Monday, July 31, 2006

Did anyone notice?

Redfaced, I corrected the spelling error in the name of my blog? Hey, I never claimed to be Noah Webster...

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Even More Monkeys (and Pigs)

Two stories worth reporting...

Zoo officials installed an electric fence around a construction site to protect workers from 120 primate hecklers, an animal park in northern England said Friday.

A band of baboons began screeching and chattering when a team of construction workers commenced work to renovate the primate enclosure at Knowsley Safari Park, close to the city of Liverpool, about 210 miles north of London.

Worried that the baboons would become violent, workers at the animal park — which also houses lions, rhino and elephants — have installed the fence to contain them.

"Because we're effectively in a cage and the animals are free to roam around us, we do feel as though the roles are reversed and we are the exhibit," said Geoff Ames, the construction project manager. "However, we're grateful for the protection." Work to create a new enclosure for the primates will be completed this summer, Ames said.

That is scary to me. Baboons are meaner than mean...especially after they've had a Bud or two.

The second story is the usual sad story about animals and alcohol...

Activists protest beer-swilling pigs

Thu Jul 27, 8:19 AM ET

A pair of beer-swilling pigs has embroiled an Australian pub in an animal cruelty debate.

Visitors to "Pub in the Paddock" in the island-state of Tasmania are invited to pour bottles of beer down the willing throats of resident pigs Priscilla and P.B.

Pub owner Anne Free said Wednesday she was outraged that the tourist attraction had been attacked as cruel in the latest edition of a magazine published by animal welfare group Choose Cruelty Free.

Free said the pigs liked beer. She also watered the beer down to ensure they never got drunk.

"When it's very, very quiet, I often actually have to go over and give them a couple of drinks because, yeah, they do look forward to it," Free told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

"I get quite irate when people come in and say: 'Oh, is the pig inebriated?' There's no way that these pigs are being mistreated like that," she added.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals often investigates complaints about the pigs' drinking but have found the porkers unharmed.

"Whilst it is a difficult pill to swallow ... it's certainly not cruelty, unfortunately," RSPCA state chief executive Rick Butler told the ABC.

Choose Cruelty Free office manager Liz Jackson disagreed.

"It's not natural to give a pig beer," Jackson told The Mercury newspaper.

What can I say? It does not surprise me that these pigs are drinking the amber nectar. What would you do if you just stood around in the mud all day? While it may not be "natural" to give a pig beer, Ms. Jackson just does not know what kind of pressure these animals will put on you to get this stuff. They probably are threatening some sort of monkey attack or something (see above).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Beware of Falling Dogs

Another article I could not resist:

A man was bruised but alive on Wednesday after a Saint Bernard dog thrown out a two-story window landed on him as he was walking down the street in the southern-Polish city of Sosnowiec.

The 50-kg (110-pound) dog was pushed out of the window by its drunken owner on Monday, police said.

"The dog had a soft landing because it fell on a man," said police spokesman Grzegorz Wierzbicki. "The dog escaped with just a few scratches."

"The man was also more in a psychological state of shock than physically hurt," Wierzbicki added.

The one-year-old dog, named Oskar, was placed in an animal shelter while police investigate its owners for animal abuse.

Comment: St. Bernards are supposed to be helpful dogs. Jeez, could there be a worse choice of dog to fall on your head? I think anyone would sound drunk if they tried to say the name of that policeman.

I thought this was humorous, but then I did a Google search on "falling dog" and I found some other amazing stories:

From the New Zealand Herald:
A dog fell from a Detroit highway overpass and crashed through a car windshield, fatally injuring the driver.

Charles Jetchick, 81, died on Wednesday of injuries suffered in the weekend accident.

Investigators do not believe the Labrador-retriever was thrown, but rather fell while trying to avoid a car. "We've had rocks and other stuff like that fall off of overpasses", said Sergeant Michael Shaw who has been with the Michigan State Police for 11 years. "This would be the first dog we've had."

Comment: What happened to the dog? Why are they writing about this stuff in New Zealand? What is that dog doing out of Labrador?
Then from the BBC:
A golden Labrador had an incredible escape when she fell more than 90 feet from a cliff into a pile of seaweed.

Five-year-old Tessa was being walked by owners Alan and Jill Mitchell near Old Harry Rocks in Dorset, when she raced off into the undergrowth.

It was only a few minutes later when she did not return that the Mitchells realized she must have plunged down the sheer cliff to the beach below.

After calling 999, an anxious wait followed before Tessa was checked out by a vet who confirmed that her only injury was a bruised leg.

The couple, from Harrow, north London, were out walking with Mrs Mitchell's sister on Sunday afternoon, with whom they were staying in Broadstone, Dorset.

Jill Mitchell told BBC News Online: "We were on a lane with heavy undergrowth, so didn't know that we were near a cliff edge.

"She shot off into the undergrowth - I assume she caught the scent of something.
"When she didn't come back my sister said: 'She must have gone over the cliff' and I just thought she couldn't have done.

"We pushed through the undergrowth and saw the edge of this cliff and I just felt awful - then I heard her whimpering.

"My husband ran around and could see her staggering around on the beach - over 90 feet down.

We get a lot of dogs going over cliffs - especially in the summer, quite often they chase after rabbits and just can't stop Coastguard spokesman

Comment: Since when has the coastguard been experts on dogs and gravity? They get a lot of dogs going over cliffs? Nobody told me about this! No more ball playing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, I guess.

From Florence, AL:
A house painter has become a dog catcher, literally. Gary Gallien was working on a crew painting an apartment complex in Florence, Alabama, when he caught a pooch falling from a fifth-floor balcony.

He says as he stepped outside, he heard a woman scream and looked up. A white, furry object was falling toward him. He says he caught the small dog like it was a football.

He took the dog back up to the fifth floor and set it loose. Gallien says he just wishes someone with a camcorder had caught his dog-catching on tape, for one of those funny home video TV shows.
Comment: Good thing it wasn't a St. Bernard!
So what's all this then? I could make a joke about "raining cats and dogs," but I won't. I could joke about the "dog days of summer," but that wouldn't be right. So what is this with all of these dogs falling? I know we have joked about alcoholic habits of animals, but this is more "dogs and physics!"

OK, one more to give the other side of the story:

AKRON, Ohio (USA) — We've had a lot of falling dog stories lately, so maybe it's about time we report on a klutzy human for a change.

Kevin McDonald was on the job painting a home in Akron last week when the ladder that was supporting him gave way, dropping him from the roof about 12 feet to the ground. There, the wounded man lay critically injured and bleeding.

NewsChannel5 reports that the homeowner was away at the time; however, the family dog, a Golden Retriever, was there and watched the entire episode. Next-door neighbor Marie Istvan describes how the fast-acting pooch ran to her house and enlisted her help.

"He acted real funny like there was something wrong," says Ms. Istvan.

After following the dog back to the other house, she found Mr. McDonald laying in a pool of blood and barely moving. The woman called for help right away.

Due to the quick response, emergency personnel arrived on the scene in enough time to treat the injured man. After two days at the hospital, he was released in good condition and, after thanking Ms. Istvan and the dog for saving his life, he returned to work.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Child Drives SUV

Not to be outdone by a dog...

A 5-year-old boy hopped behind the wheel of a sport utility vehicle and drove it several blocks looking for his mother following an argument with his grandmother, authorities said.

The child was not injured in his short drive last Wednesday, and his grandmother's 2004 Cadillac Escalade was stopped without incident.

The boy, whose full name wasn't released, started the truck, cranked up the stereo and stood on the driver's seat to see over the steering wheel, Washtenaw County Sheriff's Cmdr. Dave Egeler told The Ann Arbor News.

The boy told sheriff's deputies he was "looking for his mommy," police reports said. He was not expected to face any charges.

A motorist called police to report that her vehicle was nearly struck by an SUV that appeared to be driven by a child. Egeler said an off-duty deputy also noticed the boy and pulled him from the vehicle before he drove any farther.

The boy and his grandmother, who is his custodial guardian, got into an argument at their home in Ypsilanti Township, Egeler said. He grabbed the car keys and was told to drop them, authorities said, but took off after the grandmother became distracted by her infant granddaughter.

I find it especially amusing that:
  1. He got into an argument with is grandmother, got real ticked-off, and took off with the keys. I hate to think of how he will be as a teenager.
  2. He cranked up the stereo while he drove. I think he played "Rockin' Down the Highway" by the Doobie Brothers.
  3. He drove several blocks without crashing the car.
  4. They actually say "He was not expected to face any charges." Nah, throw him in the slammer! The punk. Try him as an adult. If he wants to be big, he needs to be treated like an adult.
  5. It appears the infant created a diversion so he could carry out his plan. What a crafty infant!
  6. He has driven an Escalade before I have. Lucky duck.
So what is the take-home message? Well, our days of trusting young children have drawn to a close. I'm sure he will have his driving privileges taken away for the next...10 years. He will never be satisfied with a Big Wheel again.

Maybe he just wanted to get out of a town with a goofy name. Ypsilanti....Sheesh!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Home now...Some final thoughts

OK, I am home now. I put my kids on a plane to Michigan and they met their Mom up there where they will rest and relax while I hold down the fort here alone. I should have some time for blogging. It is actually not bad to have a few weeks by yourself - it lets you spend time doing stuff that would otherwise be impossible. It gets kind of dull after a while, however.

Anyhow, I am still a little sore from the week. My arms are burned, as is my neck (despite my best efforts). In all, I think the week was a success. I saw a side of my kids that I wasn't sure was there. They worked with little complaint from 8AM to 5PM in the sweltering southern Mississippi sun. We built 1 3/4 sheds for people, and the second definitely was easier than the first. When asked if they enjoyed the week, the kids were all positive. I am quite glad we brought J's friend along with us - he was bigger, stronger, and his dad had done more work like this with him before, so he was a big help.

I am not sure if it really hit home that this was as bad of a disaster as it was. It is really easy to put up barriers in our minds and just do the job that we have to do and not personalize it. As a doctor I am a professional at not personalizing things (I would go crazy if I didn't). But I think there is good reason to personalize things at times. We need to be thankful for the good things we have and need to know there is nothing that we can take for granted on this world. We are extremely lucky people to have all of the things we do, although sometimes I wonder if it doesn't let us get too soft. I can tell you right now that this will become a family tradition. Maybe we won't go to the same place - I would love for them to go to a third-world country some time and see real poverty. It had a huge effect on me when I saw it first-hand.

Probably the most amazing thing about this whole trip is that people do quite well when faced with adversity. The people who were pushed out of their homes have just made due with what they had. Their lives have changed a lot, but they don't seem bitter about it - perhaps even less whiney than we usually are. When you get faced with these tough things, you tend to get a better perspective and the little annoyances in life don't bother you as much. I know this was true for us when we were helping them. We were hot and being bitten by bugs, but whereas they would have complained loudly at home, the kids did what they had to do.

I don't feel like this was a "noble" thing for me to do - it was the right thing to do. I see no nobility in doing what is best for my kids. That is not a sacrifice. I have many more memories than I would have had from a cruise or a week at the beach. My emotions are much more grounded and I feel ready to go back to work now, even though I worked hard last week. This is not just theory, it is real. You do far better when you take your eyes off of yourself and help other people. I know I often get caught in a rut of "keeping score" as to how my life is going. Well, the best way to counter that is to give more without expectation of getting something in return. It is far better to give than to receive.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Day 4, and some monkey business

OK, I did not do much in the way of pictures today - you can only do so much with pictures of people building sheds - they all start to look the same. I'm sure you have experienced the same thing.

Today is our penultimate day. We are leaving tomorrow after lunch. It was much harder to get motivated today and hence more difficult to motivate the kids. They all worked, however, and did so fairly hard. I told them that this day was about character. If you only work when you want to, then you will not be successful. If, however, you are able to do what you need to when you do not feel like it, you show character. They not only worked, but did so fairly hard, which I was very happy about. It really is the dividing line between successful and unsuccessful people - the ability to do what you need to do when your mind is whining at you and wanting to do anything else. You just have to learn how to put your head down and do the job. It may or may not give you a good feeling, but it is the right thing to do. I find I have to do that often in my work (there are lots of things I would rather not do but have to do).

My daughter asked me if she was that kind of person (she is 12). I told her that today she showed me that she could be that kind of person. I was impressed by how they clearly did not want to be out there but worked anyhow. She said that she can do it, but not for homework. I agreed - I had noticed that.

On a lighter note, there continues to be a serious problem with inebriation among the "lower primates." Yes, I am talking about monkeys drinking. I thought that being down here in a disaster zone would let me avoid it, but here is a picture of a local "establishment." I was dumbfounded that even here the drunk monkeys have infiltrated. I have not seen any horizontal cows, but I will keep my eyes open for pelicans and dogs driving wildly.

I haven't decided if I will go to the Karaoke yet.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Day 3

So we did it. Here is "the team" with our homeowner - Ms. Banks. She was incredibly grateful for our work. It was not perfect (by a longshot) but it seems solid and will serve her very well.

A couple of observations from today:
  • Doing roofing in the middle of the summer in Mississippi is a very hot thing to do.
  • It is much nicer when there is a breeze.
  • Gatorade is great, but you get sick of it after a while
  • I still really like Little Debbie Nutty Bars.
  • We all worked very hard and are very satisfied with our work.
  • Sonic Cream Pie shakes are not as good as their cream slushes (in case you were wondering).
  • Jonathan did not really hit Garrett with the hammer
So I am sore, itchy, and sunburned (I did use sunscreen, so don't preach at me). Yet I would not have done it differently. We had to push ourselves, but it sure did feel good to get it done. it. If you have a chance to take a week to do something like this, do it. You really won't regret giving of yourself. You may regret not giving enough to others, but not giving too much. Okay, enough preaching for today.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Day 2 in Mississippi

OK, I am no craftsman, but I am pretty happy with how this shed is turning out. I had my doubts - with 2 14-year olds and 1 12-year old, but I have to say that they are stepping up to the challenge. I actually pictured myself getting really annoyed and frustrated with them, but I decided early on to not set expectations too high and not push them too hard.

Here is how I feel after day 2:
  • Exausted - It was very hot and humid today and that really sucks the life out of you.
  • I have blisters and splinters in my hands, so it is a little painful to type
  • My legs are achey and my 44-year old body is asking me, "What the heck are you doing to me? I'm not used to this.
  • Happy - the little lady we are doing this for is bubbling with gratitude every time she talks to us.
  • Proud - my kids have done OK. They have not really complained much at all and have (for the most part) worked whenever asked. It is far better than it could have been.
I asked my son if he was glad that we came (this is the boy who would play Runescape for weeks nonstop if allowed), and he said, "I don't want to be doing it while I am doing it because it is hard. But afterward, I am glad I did it." That is about as good as I could ask for.

The church we are doing this through is called Lagniappe Presbyterian Church, their website can be found here. We are doing something called "Sheds of Hope," where we build a shed for someone living in a trailer so they have places to put things. There are about 300 people here this week and they are very nice. Some people are gutting houses and drywalling, others are doing clean-up duty in people's yards. In all, they are doing a good work.
Above is a picture of the carport at the house where we are building our shed. Note the dirt on the top of the carport - that is the water line due to the flooding from the storm surge.
This is an ironic picture - they lost their roof.

All in all, I recommend this kind of thing. We spend a lot of our life believing our own worlds are real, but there is a lot of suffering in the world that we can do something about. It is much better than a trip to Myrtle Beach.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Greetings from Mississippi

Above is a picture of a home outside of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Note the pool behind the washed-out foundation of the house. I am here with 2 of my kids to help out some of the people who have suffered. We are building a shed for a woman who had water nearly up to her ceiling (she is still living in a trailer). It is very humbling to see how much some people have suffered (when I think of how I complain about some things in my life). I wanted to expose my kids to the fact that their lives are not normal. It is not normal to sit around and play games and live comfortably all the time.

I will keep you updated with this trip. It helps give perspective. I highly recommend this work for anyone who wants to do their part. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Cows Getting in on the Act

Well, things have gone from bad to worse. From the blog of Belvidere, NE (Pop 98), mayor Spooner Jenkins talks of an outbreak of horizontal cows in his fair city. Now, I am no cow expert (I do internal medicine and pediatrics, but no bovines), but I have always felt that vertical was the proper orientation for cows (although how exactly they are oriented is really their own personal decision and I won't judge them on the basis of that). This has gotten to be such a phenomenon that the Discovery Channel is sending a crew to do a documentary on it.

Well, with my growing knowledge base of animals gone bad, I think there may be more to it than meets the eye. With dogs running down innocent people as they get their mail and drunk monkey gangs in Roanoke, VA, it seems to me that this is more than just a crop circle type of phenomenon. I think it may be a conspiracy of a more sinister kind. Yes, it is the cow-monkey-dog conspiracy. I have it on good authority that there is a telepathic bond between these critters and they have been plotting to take over the country (or at least the Midwest).

Witness the phenomenon in the upper Midwestern states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. There is an army of giant cows mobilizing as we speak (See below). This is really a frightening development. You have heard of "Mad Cow Disease?" Why do you think they are so mad? They are tired of being abused by the farmers and mocked in Chick-Fil-A ads. The dogs and monkeys have put this idea in their heads.

Anyway, I don't think the horizontal cow phenomenon is just a curiosity. I think these cows are saving up their strength and putting all their energy into growing (like those upper Midwest cows have done). Once they form enough of an army, there will be no stopping them. My advice? Watch out, Spooner!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Just Curious

Why does the Google Adsense above my blog keep having things about zucchini and zucchini Bread recipes? How does it get that from the context of my blog. Well, in case you are curious, here is a fine zucchini bread recipe:

Zucchini Bread

(from the kitchen of Carol Linkkila)
From Bruce & Jill's Favourite Family Recipes

2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
Blend all ingredients together. Bake in greased loaf tin at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until done.

Thanks Carol...whoever you are.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

More dangerous animals

They say nothing about a breath-a-lyzer on this dog, but...

Dog blamed for hitting woman with truck

A police dog that was left in a pickup with the engine running apparently knocked the vehicle into gear and ran down a woman who was walking to her mailbox.

Mary F. Stone, 41, was expected to remain hospitalized with a fractured pelvis and tailbone until at least Friday, said her husband, Paul Stone.

The dog, a German shepherd named Ranger, had been left in the truck while its handler responded to a domestic disturbance call Tuesday, police Lt. Loring Draper said. The truck's engine was on so Ranger would have air conditioning.

Draper said Ranger must have hit the shift on the steering column, putting the automatic transmission into gear. As the truck slowly rolled forward, police officers yelled to Stone, but she couldn't get out of the way in time, he said.

A front and rear tire ran over her. "She had tire marks on her clothes," her husband said.

The truck then went through the Stones' yard and struck a vehicle in the driveway.

Draper said police were trying to determine if there might have been some malfunction that would have allowed the gear shift to be moved easily.

I have to say, my recent education into the carelessness of animals has made this sadly not surprising to me. Ranger probably put on an innocent face here, but who knows what the real motives are? We are gathering data regarding the conspiracy of the animals against us. Don't others see it?

I am beginning to worry now that my dog has started reading "Canine Jihad" magazine....

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Another Song

Given the tone of my last blog entry, here is another song I wrote about dealing with relationships...


Sometimes “I forgive you” doesn’t roll right off their tongue

Sometimes wishes won’t take back what you have done

Sometimes you can wound the ones you can’t afford to lose

Sometimes you pay the consequence of choices that you choose


Sometimes it takes some time

To right the wrongs

To heal the wounds

To leave your past behind

Sometimes it takes some time

To learn to love before you lose

And end up wishing you could have

Some time

Sometimes you can’t figure out what’s happening in your head

Sometimes you wish that you could change the things that you have said

Sometimes you don’t say enough to show how much you care, and

Sometimes it only matters if you happen to be there


Monday, July 10, 2006

Getting personal

I am dealing with some personal "issues" in my life right now (I guess that goes without saying), and so I find it a little hard to keep the subjects too light all of the time. I guess with what I titled this Blog, I am allowed to ramble on anything. I make the rules, right?

Anyway, I am starting to notice how thin my skin is (not literally). I have had to face very little adversity in my life and so I react pretty strongly when things don't go just right. This makes being married especially hard. I tend to always want to be understood, and when I am misunderstood it takes everything I have to not say things right away. It seems as if my biggest fear is to be pinned with motives that are not really mine. Hmmm...sounds pretty wimpy.

I am faced with people in much worse situations on a daily basis. I diagnose people with cancer, discuss depression, deal with parents finding out their children have birth defects, etc. I sit and counsel them as best as I can - usually reassuring them that they are not crazy, just traumatized. Yet when I face a small amount of adversity (compared to what my patients face) I go crazy. It just goes to show, there is only a limited amount you can learn from others' experiences. You just need to go through it yourself.

I have a good working definition of anxiety in clinical practice: trying to control something you cannot control. This is what I find myself doing constantly - trying to control the opinions of other people (so I am not misunderstood), or acting in ways to comfort myself with food, alcohol, and other unhealthy habits. I actually think this is why addictions are so common - they are our response to being out of control, as we have one thing we can control but for a second. The problem is, my actions of this sort often further complicate the relationships in my life. Everyone has destructive addictive behaviors; some are just more acceptable and less destructive than others. When I feel particularly out of control, I watch TV, spend money, eat, drink, whatever - to make myself feel better rather than just face my problem. Now there is probably some sense in that (and I don't beat myself up about it), but I think the insatiable desire to avoid pain drives us to irrational behaviors.

So why in the world would I want to blog this stuff so all the world could see? I think there is an innate need for us to connect to other people. The problem is that our culture has largely separated us from others (the TV is probably one of the biggest causes of this in recent years). Blogging would be no fun if we did not develop a group of people we commonly interacted with and shared life with. We can read about what is happening in their life and they can read about it in ours. This is not just therapy, it is being a human. We want to be heard, we want to be understood.

I often tell my patients that one of the best things about being a doctor is that you get to see that everyone else is just as screwed up as you are. It really helps to know that even the most outwardly put-together people have huge insecurities. That makes it much easier for me to share about my own life. I can't share much with my patients (I am there for them, not me), so here I blog. You all are my therapists.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

More Drunk Animals

Tahoe bear swills beer with pizza snack

1 hour, 23 minutes ago

A bear cub drew a crowd of spectators at a Lake Tahoe neighborhood as it munched on barbecue-chicken-and-jalapeno pizza in the back seat of a vintage red Buick convertible.

It also apparently washed it down with a swig of a Jack Daniel's mixer, an Absolut vodka and tonic, and a beer taken from a cooler, the vehicle's owner said.

About 30 people watched the cub lumber around a parking lot in upper Kingbury
Grade on Sunday before it homed in on the Buick and the spicy pizza on the floor.

The bruin was unfazed by the car's horn the blew nonstop as the cub pressed the seat into the steering wheel.

"The bear was loping along in the parking lot and then decides to get inside the car," said resident Jerry Patterson.

"People were screaming at him, the horn was going off,
but he was completely unaware. He did what he wanted to do and the people didn't matter."

Go here to read more.

What can I say? We have an EPIDEMIC of drunk animals. First it is the notorious monkey, then it is the Pelicans, now we have Yogi doing Jack Daniels??? What has gone wrong with the world? Are we corrupting these poor innocent animals (as our PETA friends would propose), or are they manipulating us to feed their terrible habits?

I have a dog and a cat at home, and now I am going to put a lock on our refrigerator so that I won't wake up to a pickled pooch. I was wondering why I was going through the beer so quickly. It kills me. Now I can't assume their silly actions are just "those zany things our pet friends do." They may just be toasted!!! Oh, the innocence lost!

Now I look at that picture of Yogi and BooBoo at the top of this article in a whole new light. They are not carefree and playful, they are working on cirrhosis! So what do we have left - birds, monkeys, fish (C'mon, ever heard the expression "drinks like a fish?"), large mammals. I guess single celled organisms, such as amoebae, and bacteria are still safe - no wait, aren't they fermenters - they are the dealers! Even blue green algae are in on it!

Oh well, I am off to buy a pet earthworm.....Oh yes, and don't forget about our friends, the Parasite Pals!