A note on readership.

Page One story in the NYT today, so you know it’s important: A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs. The story is pegged to some recent high-profile (in blogland, anyway) incidents of over-the-top bad behavior and all manner of associated shittiness, between bloggers and the people who read them. (This was a theme of the letter to the editor I wrote a few days back. Ten days to be exact, and it’s still unacknowledged. It’s like it dropped into a well. They get three weeks; they’re busy people.)

It’s hard not to read about some of these incidents — death threats; grotesque, sexually suggestive abuse; vile Photoshopping — without wincing. That, and counting blessings. I developed a thick skin in my time as a newspaper columnist; I heard it all, and I mean all, so I know that the guy who prints your home address and suggests the world’s felons come to your place and rape you is most likely a pathetic, Cheeto-stained soul who hasn’t left his own house in 15 years or so. (Also, that rapists surf another part of the web when they’re looking for victims.) On the other hand, one of the problems a thick skin brings is the sense that everyone needs to have one, and where would we be in a world full of the thick-skinned? Someone needs to stand up for decent behavior.

To reiterate: I am extremely grateful for all the people who comment here, for the high level of discussion that goes on, and for the singular fact that when we occasionally descend into the gutter, we keep things good-natured and amusing. I haven’t had to ban anyone. My policy, if I have one, is pretty simple: Don’t piss off the proprietress, keeping in mind the proprietress has seen it all and is hard to piss off that much (most days). First-time commenters need to be approved, but I approve 99.9 percent of them, and after you’ve been approved once you’re in for good. The only people who keep knocking on the door after being turned away, other than spammers and damn their robotic little souls, is one guy who occasionally submits vile, racist screeds from an IP address of a well-respected member of the Fort Wayne corporate community, but his secret is safe with me.

I installed Google Analytics only recently (as in, last night), and for years I’ve tried very hard to ignore my site statistics. A journalist asked me recently what sort of traffic I get, and I honestly don’t know. I get over 1,000 page impressions most days (thanks, AdSense), and I suspect fewer than half are unique visitors. (It’s this sort of attention to the bottom line that for years endeared me to my newspaper overlords.) All I care about is that I’m still having fun, and you all are a large part of what makes it fun.

So, thanks.

How was your Easter? Mine was fine, if a bit chilly, and I take solace that it was a bit chilly in huge chunks of this great land of ours. We traveled to Defiance (Alan’s family homestead). I drove. I was looking forward to catching up on my reading en route, but Alan had a headache knocking on the door, so I took the wheel. It made me think of all the couples I’ve known, and their who-drives policies. For some, it’s a question of whose car it is, but for others — a lot of others, and I’m stunned by how many — it’s not even a question. The man drives. The man always drives. Either the man is a control freak or the woman is one of those who feels unladylike with a man in the passenger seat. I once heard Dr. Laura Schlessinger say that not only does her husband always drive, she insists he open the door for her, and she’ll stand there until he does. (This is why Mr. Dr. Laura will likely welcome death with open arms.)

OK. A brief bit of bloggage and then on to watch Google Analytics run my numbers, so to speak:

When Gene Weingarten writes the cover story in the WashPost Sunday magazine, it’s always worth your time. This week he sets up violinist Joshua Bell — playing a Stradivarius — as a D.C. Metro busker, and asks:

No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

The story is a stitch. Only in the WashPost.

Also, TBogg on Johnny Hart, pointing out that once upon a time, “B.C.” had a reason to exist other than Hart’s religious obsessions. (I loved it as a kid.) Please, please, please, can the strip die now? Please?

Posted at 9:26 am in Housekeeping, Media |

46 responses to “A note on readership.”

  1. John said on April 9, 2007 at 9:42 am

    Please don’t rat me out on how often I visit! Not only are you a gifted (and funny [oh, may as well really lay it on…GORGEOUS]) writer, you attract a slew of witty commenters that need to be checked several times a day.

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  2. brian stouder said on April 9, 2007 at 9:44 am

    My lovely wife used to insist that I drive everywhere, even when it was her car. Initially, when trying to impress her with me reasonable nature, I always did. Eventually I pressed her as to WHY this was important to her – afterall, she’s a farm girl and has driven practically everything at least once – and she said (wait for it)

    whenever she sees a woman driving with a male passenger, she thinks the guy is a drunk who has lost his license!

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  3. Jeff said on April 9, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Johnny Hart had gotten downright puzzling in the last few years, and i would have to read some of them a couple times (kiss o’ death for a comic strip, i’d think) to figure out the punch line…or “ooofff-line,” since there wasn’t much punch to ’em. But whatever factors led his particular brand of evangelical Christianity to come out so weirdly in the strip, i suspect it would delight him entirely to die on Holy Saturday, and put the whole proposition to the test on Easter morn.

    But even as a Christian parson myself, i missed Grog. Still have one of the mugs from, um, was it Clark or Marathon? Get a fillup, get a Grog mug. We had a station wagon and four kids all in sports, so we had a full set of six when i was a kid. Grog was on one side, the word “Grog” on the other, in milky white semiopaque glass.

    Rest in peace, Johnny, and please please please let the strip die to this world as well, all you heirs and assigns…

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  4. Marcia said on April 9, 2007 at 10:24 am

    Cheeto-stained soul

    It’s this sort of attention to the bottom line that for years endeared me to my newspaper overlords.

    And it’s writing like this that, first of all, makes me snort my coffee, and second, keep coming back.

    I just picked up my NYT at Kroger; I like to read it in actual print. I’ll be checking out the blogging thing; I have to admit to being a little weirded out by it all recently. The death/physical harm threats some folks get are bad enough, and on top of that, one of my favorite M.D. bloggers was recently threatened with legal action for not stopping his commenters from being too meeeean to each other. (Seriously.) It can be a little scary.

    Anyway. I was in Lima yesterday; I could have practically spit and hit you in Defiance.

    Well, if I were the spitting sort. Which I’m not.

    My husband drives. He prefers it, and so do I, as it is the most boring 90 miles in the world, and we no sooner leave the city limits than my head is bobbing around on the seat, eyes closed, mouth open.

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  5. MichaelG said on April 9, 2007 at 10:28 am

    Used to enjoy B.C. and the Wiz before Hart turned into a religious wacko. I haven’t read either in years. Why can’t people just quietly keep whatever faith they wish to keep? Why do they have to bother everybody else with their business? Like all those athuhleets who have turn their post game interview into a prayer meeting.

    I used to do all the driving just like men are supposed to. Then I woke up. In recent years we took turns.

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  6. garmoore said on April 9, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Can any of you folks in the newspaper biz tell me how B.C. managed to survive in the papers for so many years after it stopped being funny and started being embarassing? I haven’t met anyone in the past 25 years or so that actually liked B.C. in its reborn-Christian form. Of course, the B.C. phenomenon isn’t unique. I remember strips like Nancy that seemed to survive as if they had protective shields, and I’ve never figured out how they manage to do so. Over the past 30 years or so, papers have seemed more than ready to drop comic strips when they drop in popularity. So what’s up with papers keeping this strip?

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  7. Dorothy said on April 9, 2007 at 11:01 am

    I’m glad the only blog(s) I frequent are not visited by surly and threatening people. Nancy and her readers are all the good company I need most days in cyber space. The Yarn Harlot is my second favorite stop of the day, and I don’t think any of the knitters/stitchers who read her are ever nasty, either!

    We have always been a “take turns driving” kind of couple, but usually it’s the Mr. behind the wheel. When he got hurt in September and was not allowed to drive, I was the exclusive driver. I’m glad he’s back behind the wheel now, but at times his foot bugs him and I’m glad to slide in and steer. And I don’t think he’s EVER opened a door for me because I stood there and waited for it. Maybe when I had my arms full with a sleeping baby or something, but that’s about it. I am as independent as they come.

    p.s. Connie I’m getting my first Synvisc injection in my knee on Thursday.

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  8. Dave said on April 9, 2007 at 11:21 am

    I generally drive unless there’s a reason not to. My wife used to share the driving on trips but several years ago, we were in a accident in Georgia that was in no way her fault but she hasn’t driven on a long distance trip since.

    Most boring 90 miles ever, Marcia? It’s not so bad around Bellefontaine. It gets worse west of Lima. I’ve heard that from my Columbus area family every since we first lived in Lima and then moved on to Fort Wayne.

    As for blogs, forums could be discussed in the same context, I watched a forum I participate that is occupation-related, dis-
    integrate into a war zone, posts filled with venom and hatred. It has to be the anonymity but then the moderator threatened to out the posters he didn’t like, although he contributed to the initial remarks. I couldn’t understand it, I couldn’t understand how people scattered around the country could work up such vile dislike and ugliness for folks they’d most likely never meet, other than being able to stay anonymous. Oh, and the site moderator did oust two of them, creating even more trouble.

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  9. Dave said on April 9, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Oh, and Dr. Laura, whose mother laid dead in an apartment for two weeks or so before being found? Please.

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  10. Danny said on April 9, 2007 at 11:27 am

    The driving thing is shared with me and the Missus. I mostly let her drive because she prefers it and during the week, I have a longer commute. But a few years back we arrived at a pfrined’s surprise birthday party. A woman acquaintance greeted us in the driveway and when we got out she said, “You let her do the driving? What kind of man are you?” It was good-natured, but she was partly serious.

    I was puzzled, but didn’t mind so I shrugged and told her I was a liberated kind of man who also does the dishes and cooks.

    Regarding Joshua Bell: I saw a documentary on him a few years back. In it he recounts a period in his teenage years when he was burnt out with practicing violin and was cutting a lot of rehersals and instead sneeking to a pizza parlour or convenience store to play video games. One day he was walking down the street and a kid sees him and says in amazement, “Are you Joshua Bell?!?!” Joshua, thinking his famous musical talent was the cause for the recognition said that it was he and the kid intimated that he thought his high score at space invaders or whatever was really impressive.

    Joshua decided at that point that he better start getting serious about his music again.

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  11. Connie said on April 9, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Cool Dorothy, hope it works. Do I get the credit if it does? Sure did for me.

    Nice to know you love us Nancy.

    My DH does most of the driving. My pet peeve? When he is driving I am supposed to entertain him. When I am driving he is snoring.

    I haven’t read the funnies in years.

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  12. vince said on April 9, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Well Nance, if you ever get the nasties here, the ads that appeared today by your column will be of great service!

    Home alarm monitoring.
    Guard dogs.
    Bullet proof armor.

    Love those google ads!

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  13. lol said on April 9, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    I’m shocked! ..”she’ll stand there until he does”
    Type A Schlessinger can wait for anything!?! I hear she has a stable of racy sports car.

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  14. brian stouder said on April 9, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Say – are you enjoying Heart of Darkness?

    Way back in high school, we read that as a class – and it was just before Francis Ford Coppola’s magnum opus Apocalypse Now went into general release; definitely added to the movie to have some notion of what Coppola was driving at!

    Anymore, I think I rate the movie about the making of that movie higher than the movie itself!

    On my nightstand is The Demon Under the Microscope – by Thomas Hager…and excellent book about the successful (mainly German!) quest for miracle drugs that kill disease-causing bacteria while sparing the patient. Next after that id Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lincoln book Team of Rivals

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  15. Dorothy said on April 9, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Oh Connie me too – about the entertaining the driver stuff! I hate that. If I’m not driving I want to either read, crochet, or get lost in my thoughts. I am not good at sleeping in the car, but I can close my eyes and rest at any rate. He, on the other hands, wants conversation.

    And yes you can get the credit if the injections go well. When he told me last Thursday about he wanted to try SynVisc, I almost jumped off the table because I said “Oh! A friend told me about that! I’ve heard of it!” I hesitated at “friend” cause I knew damn well if I’d said “Someone I know from the Internet told me about it!” I would have gotten weird looks from him.

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  16. MichaelG said on April 9, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    You want a non-boring drive? Try 299 between Redding and Arcata. Nobody sleeps there.

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  17. Michelle said on April 9, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    There is a great response to the Joshua Bell article by a NYC subway musician in her blog: http://www.SawLady.com/blog
    She interprets the situation differently from the Washington Post reporters… I thought you might find it interesting.

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  18. 4dbirds said on April 9, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    You like us, you really like us!!!

    I have a three hour commute each workday. Driving lost its thrill long ago. If I don’t have to, I’ll let hubby drive and I enjoy the scenery or sleep.

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  19. Scout said on April 9, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    I find myself doing most of the driving and have just recently come to the realization that I am, indeed, a control freak. I cannot stand the fact that there is no brake pedal on the passenger side, nor can I contain myself when the driver putts along behind a slowpoke when there are other lanes available!

    BC – proof positive that fundacomedy is a bust. Let’s all learn from that, shall we?

    I find it amusing that so much hue and cry is raised over anonymous nastiness in blog comments while folks who are paid for their ugly mouths (Coulter, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Malkin) continue to flourish and receive treatment that suggests their spew has validity. The manufactured outrage over the “hate-filled” anonymous left is curiously absent when it comes to applying the same standard for those who share the misogynistic views of the “Mean Girls” who command the national stage.

    Don’t get me started on “Dr” Laura. What a shame THAT whole thing is.

    I had a wonderful Easter, thanks for asking.

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  20. brian stouder said on April 9, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    folks who are paid for their ugly mouths (Coulter, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Malkin)


    See also Olbermann, O’Donnell, Franken, and Moore

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  21. Marciaf said on April 9, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    I think we should all make an attempt to be surly. Mostly because I love that word. And I don’t think you’d have to push me too far.

    Dave, any drive becomes the most boring when you’ve been driving it somewhere between 10-20 times a year, depending on family obligations, for 14 years.

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  22. cce said on April 9, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    I’m kind of hoping for some hateful commentary on my blog. After Dooce’s send up of hate mail awhile back I felt rather left out. I won’t really feel I’ve reached anybody until someone in my audience wants to strangle me. It’s funny how one’s measure of success changes once one starts to blog.

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  23. colleen said on April 9, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    My husband drives much of the time. He HATES to drive my car, which is a standard transmission. So his has become the family truckster, and he drives. He also opens the door for me every time….I don’t necessarily EXPECT it, but he has done it since date 1. I asked him why…he said something like he feels it’s his job to make sure I’m securely tucked into the car.

    He’s cute. I’ll keep him.

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  24. Marcia said on April 9, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    Hey, my comment about all of us turning surly got deleted. I think Nancy’s afraid of our potential for ugly mob activity. Fight the power!

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  25. nancy said on April 9, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    It actually didn’t get deleted. I should clarify.

    WordPress asks me to moderate commenters it perceives as “new,” which includes name, e-mail and (I think) IP numbers. For some reason Brian Stouder seems to get around a lot, and his stuff gets kicked up as “new” all the time. Marcia, if you look at the comment you thought was deleted, your name came through as “Marciaf.” Oops.

    As for Johnny Hart, all I can tell you about comics is this: Some of them, particularly the long-running ones, have rabid fans. Our paper ran a comics popularity survey every three or four years, and I was consistently amazed by what came out on top — “Blondie” and “The Family Circus” were always at Nos. 1 and 2. These are two strips that haven’t had an original development in decades, and yet, some people simply never missed them. I’d guess “B.C.” also picked up support from the Christian community. Go figure.

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  26. LA mary said on April 9, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    The Family Circus is weird. Ghost Grandpa? A dog named Barfy?

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  27. brian stouder said on April 9, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    I ALWAYS liked blondie – because she was stacked! Better-built than Wonder Woman, easily

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  28. Futz said on April 9, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    To return to a previous topic, mainly a Columbus lawyer named Gray who names his daughter Scarlett Ann, some people just can’t leave well enough alone.

    The 4/9 Columbus Dispatch has a story about new father Brent Huffines, who somehow talked his wife, Kattie, into naming their newborn son Tressel Hayes Huffines after current OSU football coach Jim Tressel and former OSU football coach Woody Hayes.

    Now, that’s child abuse.

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  29. Danny said on April 9, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    For some reason Brian Stouder seems to get around a lot…

    We all knew that about Brian. He’s pretty easy. Hussie!

    Marcia, I agree. We should all be surly, but only if we can have an umlaut over the “u.” It looks tougher that way.

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  30. Kirk said on April 9, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    Futz, some people shouldn’t be allowed to breed.

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  31. susang said on April 9, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Recently I was sucked into food blogging, and rest assured, those people are absolutely nuts. Talk about no life; they’re hysterical about foie gras bans, crow for hours because of some minor mistake made by the waitress, and take wine tastings waaaaay too seriously.

    I used to like Nancy’s blog because she’s so funny, but now I like it because you readers are calm and normal and enjoy each other.

    I developed a thick skin REAL fast; after plotting to key their cars.

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  32. Marcia said on April 9, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Oopsf. Sorryf, Nancyf.

    Danny, absolutely.

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  33. Danny said on April 9, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    susang, small correction. Dorothy is zen-salt-of-the-earth calm, above average, and actually loves all of us.

    Disturbing, isn’t it?

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  34. Linda said on April 9, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    Moore, Olbermann, Frankin et al never said they were sorry that certain buildings WEREN’T blown up (a la Coulter), or defended mass internment of whole ethnic groups (as did Malkin), or wrote:
    Five ropes, five robes, five trees.
    Some assembly required.
    as did Misha of the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, when implying that it would be good to lynch Supreme Court justices. No, everybody does not play equally bad. Sorry.

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  35. Jeff said on April 9, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    Gotta read Gene’s chat at the WaPo:

    …he also gets in a great description of why Hart was once awesome (really) and a sad comment about how some folks take faith and grab it a little bit too hard . . . anyhow, the real questions about the meaning of life are all handled nicely by Gene in his answers to about fifty-eleven queries. Click and enjoy.

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  36. Danny said on April 9, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    A little late for Easter, but this is one of the most powerful orations I have ever heard. Happy Easter to all.


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  37. ashley said on April 9, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    Speaking of Easter, you can all come by and whip my wife today.

    Nancy knows what I mean.

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  38. brian stouder said on April 10, 2007 at 8:14 am

    Linda – I agree that the rightwing remarks you point to are execrable.

    I have noted that Rosie seems serious when she expresses the belief that the US government (and/or the resident evil within the Bush administration) actually conducted the attacks on the World Trade Center, or Bill Mahr’s contention that we misunderstand the nihilistic attackers who overtook the planes, unless we view them as extremely brave (if not uncommonly valorous).

    The point was not to defend lip-flappers and charlatans like Limbaugh or Coulter, but simply to add to the list…. and indeed you (or anyone else) may have the last word on this if you want.

    I just am not as adept at fine distinctions on the execrableness-scale as others might be.

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  39. Dorothy said on April 10, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Danny you actually think I’m calm?! Wow. I must come across that way if you think so. I’m not, really. I talk very fast and get impatient with people way too easily. But I like to think I’m level headed. Maybe that’s how you read me as “calm.”

    Thanks for the nice things ya said about me, though. It put a big smile on my face. And you’re right – I do love everyone here!

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  40. Danny said on April 10, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Well, you are certianly welcome. I’m sure I speak for everyone else here too. And you’re definitely one of the more level headed posters. Unlike me, at times 🙂

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  41. Linda said on April 10, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    Ashley–I assume this means your wife’s Polish. When I was a little girl growning up in Poletown, I hated the day after Easter. Although, it pretty much had been whittled down to throwing water balloons at girls.

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  42. ashley said on April 10, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    Czech, but Slavic is Slavic. She makes it a point to keep up all the traditions, including the whipping and water pouring and such.

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  43. Marcia said on April 11, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Never a dull moment at Ashley’s house..

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  44. ashley said on April 11, 2007 at 11:59 am

    Drop in anytime for some whippin’, Marcia.

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  45. Marcia said on April 11, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Okay, now I’m scared.

    Not really.

    Hey Ashley, I was talking about Google search terms earlier, and thanks to you, I get hits for “Pink Taco clothing.” I’m not sure what was said to get the clothing part, though.

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  46. ashley said on April 11, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    My wife tells me I have no comment.

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