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Monday, September 11, 2017

In Remembrance of September 11, 2001 


U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass

Sixteen years ago today, I overheard a coworker down the hall from my office telling someone else about planes hitting the World Trade Center. I checked in on the Internet and on news radio for reports on what would develop into the the modern era's day of infamy. We know of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but there was also the attack that did not occur because of the heroic actions of the passengers on United Flight 93.

Sixteen years of daily living, along with increasing domestic rancor, may have dimmed the feelings of shock, horror, and outrage and the response of prayer, compassion, and resolve that united the people of America and most of the world. However, the current horrific events in the Middle East and the recent attacks around the world and here in America serve to remind us that the threat is still real. We must not allow complacency or political correctness to distract us from recognizing the reality of the current danger.

This anniversary stirs abundant remembrance and reflection and many stirring pictorial and video items have appeared on the web and on Facebook. I still find this audio/visual Internet presentation developed by a New Yorker shortly after the attacks as one of the most powerful portrayals of those times. The sequence is ~15 minutes long and some of the images and sounds are quite disturbing, others are inspirational. (Use the browser View/Zoom function and adjust the scroll bar to enlarge the slide show.)

It is important that we remember, not only to honor those who died and those who acted heroically that day, but to remain constantly aware of the ongoing and growing dangers, of the presence of real evil in the hearts of some people, and to maintain constant vigilance and a determination to defeat this evil. Finally, we must always remember to trust in God and his mercy during trying times. The story of the cross formed by two beams found among the ruins of the twin towers is recounted here.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

August 21, 2017: The Great American Eclipse 

The photo is overexposed and doesn't do justice to the actual spectacular appearance of the total eclipse.

The Moon's shadow raced across the continental United States on Monday, August 21. Millions gathered along the path of totality to witness the Great American Eclipse in totality while millions more viewed the partial eclipse over much of the Western Hemisphere.

I procrastinated and did not make advanced travel plans to the path of totality and thought I might have to be content with experiencing the partial eclipse at home in Maryland. In the final days before the eclipse, I devised a plan to find affordable lodging within striking distance of totality, staying in Charlotte, NC. I wound up joining friends at Triple Tree Aerodrome, a rural airport southeast of Greenville, SC.

This was my second total eclipse, the first one in 1991, when I joined a bus trip organized by a NASA Ames scientist which headed down from San Jose, CA to La Paz, on Mexico's Baja peninsula. Both experiences were worth the effort. The sight of the black silhouette of the Moon surrounded by the Sun's corona is a striking and memorable experience. Words or photos don't do it justice.

To observe the partial phase before and after totality, I used the certified eclipse glasses from NASA, though I primarily relied on a projection system I devised with a ~2.4" refractor telescope I've had since high school. This system allows several people to gather around to safely and comfortably view the Sun's image. It is necessary to adjust the telescope's pointing every minute or so as the Earth's rotation begins to move the image out of the field of view.

My homemade telescope solar projection system




















Projected images of the eclipse before and after totality

This eclipse generated much public fascination and interest in the next opportunity to view this kind of awesome event. The next total solar eclipse over North America will happen on April 8, 2024, where the Moon's shadow will sweep up through Mexico, across Texas and up through the Midwest including Ohio into the Great Lakes region, upper New England and eastern Canada.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Forty Eight Years Ago Today, We Stepped On Another World 


NASA

Today is the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 pioneering expedition to the lunar surface, the day human beings first made landfall on another world. Check out Rand Simberg's ceremonial commemoration of that epic voyage. Here is a brief video capturing highlights of the first two explorers on the Moon.



The Moody Blues were one of the premier rock music bands of that era. They were (and still are) great fans of space travel. Here is a video of highlights of the Apollo lunar expeditions accompanied by the first three songs from their 1969 album To Our Childrens' Childrens' Children, which was the band's celebration of the first human lunar landing.



Today is also the Fourteenth anniversary ('blogiversary') of the launch of this humble blog. Here is the inaugural post (Note that I was too inexperienced to think of giving it a title.) on Life at the Frontier.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

As It Happened, the Apollo 11 Launch 

Forty eight years ago this morning, Apollo 11 lifted off on the voyage to land the first men on the Moon. Here's a replay of what it looked like on TV from ~6 min before 'til ~4 min after launch. (The video quality is somewhat degraded from that of the live TV broadcast.) The terse, crisp voice of Jack King as Apollo Launch Control added to the drama of the historic countdown. Relive the moment or experience what it was like.





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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy Independence Day! 

Stars And Stripes by Junior Libby

As we join in the festivities of the Fourth, let's strive to keep to the values proclaimed in the Declaration that make it worth celebrating.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This is a time to be mindful and protective of the full range of personal, religious and economic liberties. Some additional thoughts from around the web remind us of the significance of some words from the second stanza of America the Beautiful and thoughts on the Stars and Stripes from a famous Catholic English writer.
Wow. Think about that line: "by whose stars we are illumined, and by whose stripes we are healed." Have you ever thought about your flag that way - so Christ-like? G. K. Chesterton did. It’s a stirring interpretation of America and its mission.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Have a Blessed and Happy Easter! 

At daybreak on the first day of the week
the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus
took the spices they had prepared
and went to the tomb.
They found the stone rolled away from the tomb;
but when they entered,
they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
While they were puzzling over this, behold,
two men in dazzling garments appeared to them.
They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground.
They said to them,
"Why do you seek the living one among the dead?
He is not here, but he has been raised.
Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee,
that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners
and be crucified, and rise on the third day."
And they remembered his words.
Then they returned from the tomb
and announced all these things to the eleven
and to all the others.
The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James;
the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles,
but their story seemed like nonsense
and they did not believe them.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb,
bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone;
then he went home amazed at what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holy Week 2017 

This week is the one considered Holy by many with a strong Faith in God. For Christians, it is the observance of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the most pivotal events of human history. The Easter Triduum as observed in the Catholic Church is described here and here. Pope Francis expressed his thoughts on Holy Week at his Wednesday General Audience.

This year, the week also includes the Jewish observance of Passover, the celebration of the Jews' passing over to freedom from the bondage of slavery they suffered in Egypt. This event was a historical manifestation of God's power recognized by Jews and Christians alike.

May this week of Holy Days bring blessings and peace to all.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sine Die: The Circus on the Severn Folds Its Tent for 2017 






The Maryland General Assembly adjourned Monday night after its ninety-day session for 2017. Here is the Baltimore Sun's summary of highlights of the good, the bad and the ugly that was passed during this session.

Some really bad or just plain silly legislation was passed. Some of this activity was more motivated by the desire of some  "progressive" Democrats to feel good about themselves standing up to the Trump Administration than by a serious intent to achieve practical results for Maryland residents.

Some really good news is that the dangerous push for assisted suicide failed to even come to the floor in either chamber again this year. Also, the TRUST Act (aka state sanctuary bill) passed the House of Delegates but was dropped without a vote in the Senate after public outrage arose over the rape case at Rockville HS where the alleged assailants are illegal immigrants.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy Saint Patrick's Day 



Today is March 17, St. Patrick's Day. Be blessed, safe, and happy while celebrating Ireland's patron saint.

Saint Patrick's Breastplate

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort me and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

In the spirit of the holiday, check out LiveIreland.com for webcasts of Irish music and other media direct from Ireland.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

March for Life 2017: With New Hope and Determination 


Throngs of people in the March for Life surging toward the Supreme Court.

I participated on Friday, January 27th in the 44th annual 
March for Life in Washington, DC. This year's March, commemorating the infamous 1973 Supreme Court abortion decisions that imposed abortion on demand in the United States and the nearly sixty million abortions occurring since then, took place in the wake of the inauguration of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence into office. The March received the blessing and strong support of Pope Francis.

Instead of the Obama Administration's hostility to the cause of life and the even more ominous potential of a Hillary Clinton Administration, marchers came to DC in an environment of new hope and with determination to see real progress toward the protection of human lives in the womb. Still, it was important for the people to come and both encourage and hold accountable our new leaders, and to be a witness to the nation and the world. And come we did, with estimates of up to ~600,000 participants.

I started the day at an 8 AM Mass at St. Patrick's Church, offered by Cardinal Dolan of NY and packed with student groups and others from distant states. Then it was over to join the Family Research Council's ProLifeCon social media conference, featuring some key leaders and other amazing people in the prolife movement.

From there, after a quick McDonald's lunch, I headed to the March for Life Rally at the Washington Monument area. The crowds around there were so large, I stayed outside the security perimeter and listened to the start of the proceedings, highlighted by Vice President Mike Pence's  declaration of the Trump Administration's support for the prolife cause. I then made my way several blocks east along to Constitution Ave. to be at the front of the March to take some good pictures.

After joining some other photographers near the top of Capitol Hill for a while to capture the huge oncoming March, and then spending even more time in front of the Supreme Court, I went around the block back to Constitution Ave. and found the March was still surging strong. As our new President would say, this was really "Yuuuge!!" To end this awesome day, I joined friends and other marchers in celebration at DC's famous Irish pub, The Dubliner.


Huge crowd at the Washington Monument for the rally.




 VP Mike Pence pledged the Administration's support for the cause of life.

Here comes the Pro-Life Generation! (Students for Life of America).


Good to have some badass feminists on the side of life!


Approaching the Capitol: Nonviolent healthcare definitely does not include abortion.



The powerful presence of those involved in abortion who are silent no more.


Signs that succinctly state the case for protecting life.


A couple of powerful signs that couldn't say it any more clearly.


May the Supreme Court turn to the Constitution and protect life.


The many marchers continued to surge for ~2 hours.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Remembering Fallen Pioneers 



NASA, the nation and the world are observing this and next week the anniversaries of human losses in spaceflight: Apollo 1 (fifty years ago tomorrow, January 27), Challenger (thirty one years  ago Saturday, January 28), and Columbia (fourteen years ago Next Wednesday,  February 1).

I still remember all too well that Friday night in 1967. I was at home with my brother watching a science fiction show on ABC called Time Tunnel when the first news bulletins started coming over about the catastrophic fire. It was a terrible shock to an eleven year old boy caught up in the excitement of the space age,. It was most unexpected because it came not during flight but during a ground test that I was not even aware was happening that day.

May they be always remembered, along with the four Russians, the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo pilot and all those who have or will give their lives in the future as humans expand outward to explore, develop and settle new places in the cosmos. May God grant them all eternal rest.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Why We March 

This is a slightly revised and updated article I first wrote and posted in 2004 at this time.

March for Life 2014 ascending Capitol Hill on the way to the Supreme Court
On Friday, January 27, the 44th  annual March for Life will mark the anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton Supreme Court decisions which imposed abortion-on-demand in the United States on January 22, 1973. Once again, concerned citizens will gather for the annual March, which in recent years has usually drawn an estimated several hundred thousand participants. Now, why do so many people consider it so important to take time on a weekday to come to Washington, DC at the coldest time of the year to make their voice heard on this matter?

Before I go on any further, I need to say a couple of things. First, nothing in this article is meant to condemn anyone who has had an abortion or has been involved in abortion in some way. Far from condemning those with an abortion in their past, the people in the prolife movement are about healing and forgiveness, and want it to be clear that there is hope after abortion. Post-abortion counseling can be found through many church denominations and pregnancy counseling centers.

And second, while the prolife movement consists largely of people with strong religious convictions who feel called by God to defend the defenseless, that doesn't make the protection of human life a narrow religious issue. The facts that the defenseless exist and that they deserve protection in the human family can be persuasively advocated by non-religiously reasoned arguments.

First, let's start with a little scientific background (from the Science for Unborn Human Life website) about how each of us began our lives as unique human beings. A new human being is conceived when a sperm fertilizes an egg. The sperm has 23 chromosomes and so does the egg. But the fertilized egg has 46, half from each parent, and is genetically unique. These 46 chromosomes, which are fixed at conception, establish the child's sex and are a blueprint for how it will develop, both during pregnancy and after birth.

Blood vessels start to form very early, about 13-18 days after fertilization. Then, on about the 20th day - nearly the end of the third week - the foundation of the brain, the spinal cord, and the entire nervous system is established. The heart begins to beat on about the 22nd day after conception, circulating blood throughout the child. The arms begin to form on about day 26, followed by the beginnings of the legs on day 28, the same day that the mouth opens for the first time.

Both the eyes and ears are developing rapidly during the seventh week after conception. At this time, the thumbs, neck, heels of the feet and all of the fingers are also present. Taste buds begin to form during the eighth week after conception. All parts of the limbs are apparent at this time. In addition, the fingers and toes have lengthened and are completely separated.

By the end of the eighth week the overwhelming majority (several thousand) of the body's organs, structures and systems have already begun to develop. Few, if any, new structures begin to form after this time. During the remainder of the pregnancy, development consists mainly of growth and maturation of the parts of the body that are already present.

Isolated arm, leg and backward head movements begin at about 7 to 10 weeks after conception. During the ninth week, a regular pattern of breathing movements is observed, with a median frequency of about 30 breaths each hour.

These are just the highlights of how you developed during the first 2-3 months of your life. Now consider that a majority of abortions are performed during the tenth to twelfth week of gestation. Some are performed much later in the pregnancy, when the child has grown larger and any unbiased observer would recognize a baby when they see one.

So why if the evidence so clearly indicates that a unique human life begins at conception, how did the deliberate and violent destruction of that life come to be imposed as a 'constitutional right'? Time does not permit describing the whole history of abortion or the intertwining influences of the eugenics and population control movements. Let's start with the socially turbulent late sixties when a growing pro-abortion movement subversively exploited the legitimate aspirations of women for greater rights and participation in society.

The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist and co-founder of the pro-abortion group NARAL, since changed his mind and heart and became a leading prolife advocate. He points out the disinformation at the heart of the pro-abortion campaign.
- "The statistics that we gave to the American public about illegal abortions annually; the statistics we fabricated regarding the number of women dying from illegal abortions annually; all of these matters were pure fabrication and still persist to this very day."

- "We spoke of 5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year. I confess that I knew the figures were totally false. It was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics?"

- "We in NARAL were in the business of coining slogans principally for the media . . . we scattered catchy slogans for them . . . to use . . . in their stories. Slogans like "reproductive rights", "freedom of choice", "pro-choice". For many years we've known them to be hollow and meaningless. They're just catchy and, essentially, without substance."

The movement made rapid progress. California, New York and a few other states passed 'liberalized' abortion laws (though some other states rejected them). But what imposed abortion on American law were two Supreme Court cases, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, pronounced on January 22, 1973. The combined effect of the two decisions was to effectively impose abortion-on-demand throughout the nine months of pregnancy. Since that time, nearly sixty million human beings have been exterminated by abortion in the United States.

Aside from the grave issue that was decided, the finding that abortion is part of a constitutional 'right of privacy' is considered an overreach of judicial power even by some legal scholars who describe themselves as 'prochoice'. The 'reasoning' was based on 'penumbras' the justices claim to have seen in the constitution.

Did you know that the two plaintiffs in the Roe and Doe cases, Norma McCorvey and the late Sandra Cano, have filed affidavits to the effect that they were manipulated into their roles and that the decisions should be overturned? You would think that this development would be considered unprecedented in Supreme Court history, but apparently Chris Matthews, Diane Sawyer, the New York Times, etc. forgot to inform you.

One fact that is becoming evident that abortion-on-demand is not such a great thing for women. Abortion has left many women emotionally and sometimes physically scarred. Campaigns such as Silent No More Awareness are tapping into this hidden anguish.

Also evident is the effect on our society, with conflicting attitudes on how we treat not only the unborn, but also the sick, disabled and elderly. Consider the heart wrenching case of the judicially imposed death of Terri Schindler-Schiavo in 2005. Abortion has torn marriages and families apart, and led to a hardened and increasingly violent culture. The raging debate over embryonic stem cell research and human cloning shows the growing risk posed by a disregard for the dignity of every human life.

So, we have had for the past forty four years, a culture that in some ways has grown cynical, forgoing the promise of a hopeful future for instant gratification, or more often, the resignation to unimaginative 'solutions' that pit mother against child or people against the planet. One is reminded of a quote from the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats:
"The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere a ceremony of innocence was drowned."

These Supreme Court abortion decisions were assumed to have 'settled' the issue in our society. Yet much to the consternation of the pro-abortion establishment, the movement of concerned citizens to protect life has only grown in strength over the past forty four years. The prolife movement has pursued multiple paths: educating the public, lobbying and litigating for change, participating in politics, and especially reaching out to help women with unplanned pregnancies.

On the political front, abortion continues to play a pivotal role in national and state elections and in the debate over health care and other public legislation, and is becoming increasingly intertwined with issues of religious and personal liberty and freedom of speech. The abortion conflict has recently ramped up with the release of Investigative videos revealing the hideous practices of Planned Parenthood exploiting their unborn victims and the women they claim to serve in order to harvest unborn human body parts. The powers-that-be and others who want to silence the prolife movement are terrified (even if subconsciously) that the brutal reality of abortion will be exposed. Presidents, election campaigns, economic cycles and other controversies come and go, but the struggle for life goes on.

Particularly significant is that the change in public attitudes on abortion is most striking among young people (who've lost peers they've never met). This is manifested in polling results and an upsurge of prolife activism among teenscollege students, and new media savvy activists who are exposing the dark side of the abortion industry. This is much to the consternation of their professors and, in some cases, their parents. Sort of adds a new twist to some lyrics from the sixties by Buffalo Springfield:
"Young people speakin' their minds, A-gettin' so much resistance from behind."

This year, with a new president and congress more disposed toward protecting life than we've had in many years, and the possibility of new Supreme Court justices who may be more inclined to question whether the Roe and Doe decisions are really consistent with the Constitution, there is renewed hope. The new leadership is already starting to take action. Still, we must be there to both encourage and hold accountable our new leaders, and to be a witness to the nation and the world.

So the buses are starting to roll, as thousands from distant states once again journey to Washington, where many will gather in prayer the night before or the morning of the March. Then we will rally and march, knowing that those we are trying to defend would some day defend our nation, write great literature, cure disease, compose stirring music, and explore and begin to settle the Solar System.

But more than for their potential accomplishments, we speak out for them simply because of the inherent dignity of each of their lives. In so doing we are responding to a great calling as individuals and as a civilization. And we'll continue to speak and march and work and pray, confident in the hope that, one of these years, we'll no longer face the cold winds. Instead, we'll gather on a warm spring day to celebrate the inclusion of the youngest in the human family within the protection of the law.

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Our New President is Inaugurated 




Donald J. Trump was sworn in as our 45th President yesterday with the usual inaugural drama and ceremony. I had the honor of being among the hundreds of thousands who witness this historic change in person.

President Trump's inaugural address (video and text here) repeated the themes of his campaign acknowledging that many Americans have been left behind economically and socially and that America needs to reassert its self interest. The speech then took a lofty tone of renewed optimism for the future.
Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. 
We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again. 
We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow. 
A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions. 
It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.  
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.
The recent campaign and indeed much of the national conversation in recent years, even decades has been increasingly rancorous. This division spilled over into Inauguration Day with peaceful protests, which are in the American tradition, but unfortunately some violent outbursts, which must never be tolerated or excused.

All of the hopes of many, and fears of others, about President Trump's administration,have been based on speculation up until yesterday at noon. Now the action really begins, and the president and his administration can be judged on whether he does the right things and does them effectively.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Circus On The Severn Convenes For 2017 



The Maryland General Assembly convened on Wednesday for its 2017 ninety day run. Transportation will be among the major issues of contention between Gov. Larry Hogan and the leadership of the General Assembly

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: What a Ride! 

Another year has passed. While each year has its individual joys and sorrows felt by each of us and those we love, there are those events and historical developments we share in common, and 2016 certainly has had some unique ones.

2016 saw its share of bloody violence, from all out warfare in Aleppo to terrorism in Orlando to individual murderous acts in Baltimore, to name only a few examples. Tensions festered along racial and other lines, sometimes agitated to advance political agendas.

Progress continued to advance forward, with fits and starts, on many fronts including medicine, technology, commercial space development, etc. Bold plans are laid out for the future (e.g. Elon Musk's plans for settling Mars). Time will tell which plans bear fruit and on what time scale.

In the US, presidential politics dominated attention. A year ago, many wondered whether Donald Trump's candidacy had serious potential or was more of a pop culture sensation. After out-hustling a formidable and talented GOP field of candidates, Trump swept to the nomination in Cleveland and went to take on the favored (and Media darling) Hillary Clinton. In the early morning hours of November 9, many were astounded to find that Donald Trump acquired enough electoral votes to become the 45th President of the United States. Economic anxiety, national security concerns, rejection of extreme "progressive" policies on abortion and other issues all can be cited as deciding factors, along with a general sense that elites in power are not in touch with the concerns of many average citizens.

With the presidential transition pressing ahead and appointments to key positions already named, the table is being set for some of the leading developments of 2017. Trump's confrontational personality combined with the unhinged negativity of some of his opponents mean there will likely be rancorous times ahead, but more important is whether we can make headway in protecting life, defending liberty, maintaining national security and global stability, and achieving expanded prosperity.

Well, wishing you and yours God's blessings and peace and all the best on this new frontier we call 2017.

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