CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.
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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
February 28, 2011

The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)
Here's another type of ghost in the scanning machine, presented in honor of Gordon Meyer.  This image recalls the double-exposure spirit photography of the 19th century.  This particular ghost materialized in the Google Books scan of Wilfred Montressor: or, The Secret Order of the Seven: A Romance of Life in the New York Metropolis (1865).  We're especially tickled by the ghost of the huge letter Y.


> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .


Book of Whispers (permalink)

Imagine a game of "What's My Line," in which either a cherub or an imp whispers into a blindfolded panelist's ear.

Are the whispered words pictured on the right of an angelic or a diabolical nature?


Answer: Diabolical. "Riches, luxury, power can be yours—soft beds and dainty foods. You can be great in the greatness that the world can see, famous with the fame your own ears will hear. Work for the world, and the world will pay you promptly; the wages the gods give are long delayed." —Jerome K. Jerome, Diary of a Pilgrimage, 2001, p. 194. (The answer is in black text on the black background. Highlight it to view.)
> read more from Book of Whispers . . .

February 27, 2011

This May Surprise You (permalink)
"This may come as a surprise, but the greatest challenge in life is not failure; it is success."
Steve Elliott, The Grassfire Effect
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .


Presumptive Conundrums (permalink)
INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the puzzle image below to reveal one possible solution.

You Do the Math - Presumptive Conundrums
* Learn more about Presumptive Conundrums at Amazon.com.
> read more from Presumptive Conundrums . . .

February 26, 2011

Simple Answers (permalink)
Difficult Question? Here's a simple answer

"The answer is simple:  learn to relax.”

Mark Hyman, Ultrametabolism (2008)

If this is not the answer you’re looking for,
click here for a different answer.
> read more from Simple Answers . . .


The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Classic Sightings ~

Portrait from Memoir of George Edmund Street.

In this haunting, the ghost appears twice, once in a gray shadow and once in a blue mist.

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .

February 25, 2011

Don't Take This the Wrong Way (permalink)
"Don't take this the wrong way or try to read into it, but I wouldn't waste your time trying to figure me out."
T.A. Halukennah, What the Mirror Sees

---

June writes:

This isn't encouraging me in my writing of your unauthorized biography.
> read more from Don't Take This the Wrong Way . . .


I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
"All writing is extemporaneous because it is always bound by the temporal sphere."
Geof Huth
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .


Your Ship Will Come In (permalink)
“Just keep up a brave heart, and your ship will come sailing in.” —Tim Kantor


 
* Our printed collection of vintage nautical postcards is entitled Your Ship Will Come In and is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Your Ship Will Come In . . .

February 24, 2011

This May Surprise You (permalink)
"The surprising truth is, heavy creams don't always moisturize well enough to help dry skin recuperate overnight."
Working Woman (1989)
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .


I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
"Does history record any case in which the majority was right?"
Robert Heinlein

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."
Mark Twain

"When the majority is buying, you should consider selling."
Greg Tanghe
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .


Two Sides / Same Coin (permalink)
* Inspired by Jeff Hawkins.
> read more from Two Sides / Same Coin . . .

February 23, 2011

Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)
I dreamed that a misplaced question mark obfuscated the entire meaning of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

(My typographical error dream was no doubt triggered by Fredericka Beardsley Gilchrist's The True Story of Hamlet and Ophelia.)

(Thanks, FutilityCloset.)

---

June asks:

To be or not to be: that is the question?


> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .


I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
"Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence."
Salman Rushdie


Photo by Dr Craig.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .


The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Classic Sightings ~

Portrait from Memoir of the Life of John Quincy Adams.

“In Statuary Hall, filled with sculptures of prominent statesmen of the past, the luminous ghost of John Quincy Adams has been seen by Capitol staff.” —Historic Haunted America

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .

February 22, 2011

This May Surprise You (permalink)
"This may come as a surprise, but 'faking it' is an honored tradition among piano and keyboard players."
—Brad Hill
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .


Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore (permalink)
For you, gentle reader:  two lost pages from our book on Divination by Punctuation.



> read more from Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore . . .

February 21, 2011

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
"How delightful it would be to find a few people, or even one person, unconditionally thrilled by what one had to say."
—Leonora Carrington, The Hearing Trumpet
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .


Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Ce n'est pas une page blanche.


Ironically, this not-quite blank page appears in a book on Buddhist philosophy.

---

Pat Gull writes:

Ironic is it not?  I suppose it all depends from which way you look at it.

Prof. Oddfellow responds:

From the Buddhist "less is more" perspective, the page should have been left truly blank, without the message stating the obvious and in the process marring the original blankness.

Ina Knowles writes:

I disagree Prof. Oddfellow. Only those in the industry would understand the intent of such a page. As more and more books are sold to the public such devices are appropriate and required.

Off topic. I do hope local bookstores sort the sales war with the Internet shops. They may be in for a rather humiliating revenue quarter but then again they if they are in the book selling business; expect competition from all directions.

Kelly Nilges writes:

Brilliant twist on René Magritte's "The Treachery of Images", Prof. Oddfellow!

Jonathan Caws-Elwitt illuminates:

Re. "less is more": Perhaps the idea was that making the blank page slightly less blank in effect makes it blanker?

June writes:

This is clearly a reference to the STRANGERS WITH CANDY episode, "The Blank Page," in which Jerri learns that reading and writing can be dangerous.

Prof. Oddfellow writes:

Jonathan, that's exquisitely brilliant!
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .


Book of Whispers (permalink)

Imagine a game of "What's My Line," in which either a cherub or an imp whispers into a blindfolded panelist's ear.

Are the whispered words pictured on the right of an angelic or a diabolical nature?


Answer: Angelic. "And the angel whispered thus . . . 'Arise, and be with us.'” —Samuel Kennedy Cowan, "My Choice,” The Murmur of the Shells, 1879, p. 45. (The answer is in black text on the black background. Highlight it to view.)
> read more from Book of Whispers . . .

February 20, 2011

This May Surprise You (permalink)
"This may come as a surprise, but most colleges actually expect you to spend some time learning."
How to Survive Your Freshman Year
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .


Presumptive Conundrums (permalink)
INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the puzzle image below to reveal one possible solution.

You Do the Math - Presumptive Conundrums
* Learn more about Presumptive Conundrums at Amazon.com.
> read more from Presumptive Conundrums . . .

February 19, 2011

Simple Answers (permalink)
Difficult Question? Here's a simple answer

"The answer is simple:  almost anything you want as long as you do the same thing to both sides.”

Fred Grayson, CliffsTestPrep Nursing School Entrance Exam (2004)

If this is not the answer you’re looking for,
click here for a different answer.
> read more from Simple Answers . . .


The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Classic Sightings ~

Portrait from Memoir of William Ellery Channing.

This intriguing ghost portrait both mirrors and brings color to the halo of the original.

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .

February 18, 2011

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
The problem with people is:
  • inherent shortsightedness
  • fickleness
  • inability to communicate
  • they're not all the same
  • self-centeredness
  • a lack of foresight
  • overspending
  • an unwillingness to pay their dues
  • focusing on the destination instead of the journey
  • taking themselves too seriously
  • apathy
  • inefficiency
  • inattentiveness
  • prioritization
  • fear and confusion
  • they make poor gods
  • bargain hunting
  • giving up too easily
  • taking shortcuts
  • an infinite supply of wants
  • making small talk
  • being only human

(we culled this list from popular books)
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .


Your Ship Will Come In (permalink)


“Your heart is very loyal; when you navigate so well, your ship will come to a good harbor.” —Guillaume de Lorris

 
* Our printed collection of vintage nautical postcards is entitled Your Ship Will Come In and is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Your Ship Will Come In . . .

February 17, 2011

This May Surprise You (permalink)
"The surprising truth is that few people actually know exactly where the world's forests, grasslands, deserts, mountains, alluvial soils, or mineral resources are located."
Canadian Geographical Journal
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .


Do-Re-Midi (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:


> read more from Do-Re-Midi . . .


Two Sides / Same Coin (permalink)
* Inspired by Jeff Hawkins.
> read more from Two Sides / Same Coin . . .

February 16, 2011

The Right Word (permalink)

Is this dictionary fictitious
Is our One-Letter Words: A Dictionary a sham?  Australian secondhand book dealers Huc & Gabet discovered our tome amid Latin and Yiddish dictionaries (we approve), then asked a bookseller and a scientist (who had never seen our book) if such a dictionary must be a sham.  Here's the full report.

We sure do hope their puzzling definition of "dictionary" doesn't reach the ears of Ammon Shea, author of Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages, since he read the Oxford English Dictionary cover to cover, for enjoyment!  (Who'd've thunk it?)

But seriously, we're glad all the recent natural disasters in Australia haven't distracted from the really important issues.

---

Mike responds:

As I understand the argument in this review, a key premise is that a "proper" dictionary must contain the definitions for any word entry on a single page (or perhaps some number of pages fewer than eight -- as Huc & Gabet phrased their objection to One-Letter Words: A Dictionary, "to get a meaning you need to read 8 pages of text").  If one searches for the word "set" on dictionary.com, one finds that the word has over 100 definitions.  So by extension, H&G would be forced to admit that either (1) dictionary.com is not a dictionary, or (2) the word "set" is not a word.  I'm frankly dumbfounded by the logic in this review.

June writes:

I am feeling completely shammed by the illustrated dictionary on my shelf.  Where could something like this lead? On some pages there are only three illustrations, and no definitions at all, merely labels.  I doubt its very existence.

Allan elucidates:

dic·tion·ar·y  [dik-shuh-ner-ee]  –noun, plural -ar·ies.
1. a book containing a selection of the words of a language, usually arranged alphabetically, giving information about their meanings, pronunciations, etymologies, inflected forms, etc., expressed in either the same or another language; lexicon; glossary: a dictionary of English; a Japanese-English dictionary, one letter words.

Hmmmm!

June adds:

"Out of a human population on earth of four and a half billion, perhaps twenty people can write a book in a year. Some people lift cars, too. Some people enter week-long sled-dog races, go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, fly planes through the Arc de Triomphe. Some people feel no pain in childbirth. Some people eat cars. There is no call to take human extremes as norms." —Annie Dillard (The Writing Life)

And some people observe and comment upon what others do.  Each of us does what he can do.

Jeff writes:

I have unraveled the mystery.

I believe this "Robin" is, in fact, a precocious two-month-old who recently became aware of his fingers, and is now happily engaged in "reviewing" every book on his father's shelf.

Strangely, he is able to construct quasi-coherent sentences, but hasn't yet acquired the ability to read.

His mother is a "scientist."



Prof. Oddfellow asks a potentially trick question: can you find the sham
He holds a copy of his dictionary of one-letter words and Robert E. Neale's This is Not a Book.
> read more from The Right Word . . .


I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
"Whenever someone who knows you disappears, you lose one version of yourself.  Yourself as you were seen, as you were judged to be.  Lover or enemy, mother or friend, those who know us construct us, and their several knowings slant the different facets of our characters like diamond-cutter's tools.  Each such loss is a step leading to the grave, where all versions blend and end."
Salman Rushdie
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .


The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Classic Sightings ~

Portrait from Biography of Ephraim McDowell.

“Something like a ghostly reproduction of him.” —Ignacio Padilla, Antipodes

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .

February 15, 2011

This May Surprise You (permalink)
"The surprising truth is that most scientists apparently are ignorant about the real nature of science."
John Ankerberg & John Weldon, Darwin's Leap of Faith (1998)
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .


Puzzles and Games (permalink)
Here's a game of "What am I?"

Your clues:
  • I am an arrogant slap in the face from across the room.
  • I am an ethereal corset trapping everyone in the same unnatural shape.
  • I am a lazy and inelegant concession to fashionable ego.
  • I am too often a substitute for true allure and style.
  • I am an opaque shell concealing everything—revealing nothing.
  • I am a childish masque hiding the timid and unimaginative.
What am I?

Answer: Perfume (The answer is in black text on the black background. Highlight it to view.)

These clues are courtesy of Christopher Brosius.
> read more from Puzzles and Games . . .


Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led (permalink)
Here's a detail of St. Eugene, Patron of Normal Cell Division.  See the complete image here.


Who is your favorite imaginary saint?  Do share!
> read more from Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led . . .

February 14, 2011

Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)
I dreamed of a self-possessed apostrophe—a ghost haunting itself.

(Inspired by Gary Barwin.)


Illustration by Prof. Oddfellow
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .


Book of Whispers (permalink)

Imagine a game of "What's My Line," in which either a cherub or an imp whispers into a blindfolded panelist's ear.

Are the whispered words pictured on the right of an angelic or a diabolical nature?


Answer: Diabolical. "You’re beginning to see, aren’t you? the demon whispered in her mind." —Scott Ciencin, The Vampire Odyssey, 1992, p. 318. (The answer is in black text on the black background. Highlight it to view.)
> read more from Book of Whispers . . .

February 13, 2011

This May Surprise You (permalink)
"This may come as a surprise, but opening lines exist in the animal kingdom as well."
—Dr. Lars Bergman, Chairman of the Animal Mating and Romance Institute, Weekly World News
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .


Presumptive Conundrums (permalink)
INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the puzzle image below to reveal one possible solution.

You Do the Math - Presumptive Conundrums
* Learn more about Presumptive Conundrums at Amazon.com.
> read more from Presumptive Conundrums . . .

February 12, 2011

Simple Answers (permalink)
Difficult Question? Here's a simple answer

"The answer is simple:  it makes you tremble, shake, and quake.”

Bradford Keeney, The Bushman Way of Tracking God (2010)

If this is not the answer you’re looking for,
click here for a different answer.
> read more from Simple Answers . . .


The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Classic Sightings ~

Portrait from A Memoir of Honoré de Balzac.

“We term sleep a death; and yet it is waking that kills us.” —Sir Thomas Browne

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .

February 11, 2011

Uncharted Territories (permalink)
The first page of the maps section in Polybius' Histories was intentionally left blank. (We approve!)


> read more from Uncharted Territories . . .


Your Ship Will Come In (permalink)


“The big problem is knowing when an incoming call is awaiting your boat.” —Yachting

 
* Our printed collection of vintage nautical postcards is entitled Your Ship Will Come In and is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Your Ship Will Come In . . .

February 10, 2011

This May Surprise You (permalink)
"The surprising truth is that the early days of the digital age will appear almost pre-literate to future historians."
Micrographics Newsletter (1995)
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .


Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
"Everything occurs immediately even if it takes a while to happen."
Geof Huth
> read more from Forgotten Wisdom . . .


Two Sides / Same Coin (permalink)
* Inspired by Jeff Hawkins.
> read more from Two Sides / Same Coin . . .

February 9, 2011

Go Out in a Blaze of Glory (permalink)
"With all the mad things destiny leaves lying around, it's a surprise your head doesn't sometimes explode, or something like that!"
—Gustav Meyrink, The Green Face
> read more from Go Out in a Blaze of Glory . . .


Ampersands (permalink)
Avoid ampersands and thorns, suggests The American Archivist (Vol. 28, 1965, p. 363).


Geof Huth writes:

Craig, now you're reading my professional literature too? (Though I've written but one book review for The American Archivist.)

Prof. Oddfellow responds:

Geof, you have indeed developed my interest in archivia.  (I'd ask you if that was a word, but I can already guess your answer.)  By the way, with fresh eyes I see that I should have done a "flip horizontal" on the thorn. 
* A manual for typographers published in 1917 acknowledged that there are many beautiful forms of the ampersand, yet it forbade their use in "ordinary book work."  Extraordinary books are another matter.  Our lavishly illustrated Ampersand opus explores the history and pictography of the most common coordinating conjunction.
> read more from Ampersands . . .


The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Classic Sightings ~

Portrait from Autobiography of Amos Kendall.

Kendall’s striped aura is courtesy of Google’s scanning machine.

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .

February 8, 2011

This May Surprise You (permalink)
"Believe it or not, there are people—important people all over the world—who consider me more than a little competent."
JoAnn Ross, Freefall
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .


Puzzles and Games :: Film-ictionary (permalink)
> read more from Puzzles and Games :: Film-ictionary . . .

February 7, 2011

Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:


Printed collections of Forgotten Wisdom diagrams are available: Volume I from Mindful Greetings and Volumes II, III and IV from Amazon.  Selected posters are also available via Zazzle.
> read more from Forgotten Wisdom . . .


Book of Whispers (permalink)

Imagine a game of "What's My Line," in which either a cherub or an imp whispers into a blindfolded panelist's ear.

Are the whispered words pictured on the right of an angelic or a diabolical nature?


Answer: Angelic. "An angel whispered in his young ear, 'Never mind the newspapers.'” —Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1911, p. 508. (The answer is in black text on the black background. Highlight it to view.)
> read more from Book of Whispers . . .

February 6, 2011

This May Surprise You (permalink)
"As unlikely as it sounds, there is some version of etiquette for virtually any scenario."
—Vickie Lexom

---

June writes:

I know I am trying to stop texting to the person to whom I am speaking before our conversation ends.
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .


Presumptive Conundrums (permalink)
INSTRUCTIONS: Click on the puzzle image below to reveal one possible solution.

You Do the Math - Presumptive Conundrums
* Learn more about Presumptive Conundrums at Amazon.com.
> read more from Presumptive Conundrums . . .

February 5, 2011

Simple Answers (permalink)
Difficult Question? Here's a simple answer

"The answer is simple.  It doesn’t.”

Iona Archibald Opie, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (2001)

If this is not the answer you’re looking for,
click here for a different answer.
> read more from Simple Answers . . .


The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Classic Sightings ~

Portrait from The Collected Works of William Hazlitt: Fugitive Writings.

“The translucent ghost is becoming shabby.” —Penelope Shuttle, The Mirror of the Giant

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
> read more from The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine . . .

February 4, 2011

Unicorns (permalink)
Can you guess the second half of this headline from LIFE magazine (Sept. 26, 1969)?


 
Answer: ... and living in Coney Island. (The answer is in black text on the black background. Highlight it to view.)
> read more from Unicorns . . .


Colorful Allusions (permalink)


> read more from Colorful Allusions . . .


Your Ship Will Come In (permalink)


“So we sit on the wharf and peek between the fog, hoping to glimpse a little red steamboat.” —Joshua Clark

 
* Our printed collection of vintage nautical postcards is entitled Your Ship Will Come In and is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Your Ship Will Come In . . .

February 3, 2011

This May Surprise You (permalink)
"Believe it or not, I was turned down for both personal, small business, and women-oriented bank loans."
Marianna Olszewski, Live It, Love It, Earn It
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .


The Right Word (permalink)
Here's a charming reference to a one-letter word in Nabokov's The Real Life of Sebastian Knight:

The "why's" of his behaviour were as many X's.
> read more from The Right Word . . .


Two Sides / Same Coin (permalink)
* Inspired by Jeff Hawkins.
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February 2, 2011

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
"We carry within us the wonders we seek without us.  There is all Africa and her prodigies in us." —Sir Thomas Browne, qtd. in The Dictionary of Imaginary Places
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Puzzles and Games :: Which is Funnier (permalink)
Which is funnier: January or August?

Clue: This is according to humorist David Sedaris.

Answer: August. (The answer is in black text on the black background. Highlight it to view.)

Citation: David Sedaris, Holidays on Ice (2009)
(Thanks to Jonathan Caws-Elwitt for inspiration!)
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The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine (permalink)

~ Classic Sightings ~

Portrait from The Life of Edwin Forrest.

“He grew a mustache, and was in every way prepared to take his departure.” —The Reformatory Press

* The Ghost in the [Scanning] Machine promises real ghosts, actual hauntings, and necromancy by proxy.
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February 1, 2011

Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:


Inspired by our friend at everybody's favorite Futility Closet.
Printed collections of Forgotten Wisdom diagrams are available: Volume I from Mindful Greetings and Volumes II, III and IV from Amazon.  Selected posters are also available via Zazzle.
> read more from Forgotten Wisdom . . .


This May Surprise You (permalink)
"The surprising truth is that only about one country resident in twelve actually lives on a farm."
Dale Wildman, The Country Club (1992)
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