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They’re Creepy and they’re Cooky, the Hoarding Family!

After watching one of the recent episodes of House MD, I realized an unfortunate truth which I should’ve known about years ago; my Dad has hoarding-like features. Let’s reference Wikipedia, shall we?

Compulsive hoarding (or pathological hoarding or disposophobia)[1] is the excessive acquisition of possessions (and failure to use or discard them), even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary. Compulsive hoarding impairs mobility and interferes with basic activities, including cooking, cleaning, showering, and sleeping.

It is not clear whether compulsive hoarding is an isolated disorder, or rather a symptom of another condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

While there is no clear definition of compulsive hoarding in accepted diagnostic criteria (such as the current DSM), Frost and Hartl (1996) provide the following defining features:[3]

  • The acquisition of and failure to discard a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value
  • Living spaces sufficiently cluttered so as to preclude activities for which those spaces were designed
  • Significant distress or impairment in functioning caused by the hoarding
  • Reluctance or inability to return borrowed items; as boundaries blur, impulsive acquisitiveness could sometimes lead to stealing or kleptomania

Thankfully, my dad only has the first two of the aforementioned defining features. I have to admit, there are times in which his hoarding patterns may be useful (a collection of batteries, light sources, and candles for when the power goes out), yet most of the time it’s just a lot of useless old stuff which he values for some reason. His tendency is to keep them wrapped in plastic bags, which are scattered in drawers, the top of his closest, and under his bed. When you confront him about it, he gets really defensive. Last last week a found bags of smelly old spices stuffed in a drawer, some of which had a colony of ants snacking within. I immediately through all that away without his permission. Thank God he doesn’t even notice that my mom and I do some spring cleaning from time to time. It would’ve been a disaster if he constantly checked up on his stuff.

It’s just frustrating to see him like that. I have no idea how to break his bad habit. Confrontation only makes things worse, and I don’t want to upset him. Don’t get me wrong; he’s a really cool dad, but it seems to be that he inherited this hoarding-like signs from my grandfather (God bless his soul)…and as they always say, old habits die hard. He does have an attitude of pushing illnesses away though, constantly in denial about his high cholesterol and torn knee meniscus. I try to act like a Doctor, but he just won’t let me in.

Sadly, I also found out that my brother is a hoarder, too….featuring the first two criteria as well in addition to reluctance to return borrowed items. How did I find this out, you ask? Well…he recently traveled abroad to continue his studies, and that’s when my “spring cleaning” itch came in handy. We share the same room so I obviously have to go through everything…and lo and behold, I find a pack of empty shoe boxes, unused pharmacy meds which are way past their expiration dates, a weird spice in the bathroom, useless papers, shoes, sandals, and clothes…and the list goes on! Again, I knew that he kept a lot of stuff, yet confronting him about the boxes didn’t help at all. Gathered all the shoes and clothes he won’t ever use so that I could donate them or something. My dad kindly offered to help out…but not before his hoarding instincts kicked in, deciding to go through all the old stuff and see which ones he would keep for himself. I tried reasoning with him, but to no avail.

I have a tendency to hoard at times, but my habit is out of laziness and the desire to be a collector…because every time I “spring clean”, I’m not reluctant to throw useless stuff away. Just a few months back I got rid of my old videogame packaging boxes (n64, PSP 1000, n64 controller, GameCube, PS2, PS3) since I won’t be using them for  anything anytime soon. I threw out my outdated medical books and papers as well. I wonder if there’s a fine line between collecting and hoarding though? ’cause I’m very protective of my videogame collection which dates back to the SNES days. I have a lot of mint condition PS2 and GameCube games it just looks silly. Same case with the next-gen console games. I find them to be valuable, yet the logic of the passerby may think otherwise and frame me as a hoarder.

Any advice from the internet on how to deal with family members who hoard? Have you been in the same situation with friends and/or family? I want to hear your story!


This Has Been Another…Social Media Moment!

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I’ve been using Aramex’s Shop & Ship service for quite sometime. Essentially, this service opens up lifetime mailboxes in the US and the UK for your online shopping needs. Instead of paying a ton on international shipping and waiting for months until your receive your shipment in the Middle East, it only takes a week to 10 days tops with a fraction of the price. Services like these are not perfect as there tend to be a few resolvable screw-ups from time to time. I encountered a recent one which has been resolved uniquely; through their online chat service.

Basically, there was a UK shipment that got delayed for more than two weeks, with no sign of any notifications. Usually, things like these are resolved by phone, but Aramex hasn’t been answering for some reason. I clicked on the live chat service, expecting little to no help whatsoever. After a few minutes of waiting, I got the surprising yet typical greeting, “Hello, this is Ahmed from Shop & Ship. How can I help you today?” Started writing my problem, and lo and behold we began a back and forth conversation on where did this all start. Apparently, Aramex slightly changed the method of filling in your mailbox address. It’s also recommended to write the name next to your mailbox number just in case the shipment gets lost in the frenzy. Most of the time, Aramex are lenient about which name the package is addressed to, but at times ‘security’ checks in and they refuse to send packages that have other names on it unless you confirm it. So all I did was give the guy my tracking details, and he promised that the matter will be resolved in 24 hours. Everything is now ship-shape.

The point of this post, you ask? Social Media is extremely important nowadays, and it’s situations like these which make me appreciate it more and more. I have a friend (you readers may know him as the infamous blogger DaBloog) whose experimenting with social media marketing under his own company (eDesign), managing Facebook and Twitter sites for other companies such as Mercedes-Benz’ KSA branch. His stories about these experiments also have me excited for the future of social media marketing in the Middle East.

I’ve been encouraging our boys at Project COE to use our social media windows more, but by far our most popular one is our stagnant YouTube page. We should focus on Facebook, Twitter and Digg, too…but being the lazy bums that they are, I’m the only one who manages all three pages. In fact, I even created and synced them from scratch!

Medical Internship Reflections!

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And yet another part of my medical career is over (not an April Fools joke). 1 year of internship; running around various hospitals in Jeddah, dabbling in different rotations, meeting and dealing with colleagues, residents, and professors; getting to experience actual work for the first time, yet still feeling as helpless as a 4th year med student most of the time. It all happened so fast. It feels good to finally be done, yet I do have a feeling that I’ll miss this time of my life in retrospect. Time for an entry in the diary of a wimpy medical graduate, wouldn’t you think?

My internship situation was somewhat special. Usually, fresh undergraduates start internship at around July or August, right after they finish finals. I, on the other hand, started at April of last year. The reason for that is because I repeated a semester in 5th year because of the dreaded Obstetrics & Gynecology and Internal Medicine. The subsequent ramifications involved me interacting with students who are actually younger than me in 6th year undergrad, and that ‘feature’ subsequently carried over to internship as well. Essentially, I’ve gotten to know students/interns who are up to 2 years younger than me. On one hand, I guess it feels nice mixing it up with other classes (2009, 2010) instead of sticking with my default friends (2007 graduates I believe?) who I’ve spent four years studying with until I flunked. However, you can’t help but feel lonely at times since you’re not really close with the younger generation (I realize that I feel old using that phrase).

Internship with KAU in Jeddah has been…interesting, to say the least. The basic schedule is as follows: 2 months of Internal Medicine, OB, Pediatrics, and Surgery, 1 month of ER, 2 months of elective, and 2 weeks of Radiology. Back when I started, it was an enforced rule to take two major rotations in our host hospital of King Abdul-Aziz University, something which I initially didn’t look forward to and rightfully so. You see, our University has this reputation of being brutally tough on students and interns alike. Additionally, it was just too depressing to start in a hospital that I’ve spent the last 5 years studying in. While there are always exceptions, I’ll have to generalize some things in order to paint you a pretty picture of the worst-case scenario; professors are bitter, residents are overworked and cranky, and interns are super-competitive and cheeky. It’s no Mona Lisa, unfortunately…in fact, it feels just as painful as admiring abstract art yet not understanding the meaning behind it.

I spent the first 2 months of internship in KAUH rotating in Medicine, which sank me into depression for the first two weeks then subsequently improved after. Reasons of depression: 1) other interns knew all, while I continued to suck, b) since I was new, I got abused by my resident (a female which has PMS 24/7), specialists, and professor…the latter of which ripped my head out and stabbed me with a proverbial spoon as I presented my first [clunky] history as a so-called intern. I still remember the barrage of questions he presented me after I finished my nails-on-a-chalkboard history on a COPD patient (under the respiratory team), “why didn’t you check the JVP? How about lower limb edema? What’s the grade of this murmur? Where’s your opthalamoscope? Why didn’t you buy one? It’s as essential as a mobile phone.” I must’ve looked like I’ve seen a ghost.

At times, I finished late (7 pm) because I was still getting used to the work environment and what the job entailed. Because of my depressed state, I looked at the glass half-empty all the time; I just couldn’t wrap my head around things and felt that writing progress notes and booking for CT schedules was just busywork, not contributions. Thankfully, I was blessed with some great colleagues who helped me get through the first two weeks. After that, things got slightly better as I worked under another professor who was focused in teaching me as I worked, something which I’ve been waiting for since I started.  Next month, I worked with Hematology. Great material, nice residents, cranky (and I do mean cranky) specialists, and cool professors who sadly didn’t have enough time to give us teaching and tutorials. The profs were thankfully appreciative, yet the specialists were like kids who got pissed off for the stupidest things. Scolding me because I went to the restroom for 5 minutes? Really? REALLY? Next thing you know, he’ll put me in a corner or something.

Thank God I started with the hardest subject in one of the toughest hospitals because subsequent rotations felt light in comparison. My one-month elective of Gastroentrology in King Faisal Specialist Hospital was AWESOME. Really comfortable environment with a lot of teaching behind the scenes. The professor I worked under was so cool. He used to invite us to the Starbucks inside the hospital to give us teaching sessions on things like Liver Disease and Failure. I’ve never experienced teaching in this type of environment. Next up, two weeks of radiology in the same hospital as well…I had been really looking forward to this because I’m interested in radiology, and thankfully taking this rotation got me more interested.

My OB & G rotation at August was awesome yet weird for different reasons. As I’ve mentioned before, August was the official start of internship for fresh undergraduates, so I met them for the first time during this rotation. They were a nice bunch, yet again I wasn’t close to them so I felt lonely. On the other hand, the hospital which had us, King Abdul-Aziz Hospital and Oncology Center, treated interns like students. We were mostly observers who had little responsibility. Essentially, we had the freedom to do anything depending on our interest levels…and I wasn’t interested much so I laid low during these two months. I know it’s wrong, but it felt like a nice breather to take. I am an introvert by nature after all.

I expected Surgery in KAUH to be terrible, but thankfully it went really well because I picked two cool teams: Vascular and Plastic. I steered away from general surgery because I felt uncomfortable with the professors. I’ve known them since I was a student and I really didn’t feel like dealing with those same faces again. I know it sounds like a bad decision because GS has cases that I have to see during internship (appendectomy, colesysectomy)…but since my interests aren’t in an all-time high and there were many other interns who really wanted to specialize in surgery, the environment was generally competitive. I would’ve done all the paperwork and seen or participated in little to no surgeries if I went with GS. This was obviously not the case with Vascular and Plastic. Aorto-venous bypass of the lower limb, removing varicose veins (a surprisingly very common case in Jeddah), AV fistulas, breast augmentation, cleft lip repair, fat injection, and the list goes on. What I found surprising with Vascular in our university hospital is that they didn’t handle cases of diabetic foot amputation. Instead, these are handled by the GS teams.

I took an additional month of Radiology after that thanks to the awesome two weeks I had before…in our university hospital. Despite not being my first choice, I surprisingly had the best time there. In fact, this is my favorite rotation throughout all internship thanks to the insane amount of teaching we’ve been getting, not to mention the relaxing environment and nice people. [EDIT: I just got a call from one of my best friends, who is coincidentally a radiology resident in KAUH…he read the blog and got upset because I didn’t mention him specifically in this paragraph. Indeed, he was part of why this rotation was really enjoyable. Hooked me up with some of the consultants and did a little teaching on the side. So Mattar, if you’re reading this, there you go. Even though I didn’t remember you firsthand, the only reason why is because you’re so integrated in my life it’s just natural to have you around. Maybe too natural…I would be too detailed if I even mentioned you here. Also, you suck at Marvel vs. Capcom 3.]

Ah, two months of pediatrics in the Maternity and Children Hospital (MCH)…a really weird rotation. On one hand, the teaching is really good. However, the majority of cases were respiratory in nature (bronchiolitis, pneumonia, asthma). I was expecting an abundance of SCA and Thalassemia cases since they’re so widespread in Saudi Arabia, but apparently they’re mostly rerouted to KAUH because I’ve seen a ton of them during my hematology rotation. Perhaps MCH wouldn’t have offered the same care as KAUH, since the latter contains bigger and more advanced facilities compared to the former.

Other than the focused cases, the attitude of our professors in MCH didn’t really help. I won’t take away the fact that they’ve taught me a lot during my stay, but they’ve been overly picky…getting upset for the dumbest things. It got really stupid at times, to the point where I had several of them gang up on me with crap I shouldn’t be taking. My colleagues noticed the same thing, too. Granted, the workload wasn’t heavy, but I never said no to anyone there, never raised my voice or talked back, but I still took a lot of flak for some reason. I expect that this relates to some of our ‘kiss ass’ interns who worked with me there. I’m sure you’ve heard of this breed of interns as well. You know, playing lovey-dovey with our professors by being extremely social with them just for the sake of looking good. Not actually being social for the sake of taking interest in them, but doing it to kiss ass. When the profs weren’t around, these interns showed their true colors; not interested in working, no knowledge whatsoever, and throwing work at others interns like me. I don’t like doing that unless I generally want to mingle and have taken an interest in making good conversation. Sadly, these interns got the job done because when they slipped up, it wasn’t a big deal…which in turn put the spotlight on people like me who worked and didn’t kiss ass.

My final rotation was ER in King Fahd General Hospital. Good stuff. A bit lonely since I was the only male intern this time around (the rest were females who were pals with each other), but to compensate there were I lot of residents there who I knew from my undergraduate years. KFGH is a trauma center so it’s ER is the most interesting of the bunch, getting various RTA cases and the like. Maybe interesting isn’t the best word to use, though. I need to correct myself and say unfortunate, try to block that medical student mentality. One memorable case was a teenager who got her tongue cut off by her brother. It’s sad to still see cases like this here…can’t believe that this extremist mentality is still rotting in our country.

Phew…talk about a long blog entry. I’m sure I missed out on a lot of other stories, which hopefully I’ll recall some other time. You truly are a trooper if you’ve kept reading. Keep it locked as I write about my plans post-internship. For now, I’m going to relax!!

Gotta Get Up, Gotta Get Goin’, I’m Gonna See a Friend of Mine!

I’m doing a double take on the date of my last post…August 3, 2009? Really? It’s been one year and a half since I last blogged? Insane. The reason why I’m getting back into it branches out from many mini-events going on in my life, mostly revolving around my passion to start writing again. Just recently I’ve received a notification in my e-mail from…somebody favored a 6-year-old Zelda story of mine (refer to the sidebar, please). I can’t believe that I get these sporadically to this very day. Also, blogging has been a subject of talk with my friend and cousin, the former of which has an excellent blog of his own which he wants to update soon (check my sidebar for the link).

As you can see, spring cleaning has been performed and my dusty old blog is shiny again. Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, a new theme–not to bad if I do say so myself.

Anyway, I’ll try to make posts oriented to a single-topic instead of my usual ramblings that involve multiple subjects, one of which almost always has to be videogames. I’m biting my tongue so hard right now–or in this case, pretzeling my typing fingers–I just hope the word gaming is not mentioned in this post again. Instead, let’s talk about Winnie the Pooh.

Say what? A 26-year-old writing about a Disney mascot that should be within the 3-5 age demographic? Well, yeah. Call me pathetic, but I’m not ashamed. I used to love him back in the day, and I just discovered that I still find it charming…thanks to Kingdom Hearts. There are also recent [tummy] rumblings of a new animated motion picture coming out in July 2011. I literally stumbled onto this revelation while brushing up on Disney’s animated films in Wikipedia. Unlike previous Winnie the Pooh films, this new one is next in Disney’s official list  after The Princess and the Frog and Tangled because it’s being handled by Disney’s own animation studios (51st animated film in canon). The results are just pure gold.

Look at that art. Amazing backgrounds. Watching this brought back all sorts of nostalgia with Winnie the Pooh, including that old puppet show of his (don’t know its official title) and the infamous New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh animated series. Loving the music of choice with the new trailer as well, set to Keane’s “Somewhere We Only Know”. My knowledge of the band is limited to this song and “Everybody Changes”. Should start listening to them more.

Anyway, back on track here. Here’s the awesome, super-catchy theme song of Pooh’s animated series, which hopefully will make an appearance in the new movie:

Ah, that song makes my tummy rumble with delight. Really catchy lyrics. Sadly, it’s under-represented in YouTube. Usually, fans tend to make remixes or cover old Disney music. Just search for DuckTales’ theme song and you’ll see what I mean. I only found one awesome vocal-less piano cover of Pooh’s song:

My five-year-old self is so looking forward to Winnie the Pooh’s true comeback. Jim Cummings is such a cool voice actor…hasn’t lost it from the looks of the trailer with his characterizations of Pooh and Tigger. Nice to see all of the gang here again as well. According to Wikipedia, the film will be based on 5 book stories of Pooh that have never been animated before. It’s going to be interesting to see how the movie bridges the gap between these stories.I tend to like one continuous storyline with no sudden intermissions, but knowing Disney a narrator will play a huge role in interconnecting these 5 stories instead of physically writing more plot to connect them.

And yes, another surprise to me is that Pooh is actually based on old children books A.A. Milne. It makes me wonder if they are hardcore fans out there who have actually read the books. I’m assuming that Disney’s representations are just as good as the original novels.

No matter how young the intended demographic is to certain things, nostalgia always moves me…which is why I will proudly walk into the theater as soon as the new Pooh movie comes out. Also, it helps that I’m a fan of Disney movies as well. The trailer looks to recapture the 80s animated series, so anyone who watched those (no matter how old they are) will undoubtedly feel the same way about the revival.

Being Your Family’s Doctor…

As I sat with my friends watching “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, my mom called informing me that my youngest brother had a stomach ache followed by bouts of vomiting. There we go. Took a brief history, examined his abdomen, and came to the conclusion that he most likely had appendicitis. Off to the ER we went after consulting my friends. After a blood test, 200 ml of saline, and an abdominal ultrasound, turned out I was right in the end. He had his laparoscopic-based operation yesterday and he’s still recovering as I write this.

It sounds like I’m bragging, right? Not really. It’s just that I constantly worried that I had the wrong diagnosis even though the case was clear as crystal (pain starting at the umbilicus, radiating to the right lower quadrant)…something that’ll make me look bad in front of my family and possibly worsening my brother’s condition with short delays, which I didn’t want. The ER attending and nurse clouded my expectations since they were not thinking of appendicitis for some reason…maybe due to lack of fever, extreme pain, and rebound tenderness. Medicine does not work like that, though. I learned that you rarely get textbook cases…always shades of grey.

After yesterday I’ve come to realize that I’m my family’s doctor in a way. It’s one of these revelations which has always been in my subconscious but never truly analyzed until now. My mom, younger brother and sister have been coming to me with advice and questions about various complaints, but never an emergency like what happened to my youngest brother. It’s a strange feeling…but for the sake of my family’s well-being I’ll have to be extra cautious about stuff in the near future. By God’s will I’ll become the best doctor I can be.

A Week of Rest and Relaxation!

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Man, I’ve got to clean this blog up. Lots of dust and spider webs are flooding this place.

To tell you the truth, the only reason I haven’t been blogging here much is that I’ve been contributing to our official Project COE wordpress blog with as much game-related news as I can. That and nothing much has been going on these days.

I just came back from a week-long summer vacation with my family. I haven’t travelled with them in years so it was well worth the nostalgia. We went to a tropical city called Sharm Al-Sheikh in Egypt. Haven’t been there in years. Really nice place to bum around and simply relax on the beach. And that’s what we did basically. Sadly, my mom got sunburned. Yes, it is extremely hot around these parts during the summer. I was careful to put sunblock and hit the beach at the afternoon when the sun is just right…so I didn’t get much of a tan.

If you know the right places, the food over there is pretty amazing, too. We went to old town Sharm…two great restaurants were there; a Seafood place called “Al-Faris” and a BBQ one called “Al-Masriyeen”. We also managed to catch two hilarious Egyptian flicks. Sadly, English movies aren’t available there for some reason.

It was great hanging out with the family after so long. My dad’s the type of guy who likes to “organize” trips. I’m always reminded by my younger days when I look at him ordering my younger brothers around with various tasks and nitpicking on certain things. I used to get annoyed by it, but now it makes me laugh. You just can’t change dad.

Finally, I managed to catch up with my reading during this week. There’s nothing like reading after a dip in the ocean. I finished an amazing novel called “The Time Traveller’s Wife”. I’m a sucker for anything that has time travel, and this author managed to weave this concept with a romantic plot quite well. The movie based on it should be out soon…I’m wondering how well will they adapt the novel as this “type” of time travel is hard to replicate on the silver screen. After finishing up that, I began reading a pulp novel called “Battle Royale” written by some Japanese author whose name I can’t pronounce or spell…translated in English obviously. Aside from a few grammatical errors and Japanese-style impulsive sentences and descriptions, the book isn’t bad thus far. Very violent and suspenseful…now I know where games like No More Heroes and MadWorld came from. It’s so obvious that this book inspired the developers.

I may write more detailed impressions/reviews on these books in my free time. Later days.

PS: I brought the DS and PSP with me and surprisingly did not use them at all. Wow.

Impressions of LOL Comedy Tour: Jeddah!

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Believe it or not, we actually have something here to do other than going to friends’ houses and restaurants in our free time!

Yes, stand-up comedy…in Saudi Arabia. Who would’ve thunk it? One of the most awesome experiences ever. And to think this was a last-minute plan that I caught up in last Wednesday…

So here’s the whole story from what I hear. Axis of Evil founders Ahmed Ahmed and Moaz Jobrani decide to tour the Middle East. Along the way, they’ve found local amateur talent in each country, including a few Saudis. Additionally, they’re filming a documentary called “Smile KSA” that’ll show the world how hilarious things can be here.

I know that they’ve done comedy shows multiple times here, yet this is the first time I go to one. All in all, it was a great experience. The only negative I found is that it was held out in the open and they didn’t think that the heat’ll get to us. Let me tell you; it was extremely hot and humid that night…which is typical toward summer time. Even Moaz joked about it on stage. Moreover, what’s with being around 2 hours late? Ironically, the comedians made fun of “local Saudi time” in which 15 minutes means an hour to us Saudis…oh so true, indeed.

As for the performances themselves, great stuff all around. With some acts I busted out laughing. Really needed it after my exams. Sadly, can’t remember who’s who so I’ll list out the names of the local talent for you:

Omar Hussein
Omar Ramzi
Hessain Mohammed
Rami Salami
Thamer Al Hamzi

One thing that these people have in common is that they’re extremely confident of themselves. Gotta give them props for that at least. The only one I didn’t like at all was one of the Saudis who was too raunchy for my tastes…I mean extremely raunchy. It’s like he’s desperate for sex or something. The other Saudi I didn’t get into was the opening act…the girls like this type of guy since he’s a “hopelessly romantic” person with this really flirty tone of voice that annoys me in general. I loved his closing joke, though. The Lebanese wasn’t half-bad. The “whitest Sudani ever” was really cool and it’s sad that he didn’t get a lot of laughs. The final “amateur” act of the day was AAA stuff…a Saudi with complete understanding of our culture and really integrated that into his jokes. Nice impersonations of various Saudi accents, and hilarious sense of humor all around. Whoever that was, I can say that he’s no amateur…he’s as close as one could get to pros like Ahmed Ahmed and Moaz.

Speaking of which, Ahmed was the host…and he was hilarious. Good job in managing stuff all around. The final act was Moaz, which is obviously the funniest without question. People say that he repeated a couple of jokes, but as someone who doesn’t really watch much of his work I didn’t mind. I did love the fact that he parodied some of the stuff in our culture as well.

Great stuff all around, guys. Please come again. Can’t wait to watch that documentary!

PS: If these comedians are reading this, I’d like to request more info on the local acts like a small bio on each with a pic. Your website currently doesn’t offer much.

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