"...a great way forward?"

This off topic area is a place where, while you are visiting the Crispin Colloquy, you can talk about beer, whiskey, kilts, the latest WWII re-enactment, BBQ, grandsons, shoes in the media, and even the odd meandering essay on "why we make shoes."
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"...a great way forward?"

#1 Post by salsa » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:04 am

With an apology in advance and not meaning to offend anyone am I the only one who is bothered by the recent tendancy to present makeshift as good technique? Ihave been here since the beginning and am not sure it is appropriate in view of the motto and purpose of the forum.

"When does shoemaking become cobbling?" Maybe better to ask when does shoe making become a summer camp activity.

Again apologies but when a something is difficult it becomes a skill. Mastering skills is what this is all about isn't it?

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#2 Post by gshoes » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:16 am

Richard,

I think that you make a very good point. I am not offended at all, but as my son has taught me, sometimes we fake it until we can make it.

Geri

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#3 Post by salsa » Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:43 am

"sometimes we fake it until we can make it."

That's OK. I agree. Horses for courses. but what bothers me is that faking is faking and not something we should hold up as worth copying. The forum has always been a source of the real when it comes to shoemaking. Or it has for me at least. The motto of the Guild says something about "protecting"

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#4 Post by romango » Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:14 am

The 3 prong punch allows use of one prong for registration in a previous hole while punching 2 more.

AFAIK it results in just as good a job as the machine can do, except it takes 4 hours. Image

Having said that, I'd love to have a straight needle stitcher and will probably get one, at some point.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#5 Post by johnl » Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:25 am

One of my faults, as well as maybe one of my better points is looking at how things are done, and if I think there is a better way, then to try it. I just might be better for me and not you, but as long as the end result or product is as good or better then my doing it the traditional way, I fail to see the harm. First learn the traditional way then if needed, modify to suit you. In the end, one has to do things in such a manner that fit and suit them. The person that taught me would never consider using a straight needle sticher for the side seam. It must be hand stiched. In many things, as I become more experienced I tend to revert to the more traditionl methods. Until I reach that level, I have to do what gives me the best results

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#6 Post by salsa » Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:26 am

Rick,

I don't know exactly what your using but if it is a tube punch the chances are pretty good that the holes will be bigger than the thread your using even if your using heavy thread. If the punch is a slit punch the chances are good that the slit will also be larger than the thread can fill. I'd also like to know what kind of stitch is being used to sew up the side seam. Are folks using a hooked awl? or two needles. I just don't see any pluses. Time is terrible. Stitch tightness and durability depending on hole sise and stitch type may be poor. Horses for courses of course.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#7 Post by dw » Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:51 am

John,

I've always said that "once you sweep up the scraps, if the results are the same--indistinguishable to the naked eye, and functionally identical--then it makes no difference how you got there"...it's just a tool, after all. Of course, the results are the detail that is critical.

I myself use a straight needle stitcher. Partly because that's what I was trained on by a maker who I respected...who was, in every way, a professional. And partly because it saves me about three hours.

All that said, the way this conversation has turned, strikes some nerves for me. Richard has some good points.

The Crispin Colloquy is not a chat room. It was not envisioned as one nor was it sanctioned by the Guild as one. Anymore than the Guild itself was conceived and founded as a commercial or promotional organization.

The motto of the Guild...and it applies to the Forum as well...is to "preserve and protect". We could choose/have chosen a lot of more efficient software to run the forum if we didn't have those goals in mind. The goal is to archive and preserve and share for future generations so that these techniques don't get lost...as so many already have.

In the absence of a "Beginner's Corner" some methods may be worth sharing and some might be better consigned to the "Curiousities" thread." They are not exemplary nor, in my opinion, worth preserving. Even if they are worth doing on an individual basis.

Preservation is a big job. And on some level even an expensive job. But I trust everyone who posts here believes it is a job worth doing. That said, I suspect that sometimes what's truly worth preserving gets lost in the static.

The bandwidth and the energy required to preserve curiousities detracts from that which is available to preserve the necessities.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#8 Post by romango » Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:53 am

I am using particularly small thonging chisels. Shown is the single version. Thread is held quite tightly.
15160.jpg


I use a double needle hand stitch, same as for inseaming. Not sure what it is called.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#9 Post by romango » Tue Feb 05, 2013 12:10 pm

DW,

Your points on preservation are quite valid. This forum, however, is necessarily limited in its ability to perform that function. It really is more like a chat room.

It would require some very heavy-handed moderation to keep it on that task.

It would be nice to have some index into the vast number of posts here that were given some emphasis as being established methods. Unfortunately, that would be a very big job too.

I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade. We just need to be realistic about what can be done here.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#10 Post by dw » Tue Feb 05, 2013 12:34 pm

Rick,

Of course you are correct. I would not even suggest that posts that fit into this category be moderated or deleted.

But it's worth noting that very few members come to this forum after having read either the rules for posting or the basic philosophy that underpins the Guild and the Forum.

And yes, there are aspects of a chat room in many postings but it is incumbent upon moderators and members alike to treat the material and the forum itself with respect. "We have met the enemy and he is us."

I have made it a longstanding policy to, as gently and as courteously as I am capable of, remind members of what we are about here. What we set out to do, what we are doing.

Someone once told me when I worried about the proliferation of copy-cat forums early on in the history of the Crispin Colloquy, that the CC would always be the "voice of authority."

That won't be true long if we allow ourselves...indeed, congratulate ourselves...to descend into triviality.

There's a place for everything--chat, parody, hobby-horsing. The Guild was founded with, and for, serious purpose. The Forum reflects the Guild in that respect.

I don't want to encourage anyone...new members or old...to forget that or to think otherwise.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#11 Post by johnl » Tue Feb 05, 2013 12:36 pm

DW,
Every word you say here is true. I hope that one day my skill level will reach the point that I am able to employ all the traditional methods as they are ment to be deployed. Meanwhile, there are areas that I have to "cheat" in to produce an acceptable result. I do understand and agree with what you are saying.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#12 Post by dw » Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:48 pm

Sorry to flog a dead horse here folks...if that's indeed what some see me as doing...but as administrator of the Crispin Colloquy, as moderator-in-chief, and as a member of this forum (currently wearing all three hats) I think I need to clarify my thinking on this matter, for everyone's sake:

The issue here is not whether posts such as we are now discussing will be allowed or even welcomed. They have never been moderated nor deleted in the past and, as you can see, they are still very much in place in this thread.

The question is whether methods detailed in these posts are worthy of being held up as exemplars of our Trade, or even defended when called into question for inefficiency or inappropriateness, quality, Tradition, and so forth.

For myself, taking off two of my hats for a moment, there is objective reason to suspect that they represent something that this Forum and this Guild does not, as I understand it, wish to project--the desirability of expediency.

It is anathema to the very idea of Craftsmanship to assert that using a wrench to drive a nail is somehow acceptable except in the most extreme of circumstances.

We all understand the necessities of short finances. We all understand that "needs must." That sometimes techniques are just too difficult to impel us to exert ourselves sufficiently to master them. We all understand that sometimes we must "fake it to make it." That sometimes expediency is all that will keep us working.

And we all understand that everyone wants to get to heaven in slippers.

But these are not the standards that have informed either our Guild or our Forum since their inception...nor our Trade of the last several hundred years.

And we cannot allow them to become defacto standards out of a misplaced sense of laisser aller...of being anything-goes-nice-guys.

There is no crack-down or "heavy handed moderating" about to be instituted. The purpose of this post is to urge members to think seriously about what we have here...in the Guild and in the Forum--how unique and potentially important it is...and what we will pass on to those who come after us. Remember "preserve and protect"?

Finally, putting back on all hats...I have historically stated my views on this subject over and over again. It is part and parcel of the vision...and guiding principles...that created the Crispin Colloquy in the first place. That point of view has not changed in well over a decade and will probably never change as long as I am at the helm. Periodically something is said or a trend noticed that compels me to reiterate these principles. That too has not changed and probably will not. Sorry to disappoint.

So...there you have it--a peek into the shadows and motives, ulterior or otherwise. Hopefully, understanding (even forgiveness, if necessary)...if not agreement...will be the result.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#13 Post by farmerfalconer » Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:17 pm

Mr. Frommer,
I certainly agree but Im a little confused about the traditionality (is that a word?) aspect of it. Isnt using a drill press to punch holes and then stitching by hand more "traditional and authentic" since it is partly done by hand then using a machine completely? Using a drill press is "making do" without a straight needle stitcher but so is using an awl. Yet the awl is traditional.
And if one were to really get traditional one could round close everything using handspun linen thread waxed on to hog bristles. If this were 1930 (Im guessing at the date) then the people using straight needle stitchers would be told they were making do and the only real way to do it was with an awl, 2 needles, and a clam.

Personally I do most everything by hand the old way because an awl, thread, and needles is as cheap as it gets and I need to save money.

Anyhow,I realize Im knew here and I mean all this with the utmost respect.

Just my two cents.

Respectfully,
Cody

(Message edited by farmerfalconer on February 05, 2013)

(Message edited by farmerfalconer on February 05, 2013)

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#14 Post by tommick » Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:17 pm

I'll only add my 2 cents because I've been feeling much the same as D.W. for the last couple weeks (but in the interest of full disclosure, I'm one of D.W.'s past students and that may affect my opinion). I certainly don't want to limit discussion but if we have endless discussions about derivative/possible methods just to figure out how to use non-standard tools to do some particular task then we probably aren't really advancing the art.

I actually don't read the posts about how to use curved needle stitchers or straight needle stitchers because it doesn't guide me along the path regarding the art.

I certainly think that it's fair to ask the question on the forum of "how do you use a steak knife to cut insoles" but maybe that could then follow with "email me @ ...".

This is only one lurker's opinion.

Regards, Tom

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#15 Post by das » Wed Feb 06, 2013 5:34 am

Been following this thread with a mixture of amusement and consternation. I'll add my two cents for what it may be worth.

1) Since the HCC cannot vet everything folks post here, for "historical" or traditional accuracy, the HCC cannot be construed to endorse anything that gets posted. The creds of the person(s) posting, and whatever evidence they provide, or are challenged to provide, as to the historicity or traditional nature of what they're offering. But, that said, we cannot "police", nor is it really in the spirit of the free exchange of techniques, to "police" novel things as long as they are not being touted as historical/traditional.

2) I winced at "chat room" too, but unless we recruit a platoon (goon squad?) of expert moderator "bouncers", or start yanking posts...? I think as long as we, as DW has here, challenge folks in a collegial manner, or even debate, the winner in the forum of ideas will be the winner. If you don't like Jerry-rigged make-shift "cheater" techniques, challenge them, debate the pros and cons.

3) Now, all this thonging chisel/drill press "stitching" [sic]--Prior to the chain-stitch MacKay (round needle) sewer's adoption for side-seaming boots (1860s+), side-seamed boots were stitched by hand (round stabbing awl). My mentor tried making his first pair of Wellingtons using a diamond harness awl for side-seam stitching, before he knew better, and despite the fact the leather was hand-curried UK waxed-calf (John T. Scott & Sons, Carlisle, the best of the best), the non-round angular cuts the awl made all tore through in wear at the ankles after a few years--lesson learned the hard way, and beautiful leather spoilt in the process. My main objection to using thonging chisels, or saddlers' stitch marking chisels, is the fact they CUT a slit, which is inherently weaker and more apt to tear than a series of PIERCED holes made by a round section awl. Even 19thc "clamming markers" (see Salaman?) made for bootmakers to mark out (not pierce) long straight rows of stabbing, the teeth were round section. Anything but a round hole is asking for troubles.

4) "Fake It Until You Make It?"--tale told out of school: one very prominent UK riding boot maker, used to cement his outsoles to the welts all round, beat the welts, then ran the sole through a curved needle stitcher (sans thread!) just to pre-pierce all the holes. He had high school kids come in after school and "hand-stitch" the soles so he could advertise "hand-stitching". There's nothing new under the sun Image

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#16 Post by salsa » Wed Feb 06, 2013 6:36 am

Some highlights of the past couple days:

"The issue here is not whether posts such as we are now discussing will be allowed or even welcomed. They have never been moderated nor deleted in the past and, as you can see, they are still very much in place in this thread."

"There is no crack-down or "heavy handed moderating" about to be instituted."

"The purpose of this post is to urge members to think seriously about what we have here...in the Guild and in the Forum--how unique and potentially important it is...and what we will pass on to those who come after us. Remember "preserve and protect"?"

***"It is incumbent upon moderators and members alike to treat the material and the forum itself with respect."***

"That won't be true long if we allow ourselves...indeed, congratulate ourselves...to descend into triviality."

Read again. It's not too much, it doesn't take too much time. It's important.

What will we pass on to the future? How to jury rig a drill press so we don't have to learn the skills? Because its too difficult?

***"everyone wants to get to heaven in slippers."***
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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#17 Post by dlskidmore » Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:01 am

I am mostly a lurker because I am in no way qualified to comment on the traditional aspects. I occasionally comment on supply chain

"preserve and promote the traditional practise of the trade"

I think to some extent though, encouraging craftspeople who come half way is the beginning of drawing them into the full art. Very few people with a mild interest in the trade like myself are going to have the opportunity to become an apprentice to a master and learn all the techniques in the proper order while he does the remaining parts of the shoe for the customer. We're going to end up doing some gluing where we should stitch, we're going to end up using the wrong materials, and the wrong tools. But if we can receive some coaching on the way, we are still here listening to the masters discuss the full process and the right way to do it.

I do totally respect though that you must monitor your signal to noise ratio, even if it's just calling attention to the fact that the current chatter is noise.

I would love to hear someone compare and contrast the techniques in more detail rather than just get defensive about traditional technique and shut down the conversation. Why is using a hand awl better than using a sewing machine or awl chucked in a drill press? In my Al Stohlman book, he recommends the hand awl, and is against punching more than one hole at a time, as the leather closes up around the hole afterwards, making it hard to find with the needle. Punch-stitch-punch-stitch allows the needle to slide through before the hole closes. Do the other methods require larger holes to prevent this from happening? Different shaped holes? Does that cause any difference in the strength of the seam?

What is the proper technique for using a hand awl to punch the holes straight? I tried a stitching pony, but the model I got had the clamp too close to the jaw, and there just wasn't enough room to fit a shoe upper in there. I think it was intended for stitching wallets. I'm not sure I'm invested enough in the craft to get a larger stitching pony.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#18 Post by dlskidmore » Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:08 am

"the non-round angular cuts the awl made all tore through in wear at the ankles after a few years"

Oh. Very interesting. I learned stitching from Al Stohlman's books, and he liked the diamond awl. Is that because of different applications, or is there a difficulty/durability trade-off with the round awl? Playing with my awl set I did find the diamond awl to be the easiest to use and sharpen.

chuck_deats

Re: "...a great way forward?"

#19 Post by chuck_deats » Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:50 am

Some good came from this discussion. A round awl is better than a small diamond awl for side seaming, although have not had a problem. Plus, it is easier to chuck in the drill press.
Chuck

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#20 Post by das » Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:03 am

Al Stohlman was not a shoe and bootmaker teaching the sewing techniques peculiar to our trade. And needles? Shoe and bootmakers use bristles Image

Don't know off the top of my head how to suggest an easy test to demonstrate round holes being stronger than diamond cuts, or slits, except, try pulling your stitches tight and see if the thread cuts right through the leather easier with one than the other.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#21 Post by dw » Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:38 am

Speaking simply as a member of the Guild and the Forum...(although many might wish I didn't)....

Another tale out of school...some years ago I was talking to a highly respected member of the Guild and he said something that has stuck with me. IIRC, it was something on the order of "teaching people to make shoes is like feeding baby birds--they always have their mouth open and they always expect you to shove a worm in it."

I thought it was a harsh assessment at the time, if only because I have, generally speaking, always enjoyed teaching.

But the years have taught me a few things...among which is the truth of "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink" (or Dorothy Parker's variation). No matter how many times Traditional or appropriate techniques are detailed on this forum there will always be people who feel that they are too difficult or too time consuming and will insist on doing it some other way. Sometimes that's good. Sometimes it leads to innovation. Mostly it's just indifference.

More than that, there are (or were) many members who are capable of detailing traditional techniques if a "seeker" simply asks. It does no good to be a lurker. And from my POV, it again, smacks of indifference. Lack of real energizing interest. But if these questions are never asked or the answers ignored those people fade away or stop contributing. Regardless of collegiality. There are a lot of bona fide experts in many fields on this forum who no longer follow it. The chat room aspect has driven them off. I've heard that directly from them.

The chat room aspect is making me restive, as well. At times, I worry that we're ripe for a hostile take over by Martha Stewart Inc. Image

But the point is that the information...the "voice of authority" is here...you just have to either dig for it or ask for it. Any student, every student, must be proactive. If the drive to learn, to master, to accomplish, is not in you, it cannot be injected. No one can provide anyone else the energy to become a shoemaker. Or to master a skill. It is even, on one level, disrespectful to expect that. That's one of the other things the years have taught me. All of this must be worked for. All of it must be paid for. And the student must "own" not only his status as a student, and all that implies, but the choices he makes with regard to what he takes away.

And in the end, it is part and parcel of what makes it worth preserving. The road to heaven is not carpeted, slippers are not appropriate.

Richard asks "what will we leave to the future?" It's a good question because the very indifference and insouciance that we see with regard to "difficult" techniques is precisely the reason so much of what our Trade once knew is now lost. Will we pass on 'drill press stitching' (when there is no logical, rational reason for it)? Is that to be our legacy? Will the knowledge and the Trade devolve even further while it is in our hands?

Parenthetically, the issues that were raised at the AGM this past October, fall into the same category. The founders of the Guild don't want it to become an adjunct of the Chamber of Commerce. Those newer members who were paying attention seem to agree. Sometimes accepting a single unifying vision is far more satisfying and powerful than wanting the Guild to be all things to all people. It can't be.

The founder(s) of the Crispin Colloquy don't want to see it devolve into a chat room. There may, by necessity, be aspects of chat in some postings but whether the forum becomes a de facto chat room or not obviously needs to be addressed if only because some people seem to be comfortable with that model...just as some people seem more comfortable with a more commercially oriented Guild.

I myself am not comfortable with either the chat room model or the Chamber of Commerce model. I tend to lose interest in the face of indifference.

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#22 Post by salsa » Wed Feb 06, 2013 9:33 am

What is this discussion about if not a call for mastery, for seriousness, for professionalism? Advice is given to newbies by people who haven't even mastered the fundamental skills associated with shoemaking or leatherwork. Anybody besides me see something wrong with that?

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#23 Post by dw » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:01 am

This is in response to a PM I received...

I said "it does no good to be a lurker" I didn't say lurkers were bad people or unwelcome. But it's a poor way to learn simply because you're always waiting on someone else to take the initiative.

Yes, it can be intimidating putting yourself and your ego on the line and openly admitting how little you know. It can be intimidating trying to follow, much less join, a discussion among so called experts.

But several points are worth remembering: One, that we are all born ignorant (note that I didn't say "stupid" because stupidity is a choice...largely a choice to remain ignorant) and that we all had to learn to walk before we could run.

Two, that the so called experts have made themselves available on this forum for the express purpose of helping those who want to learn--those who will not be denied. And that it takes time and energy...usually more time and energy than the questioner brings to the discussion...to answer and make themselves available. It's a gift no matter how you look at it or access it. And one of the wonderful things about that is that it comes from not only a real generosity but that it also stems from a real and sometimes painful remembrance of how difficult it was for the "experts" to learn. When you think about it...that's actually the raison d'etre for the Forum and the Guild. And another reason not to trivialize it.

And, even though it is a gift every one of us had to earn it.

Tight Stitches
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(Message edited by dw on February 06, 2013)

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#24 Post by gshoes » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:07 am

Richard,

I am a newbie and I shouldn't comment but I will. The mastery is here. The professionalism is here. The newbies, we are here too. We all want to learn and some of us have comments too. And quite often our novice approaches or attempts to cheat and reinvent are great opportunities for the masters to step in and point out our errors. Sometimes we learn by our own mistakes.

But this is 2013 and back in the old days we never would have been able to learn this way. We would have had to leave our families and dedicated years of service to master these skills.

The traditional ways are not lost in this format. They are actually kept alive and made possible for more to learn.

We are not writing a text book manual. Some of this is what would actually go on verbally if you were in a traditional teaching situation. That is how some great ideas happen.

Thats just my 2 cents.

Geri

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Re: "...a great way forward?"

#25 Post by romango » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:10 am

I think my point is being missed. My argument is not about what we *should* do, it's a comment on the nature of the medium.

All comers are welcome here as long as they keep their discourse civil. This *will* create a lot of material that is superfluous to the stated mission. INHO, no amount of reminding the members will change that.

There is much gold to be found here. It is difficult to find, but it is possible. The Catch 22 is that the neophyte can't distinguish between the gold and iron pyrite.

We can have this discussion and send out reminders and do whatever but it will not change the nature of the medium. If I were going to try to solve this, I would add an authoritative, vetted medium on top or along side. Perhaps something like this person started: http://wiki.solesensations.com.au/index.php?title=Main_Page Which has gone nowhere fast, because the job is so daunting.

Or a section within the forum, that is put together only by senior makers, that organizes and points to the posts that best support the charter of the group.

We can complain about it or do something about it. And I am not suggesting that we *have to* do something about it. But complaining about the weather won't change it either.

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