibility: We still have to do today’s post then.

Panic: But it’s already today! It’s afternoon! We can’t-

Creativity: -Oooh! More to¬†write? Can we do something crazy? Something out there! Or, I know, we could draw a picture – or paint one! Painting’s even-

Panic: -We don’t have time to paint! We don’t have time to do anything!

Logic: We could do it on our lunch break.

Wit: Could we? Are you sure?

Responsibility: Yes. That’s fine. We’ll do it on our lunch break.

Memory: We already did it.

Panic: But what will we write about? How can we even think of an idea that fast?

Creativity: Are you kidding? We have lists of ideas! Have you been-

Memory: We already did it!

Creativity: -listening?

Logic: If you two keep arguing, we will run out of time.

Panic: See? I told you we didn’t have enough time!

Wit: That helped.

Panic: We’ll never get it done!

Memory: We. Already. Did. It.

Responsibility: Guys, put it aside. We need to work on other things. Today’s article can wait until-

Memory: WE ALREADY DID IT!!! [Storms off.]

Logic: …he’s going to spend the whole afternoon nagging us that we already did it, isn’t he?

Wit: Nope. Absolutely not.

John Steinbeck Quote: Ideas Are Like Rabbits

john steinbeck quote ideas are like rabbits

Well, not the chocolate ideas. They have the opposite problem…

You know, this John Steinbeck quote is beautifully simple, straightforward, and true: “Ideas are like rabbits.” Even the¬†imagery¬†and¬†simile¬†of the beginning by itself imply¬†the meaning¬†since rabbits’ reproductive speed is a well-known cultural joke. When it’s expanded into an analogy,¬†it’s patently clear:

It’s easy to be overrun by ideas.

Simple, right? In fact, I think I already touched on that when I talked about making sure you have some way of recording ideas for later use. I even posted a similar quote of my own about ideas last Easter.

So why post this John Steinbeck quote?

Well, since you asked (*cough*), there are a couple of reasons.

  1. I like it. (And it’s my blog, so I’ll post what I want. Thbbbt!)
  2. I wanted to make a creepy bunny image for it. (I¬†ain’t right…)
  3. I’m moderately disturbed by it when considering some of Steinbeck’s books – 1 in particular.

Have you¬†ever read Of Mice and Men?¬†Doesn’t this John Steinbeck quote have weird overtones when considered in context with that book?

“Ideas are like rabbits…”

So we want to pet them and then accidentally kill them? They’re a pipe dream that will never be realized because we’re not capable of it?

I know, I know. I’m being too literal, and I’m overthinking it.

But, if you do really think about it, don’t those two questions add another aspect to the quote that are also true? I don’t know about you, but I’ve killed a few ideas in my time. I wasn’t¬†trying to hurt them… That didn’t change the end result. And as much as we like to think that we can always try an idea again, in my experience, there are limits to that.

Like burnout, not having the right skill set, not being able to let go of ideas within it, etc.

Then, there’s the second question. Are these ideas just pipe dreams that we’ll never be able to realize? Again, I have to say, “Yes.” At least some of them.

Think of it this way: I’m still pretty young, so I could (potentially) live another 50+ years. I have new ideas at a rate of about 3 to 30 a day. I realize about 1 a day. Maybe. Or less. Some days, I might be able to use more if they can be merged together into something. Or if I’m somehow amazingly productive.

But that’s roughly 36,500 to 529,250 ideas that I won’t be able to use in my lifetime. I guess I could will them to someone else, but if other writers and artists have this same problem, then all I’m doing is adding to the number of ideas that they won’t be able to use.

And, really, who’s going to use my idea when they could use their own? Maybe, people who aren’t good at coming up with ideas; however, in that case, would I even want them to? Would they be able to explore the idea to its full potential?

So this quote went from a straightforward, kinda funny, and definitely true view about how ideas multiply to a macabre, dark, depressing, and possibly true view of how ideas multiply too much.

This might be one of those ideas I killed…

Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Or are you going to bury this knowledge deep in your psyche as soon as you finish reading so that you don’t have to look at it again?

*Do I have an artsy prejudice against the writing skills of non-idea-generating people? Hmmmm… That’s worrisome.

Save the Words! Make Your Own Idioms!

save the words make your own idioms to fossilize them

I tried to find a Word fossil, but¬†they were too¬†floppy…

Join the latest conservationist movement: Save the Words! It’s too late for the letter Ethel. It doesn’t have to be too late for literally and nauseous. And you can help these poor words with one simple action – and it’s free. All you have to do is make your own idioms!

That and 212 easy payments of $0.99, and you can adopt a word!

Ooops! Sorry – I mixed my emotional appeals. What I meant to say was that, if you make an idiom for a word and help that saying become popularized, then you could be saving a word. Because of you, that word could be safe from the evil evolution of language (*Grammarians everywhere hiss*).

As hard as it is to believe, I’m actually serious. -_-

According to the latest Mental_Floss article that’s floating around Facebook (which I, of course, believe implicitly without doing further research) suggests that at least 10 archaic words were saved using precisely this method: “10 Old Words That Survived by Getting Fossilized in Idioms.”

I know. Now, you’re asking yourself, “Why didn’t I know about this sooner? How do I make idioms that will be popular enough to save important words?” Just remember: we’re here to help. Or, as I like to say, “get 4 succors a day.”

It’ll catch on any minute. Just watch.

As a serious writer, of course, I know nothing about appealing to the common man or pop culture (whichever comes first), so I’ve compiled some resources for you starting with the most obvious and reliable source:

  1. Wikihow: “Make a Meme
  2. Digital Trendes: “How to Make Your Own Meme
  3. Memegenerator

Now, you, too, can write idioms and popularize them with pictures of cats, awkward moments, or historic-looking drawings on colored rectangles. More importantly, you can save the words. The power is yours – don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Remember: A flipped bird on each hand, is worth some booboos that will hurt.*

*No one said you had to save real words!

For Authors with Books in Kindle and Print: Check out the Storyteller UK Competition

Unfortunately, I’m not ready to take advantage of this opportunity. I am, however, prepared to share it so that you can. You’re welcome.

Sorry. Just kidding – I can’t say that seriously in those circumstances without feeling like the R-rated word for¬†jerk.

Shizzle, Inc is now back to $2.99USD, and it’s the Storyteller UK competition to blame. That, and partly the negative reviews that come from readers grabbing a freebie without even reading the blurb. Oh, and the fact that in June I’m going to pitch it to a dozen publishers and a $2.99 book may look […]

via Storyteller UK competition and why Shizzle, Inc is no longer free ‚ÄĒ Ana Spoke, author

A Writing Activity for Music and Poetry

This exercise is great for demonstrating how so much of a song’s power and meaning¬†come from how the music and lyrics¬†work together (I may refer to lyrics as poetry and vice versa). Technically, it’s only a writing activity for music and poetry if you do both parts; however, even the first part alone is worth the doing. Both because of how well it demonstrates the point and because the results can be pretty funny.

The Power of Music and Poetry Combined

The Demonstration

Like any class, this starts out with a demonstration. This particular demonstration can then be used to inspire writing. Here’s how it works.

  1. Pick two songs with very different moods. Preferably songs that you know by heart (lyric and melody). They can have similar topics or not.
  2. Sing¬†the first song’s lyrics to the melody of the second song. You don’t have to do the whole song, but try to make it through a verse and/or chorus at least.
  3. Reverse it. Use the first song’s melody with the second song’s lyrics.
  4. Evaluate the result. If you can stop laughing or shuddering with horror (depending).

It’s not easy to do, is it? When you know a song well, you don’t know the lyrics and melody separately – they go together. The way they fit together is what makes it that song.

Changing the melody or lyrics of the songs can change their moods and meanings completely. Even when the words are exactly the same, so much of what influences their meaning changes. Such as

  • Which words are emphasized (by holding them longer, larger intervals, etc.)
  • The emotion behind the words (Or the one implied by the music anyway – look up the lyrics for “You Are My Sunshine” if you want an example of words and music that don’t really match.)
  • Pauses (You would not believe how much the length and placement of pauses¬†influences meaning!)

Those are really important in songs and in poetry.

A Writing Activity

This writing activity is a little like the poetry writing prompt for free verse Рit involves writing the same meaning multiple times before arriving at the final wording. You can be writing a poem or song lyrics (honestly, the only real difference is the intent of the writer).

  1. Choose a topic.
  2. Brainstorm the characteristics of that subject that you want to emphasize. In other words, make a list.
  3. Pick a mood to try first.
  4. Write the poem for that mood. Word choice, meter, rhyme, and imagery are some of your best tools for influencing the mood of the poem.
  5. Set that poem aside.
  6. Pick a different mood. The bigger the difference, the better.
  7. Write a new poem for that mood. Use the same topic and characteristics you used for the other poem, but change the word choice, meter, rhyme scheme, etc. to change the mood.
  8. Compare the two.

That’s it. It’s great practice for learning techniques to create different moods with your poetry and especially for making sure that¬†the mood¬†enhances the meaning. For instance, that you didn’t get caught up in a meter that doesn’t fit what you were trying to write (easy to do). Or started rhyming too much or too little. Maybe you need to defy that rhyme or take away alliteration instead of adding it.

It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

If you don’t feel like you mastered it immediately (who masters anything immediately?), do it again. And again. And again.

How many times will it take? I don’t know – you tell me.

Ending the Either Or Problem with a Third Choice

ending the either or mentality with a third option

Think I’m taking a path? Well, think again.

The either or mentality is a bit like a famous Robert Brown poem – you have two clear options, and you pick one (well-traveled or not). Which means that ending the either or problem with a third choice has a couple inherent problems. Namely, it can be difficult to do while keeping two clearly defined options. After all, if there are 3 options, it’s not really either or, is it?

Building, Then Defying the Either Or Mentality

I talked about how to create an either or mentality a while ago, and one of the rules was that the character can really only see 2 options or all the other options have to be taken away somehow.

So how do you provide a third option if there are only 2? Or if the others are already gone?

Outside Intervention

One of the most common solutions to this situation is outside intervention. A character who has not been with the main character during this dilemma shows up and provides a way out by

  • removing a barrier to one of the previously blocked options
  • bringing a tool, spell, etc. that changes the original evaluation of the situation (like bringing someone a spell component they didn’t have or tossing a jailed warrior his/her weapon)
  • joining forces unexpectedly to turn the tide (yes, I’m being deliberately cliched and vague)

Of course, there are rules for this. At least, there are rules if you don’t want the intervention¬†to be horribly jarring and unbelievable. *cough* deus ex machina *cough*

  1. The intervening character needs to have been introduced already. Either the character needs to have been present in a previous scene or have been talked about. This can be the type of character instead of a specific character (a Jedi, for example). You need to have at least hinted to the reader that this is person or group exists.
  2. The main character cannot know until it happens. Whoever’s perspective the story is told from can’t know ahead of time, or the reader should’ve known ahead of time. See the problem?
  3. If any of the main characters did know, their previous behavior should hint that they knew something they weren’t saying. There also needs to be a strong reason for not saying anything – like having the enemy eavesdrop.
  4. Ideally, the sudden intervention shouldn’t make the situation super easy. Readers like a sense of urgency and effort. If everything goes too easily for the main character suddenly, it feels like a copout even if the outside forced was previously hinted at. (Plot against your characters, not with them!)

This technique can be used in smaller conflicts (not just the climax). In fact, it’s probably better in small conflicts or as a mere fraction¬†of the climax (IMHO) because you want the main character to be at least partially responsible for the climax (isn’t that the point?).

Sudden Epiphany or Reveal

This is another¬†common solution. In essence, the main character suddenly puts together information in a new way to reveal an option that he or she hadn’t considered before. Or forgot or didn’t think of in that context.

The usual causes for this are

  • The uncovered¬†detail: This one centers on a¬†physical aspect of the situation that was overlooked before (seeing a rope tied to a chandelier, noticing that the villain is standing in water, noticing how a switch or lever works, etc.). Usually, someone or something moves, and the main character sees something he or she couldn’t see before.
  • The villain’s monologue: You know what I mean. The villain¬†starts talking about the plan and accidentally reveals something that helps the hero. Or the monologue inspires a stupid henchman (or henchwoman?) to blurt out the one thing the hero wasn’t supposed to know.
  • A stray comment:¬†Somebody who doesn’t have a clue how to fix the situation or doesn’t even know the whole situation says something in passing that inspires the main character to figure out the answer.

If you put your mind to it, you’ll find that it’s really easy to think of examples of this one.

Secret Skills

As a plot twist (and solution to the either-or problem), this works best when the character with the secret skill is a side character – not the perspective the story is told from. If it’s the main character, there had better be a narrator, or it had better be established as an unreliable narrator or liar. Otherwise, you have the same problem as¬†using the first option that way: broken promises.

You see this most in three cases:

  1. When the character is new (you don’t know much about his or her abilities yet)
  2. When you have a spy character who was working for the other side but decides to rescue the heroes (often for reasons of his or her own)
  3. When someone is hiding a skill for some other reason (avoiding racial prejudice, wanting to be left alone in retirement, a scarring experience, etc.)
The Art of the Unexpected

Other methods rely on the character’s ability to think outside the box. If that isn’t already part of the characterization as being a character trait or something that the character is trying to learn, this tactic will totally break whatever characterization you’ve built for him/her (so don’t use it under those circumstance, right?).

The great thing about this method is that it often surprises the readers, as well Рwithout breaking promises because they expect that character to surprise them. The downside is that writing a character who constantly thinks outside of the box can be a wee bit challenging (to say the least).

So it’s still following the rules for the first option. Actually, all of these options¬†should more-or-less follow those rules (always follow the heart of those rules). So I probably should’ve put them somewhere else. Oh, well. Too late now. *cough*

I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve rambled on about this long enough. Anything you’d like to add?