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Potential Unification

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  • Cam Desautels
    Hi everyone, I am the president of the Atheists and Freethinkers Society on campus. At his request, I am reposting here an email that I sent to him. --Cam
    Message 1 of 10 , Aug 11, 2004
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      Hi everyone,
      I am the president of the Atheists and Freethinkers Society on campus.
      At his request, I am reposting here an email that I sent to him.
      --Cam Desautels

      David,

      Before I address your question about being an officer, we need to talk
      about the future of our two groups and about what purposes they
      serve.

      As I see it, it would generally be a bad idea to have two groups if
      our aims are the same. Despite the fact that there are at least 17
      religious groups on campus, it seems to me that we would be better off
      with a unified, more powerful group rather than with two smaller
      groups. Do you agree?

      So, generally speaking, I would be in favor of merging our groups.

      The main problem, however, comes with the group name. I don't feel
      that the "Brights" name is a good one for us to wear. There are so
      many names in the world of non-believers, and while I recognize that
      the intent of the "Brights" label is to unify, it only serves to add
      another name to the mix. I think that this name confusion damages our
      ability to mobilize.

      Furthermore, there is no positive name recognition factor. That was
      one of my important goals in picking a name -- to choose a name that
      would approximately convey the purpose of the group to a person who
      had never heard of it. This is how we get all of the non-believers out
      of the closet -- we make ourselves accessible.

      On top of this the name has the unfortunate quality of sounding
      condescending.

      Anyway, I hope I have not offended you, the term simply does not sit
      well with me as I think it hinders the freethought/atheism movement
      and that is something very dear to me.

      If you are at all willing to merge under the banner of the "Atheists
      and Freethinkers Society," please let me know. I am willing to go to
      great lengths to do so, most likely including making all of your
      officers officers in this group.

      I am very dedicated to this cause and I have done a lot of work to
      advance it.

      We have a membership of 18. We are now an official (registered)
      organization. I have contacted media outlets and local freethought
      groups informing them of our presence. We are forging ahead.

      Please take a look at our goals (from our constitution) and see if
      they might be same as yours (or could be the same with a bit of
      change):
      1.1 To provide an open and supportive environment for the discussion
      of issues of relevance to freethinkers and non-religious students.
      1.2 To promote the ideals of freethought, including the application of
      rational inquiry and skepticism.
      1.3 To organize discussions, debates, social events and/or other
      activities.
      1.4 To educate the UTD community about secular world views and to
      present them as positive alternatives to traditional religious
      world views.
      1.5 To protect and defend the rights of freethinkers and non-believers
      on campus.

      Please understand that even if you do not wish to unify, we hope to
      have a close, positive relationship with your organization.

      Sincerely,
      Cam Desautels
    • David Wallace Croft
      Cam, ... Yes, definitely. ... I disagree with you on this but I am willing to compromise. ... I have problems with the terms Freethinker and Society which
      Message 2 of 10 , Aug 11, 2004
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        Cam,


        --- In brights-utd@yahoogroups.com, "Cam Desautels" <hereticam@h...>
        wrote:
        > with a unified, more powerful group rather than with two smaller
        > groups. Do you agree?


        Yes, definitely.


        > The main problem, however, comes with the group name. I don't feel


        I disagree with you on this but I am willing to compromise.


        > If you are at all willing to merge under the banner of the "Atheists
        > and Freethinkers Society," please let me know. I am willing to go to


        I have problems with the terms "Freethinker" and "Society" which I've
        documented on other lists. I'm fine with "Atheists", though. How
        about "Campus Atheists"?


        > great lengths to do so, most likely including making all of your
        > officers officers in this group.


        Your organization is democratic, right?


        > We have a membership of 18. We are now an official (registered)
        > organization. I have contacted media outlets and local freethought
        > groups informing them of our presence. We are forging ahead.


        Who is your faculty advisor?

        Do you have a website or a mailing list? I would like to subscribe.


        > Please take a look at our goals (from our constitution) and see if
        > they might be same as yours (or could be the same with a bit of
        > change):
        > 1.1 To provide an open and supportive environment for the discussion
        > of issues of relevance to freethinkers and non-religious students.


        I have a problem with including freethinkers who believe in the
        supernatural. More on this here:
        http://groups.yahoo.com/group/freethoughtfellowship/message/28


        > Please understand that even if you do not wish to unify, we hope to
        > have a close, positive relationship with your organization.


        If we did not unify, individual students would probably take on
        leadership positions in both organizations. For example, I am a
        member of the Metroplex Atheists, the Humanist Church, and the
        American Humanist Association simultaneously.
      • Chana Williford
        ... Hi Cam, I m Chana. David and I work together on a lot of things in several organizations, and I m the one who found your flyer posted about campus. Nice to
        Message 3 of 10 , Aug 11, 2004
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          --- Cam Desautels <hereticam@...> wrote:

          > Hi everyone,
          > I am the president of the Atheists and Freethinkers Society on
          > campus.
          > At his request, I am reposting here an email that I sent to him.
          > --Cam Desautels

          Hi Cam, I'm Chana. David and I work together on a lot of things in
          several organizations, and I'm the one who found your flyer posted
          about campus. Nice to 'meet' you.

          > David,
          >
          > Before I address your question about being an officer, we need to
          > talk
          > about the future of our two groups and about what purposes they
          > serve.
          >
          > As I see it, it would generally be a bad idea to have two groups if
          > our aims are the same. Despite the fact that there are at least 17
          > religious groups on campus, it seems to me that we would be better
          > off
          > with a unified, more powerful group rather than with two smaller
          > groups. Do you agree?

          I certainly agree here.

          > So, generally speaking, I would be in favor of merging our groups.
          >
          > The main problem, however, comes with the group name. I don't feel
          > that the "Brights" name is a good one for us to wear. There are so
          > many names in the world of non-believers, and while I recognize
          > that
          > the intent of the "Brights" label is to unify, it only serves to
          > add
          > another name to the mix. I think that this name confusion damages
          > our
          > ability to mobilize.

          While it is still a new term, its sole purpose *is* to simplify
          things, and it has the backing of many prominent secularists,
          including Richard Dawkins. I believe that, given time and support (by
          creating satellite organizations bearing the 'Brights' name), this
          will happen rather quickly.
          >
          > Furthermore, there is no positive name recognition factor. That was
          > one of my important goals in picking a name -- to choose a name
          > that
          > would approximately convey the purpose of the group to a person who
          > had never heard of it. This is how we get all of the non-believers
          > out
          > of the closet -- we make ourselves accessible.

          Again, a little time and a lot of *use* will bring this about for the
          Brights.

          >
          > On top of this the name has the unfortunate quality of sounding
          > condescending.

          I disagree, but I've heard this argument and I can see where it stems
          from.

          > Anyway, I hope I have not offended you, the term simply does not
          > sit
          > well with me as I think it hinders the freethought/atheism movement
          > and that is something very dear to me.
          >
          > If you are at all willing to merge under the banner of the
          > "Atheists
          > and Freethinkers Society," please let me know. I am willing to go
          > to
          > great lengths to do so, most likely including making all of your
          > officers officers in this group.

          I understand your dedication to the cause, but I don't like the term
          "freethinkers," as it includes those with a belief in supernatural
          phenomena. While I fully support a freethinker's use of reason, I
          don't care for the lapse in judgment. I would have no problem in
          compromising by unifying under strictly atheistic terminology, but
          one of the reasons I am so very fond of the Brights' philosophy is
          that it excludes all who believe in the supernatural or mysitcal. If
          this is something your group seeks NOT to specifically exclude, then
          I would think we'd be better off as separate entitites.
          >
          > I am very dedicated to this cause and I have done a lot of work to
          > advance it.
          >
          > We have a membership of 18. We are now an official (registered)
          > organization. I have contacted media outlets and local freethought
          > groups informing them of our presence. We are forging ahead.
          >
          > Please take a look at our goals (from our constitution) and see if
          > they might be same as yours (or could be the same with a bit of
          > change):
          > 1.1 To provide an open and supportive environment for the
          > discussion
          > of issues of relevance to freethinkers and non-religious
          > students.
          > 1.2 To promote the ideals of freethought, including the application
          > of
          > rational inquiry and skepticism.
          > 1.3 To organize discussions, debates, social events and/or other
          > activities.
          > 1.4 To educate the UTD community about secular world views and to
          > present them as positive alternatives to traditional religious
          > world views.
          > 1.5 To protect and defend the rights of freethinkers and
          > non-believers
          > on campus.
          >
          > Please understand that even if you do not wish to unify, we hope to
          > have a close, positive relationship with your organization.

          Further thought and discussion are necessary. We're meeting on the
          23rd, as you have probably been informed.

          Thanks a lot,

          Chana Williford

          >
          > Sincerely,
          > Cam Desautels




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        • Cam Desautels
          ... I understand your concerns with the Freethinker term. However, when I was deciding upon a name for my organization, I conducted a poll amongst the
          Message 4 of 10 , Aug 12, 2004
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            >I have problems with the terms "Freethinker" and "Society" which I've
            >documented on other lists. I'm fine with "Atheists", though. How
            >about "Campus Atheists"?

            I understand your concerns with the "Freethinker" term. However, when I was
            deciding upon a name for my organization, I conducted a poll amongst the
            (future) members regarding what the key word in the name should be. The
            choices given were: "non-believers", "non-religious", "secular", "atheists",
            and "freethinkers".

            Now I have to say, my vote was cast for "atheists". But in the end, ~73%
            voted for "freethinkers". I had to look at the situation and say "well, it's
            not the word I would choose, but the fact is that this term is how the
            people I want in my organization define themselves." If I stand in the way
            of how people have chosen to label themselves, I am only hurting all of our
            interests.

            True, a Deist or someone who believes in Invisible Pink Unicorns (but
            doesn't follow their teachings!) could be considered a freethinker. But I
            think it's pretty clear that that is not who the organization is for, and if
            it isn't clear, then we need to rewrite our purposes to make it clear.

            Perhaps the name doesn't _perfectly_ define what we are down to the last
            specific. But I think it comes very close and then the official purpose
            finishes the job.

            >Your organization is democratic, right?

            Actually no. Not yet. I think that the proper way to get it started is with
            strong centralized power so that important decisions can be made and enacted
            quickly. Once the organization is more stable, however, it will be
            democratized.

            >Who is your faculty advisor?

            Stephanie Kaplan of the School of Management.

            >Do you have a website or a mailing list? I would like to subscribe.

            A website is in the works, but we do have a yahoo group: utd_nonbelievers.

            >If we did not unify, individual students would probably take on
            >leadership positions in both organizations. For example, I am a
            >member of the Metroplex Atheists, the Humanist Church, and the
            >American Humanist Association simultaneously.

            Probably very true.

            I am concerned, however, that we are not seeing eye-to-eye and that we may
            need to remain seperate. I don't like that at all, but it seems to be the
            case. But more discussion is needed.

            I would also be very interested to hear what other members of your group
            think about the Freethinkers issue.
            --Cam Desautels
          • darth_versive
            ... ... if ... (by ... was ... who ... the ... stems ... movement ... Yes. I agree with this. I m not sure if the actual term Brights
            Message 5 of 10 , Aug 12, 2004
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              --- In brights-utd@yahoogroups.com, Chana Williford
              <nerdy_bitch@y...>
              wrote:
              > --- Cam Desautels <hereticam@h...> wrote:
              >
              > > Hi everyone,
              > > I am the president of the Atheists and Freethinkers Society on
              > > campus.
              > > At his request, I am reposting here an email that I sent to him.
              > > --Cam Desautels
              >
              > Hi Cam, I'm Chana. David and I work together on a lot of things in
              > several organizations, and I'm the one who found your flyer posted
              > about campus. Nice to 'meet' you.
              >
              > > David,
              > >
              > > Before I address your question about being an officer, we need to
              > > talk
              > > about the future of our two groups and about what purposes they
              > > serve.
              > >
              > > As I see it, it would generally be a bad idea to have two groups
              if
              > > our aims are the same. Despite the fact that there are at least 17
              > > religious groups on campus, it seems to me that we would be better
              > > off
              > > with a unified, more powerful group rather than with two smaller
              > > groups. Do you agree?
              >
              > I certainly agree here.
              >
              > > So, generally speaking, I would be in favor of merging our groups.
              > >
              > > The main problem, however, comes with the group name. I don't feel
              > > that the "Brights" name is a good one for us to wear. There are so
              > > many names in the world of non-believers, and while I recognize
              > > that
              > > the intent of the "Brights" label is to unify, it only serves to
              > > add
              > > another name to the mix. I think that this name confusion damages
              > > our
              > > ability to mobilize.
              >
              > While it is still a new term, its sole purpose *is* to simplify
              > things, and it has the backing of many prominent secularists,
              > including Richard Dawkins. I believe that, given time and support
              (by
              > creating satellite organizations bearing the 'Brights' name), this
              > will happen rather quickly.
              > >
              > > Furthermore, there is no positive name recognition factor. That
              was
              > > one of my important goals in picking a name -- to choose a name
              > > that
              > > would approximately convey the purpose of the group to a person
              who
              > > had never heard of it. This is how we get all of the non-believers
              > > out
              > > of the closet -- we make ourselves accessible.
              >
              > Again, a little time and a lot of *use* will bring this about for
              the
              > Brights.
              >
              > >
              > > On top of this the name has the unfortunate quality of sounding
              > > condescending.
              >
              > I disagree, but I've heard this argument and I can see where it
              stems
              > from.
              >
              > > Anyway, I hope I have not offended you, the term simply does not
              > > sit
              > > well with me as I think it hinders the freethought/atheism
              movement
              > > and that is something very dear to me.
              > >
              > > If you are at all willing to merge under the banner of the
              > > "Atheists
              > > and Freethinkers Society," please let me know. I am willing to go
              > > to
              > > great lengths to do so, most likely including making all of your
              > > officers officers in this group.
              >
              > I understand your dedication to the cause, but I don't like the term
              > "freethinkers," as it includes those with a belief in supernatural
              > phenomena. While I fully support a freethinker's use of reason, I
              > don't care for the lapse in judgment. I would have no problem in
              > compromising by unifying under strictly atheistic terminology, but
              > one of the reasons I am so very fond of the Brights' philosophy is
              > that it excludes all who believe in the supernatural or mysitcal. If
              > this is something your group seeks NOT to specifically exclude, then
              > I would think we'd be better off as separate entitites.

              Yes. I agree with this. I'm not sure if the actual term "Brights"
              will catch on in a big way, but I agree with the underlying
              philosophy (a naturalistic worldview). And a number of
              "freethinkers" I've met DO believe in the supernatural. And also, a
              number of atheists, I would argue, don't really hold to a
              naturalistic (scientific) worldview, even though they might claim to
              (like Marxist-Leninists, for example).

              So I don't think that "Atheists and Freethinkers Society" really
              conveys the same philosophical perspective as that which the label
              "Brights" is supposed to convey. (And like I said, whether the term
              "Brights" works or doesn't work in actually unifying people with a
              naturalistic worldview remains to be seen, but at least they've got a
              solid definition of an underlying philosophy I can agree with.)

              Also, there's something to be said for two or more groups, with
              similar but not the same perspectives and goals, to exist side by
              side in friendly competition and cooperation with each other,
              especially in the face of all those religious and supernaturalistic
              groups out there. That is, sometimes strength lies not in unifying
              conformity but in creative diversity and mutual intellectual
              stimulation due to having slightly different perspectives. Look at
              the history of science, and you'll see that the existence of
              different theories about certain phenomena have often stimulated,
              rather than retarded, advancement. Plus, healthy debate and
              discussion between such groups as we find on campus can not only be
              fun for the participants, but it can also attract a lot of attention
              from curious onlookers, who might be stimulated to think about issues
              that they have never considered before, and to participate in types
              of discussions that they have never participated in before. That is,
              a little genuine controversy can be good advertising for all the
              groups involved.

              Paul
            • David Wallace Croft
              Cam, ... You should poll again after providing your list members with the information in these URLs:
              Message 6 of 10 , Aug 12, 2004
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                Cam,


                --- Cam Desautels <hereticam@...> wrote:
                > name should be. The
                > choices given were: "non-believers",
                > "non-religious", "secular", "atheists",
                > and "freethinkers".


                You should poll again after providing your list
                members with the information in these URLs:
                http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/ath/blathq_freethinker.htm
                http://www.the-brights.net/


                > >Your organization is democratic, right?
                >
                > Actually no. Not yet. I think that the proper way to


                OK, let me know when it is. As a Humanist, I'm quite
                religious about my belief in democracy. Check out
                this quote:

                "EIGHTH: We are committed to an open and democratic
                society. We must extend participatory democracy in its
                true sense to the economy, the school, the family, the
                workplace, and voluntary associations. Decision-making
                must be decentralized to include widespread
                involvement of people at all levels � social,
                political, and economic. All persons should have a
                voice in developing the values and goals that
                determine their lives. Institutions should be
                responsive to expressed desires and needs."
                http://www.americanhumanist.org/about/manifesto2.html


                > >Who is your faculty advisor?
                >
                > Stephanie Kaplan of the School of Management.


                Maybe he could be the backup sponsor for the Campus
                Brights.


                > A website is in the works, but we do have a yahoo
                > group: utd_nonbelievers.


                Cool. I subscribed and posted an introductory
                message:
                http://groups.yahoo.com/group/utd_nonbelievers/message/49


                =====
                David Wallace Croft
                President, CroftSoft Inc (www.croftsoft.com)
                (214) 636-3790 mobile / (214) 731-9284 home



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              • David Wallace Croft
                ... After hearing from Cam, Chana, and Paul on the unification issue thus far, it looks like the consensus at this point is to remain separate. ===== David
                Message 7 of 10 , Aug 12, 2004
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                  --- darth_versive <darth_versive@...> wrote:
                  > Also, there's something to be said for two or more
                  > groups, with


                  After hearing from Cam, Chana, and Paul on the
                  unification issue thus far, it looks like the
                  consensus at this point is to remain separate.

                  =====
                  David Wallace Croft
                  President, CroftSoft Inc (www.croftsoft.com)
                  (214) 636-3790 mobile / (214) 731-9284 home




                  __________________________________
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                • Chana Williford
                  I concur. And I agree with Paul that that isn t such a bad thing! Chana ... __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? New and Improved Yahoo! Mail -
                  Message 8 of 10 , Aug 12, 2004
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                    I concur. And I agree with Paul that that isn't such a bad thing!

                    Chana

                    --- David Wallace Croft <david@...> wrote:

                    > --- darth_versive <darth_versive@...> wrote:
                    > > Also, there's something to be said for two or more
                    > > groups, with
                    >
                    >
                    > After hearing from Cam, Chana, and Paul on the
                    > unification issue thus far, it looks like the
                    > consensus at this point is to remain separate.
                    >
                    > =====
                    > David Wallace Croft
                    > President, CroftSoft Inc (www.croftsoft.com)
                    > (214) 636-3790 mobile / (214) 731-9284 home
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > __________________________________
                    > Do you Yahoo!?
                    > New and Improved Yahoo! Mail - 100MB free storage!
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                    >





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                  • Cam Desautels
                    ... Well said, Paul. I am perfectly alright with having two groups. And I agree that competition can be very positive. So, for now, I suggest (or agree) that
                    Message 9 of 10 , Aug 12, 2004
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                      >Also, there's something to be said for two or more groups, with
                      >similar but not the same perspectives and goals, to exist side by
                      >side in friendly competition and cooperation with each other,
                      >especially in the face of all those religious and supernaturalistic
                      >groups out there. That is, sometimes strength lies not in unifying
                      >conformity but in creative diversity and mutual intellectual
                      >stimulation due to having slightly different perspectives. Look at
                      >the history of science, and you'll see that the existence of
                      >different theories about certain phenomena have often stimulated,
                      >rather than retarded, advancement. Plus, healthy debate and
                      >discussion between such groups as we find on campus can not only be
                      >fun for the participants, but it can also attract a lot of attention
                      >from curious onlookers, who might be stimulated to think about issues
                      >that they have never considered before, and to participate in types
                      >of discussions that they have never participated in before. That is,
                      >a little genuine controversy can be good advertising for all the
                      >groups involved.

                      Well said, Paul.

                      I am perfectly alright with having two groups. And I agree that competition
                      can be very positive. So, for now, I suggest (or agree) that we should
                      continue to exist as seperate entities, competiting for excellence but
                      keeping an eye towards the fact that our aims are very similar, and
                      realizing that there will be many positive opportunities for cooperation.
                      --Cam Desautels
                    • darth_versive
                      ... attention ... issues ... is, ... competition ... should ... but ... cooperation. ... Cam, Sounds good to me. And along these lines, maybe we could
                      Message 10 of 10 , Aug 13, 2004
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                        --- In brights-utd@yahoogroups.com, "Cam Desautels" <hereticam@h...>
                        wrote:
                        >
                        > >Also, there's something to be said for two or more groups, with
                        > >similar but not the same perspectives and goals, to exist side by
                        > >side in friendly competition and cooperation with each other,
                        > >especially in the face of all those religious and supernaturalistic
                        > >groups out there. That is, sometimes strength lies not in unifying
                        > >conformity but in creative diversity and mutual intellectual
                        > >stimulation due to having slightly different perspectives. Look at
                        > >the history of science, and you'll see that the existence of
                        > >different theories about certain phenomena have often stimulated,
                        > >rather than retarded, advancement. Plus, healthy debate and
                        > >discussion between such groups as we find on campus can not only be
                        > >fun for the participants, but it can also attract a lot of
                        attention
                        > >from curious onlookers, who might be stimulated to think about
                        issues
                        > >that they have never considered before, and to participate in types
                        > >of discussions that they have never participated in before. That
                        is,
                        > >a little genuine controversy can be good advertising for all the
                        > >groups involved.
                        >
                        > Well said, Paul.
                        >
                        > I am perfectly alright with having two groups. And I agree that
                        competition
                        > can be very positive. So, for now, I suggest (or agree) that we
                        should
                        > continue to exist as seperate entities, competiting for excellence
                        but
                        > keeping an eye towards the fact that our aims are very similar, and
                        > realizing that there will be many positive opportunities for
                        cooperation.
                        > --Cam Desautels

                        Cam,

                        Sounds good to me. And along these lines, maybe we could cooperate
                        by putting together a series of simple-to-organize, and frequent,
                        attention-getting topics of discussion, which might also draw in a
                        number of the religious-oriented crowd. Like maybe science vs.
                        Intelligent Design Theory, stem-cell research and moral philosophy,
                        the "Ten Commandments monument" incident and church-state separation,
                        etc. I would think that the more controversial, intellectually
                        stimulating, and timely the topic is, the more attention it would
                        get, and the more potential new members as well, for each of our
                        groups.

                        I went to a "Does God Exist?" panel discussion at UTA a year or two
                        ago, and it drew hundreds of people. And the discussion was very
                        lively. So the audience is out there, if it can be tapped into in
                        the right way. I think that trying to maintain a more visible
                        profile, by organizing discussions on such controversial and relevant
                        topics (relevant to our respective perspectives and goals), would be
                        a good strategy. And also, I think that organizing regular and
                        frequent discussions, each with a smaller attendence, would be a
                        better tactic than spending all our effort on one or a small number
                        of big, complicated events. That way, we'd be in the spotlight more
                        often, I would think. And with the expenditure of less actual time
                        and effort, leaving plenty available for other activities.

                        Paul
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