Chasing the Chinese pink dragon

Great news everybody!  Chairman Xi’s new tome is out.  Entitled “The Governance of China II” it supposedly lays out all the answers you’ve been looking for in life, including:

1) How to interpret your place in a materialistic, existential world when your true calling is to become one with Xi Jinping Thought.

2) What happens to you when you assume your bleached skeleton status.

3) How Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics is the new Master Plan for Eternal Global One Man Rule.

4) Why The Walking Dead remains an active television show.

5) How thirteen year old Chinese girls who profess their love for K-Pop will be liquidated for crimes against the Party.

6) Why folks care about celebrities who they will never meet and who will never give them a single moment’s thought.

7) Obey.

8) Why royal weddings are a thing, even for people who are not British.  As a coworker said to us the other say, this is downright creepy.

And so on.

Please hold your applause at the awesomeness of all this.

xi clapping

[perfunctory clapping from crowd ensues, clapping continues incessantly until permission to stop clapping is given by a ringing bell]

But it’s all good, because estimates state that Xi has sold less than 100 copies of the hardcover version (the soul infused version is offered free) in Britain.  This means there are more people in Britain who are attempting to brew their own homemade Celtic barley wine in bathtubs than bought this book.

But don’t fret!  For a few weeks ago a big London shindig involved several hundred honored guests with the keynote address from Prince Andrew himself.  His Highness (not Highness) called Xi’s piece a “milestone”.  Oh my, what praise!

Now I’ve briefly met folks who have directly worked with Andrew and did not have a very high opinion of him to say the least.  So it could be that Andrew simply sold out.  Xi gave him straight cash to make a guest appearance at this event.  Kind of like how celebrities endorse deodorant.

But, let’s go ahead and give Andrew some credit and say that didn’t happen (cue laugh track).  What I think is happening is Andrew is either a complete idiot and actually likes Xi’s book (possible).  Or, he is sucking up to Xi in order to further Britain’s goal to get a post Brexit free trade deal with China.

Which brings us to the real point (cue laugh track) of this post.  Everybody is chasing the Chinese pink dragon.

For the uninitiated, the pink dragon is a reference to the use of narcotics in the 60’s.  As I was not alive then, I was first introduced to this concept by South Park where Stan literally chases a pink dragon in the video game Heroin Hero.

pink dragon.jpg

Everybody wants in on that sweet, sweet Chinese heroin.  Oh, I mean gold, yeah, gold.  Not heroin.  Or fentanyl.  [cricket; cricket; cricket]  So what you’re seeing more and more in the modern world is people losing their minds over a market of 1B people essentially commanded by one man.  Folks drool over it.  So much freaking money.

This is why Britain rolled out the gilded carpet last year when Xi visited and the world’s second true liberal democracy was left to shame itself by placing the flags of a dictatorship outside it’s royal palace.  Thus Andrew is just continuing the theme.

One of the video games I play is Gwent, which is an online card game published by CD Projekt Red.  It’s based on The Witcher 3 which many folks (myself included) consider the greatest video game of all time.  Gwent (to abbreviate) is your standard warriors and spells kind of card game.

Anyways, Marcin Iwiński is the co-founder and CEO of CD Projekt.  When interviewed in a documentary for Noclip, what did Iwiński say his number one priority was for Gwent?   What was his goal?  Wait for it: He wants Gwent to be a success in China.

I literally had to rewind the interview to make sure I’d heard him right.  Man, to be blunt:

– There are no Asians, let alone Chinese, in Gwent or The Witcher

Andrzej Sapkowsk wrote The Witcher series with a background of Polish culture, this culture is relatable even to dumb Americans like me because it’s still a part of our shared Western culture

– China has it’s own unique and special culture which does not easily translate to the Western mindset, and when you really try it hurts your head, trust me

And yet, Iwiński seems to think Gwent can win in China?  Iwiński even went to live in China for six months so he could learn the language and generally live there and get the culture.  He’s now back in Poland, I think because his family rebelled.

Iwiński is just like Andrew though, he’s chasing that dragon.  Even if it doesn’t make sense.  Other folks have tried chasing the dragon too.  How has that worked out for Uber, academic apologists, Google, Hollywood, Facebook, and so on.  Not so good.

I’m not saying folks in the West can’t influence or pull gold from China, I’m just saying it’s really, really hard.  My take is that certain people in the West might be interested in Xi and China, but that Xi and China aren’t interested in them.  China’s on it’s own very carefully crated plan and agenda, like it or hate it.  And Xi and China don’t give a shit what anybody thinks about it.

Good luck to Andrew and Britain, but they’re not getting a post Brexit deal out of China.  Good luck to Iwiński, but I don’t see Gwent working in China.

You never catch the dragon.  Even Stan eventually figured this out, even after Randy Marsh is caught playing Heroin Hero too.  Stan: “You don’t ever catch the dragon, Dad!”

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Facebook continues to win

Hey remember when everybody hated Facebook since it trashed their privacy?  That was all of three weeks ago.  Remember THAT?  No?  Apparently folks don’t.  Nobody cares anymore.  Facebook understands that the planet’s attention span (largely because of the internet) is about eight seconds.  So Zucky had to keep his cool, talk like a robot, play it safe, and eventually it would all blow over.

It certainly helped that all the rich, self-inflated, but ultimately dumb people in Congress couldn’t tell the difference between a Facebook algorithm and a ham sandwich.  These are the guys and gals with the power to regulate Facebook so it doesn’t sell your personal data to a KGB backed hedge fund or a bunch of alien overlords who will one day enslave you using Zucky as the turncoat Emperor of all Humanity.

But Zucky banked that Congress is so gridlocked, and so incompetent that he could ride it out.  All he had to do in front of Congress was not stand up, give them all the finger, both barrels, and say, “Fuck you all.  I might be the most powerful man on the planet.  Do your worst.  Foools.”  But since he didn’t do that, Facebook continues to win.

After Congress let Zucky handle them like a seven figure donor, coincidentally Facebook’s stock went up north of 5%.  That means Zucky’s performance over a two day span increased his personal net worth by over $3B.  Never has one human in all of history made so much money so quickly by saying so little to people so incredibly dumb and ineffective at their jobs.  It’s the perfect harbinger for where the planet is headed.

It gets better because of a number of tidbits that STILL inexplicably came out during Zucky’s testimony.  It goes to show you how easy it would have been for competent questioners to hand Zucky his ass.  The guy just doesn’t know how to deal with people getting in his face.  It’s why he (I’m not kidding) walks around with a personal security detail close in number to that of the President.

First, whoever you are, Facebook has a profile on you.  Whether you have a Facebook account or not, Facebook has a profile on you and is tracking you.  They do this in case one day you create an account they already have a head start.  But they really do this so they can connect you into the network of networks which involves your friends, family, coworkers, etc, most of whom have Facebook accounts.

The network of networks is what Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc will need to truly let the future AI algorithms do their magic.  The idea is that the AI knows what you want for breakfast before you know what you want for breakfast.  I’m not joking.  It’ll be the digital voice assistant which is the ultimate end game to engage with you on this.  Whoever can get to you first, gets your money and loyalty.  That’s why the arms race of AI is so hotly contested.  As is the race to get ever more amounts of your personal data into one bag.

Second, Zucky emphasized that he sees Facebook as an international company and not an American company.  He essentially punted on the “only in America” idea when directly asked about it.  As in, Zucky doesn’t believe in the idea that the freedom, entrepreneurial spirit, and rule of law that Facebook was afforded by America makes Facebook an American company.  If he’d been born in China or Egypt or Poland he seems to think Facebook would still exist.  This is kind of a shocking statement from a guy who runs a company that is (in theory) bound by American law.  Especially for a guy who is said to harbor political ambitions.

Third, Zucky also refused to answer Congress on whether or not Facebook tracks its users when the user is not physically logged in.  Zucky said he didn’t know.  Which was of course a blatant, shameless lie.  Facebook tracks its users when they’re not logged in.  Similar to how Google tracks its users credit card purchases via a backdoor agreement with many national retailers.

Again, Facebook needs their user’s offline activity tracked because it further feeds the AI networks.  But since Congress doesn’t understand any of this, and can’t do basic tasks like pass a budget on time, don’t expect things to change.  Facebook will continue to win.

I think folks are waking up to this, that Facebook can’t be stopped.  And in one of the first dominoes to fall is the resignation of Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp and for the last four years an employee of Facebook.  Koum has battled with Facebook’s leadership for years over monetization, ads, WhatsApp’s privacy and encryption, you name it.  He’s leaving now.  And most of those who see things his way will undoubtedly follow.  Then Facebook can finally have its way with WhatsApp.

So if you use WhatsApp (as I unfortunately have to do at the moment overseas; I’ll be deleting it one day after I get home) be prepared for some major changes as the program becomes more invasive, less secure, gets ads, and otherwise further links itself into the Facebook hive.  But it’s okay, because in the end it isn’t about you, it’s about the people who will further own your life.

Take Koum for example, he might have lost the battle with Facebook, but in terms of winning the war of life?  He has won.  Quote:

“In his Facebook post, Koum said he would take some time off from technology to focus on other pursuits, “such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee.””

There are serious, long term concerns to the future of humanity with regards to what the internet is going to do to us all.  But to Silicon Valley, in the end, it’s about success.  As in, money.  To Koum, he might genuinely share the same concerns I do about these matters.  But in the end, to Koum, it’s all about those air-cooled Porsches baby!

Geoffrey’s bound for the woodshed

Does anybody remember Geoffrey the Giraffe?  To be honest, until this morning I’d completely forgotten he existed.  Even reading the articles about how Toys R Us is finished didn’t prompt me to remember.  Only when I started to write this post did I recall.

Here’s the backstory.  In 1948 following service in The War, Charles P. Lazarus descended into the African jungle in search of nothing but the highest quality products he could sell to the people, namely bicycles.  He employed the finest in German explorers (unemployed since May 1945), coolies, and technology.  After getting lost in the bush, soon only Lazarus remained alive.  Soon to expire, he awoke from his pre-death slumber held in the firm embrace of one Geoffrey the Giraffe.

As he was slowly nursed back to health over many months, Geoffrey explained to Lazarus that the real money was in selling toys and baby products to the Boomer generation.  Lazarus agreed to implement Geoffrey’s plan, but only on the condition that Geoffrey ended his self-imposed three-thousand year isolation and rejoin the known world.  And so for near seven decades Toys R Us existed and Geoffrey delighted millions with his special powers.

Well, that was fun, but now the ride is over.  Geoffrey is said to have tried to make a break for it.  He’d procured tickets on a tramp steamer bound from Brooklyn to Kinshasa.  But assassins in the pay of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts Bain Capital (who own Toys R Us) got him on the quay at 3am as he was trying to sneak up the mooring line.  Rather than rejoin the jungle to wait for three-thousand years again, Geoffrey’s getting taken to the woodshed.  At KKR Bain’s exclusive Adirondack retreat.  But KKR Bain’s Masters are merciful, the deed will be done quickly.

It’ll be hard for future generations to understand just how central Toys R Us once was to the American experience.  Now, gone.  Any coincidence that it’s end came as a result of a private equity firm mismanaging it and filling it up with endless debt?  I think not.  I’m sure KKR made billions in profit off Toys R Us’ demise.  But it still doesn’t change the long term dive in retail.

Six months ago after a personal experience with bad stores, I predicted the doom of retail.  I thought this would take decades.  But perhaps the rout has already begun.

Maybe in less than a decade there will only be the following physical stores left:

– Ultra Cheap Retail (Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, etc)

– Cheap Retail (Walmart, Target, etc)

– Niche Rich (Starbucks, Small Bookstore, Craft (of any variety), etc)

– Groceries

– Restaurants

– Pharmacies

– Home Improvement

And in the end, maybe it won’t be that bad after all.  I took a look at the top 50 retailers in America.  Of all those 50, here are the ones that don’t fit into my list:

Best Buy

Macy’s

TJX

Sears

Kohl’s

Nordstrom

Ross

JC Penny

Gap

L Brands

Bed, Bath, and Beyond

Toys R Us was #62.  So that’s roughly 15-20% of all stores are doomed.  That’s a lot, but it’s not like it’s 50%.  So I guess the rout / realignment has already started.

Toys-R-Us-Memorial-Day-Parade-

Poor Geoffrey, RIP.

Giant Octopi, The Little Guy, and the curse of the Trump lens

I would gather that if I walked up to ten people on America’s streets and asked them what Qualcomm is, nine of them would provide one of these answers:

1) the quality control program my stupid boss(es) make me use

2) an internet or phone company

3) a robot assassin bent on revenge for the untimely murder of his girl

4) a blank stare indicating the person’s desire not to talk to idiots like me

Only one in ten would know they’re carrying Qualcomm in their pockets.  If the brave new modern world is one where your smartphone is more important than having two functioning hands, then Qualcomm is more important to your life than your ability to digest food.

Qualcomm chips and semiconductor technology run in almost every new thing of the internet age.  They have a monopoly on the business that would make even the most jaded of 19th Century railroad tycoons sweat with envy.

For years Qualcomm has been investigated, fined, sued, yelled at by its customers, rivals, and competitors as one of the very worst of the Giant Octopi.  Qualcomm’s two biggest current problems are a massive lawsuit from Apple (which I find delicious given Apple’s known desire to cheat its own customers) and a $1.2B fine from the EU’s competition watchdogs.  Over the last decade Qualcomm has likely kept food on the table for at least 13,487 lawyers, judges, court clerks, court security guards, and court security doggies.

Nobody knows about these things or cares.  To them, their Apple or Samsung smartphone is Apple or Samsung.  They don’t know or care that the chip that makes it all possible is from Qualcomm.

(As a brief aside, you need to admire the gall, guile, and skill of Intel’s marketing goons that got them front and center in the psyche of every computer user on the planet.  In the 1990’s anybody who knew anything about a computer knew about Intel chips.  You bought computers based on what Intel processor it had, and barely cared whether Dell or Compaq made the overall machine.)

So for those who don’t know what Qualcomm is, or are too busy wondering who Jennifer Aniston’s ninth husband will be, Qualcomm has been under a hostile takeover bid by Broadcom.  Broadcom is another chipmaker based in Singapore.  The purchase price offered was $117B.  Yes, $117B.  Or enough money to manufacture ten large aircraft carriers with swanky Slavic tracksuit racing stripes included.

This deal was always controversial because it would have further increased a trend in American business lately: CONSOLIDATION.  There are only four major American airlines left.  There are three major American cellular providers.  Americans pay four or five times more for cable internet compared to other Western nations, and get slower speeds for the privilege.

So it was always a concern that Qualcomm and Broadcom could become one company, when Qualcomm is already essentially a Monopoly Man of the Giant Octopi.  The question was if the Trump administration would allow the deal to proceed, or block it on anti-trust grounds?

Well, all of that’s changed yesterday.  What’s happened instead is Trump has disallowed the deal on national security grounds.  Essentially, USA is not going to allow THE American internet chipmaker to be owned by foreigners.  Trump signed an order as such.

The Washington Post, as the newspaper of the capital, thus covers this story.

Because this is politics, and it’s DC, the article must of course focus upon Trump.  According to the Post, Trump has signed this order because of his “protectionist instincts”.  They even got some guy (everybody loves the anonymous quote now) to state that Trump wants the lesson “don’t screw with the government” and that the order is “brutal”.  Again, “It smacks of anger on the part of the government to me. This feels a little more personal to me.”  How dramatic.  I’m seething with excitement at the rage drama associated with this esoteric technology topic.

So what we have here is a situation where one of the worst Monopoly Man companies on the planet wants to merge with another member of the Giant Octopi and then make the situation for the consumer even worse with a super-super Giant Octopi company.  The US government stops this effort, for any reason at all, and the answer of the capital’s newspaper is it’s about Trump?  Really?

You know, I’ve avoided saying this for a long time, because to me there’s almost no point addressing Trump.  It is what it is.  People think what they’ll think.  Many people seem to have a visceral emotional reaction to Trump (one way or the other) that I just can’t understand.  But essentially it’s this: Trump will be gone someday (likely in three years).  Trump is who he is, for all the awfulness that he is.  But one day he’ll be gone.  But the Washington Post will still be here.

If I was a member of The Washington Post, I think I’d make it a point to understand that.  Because essentially what has happened is The Washington Post, The New York Times, and most other major news organizations have mortgaged what little benign credibility they had left, in order to get at one singular man.  I get it, I hate Trump too, but that credibility is never going to return.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naïve, and certainly wasn’t before Trump came onto the scene, but it’s gone over the edge.

Hey remember when it was generally considered suspicious when a newspaper article quoted anonymous sources?  Now it seems every news article is based on anonymous sources.  Now I guess we just have to take it on faith that they didn’t get the quote from some guy down by the Sizzler.  But seeing as how we can’t trust them [get Trump at any price] why would I believe anything an anonymous source says?

I’m never going to look at The Washington Post the same way again.  It will always be an organization whose handlers sold their souls and journalistic integrity to get at one guy.  To the point that they can’t even write an article about one of the most consequential technology topics of this year, without making it all about Trump.

Normally this wouldn’t be a massive problem.  You’d be like, whatever, go read another newspaper each day.  True.  Except that every, single, person, in DC who makes decisions (Democrat or Republican) reads the Post every day.  As in, the people who run government, and make decisions that impact people’s lives every day, are fed information by a publication that essentially has no credibility.  That’s not a good place for any democracy to be in.

If the Post was a responsible newspaper, or at least understood their place in society, they would cover the Broadcom / Qualcomm deal through the lens of the status of monopolies, how the deal impacts American consumers (who pay more each day for their stuff because Qualcomm is corrupt), and also address the completely valid national security implications of handing Qualcomm to a foreign buyer.  But instead, it’s about Trump and Trump and Trump, and the Trump lens.  For everything.

That doesn’t help the Little Guy, it doesn’t help America, and that’s a sad, sad thing.

Qualcomm-Logo.jpg

That this deal is dead, for any reason at all, is a good thing.

don’t know what to raffle? we’re here to help

They’re running a raffle at my work right now.  People give money against their fellow employee’s name.  The person with the most money off the draw on their name gets a pie in the face.  They then take the money for the employee recreational fund.  I don’t know how this is legal.  Current workplace behavior laws are at the point it’s against the rules to ask a person what they had for dinner last night because that’s personal business.  But we can hit somebody with a pie?  I wonder what would happen if the person refused?  Would they get held down by multiple people in some type of weird pie based hazing ritual?

I guess they could have raffled a gun?  That’d be really fun.  For, I guess, this is something people actually do.  Lost among the usual recent, and entirely futile, gun violence headlines is this thing I saw where people are upset that a few (as in, more than one) active workplace raffles on the planet involve winning an AR-15.  I don’t know how this is legal either.  In most cases (local gun laws are more complex than trying to follow a Brazilian soap opera) I think the way it’s supposed to work is if you buy an assault rifle it’s for you.  I’m not sure how you buy one, and then raffle it off like it’s a fruit basket.

Whatever.  Both these raffle ideas are terrible.  But don’t worry!  We at TAP are here to help.  Please pay attention as we explain how you can execute the very best of workplace raffles.  Your cooperation, as always, is truly appreciated.  As always, we truly desire to keep liquidation to an absolute minimum.

– Baby Lemur!

What’s the point in raffling a puppy or kitty?  Boring.  Everybody does that.  Step up your game!  Nobody on the planet has ever raffled a baby lemur.  Trailblazing is one of the exciting parts of life.  Live your life to the fullest!  Can you imagine the look on your smiling coworker’s face when they awake at 3am and this little guy is perched on their comforter?  What a moment!  Little dude looks like a serial killer.  I wonder if those eyes glow in the dark.  That’d be awesome.

baby lemur.jpg

– Five Gallon Can of Unleaded Gasoline!

Everybody needs gas for things, cars, lawnmowers, torching the local Kia dealership, tire fire riots against the establishment, and so on.  You rig the bidding by generating a fake news article (it’s easy nowadays, apparently) saying that the Saudi Aramco terminal in Dhahran exploded.  Gas prices are going to triple overnight.  But you, of all workplaces, are prepared as you have this can sitting on the break table.  Be advised, most humans are crazy, so after showing the article you’ll need a security guard to watch the can and escort the winner out of the building.

gas can

– One Ham Sandwich!

Keep raffle costs down to the bare minimum with this most classic of winning lunchtime creations.  What’s that you say?  Nobody will ever bid on a ham sandwich?  Wrong.  This is where you’ll need the support of your boss(es).  Most workplaces are traditionally run by fear, or incompetence, or both.  It’s why Dilbert exists.  All you need is for your superiors to threaten to fire anybody who doesn’t bid on the sandwich.  They’ll be joking (hopefully) but only you and your boss(es) will know that.

ham sandwich.jpg

– Battered VHS Copy of E.T.!

Oh man, I haven’t seen this film in two decades.  Remember the heartwarming scene where the FBI guys accidently shoot Elliott and fumble around trying to get the burner gun into Elliott’s little fingers while they erase their body cam footage?  And then E.T. uses his powers to explode all their brains inside their skulls in a grim vengeful rage, calmly saying “Elliott” as he methodically downs each screaming FBI guy one-by-one?  Man, I loved that part as a kid the best.  Oh, and somebody will bid on this tape.  There’s at least one hipster in every office.

E.T..jpg

– Toy Car!

It is within our base human nature to be incessantly cruel to one another.  If you doubt me, kindly take a stroll through any Walmart parking lot.  The raffle is openly for a toy car.  But you get the office jerk (most have more than one option) to begin leaking that he heard the boss say the car is a real car.  The enthusiasm will build and somebody will win hoping that it’s true and that their life is about to change.  Instead you mike drop the toy car on them and walk out.  That somebody else is miserable will greatly increase the overall quality of your day.

toy car.jpg

– M134 Minigun!

If you can get away with raffling off a rifle why would you set your expectations so low?  Show your employees you have the imagination and determination necessary to exceed even the most ridiculous of standards.  Plus, as the Las Vegas shooting has shown a standard AR-15 isn’t enough anymore.  In order to truly defend yourself you need firepower.  And man, does this baby deliver!  As long as you don’t happen to encounter an alien in a jungle, you’re good to go.

600px-PredatorM134handheld-10.jpg

– Complementary Copy of TV Guide!

The most irrelevant of magazines is a good star of your raffle because it will only highlight how far we’ve come as a human race since the days where its use was actually needed.  Think of it, once you had to use TV Guide to figure out what was on tonight.  Now your television can tell you that electronically.  Granted, mass shootings are 73 times more prevalent, our politicians are insane, giraffes still roam the Earth, and we’re poisoning our oceans (and bloodstreams) with minute particles of plastic, but, but really, your television’s got the guide in it now.  Progress!

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don’t let rich men own your brain

We’re back!  After an unrelated 16 month absence.  Did you miss us?  No?  Oh, well, uh, so that’s too bad, we, we thought folks missed us.  [cricket, cricket, cricket]

And we’re back to talk about what important topic to humanity?  War?  Politics?  Dwarves?  Deep seated cultural problems?  Elves?  Fine culinary tactics?  Nope.  Instead we’re on to the most important topic of the day:  Why I now consistently hear people use the phrase, “Dilly, Dilly”.

I heard people use it on the airplane flying out here.  I’ve heard people use it in the street.  It keeps happening.  Why?  Because rich men own people’s brains.  I guess.

This phrase first appeared during the Bud Light ads folks have seen during football games.  It’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen.  Robbing from the ever-present Game of Thrones theme they basically just have a medieval court / king who worships Bud Light.  And they slam back Bud Light and say “Dilly, Dilly” to each other as affirmation for their divine right to consume booze.

What they don’t show you is Bud Light “Dilly, Dilly” (After Dark) which is where the king is 13 Bud Lights into his evening and he screams at the queen, overturns many chairs, gets grabby with both male and female servants, and sentences numerous people to death by hippopotamus mauling.  The commercial ends with The Usurper stabbing the king to death with a broken Bud Light bottle.  Fade to black.

I suppose people think that “Dilly, Dilly” must have some cultural connotation or history outside the Bud Light ad?  This would thus make it okay to say this phrase in full open view of the public.  It does not.  They literally made it up.  It has no history or meaning outside a Bud Light ad that a bunch of very, very rich people made.

So why do people say it then?  I have no idea.  There’s got to be some facet or working function of the human brain I just can’t comprehend.  Maybe I’m just a jaded contrarian who can’t see fun anywhere?  Perhaps.  But you’d have to slash me up with a broken Bud Light bottle for an extended length of time before I’m saying “Dilly, Dilly” in the course of my daily conversations with a fellow human being.

Don’t let rich men own your brain.

dillydilly