The Happy tail of a rescued dog.

by Kirk Werner on March 3, 2015

It wasn’t quite a month after losing our Chocolate Lab, Edward Brown, that I was surfing Adopt-a-Pet and Petfinder for the thousands of dogs in need of homes. We hadn’t planned on getting another dog so soon after Eddie passed and I suppose I had convinced myself that I was just ‘window shopping’ to get a sense for what kind of dogs were out there. You know, for when the time was right.

Anyone who has had to say goodbye to their canine companion knows the huge void they leave in our hearts and in our homes, and in the weeks following Eddie’s passing our house had grown far too silent. He was always a very quiet dog—most of the time you hardly even knew he was there. But Eddie’s quiet presence was bigger than he was, and he was big. It was always reassuring to know that he was there. He was good company. The best.

We 2-legged types get rather used to having a dog around and the things that were once daily routine don’t go away quickly: we catch ourselves off guard during certain moments because we expect our dog to be right there. Of course, they’re not right there. It takes time to heal and for those certain routines to fade. In our case those routines were deeply-rooted after many years of uninterrupted canine company.

It had been almost 20 consecutive years that we’d had a dog in our family because Kate the Dog, our first Chocolate Lab, overlapped with Eddie: Kate had just turned 11 when Eddie came home with us as a 6 week old pup. Those dog years were busy years spent raising kids; there wasn’t much down time. But now that our kids are grown (though still living at home), life has a slower pace. When you remove a dog from that equation you have a recipe for, well, loneliness. I work from home and Eddie was my office assistant, my constant companion. I speak for my entire family when I say it had been far too quiet recently.

Just window shopping, I told myself.

Online listings of dogs display photos and even videos, but you never know until you meet the dog in person what they’re actually going to be like. All rescue dogs have baggage: for some, that baggage is the reason they’re up for adoption; for others it’s hard to imagine why they lost their homes in the first place. Whatever the case may be there is always an unknown, and when you agree to adopt a rescue dog you roll the dice to a certain extent. Wish for the best and hope that the dog will meet the majority of your expectations. Our wish list in a dog is pretty simple because Kate and Eddie both exemplified the qualities we loved and would want again: a sweet, calm disposition; gentle and submissive, a dog that plays well with others (both 2- and 4-legged).

One needn’t look far to discover that there are countless dogs in need of a new home. I checked the listings several times, seeing many of the same dogs time and time again. Most, if not all, have stories that tug at your heart strings and while many listings intrigued me none jumped off the page at me.

Until I came upon a listing for a dog I’d not previously seen.

The first photo of “Happy” caught my attention: it was those soulful eyes. Her listing said she’s a Lab/Boxer mix. I supposed that might be accurate, although breed(s) were not of the foremost consideration:


Then there was this one—there was no hiding the sweet disposition behind this face:

I thought she looked rather sad in the first two photos, and who could blame her after all she’d been through in her short life? And then in the third photo her namesake personality shone through via her expression and blurry tail:

In a video posted on her adoption listing, Happy can be seen playing gently with other dogs; relaxed, her tail wagging happily the entire time. She was clearly very sweet, with a calm disposition and a gentle, submissive nature. Happy’s YouYube video won’t be available indefinitely so I captured a couple of screen shots in which her personality is evident:

As mentioned nearly all rescue dogs come with a backstory that will melt your heart and Happy is no exception to that. She and her sister were found as 10-12 week old puppies along the side of the road in the desert of southern California where they’d been dumped. Emaciated and covered with ticks, a kind-hearted Guardian Angel rescued them and nursed them back to health. This compassionate woman had children and dogs of her own so she was unable to keep Happy and her sister indefinitely. She fostered them until permanent homes were found for the little black and white sisters.

Little Happy & her sis. Happy is on the right, with The Ears.

As a pup, Happy had already been through a lot.

In November of 2013, when Happy and her sister were 6 months old, they were adopted out to separate families. Every indication suggested that Happy’s adoptive family would be perfect and her Guardian Angel was confident that Happy had found her happily-ever-after home.

Such would not be the case.

It was a few days before Christmas 2014 that Happy’s Guardian Angel noticed a photo on the local shelter page. The photo showed a dog cowering in the corner of its pen; the caption listed the dog as having been abandoned on rental property. The Guardian Angel couldn’t see the dog’s face, but a mother’s intuition told her it was her baby. She contacted the shelter and requested a better photo, which upon seeing she immediately knew it was Happy (she was wearing the same collar she’d been wearing when she was adopted  out over a year before).

Unfortunately Happy’s Guardian Angel was at her limit with dogs at home and pleaded with everyone she knew to rescue Happy—to no avail. On the day before Christmas the shelter director sent an email, agreeing to ‘turn the other cheek and wave all fees’. And so, on Christmas Eve, Happy’s Guardian Angel rushed to the shelter and pulled her. As it turns out Happy had been turned in to the shelter by her owner’s landlord, who had discovered her abandoned in her home. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding her abandonment, but whatever the case may be her owner had moved out and left her behind. In an act of semi-humane(?) decency the owner had left a couple of 50-lb bags of garbage-quality Ol’Roy dog food (if so inclined, check out the number of complaints and recalls) and a few 5 gallon buckets of water for her. This was her fate for TWO MONTHS—no contact with anyone, human or otherwise. Following this horrible ordeal Happy once again received the love and company of her Guardian Angel’s family, including her sister (whose forever home sadly hadn’t worked out, either).

This was Happy’s life when I stumbled upon her adoption listing.

I contacted Rompin’ Paws (a Pacific Northwest rescue group) and submitted an adoption application—I couldn’t imagine that this sweet dog would be available for very long, and luckily my application was first in line. Our application was approved and the wheels were set in motion. During the week and a half that followed we prepared for Happy’s arrival with eager anticipation and an ounce of hesitation, hoping that roll of the dice would pay off. On March 1st Happy arrived in Seattle from southern California via Paws Without Borders transport. She was accompanied by several other dogs that were also being adopted thanks to a joint effort of two rescue organizations. Happy wasn’t so sure but we instantly knew we’d made the right decision.

Hesitant to leave the safety of her transit crate.

From one crate to another, this time headed home.

She has white socks. Like me.

She’s still timid and unsure—her tail has wagged a few of times but remains mostly tucked between her legs. She sticks to us like glue, not letting us out of her sight. Who could blame her? She can’t grasp that ours is her forever home—she doesn’t know that she just won the lottery.

A rough day at the office.

We anticipate that over the next few weeks—or even months—as routine sets in and washes away her fears, Happy’s inner happiness will shine through and that tail will be wagging with reckless abandon. We have plenty of time. We’ll wait for her.

Couch potato.

Happy will never replace our beloved Eddie, nor would we want her to. What she will do is honor his legacy by being a loving member of our family and carve out her own place in our hearts. She’s already begun to do that.


Thanks to Rompin’ Paws Rescue of WA and the Ridgecrest, CA chapter of Almost Eden Rescue for helping Happy to find us. And a huge debt of gratitude goes out to Happy’s two-time Guardian Angel.


Disclaimer: This story has nothing to do with fly fishing.






Midlife Crisis: The Unaccomplished Longboarder

by Kirk Werner on February 24, 2015


Most of the time this blog features something obviously related to fly-fishing, although admittedly The Unaccomplished Angler does occasionally veer ever so slightly off course. With today’s content those reading (all 13 of you) may think that I am officially and completely off my rocker, but I ask for your patience. If you wait for it I promise that you’ll see how it relates to fly-fishing as I drone on about my latest endeavor.

I’m hooked on Longboard.

I turned 52 this year and my mid-life crisis appears to be skateboarding: longboarding, to be exact. For those not in the know, Longboard is both a brand of beer that I rather enjoy, as well as a style of skateboard whereby the wheelbase and deck are considerably longer than the skateboards that we currently-middle-aged-types grew up on. Starting typically at 40 inches in length and extending farther, today’s longboards dwarf the 20-something inchers of 40 years ago. The manner of riding a longboard is also vastly different from what was considered ‘rad’ back in the day. The way of the longboard involves ‘campus cruising’ and downhill racing at breakneck speeds, as opposed to what we did as kids. No doubt there are still those who do tricks and ride skateboards at contoured skate parks around the globe, but it’s the longboard that intrigues me at this point in life.

Look, Ma—no helmet!

As a youth/teenager in the mid to late 70′s—when Saturday Night Live was in its infancy, disco threatened to musically ruin the world, Pet Rocks were all the rage, and every adolescent boy had a certain Farrah Fawcett poster on the wall of their bedroom—skateboards came on the scene with all the intensity of a raging storm off the north shore of Oahu. My first recollection of the skateboard craze was when 7-Eleven stores began selling cheap, plastic-decked boards with ‘rubber’ wheels: One could walk into a convenience store, grab a Slurpee, a pack of Bubble Yum and a skateboard for less than what a week’s worth of Starbucks Caffè Frappamacaccino drinks cost today. Overnight it seemed as though all the cool kids were getting skateboards, and in my ill-fated attempt at being cool I awkwardly jumped on that bandwagon. I distinctly remember my first board: a Makaha. It had a kicktail which were all the rage at the time. It was orange. I thought it was pretty boss.

A blast from the past.

I don’t recall how much my first skateboard cost but I can safely assume that it was not a high-end offering. My older brother, Hal, got in on the craze as well. I vividly remember his board for its unique translucent blue deck which apparently allowed one to view the road underfoot, like a glass bottom boat. His board was made by Nash Skateboards, which I only know from having found the information on the internets: a veritable treasure trove of information designed to jog a fleeting middle-aged memory.

With the advent of the polyurethane wheel in the early 1970′s, gone were the dangerously slippery clay wheels of yore (and the steel wheels that preceded even clay). The modern rubbery wheels gripped the pavement with an added measure of efficiency—and safety, which was a undoubtedly a good thing because back then helmets hadn’t yet been invented. I was never overly accomplished as a skateboarder, but I did a fair amount of riding. While empty swimming pools may have been a much sought-after pursuit for concrete surfers back in the day, that wasn’t my scene. Aside from an inherent lack of swimming pools (empty or otherwise) I was in a much lower class of skateboarder. I spent my time after school pushing around the junior high school grounds, tick-tacking and trying a variety of other slow-speed tricks, nearly all without success.

I had an orange shirt like the awkward kid in the background.

I seem to recall hand stands on a slow moving board being rather difficult, which should not have come as any great surprise given that hand stands on solid ground weren’t something I was very good at either.  No, I definitely wasn’t one of the cool skater kids, like Steve Johnson. Steve was a junior high classmate who I believe may have been imported to the Pacific Northwest from Southern California. If Steve wasn’t from SoCal, he gave off that vibe. Steve was surf-cool; a veritable skateboard god and many, including myself, worshipped the board he rode on. I think I remember that he’d gone on to at least a brief career as a professional skateboarder. I wonder what he’s doing today? If he’s a fly fisherman I’ve no doubt that he’s a very accomplished angler.

Farrah, and a woody.

In an attempt to break out of my rather unaccomplished skateboarder status I figured the first thing I needed was an upgrade from my plastic cookie-cutter board. And so, in junior high wood shop, I made a board from a thick slab of oak much like the one featured in the photo above (and yes, I even had the same iconic Nike Cortez shoes). Being a teenage boy, wood figured prominently in my adolescent life and as one might imagine it (the skateboard) was very stiff. I scraped together my babysitting earnings and purchased a new set of trucks and wheels to adorn the new woody. These were obviously not the highest quality components because the open wheel bearings were prone to losing their marbles, as it were, the results of which were never good.

Life before sealed bearings.

Fortunately there was a skateboard shop at the local strip mall near the south Mercer Island QFC and Lakeside Drugs. The shop proprietor kept me in a steady supply of extra bearings, all the while encouraging me to upgrade: there were far better wheel systems that wouldn’t spew their bearings while riding. I salivated over the good stuff every time I was in the shop to buy bearings; always longing after the cool gear that my budget didn’t allow for. Much to my dismay I would remain quagmired in a state of economic repression for the remainder of my skateboarding youth. I have no particularly fond recollection of the homemade oak board whatsoever. I may have begun to lose interest in skateboards shortly thereafter, although more than likely the board was simply so horrible to ride that I banished it from my memory—there’s nothing like a thick, unyielding plank of hardwood to make one lose all sense of touch with the ground underneath. As 9th grade rolled around it marked the end of my skateboarding career and after that I never gave it much thought.

Until, that is, I began snowboarding when I was in my late 30′s.

Not an Olympic Gold Medalist.

I had never been more than a very average snow skier (at best), but I was ultimately forced to give up skiing altogether due to foot problems that were exacerbated by the confines of cruel ski boots. The pain while cautiously snow-plowing down green runs had become unbearable and I resigned to never setting foot on the slopes again—until one fateful day. While sitting pathetically around the ski lodge while my family was out enjoying the slopes, I decided on a whim to rent a snowboard. I’d never been on one and had no idea what I was doing, but after a couple hours on a bunny slope I knew I had found enlightenment in the comfy footwear associated with snowboarding. After a private lesson during which I learned to link turns, I once again took to the slopes with a newfound enthusiasm. At the time, the overwhelming majority of snowboarders were half my age or younger: Punk kids. Young cool dudes. Shredders and slackers. I didn’t fit the mold but I did enjoy snowboarding immensely; content to cruise and carve sweeping turns while giving terrain parks a very wide berth. I’d never been a surfer, but riding the snowboard caused me to harken back to my youth—back to my skateboarding days. I dug the snowboard thing, a lot. Still do, although I rarely get up to the slopes because I’m too cheap to spend the money on a lift ticket: another sign of advancing age.

It costs too damn much!

Riding a snowboard is very much like riding a longboard, but the latter, once past the initial investment of a board and protective gear (a helmet, at the very least), is comparatively inexpensive. Even a decent quality longboard won’t set you back more than a couple hundred bucks. And there’s a lot of appeal in an activity of which I can partake beginning at the end of my driveway: there’s no travel time required and riding is free—sort of. We do pay property taxes which help to maintain road surfaces, but there’s no shelling out an exorbitant user fee each time you set foot on the asphalt. Look at it this way: you pay for the roads so you may as well get as much use out of them as possible. But I digress…

Lest one should think I rushed into this latest endeavor blindly, I assure you I did my homework. I knew exactly what I was up against: decaying reflexes and increased healing time following injuries. Not to mention disapproving naysayers. It comes as little surprise that a lot of middle-aged people roll their eyes when another middle-aged guy declares that he wants to get a skateboard. Common are the off-handed remarks about asphalt’s unyielding hardness, emergency room visits and how skateboards are “an orthopedist’s dream,” so quoteth a friend who is an orthopedist.

Quit harshin’ on my mellow, man.

(Sorry, I’ve been told by my daughter NOT to try to sound like a skater dude)

Others dismiss it as juvenile and unbecoming of someone of my age. One’s wife may even encourage said skateboarder to leave the neighborhood and ride elsewhere—someplace where nobody knows your identity. Friends turn on you:  Morris, in a Firehole Rangers group message, was even threatening when he said, “I know winter is hard on us anglers, but if Kirk misses even one fishing trip for his new longboard addiction…”

H8ers gonna H8, brah.

Can’t we all just get along?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit to wondering if getting on a longboard was perhaps not the best idea I’d ever had, and I honestly tried to talk myself out of (or perhaps into) it. To that end I delved into the dark recesses of the internet for articles on ‘longboarding for old people‘ (yes, I used those exact search terms). That’s when I came upon a series of blog articles written by a youthful guy from Oregon who took up longboarding at age 63. My first thought was, ‘Sixty three?! Good hell, man, I won’t be that old for another 11 years!’

If this 63 year old dude could do it, I could do it.

At this point I realized age was no longer a valid excuse to not get one and I rationalized my final decision to acquire a longboard by taking stock of my physical condition: I’m in good shape, reasonably athletic, and I’ve been practicing martial arts since 1993 so my sense of balance is probably better than average. Add to this the fact that I’m vertically challenged and I had a number of things in my favor: standing 5’7″ on a good day means it isn’t far to the ground in the unfortunate event of a tumble.

So much for talking myself out of it.

Through these series of articles on Brian Hines’ blog (, I also discovered an aspect of longboarding I hadn’t previously been aware of: Street Paddling. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s just like stand up paddle boarding (SUP) on the water, with obvious differences. First and foremost, street paddling, or land paddling, is done on terra firma, on a long skateboard, with a long pole outfitted with a rubber foot instead of an aquatic paddle blade. And while the weather may not be always conducive to street paddling, the asphalt tide is always in.

What’s not to like about this?

Did you know that some anglers fish from SUP boards?

Fly fishing from a SUP.

This land paddling discovery added an altogether unexpected and intriguing dimension to owning a longboard: an upper body workout. If I could benefit from increased fitness, this longboarding thing would take on a whole new level of significance beyond just being fun. I surmised that it could be excellent cross-training activity to stay in shape for rowing my boat down rivers (yet another fly-fishing reference).

I was, like, all in, dude.

Wood is good. Bigger is better.

I carefully selected the style of longboard I wanted: something for flatland cruising and very (emphasis on very) gentle slope carving. A classic pintail design appealed to me, and aesthetics were important. I came dangerously close to purchasing a 39-inch Arbor Fish (for the obvious reason that I like fishing) but in the end I decided I wanted a longer longboard so I opted instead for an Arbor Timeless Pintail. I always admired Arbor snowboards but never owned one, and now was my chance. The Timeless is 46″ of shapely sleekness capped with a top deck featuring beautiful Hawaiian koa wood. With a recent trip to Hawaii still fresh in my mind, anything from Hawaii is cool by me. The deck has a gentle flex to it which allows that surfing vibe to shine through. Needless to say my new board is nothing like the oak plank of my youth.

Not your father’s skateboard (unless you’re my kid).

I could have ordered a complete board directly from Arbor but I opted to have the board built with slightly upgraded components by Nordboards of Chico, CA. The deck is outfitted with Paris V2 180mm 50-degree trucks (with 1/4″ riser pads), Arbor Sucrose Initiative Summit 71mm Blue wheels, and NordiK Abec 9 bearings with spacers. All geek to you?  Yeah me too, pretty much. The Arbor pintail set me back $223 and change, with free shipping (I like free). That’s roughly equivalent to 3 lift passes at a local ski area (not including lunch and a beer, and gas to get there an back), or about 2 months’ worth of Starbucks Caffè Frappamacaccinos. This is certainly far cheaper than my investment in fly fishing gear, but let’s not go there—Mrs. UA may be reading and she doesn’t need to know how many rods and reels I have hidden in the closet.

The Kahuna Big Stick

I also purchased a street paddle from Kahuna Creations. I selected the bamboo model because wood has soul, man, and it’s all about that flexy mellow groove when you’re out paddling the asphalt, hangin’ ten with the wind in your thinning hair. I also bought a helmet and elbow/knee pads just in case. Nobody ever expects bad things to happen so I can’t say with certainty that I won’t collide with the asphalt eventually (knock on koa). However, I’ve no need for speed whatsoever.

It’s that slo stoke I’m after, man.

(apologies once again to my daughter)

Gear that I didn’t have as a kid.

Admittedly I am just getting started but I can say confidently, after logging more than 20 miles on my board, that this street paddling thing is a great workout. I have a 2.5 to 3 mile course marked out and by the time I’ve completed the loop my heart rate is up and the feedback from my legs and upper body lets me know that I’ve gotten a good workout. As I seek out longer rides all that will increase as well. And I’ve also got a grin on my face the entire time. In my enthusiasm for this new discovery I even managed to recruit a few buddies to join in the fun. My wee lad, Schpanky, has also applied for membership in the club, bringing the average age down significantly.

Playdates are more fun on longboards.

Soon we’ll be paddle surfing the streets en force like a rogue band of mostly gray-haired, mostly middle-aged adolescents; ripping through cul-de-sacs adorned with children’s sidewalk chalk art at speeds often exceeding a brisk walk. People won’t be able to help but take notice. Why, just the other day a considerably younger gentleman, out walking his dog, gave me an approving ‘thumbs up’ as I paddled past.

Street paddling in Duvall will be #trending soon.

In my assessment a mid-life crisis is the act of a 50-something year-old (usually men) as they embrace something from their youth. Like, for instance, skateboarding. Well, I also fancied the 70′s era Plymouth Hemi Cuda when I was a kid. A good one, if you can find it, will set you back considerably more than a skateboard. Mrs. UA should consider herself lucky that, while perhaps a bit immature, at least I am fiscally reasonable.

It was either a longboard, or this.

In closing, I offer you this timely quote from a NY Times article:

“My kids grew old, so I got a dog. My dog grew old, so I got a skateboard.”

The article is from 2012 so apparently I’m not quite a trend setter when it comes to Skateboarding Past a Middle Age Crisis.




Standing Room Only at the Fly Fishing Show

by Kirk Werner on February 16, 2015


This past weekend featured the annual appearance of Fly Fishing Show, held at the lavish Lynnwood Convention Center. Lynnwood, for those who are not in the know, is 16 miles north of Seattle via Interstate 5. There’s not much notable about Lynnwood other than it being a sprawling hub of retail activity with an emphasis on furniture stores.  Lynnwood does, however, have a convention center so it must be some sort of destination for those seeking enlightenment beyond merely shopping. The convention center is easily accessed from I-5 and shares a large parking spot with Chuck E. Cheese,  and the two times I’ve been to the convention center encompass the only two times I’ve been remotely close to a Chuck E. Cheese. I don’t know how, but I managed to dodge that bullet when my kids were young. Certainly cause for celebration, I digress: back to the Fly Fishing Show.

Parking is free, just non-existent. Thankfully it was a nice day for a walk so I didn’t mind having to park  a 1/4 mile away and walk uphill both ways, to the show.

Once you’ve been to the Fly Fishing Show, or any other similar trade show, each subsequent visit conjures up a strong sense of deja vu. Certainly it’s always good to see familiar faces and to meet some new ones, but unless there’s nothing else to do (including furniture shopping), I find that these shows offer very little of interest to me as a common attendant. So why, you might ask, do I attend?

Two years ago I was invited to attend the “Authors Booth” as hosted by The Angling Bookstore, where I sat for two one-hour sessions and signed copies of the Olive the Little Woolly Bugger books for the 3 customers that were interested in that sort of thing.

Last year I did not attend (I was furniture shopping).

This year I was invited, along with Evan and Derek (1st and 2nd chairs, respectfully, of The Open Fly Podcast), to sit on a panel of Fly Fishing Media professionals and discuss a variety of fly fishing media-related topics, moderated by Steve Duda (Editor of The Flyfish Journal). The panel included, in addition to Derek and I (Evan had to man the Allen Fly Fishing booth so he was unable to partake), Copi Vojta (esteemed photographer and Photo Editor of the Flyfish Journal) and Brian Bennet (the man, myth and legend behind Moldy Chum).

The questions were well-conceived and I believe gave those in attendance a unique glimpse into what goes on inside the various forms of media in the fly fishing industry: a veritable treasure trove of information for those seeking that sort of information to further bolster their brand.  We covered topics such as blogging, writing for print publication, podcasting and photography. Engaging stuff, seriously. But what was discussed is of less significance than those who were in attendance.

All two of them.

OK, while not altogether untrue, that may be a slight under-exaggeration: When the discussion began there were, in fact, two gentlemen seated in the conference room. The silence may have been deafening but panel was undaunted—we were, after all, professionals, so we forged ahead. As the discussion progressed 3 more people meandered into the room; 1 quickly left after realizing the neither April Vokey nor Hilary Hutchison were seated on the panel. As the discussion reached its crescendo the room began to gradually fill with others, and the panel members began to puff out our chests in a display of confidence and fly fishing media bravado. That was short lived as we realized these late stragglers were actually arriving early for the next presentation. We were kindly asked to wrap things up as the next presenter was on deck. Apparently the security detail for the next guest needed to do a sweep of the room.

As they say in the media, it was a wrap. In closing, I will say this: those in attendance of our discussion got their money’s worth. And they stayed awake for the entire hour.

I later learned that our discussion was forced to compete with a casting demonstration by Simon Gawesworth being held at the same time, upstairs, at the casting pond. Apparently there are more people who need help with their casting than they do with their media campaigns.

I know I do.






Not fishing in Hawaii, Part II

February 9, 2015

I had every intention of posting this a week after I posted Not fishing in Hawaii, Part I, but then this happened and the train of daily life was derailed. The train still doesn’t feel like it’s fully back on the tracks, but life goes on, one day at a time. And the editors at National [...]

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The Unaccomplished Angler’s Best Friend

January 24, 2015

  Hemangiosarcoma is a form of cancer fairly common to certain breeds of dogs, including Labrador Retrievers. Typically it occurs in middle-aged dogs and older. It’s an aggressive cancer that involves the blood vessels and most commonly manifests itself in the spleen. By the time it is detected it’s nearly always too late due to [...]

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