Figure Out What You Can and Can’t Microwave With This Site

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“Can I microwave this?” is a question that has been around for as long as the microwave oven itself, yet the only clear rule that sticks in my brain is “no metal.” That lesson was singed into my consciousness by a Wendy’s hamburger wrapper at the tender age of seven, and I’ll never forget how the little lightning bolts danced.

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But there are a lot of other foods, containers, and miscellany where the rules aren’t as obvious. Corningware, crab legs, and lube are just a few of the subjects canyoumicrowave.com tackles, giving in-depth explanations for why you should or shouldn’t microwave something. The site also provides information on how to microwave the food or material in question, if applicable.

The site is divided into categories—such as “Cheese N Stuff,” “Veggies,” “Uncategorized,” and “Materials” (which is where you’ll find lube)—but you can also search for a specific food or item, or simply browse the site’s many informative pages. If you don’t see the food or material you’re looking for, simply use the contact page and ask. (There’s no reason to be embarrassed; someone already asked about lube.)

Don’t Pay Credit Card Fees Just For the Cash Back Rewards

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Not all life hacks are created equal. Some DIYs turn out to be more expensive or time consuming than just buying the item that you wanted to recreate. Some goals take too long to achieve. Some hacks are only helpful for a small group of people.

One hack on my list that probably isn’t worth the time: paying an extra fee to purchase a product or service with a credit card. If the amount of cash-back rewards you get exceed the fee, you come out on top, right?

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Reddit user EMF911 explained it in the r/frugal subreddit:

I had a personal tax bill I had to pay. When I called the payment office, I inquired about credit cards. The receptionist told me they do take credit cards but there is a $5 fee.

Well, my credit card was going to get me 2% back and the bill was for $310. 2% of $310 would be netting me $6.20 in rewards. After paying [a]$5 fee I would still be coming out ahead- making paying this way worth it.

EMF911 noted the other benefits of paying with a card too, like building credit. A few others chimed in and said that when the fee is less than the cash back you’ll earn, it’s worth it. Of course, you have to be one of those people who never carries a balance on your credit card from month to month to reap the benefits.

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If you’re comfortable using credit for just about everything, like this particular Redditor, you might not think twice about doing this.

The potential for error for everyone else is just too large. Thirty-eight percent of Americans say their top financial priority is staying current or getting caught up on bills, according to a recent survey by Bankrate.

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Paying a bill with a credit card—and eating the accompanying fee–can be a crucial last resort if your budget is a bit short. But all too quickly, the habit of paying for everything with a credit card can snowball into debt. If you aren’t paying your complete credit card balance every single month, any gains you would have enjoyed from cash-back rewards are getting canceled out by interest charges.

Not every tip or trick comes with this level of risk—if a DIY project goes awry, the stakes are usually pretty low—but when it comes to your finances, sometimes it’s better to play it safe. Would you rather save money now, or pay up front to get a buck or two back later?

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Microsoft OneDrive Personal Vault rolls out worldwide, launches expandable storage

Earlier this summer, Microsoft introduced an extra layer of security to its Dropbox competitor, OneDrive. The security features, called OneDrive Personal Vault, allow users to protect their files with two-step verification, like a fingerprint or facial recognition, PIN code or a one-time code sent through email, SMS or Microsoft Authenticator. At the time of launch, however, the feature was only available to select markets. Today, it’s rolling out worldwide and introducing new features, including expandable storage.

The company said OneDrive Personal Vault would initially be available to Australia, New Zealand and Canada, but would reach all OneDrive users by the end of the year.

With today’s expansion, it’s a little ahead of schedule, as it’s just now the end of September.

Personal Vault is available to all OneDrive users, with some limitations.

For those using OneDrive’s free or standalone 100GB storage plan, you’re able to store up to three files in Personal Vault. Office 365 subscribers can store as many files as they want, up to their storage limits.

Stronger authentication is the key selling point for Personal Vault, but it also comes with additional security measures. This includes “Scan and Shoot,” which lets you scan documents or shoot photos directly to Personal Vault, bypassing your device storage, like the camera roll. Personal Vault will also automatically lock files after a period of inactivity, restrict sharing on the files saved to prevent accidental shares and automatically sync files to a BitLocker-encrypted area of the hard drive on Windows 10 PCs.

ba2d0566 5e67 43ce 998a fa1aa6517dbeIn addition to the global launch of Personal Vault, Microsoft also today introduced new storage options for One Drive, plus new features like PC Folder backup and dark mode.

Starting today, OneDrive users will now be able to add storage to their plans in 200GB increments, starting at $1.99 per month.

Meanwhile, PC Folder backup will allow OneDrive to back up your desktop, documents and picture folders from your Windows PC to the cloud, similar to rival desktop apps from Dropbox and Google Drive, for example. This option is available to Windows 7, 8 and 10 PCs. On Windows 10, it’s integrated so users can even opt to enable it during Windows setup or updates.

And OneDrive will now support a dark mode on iOS 13.

Personal Vault is live globally, as of today.

Help Kids Calm Down With a ‘Brain Game’

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The thing about toddlers is that they’re mind-numbingly irrational. It’s not their fault, of course. It’s going to be a solid two decades before those brains are fully developed and able to offer up true logical reasoning to the world, but still. It’s frustrating.

No parent enjoys the tantrum management that comes with raising little kids, but it can be particularly frustrating when a tantrum starts over a miscommunication. By the time you realize that when you said, “We’re not going to the playground until after lunch,” all they heard was, “We’re not going to the playground,” it’s too late. They’re red-faced and screaming, their brains are flooded with emotion and they can’t hear our words anymore.

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Amanda, a former children’s mental health counselor and writer at Messy Motherhood, discovered a way to interrupt the emotion-flood: Have them play a quick “brain game.”

She used the technique with her own son when he became upset because he thought she wanted him to put away all his Duplo blocks, including the “inventions” he’d been working so hard on. (She only wanted him to put away the spare pieces that littered the floor but that direction was lost in toddler translation.) After unsuccessfully “reasoning” with him and empathizing and putting words to his emotions, she switched gears:

I put my hands on his shoulders so that we’re face to face. I whisper to him “Hey buddy, do you want to play a little game really quick? It will be fun.”

His tear-filled blue eyes look up at me and he nods.

“Okay, it’s super simple. Can you point out 5 things that are blue?”

He hiccups in sorrow but looks around the room. Slowly he walks over to his Duplo bin and says “this is blue….one.” He continues walking through his room pointing out all the blue things.

His cries stop and he starts smiling as he goes.

“Two blue, three blue, four blue, five blue! I got 5 blue things, Mama!”

“Awesome job kiddo. Now can you find 4 yellow things?”

With a huge smile on his face, he does it again.

Once he’d calmed down, she was able to explain that he didn’t have to take his inventions apart, and they cleaned up and organized the Duplos together. Getting the brain to start thinking helps it calm down, she writes.

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However, before you can make a request like “point out five things that are blue,” you may have to do something to get their attention. They are, after all, wrapped up in their own emotions. Turn the lights off and on, jump up and down or make a silly noise. Then, ask them to play a game.

Depending on their ability, ask if they can find three things that start with the letter “c.” Or send them in search of four square items or 3 things that are soft.

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Keep it simple, Amanda says, but get them thinking.


Meet the smartest parents on Earth! Join our parenting Facebook group. 

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These Are the Best Airports to Get Stuck In

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The 2019 North American Airport Satisfaction Study was released last week and along with it a ranking of airports in the United States.

The study looked at all aspects of the travel experience, starting from when you check in at the airport and go through security to what your shopping and eating options are and how complicated it is to get to your gate.

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Airports were broken down by Mega, Large, and Medium.

Practically speaking, this information is probably not going to do you a tremendous amount of good. We all are likely limited by where we live and where we’re headed when it comes to airport selection. That said, this list can come in handy when you’re thinking about where you want to have a connection.

I know when I travel I often have the choice between a few different airports when it comes to where I schedule a layover. More often than not, I personally select flying through Atlanta for international trips, simply because it splits an international flight in half from the west coast, isn’t as hard to navigate as New York City’s airports, and I know exactly where the Bojangles is (priorities!).

I’ll also intentionally stop in Vegas, because there’s tons of food, and slot machines if you really get bored. Plus, Vegas has the largest number of hotel rooms in the world (seriously), so if I do get stranded, at least I can drown my sorrows in a yard of frozen strawberry daiquiri while betting on the ponies.

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There’s also a lot to be said for connecting in an airport you’re familiar with, especially when you’re dealing with a tight connection. Same goes for an airport having a decent food selection. During a recent layover, and consequently severely delayed flight, I only had the option to eat at a Pizza Hut. Specifically, a Pizza Hut that closed one hour into that four-hour delay. Not ideal.

You want an airport with food options that stay open late. Sure, you might not eat while you’re there, but it’s nice to have the option if you do (or if you get unexpectedly stranded).

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Here’s a rundown of the top airports from the study that offer the best overall experience. Next time you’re booking a trip with a layover, if one of these is an option, it’s likely a safe bet.

Mega

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport

Las Vegas McCarran International Airport

Orlando International Airport

Large

Portland International Airport

Dallas Love Field

Tampa International Airport

Medium

Indianapolis International Airport

Jacksonville International Airport

Buffalo Niagara International Airport

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Daily Crunch: Facebook faces VR challenges

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Not all is predictable on Facebook’s social Horizon

Last week, Facebook unveiled Horizon, a massively multiplayer VR world that’s scheduled to launch in 2020. This might seem to play to Facebook’s software strengths, but Lucas Matney argues that the social networking giant may not actually have much of an advantage against smaller game studios.

For example, the team at Against Gravity has already built a network inside VR called Rec Room that’s been maturing over the past few years, with rich environments and toolsets for multiplayer interactions. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

2. Spotify now lets you add podcasts to playlists

Users can create their own custom playlists of their favorite podcasts, or even those that combine music and audio — similar to Spotify’s newly launched playlist “Your Daily Drive.”

3. Kickstarter darling EcoFlow Delta battery generator is not what it seems

The EcoFlow Delta is a new battery generator available on Kickstarter with incredible features claimed. Most are true, some are not.

4. YouTube TV is now available on Fire TV devices

Earlier this year, Google and Amazon reached an agreement to bring their streaming video apps to each other’s platforms. The YouTube app launched on Fire TV in July, and now Google is adding its live TV streaming service.

5. Amboss, the knowledge platform for medical professionals, scores €30M Series B

Launched in 2014 as a study platform for medical students, Amboss has since evolved to offer what it claims is the “most comprehensive and technologically-advanced” knowledge platform for medical professionals.

6. Learn everything you can about mobility at Disrupt SF

We’re bringing some of the industry’s leaders onstage at Disrupt SF — including Bird founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden, Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun and Zoox CEO Aicha Evans.

7. This week’s TechCrunch podcasts

The latest episode of Equity kicks off with the reemergence of the much-criticized startup Bodega, which is now known as Stockwell and has raised a total of $45 million in funding. Meanwhile, Original Content reviews “Between Two Ferns: The Movie” on Netflix.

Verizon picks up the assets of Disney-backed VR startup Jaunt

After raising $100 million, virtual reality content startup Jaunt has been in a precarious position for a few years now. It seems like the saga has finally come to a close as the startup announced that Verizon has purchased the company’s technology.

The studio rode the wave of VR hype following Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus, but after years of trying to find a business in immersive entertainment, spanning software and camera hardware, the company has spent its past year trying to sell off its VR assets while pursuing a business focused on augmented reality and what it calls the “distribution of volumetric video of humans.”

A deal with Spinview Global to purchase the company’s VR tech that was reported last year never happened, a spokesperson tells TechCrunch. Verizon is walking away with Jaunt’s technology assets here, which is inclusive of their VR tech and their newer AR efforts. It doesn’t sound like any employees are coming onboard as part of the transition, but there will be some Jaunt folks helping to bring the tech onboard for a brief period.

The company’s spokesperson opted not to comment when asked whether the startup was winding down following the deal.

Why does Verizon want these assets? Verizon Media (of which TechCrunch is apart of) already has some assets in the VR space, including the virtual reality content studio RYOT, which has been playing around with 360 content and general AR/VR content. The company’s Envrnmnt arm is basically focusing on making AR and VR apps run more efficiently on mobile, which is something Jaunt has had to be mindful of as they’ve tried to focus on broadcasters that need to deal with bandwidth strains.

We don’t have a price tag on the deal, but the startup raised $100 million from investors, including GV and Disney. In October of last year, the company laid off a “significant portion of its employees” and by the end of the year they were auctioning off office furniture.

How to Actually Wash Germs Off Your Hands

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Hand washing is an essential and important part of not getting sick, or making others sick. And most of us suck at it. If you only wash your hands for a few seconds, or if you sort of wave them under the faucet and then dry your hands on a grubby towel, it’s time to step up your game.

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Our skin is pretty good at keeping germs out, but the bacteria and viruses that cause colds, flu, and diarrheal illnesses can ride around on our hands waiting for an opportunity to infect someone. Whenever you touch your hands to someone’s bodily fluids (or just a random surface that someone may have sneezed on), you can pick up those germs. And then when you touch your eyes, mouth, or nose—or eat finger food, which is basically the same as touching your mouth—you can possibly transmit those germs in a way that makes you more likely to get sick.

Here’s how to wash your hands so that you stand a chance of avoiding the office plague, according to the CDC:

  1. Turn on the water. Warm or cool water works just fine and doesn’t irritate skin as much as hot water.
  2. Lather up with soap. It doesn’t have to be antibacterial; regular is fine.
  3. Turn off the water. You’re going to be here a while.
  4. Scrub for 20 seconds, making sure to get the backs of your hands and between your fingers. Hum “happy birthday” twice. Yes, this will feel like too long. Most people get bored after about 10 seconds. But you can do this. We believe in you.
  5. Rinse your hands.
  6. Dry your hands, because germs stick better to wet hands than dry ones. Air dry or use a clean towel.

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If you’re washing your hands a lot, apply a moisturizer from time to time to keep your skin from getting too dry and cracked.

In a situation where you can’t wash your hands, hand sanitizer is better than nothing. But it works best on dry, clean skin, and you have to rub the sanitizer for about 20 seconds until it evaporates and dries out for best results.

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Google brings its Jacquard wearables tech to Levi’s Trucker Jacket

Back in 2015, Google’s ATAP team demoed a new kind of wearable tech at Google I/O that used functional fabrics and conductive yarns to allow you to interact with your clothing and, by extension, the phone in your pocket. The company then released a jacket with Levi’s in 2017, but that was expensive, at $350, and never really quite caught on. Now, however, Jacquard is back. A few weeks ago, Saint Laurent launched a backpack with Jacquard support, but at $1,000, that was very much a luxury product. Today, however, Google and Levi’s are announcing their latest collaboration: Jacquard-enabled versions of Levi’s Trucker Jacket.

These jackets, which will come in different styles, including the Classic Trucker and the Sherpa Trucker, and in men’s and women’s versions, will retail for $198 for the Classic Trucker and $248 for the Sherpa Trucker. In addition to the U.S., it’ll be available in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K.

The idea here is simple and hasn’t changed since the original launch: a dongle in your jacket’s cuff connects to conductive yarns in your jacket. You can then swipe over your cuff, tap it or hold your hand over it to issue commands to your phone. You use the Jacquard phone app for iOS or Android to set up what each gesture does, with commands ranging from saving your location to bringing up the Google Assistant in your headphones, from skipping to the next song to controlling your camera for selfies or simply counting things during the day, like the coffees you drink on the go. If you have Bose noise-canceling headphones, the app also lets you set a gesture to turn your noise cancellation on or off. In total, there are currently 19 abilities available, and the dongle also includes a vibration motor for notifications.

2019 09 30 0946 1

What’s maybe most important, though, is that this (re-)launch sets up Jacquard as a more modular technology that Google and its partners hope will take it from a bit of a gimmick to something you’ll see in more places over the next few months and years.

“Since we launched the first product with Levi’s at the end of 2017, we were focused on trying to understand and working really hard on how we can take the technology from a single product […] to create a real technology platform that can be used by multiple brands and by multiple collaborators,” Ivan Poupyrev, the head of Jacquard by Google told me. He noted that the idea behind projects like Jacquard is to take things we use every day, like backpacks, jackets and shoes, and make them better with technology. He argued that, for the most part, technology hasn’t really been added to these things that we use every day. He wants to work with companies like Levi’s to “give people the opportunity to create new digital touchpoints to their digital life through things they already have and own and use every day.”

What’s also important about Jacquard 2.0 is that you can take the dongle from garment to garment. For the original jacket, the dongle only worked with this one specific type of jacket; now, you’ll be able to take it with you and use it in other wearables as well. The dongle, too, is significantly smaller and more powerful. It also now has more memory to support multiple products. Yet, in my own testing, its battery still lasts for a few days of occasional use, with plenty of standby time.

jacquard dongle

Poupyrev also noted that the team focused on reducing cost, “in order to bring the technology into a price range where it’s more attractive to consumers.” The team also made lots of changes to the software that runs on the device and, more importantly, in the cloud to allow it to configure itself for every product it’s being used in and to make it easier for the team to add new functionality over time (when was the last time your jacket got a software upgrade?).

He actually hopes that over time, people will forget that Google was involved in this. He wants the technology to fade into the background. Levi’s, on the other hand, obviously hopes that this technology will enable it to reach a new market. The 2017 version only included the Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket. Now, the company is going broader with different styles.

“We had gone out with a really sharp focus on trying to adapt the technology to meet the needs of our commuter customer, which a collection of Levi’s focused on urban cyclists,” Paul Dillinger, the VP of Global Product Innovation at Levi’s, told me when I asked him about the company’s original efforts around Jacquard. But there was a lot of interest beyond that community, he said, yet the built-in features were very much meant to serve the needs of this specific audience and not necessarily relevant to the lifestyles of other users. The jackets, of course, were also pretty expensive. “There was an appetite for the technology to do more and be more accessible,” he said — and the results of that work are these new jackets.

IMG 20190930 102524

Dillinger also noted that this changes the relationship his company has with the consumer, because Levi’s can now upgrade the technology in your jacket after you bought it. “This is a really new experience,” he said. “And it’s a completely different approach to fashion. The normal fashion promise from other companies really is that we promise that in six months, we’re going to try to sell you something else. Levi’s prides itself on creating enduring, lasting value in style and we are able to actually improve the value of the garment that was already in the consumer’s closet.”

I spent about a week with the Sherpa jacket before today’s launch. It does exactly what it promises to do. Pairing my phone and jacket took less than a minute and the connection between the two has been perfectly stable. The gesture recognition worked very well — maybe better than I expected. What it can do, it does well, and I appreciate that the team kept the functionality pretty narrow.

Whether Jacquard is for you may depend on your lifestyle, though. I think the ideal user is somebody who is out and about a lot, wearing headphones, given that music controls are one of the main features here. But you don’t have to be wearing headphones to get value out of Jacquard. I almost never wear headphones in public, but I used it to quickly tag where I parked my car, for example, and when I used it with headphones, I found using my jacket’s cuffs easier to forward to the next song than doing the same on my headphones. Your mileage may vary, of course, and while I like the idea of using this kind of tech so you need to take out your phone less often, I wonder if that ship hasn’t sailed at this point — and whether the controls on your headphones can’t do most of the things Jacquard can. Google surely wants Jacquard to be more than a gimmick, but at this stage, it kind of still is.

IMG 20190930 104137IMG 20190930 104137

How to Quiet Your Mind

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It’s not just that we have a lot to think about and manage in our personal lives each day. We’re also inundated with Big Topics like impeachment and climate change and mass shootings on a nearly daily basis. Add in the fact that we’re always trying to multitask in the middle of it—cook dinner, respond to that work email and yell at the kids to stop arguing—it’s too much.

Ryan Holiday, author of the upcoming book Stillness is the Key, writes for the Tim Ferriss Show blog that what we all need is a little more—you guessed it—stillness:

Stillness is that quiet moment when inspiration hits you. It’s that ability to step back and reflect. It’s what makes room for gratitude and happiness. It’s one of the most powerful forces on earth. We all need stillness, but those of us charging ahead with big plans and big dreams need it most of all.

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If stillness makes room for gratitude and happiness, then we should all be pursuing it. Holiday provides us with a list of 28 ways to find stillness, and many of them aren’t overly surprising: take a break from the news, read a book, declutter, volunteer, get more sleep. Put down the phone and back away.

But one easy way to invite stillness into your life that you may not have tried yet, Holiday says, is to question yourself:

As in, do I need this? If I get what I want, what will actually change? Why do I care what they think? What am I working on in myself today? Will this matter in five years? What if I did nothing? Questions like these help us calm the anxieties in our head and help us slow down—allowing room for stillness. It’s important to question our beliefs and our instincts.

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I personally ask myself “Will this matter in five years?” whenever I start to feel overly anxious about all manner of things big and small. But you can take it step further by making it a common practice to question your own feelings and assumptions when life gets loud and overwhelming.

What will happen if the kids eat macaroni and cheese four nights a week? Will missing this deadline truly have a longterm negative effect on my career? What is motivating me right now? The internal dialogue can slow the frenetic pace of your thoughts and give you a moment to better analyze your rising anxiety.

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Holiday has a few other suggestions I like for embracing the still:

Take mindless mental wanderings. For a short period of time, let your mind wander free. Start with a minute or two and work yourself up to 10 minutes or more. You may start to notice patterns or goals emerge from your thoughts that were getting lost before.

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Develop your values and memorialize them. Chose your own personal ten (or whatever number you like) commandments. What qualities or actions are most important to you? Write them down and post them where you will see them regularly to remind yourself of your priorities.

Zoom out. Remember that although you are small and unimportant, as far as the vastness of the world is concerned, you’re also part of something much bigger:

When astronaut Edgar Mitchell was launched into space in 1971, he stared down at the tiny blue marble and felt something wash over him: a sense of connectedness and compassion for everyone and everything, “an instant global consciousness.” With the realization that we are all one, that we are all in this together, and that this fact is the only thing that truly matters, we lose the selfishness and self-absorption at the root of much of the disturbance in our lives. Remind yourself of this each time you look down out of an airplane window or from a high floor in a tall building or each time you look up at the stars.

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Now, go forth and be still.


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