Places

A visit to Las Vegas

Situated in the Mojave Desert, its Spanish name means “The Meadows” because of the wild grasses and desert springs originally found there. An oasis in an otherwise dry and unwelcoming place, it became known to Native Americans over 10,000 years ago. It was discovered by the modern world in 1829, when a young Mexican scout named Rafael Rivera put it on the map. Settlers were slowly but surely drawn there and in 1905, it became a city. In 1911, it was incorporated.

Its growth back then was limited by the small water supply, but in a couple of decades, things were about to change in a big way. The year when Las Vegas came to be known as the place we know it today was 1931, when it legalized gambling and reduced residency requirements for divorce to six weeks. This move was “blessed” later that year when construction on the massive Hoover Dam started nearby. This meant the city now had access to an incredible water supply and it began to grow in spite of the Great Depression, helped by the influx of workers who stayed there to work on the Dam. The workers wanted to have fun when they weren’t working and thus Las Vegas began to gain its reputation as Sin City. After WWII, the big real estate developments began and the Strip as we know it today began to take shape. Hotels, casinos and stores, each bigger, more colorful and more lit than the other, dotted the ever-changing cityscape. And let’s not forget the appearance of heavy-duty, commercial air conditioning units in the 1950s, which can be credited with the tremendous growth in human settlements in what were uninhabitable areas. None of the large real estate developments in any of the hot places in the world would function without air conditioning.

Here is a gallery of photographs I took back in 2010 during a visit to Las Vegas. Drab during the day, its colors washed out by the desert sunlight, this place truly comes alive at night and it stays that way till morning. Throngs of people always crowd its sidewalks and the car traffic slows to a near halt on the Strip due to gawkers. If you’re going to visit, I recommend you do it during the cooler seasons (autumn, winter or spring). Visit the shops and museums during the daytime and save your evenings for walking around on the Strip and taking in the lights and the entertainment. It is unlike anything on Earth at night. The place screams abundance and availability of anything and everything. It is the pinnacle of consumerism. While I was there, I got a clear sense that everything you could want was readily available. Ads are everywhere, for every thing. All of the luxury brands have a visible presence there. Every big hotel has its own shopping mall inside, exquisitely decorated, lit to perfection and air conditioned to keep you comfy and happy. Restaurants are everywhere. Bars are everywhere. Should you want to go outside, hustlers on the sidewalk hand you phone numbers for “entertainers” of all sorts. Young women invite you into the casinos. Big LED panels flash ads at you non-stop. The buildings are all lit to perfection, to accentuate their architecture and make them stand out and draw you in. You will get visually and mentally overwhelmed by it all, so be ready for that. As I said above, I took these photos in 2010. The city has changed yet again since then. Some places already look different. Frequent change is the only constant there.

Enjoy the photographs!

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bass boost sucks
Thoughts

Excessive bass is the bane of modern music

In much the same way that too much sugar will give you diabetes and too many calories will make you fat, bass-boosted music ends up being a hollow, crappy experience that will make you deaf and piss off your neighbors. And hopefully, it will also bring you lots of fines for noise violations, fines which you will thoroughly deserve.

Manufacturers are sticking more bass into everything with speakers these days. Singers and studios are busy boosting the bass on their songs too — hey, it doesn’t matter if your song is tired and it recycles the same rhythms and loops used by every talented music creator in the past… just stick a few reverse beats in there (they freshen up the whole mess) and turn up the bass! Bass bosted songs are all over the internet, much like pigeon poop is all over rooftops and statues in busy cities. You’ll find tons of these “improved” songs and you’ll also find tons of tutorials on the subject. So in that sense, this article is going against the grain. I’m aware of it. But I’m sure I’m going to be made aware of it repeatedly by some of you.

The problem is made worse by the people listening to these cacophonies. It’s the wrong type of people, isn’t it? It’s the screw-ups, the ones who don’t amount to much in life, the ones with no regard for those around them. The idiot son of the neighbors a couple of houses away, the one who can’t hold down a job and mooches off his parents, he’s got speakers with lots of bass and he plays them loudly. The no-good neighbors who practically live off social aid and whose idea of a good time is grilling pork in the yard, getting drunk and listening to loud music, they’ve got speakers with lots of bass and they love their bass boosted songs. Any dumbass, jackass or just plain ass who buys a car nowadays and drives it with the stereo turned up and the windows down, they’ve got speakers with lots of bass and they’re sure to let you know. They want everyone to know! Heck, they’ll also stick a subwoofer in the trunk, to ensure the whole bodywork rattles with every shitty bass beat.

Even the partially deaf and elderly neighbors who just bought a new TV, they’ve got speakers with lots of bass, even though they didn’t ask for them when they bought their TV.

The problem is two-fold:

  1. Adding anything extra to the music as it was recorded and as it’s meant to be played ruins the music, the inherent goodness of the song (well, if the song is any good at all, anyway). Mind you, I’m not talking about sprinkling a little salt on the soup! Boosting the bass on a song, both in the studio and on a stereo is the equivalent of heaping shovel-fulls of salt onto the soup. Let’s face it, if all a song has going for it is the boosted bass, then it’s a crappy song.
  2. Excessive bass angers everyone around you, no matter how low the volume on your bass-bosted stereo is kept. The bass sounds travel through anything, and that’s all that your neighbors will hear.

A great speaker is supposed to reproduce sound just as it was recorded, with all of its frequencies, not just the low ones that are collectively called “bass”. A good speaker comes fairly close to it. An idiotic speaker made for dimwits will have thumping bass sounds and little else. Even if you listen to an idiotic speaker at low volume, it’ll still transmit the bass sounds through walls, disturbing everyone around you, because all they’ll hear is the thump-thump-thump noise, the beat, without any of the accompanying sounds. Even if the song is great, it’ll still sound like shit as the beats pound the neighbors’ brains, boom-boom-boom, until they get a migraine.

The situation is made worse by the compressed music of today, sold mostly as MP3 and AAC files, which cannot reproduce all of the frequencies of the sounds that were recorded in the studio. It muddles them with the compression algorithm. So the producers rely more heavily than necessary on bass and beats in order to make the songs catchier. I realize this is an oversimplification, but it is true.

I would like excessive bass to be outlawed, just as excessive noise is currently outlawed. I’m not kidding. I realize I’m going completely against the grain here, but this has become a constant nuisance and these people who go on abusing our ears and our laws are everywhere. I’d like you to begin to notice them as you walk through a city and you’ll soon realize there’s a constant cacophony of bass beats that pollutes our lives, whether we’re indoors or outdoors, whether we’re awake or trying to sleep. If it’s not the neighbors playing music or watching a movie, it’s some douche driving down the street with the music turned up in his car; even if he’s got the windows up, the bass beats travel through the body of his car, across the street, through the walls of your house and into your brain. Why do we tolerate this nonsense?

To me, this thing is akin to a deranged hobo who throws poop at people as he wanders the streets. Bass beats may not be made of physical poop, but they’ll stink up your life and leave a mess behind. You may not need to wash them off, but even if you wanted to, you couldn’t. As the years go by, you’ll be able to see those same crappy beats as furrows on your forehead, as white hairs on the temple of your head.

Civilized cities already have very good noise regulations in place but they do not address excessive bass. In Europe, noisy cars aren’t even allowed to enter certain city centers, which I think is a wonderful thing. And yet no one directly addresses the problem of excessive bass. I don’t think the measures to be put in place should be complicated. Let’s not have to measure the decibels or the frequency of the sounds. The measure to be used should be as simple as possible. Is the sound traveling through the wall or the window of the house? Can it be heard on the street, or by the neighbors? Then it’s too loud. In the case of cars, is the sound of their stereos coming through the car’s body? Can it be heard on the street, even if the windows are up? Then it’s too loud.

Let us start to penalize excessive bass with excessive fines. The manufacturers, the studios and the people listening to music will follow suit, unless they enjoy paying hefty, wallet-burning fines.

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Thoughts

Enough with aiding society’s trash

I am fed up with all of the aid that the world’s various governments give to society’s trash. How long have we been doing it? In some form or another, governments have been handing money out to people, with surprisingly little control over who gets it, for almost 100 years now. The way these programs are currently run, they’re not really helping those who truly deserve help, and they’re providing too much help to those who don’t deserve it. If anything, I see societies slowly declining and I see more and more goldbricks and welfare swindlers around every day. I have had it with these parasites who are walking about and poisoning our societies on our own money!

I want to make myself clear so you don’t get the wrong idea. When I talk about societal parasites, I’m talking about trash of any color and breed. I mean those who won’t work because they know they can wiggle their way through the welfare system without doing it. I mean the ones who can work, are offered jobs but won’t take them, the ones who have no problems turning down an honest day’s work but have no problem selling their children into sex, the ones begging in the streets even though they’re perfectly healthy, the ones who’d rather commit crimes instead of getting a job. Those are the shitheads I’m talking about.

I am not talking about people who have lost their jobs, who need a temporary helping hand, a leg up, who can’t get by even though they’re working, because their jobs don’t pay enough for them to support their families, the widowed, the elderly, the disabled and any other honest folks I might have not mentioned here. By all means, let’s help these people! As a matter of fact, if we stopped helping the shitheads I named in the previous paragraph, I bet we’d have a lot of money that we could use to help these people, who are truly deserving of our help.

It’s fiscally irresponsible to just hand money out without thoroughly checking who gets it and what they do with it but then, when have we known politicians in general to be fiscally responsible? It’s very easy to spend someone else’s money, especially when it means you can be a populist and earn cheap votes from all the scumbags who never do an honest day’s work, simply by promising to keep their aid flowing.

This sort of thing does nothing but encourage the same kind of disgusting behavior we now see in most developed countries of the world: shitty people being shitty, all day long, all over the place. Think about your own community for example: you know exactly who these shitty people are, the ones who live on welfare and multiply like fleas because they get more government aid that way. They’re filthy drunkards and/or drug addicts, horrible parents and as humans, they’re not only subpar, I doubt they even qualify for the title. In countries where it’s allowed, they are out begging on the streets, teaching their children to do the same, sometimes even mutilating them (yes, you read that right) in order to make them into better beggars.

In Romania for example, these assholes get free government-subsidized housing, which they shit on, literally. They get new housing and in a few years, it’s unrecognizable, in part because they shit around it and in it. Yes, in it, you read that right. They have toilets but don’t use them. They shit and piss outside the buildings, in the hallways and in their apartments. They get free TVs, free furniture, subsidized utility bills (they can spend all the energy they want, they only pay 5-15 lei per month). In return, they do nothing but evil. The law says they’re supposed to do some community work per month, but no one holds them to it. They go out and they beg on the streets. They steal. They have more children in order to have more benefits. They break the law more often than you can keep track. They pollute the city with their garbage, which they throw everywhere, including right out the window, so it piles up next to their free housing. They pollute the cities with their noise because they play their TVs and stereos loud all the time. They have fights on the streets. The list goes on and on. It’s utterly disgusting to watch them and no one wants to see them around. Come voting day, they pile up at the booths to vote for whatever politician bribed them off (the going rate is about 50-75 lei per vote). And they continue to get welfare from the government. Why in hell does that happen?

Why do we aid them? Why do we, the tax-paying citizens who support our governments and who work hard, some of us seven days a week, not just five, allow populist politicians to give our tax money to this societal detritus, to these walking piles of filth who pollute our cities and our lives? Why? That is a question for which I have yet to receive an adequate answer.

Some say it’s because the crime rate would go up, that these societal parasites would resort to crime of all sort in order to get some cash, and that we need to placate them with a monthly stipend. To that I reply that they (the parasites) are already engaging in illegal and criminal behavior. And besides, that’s we have we have police forces. I’d much rather know that my tax money goes to pay the salary of honest policemen who won’t hesitate to shoot down a parasite who is committing a crime, rather than have it go to helping that same parasite get drunk or drugged or sit in his or her own filth all day, watching TV.

Are you winching at the idea of cleaning up the filth of the world? Why? Are you more content to see it polluting your world, day in and day out, while you support it with your own money?

Some say that we need to work on rehabilitating the scumbags. To that I say they’re welcome to do it on their own dime and time. I have yet to see these efforts succeed even marginally. Some people are born to be shit and they’re going to be shit for as long as you allow them to be around.

Some say that out of the parasites we sometimes get people who rise up and become good citizens. To that I say I’ve heard enough about the exceptions to the rule. We need to stop worrying about the 0,001% of societal parasites who might at some unknown time become worthwhile people and deal with them as a class right now, the way they deserve to be dealt with.

So why are we spending so much of our money (it’s still our money even if we give it to the government in the form of taxes, I hope you realize that) to support those who don’t deserve any support whatsoever? Why?! Why don’t we cut them loose and help those who truly deserve it?

In case you’re wondering what we can do with the societal detritus, I have a plan and it’s this: mandatory community service. If they want government aid, they need to be out there on the streets, every single day, cleaning up our towns, everywhere. Whatever work to be done in our communities, they report for work every morning and they they get it done properly, under close supervision, otherwise they get nothing. They sweep the streets. They clean the garbage cans. They scrub grafitti off the walls. They scoop the poop leftover from wayward pets and the gum off the sidewalk. They clean our city parks and pull out the weeds. Etc… this list can go on and on. And it should also be mandatory for them to keep their places of living clean, to do everything by the letter of the law, or they stop getting aid. They get caught doing anything illegal, in jail they go, where they do mandatory work assigned to them.

As for the people who deserve help, I bet we can all think of hundreds of ways to help them, besides those currently available in our various countries.

Come on, let’s put a stop to the filth of society already!

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A Guide To A Good Life

Țara lui Andrei at Bran Castle

This weekend, Ligia and I participated at an event called “Tabăra lui Andrei”, put together by the team at Țara lui Andrei. They organize these wonderful camps for underprivileged children every summer in the village of Bran, in order to provide training, employment opportunities and personal development courses for these children. Each camp lasts about a week, with teams of about 60 children brought in to learn how to grow into productive, well-balanced people who like what they do in life. They do miracles! Normally, you’d say you can’t do much with someone in a week, but you’d be surprised at the results they get!

This week’s camp was for chefs and waiters. At the end of the week, after a lot of on-the-job intensive training and motivational seminars, they organized, cooked and served a three-course meal to a group of Romanian celebrities, notables and government officials invited to attend the dinner party.

We, the dinner guests, were treated to a wonderful event and were blown away by the professionalism of these children of high-school age. The evening started with appetizers, continued with a private tour of Bran Castle and culminated with this special dinner, served in the newly opened Castle Tea House.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the good people at Țara lui Andrei for the amazing, life-changing work they’re doing and for the impact they have on the lives of these children who get to see life through a different lens, even if only for a little while, and then get employment opportunities and a chance at a better life. I’m so proud that this kind of work is going on in Romania!

I also made a video where I talked a little more about this, and there’s a photo gallery here as well.

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Events, Places, Video Log

Proud To Be Romanian at Cetatea Făgărașului

Ligia and I were in attendance at a wonderful event last night, organized by the good folks from Proud To Be Romanian at Cetatea Făgărașului, a medieval fortress whose construction began in 1310 and continued through various repairs and improvements well into the 1630s.

It goes without saying that I love medieval fortresses and castles. I feel right at home whenever I visit one. I loved the architecture here, the various tunnels and cellars that run under its walls, the beautiful, grandiose rooms and hallways but most of all and perhaps a little odd, the window encasements which were made of carved stone. They were so beautifully and delicately made and were perfect for the style of the castle.

We got there a little before the entertainment started. Being there ahead of time gave us the opportunity to explore the castle and take some photos, which you’ll get to see here. The evening’s festivities involved wine and champagne tastings, hors d’oeuvres, some networking, a ceremony celebrating those who are doing good things in Romania (Ligia was among those who were feted) and a concert in the castle’s inner courtyard.

I also shot some 360° video with my Giroptic camera (it’s embedded below and may not display properly in certain browsers like Safari on a Mac). I have to apologize for its quality. While the novelty of this kind of video kind of makes up for the camera’s technical inability to record proper HD video, it’s not enough to recommend it. And when you hear the bad sound recorded with its microphones, you’re even more put off. Again, sorry… If any of you know how to improve the quality of the video captured with this camera, please let me know.

But enough whining! The event was great, the champagne and the wine were great and the castle was amazing! We loved it! One of the people we got to meet was Mrs. Simona-Mirela Miculescu, Representative of the UN Secretary General and Head of the UN Office at United Nations (you’ll see her in one of the photos with Ligia) and you should have seen my face when she said she knew me and liked my show, Romania Through Their Eyes… 😳

Thank you Adriana and Rob for putting this wonderful shindig together!

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A Guide To A Good Life, How To

Dealing with anger

I’d like to help those of you who like me, are dealing with anger issues, and I also want to add a few original pieces of advice to the growing body of self-help articles and techniques for anger management. That is why I made this video.

What follows is a close transcript of what I said in the video.

First, you’ll want to ask what anger is, because the definition varies based on the kind of anger you feel.

There’s normal anger. It’s normal for everyone to get angry every once in a while. That kind of anger can even be used for good, such as to spur you on to make changes for the better in your life.

There’s also the bad kind of anger, the kind that takes over you, makes you ready to explode and hurt someone. It’s the kind where you lose control and do things you regret afterwards. It’s the kind of anger that scares others and even yourself, because you don’t know what you’ll do once it takes over. This is the bad anger. You have to take care of this anger, you have to fix yourself so you don’t get this angry anymore, before you do something that you might regret for the rest of your life.

The first step when you find yourself angry is to get on top of the anger. Realize you’re still in control. That’s why we have these large brains with a very well developed cortex. We have the power to get on top of our base instincts. It takes a lot of effort but it can be done. If you feel you can’t do it, do the next best thing: get away from the situation. Walk away, get as far away as you need in order to stop feeling the tension of that situation and begin to calm yourself down.

Once you’re calm, you may choose to have a discussion about what caused the anger. Obviously, this only works in situations where the other person or persons are available and amenable to such things. Stay objective, DO NOT BLAME the other but express what triggered your anger and what you and the other person can do to avoid that sort of trigger in the future.

You can also choose to work out your anger through physical exercise. I’ve done this myself but let me tell you, it only works when you’re not that angry. When you’re so angry you’re bordering on mad, you can work out all you want, the anger will still be there and you may also risk physical injury to yourself, because you’ll be tempted to push your body beyond its limits in order to spend that anger inside you.

Anger is disruptive at best and can be lethal at worst — lethal to you or to others. You can easily have a heart attack or a stroke when you’re angry and the effects of those incidents can be temporary or permanent. You can also easily injure or kill others when you’re in a fit of anger, because you’re not in control of yourself, you’re pumped up on fight or flight hormones and capable of greater physical strength than normal.

So it behooves you to control your anger, to find out what triggers it and to work on yourself in order to find out the underlying causes for your anger. It may be that you’re just naturally irritable, it may be that your upbringing caused you to be angry, because you were abused or mistreated or your family dealt just as terribly with anger, giving you a bad example that you’re now mirroring.

Look for a good CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) practitioner. CBT has been proven, time and time again, to work much better than medication. Something that helped me is Ferasa. It’s an ancient Arabic face reading practice. The Ferasa practitioner is trained to look at the subtle movements of the muscles in your face and to sense what you are feeling, then he will ask you questions that will cause you to eventually find your problems and face them. The thing is, you can’t hide what you’re feeling or thinking from a knowledgeable Ferasa practitioner. He will continue to ask you probing questions until you are forced to deal with your problems.

The point is not to ball up in a fetal position and cry about how much of a victim you are. That’s not productive and it won’t solve your anger. The point is to find out what’s causing your anger and acknowledge that cause to yourself, fully. You want to own that cause and you want to say to yourself, over and over, until it sticks, that what happened is in the past, that you accept it, that you forgive yourself and the others involved, and that you’re moving on. That you’re an adult now, that you have a good life, that you are a good person and that you are choosing to behave rationally and considerately, each and every day.

It will also help to have a regular physical exercise schedule, at least 2-3 times per week, and it will also help you to meditate at least 5 minutes in the morning. It’s much better to do it in the morning, because you’ll be starting your day by calming yourself down. And you may also find that you’ll want to do a 5 minute meditation at night, to close out the day, where you acknowledge the good and the bad situations that happened that day and you promise yourself to do better the next time.

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Raoul and Ligia
Video Log

How to behave toward women

Someone asked me to make this video a long time ago. I put off doing it until now and you’ll see why as you read on.

I am an introvert and have trouble relating to people (to women in particular). Some would label me an extreme introvert with anti-social behavior, although I manage to mask this when I’m in public, for the sake of others. Fact is, I’m most comfortable and clear-minded when I’m by myself, far, far away from everyone. I get splitting headaches when I have to be in public or speak with strangers, and the rub of it is that I organize public events with my wife (it’s part of our business). These things take their toll on me, but I do it because I have to. I find ways to retreat and hide during those days, so that I can recover my sanity. But enough about my bats in the belfry and on with the bread and butter of this article.

Given what I’ve said, I encourage you to draw your own judgment about the advice given in my video (just as you should with any advice you receive from anybody). It’s a long video, as I’m wont to do, so if you do make it to the end, thanks for watching!

Here are a few notes I jotted down before I sat down for the video:

  • Women and men are different in the way they look at the world. Clearly. But the differences aren’t black and white. There’s a spectrum of sexuality and traditional female and male roles are becoming outmoded as our understanding and acceptance of “man” and “woman” gets more nuanced. So it’s up to each of you to discover how different each woman you meet is from you and from other men and women, and to respect those differences.
  • My own personal history with women doesn’t give me much background and knowledge to go on. I’ll let the video speak for itself here.
  • When you find a good woman, one that you’ll want to be with, one that you dream of being with, you’ll know it. Of course, the woman may not know it and that’s where you can screw up big time. All introverts know what that’s like. Thank God there are women like my wife, who take the time to understand a social screw-up like myself and see me as I am in private.
  • Some women deserve wonderful treatment, some are downright nasty. Just like some men are wonderful people and some men are pricks. Being an asshole is a gender-neutral thing. And figurative assholes are to be avoided, no matter their sex.
  • The most important thing is to realize that women have the right to the same opportunities, pay, treatment and choices as men. Choice is the most important thing in a woman’s life and as men, we should give them that choice. Choices in life, relationships, choices in growing up, in love and in their jobs. We owe them that choice, especially because of our despicable behavior toward women during the past few thousands of years. No one can argue that women have been empowered and treated equally in our patriarchal society, and everyone I think will agree that women have had to fight, tooth and nail, to get rights and privileges that we as men have enjoyed efortlessly, by virtue of being born with a penis and two balls.
  • Just because women are fragile, it doesn’t mean they’re weak. Just because they’re small, it doesn’t mean they can’t do great things. Just because they’re pretty, it doesn’t mean they’re stupid or that they can be objectified. Just because they have a vagina doesn’t give anyone the right to enslave them and force them into sex trafficking.
  • Things like restrictive clothes are remnants of our male dominant culture. Dresses that zip up at the back, they take control out of a woman’s hands and put it in someone else’s. High heel shoes make it difficult for them to move and escape a potentially dangerous situation, plus they ruin their feet. Flimsy materials used in their dresses can be easily torn, exposing their bodies and encouraging abuse. I realize some of these things are meant to celebrate the beauty, the unique and amazing shape of a woman’s body, and so clothes are made thin and shape-fitting and shoes are made thin and tall, to accentuate their beauty, but there are clear downsides to these practices, and they’re also remnants of a past where males dominated and abused females.
  • Some would say women choose to dress and act this way… But when little girls are raised to believe that’s how they should dress and talk and behave, it’s no longer their choice. They see bad examples of the status quo everywhere and they’re brainwashed into thinking that way. That’s how their choices are taken away from them. Just like many of our choices as people are taken away from us simply because we’re raised to believe certain things, to not question some things, to do things because that’s the way they’re done, etc. We need to question everything. It’s our duty as we mature to sit down with ourselves and reason out what makes us tick. See where we’re right and where we’re wrong.

Finally, treat each woman as a person. A real, breathing, talking, feeling human being, not a sex toy, not a body with breasts and a vagina, not something to possess and f**k, but a soul. Relate to them that way. The rest will follow… or not, but the focus should be on a soul to soul connection, not on a penis to vagina connection. Do you get me? Treat each woman as your equal. Different but equal. Show respect, be honest and where needed, keep your distance. Not every woman is a flower, but when you do meet a flower, remember to be gentle and move slowly, as not to break it. To continue this analogy, although it’s nice to have a bouquet of flowers in a vase in your living room, flowers are meant to be outside. That’s where they get pollinated, form seeds and give birth to new life but most importantly, that’s where they live freely, enjoying their time in the sun and being seen by everyone. Give every woman the freedom she deserves.

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