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does this house make my butt look too big?
June 24, 2009 11:20 AM   Subscribe

ladies: is your house making you fat? and unhappy?
"Overall, I found little evidence that homeowners are happier by any of the following definitions: life satisfaction, overall mood, overall feeling, general moment-to-moment emotions and affect at home," Bucchianeri writes. "The average homeowner, however, consistently derives more pain (but no more joy) from a house and home."

full study here.
posted by msconduct (61 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Older people own homes. People tend to gain weight as they get older. People gain weight because they own homes.
posted by nosila at 11:23 AM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I was just about to ask if they controlled for age, but nosila beat me to it.
posted by orange swan at 11:26 AM on June 24, 2009


FOR THE LAST TIME, FOR FUCK'S SAKE, CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION!
posted by kldickson at 11:26 AM on June 24, 2009 [11 favorites]


Older people own homes.

The paper says they controlled for age, prior health, etc.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:26 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I mean, this is like saying ice cream causes crime because people eat ice cream when it's hot and the crime rate increases when it's hot.
posted by kldickson at 11:27 AM on June 24, 2009


FOR THE LAST TIME, MANY SCIENTISTS ALREADY KNOW ABOUT CONTROL GROUPS
posted by DU at 11:27 AM on June 24, 2009 [42 favorites]


My reaction on looking at the paper: Human beings have trouble thinking long term. Film at 11.

Today's reaction: "No, I'm not happy. I just sank everything I own into this house. I'm terrified."

The same person, 10 years later: "Wow, I'm really happy I bought this house when I did. I was able to save X dollars over the past 10 years."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:29 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Speaking as a fat man, you'd have to promise me a weight loss of a lot more than 12 pounds to get me to trade being able to call the plumber myself for having to beg a landlord to do it.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:29 AM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


MY CASUAL, BLOG-ACQUIRED FAMILIARITY WITH STATISTICAL PRINCIPLES CERTAINLY TRUMPS THAT OF THE AUTHORS OF THIS PAPER THAT I HAVE NOT READ!
posted by gurple at 11:30 AM on June 24, 2009 [62 favorites]


nosila: I think a princeton economist probably was clever enough to spot that correlation and include it in her models. But your right of course it isn't home ownership per se that leads to wait loss but rather a proxy of home owner ship. Home owner ship is tied to car centered communities relative to renting which is tied to walking less. Or home ownership is tied to less frequent trips to get groceries because of the added storage space. Or a thousand little things like that.
posted by I Foody at 11:34 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


IS THIS THE SHOUTING THREAD!
posted by everichon at 11:36 AM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


kldickson: "FOR THE LAST TIME, FOR FUCK'S SAKE, CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION!"

ha. you wish it were for the last time.

also, what DU and gurple said.
posted by shmegegge at 11:38 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just one more reason women shouldn't ever own property, amirite?
posted by peggynature at 11:39 AM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


BILLY MAYS HAS SEVERAL FINE PRODUCTS THAT CAN HELP HOMEOWNERS REDUCE STRESS!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:41 AM on June 24, 2009 [9 favorites]


"FOR THE LAST TIME, FOR FUCK'S SAKE, CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION!"

Somewhere in Pennsylvania, Grace Wong Bucchianeri slowly closes her mouth, as the realization hits home: kldickson is right. Vacantly, she rises and crosses the room. She takes her framed philosophiæ doctor diploma from its place on the wall and looks at it.

There's no point. Everything is different now.
posted by everichon at 11:45 AM on June 24, 2009 [23 favorites]


Two of the control sets controlled for age (amongst other things). One control set did not. The data tables do note the significant (p < .01) correlation between homeownership and age.

Looking only at the control sets that included age, education, cohabitation, and living with children, there are not too many significant negative correlations: satisfaction with life (p < .1), pain from house and home (p < .05), and some health-related questions.

Pain from house and home is pretty obvious. Renters often don't have yards, which are a giant pain, and they aren't as concerned with maintaining or improving the value of their homes, which is also a giant pain. The health-related questions may need further analysis. I would be concerned that there weren't enough controls in place.

So, that basically leaves satisfaction with life, which was not an especially strong correlation anyway. I dunno, on a gut level I'm basically prepared to believe the proposition, but I would want stronger data than this before calling for, say, removing a lot of the tax incentives for home ownership or adding incentives to encourage renting.
posted by jedicus at 11:46 AM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


For the record, I own my home, and I hate it. I don't know if it is making me fat, but I hate it. It costs more than renting, the value is rapidly decreasing, there are a whole host of problems I never had to worry about as a renter (for instance: am I putting enough money away to deal with unexpected maintenance and upkeep costs?), and it means that I would have a much harder time relocating to follow work in the event that I were to lose my job.

To sum, owning (at least in Seattle): costs more per month, costs more in maintenance, costs more in labor, costs more in stress, and costs more in flexibility... why do we buy again?

Also, in case you are wondering, we did not buy more house than we can afford. We can cover the mortgage, I can just think of a million things I would rather do with the difference between what it costs to own and what it costs to rent.
posted by lucasks at 11:48 AM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's kind of interesting. Once the "home values only ever go up and will continue to do so for eternity" mythos is stripped away, all of these little reasons for renting seem to come out of the woodwork. This is only one of many articles I've read in the last year or so that have pointed out strong disadvantages to homeowning.

I do think that homeownership has strong romantic connotations in peoples' minds, where this idea of "I want to be a homeowner" outweighs a million logical reasons why it may not be such a good idea. I mean, just look at the subprime crisis. Outside of the speculators, lots of people were just IN LOVE with the idea of owning a home, whether it made sense for their budget or not. It's very much a cultural thing, and it's very much changing. There were always reasons not to buy, but I think people are paying more attention to them now that the luster of homeownership has dulled somewhat.

But I think a second part of it is that people are now LOOKING FOR reasons not to buy, whereas before they were looking for reasons TO buy and then brushing the disadvantages under the carpet. No doubt this will change some day once the market improves, but hopefully there will be some lesson learned in all of this. (HAH!)

All of that aside, though, I think this paper says more about the suburban, car-based lifestyle than it says about homeownership. People in the suburbs are more likely to own homes. People in the suburbs drive more and walk less. People in the suburbs get less exercise than people in cities. These facts are well known. Perhaps, though, now that homeownership is both less attractive and less attainable, factors like this will figure into peoples' rent vs. buy decisions.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:50 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


IS THIS THE SHOUTING THREAD!

I HOPE SO! LANDLORDS SUCK LIKE THIS AND HOME-OWNING SUCKS LIKE THAT!

I think though the stress comes from not really owning it while the bank actually owns it instead for 30 years. Owning outright is pretty de-stressing during economic times like these.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:51 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


For the record, I own my home, and I hate it.

Hey, me too! I mean, I own, and hate owning, my home, not lucasks's. Vast pain in the ass. My BMI is 25.
posted by everichon at 11:52 AM on June 24, 2009


What is written:
An interesting portrait of homeowners emerges from my analysis. While homeowners report higher life satisfaction, more joy from both home and neighborhood and better moods on an unadjusted basis, these promising differences become insignificant and much smaller in magnitude once I control for a basic set of confounding factors: household income, housing value and health status. Overall, I find little evidence that homeowners are happier by any of the following definitions: life satisfaction, overall mood, overall feeling, general moment-to-moment emotions (i.e., affect) and affect at home. The average homeowner, however, consistently derives more pain (but no more joy) from their house and home. Although they are also more likely to be 12 pounds heavier, report a lower health status and less joy from health, controlling for the less favorable health status does not change the results. My findings are robust to controlling for financial insecurity. Therefore, unadjusted differences in homeowners’ well-being might have played an important role in establishing the popular beliefs about the American Dream. To help understand these surprising results, I investigate the homeowners’ time use pattern, family and social lives. The average homeowner tends to spend less time on active leisure or with friends, experience more negative affect during time spent with friends, derive less joy from love and relationships and is also less likely to consider herself to enjoy being with people. My results support neither the perception of gregarious homeowners nor that of housework-burdened homeowners. In this paper, homeowners are also shown not to be significantly different in terms of civic participation or social connectedness.
What is the response:
FOR THE LAST TIME, FOR FUCK'S SAKE, CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL CAUSATION!
Well done, you, reading a 38 page analysis, nicely cited and referenced, in -- my goodness -- seven minutes.


My advice to you, msconduct, is in the future to post to your audience; Apple press releases, videos of cats, pictures of motorcycle accidents are particular favorites. Glurge about movies or other sundry pop culture and various nattering about atheism or religion may also play well.
posted by boo_radley at 11:54 AM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Waitaminute... I weigh 15 pounds more than I did when I met my home-owning wife 11 years ago. OH SHI (I was not controlled for age)
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:57 AM on June 24, 2009


The point of home ownership is not necessarily happiness. Seems to me I've seen similar studies about marriage, kids, etc., not necessarily making people happier, and my response always seems to be the same. "Happiness," speaking for myself, is a transitive state, sometimes derived in part by association with one or more of the above, but not directly related to possession of same. My home and my family frequently contribute to my sense of happiness, but it is not ownership of the home or the genetic or legal relationship with the family that is causative. And more often than not, it is the general health, well being, and happiness of my home and family that makes me happy (thus, transitive). Home ownership contributes in that it is easier for me to control the environment in a positive way if I have owner's rights (and therefore responsibilities) for the property. Family relationships contribute, in that it is easier for me to play a useful role in the lives of family members, and therefore contribute to their happiness and well being. So no - owning my home, being married, having a family doesn't necessarily make me happier. On the other hand, much of my happiness is directly related to my home and the people who just happen to be my family. But maybe that's just me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:57 AM on June 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


ya, seriously. If anything cried out for a RTFA...
posted by bumpkin at 11:58 AM on June 24, 2009


We seriously considered buying a home a couple months ago when we realized we could purchase a three-bedroom for nickels (thanks to the cratered housing market). If we went with all the gummit's first-time-home-buyer bells and whistles we'd actually save on a mortgage vs. renting.

However, I read some comment somewhere about buying a house and then buying all the stuff you need to fill your new house. I think that's what did it for me. We can't fit anything else into our cozy little apartment - a trip to IKEA is only earned through donating carloads of stuff we don't need. The apartment prevents pack-rattery and we save money by not needing stupid crap to fill up our house.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:03 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


All happy homeowners are alike. Each unhappy homeowner is unhappy in his or her own way.
posted by blucevalo at 12:03 PM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I guess I must be the only happy homeowner on the planet or at least on MetaFilter.

It costs me no more to own than it does to rent in my area, my home equity has increased more than 10x in a decade which is better than most of my other investments and I enjoy my yard. Plus my dog has somewhere to poop when I don't feel like walking him. And now I know how to fix damaged plaster walls and stuff like that.

Home ownership is like being married. It's not the end all and be all of existence but it's a good state for a lot of people.

No doubt this will change some day once the market improves

The mass media tends to write trendy articles. Just like there's always someone making money in the stock market there's always someone doing OK with their house. And regurgitating basic real estate wisdom won't sell many magazines.

I think this paper says more about the suburban, car-based lifestyle than it says about homeownership.

I suppose that's an unavoidable selection bias in a study like this as there are probably more suburban homes than urban houses but I'm too lazy to check to see exactly how many variables the authors controlled for. Chances are that they didn't control for something like urban/suburban/exurban and the real issue is the uncontrolled variable and not really home ownership. But yeah, driving a car everywhere sucks.
posted by GuyZero at 12:10 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think though the stress comes from not really owning it while the bank actually owns it instead for 30 years. Owning outright is pretty de-stressing during economic times like these.

There was a time that was one of the points of buying-- eventually getting to the point where you own the place outright. It seems like the past few decades have shown that the idea is to constantly trade up into a larger and more fabulous home, and pay a mortgage forever. Which is find of like renting, but more work.

For what it's worth, I love owning, and being the boss of my property, and planting a little tree and imagining what it's going to look like in 25 years when we're done paying off the mortgage, or even sooner if I keep paying a little extra every month. And I am not overweight.
posted by miss tea at 12:16 PM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


IS THIS THE SHOUTING THREAD!

I DON'T KNOW WHAT WE'RE YELLING ABOUT! LOUD NOISES! I LOVE LAMP!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:16 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Everything you own ends up owning you.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:20 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Interesting that, out of all the negative "big picture" things pointed out in the study -- less time spent with friends, less time spent on leisure, lower levels of happiness and satisfaction -- the Canada.com article went straight for the OH YEAH AND OWNING A HOUSE WILL MAKE YOU 12 POUNDS FATTER, LADIEZ right in the opening paragraph.

So very glad to see they have their priorities straight.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:21 PM on June 24, 2009


much of my happiness is directly related to my home and the people who just happen to be my family

To be complete, though, I suppose I should also mention that owning my home, having a wife, and family also contribute the most stress and drama to my life. Which perhaps accounts for many of the so-called negatives that seem to counterbalance the potential happiness as reflectied in the study. I try not to count them strictly as negatives, myself, though, in that I have always found that I have the most to offer when times are the hardest. The rewards are not as simple as happiness. The more of yourself you have invested, the more you have at stake.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:23 PM on June 24, 2009


Also, why not attribute to non-owners spending more time on leisure and with friends as a side-effect of them hating where they live? Back when I lived in a tiny, dirty apartment I was out socializing all the time too. Being in my apartment was like punishment.

And certainly they must have surveyed the woman who lived above us at one point, as my sex life has never, ever been as moaningly awesome as hers was. She alone could pull the numbers up on a longitudinal happiness study.

Not that all apartments are like that of course.
posted by GuyZero at 12:27 PM on June 24, 2009


The problem is that the test subject were Canadian, and they were testing them against the American Dream.

It was doomed to failure from the start.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:28 PM on June 24, 2009


A correction:

Today's reaction: "No, I'm not happy. I just sank everything I own into this house. I'm terrified."

The same person, 10 years later: "Wow, I'm really happy I bought this house when I did. I was able to save X dollars over the past 10 years.
screwed from owning this house, which cost me three times more per month over the past ten years than shelter had ever cost me before."

Also, can't quit job one hates: clowns will eat you; house can't sell, underwater, etc. YMMV & FTFY.
posted by mwhybark at 12:37 PM on June 24, 2009


The problem with all of this internet-wide arguing over whether it's better to rent or own is that there's no one right answer, but most of the shouters on both sides seem to ignore that. It really depends on where you live and what your financial situation is. My wife and I have been happily renting the same place in Toronto for the past eight years, and have no plans to move in the forseeable future, unless we win the lottery or something. Because Toronto's housing market is still pretty nuts we're saving a lot of money compared to what we'd be spending on a mortgage, insurance, maintenance, etc., and we've got a nice place in a neighbourhood we like, with a great landlord. However, if we kept having to move every couple of years, couldn't find a suitable apartment for a good price, had problems with our landlord, lived in a city where houses were more affordable or simply had enough money on hand to buy a place without unduly straining our finances we'd probably feel a lot differently about the prospect of continuing to rent.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:39 PM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


DAVID HARVEY: ...I mean, we have a myth in this country that homeownership is the gospel, as it were. But for a lot of people, homeownership is not a good idea. And I think, actually, it’s not a good idea in general.

AMY GOODMAN: Why?

DAVID HARVEY: For two reasons. One is, it makes you actually very vulnerable if you’re a heavily debt-encumbered homeowner. And actually, the initial legislation was kind of interesting, the debate around it back in the 1930s, when it kind of said debt-encumbered homeowners don’t go on strike, and because it’s—you know, you’ve got to pay your mortgage. And so, this becomes, as it were, a millstone around your neck. And that then makes you very vulnerable to fluctuations in the market like we’re seeing right now, particularly if you have variable rate mortgages, things of that kind, and you can really easily get caught out...
Link.
posted by Abiezer at 12:57 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


The research was based on Columbus, Ohio and the surrounding county. I wonder if those with higher incomes were happy owning a house (as they controlled for income and health, and so on if you look at the full study tables). Finances seem like they could have a huge impact on whether you found a house stressful.

Does anyone know if Columbus has a large rental market? I'd be interested in looking at what this looks like in a big urban area.
posted by ejaned8 at 1:00 PM on June 24, 2009


There are ways to make home-owning more like renting, the most obvious being to buy low-cost attached housing, like a condominium.
posted by No Robots at 1:05 PM on June 24, 2009


I'm feeling fat. And sassy!
posted by ooga_booga at 1:09 PM on June 24, 2009


The actual problem with this study is that it's based on 600 women in ohio - which is a really small sample size - it's enough to indicate how to plan further study, but not enough to draw any real conclusions.

I think the issue we're having here every time a science article is posted and everyone starts with the all-caps correlation/causation thing, is not caused by the research, but by the way it's being reported. The article should be "a small study in ohio showed some interesting results about home ownership that merit further research". What they've written is "you'll be fat and unhappy if you buy a home!" so of course we get all up in arms.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:10 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I mean, we have a myth in this country that homeownership is the gospel, as it were. But for a lot of people, homeownership is not a good idea. And I think, actually, it’s not a good idea in general.

To me the major benefit of home ownership from a financial perspective is the forced savings aspect that's built into the process of building up equity. If you pay a mortgage for long enough, eventually you'll own a home of some sort that you can live in for much cheaper than what you would pay for rent. You might even be able to rent out a room or buy a duplex and make enough to cover your expenses.

But if you rent your whole life, whether or not you can afford to live somewhere once you retire comes down to how wisely you invested your money over the course of your life (which for most people, unfortunately, is not very wisely). With pensions on the way out, and the future of social security uncertain, building up equity is one of the few ways that people are forced to do something that will make things easier later on in retirement.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:23 PM on June 24, 2009


hmmm. I (and mr medusa) are happy homeowners. even in the bay area we were able to buy a (small, in 'marginal neighborhood') house with mortgage equivalent to rent for the area. we got a good mortgage so altho our house has lost some value we still have it--our home, with our little garden in the back :)

we are fatter, a bit, but we are also older. much of the work our little old house needs we have done ourselves, saving thousands of dollars and getting that warm-fuzzy feeling of accomplishment. the work we do maintaining our garden doesnt quite burn the calories of the beers we drink in reward for such labor. but yes, we are happy :)
posted by supermedusa at 1:25 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


also, I think concerns about 'packratitis' in a house applies to that fast dwindling american dream idea of a house that is so much larger than an apartment. mine is not particularly (980 sq ft 2 bed 1 bath)

we chose to live within our means and miss the stress of the big house that 'must' be filled. I think this sort of lifestyle is going to gain in popularity in coming years....

posted by supermedusa at 1:28 PM on June 24, 2009


Us gals have it hard enough. Thankfully, there's help. (From my favorite movie, and I highly recommend it.)
posted by heyho at 1:35 PM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I guess I must be the only happy homeowner on the planet or at least on MetaFilter.

No, I'm pretty happy, too. I'll be a lot happier when the mortage is paid off.
posted by rodgerd at 3:56 PM on June 24, 2009


I think there's been studies done that show that suburbanites tend to be fatter (and less hip, of course) then their city-dwelling counterparts, mainly because city folk tend to walk a whole lot more (and suburbanites just walk to their car). Wouldn't that play into this too? People often move to the suburbs when they're ready to buy, because they somehow convince themselves that they need massive amounts of square footage and a cavernous garage (losers!). For the record, we own a teeny downtown house and we love it.
posted by Go Banana at 4:33 PM on June 24, 2009


Also, gurple and boo_radley rule.
posted by rodgerd at 4:39 PM on June 24, 2009


To me the major benefit of home ownership from a financial perspective is the forced savings aspect that's built into the process of building up equity. If you pay a mortgage for long enough, eventually you'll own a home of some sort that you can live in for much cheaper than what you would pay for rent. You might even be able to rent out a room or buy a duplex and make enough to cover your expenses.

Yeah, although there have been two problems emerge with that financial wisdom:

1/ People convincing themselves to up their mortgage for crap. "Unlock the equity in your home" is basically, in that sense, "spend your retirement fund on holidays and cars!"

2/ People not downsizing when they retire, which is the traditional way of unlocking those savings. I know a few boomer-age parents of friends who have sold up the family home and bought expensive urban apartments, which may or may not be nice, but they aren't generally getting a big cash surplus to retire on, in line with the assumption implicit in the model you're discussing (buy family home with section, pay of mortage, flick home and move into small house once kids move).
posted by rodgerd at 4:44 PM on June 24, 2009


I love owning, and being the boss of my property, and planting a little tree and imagining what it's going to look like in 25 years when we're done paying off the mortgage

Am I really the only one who doesn't take it for granted that I'll be alive in 25 years? Or 10? Or ten months?

Admittedly, I am a renter.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:50 PM on June 24, 2009


So, in other words, homeowners sit around the house, they really sit AROUND the house!
posted by brundlefly at 5:59 PM on June 24, 2009


"...WHEN homeowners..."

Damn it.

posted by brundlefly at 6:00 PM on June 24, 2009


God love you, brundlefly. I am the poster child for having a typo ruin a punchline.
posted by darkstar at 6:53 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


late in the thread, but I am a total a-hole who did not RTFA and I admit it. cower. BUT the first article posted didn't really do the original article any justice. And I also apparently just needed to run my mouth off for a sec.
posted by nosila at 7:31 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


600 women in ohio - which is a really small sample size

No.
posted by oaf at 9:06 PM on June 24, 2009


FOR THE LAST TIME, CORRELATION DOES NOT EQUAL YOUR MOM!
posted by davejay at 9:57 PM on June 24, 2009


Am I really the only one who doesn't take it for granted that I'll be alive in 25 years? Or 10? Or ten months?

Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
posted by davejay at 9:58 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously. I'm in the process of trying to become a permanent employee where I'm now only a temp (i.e., no benefits). Though medical insurance is one of my key concerns, I'm only slightly less concerned about having the life insurance coverage that would pay off the house and allow my disabled stepdad to continue to live there when I'm gone.

I can't imagine being disabled, in my eighties, and being kicked to the curb because my stepson died while he still owed on his mortgage. Yeesh.
posted by darkstar at 10:25 PM on June 24, 2009


I know Canadians get a LOT of undeserved flak from Americans. I feel really bad for them...and then they go around and print up this shit on "canada.com". Just take the stuff fox news rejected and put it up on canada.com...that'll make em look dumber.

I know why Ralph Wiggum sings...and what he sings.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:24 AM on June 25, 2009


Am I really the only one who doesn't take it for granted that I'll be alive in 25 years? Or 10? Or ten months?

Well, yeah. Not take for granted. Plan. I'm 35. The chances I will be alive in 25 years are pretty good.
posted by miss tea at 4:17 AM on June 25, 2009


Am I really the only one who doesn't take it for granted that I'll be alive in 25 years? Or 10? Or ten months?

Hope for the best, plan for the worst.


The worst in this case being... living that long? I cede my cynicism medal to you, good sir.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:53 PM on June 25, 2009


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