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Moses Maimonides (1190), in the Guide of The Perplexed, part III, chapter 49:

"As regards circumcision, I think that one of its objects is to limit sexual intercourse, and to weaken the organ of generation as far as possible, and thus cause man to be moderate. Some people believe that circumcision is to remove a defect in man's formation; but every one can easily reply: How can products of nature be deficient so as to require external completion, especially as the use of the foreskin to that organ is evident. This commandment has not been enjoined as a compliment to a deficient physical creation, but as a means for perfecting man's moral shortcomings. The bodily injury caused to that organ is exactly that which is desired; it does not interrupt any vital function, nor does it destroy the power of generation. Circumcision simply counteracts excessive lust; for there is no doubt that circumcision weakens the power of sexual excitement, and sometimes lessens the natural enjoyment; the organ necessarily becomes weak when it loses blood and is deprived of its cover from the beginning. Our Sages say distinctly: It is hard for a woman, with whom an uncircumcised had sexual intercourse, to separate from him. This is, as I believe, the best reason for the commandment concerning circumcision."

It's well established that male circumcision was intended to counteract "excessive lust", but so far I had never explicitly encountered the argument that it's ideally supposed to work by making the sex less enjoyable for women. Although in retrospect it makes perfect sense, given the sexual function of the prepuce, and the misogynistic nature of cultures where circumcision is common...
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Societies that provide infants with a great deal of physical affection ('tender loving care') are later characterized by relatively non-violent adults. When the exceptions were investigated, it was found that the violence of all but one could be accounted for by the absence of premarital sexual behavior.

"Body pleasure and the origins of violence" by James W. Prescott

Clearly, if we consider violent and aggressive behaviors undesirable then we must provide an enriched somatosensory environment so that the brain can develop and function in a way that results in pleasurable and peaceful behaviors. The solution to physical violence is physical pleasure experienced within the context of meaningful human relationships.

For many people, a fundamental moral principle is the rejection of creeds, policies, and behaviors that inflict pain, suffering and deprivation upon our fellow humans. This principle needs to be extended: We should seek not just an absence of pain and suffering, but also the enhancement of pleasure, the promotion of affectionate human relationships, and the enrichment of human experience.

If we strive to increase the pleasure in our lives this will also affect the ways we express aggression and hostility. The reciprocal relationship between pleasure and violence is such that one inhibits the other; when physical pleasure is high, physical violence is low. When violence is high, pleasure is low. This basic premise of the somatosensory pleasure deprivation theory provides us with the tools necessary to fashion a world of peaceful, affectionate, cooperative individuals.

The world, however, has limited time to correct the conditions that propel us to violent confrontations. Modern technologies of warfare have made it possible for an individual or nation to bring total destruction to large segments of our population. And the greatest threat comes from those nations which have the most depriving environments for their children and which are most repressive of sexual affection and female sexuality. We will have the most to fear when these nations acquire the weapons of modern warfare. Tragically, this has already begun.
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I was skipping through "manga for dummies" when I came across this:

"Drawing your male characters wearing the loose-fit jeans is perfectly acceptable,
but having them wear anything tighter than the classic jeans is, for the
most part, a major faux pas. You don’t want to blatantly describe a male character’s
anatomy to your readers. It’s just wrong (trust me)."

What rubbish. Reading that just tempted me into a deliberate major faux pas, of course.

BTW the book also defines shounen-ai and shoujo-ai as "romance comics for boys" / girls...
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I was watching a lecture on morality by prof. Sandel when some questions occurred to me (

Most students chose the option to divert the trolley on a track with only one person, thereby avoiding five. But most students didn't want to save the five by pushing a fat man in front of the trolley car.

Sandel is a Kantian, so he theorizes that pushing the fat man in front of the trolley is "using a conscious entity as a means" and we instinctively shy away from that. But what intrigued me was the (all to brief) explanation from one of the very few students who didn't want to divert the trolley in the first scenario - in my opinion it was basically a similarly Kantian argument; the student said that by diverting the trolley you are sacrificing the one to save the five, and that is something one should categorically never do. Sandel asks, almost sarcastically "even if it means five people are killed instead?" yet doesn't ask this from people who don't want to push the fat man.

Personally I think Kant's maxim is flawed because it's totally fuzzy what "treating a person only as an end in itself" even means. I think you can *always* find a perspective that says you're using someone "as a means". So I was probably not going to be convinced by that anyway, but I think the student's position shows how subjective and arbitrary Kant-like arguments are applied.

An interesting idea then occurred to me: look at what the choices *avoid* rather than what they select. In the first scenario people don't actually choose to kill the one person; they choose to avoid running over the five others. What of the second scenario? You avoid either (1) pushing the fat man in front of the trolley, killing him; or (2) standing by and doing nothing while five people die.

I think we can explain the reaction to the second scenario by stating that people would vastly prefer to stand by and do nothing rather than get involved, deciding who lives or dies, and run the risk of criticism for it. The difference with the first scenario is I think that there, we are said to be at the steering wheel of the trolley, and one could argue that steering one way or the other is anyway our choice so we can't really escape blame either way. But if we DID push the fat man, the trolley would stop, the fat man would be dead, the five would never know they were in danger, and it'd be left to us to explain why pushing someone onto the tracks seemed like a good idea.

It seems to me that the student who objected to diverting the car in the first scenario basically declined responsibility for steering, he wanted to let the car run as it would rather than bear the moral consequences of making a choice. He preferred to be a bystander, it seems.

So I don't think this shows that we somehow instinctively obey Kant's moral maxims. Rather I think it may show our penchant for what is called the "bystander effect".

But knowing that humans have a proven tendency to shirk responsibility in emergencies, what are we to make of our instinctive reluctance to push the fat man in front of the train, thereby saving five lives? Can we trust it as a "moral intuition" telling us what's right? Or are we merely finding justifications for our unwillingness to do the right thing and take responsibility for it?
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By the end of next month we'll have had 10 years of gay marriage in Belgium. I could add a long list of horrors that didn't happen, but it would be pretty pointless ;)
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Do you often find yourself preoccupied with thoughts about music? Do you feel that your musical tastes are not normal? Has the music you like ever created problems for you and your family? Do you hide some of your musical tastes from others? Has music been a way for you to escape your problems? Have you purchased services online for musical purposes (sites for MP3 sharing, music fansites, iTunes, etc.)? Have people in your life been upset about your music? Have you paid professional musicians to satisfy your musical needs? Have you spent considerable time surfing for music online? Have you regularly purchased music (records, CDs, MP3s), or materials about music (books, magazines, videos)? Do you visit music clubs or concert halls as part of your regular musical activity? Have you gone to public parks or street fairs looking for music? Have you ever been paid to make or sell music?

If any of these describe you, you are a Music Addict and should seek deprogramming and religious indoctrination right away!
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This paper confirmed some things I've always suspected:

It's a scan pdf so it's hard to quote from, but it presents research on three premises:

* premise 1: Sexual desire and romantic love are functionally independent.

Children of all ages experience maximum infatuation regardless of pubertal maturation, same-gender infatuation among heterosexuals. Heightened proximity and physical contact play a critical role.

* premise 2: Romantic love is not intrinsically oriented to a specific gender.

Hereditary nature of homosexuality,correspondence between pair-bonding and infant-caregiver attachment, lack of affectional orientations, animal data.

* premise 3: The links between love and desire are bi-directional.

Evidence of relation-specific cross-orientation desires, gender differences in bi-directionality.

Regarding the last premise, the following is significant to me:

"Although the overall psychobiological process through which love and desire become interconnected during normal sociosexual development has never been fully specified, there is a tacit consensus regarding the outcome of this process: a robust pathway leading from sexual desire to infatuation-attachment, but not the other way around. Although we are expected to form affectional bonds with individuals we sexually desire, we are not expected to develop novel sexual desires as a result of affectionate bonding. It is important to note that this notion of unidirectionality in the links between love and desire has never been theoretically justified or empirically tested."

It's no surprise to me that the "tacit consensus" appears not to hold under empirical tests (although it seems to break down more frequently for women than for men).

This is also my experience; more often than not, I develop desires following affectionate bonding. So I've repeatedly run into that tacit consensus. It's taken for granted that that sexual desire always comes first, so either it was assumed that the previous friendship had not been genuine but a pretense motivated by sexual desire, or else it was assumed that the sexual desire wasn't sincere and a pretext for sympathy sex from friends out of desperation. I've also found that people often tend to deny the existence of this "tacit consensus".

Another thing I find interesting is the treating of "crushes" - infatuation - and "sexual attraction" as completely separate (some people even get the hots for the Berlin Wall, so this makes sense). That would sure simplify discussion.

Anyway, I find the article an interesting read.

I would add that the erotic drive, the "libido" is, to me, part of something larger - what makes me passionate about things, creativity, sensuality, humor, the joy of life, that sort of thing. It's not all about sexuality, but I think sexuality is an expression of that (and a fairly powerful expression). But that's a topic for another day.
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"In our culture now, there is tolerance of violence and even sexual violence (or even ESPECIALLY sexual violence) but complete INTOLERANCE of naturally expressed sexuality."

Note: I'm not implying OMG violence == bad (or even HP == evil) but I do find it upsetting that "naturally expressed sexuality" is this big taboo whereas there are so many portrayals of dysfunctional, unhealthy, mean, twisted or even violent sexuality... can anyone name even one pop culture icon who could be considered a role model for healthy sexuality (compared to, say, spades of role models for being an ass-kicking mofo)?

The way sex is usually portrayed in media seems... very off to me. All too often it is portrayed like a performance of sorts, an empty ritual with only the barest of contexts. There is no real sense of intimacy because even though people are naked they don't seem to disclose anything personal so it's all so completely unsurprising and predictable that they don't even *need* tenderness... so it's often like watching space aliens to me.


Apr. 16th, 2013 07:33 pm
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I find it reassuring that attachment modes change due to circumstances - fairly obvious I guess, when you think about it... I feel different about attachments now than I did... some time ago, before stuff happened; clearly negative experiences will affect one's style. On the other hand, that should mean that positive reinforcement should increase one's feeling of security - again fairly obvious, but I've seen people claim otherwise (to excuse their own dismissive-avoidant tendencies, perhaps). Attachment styles are not determined forever in your first year of life. (Well, perhaps the tendency towards anxious vs avoidant is, but not the security itself.)

I think in our present culture, there is a wide-spread sentiment that being dismissive-avoidant is more laudable than being "clingy" - in part this probably sits into the larger context of glorification of cynicism and nihilism and avarice and violence. I hate the larger context, and I dislike this instance, too. Aside from the larger context, I think there is also a tendency - excusable, but misguided - to conflate the anxious attachment style with teenage existential angst. Perhaps there is a correlation between kids being emo and being clingy, but it doesn't follow that anyone who gets passionate about closeness does so out of existential confusion, and it certainly doesn't follow that being avoidant and emotionally stunted is somehow more mature.

Being dismissive-avoidant is also a coping mechanism, and also less rewarding than being secure, so it's not somehow "better" than being anxious-preoccupied, I think. The preoccupied ones are still fighting, the avoidant ones just gave up! I sometimes wonder if being anxious-preoccupied causes more suffering in the short term but is perhaps easier to recover from than being dismissive-avoidant. I don't see how you could go from avoidant to secure.

If nobody can be relied on to respond positively, there is no way one will be able to develop (or maintain) a secure attachment style. "People with secure attachment styles may trust their partners to provide support because their partners have reliably offered support in the past." and "Relationships that frequently satisfy the desire for intimacy lead to more secure attachments. Relationships that rarely satisfy the desire for intimacy lead to less secure attachments."

(I like the definition of intimacy as "a special set of interactions in which a person discloses something important about himself or herself, and a partner responds to the disclosure in a way that makes the person feel validated, understood, and cared for.")

If attachment is a combination of anxiety regulation, support, and intimacy then it seems only natural to be anxious and preoccupied as long as these three needs are not adequately met. On the other hand, once they *are* reliably met I don't see why the anxiety couldn't lessen in time. Sometimes people say things like "I gave you a chance but you were still anxious so it's all in your head" but that sort of implies the support was conditional to begin with, and one can hardly feel secure about conditional support....
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The Hajnal line is a border that links Saint Petersburg, Russia and Trieste, Italy. In 1965, John Hajnal discovered it divides Europe into two areas characterized by a different levels of nuptiality. To the west of the line, marriage rates and thus fertility were comparatively low and a significant minority of women married late or remained single; to the east of the line and in the Mediterranean and select pockets of Northwestern Europe, early marriage was the norm and high fertility was countered by high mortality.

What surprised me was that this difference was supposedly noticeable since the 16th century. I somehow didn't think it would have been that long since we "suddenly" decided to marry for love. It was not entirely clear to me if the marriage age difference didn't exist earlier, or if they just failed to establish whether it did or didn't. The second wouldn't surprise me; it's not like "the media" back then didn't adore love stories long before the 16th century...


Apr. 14th, 2013 02:20 pm
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One common experimental technique is the "ball tossing" paradigm, which involves a group of three people tossing a ball back and forth. Unbeknownst to the actual participant, two members of the group are working for the experimenter and following a pre-arranged script. In a typical experiment, half of the subjects will be excluded from the activity after a few tosses and never get the ball again. Only a few minutes of this treatment are sufficient to produce negative emotions in the target, including anger and sadness. This effect occurs regardless of self-esteem and other personality differences. A computer version of the task known as "cyberball" has also been developed and leads to similar results. Surprisingly, people feel rejected even when they know they are only playing against the computer.

Individual differences in rejection sensitivity are believed to be the result of previous rejection experiences, particularly childhood experiences with parents and peers. Attachment theory suggests that rejection from parents could lead to rejection sensitivity. One study found that rejection sensitivity in adulthood was related to teasing experiences during childhood, but not the amount of support received from childhood friends.
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There was an article in the Hartford Advocate (
from a journalist who entered a furry con under false pretenses with the hope of finding some shocking smutty furry orgies to report on.

The result is a rather poor con report - because about the only thing the intrepid reporter observes about the different events is what was NOT going on that she expected, namely, visible plushfucking. We learn that there was a dealer's room and some sort of art, but the main gist of the descriptions is whether or not anything "adult" was discernible. Aside from that, the only furry that is presented with any amount of detail is described as some sort of social misfit (I'm skunk, because when a skunk enters a room, everyone leaves! Haha unfunny), which isn't exactly flattering.

While it's a welcome change to see an article without blatant misrepresentations about what happens at furcons, there still seems to be an implicit assumption that it is acceptable to judge an entire subculture based on whether or not anything "adult" is going on. The author seems to have gotten an inkling of how important furriness is to some people, yet still predominantly focuses on the (lack of) sex angle, and that saddens me. Being furry is not about sex, but this is completely separate from whether or not anything sexual happens at furcons. Being furry is also not about designer drugs, or gambling, or satanic rituals, or a million other things far more unwholesome than kinky sex, whose absence at the con might have been mentioned.

I regret the media's preoccupation with passing negative judgments based largely on sexual stereotypes and prejudice. The above article is a good example of this, as the author is rather blatantly the one with "sex on the brain" and engaged in Jungian "projection onto the Shadow" - as can be seen from quotes like Thus I went undercover, after visiting a Halloween store to buy a belled collar, velvet cat ears and a nice piece of tail (30 inches, if you think length matters). That the reporter went looking specifically for sexual stuff, or that the presence or absence of sexual stuff in, say, furry art, is seen as the most crucial issue - that is a problem.

the gaze

Apr. 13th, 2013 11:22 pm
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"the male gaze" and how media conditions women to compete for it:

Supposedly ads suggest women use a pretend-submissive pose to gain control over male power by attracting "the gaze".

Personally I think the obvious problem with that is not "omg sex!" but that it conditions girls to think they must sit back and wait for the privilege of being asked out by some violent loser who will beat them up. No wonder then that they get obsessed with their appearance. How about instead teaching young women to be courageous and to stop following the crowd, and to stop thinking "getting a man" is their only means to obtain agency?

These are highly stereotypical, ritualistic poses - and for the record, I'm not in favor of that because the resulting photos are next to useless as artistic pose reference ;) - but that is common in fashion photography, whose primary aim is always (and should be) to show off the clothes to maximum effect. I imagine fashion models get training for that; it's the only explanation for how uninspired and cookie-cutter most fashion photography poses are...

If it's a professional fashion shoot, there's probably a whole team dressing the models and doing their hair and make-up, the photographer and assistants taking care of the lighting and snapping the pictures, and the models -being pros- doing most of the posing by themselves. It's not like the photographer will want to work with models that constantly need to be told what poses to take, I imagine.

The male equivalent of the "submissive pose" might be the "tough guise":

There is also a "female gaze", apparently. It makes men stupid.

The authors report a field experiment with skateboarders that demonstrates that physical risk taking by young men increases in the presence of an attractive female. This increased risk taking leads to more successes but also more crash landings in front of a female observer. Mediational analyses suggest that this increase in risk taking is caused in part by elevated testosterone levels of men who performed in front of the attractive female. In addition, skateboarders' risk taking was predicted by their performance on a reversal-learning task, reversal-learning performance was disrupted by the presence of the attractive female, and the female’s presence moderated the observed relationship between risk taking and reversal learning. These results suggest that men use physical risk taking as a sexual display strategy, and they provide suggestive evidence regarding possible hormonal and neural mechanisms.

On second thought, personally I think "male gaze" and "female gaze" are a bit of a misnomer for the problematic aspects of this phenomenon - not only because it's blatantly hetero-normative, but also because I'm convinced that "gender-policing" happens at least as much if not more *within* each gender. Even "attracting a mate" has a significant amount to do with status among gender peers, I think.

Also, Bratz dolls are apparently evil:
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Peggy McIntosh wrote the classic White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack wherein she describes the difficulty of realizing one's own privileges, likening them to a knapsack full of useful things that is visible to everyone but oneself. She writes about the path of self-reflection and soul-searching she traveled in an attempt to unpack her own invisible knapsack.

It is darkly ironic that the most common reaction to her piece has been people making inventories of others' privileges while vehemently denying their own...

Some related articles:
(Sexist framing; a man has a privilege, a woman lacks a disadvantage)
(Alleging superior moral and epistemic knowledge based on claims of victimhood while silencing others based on alleged privilege)
(Effacing the Male: Gender, Misrepresentation, and Exclusion in the Kosovo War)
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Upon stumbling on the wikipedia entry about naturism, the following occurred to me:

Isn't it strange how every fringe group apparently feels a need to distance themselves from people who are comparatively more "fringe" than they are? Like how otakus distance themselves from soulbonders who distance themselves from furries who distance themselves from plushfuckers who distance themselves from shotacon, and on and on. The acceptability pecking order.

There's much about the naturist position I sympathize with; I think the aesthetics of the human body, and appreciation thereof, is too often perceived as "sexualized": I'm fairly visually oriented, and I do enjoy the sight of a beautiful body, completely aside from whether I want to fuck it.

But on the other hand, assertions that nudity in naturism is not sexualized and therefore okay are the sort of argument that rub me the wrong way, because there is a kind of tacit admission/underlying assumption that a "sexualized" enjoyment of nudity is somehow inherently evil. It reminds me of arguments to the effect that sexual orientation is not a choice; an argument which I personally hate because it concedes the premise that sexual orientation by choice would be "wrong".

I don't think there is a simple distinction between what is and isn't "sexualized", and I don't think that trying to make that distinction is meaningful. Because it would concede a faulty premise - that it somehow makes a difference whether, say, the pleasure of having a purring cat on your lap is or isn't "sexualized".
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 photo 151484_pe_1250630779_zpse4212223.jpg

Here's a disturbing old article on Japanese shops selling used panties:

Personally, if I could get good money from selling my worn-out underwear to a shop that caters to perverts who get off on that sort of thing, I would.

That said, I find it disturbing that the author of the above editorial reserves her moral outrage for the fact that girls are "allowed to sell themselves" - not only does it seem like a huge leap to equate selling panties with "selling yourself", what I find particularly disturbing is that the author deplores that girls are allowed to make their own choices, not that there are schoolgirls in a possibly unhealthy relationship with the sex industry. One gets the feeling the author wouldn't object to parents selling their surplus daughters into sex slavery (a historical practice in Japan), or would prefer a situation where girls are forced by poverty to sell their panties ("girls who come in to sell are not from poor families") over one where they can freely choose to do so for whatever reasons appeals to them.

I find *that* far more scary than a guy who likes to stick his face in other people's laundry. I am a bit shocked that the panties bought for $20 sell for $50, but I guess having to interact with pervert customers is worth that much...

(I totally don't understand the objection that material things are exchanged for material things, or how the situation could be made in any way better by involving the girls' "soul" in the transaction.)

Someone else objected to the shops because "it does contribute to the overall culture in which the men buying these panties are free to dream about schoolgirl panties as if they were illicit. The underwear may have actually been freely sold, but the image in everyone's minds, the thing that I think the shops are trying to evoke, is that of illicitly-stolen underwear. By reinforcing that image as something that's okay for everyone to partake in, one is encouraging guys to get off on girls' underwear that they feel like they "shouldn't" have, which of course encourages a feeling that these guys have taken advantage of the girls without their consent, even though they haven't. This feeling thus becomes more commonplace in society, and then society becomes more complacent to the idea of guys taking advantage of young girls without their consent, and that is what is bad."

I'm reluctant to agree that an activity is problematic, based on assumptions about the way people think in general. In my opinion, these shops didn't *create* the attraction of stolen underwear/taking advantage of young girls. I doubt one can "encourage" someone to get off on something one wouldn't otherwise get off on. I'm not convinced that offering a legal, harmless outlet for that attraction necessarily makes society more complacent about harmful actions. There are some really scary things happening in Japan, but is it actually worse now than, say, during Meiji when it was acceptable to take advantage of girls as long as they were poor? If access to escapist fantasy material had a detrimental effect, things *should* be exponentially worse now than ever before in history.

Also, if there is no relation between our actual consent and the way our actions are perceived, what can we do? We could refuse to sell our used panties, or we could burn them to make sure they don't fall into the hands of perverts, but that seems like playing into the trope - we pretend that we don't want people to perv over our panties, whereas we really couldn't care less.

If you sell your dirty underwear, openly and unambiguously, with full consent that any stranger may use it for whatever, and the buyer nevertheless likes to imagine that he really obtained it from you against your will, what can *you* do to disabuse him of the notion, except to repeatedly and enthusiastically say - and demonstrate - that you really want to sell your dirty undies? Criminalizing possession of dirty laundry hardly seems practical. =P And it would only re-enforce what you try to avoid by making it actually illicit.

The answer that you simply can't ever consent to selling your underwear is not only totally objectifying, it's also promoting a society where consent really is meaningless. No doesn't really mean no, unless and until yes really means yes.
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It's been so long since I've posted about culture :/

I think this is a well-reasoned article: What is objectification anyway?. Here's a follow-up, thinking specifically Of The Children. (NSFW link!)

And another article, on what education could look like.
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Loving the person next to you is the most difficult thing, isn't it?

It's easy to love Jesus today, because he lived 2000 years ago. For the people living at the same time, it was so intolerable that they had to kill him...
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The hiatus after episode 10 of Girls und Panzer is finally over! Meanwhile, Read more... )


Mar. 15th, 2013 10:48 pm
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Lately I've discovered the joy of customizing wall clocks. Most clocks are super-boring when left as-is, and can be made much more interesting with just a little work, like printing out and pasting on a new clockface.

Here are a few I made so far:
Read more... )


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