The Airplane

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Lessons in Patience

This getting back into flying thing has been, and continues to be, an exercise in frustration. First there was finding a flight school. Then it was waiting for them to respond to my inquiry. Then it was waiting for the instructor to whom I was assigned to contact me. Then it was waiting for a day when he and the airplane were both available and the weather favorable.  Then repeat that last part a couple times, as it took more than one flight to knock off even the worst of the rust that had accumulated on my skills.

Then there is the medical side of things. The first few docs that I called were booked out two months or more, or simply never called back when I left messages requesting an appointment. Then I finally got to see a doc and he told me that my keratoconus and my sleep apnea both require a Special Issuance which requires additional information from the treating doctors and a review of said information by government doctors. I went about collecting this information while waiting for the government to send me the letter informing me officially that I have to submit this information. My regular eye doctor’s staff misunderstood me when I dropped off the form which delayed its completion by two weeks. The eye doc who did my procedure requires ten business days to produce copies of a medical record.

My sleep doc, whom I haven’t seen since 2018 because the CPAP therapy has been working and I saw no need for semiannual visits to confirm this fact, insists on treating me as a new patient. And he’s not in my current insurance network. But at least his staff was quick with a copy of my records after I paid the $35 fee. The other sleep doc in town who is in network requires a referral from my primary care doc. My doc wanted an office visit before he’d give the referral, despite my having been in for a physical last year. Eventually I got in to see him and got the referral. Then the new sleep doc told me that the first available appointment was a month out. Maybe by the time it rolls around I’ll have the FAA letter and will be able to immediately submit the required documentation. But I predict that new sleep doc will want a second office visit and/or two weeks to fill out the required form. At least I shouldn’t have to do another sleep study. It’s been less than five years, and that’s new sleep doctor’s cutoff.

Then back to actual flying. When instructor learned of my medical special issuance delay, he refused to complete my flight review. I told that story in an earlier post. Then there was a search for another flight school or freelance instructor. I eventually found one, and got lucky in the process in that said instructor also owns the same make and model airplane that I was at that time trying to buy. He had no issues flying with me and signing off my flight review, but there was the delay in finding him and then scheduling him and the airplane. 

That brings us to the airplane itself. I found the one I wanted and went to look at it quickly enough. I’d already made contact with a mechanic, so I assumed that the pre-buy inspection would happen quickly should I like the plane. Well, not so much. It took several days to get the plane to him and another two weeks for him to tear into it and give me a report. I sealed the deal with the seller and told the mechanic to proceed with the repairs identified during the inspection. Due to parts availability, it’s been two more weeks and it still isn’t done.

While waiting for the work to get done, I set about to find a ferry pilot to fly it home for me since I’m not legal to fly it myself until the medical stuff is sorted out. I’ve had lines on three possible pilots, and two seemed promising. Until both simply dropped off the face of the planet mid-discussion. If the plane is ever done, I’ll try to reach out to both again and hope that one or the other can do it. Unless it takes long enough that I have my medical by then and can fly it home myself.

I keep wondering if this journey will ever end.

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More

Chicken feed went up another eleven percent in the last eight weeks. I bought five bags this time, which should last me until almost autumn. Delivery driver dropped one bag onto the corner of the porch/step (what? I had a free delivery coupon) and tore a small hole in it. Very little was lost and I’ll feed it next so no big deal. I told Tractor Supply that, specifically stating that I wasn’t asking for compensation but asked that they remind their drivers to be careful. They responded with a $20 gift certificate anyway.

I am once again an aircraft owner. Still waiting for some minor issues found during the pre-buy to be fixed so I can bring it home. And for my medical clearance to come through.

Not everyone sucks as a person. Today I stopped by my former sleep doctor’s office to get my records for the FAA. In the past they tended to suck administratively. Not today. They charged me for the records, as expected, but compiled a complete copy in about five minutes while I waited. I expected to be told that they’d mail them in a week or two since I simply walked in with the request.

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Busy Busy

First, a back story. I graduated high school in 1988. The church we attended at the time threw a graduation party of sorts for me and another boy in my class.  Most gifts were cash. This same church was on the same road as the local, rural airport. One of the congregants was a pilot, and we’d talked quite a bit.  I had decided that I wanted to learn to fly. I used the entire amount of cash (it wasn’t a lot) to begin flight training. It took almost a year and a half, but on 01 November 1989 I passed my checkride and became a Private Pilot. I flew off and on for the next ten years, but life kept getting in the way and I stopped flying regularly in mid-1999. I had two flights each in 2000 and 2002 – both an effort to pass a flight review and get back in the air solo. Both failed, mostly due to the combination of a lack of funds and schedule conflicts. Eventually, I accepted that I’d never fly as pilot in command again.

Two weeks ago, I got to thinking and decided that maybe I could pull off another attempt. Pilot licenses never expire. There are just training, proficiency and medical requirements that must be met. I reached out to a flight school in the area and started the process of scheduling my first flight in over twenty years. I looked up doctors and scheduled my flight physical. Then my dumb ass started looking at planes for sale. I briefly owned a Cessna 150 back in 1989, but ended up selling it to one of the local pilots, on time, only to have him default less than halfway through paying me back. I got a judgement against him, but at nineteen years old, I had no idea how to actually collect so it ended up being nothing but an expensive life lesson. But I digress.

I located a Piper Tomahawk – a two-seat trainer similar to the aforementioned Cessna in north Florida. It was bordering on too-good-to-be-true, but not quite there. Dude had gotten old and was going to stop flying. I decided to drive down and look at it the next day – Monday before last. I liked it, everything seemed in order, so I put a deposit down on it and made arrangements to get it to a local mechanic that I’d already made contact with to do a pre-purchase inspection. I drove back the same night. Thirteen hours on the road was rough, but still possible even for an old man like me. I’m still waiting on the results of said inspection.

My first flight was Thursday before last. I got a green instructor and a four-seat Piper Warrior, as it was the closest the flight school had to a Tomahawk. I’ve flown other similar Pipers, mostly Cherokees, but never a Warrior. It was also a very hot day. It was overwhelming to be flying again. As I was an unknown quantity, the instructor was about three microns from the controls for the first several minutes while I sweated bullets and tried to coordinate heading, altitude, airspeed, power, attitude, and what felt like a million other things. I needed (and got) verbal coaching on the first couple landings. One later landing was very not good, but none required the instructor to take the controls. By the last one – number ten, if I remember correctly – I wasn’t doing horribly. Each circuit was better than the last. I might actually be able to pull this off.

My next flight was supposed to be this past Monday, but a low cloud ceiling forced cancellation. It’s just as well, as life got in the way again. The blower on my HVAC air handler refused to spin up that same morning. Okay, I know this dance. The start capacitor had to be bad. I’d had one go out a couple years ago, and remembered where I put the second one that I bought at that time in case of a recurrence. That time it had happened on a Friday afternoon and by the time I figured out what was wrong, the supply place was closed for the weekend and I was miserable the whole time. I popped in the new cap and it started back up. I headed over to get another one for the inevitable “next time”. A couple hours later, the blower motor started squeaking, but was still running fine. Well, shit! Looks like the motor is going bad, too. Or maybe it wasn’t the cap but the break given the motor while I replaced the cap that got it to restart. I pulled the documentation on my unit and ordered a replacement motor to be delivered Wednesday. No problem. Run it until it fails completely, and I’ll have the new motor ready for whenever that happens.

Then I went outside to mow the grass. It’s been extremely hot and dry, but we did finally get some rain over the weekend. I figured the grass would survive being mowed despite the heat and the fact that lots of it had turned brown. I noticed that one of the front tires on the tractor was a little low, but I’d already hooked up the mower deck and was ready to roll. I chose to wait and air it up afterward. On the first circuit, I stopped at the edge of the garden. All the tomato plants survived transplant and were growing like weeds. I had over twenty plants in an area that could only support about eight. I shouldn’t have planted that many in the first place, but I wasn’t expecting 100% survival. Since they did survive, I should’ve thinned them out weeks ago. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. I yanked out a majority, including a couple I didn’t mean to grab because they had started to grow together and I couldn’t tell where one plant ended and the next one began until I started pulling on them. Eventually, I got it sorted out and the remaining plants staked. Then I looked at the tractor and saw that the low tire was now unclenched from the rim.

I limped the tractor back around to the back of the house where the air compressor is, raised the front end, and got the tire bead re-seated. As soon as I stopped filling the tire with air, I could hear the air escaping. I found the general vicinity of the leak, and could feel air coming out. I couldn’t find a puncture or other visible defect, though. Since the leak was in the tread area and not the sidewall, and since Slime had successfully healed a similar problem in the other front tire last year, I headed out for a new bottle. I slimed the tire, pumped it back up, and mowed the back yard while watching for deflation. It held.

The blower motor got more and more vocal as the day wore on. When I came in from mowing, Wife told me that it had refused to start again and she’d just turned it off and was leaving it off for five minutes to see if it would come back on after a rest. It was in minute four when I walked in. It did restart, and worked normally and quietly for a few minutes. Not long afterward, though, the bearings were screaming. Not long before bedtime, it flatly refused to spin back up when the system kicked on. We turned it off and decided to tough out the night.

Wife was heading to Virginia Beach to visit Grandson for his second birthday Tuesday morning and wouldn’t be back until Friday, so she wasn’t going to be around to complain about no air conditioning. I had a business deal scheduled for Wednesday morning in the vicinity of my ex’s place an hour north, so I reached out to her to see if I could crash at her place Tuesday night so I’d have a/c while waiting for the motor to arrive on Wednesday. She agreed, so I informed Wife where I’d be and commenced ripping the old blower motor out as she left. My plan was that all I’d have to do Wednesday would be to drop the new motor in, put it all back together and go. Upon getting the old motor out, which was an exercise in frustration in itself, I noticed that the specs didn’t match what the documentation said was supposed to be there. Among other things, the book said it was a 1/4 horsepower motor. What came out was a 1/2 horsepower. I called the place where I ordered it and had them look it up. They came up with the same motor I did. Wait and see, I guess. So I left the air handler in pieces on the floor and headed north to blessed air conditioning.

I hung out with Ex for a bit once she got home from work, crashed, did my business in the area the next morning and headed back home hoping to get there about the same time that the UPS guy showed up with my new blower motor. But Murphy still had a hard-on for me. On the way back, as I was rolling into one of the small towns along my route, the bolt holding the gearshift to the frame on the Benelli fell out. No gears = no ride. Fortunately, it happened on the second downshift rolling up to a traffic light, so I knew the bolt had to be within a very small area. I started pacing up and down that stretch of road, doing my best not to get run over while searching for the bolt that might allow me to get home. If I could just find it. And if it wasn’t messed up.

After a few minutes of searching, a guy from one of the houses I’d been pacing back and forth in front of came out to find out what the fuck was going on. It turns out that he rides too, although his is a real bike and not an overgrown Chinese mini-bike. I explained my predicament while continuing my search. Then I saw it. I almost stepped out in front of a truck in my rush to get it before it disappeared, but I managed to contain myself and the bolt remained where it was. After verifying that the bolt was undamaged, I set about to reinstall it. Dude offered to get some Loctite and better tools than I had with me to make it a permanent fix rather than a limp-it-home sort of thing. I gladly accepted. Thirty minutes or so after the gearshift dropped from under my foot, I was back on the road. Did I mention that during this time I had in excess of twenty thousand dollars in cash on my person from the aforementioned deal that I concluded immediately prior to returning home?

By the time I got home, the UPS guy had come and gone. I knew within two minutes of opening the box that the motor wasn’t going to work. Swearing, I stuck the old motor in my pack, jumped on the bike and headed across town to the local supply store. They matched a motor up for me, and with the necessary mounting hardware, I spent almost exactly double what I paid for the wrong motor. But an hour later, it was back together and the system was running balls to the wall to bring the temperature down from 90 degrees.

The next Morning, Thursday, I was scheduled to fly again. It went much better this time. I was actually comfortable (again, not counting the heat) and only made one landing to be ashamed of. One was almost good. Then I headed over to get the flight physical done. He was the only one within an hour’s drive who had availability less than a month out. Motherfucker still requires face diapers. I bit my tongue. I need the damn medical certificate.

We went through the process and he told me that although everything he checked was good, he couldn’t issue the certificate. Because of my keratoconus and the corneal cross-linking procedures that were done to treat it, the FAA requires additional information from my eye doctor. And because I have sleep apnea, the FAA requires additional information from my sleep doctor including compliance records from my CPAP machine for the past 365 days. But here’s the worst part. I can’t just go get these things and bring them back to him. I have to wait for the FAA to send me an official letter telling me what I have to do, despite the doctor already knowing, already telling me, and giving me the forms that he knows they will demand. And they are still claiming a backlog due to the beer virus, so doc said it would be a month, maybe two before I even get the letter. Then it’ll be about the same amount of time again after I sent the required information back before they would process it and issue the medical. He said he had no doubt that I would get it eventually, just not any time soon. Well, shit!

I’m pretty sure my instructor was going to sign off the flight review after my next flight assuming I did at least as well as I did on Thursday. However, after the medical delay, a problem arose. He’s not willing to sign the review until I have a valid medical. The regulations state that I may not act as pilot in command without a current medical, but a flight review is considered dual instruction. Dual instruction requires no medical. The instructor is the pilot in command by default, even if he never touches the controls. There is much documented discussion on the matter, and there is even an article from Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association on the subject that supports what I just said. For those who do not know, AOPA has been around since the 1930s, and is the premier source for education, legal matters, and basically all things flying. I sent my instructor the referenced article. He still refuses to sign off a flight review under any circumstances until I can show him a current medical. He couldn’t cite a regulation to support his refusal, but was adamant nevertheless. So, I’m done flying with him or anyone else at that facility.

Yesterday (Friday) I reached out to my eye doctor and got him working on the FAA form. My sleep doctor, whom I haven’t seen in about five years because my current therapy is working, is closed on Fridays. I’ll call on Monday and make an appointment. Hopefully he won’t be an asshole about me not coming to see him every year for the past five years. I want to have everything completed and in an envelope ready to go back the same day I get the letter from the FAA telling me officially what I have to do.

And here I am at work today. Whining about all of this.

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Lazy Co-workers and the Flag

I am working an overtime shift tonight. When I arrived at work, the flag was flying at half staff. Seems like it’s been there for a few weeks now. So I went digging. Here’s what I found.

12-16 May – US-wide to remember the one million Americans who have died with the beer virus. Yeah, whatever.

18 May – Sunrise to sunset at state facilities by order of the governor “in honor of the individuals who lost their lives and who were injured during a senseless act of racial violence on Saturday May 14 in Buffalo, New York.” Individuals, businesses, schools, etc. encouraged to do same. Fuck you, Cooper. Everything is racism to your side. Except when one of your precious negroes is the perpetrator. Then it’s crickets.

21 May – State level to mourn the passing of a former state representative. This one I won’t mock.

24-28 May – US-wide to mourn those lost at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas largely due to the blatant negligence, incompetence and sheer evil of the Uvalde Police force – who handcuffed parents who only wanted to try to rescue their own children, instead of doing their fucking job and going in to rescue the kids themselves.

30 May – US-wide half staff until noon, then raised to full staff (usual Memorial Day protocol). Again, no mocking.

That’s a lot of half-staff time, but none of this explains why ours is still there on 03 June. Our new leadership is lazy, incompetent, and generally worthless. None are veterans, even of today’s woke military. I guess I shouldn’t expect them to have a clue or care about flag protocol. America used to be a great country, full of patriots, and the American flag used to demand respect. Not anymore, I guess.

FJB

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Expensive Week

On Wednesday while out riding the Benelli, I felt the back end jump a little, like I’d hit something in the road. I found that odd, since I hadn’t seen anything and the front tire hadn’t hit whatever it was. I also thought I heard a pop, but given my deafness and the noise inherent to riding a motorcycle, that could’ve been my imagination. I kept riding. Less than a mile down the road, I started to feel a little unsteadiness in the rear of the machine. I pulled to the side and took a look. Rear tire noticeably low. Well, shit. I tried to make the five miles to my destination, but two miles short I had to stop. The rest of the air was gone and the tire was unclenched.

Wife rescued me, and we went home and frantically unloaded the cinder blocks we’d acquired earlier in the week from the back of the truck so we could load the Benelli and get it home. A little more than an hour after it happened, I had the bike home, the wheel removed and carried to the dealer, a new tire installed, and was back home. I ended up having to take the tire back this morning, though, as they’d mounted it backwards (motorcycle tires are directional). I also learned that although they can’t balance tires that small, they still charge the full $30 mount/balance fee to mount it. Just like they charge for two full quarts of oil when the fill is 1.1 quarts and they don’t give you the remainder of the partial quart. But I digress. There went ninety-two federal reserve notes that I wasn’t expecting to spend. I’ll replace the next one myself, and in fact have replacements en route for both front and rear for the next time one blows out or wears out.

A couple weeks ago I dropped off the dump truck to have a new clutch installed. I’d bought the parts back in December just after getting the truck, and had planned to do the work myself. However, after five months of not finding the time to do it, I bit the bullet and took it to the local shop I’ve been using for years. Between the time it took them to get to it, the delay at the machine shop to get the flywheel resurfaced, and the fact that I’d bought the wrong parts and the right ones had to be identified and acquired, it wasn’t done until last week.

However, on the test drive they noticed that the brakes were very soft. I knew this, but I’d had them look at that immediately after buying it. They replaced everything on the rear, checked the front and the rest of the system and called it good. I assumed that it was just as good as the forty year old design ever was. After they mentioned it, I reminded them that they’d already looked at it and deemed it good. They took a more detailed look this time and determined that the master cylinder was bad, despite it not leaking, looking new, and was supposedly replaced by the previous owner shortly before he sold the truck to me. The bad part was that nobody local or even regional had one. They finally got one in yesterday and installed today. It healed the problem, but between the two repairs I was out nine hundred ninety-eight federal reserve notes.

On the way home, I picked up another load of fill dirt for the lawn re-contour that I’ll probably be working on for the rest of my life. The truck showed less than a quarter of a tank of gas, so I topped it off along the way. Fourteen and a half gallons and almost sixty-five more federal reserve notes were gone. I’d driven less than eighty miles since last filling up. Yes, thirty of those miles were loaded, but five and a half miles per gallon hurts, especially at $4.39 per gallon. That’s eighty cents per mile.

Oh, and chicken feed went up again. FJB

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Currency

As a sort-of follow up to my last post, I’d like to talk about money today. Not long ago, I swore off banks. I may have mentioned my hatred for them before, and some of the reasons why. Now for why I’m moving away from them to the maximum extent possible.

For a long time I worried about the availability of my funds. How likely was it that something could or would happen that would make it impossible to use the money that I supposedly had? What if my bank’s network went down? A significant general internet outage? Hackers? Government interference? All were and still are valid concerns for anyone who has money in a bank account, although that last one is allegedly subject to due process. More about that later. Despite my concerns, however, I made no changes to protect myself until more recently.

The actual event that triggered me into action was small, but for some reason it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. A regional fast-food restaurant chain ran a holiday promotion during which they would add ten percent to the value of any gift card purchased. Buy a $50 card? It will come loaded with $55. No limit, no separate cards, no expiration, nothing. I bought a $100 card. Upon receipt, I verified that there was indeed $110 available, and I started using it.

The third time I tried to use it, I was denied. “Our manager has instructed us not to take gift cards anymore.” No further explanation was given. I reached out to corporate from whom I’d purchased the card. The only contact option was a phone number that was never answered. Every time, it went to voice mail. Over the course of several weeks, I left multiple messages but never got a return call. I seemed to be out almost $80 with no recourse. I was mad. Not so much the amount, but the fact that access to my funds was subject to someone else’s whim.

Eventually, I found another location about five times farther away that would accept the card. I ate there almost daily for a couple weeks in order to use up the entire balance before they pulled the same stunt. I was successful. But the whole incident got me to thinking. If it’s not physically in my possession, I don’t really have what’s supposed to be my money.

I emptied my bank accounts, and transitioned to cash. I withdraw my paycheck as soon as the direct deposit posts. I pay bills in cash and in person whenever possible, using money orders only when unavoidable. All purchases are in cash. The only exception is fuel. I have a payment card tied to my checking account. It gives me a discount of ten cents per gallon, and the money isn’t withdrawn until the next day. My preferred station is very close to my bank. So I’ll buy the fuel, then drive across the street to the bank and deposit enough cash to cover the purchase.

Recent events have proven the wisdom of my decision. Example one: At the behest of their tyrant-in-charge, Canadian banks immediately froze the accounts of those who participated in the trucker’s protest a few months ago. No court order. No legal formalities. They just locked the accounts up tight. If they were able to do it, so can American banks. And based on the shit we’ve seen and lived through the last couple of years, don’t you dare say that it could never happen here. Example two: In response to their government’s invasion of Ukraine, the entire country of Russia was frozen out of the SWIFT system. This had no effect on the assholes who decided to attack, as they undoubtedly have plenty of assets that do not rely on said system, but it did paralyze the businesses and citizens who rely on international commerce and/or support.

So when some motherfucker can, with a few keystrokes, block my access to my money, I don’t really have any money. Thus, my assets are cash and goods within my reach. My retirement funds are held almost entirely in physical bullion. By law, I have to pay a third party to store it, so it’s not directly under my control, but it is more than ones and zeroes in a computer somewhere. It’s the best I can do. I strongly recommend that you do similar.

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New Bank Rant

Since when can someone not make a deposit into someone else’s account? I’ve been doing this for years, and as recently as last month. But just this past week, Bank of America insisted on ID for a deposit, and then refused the deposit when I wasn’t listed on the account. Withdrawals? Of course nobody else can do that. But deposits? What the ever loving fuck?

And my transition away from banks as depositories hit a bump this week. Last month, I purchased a money order to pay a government fee by mail in order to avoid spending hours in line to pay it in person. Well, the motherfuckers decided that the amount owed had changed between the time they sent the bill and when they received my payment. So they rejected the payment and returned the money order. Now I have to do the stand in line thing anyway, and I have to pay Western Union $15 to refund my $49 money order that .gov won’t take because it’s not for the correct amount.

Fuck banks and fuck the government.

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Chickens

We’ve had a few mid-90s days this week, and lots of days in the upper-80s and low 90s this year. So far, my chicken coop heat abatement procedures seem to be working.

To review, I have a 90% UV blocking tarp suspended above the roof, with a notched 4″ PVC pipe across the peak ensuring an air gap between the material and the roof surface. It doesn’t quite cover the entire roof, but does block approximately 85% of it.

Above that, I stretched a larger 60% UV blocking tarp. It does cover the entire roof and front (fully exposed to morning sun). I also have another 90% tarp on baling twine suspended just below roof level in front of the coop. Only about 8″ of the front gable isn’t double-protected, but it is covered by the larger 60% tarp.

Inside, I cut an 8″ hole in the rear gable where I mounted a 1500-cfm shop blower/ventilator. I used foam insulation to ensure a good seal, secured it in place, set it on high and hooked it up to a timer to run from 0730 until 1830. The ground-level opening to the run provides the source of air that replaces what the blower expels.

These measures have so far kept the interior temperature of the coop to no more than ten degrees above ambient. The highest I’ve seen was 97 this morning while exposed to full sun and the ambient temperature was 89. It got up to 95 today, but by then the sun was on the opposite side of the house, putting the coop in partial shade and only 90 degrees inside.

Last year when my dumb ass finally realized that it was the heat killing my birds, after number seven of ten expired, I started monitoring the temperature. I saw it regularly hit the 120s, and nearly 140 at least once with ambient temperatures in the 80s to 90s. Ambient plus ten is quite the improvement. Hopefully I won’t lose any to the heat (or anything else) this year.

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Broken Record

I know I’m beating a dead horse. But the point needs to keep being made. Chicken feed went up another two percent this week, $13.99 to $14.29 for my usual forty-pound bag. A forty-six percent increase in less than fourteen months.

And motor fuel is at an all-time high – locally $4.39 for regular gasoline and $5.39 for diesel. That’s a 225+% increase since election day 2020, roughly eighteen months ago.

FJB

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