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Aug 14 2013

Just what they need?

I thought this story was a joke; no one could be that superficial. But a couple of people have looked at the homelessness problem, and decided that one way they can help is by giving them graphic design help on their signs. It’s really a thing!

signs

I can sorta see that they’re trying — they want to contribute in ways that use their skill set. But I seriously don’t see the benefit, especially when many of the homeless people seem to be doing this are accepting the $20 donation (the artists give them a little money and a sign), and then conveniently, somehow, losing the sign.

I’m thinking that maybe I ought to go to Minneapolis and offer to give the destitute a lecture on oncogenes, or perhaps talk to them about evolution, and give them $20 for their attention. That wouldn’t be patronizing at all, would it?

68 comments

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  1. 1
    Reginald Selkirk

    and then conveniently, somehow, losing the sign.

    I can see how high quality graphic design might undercut the message that you are poor and in need of financial help.

  2. 2
    Kierra

    What the…? Why would you…? How is that supposed to help?!! There are conservatives running around saying that poor people aren’t “poor enough” if they have a FRIG. How does giving a homeless guy a snazzy sign do anything, besides possibly making it LESS likely that someone would leave money? I just do not understand people some days.

  3. 3
    WharGarbl

    @Kierra
    #2

    I just do not understand people some days.

    Just understand that almost everyone is a selfish bastard, and you will understand most behaviors.
    Which also had the added bonus that the people acting unselfishly will come as a pleasant surprise.

  4. 4
    John Kruger

    Is it just me, or does the killer graphic design give the impression that the guy is not as bad off and in need of help as the cardboard and marker version? I am not really a fan of direct handouts in any event, I prefer to give to shelters and whatnot where I can have a better assurance of how my money will be spent, but it seems kind of like giving money to a person “in need” that has a cell phone or an expensive outfit. They might be doing more harm than good to the handouts by having them hold snazzy signs.

  5. 5
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    um. A project of raising awareness?

  6. 6
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    …and then conveniently, somehow, losing the sign.

    Gee, I wonder why? I don’t suppose they feel that a well-designed, professionally-produced sign might undermine the message that they are short of money, do they?

    /snark

    These people’s hearts are clearly in the right place… but they didn’t think this through at all.

  7. 7
    Anthony K

    “Look at all this cardboard, blankets, a tin can. It’s a mess. What your squatter’s corner really needs is some white space.”

  8. 8
    Nick Gotts

    Just understand that almost everyone is a selfish bastard, and you will understand most behaviors. – WharGarbl

    Making such an assumption is highly destructive as well as being false. You’re making an unsound generalization from your own case, perhaps?

  9. 9
    jaybee

    Perhaps if they rented a tux for him, he could bring in a more upscale and wealthy set of donors.

  10. 10
    Anthony K

    um. A project of raising awareness?

    Out-of-touchness is a problem affecting thousands of graphic designers all over this country. Won’t you help?

  11. 11
    Jackie

    Declare him a corporation that is “too big to fail” and watch the government rush to save him!
    That’ll help.

  12. 12
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Out-of-touchness is a problem affecting thousands of graphic designers all over this country. Won’t you help?

    I don’t know. That message just isn’t resonating with me. Maybe some color or special effects?

  13. 13
    Akira MacKenzie

    Yes, that’s the solution to poverty in America! The poor just need a better PR firm.

  14. 14
    Inaji

    Gee, and all the people who blithely walk past all the homeless people day in and day out will notice those nifty, expensive looking signs and think “need money, my ass, lookit that sign.”

    Christ. Being an artist, this is not making me feel good in any way.

  15. 15
    David Marjanović

    …the embarrassment… …the embarrassment…

  16. 16
    Anthony K

    I haven’t written ad copy in years, Beatrice. Just plop in some lorem ipsum and work on the branding while I arrange a focus group.

    To the credit of the makers of the Tumblr, they do feature interviews with the sign recipients.

  17. 17
    Moggie

    I’m reminded of that advertising folklore about David Ogilvy. It’s claimed that he saw a beggar with the sign “I am blind”, and amended it to “spring is coming and I am blind”, which resulted in many more people giving money. I’m guessing that someone had this story in mind when they came up with this graphic design idea.

  18. 18
    Inaji

    John Kruger:

    I am not really a fan of direct handouts in any event, I prefer to give to shelters and whatnot where I can have a better assurance of how my money will be spent

    Golly, and here I just give what I can when I see someone in need, because I figure how they use that little I can spare is really none of my fucking business, being as I’m not in their shoes and all.

  19. 19
    Anthony K
    I am not really a fan of direct handouts in any event, I prefer to give to shelters and whatnot where I can have a better assurance of how my money will be spent

    Golly, and here I just give what I can when I see someone in need, because I figure how they use that little I can spare is really none of my fucking business, being as I’m not in their shoes and all.

    John Kruger, once you give it, it’s not really your money anymore, is it?

    I do have a few friends who’ve worked at local shelters here and they do suggest that it’s more effective, for myriad reasons, to give to local shelters rather than directly to individuals, though I admit sometimes I do give a bit of cash, though I’m more likely to buy someone a meal when they ask for it.

  20. 20
    Anthony K

    Caveat: I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The situation here may not be applicable elsewhere.

  21. 21
    MyaR

    This is why I mostly lurk: with only 18 comments in the thread, everything I was going to say has been said. Even the response to a comment I was going to make has been made. (Thanks, Caine.)

  22. 22
    Inaji

    MyaR, you’re welcome. I’m gonna say, though, that whether something has already been said doesn’t matter. Every voice is not only welcome, they are necessary. I’m not exactly a nice person, so someone might feel very comfortable ignoring me, while they wouldn’t ignore someone else who is expressing the same thought or idea.

    All that said, it’s good to see you again, Mya!

  23. 23
    Lars

    If I were to choose the better designed sign, I’d go for the one on the left. Ya rly.

  24. 24
    Inaji

    Anthony K:

    I do have a few friends who’ve worked at local shelters here and they do suggest that it’s more effective, for myriad reasons, to give to local shelters rather than directly to individuals, though I admit sometimes I do give a bit of cash, though I’m more likely to buy someone a meal when they ask for it.

    Here in ND, there’s a problem with shelters being very religious based, and part of their sheltering comes with “you’re getting religion whether you want it or not”, and yeah, I have a problem with that. It doesn’t stop donating now and then, and yes, we do donate to food drives and donate food to Salvation Army, but I do try to be careful in that I prefer most monies goes to people who need it, rather than being funneled into the religious side of things. So, like you, I’m more likely to buy someone a meal or give them cash for whatever.

  25. 25
    Moggie

    Some shelters can be dangerous places for the more vulnerable among the homeless. You can find yourself at the mercy of some seriously disturbed people. It’s not unusual to hear homeless people speak of scary experiences with shelters.

  26. 26
    coragyps

    When my daughter lived in New Orleans, before Katrina, her favorite Homeless Person had a sign like the one on the left that said “Need Money for Drugs.”

    Direct appeals > fancy graphics.

  27. 27
    moarscienceplz

    I see this as a truly honest attempt to help the homeless. These graphic artists have probably spent years in school being told that the Nike shwoosh or the MacDonalds golden arches increased the company’s profits by x bazillion dollars, so of course a snazzy sign would net more bucks for a homeless guy. It’s the old saying about how when you’ve just purchased a new hammer, everything you see looks like a protruding nail head.

  28. 28
    Randomfactor

    Moggie #17, played out in this ad:

  29. 29
    moarscienceplz

    I’m thinking that maybe I ought to go to Minneapolis and offer to give the destitute a lecture on oncogenes, or perhaps talk to them about evolution, and give them $20 for their attention.

    This made me think of Woody Allen’s joke from ‘What’s New Pussycat?’:

    -”I just got a new job.”
    -”What do you do?”
    -”I work at a strip club helping the strippers in and out of their clothes.”
    -”How much money?”
    -”Twenty francs a week.”
    -”That’s not very much.”
    -”It’s all I can afford.”

  30. 30
    Anthony K

    I hear that, Caine, and Moggie. We do have semi-secular, city-funded shelters here (the Bissell Centre here has support from the United Church of Canada as well as the City of Edmonton, and AFAIK they don’t proselytise). This situation is by no means universal.

    I do want to vocalise my support for you comment about not policing homeless people about their use of resources. If I don’t give money, it’s because I don’t often have cash on me to give, not because I feel I have the right to tell people what they can do with it.

  31. 31
    Anthony K

    I will, when time and circumstances permit, sit down with street people and smoke a cigarette with them when they’ve asked for a cigarette (only if they’re interested). A few months ago, I ran into a fellow I’d bought dinner for a couple of weeks before. He was at a pub having a beer with the change he’d scraped together, and as I was there with some friends for karaoke, I invited him to sit with us, sing some songs, and share our beer. He did, and we had a great time. Later, he needed some cash to get downtown to stay at a friend’s for the night, so he sold me a small trinket. As soon as he had some cash in hand, he went up to the bar and bought our table a pitcher of beer as payback for the rounds he’d shared. People have no idea just how generous with their resources most street people (in my experience) are, but treating people like people also goes a long way.

  32. 32
    Trebuchet

    I pass by a beggar* frequently whose sign is falling apart. I’ve been thinking of giving him some new cardboard and a marker so he can make a new one. He might feel like the old one is more effective. A fancy one would just look silly.

    * I realize that’s not a “politically correct” term but it’s what he’s doing. I have no way of knowing if he’s homeless or not. He’s an older guy whose sign says “needy veteran” or something like that.

  33. 33
    throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble

    It plays into the whole “homeless are an eye-sore” dehumanizing crap. How do they not see that they’re attempting to ‘prettify’ human suffering so that it has less of an impact, not more of one? Ugh.

  34. 34
    prae

    Maybe it’s a trick to hide them? See how that guy blends in with his environment on the right side?

  35. 35
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    I am not really a fan of direct handouts in any event, I prefer to give to shelters and whatnot where I can have a better assurance of how my money will be spent

    Well, fuck you too! Asshole.

    —————————
    —————————–
    24 Caine, Fleur du mal

    Anthony K:

    I do have a few friends who’ve worked at local shelters here and they do suggest that it’s more effective, for myriad reasons, to give to local shelters rather than directly to individuals, though I admit sometimes I do give a bit of cash, though I’m more likely to buy someone a meal when they ask for it.

    Here in ND, there’s a problem with shelters being very religious based, and part of their sheltering comes with “you’re getting religion whether you want it or not”, and yeah, I have a problem with that. It doesn’t stop donating now and then, and yes, we do donate to food drives and donate food to Salvation Army, but I do try to be careful in that I prefer most monies goes to people who need it, rather than being funneled into the religious side of things. So, like you, I’m more likely to buy someone a meal or give them cash for whatever.

    Ain’t that the fucking truth. And it’s not like secular shelters are guaranteed to be great either.

    There’s a secular shelter (well, the organization is but the staff still lecture/preach all the fucking time anyways) here that’s a nightly shelter. Basically a converted warehouse type deal with office cubical type walls put up between cots (i.e the separator walls don’t go even close to the ceiling). My mother stayed there one night and was raped by a staffer. Just right in the middle of the room on her cot. It’s a women’s only shelter. Fucking prime hunting ground.

    She slept on the streets after that until her husband got his SSI and a program to help pay rent. She literally had surgery on her neck once and then on her back later just to be released to sleeping on the street because that shelter was the only option.

  36. 36
    Inaji

    Anthony K:

    I will, when time and circumstances permit, sit down with street people and smoke a cigarette with them when they’ve asked for a cigarette (only if they’re interested). A few months ago, I ran into a fellow I’d bought dinner for a couple of weeks before. He was at a pub having a beer with the change he’d scraped together, and as I was there with some friends for karaoke, I invited him to sit with us, sing some songs, and share our beer. He did, and we had a great time. Later, he needed some cash to get downtown to stay at a friend’s for the night, so he sold me a small trinket. As soon as he had some cash in hand, he went up to the bar and bought our table a pitcher of beer as payback for the rounds he’d shared. People have no idea just how generous with their resources most street people (in my experience) are, but treating people like people also goes a long way.

    To you and your friends, thank you very much for that. And before anyone even thinks to single out the “He was at a pub having a beer with the change he’d scraped together” part as an excuse to never give anyone any money, just don’t. do. that. Ever.

    One thing that infuriates me is the moral high horse people love to get on in such situations, implying that because a person is homeless (or jobless or whatever), they don’t have the right to have a beer, or a smoke, or anything else they deem as ‘unnecessary’ and a privilege belonging only to those upright citizens who have money, shelter and food already.

  37. 37
    Anthony K

    One thing that infuriates me is the moral high horse people love to get on in such situations, implying that because a person is homeless (or jobless or whatever), they don’t have the right to have a beer, or a smoke, or anything else they deem as ‘unnecessary’ and a privilege belonging only to those upright citizens who have money, shelter and food already.

    QFFT.

  38. 38
    Anthony K

    Then again, I support higher taxation and social services precisely because I don’t trust wealthy people to manage their own money properly. Better put that in the public trust, lest they blow it all on stupid rich people things. Swarovski crystal-encrusted caviar, or some such shit.

  39. 39
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    Aw, fuck my #35 so needs a Trigger Warning. Sorry =(

  40. 40
    David Marjanović

    I’m with comment 27. That’s what makes it so embarrassing.

  41. 41
    dianne

    I don’t trust wealthy people to manage their own money properly. Better put that in the public trust, lest they blow it all on stupid rich people things. Swarovski crystal-encrusted caviar, or some such shit.

    Anthony K has already won the thread, the day, and the whole internet for his contributions to this thread, but this one wins the win. But I’d like to add that if you give tax money to rich people they blow it on bad business deals whereas if you give tax money to poor people they rent or buy houses, buy food, get their health issues fixed, and generally reinvest in the community. It’s clear which the better deal is.

  42. 42
    Holms

    Making such an assumption is highly destructive as well as being false. You’re making an unsound generalization from your own case, perhaps?

    Armchair psychiatric help $0.05

    The doctor is [IN]

  43. 43
    Anthony K

    And JAL, I’m sorry for you mother’s experience. That is awful.

  44. 44
    Rich Woods

    @Amthony K #38:

    Then again, I support higher taxation and social services precisely because I don’t trust wealthy people to manage their own money properly. Better put that in the public trust, lest they blow it all on stupid rich people things. Swarovski crystal-encrusted caviar, or some such shit.

    Exactly, exactly, exactly!

  45. 45
    NelC

    I’ll put my Internet expert hat on here, as a graphic designer who has done work — paying work, that is — for charities, and confirm that, yeah, people expect charities, even big ones, to look like they’re hardly spending any money outside of their mission. Two-colour print jobs, cheap-looking paper, faux distressing, ‘distressed’ fonts, it’s all part of selling an image to punters so that they’ll give more to the charity. Glitzy artwork makes people think that their gift is going to be wasted, even if it costs about the same in production as the rough-looking artwork. It’s easy to see that people will feel the same about beggars with slick signs. Or at least it should be; are these designers students, by any chance?

  46. 46
    Holms

    One thing that infuriates me is the moral high horse people love to get on in such situations, implying that because a person is homeless (or jobless or whatever), they don’t have the right to have a beer, or a smoke, or anything else they deem as ‘unnecessary’ and a privilege belonging only to those upright citizens who have money, shelter and food already.

    But but what if they spend their donation on a nice pair of shoes??!?

  47. 47
    Inaji

    Holms:

    But but what if they spend their donation on a nice pair of shoes??!?

    Ya know, if you’re doing snark, it’s not good enough, so add a tag. If you aren’t, fuck off.

  48. 48
    MyaR

    MyaR, you’re welcome. I’m gonna say, though, that whether something has already been said doesn’t matter. Every voice is not only welcome, they are necessary. I’m not exactly a nice person, so someone might feel very comfortable ignoring me, while they wouldn’t ignore someone else who is expressing the same thought or idea.

    Eh, I’m not exactly nice, either. On the plus side, there have no repeat misogynists at my local drinking skeptically.

    Then again, I support higher taxation and social services precisely because I don’t trust wealthy people to manage their own money properly. Better put that in the public trust, lest they blow it all on stupid rich people things. Swarovski crystal-encrusted caviar, or some such shit.

    Yup. People like to complain about the way “their” tax dollars get spent the same way. I do wish less of them were spent on Swarovski crystal-encrusted caviar, though.

  49. 49
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Here in ND, there’s a problem with shelters being very religious based, and part of their sheltering comes with “you’re getting religion whether you want it or not”, and yeah, I have a problem with that.

    And god forbid you should be gay and/or trans* at those shelters either. Additionally, may shelters are sex (not gender; fuck trans* people is standard policy after all) segregated, which means that e.g. heterosexual couples must be separated if they want to go to the shelters. On top of that, many shelters also prohibit pets, while many homeless people keep dogs or other animals for companionship and security. And, of course, as Moggie and JAL point out, there’s always the risk of violence at the hands of staff or other residents, and basically no recourse or prevention measures are in place. The real, fundamental, problem is that charity is insufficient; always has been, always will. Solving the problems surrounding homelessness requires major structural readjustments.

  50. 50
    I've got the WTF blues

    ND… brings back memories. I used to volunteer at Churches United for the Homeless back when I was an idiot, er, catholic. Aquila sent me merrily along the path to enlightenment when he issued a press release criticizing a young man who sued the diocese because he’d been raped by “Brother Rose” while attending Shanley HS for “not seeking a pastoral solution” rather than using the courts to nail those dirty enabling bastards. But I digress.

    The main reason I came out of lurkdom again was to say I won’t give a thin dime to the salvation army because of their anti-gay positions. Which include not allowing same sex couples to remain together in shelters. Apparently “family rooms” are only for the *right sort* of family. The SA also took a page out of the RCC’s playbook and sued to be exempted from laws requiring equality of benefits for same sex couples.

    Fuck them with their fucking bells.

  51. 51
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    FWIW, I’m quite sure Holms was snarking, perhaps with reference to Greta Christina. But yeah, people are horrible so snark tags are probably worth it.

  52. 52
    carlie

    This reminds me of that guy who was mad at Abercrombie and Fitch for being snobby so he went and draped their clothes over homeless people like they were his own fucking canvas or something. Homeless people are not props for your social statements.

  53. 53
    Holms

    Ya know, if you’re doing snark, it’s not good enough, so add a tag…

    Yes, it was.

    If you aren’t, fuck off.

    No. You?

  54. 54
    Ing

    where I can have a better assurance of how my money will be spent

    Why don’t you take one home and keep it as a pet then? Total acountability.

    Fucking classist douchebag.

    Remember when we had a regular pain in ass complain about the time he donated money to a x-mas charity and was HORRIFIED to find these fraudster poor folk spent it on toys for their kids?

    THE NERVE!

  55. 55
    Trickster Goddess

    In Cory Doctorow’s novel, Pirate Cinema, a newly homeless teen experiments with different types of signs to see which garners the most donations. In his (fictional) experience, using white cardboard was the most effective.

    Another tactic the protagonist finds effective is to offer free kleenex and hand sanitizer (public health benefit!) with a sign and cup soliciting donations to “Help the hungry.”

  56. 56
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Caine:

    … we do donate to food drives…

    Just as a side note (and I expect many people here realize it, but I didn’t for a long assed time), many food banks also accept toilet paper and maxi pads/tampons and are in desperate need of them.

    Ing:

    Remember when we had a regular pain in ass complain about the time he donated money to a x-mas charity and was HORRIFIED to find these fraudster poor folk spent it on toys for their kids?

    That wasn’t the lobster guy, was it?

  57. 57
    Ing

    @Alexandra

    I honestly think it was two seperate people

  58. 58
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Ing:
    Goddamn. They all start to blend together after a while, don’t they?

  59. 59
    John Phillips, FCD

    In the one on the left I see it for what it is and can decide whether to give or not. But the flashy one on the right would get subconsciously tuned out as an advertising board for something or other. Or if I did notice it I would probably just assume it was some kind of gimmick for an ad campaign that I know nothing about yet.

  60. 60
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    When you’re flying sign, the important thing isn’t making it pretty, it’s making it READABLE. Fancy fonts really aren’t all that readable…

    I, personally, will happily share what I have with those in need.

  61. 61
    ck

    @dianne,

    I’m a fan of the trickle-up economic ideas (i.e. the reverse of Reagan’s trickle-down nonsense), as well. Give the poorest 10,000,000 people a dollar each, and they’re going to do more for the economy and general health of the community than giving the top 10,000 earners a tax credit of $1,000. Wealthy businesspeople don’t generally employ others merely out of the kindness of their heart, so giving them more money is pretty useless. People living in poverty, on the other hand, are always in need of something, whether it’s food, clothing, shelter or even entertainment, so any money they get will get spent quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if welfare and food stamp programs contribute more to the economy than they cost.

  62. 62
    Jadehawk

    faux distressing, ‘distressed’ fonts, it’s all part of selling an image to punters so that they’ll give more to the charity. Glitzy artwork makes people think that their gift is going to be wasted, even if it costs about the same in production as the rough-looking artwork.

    well, now at least I know who buys the “grunge” and “eco” styles of vector graphics.

    As for the rest of the thread… I’ll just second the people pointing out how horrible many shelters are and also add another “fuck you” towards the assface who thought poor people need to be managed by religious knowitalls.

  63. 63
    PatrickG

    Props to those who don’t judge where their direct donation goes. Judgment of such is so reminiscent of WELFARE QUEEN rhetoric. Not that I’m the first to point that out.

    Still, nice to see. :)

    @ Lars:

    If I were to choose the better designed sign, I’d go for the one on the left. Ya rly.

    True story: The graphic designers who made the sign on the right work for American Atheists.

    /me runs away.

  64. 64
    voidhawk

    I live in a major city so I often wonder about the best way to help homeless people, specifically rough sleepers. There are a number of charities which do great work re-homing and preventing homelessness (Tackling the disease not the symptoms) but very few who actually focus on rough sleepers. Those which do exist are usually religious.

    I know there are charities which pop up around Christmas which go around with hot food and blankets and I wish they carried on through the rest of the year.

    For a while I tried to help by letting the homeless know about local construction projects which deliberately employ homeless folk as unskilled labourers when I gave them some money. Some construction companies like to do it to raise publicity as a ‘good’ compan. While it’s a little galling to realise that the homeless workers will be treated as a kind of advertising, it is at least a source of reliable income and some experience they can cite if they try to find another job.

  65. 65
    mikee

    When I first saw that picture I thought it must be some sort of psychology experiment to see what influenced people in giving money. I was the only thing I could to think of to make sense of the image.

    When it comes to the poor and homeless, one of the things that bothers me about the religious/conservative is that they seem to think that all poor/homeless people bring it on themselves. They can’t seem to conceive that under different circumstances that could have been them.
    I think if you have been lucky in life then you have a greater responsibility to those who haven’t.

  66. 66
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @randomfactor #28

    That video choked me up.

  67. 67
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    Adding my voice to the chorus of big ol’ “Fuck you!”‘s towards those who wish to police the homeless’ use of money. Little pleasures like a cigarette or a pint are what make life bearable; I think if anyone deserves those it’s the homeless.

    I haven’t got the spare cash to give regular charity donations, so I will happily give a homeless person some change if I have it, or a fag if I don’t. I try to have a quick chat with them too if I’ve got time. The looks you get off some people if you stop to have a chat with a tramp! Fuck those people too.

    Tangential anecdote

    I remember in Portsmouth (I went to Uni there, and, being from a little town, came into contact with more homeless people there than at home) I was on my way to a club, beer in hand. We got there and I still had 3/4 of a can left, so I gave it to a couple of homeless guys sat round the corner, rather than just throw it away. They were really grateful, but I got a lecture of some random girl in the queue about how I was “Only making it worse for them”. Because all homeless people are alkies, right? She really pissed me off.

    /Tangential anecdote

  68. 68
    penumbra

    First post from a longtime lurker. I read this blog post and comments with great interest because I am an artist and often wonder how I might positively impact others given my abilities, such as they are.

    This idea of upscale messaging for those in need seems silly to me for the same reasons the horde here has already stated. It shows little insight into the actual needs of people on the street (i.e., food, companionship, a place to stay, medicine, etc.).

    However, the real reason I was so interested in this thread is that I wondered if anyone had any better ideas rather than just blasting the silliness of this PR concept. Now *that* would’ve been brilliant! (sigh)

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