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Meet Bruce Doll-the fair man

Bruce Doll-the fair man
Bruce Doll-the fair man

Meet the people who make the Kent County Youth Fair happen

Bruce Doll is one of many people who make the Kent County Youth Fair happen along with fair manager Jessica Marks

Name: Bruce Doll

 Position: Vice President

 Residence: beautiful Vergennes township

 Education: Studied Computers and computer graphix at the New York Institute of Technology         ( not Oral Roberts University )

Experience: 16 years at the Computer Graphix Research Lab at New York Institute of Technology, 24 years IT Manager at Alternate Postal Direct

Family: My  son Tom and his wife Nicole, and son Justin

 Hobbies: Photography, woodworking

 How did you get started in the fair business?

I visited the Kent County Youth Fair 15 years ago while living in Kentwood and fell in love with it. I sent then a bunch of pictures I took to the board and was asked to attend a board meeting and the rest is history.

 What were some of the early challenges, and how did you overcome them?

My level of knowledge was about the same as the level of technology in use at the fair, very low.  However, the folks at fair, both the board and exhibitors are always willing to share their knowledge about agriculture and animals.  It was a bit harder for me to explain the technology side, when I talked about having a website I did get some blank stares.

 What were some of your early accomplishments?

We updated the computers and software and did some training.  The first website was created.

 What goals do you set for yourself?

I always try to make things better and provide a better experience for the general public and our exhibitors.  Programs such as Reading-for-Rides and the Handi-Capable day are always being tweaked.

 How do you accomplish them?

Lists — I am a list person.  I make lists and check off items as I get them done.  This is especially true during fair where I have a list of what needs to be done on each day.  This year the list was about 5 pages long.

 What motivates you?

When I hear people say the week of fair is the best week of the year. When I see hundreds of kids showcasing their projects.  When I see the smiles of the kids.  When the general public visits the fair, I hope that they realize how much work goes into the projects that the exhibitors do.  They learn what hard work is, and it shows in the quality of the projects.

 How do you want your peers/customers to view you?

I believe that you have to be passionate about what you do.  Yes, you can do something if you are not passionate about it, but the difference between doing something and doing something amazing comes when you are passionate about what you do.

 What gives the fair competitive advantage?

We provide a safe family friendly fair.  We have hardworking people who are great at what they do all coming together into what is fair. We provide a great experience for folks and it keeps them coming back year after year, generation after generation.

 How do you integrate technology and innovations into the fair?

We use a fair management software package that helps us with the exhibitor and livestock sale.  Our website, has all of the information about the fair for the general public and for exhibitors.  We use to register people for various events, constant contact for our email blasts and of course, facebook.

How has the fair changed over the years?

It has changed significantly behind the scenes, but we try to keep our “look and feel” close what we have been doing for years.

 How do you make big projects happen? How long does it take ready for the fair?

When a project arises, there is almost always someone to take charge of it, otherwise we will volunteer someone.  We have a wrap-up meeting 2 weeks after fair and then we begin working on the next years fair.

 How do you make the fair thrive in hard economic times?

  We try to keep our prices down on rides and fair food.  We provide a good value. Our parking is one of the few ways that we make money to support our operating budget. Without our parking revenue, there probably would not be a fair.

How do you feel you have most contributed to the fair?

I have this problem with the word “No” in that I don’t use it much.  I currently manage the technology.  I also am the sponsorship and entertainment coördinator.

 What do you like most about it?

It just makes me happy.

 What makes you successful?

Again being passionate about what you do and also having great people who share the passion.

 What does a good/bad day at the fair look like?

There is no bad day at fair.

 What was new at the fair this year?

We had a dodge ball tournament, princess tea, and scavenger hunt, disc golf, Audacious Hoops, Alpacas! We had a new educational area that will be growing every year.  We added a book exchange to the Reading-for-Rides program that was a great success.

 Where do you see yourself and the fair in five years?

I see the same culture of our  fair in a new location that will provide us with the venue to improve what we do now and add more and more fun and educational aspects to the fair.

Copyright (c) 2014 All rights reserved by Emma Palova

Storefront preview

Hi to all,

I will soon be opening a brand new virtual storefront on all Emma Blogs. I will feature Czech-inspired products such as the Palinka (r) line of canned products.

The products such as the sweet and sour dill pickles are all home-made from an old family pickling recipe. The secret recipe has been handed down from generation to generation.

My mother Ella Konecny pictured in the featured photo started canning in the USA during her second immigration in the late 1970s. She didn’t like the sour taste of American pickles or the color.

She would stand up and imitate our grandpa Joseph making a grimace from the sour taste.

“See they twist your mouth,” she said. “We have to start making our own.”

Ella most likely learned how to can from her own mother Anna.

Mom and dad still grow their own cucumbers for pickling. But the weather hasn’t been great for pickles. Ella is also the woman behind the brand name “Palinka.”

My husband Ludek and I are the third generation canning these goodies in our outdoors kitchen.designed for this purpose. Because as  the Czech saying goes, “Be prepared to answer when winter asks you what you did in the summer.”

We use only fresh pickling cucumbers sorted by size and cut to the favorite spears, slices or whole. We can other vegetables like red beets and gardiniera mix.

We also make salsa and marinara sauces with either Merlot and basil or Cabernet-Sauvignon with garlic, as well as barrel-aged sauerkraut.

We plan to add more products in the future.


Palinka (R) line of canned goods such as the sweet and sour dill pickles made from an old family pickling recipe.  The prices will be $6 per pint and $9 per quart. The gift packages of three different varieties in a wooden carved Michigan box will be $39.99 Stay tuned for the official opening on all Emma Blogs soon.
Palinka (r) line of canned goods such as the sweet and sour dill pickles made from an old family pickling recipe.
The prices will be $6 per pint and $9 per quart.
The gift packages of three different varieties in a wooden carved Michigan box will be $39.99
Stay tuned for the official opening on all Emma Blogs soon.


I will also present  my blog design and writing services in an app Emma Blogs format coming soon.

Let me know what you would like to see in this big marketplace by emailing me at

Or you can comment on any of the sites of Emma Blogs. These are:

I am looking forward to this new venture.


Emma Palova




Kent County Youth Fair

Come to the fair
By Sarah Harmon
EW writer Sarah Harmon in Paris
EW writer Sarah Harmon in Paris
If you’re a country boy or country girl, the first week of August in Lowell, Michigan is a little slice of heaven. For the past eighty years, the Kent County Youth Fair has been serving up some of the best free entertainment on this side of the state. The barns are always filled with dozens of cows, pigs, goats, horses, chickens, and rabbits, but this fair is about a lot more than checking out the animals from local farms. The kids and teens involved learn valuable lessons from the months they spend preparing: getting up at 4am to feed their calf, training their animals to behave properly, and putting together presentations for judges. All we often see is a barn full of critters, but what the Kent County Youth Fair staff see is a group of kids who will become hard-working, talented, and confident adults.
The biggest day of the fair is the auction on Thursday
The biggest day of the fair is the auction on Thursday
Not a big animal lover? No matter your age, they’ve got something perfect for you. Ionia County may have a circus, but Kent County has Audacious Hoops! After watching one of this group’s energetic performances, you will never look at a hula hoop the same way again. The best part is that Audacious Hoops offers classes in two Grand Rapids locations, so you have the opportunity to learn their techniques for next year’s fair.
Kids are running to the library to prepare for Tuesday August 5. In a brilliant collaboration with KDL, the KCYF is once again offering Reading for Rides where kids who read five books can go on all the rides free noon to 4pm. After all that reading, don’t worry if your child complains about having no new, interesting books in the house. This year, as part of Reading for Rides, there will be a free book exchange where they can drop off old books and pick up some new ones.
Between the talent shows, Bingo, karaoke, and tractor pulls, it’s remarkable just how much they can squeeze into one week at the fair. Every day is different, so you can bring the family to Non-profit Wednesday then come back for a whole new experience on Handi-Capable Friday. However, if you can only make it once, Saturday is the time to go. The day’s events include an artist creating sidewalk art, dollar rides, and disc golf. You won’t regret a day or more at the Kent County Youth Fair, but if you miss out, you’ve got a whole year to wait for your next chance.
Here are some of the fair highlights:
Monday Aug. 4th Carnival rides open $14 mega pass specials
Tuesday Aug. 5th Reading for rides, kids read and ride for free
Wednesday Aug. 6th Wristband special $18 mega pass, community day
Thursday Aug. 7th Agricultural day, livestock auction, small animal and large animal sales
Friday Aug. 8th handi-capable day, family line dance with Lia’s line dancing and dance
Saturday Aug. 9th Kids day, sidewalk chalk fun, princess tea party, puff the dragon pedal pull
Tractor pulls are on Monday with weigh in at 6 p.m. and open event at 7 p.m.
Team tractor pull is on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and draft horse demonstration at 7 p.m.
Draft horse pull is on  Wednesday at 7 p.m.
For more information go to
Copyright (c) 2014 story by Sarah Harmon

Czech traditions in the US

Czech traditions continue in the US


EW Emma’s Writings

Bannister, MI- Always held on the first Sunday in August, the Czech Harvest Festival in Bannister is by far the best kept secret around.

I discovered it while writing for the Ionia Sentinel-Standard, I received a press release from an insurance agency in Owosso about 13 years ago.

The one-paragraph press release was simple, but it did entice me to explore the “Dozinky” Harvest Midwest style.

Czech dances in Bannister, MI in traditional costumes custom made in Czech and Slovak republics.
Czech dances in Bannister, MI in traditional costumes custom made in Czech and Slovak republics.

“Come and sample traditional Czech fare of dumplings, pork and sauerkraut. Dance the afternoon away with polka. Watch the dancers in their colorful costumes,” the press release read.

Since then, we’ve been going to the festival at least every two years.

Following is a video interview by Brianna Prochaska with some of the younger participants of the “Dozinky” Harvest Festivals held all over the USA.

My personal favorite is the accordion music by mostly local people. As the old Czech saying goes, “There is a musician in all Czechs.”

What amazes me is that the language is the hardest to keep alive for  more than 100 years of Czech immigration to the US.  Most festival organizers and women chefs do not speak Czech. But other than that, a small group of people has preserved everything from costumes, dances, music to food.

The universal word here in Bannister is “kolacki.” Kolacki are traditional Czech, Slovak, and Lithuanian pastries filled with cottage cheese and raisins topped with plum butter. Kolacki are a festive dessert used at celebrations such as weddings.

Festive kolacki
Festive kolacki


The food is a complete Czech feast consisting of dumplings, sauerkraut, pork, ham and chicken. The ham and breaded chicken are American changes. But the cucumber salad with sour cream is as Czech as it gets.

Traditional Czech fare of pork, sauerkraut and dumplings
Traditional Czech fare of pork, sauerkraut and dumplings

And as I watch the dancers in Bannister every year or so, listen to the accordions, enjoy Czech food, and check out the old paintings in ZCBJ Lodge in the middle of nowhere, I admire the people behind this event. Most of them have never been to Czech Republic let alone at a classic “veselka.”

The men carry ladies up in a traditional Czech dance.
The men carry ladies up in a traditional Czech dance.

What the Dozinky organizers  have recreated, preserved and continue to pass on to next generations is almost a miracle. I can safely say that most people in the old country don’t know how to dance polka, czardas, or mazurka. The Czech Harvest in Bannister is a testimony that human spirit and determination will always prevail.

The lead dancers are Tom and Diane Bradley. Diane also teaches the youngest troop of dancers.

One of all time favorites for the little ones is the song, “Mela babka ctyri jabka a dedousek jen dve,” or in English: Grandma had four apples, while grandpa had only two. “Give me an apple, grandma, and we’ll be equal.”

According to  the chairman of the festival Tom Bradley’s “Pamatnik” published for the 100th anniversary of the ZCBJ Lodge in 2011,the Czechs and Slovaks immigrated to Central Michigan around 1904 from Chicago and Cleveland. They were recruited to work the sugar beet fields. Eventually they worked on their own farms. And the recruiters had to look for different workers from big cities.

The Dozinky Harvest Festival will be held on Aug. 3, 2014 with dinner served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $10 for adults and $3 for children. Get in early, the food does run out.

Authentic gifts such as garnet jewelry and Czech cookbooks are also available.

The program begins at 2:30 p.m. with Bill Nemanis. The dance starts at 4 p.m. at ZCBJ Lodge.

The dinner is preceded by a mass with polka arrangements at the Chuch of Cyril and Methodej.

For more information go to :

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova, video by Brianna Prochaska

Walking the Appalachian Trail

Lowell woman walks the Appalachian Trail

By Emma Palova

Lowell, MI- No, it wasn’t on her bucket list. Ivy Haskins is too young to have one. She simply wanted to get away from everyday life between the pub and her house painting ventures.

“Ever since I was a kid I heard of the Appalachian Trail,” she said.

For years, Haskins, much like many others, dreamt about the 2,181 miles long trail with the highest elevation at 6, 625 feet.

Ivy Haskins shows the slope of the Appalachian Trail
Ivy Haskins shows the slope of the Appalachian Trail

The trail runs from Georgia to Maine from easy strolls to challenging mountain climbs.

“I had all my bills paid off and 15 years of working two jobs at once and not enjoying life,” Haskins said. “You get caught in a cycle. I wanted a change.”

Haskins saved up extra money for the adventure of a lifetime.

“I’ve never done anything like that before,” she said. “I’ve never even carried a backpack.”

Rookie Haskins had yet to find out that the Appalachian Trail is not a walk in the rose garden.

Standing behind the bar at the local Sneaker’s pub, Haskins lifted her arm in a 45-degree angle.

“This is what the trail was like most of the time,” she touched her inclined arm. “It was challenging, there is no flat land.”

Turtoise Ivy heading out on the Appalachian Trail.
Turtoise Ivy heading out on the Appalachian Trail.

The most painful was the first week, long before Haskins got her “trail legs.”

The first week was painful,” she said. “My knees hurt. It was hard on joints and it never really stopped hurting. Every single day there was a lot of pain involved.”

And Haskins found out that there is a huge difference between walking and hiking.

Coming from the Lowell flatlands, where there are only flat rail beds converted to trails, the Appalachian Trail was a surprise for Haskins.

“You have to watch the ground all the time,” she said. “When somebody walks toward you, you have to step aside.”

It takes about three weeks to a month to get your “trail legs,” according to Haskins. Haskins had to buy knee braces to ease the pain.

Laurel Falls in Tennessee
Laurel Falls in Tennessee

But as the tail saying goes, “You hike your own hike.”

As Haskins walked or climbed an average 10-hour day, the bottom of her feet were burning.

“You can’t help but compare yourself to others,” Haskins said. She met the same people over and over like the German guy with that trail name Roatman.

“We just kept bumping into each other,” she said.

Although, the trail has no rules, there is still that nagging feeling inside telling you to do better.

“I had a desire to do better, to better myself and my fitness level,” she said.

“Were there moments when you wanted to stop,” I asked Haskins in an interview.

The trail at its best.
The trail at its best.

“Every single day had good moments and bad moments,” she said.

Some of the bad moments included eating the same food like Ramen Noodles for four days in a row.

“I was looking forward to having real food,” she said.

Haskins encountered the higher elevations in the Smokey Mountains while walking that feared 45-angle slope on a gray overcast day.

In the Smokies, you have to make it to the shelter, said Haskins.

The last mile before the shelter was a steep slope. There were already 15 people in the shelter suited for 12.

“What made you stay on the trail?” I asked.

“It might be a cliché, but you never quit on a rainy day,” she said.

It was actually on one of the easiest days, that Haskins decided to call it quits. Even though she already had a trail name, tortoise.

Lodging on the trail
Lodging on the trail

Haskins was hauling a 35-pound backpack to a beautiful campsite by Laurel Creek in Virginia.

“I’ve had enough,” she said. “It was five miles to get to Perrysburg.”

Usually there is a taxi that drives people to and off the trail from the trail towns.

“It’s dangerous, but there is always a road crossing within 10 miles,” she said.

After 600 miles on the trail, Haskins had enough. She wasn’t searching for the meaning of life, she just wanted to get away from the everyday rut.

“It was a fun challenge,” she said. “I definitely wanted to make a change in life, do something different.”

Haskins spent two months on the trail and lost 25 pounds, walking 18 miles a day toward the end. The average elevation in Tennessee is 5,046 feet.

“Don’t think you can only do what you’ve been doing,” she said. “At least you tried something else even if you were not happy.”


Trail 101 basics:

Appalachian Trail guidebook

Know where to get water

Hiker’s backpack $350

One-person tent $250

Sleeping back $90

Water filter $80

Blow-up mattress

Ropes, clothes

Shoes $120

For more information go to:

Copyright © 2014 story by Emma Palova, photos by Ivy Haskins

Ionia County Free Fair

10 best days of summer
by Sarah Harmon
                                        “Lions and Tigers and Camels, Oh My!
EW writer Sarah Harmon in Paris
EW writer Sarah Harmon in Paris
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up for the greatest, or at least the biggest, free fair on earth! By the middle of July, the novelty of summer vacation has worn thin, and most parents have reached a point where they’re ready to scream if they have to hear “I’m bored” one more time. The Ionia County Free Fair is the perfect solution for moms and kids alike. With no entrance fee, you can hardly afford not to spend a day or more there. It’s a complete sensory experience from the moment you step through the gates. Nothing quite says summer like the scent of deep fried cheesecake and elephant ears accompanied by the screams of delighted children spinning high in the sky on rides.
Come to the fair in Ionia
Come to the fair in Ionia
Of course, if you’re used to the only animals at the county fair being livestock,you’reboundto be disappointed. In addition totheusual4H barns filled with goats, cows, rabbits, and chicks barely hatched from their eggs, Ionia County has multiple free daily performances of Circus Pages. A rare white lion races around the caged ring, performing tricks with two white tigers and two other lions. Once they’re safely removed to several smaller cages,theringis transformed into a magical scene with girls dancing high above the crowd, suspended only by their tenuous hold on a rope and metal hoop. Other performances include a group of trained camels, a woman who does a stunning routine on the aerial silks, and some impressive acrobatics on a trampoline. The show finishes with a couple of elephants, surprisingly agile for their size, that are available for rides afterward.

Exhilarating rides at the fair
Exhilarating rides at the fair
A favorite of mine was the barn filled with baking, canning, sewing, knitting, and crochet projects of all kinds. For creative quilters, they sell $10 kits every year to be turned into 14 inch quilt blocks. Your only limitations are the materials in the kit, the theme, and your imagination. The completed squares are turned into a full quilt to be raffled off the following year.
Quilts at the exhibit building
Quilts at the exhibit building
For those feeling nostalgic for days gone by, there is a mini museum full of antiques, as well as a building filled with classic cars. When you do stop in to check out the Corvettes, the irresistible odor of roasted almonds beckons you next door to the Meijer Marketplace. The combination flea market and community expo has something for everyone, from homemade ice cream to fashionable accessories. There are special events happening daily throughout the fair that include concerts, tractor pulls, and kids’ activities, so even if you bring them more than once, this is one week you will definitely not hear “I’m bored.”
For more fair information go to
Copyright (c) 2014 story by Sarah Harmon, photo by Emma Palova



Remembering philanthropist Peter Wege

Wege set an example for the rest of the country

By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings

Lowell, MI- A real friend without pretense, an honest, generous man at ease with himself wherever he went.
That best describes philanthropist Mr. Peter Wege, who passed away on July 7th at the age of 94.
Most people in the greater Grand Rapids Area knew of Wege, but very few met him in person or knew him directly.
I belong to the smaller privileged group. I met Wege in person at the Franciscan Life Process Center on April 23, 2008 at a community breakfast in honor of his preservation efforts.

Philantropist Peter Wege
Philantropist Peter Wege

“One couldn’t help but be touched by his presence,” I wrote at the time in an article for the Lowell Ledger and other freelance publications.
His personality was shining through and lighting up the meeting room on a dark gloomy April morning. It lit up a ray of hope for the Heffron family, who were one of the first farm families to preserve land in Grattan Township.
“We should have been preserving since 1950,” he said time. “It should be as normal as kindergarten. It has taken us 40 years to get it started.”
Wege, an astute businessman, was first and foremost, a visionary. His father Peter Martin co-founded Metal Office Furniture, now Steelcase, and the largest office furniture manufacturer in the world. Wege joined Steelcase in 1946 and worked in different executive posts including sales, research and design, and as an officer on the Board of Directors of the Steelcase Foundation. He retired as vice-chairman of the Steelcase Board in 2000. Wege made Steelcase famous as one of the earliest environmental manufacturers in the world. The office furniture maker went “green” long before it became trendy.
Wege always made sure that people knew it was his father’s innovative genius that provided the wealth he gave away to make life better for others.
Wege’s passion for the environment originated in his service to the country as a World War II pilot. While flying from Dallas on a training plane, he wanted to stop in Pittsburgh, but couldn’t find it in the smog in the middle of the day.
“That jarred me,” he said at the preservation breakfast.
Inspired by Health Education and Welfare Secretary John Gardner, Wege embarked on a lifelong mission to save the planet in 1967. That year he established the Wege Foundation in honor of his parents Peter Martin and Sophia Louise Wege.
Wege was a firm believer in doing things together for the better of civilization and to preserve the planet.
“We have to think about what we are doing to this country,” he said in 2008 at the Franciscan Center.

Franciscan Life Process Center in preserved area
Franciscan Life Process Center in preserved area

Wege loved the northeast Kent County area that he helped preserved.
Driving around the farmland in Vergennes in Grattan townships you will find bright blue and green signs with a red barn on it. These designate the preserved land through easements funded by Wege. They include area farmers from Heffrons to Konings and Wilcox.
In donating farmland preservation easements, and other conservation efforts Wege wanted to set an example for the entire country.
Wege often visited with the Franciscan Sisters. When the Franciscans came to the area in the early 1970s, he donated 230 acres to what had become the Franciscan Life Process Center.
“He believed in our mission,” said center director Sister Colleen Ann Nagle. “He helped us meet people in the area and to raise money.”
Wege served as the chairman of the advisory board for the Franciscan Center. He participated in many fundraisers.
“He was genuinely interested in anything that would help people,” said Nagle. “He was one of those special people where you do not have to put on any pretense.”

Preserved farmland in northeast Kent County
Preserved farmland in northeast Kent County

And Wege, who kept a farmhouse on the Franciscan property, always stayed in touch with the center and its mission. He attended events and meetings on regular basis, and moreover Wege brought people with him to the area.
“He would just stop in the kitchen for a cup of coffee,” said Nagle. “That’s the kind of person he was.”
Most people will remember Wege for his unbelievable generosity and honesty, as well as for his versatility. Although best known as an environmentalist, Wege was also an author, poet, painter, photographer and an accomplished athlete.
He liked to say, “Educate, Educate, Educate.”
That is why he co-founded the Wittenbach Wege Agriscience and Environmental Education Center in Lowell along with many of other nature centers.
A business man, Wege coined the word economicology to define his advocacy for striking the right balance between a healthy ecology and a profitable economy. He wrote two books titled Economicology, the first in 1998, and the sequel in 2010. In both books Wege wrote his version of the Eleventh Commandment:
“Thou shalt not commit abuse against the environment, but rather honor it with respect for sustaining life.”
That commandment summarizes Wege’s life philosophy.
“He will be missed for the person he was,” said Nagle.

Thank you Mr. Peter Wege for living in our times, and for giving us the inspiration, passion and love to follow you.”

Copyright © 2014 story and photos by Emma Palova

Come to the Riverwalk

Summer is in full swing, don’t miss out on anything

Riverwalk Festival duck mascot
Riverwalk Festival duck mascot

The Kris Hitchock and Small Town Son country rock band played on the opening night of the Riverwalk Festival Friday.

For full schedule go to

see Sarah Harmon’s story on local events page

10 good writing habits

Check out my newly redesigned writing blog
Comment on your writing good or bad habits.

Edition Emma Publishing

Acquire the 10 traits of all successful bloggers & writers


Even Earnest Hemingway was a disciplined writer in the morning.

2-Regularity. Not just in the digestive tract.

Post on regular basis otherwise you will lose your following.


Inspire yourself, don’t wait for inspiration to walk into your room. Go beyond the cyberspace.

Deer crossing by Bruce Doll Deer crossing by Bruce Doll

4- Curiosity.

Don’t wait to write until something occurs. Seek it out on your own. Ask yourself questions.

5- Innovation. Reinvention.

Keep reinventing yourself. After all, books, articles and stories are all just rehashed words from the past. Put them in the right order.

6- Perseverance. Determination.

Don’t give up in face of adversity.


Organize and reorganize again. Shuffle and reshuffle words.


Outline complex subjects.

9-Be choosy. Be specific.

Choose the right subject for you. No generic meandering or beating around the bush here.

10-Be knowledgeable.

Know what you…

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