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  1. #61
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    I read your link Bernhard, very interesting.

    Now you have been at this a few years, do you have hives that never need to be treated? And, approximately what % of your hives would you treat in a year?
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  2. #62
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post

    I guess what I was referring to is the idea that it's possible to poison our way out of our present difficulties. I'm deeply dubious about that proposition.

    The beekeepers I admire the most, and hope to emulate in some small way are those who take the view that if we can make our hives strong enough and healthy enough, we can avoid many of the problems that currently afflict bees. They try to do this through a combination of genetics and management practices, and there are enough cases where it seems to be working to demonstrate that this can indeed be achieved. To me, that's a more promising longterm strategy.
    I think we have found some common ground with this point of view Ray and I think most of the most successful beekeepers I know would agree with it as well. The big difference is that we choose to limit when we treat and what we treat with. What I see each day in the bee yard tells me what I am doing is working and working very well. The Bond" beekeeper, on the other hand, prefers to let his bees die than to treat. That's not an indictment or an argument, its just a statement of fact. I am not here to say tf folks are wrong only to clarify that all others shouldn't be painted with the same broad brush. Carry on.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  3. #63

    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    I leave about 30 % of the hives untreated each year. As said that varies. I had hives which had not been treated for five and six years. Those were hived in single room boxes, with a lot of voume, completely burr comb and a lot of honey in it. Doing very well, but as soon I took a honey harvest those colonies collapsed the next winter, even when they had plenty of their own honey left. Seen that with other hives, too, which I harvested. I do not understand the link between honey harvest and failure, if there is any connection. But that's something i observed. (Not taking honey is no guarantee for survival on the other hand!)

    However, since then I started requeening regularily, because a young queen produces more vigourous colonies than old ones, it is difficult for me to define "what is a hive" and how old is it. Requeening is a treatment of some sort, too, but I think it simply accelerates the process of selection towards resistance. I am a bit more pragmatic than I was those days.

    My goal is to reduce treatments gradually until no treatments are needed anymore.

  4. #64
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    I would like to throw in another "possible" scenario that may be causing some bee colonies to not perform so well, and that is the shallow gene pool idea. Getting too close geneticly.

  5. #65
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this thread so far - I hope it continues!

    Today is finally warm enough that I'll be able to unwrap and inspect the last of my yards. I hope I find good things.

    My two yards of untreated Russians were sad. Two hives of ten are still alive, 1 weak and 1 strong. My conclusion is that at least for my area Russians are not a bee that can be purchased, installed and then largely ignored.

    One of the yards I will be unwrapping today are my BeeWeaver Bees that have also not received any treatments. From my walk through the yard thus far I think seven of seven made it through winter (2 as single deeps). My plan had been let them continue largely unmanaged, but based in part on my experience with the Russians, I think that is a poor idea. Instead I plan to monitor mites in part to see if the bees are doing what they are supposed to, and in part to share the data with Randy Oliver. I suspect that many strains of tf bees that fail to thrive outside of the local area they were developed in, would do well (instead of die) with limited treatments as part of an IPM program. Part of IPM is testing, and so test I will. Instead of being rigorous in not making nucs and/or splits, I will be responsive to what I see in the hives. 15 swarm cells? nuc time!
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  6. #66
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    I think we have found some common ground with this point of view Ray and I think most of the most successful beekeepers I know would agree with it as well. The big difference is that we choose to limit when we treat and what we treat with... Carry on.

  7. #67
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by BernhardHeuvel View Post
    However, since then I started requeening regularily, because a young queen produces more vigourous colonies than old ones, it is difficult for me to define "what is a hive" and how old is it. Requeening is a treatment of some sort, too, but I think it simply accelerates the process of selection towards resistance. I am a bit more pragmatic than I was those days.

    My goal is to reduce treatments gradually until no treatments are needed anymore.
    The advantages of a young vigorous queen during the fall buildup is under emphasized in my opinion. It's one of the key parts of the Ed Holcomb big honey system.

  8. #68
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by R Dewhurst View Post
    I would like to throw in another "possible" scenario that may be causing some bee colonies to not perform so well, and that is the shallow gene pool idea. Getting too close geneticly.
    I agree, I think my success with developing mite treatment free bees was first getting bees from a feral hive that had been in the same tree for years, then taking mating nucs to the middle of a 240,000 acre military reservation. Then I bred these back to the banded Italians to get better winter build up, and to tone down their aggressiveness. Some hives were successful and lived to reproduce, some where to mean for me to let them live, and some died off. It takes time, but with a plan and goals it can be done, and for the future of the bee industry it must be done, the commercials will never treat their way out of this mess we have put the bees in.
    A queen with good cross-bred genetics will put out some beautiful brood comb.

  9. #69
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    I didn't mean to imply that, just as I'm sure David didn't mean to imply that most treatment free enthusiasts are completely clueless. Though maybe they are; I don't know.
    Actually what I mean is that pretty much all NEW beekeepers are clueless - I know I was. Probably still am just in a different way.

    I read like mad, watched all the videos, lurked on all the forums - all that - before I got my bees. And since the respected authorities said something to the effect of "I lost more bees when I treated than I do now that I don't" Why would you not? It's so easy - don't treat, don't feed, don't paint, don't install foundation... I was all gung ho to be treatment free right from the start.

    Aggressive splitting and luck got me far enough along to have a bit of fault tolerance. When I noticed a lot of deformed wings in September - then did mite counts that resulted in "too numerous to count" I decided then that I needed to reconsider things a bit.

    PS - I don't mean to imply that anyone is doing anything intentionally misleading - just that a lot of people are being mislead.
    Last edited by David LaFerney; 04-29-2013 at 09:15 AM. Reason: add PS

  10. #70
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Wow, I take a sabbath for one day and I come back and get 67 posts to read. It was worth it.

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    But, I would suspect that everyone who has done it would agree with a few principles:

    • Treatment free does not mean doing nothing and hoping for the best.
    • Treatment free requires at least as much understanding of bee keeping as any other philosophy - so educate yourself.
    • If you start out with a couple of generic packages from Georgia, and don't check and don't prepare for any contingencies you probably will not be successful as a treatment free bee keeper.
    • If you replace your dead outs with generic packages from Georgia every spring you probably won't ever become successful as a treatment free bee keeper.

    I almost forgot - Step 1 to becoming a treatment free bee keeper - learn to be a bee keeper.
    I do generally agree with these principles.


    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    ...when not feeding is a good option and when it will only result in malnutrition
    I see this 'malnutrition' word thrown around a lot and I don't think it means what you think it means. Malnutrition comes from eating things that don't provide sustenance. In beekeeping, those things are sugar and pollen substitute, which don't contain the things bees need to survive because they are not the things bees exist to eat. If they eat nothing, they starve, that's starvation, not malnutrition. If they eat things that don't provide nutrition, that's malnutrition. Giving them "feed" causes malnutrition, not preventing it.


    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    I'm under the impression that a lot of TF guys either leave a very large amt of honey
    As a TF guy, that is a stated goal of mine.


    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    I found 2 bees with DWV crawling around in front of the hive.
    Having gone through a major portion of my hives yesterday, I can say that all DWV bees I recall were drones. If mites are eating drones and not causing too many problems, I find that acceptable.


    Quote Originally Posted by R Dewhurst View Post
    man, I would hate to see where we could take the small cell topic....
    Yeah, I would hate that too. Save us all the time and read the archives.


    Quote Originally Posted by Roland View Post
    When the average commercial beekeeper is buying his replacement bees from a TF beekeeper...
    I do not recommend anyone buy "replacement bees." A boss of mine once said something to the effect of "If you plan on getting a flat tire, leave early so you won't be late to work." Preparations like these are the hallmark of an experienced beekeeper, or a well read one. I read everything I could find and I correctly identified the number of losses that Dee Lusby incurred when she switched to small cell. So I planned ahead and didn't start with one or two packages (from a thousand miles south). I started with 20 packages from 200 miles away. My losses have never been anywhere near that high, and the last two years they have been what anyone would consider very low. But I have been a beekeeper for 10 years and cannot expect anyone to logically conclude that they can do this exact thing. TF is not a thing you do one year and expect to work. You do it for the long term.


    Quote Originally Posted by Kamon Reynolds View Post
    In a past time the wax moth was the varroa mite wiping out hives.
    I don't believe this to be a factual statement. Read some of the very old beekeeping magazines and books which explicitly state the fact that wax moths do not kill hives, and even took surveys finding that a significant number of beekeepers claimed that wax moths killed their hives. What was implied was that those beekeepers didn't have any idea what they were talking about and upon opening a hive full of wax moths (a process that takes more than a day or two) they assumed the moths did it when the fact is, they hadn't looked in that hive for months.


    From my own experience, I do not see where these statements about what TF beekeepers say come from, like Dean said. Point them out! I have said here on Beesource and on my own website many many times that a lot of untreated bees will die and that it's part of the process and that you ought to get to at least five hives as soon as possible and that you can't just put bees in a box and expect everything to be fluffy clouds and clover fields. And I have said over and over and over again how poor an idea it is to buy southern packages when you don't live in the South.

    I just had a guy I know contact me looking for a queen. When he started last year, I told him to buy local, I told him I had bees for sale, I told him to buy a local nuc rather than a southern package, and he ignored me. And now his hive is queenless and he's ordered a queen from Florida. There's only so much I can do and he's probably going to be upset when he reads this because he's a member here, but HE'S NOT THE FIRST ONE!!! I have a nice 8-frame setup hive in my backyard from a personal friend who wanted to start beekeeping. It's got one of those nice copper roof lids and everything. And she bought a southern package to put in this beautiful well put together (not to mention expensive) hive and I'll be dipped if they didn't last six months. The first freeze comes along and they starve to death where they sit, or they can't handle mites, or they supersede the queen and fail, or they just up and leave. Or, like is happening this year, they get a wild hair and they swarm too early and the swarm dies on the branch and the new virgin queen doesn't make it back because IT'S STILL COLD! Another dead hive from a mail order southern package.

    Please, if you are reading this and want to be treatment free, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS GOOD, LISTEN TO SOME ADVICE FROM A RELEVANT SOURCE!!! I'm trying to save you heartache! I've made the mistakes and learned of the mistakes of others so that by the grace of friendship, you may not have to.

    I don't need any more 8-frame hives! I'd rather you be successful than give me your equipment when you fail! It really is up to you! Your decisions WILL affect your outcome!

    Now, I will be accepting criticism from treatment-free beekeepers only.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  11. #71
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Actually what I mean is that pretty much all NEW beekeepers are clueless - I know I was. Probably still am just in a different way.
    This seems to be a very closed minded opinion more than anything. Seems like more of a bash the new keeps than helping them. Do you think no one else takes time to study. If something is a passion to the person, then they strive to learn all they can, from all the angles. There are some that do care. What facts are you basing this on about all new beekeepers?

  12. #72
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Just anecdotal evidence. But it's not just new bee keepers - in almost any hands on endeavor "book learning" only gets you so far. It can be a HUGE leap forward, but it rarely if ever replaces actual hands on experience. Also, just anecdotal evidence. I have no proof.

    And by the way, I spend a considerable amount of my available free time helping new bee keepers. I'm doing a presentation on making increase at our local meeting this week - anyone is welcome to come.

  13. #73
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    I have to say this has been a great thread. Much more light than heat, which is what I look for on Beesource every day.

    I don't always find it. Thanks to David for starting this one, and to everyone who gave it some thought...

  14. #74
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    > Treatment free does not mean doing nothing and hoping for the best.

    Agreed. If it was just doing nothing then a "natural beekeeping" book would just have that one sentence: "do nothing". That would make a very short book.

    > Treatment free requires at least as much understanding of bee keeping as any other philosophy - so educate yourself.

    I think any beekeeping requires an understanding of bees. Unfortunately that doesn't come from books (although they can build a foundation and add some facts) it mostly comes form observing bees. The best thing anyone can do to educate themselves is to get an observation hive and watch the bees for thousands upon thousands of hours...

    > If you start out with a couple of generic packages from Georgia, and don't check and don't prepare for any contingencies you probably will not be successful as a treatment free bee keeper.

    I think that is usually true. Sometimes you get lucky on genetics and they actually survive, but I would say that is minority.

    > If you replace your dead outs with generic packages from Georgia every spring you probably won't ever become successful as a treatment free bee keeper.

    True.

    The concept of "not feeding" was mentioned. I've never understood that. I understand managing them so they don't need to be fed, most of the time. But when bees need to be fed, it's the fault of the beekeeper, not the bees. We are the ones who steal the surplus they put away so we are responsible for them being in that position.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  15. #75
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    >
    The concept of "not feeding" was mentioned. I've never understood that. I understand managing them so they don't need to be fed, most of the time. But when bees need to be fed, it's the fault of the beekeeper, not the bees. We are the ones who steal the surplus they put away so we are responsible for them being in that position.
    The way I look at it, feeding in an emergency is not a bad thing, if it's due to some unexpected situation, like a dearth due to drought. What I think may be incorrect is feeding of sugar and pollen sub as a normal part of management-- maybe to get a buildup before a flow, or to routinely get hives heavy enough to overwinter, that sort of thing.

    As an example, the guy I got my first nuc from is an extremely kind person, who took my wife and I around his yard when we came to pick up the nuc. He showed us a couple of hives he was feeding heavily to build up for the tupelo flow, which is a money maker down here in NW Florida. But when we got into the hives, they were full of swarm cells and he later told me they'd swarmed a couple of times on him, so he wasn't going to have the big hives he'd hoped to put down on the river. The strange thing was that we were in the middle of a good strong spring flow already.

    Anyway, I can't imagine that bees raised on sugar and pollen sub are going to be as healthy as bees raised on nectar and real pollen. It's another of those small percentages that I think add up.

  16. #76
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by rhaldridge View Post
    I can't imagine that bees raised on sugar and pollen sub are going to be as healthy as bees raised on nectar and real pollen.
    I believe Dean and/or Michael have made such points on a number of occasions, especially the one regarding pollen substitute. I don't recall from whom the argument came, the point being that pollen substitute allows only a few rounds of brood before the necessary nutrition is depleted within the biomass of the hive. But that is a topic that has been done and let's not go there now.



    I almost forgot - Step 1 to becoming a treatment free bee keeper - learn to be a bee keeper.
    I do wonder if there is something else behind this. Is the thesis that one should not go the treatment-free route from the beginning or is it an enhanced emphasis on the basics: research, studying, mentorship (maybe practice on someone else's hives), and don't buy southern packages?
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  17. #77
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by R Dewhurst View Post
    I would like to throw in another "possible" scenario that may be causing some bee colonies to not perform so well, and that is the shallow gene pool idea. Getting too close geneticly.
    Wouldn't folks who do this sort of thing for a living be able to tell if that is so and do something about it? The effects of inbreeding in the world of honeybees have been known for a long time.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  18. #78
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Interesting thread.

    David, I have read a lot of your posts, and I think you're a thoughtful person. I appreciate your line of questioning here.

    I'm hearing from a friend who sells nucs, at just how many new beekeepers are coming to him, asking for treatment free bees, and saying they're going treatment free. While I like the idea, I also know that it isn't that easy. It just isn't.

    I'm treatment free at the moment - a year now of nothing, and while I only lost three out of eleven colonies, when I compare my bees to a others who are treating - it's night and day. Theirs are WAY stronger and more booming at this point than mine are. I have enough experience with bees and steady bee learning now (after a few years) to not be surprised by this, and to understand that it's all part of "getting there" with treatment free bees. But it's hard to stomach at times.

    Most beginners are not prepared for this. And it's not that the people who really know treatment-free are all offering a false message, or creating a false image.

    I think that the key weakness of treatment free "education" online, is two-fold:

    First, beginners (at anything) tend to gravitate to "teachings" that offer the quickest route to becoming "an expert". People are uncomfortable with not knowing. So when they can find a guy with 3,000 posts on an internet bee forum, who says it's just that easy - they jump right on it. Treatment free? foundationless? - Do less, buy less and I'm a cutting-edge, treatment-free, all-natural beekeeper?! SOLD!! Count me in on that bandwagon! Basically speaking, the cliff notes of treatment free beekeeping are a pretty easy sell, and it's hard for a beginner to look past - "Do nothing, (or way less than most "traditional" beekeepers do) let the bees live naturally, and we will fix the problems created by 150 years of industry". Who can resist that?

    Second, a lot of the guys with 3,000 posts turn out to be people who actually don't know much about bees. There are a lot of internet experts, because when you don't know anything, everyone ahead of you in experience seems like an expert. So a ton of information being propagated is actually coming from people who don't know what they're talking about, because they haven't learned enough before sharing information.

    I know how it happens. I've been guilty of it myself. You get excited about something, and you want to share it. The internet makes it easier for people like me to publicly share my perspectives, and harder for beginners to be able to tell the difference between me and someone with way more experience.

    From what I have seen. The most self-righteous, aggressive, black-and-white, it's-just-that-simple, treatment-free talkers are new beekeepers. No one is as sure of right and wrong as a beginner. That's not a knock against beginners. It's just to say that I think most of the material out there online touting the simplicity and success of treatment-free beekeeping is coming from passionate people who just haven't had enough experience to really understand what they're seeing well enough to call it success and promote it in a way that should be followed by other newcomers. And it really sours a lot of the discussion, because people with real experience get tired of being spoken to and about like they're idiots. It really creates a lot of us-against-them stuff, and creates a lot of hard feelings between people.

    Once you've surfed enough sites to be able to distinguish the difference between that comparatively small group of people who know from real experience, and people who are just good internet self-promoters - the more you realize how truly complicated this is.

    I do believe that treatment-free is the way to go, but to be truly successful (meaning your bees are as booming and healthy as Mike Palmer's and you don't have to buy bees again every few years) you're going to have to work hard on your breeding and management for quite a few years, or you're going to have to get very lucky.

    When I look at my hives now, there are a few clear stand-outs that seem to be thriving compared to others. I will focus on those for raising queens this year. Work, work, work. Learn, learn, learn. Work some more.

    Nothing simple about it.


    Adam
    Last edited by Adam Foster Collins; 04-29-2013 at 08:02 PM.

  19. #79
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    Basically speaking, the cliff notes of treatment free beekeeping are a pretty easy sell, and it's hard for a beginner to look past - "Do nothing, (or way less than most "traditional" beekeepers do) let the bees live naturally, and we will fix the problems created by 150 years of industry". Who can resist that?
    You know, I haven't seen anything like that. Can you give examples of this type of rhetoric from anyone but silly beginners? The thickest beekeeping book I own is Michael Bush's book on natural beekeeping. If he's recommending doing nothing he sure has a lot to say about nothing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    And it really sours a lot of the discussion, because people with real experience get tired of being spoken to and about like they're idiots.
    That sword cuts both ways. I have many flaws, but people rarely call me stupid. I was called stupid here by a beekeeper who was irritated by my reluctance to accept his views as The Truth. He may have been right, for all I know, but in order to convince me of something, you're going to have to do better than "I'm experienced, you're not, so I'm right and you're wrong."

    The history of the human race involves many many examples of long-established wisdom turning out to be completely wrong. The troubles that beekeepers are currently having is an indication to me that there's something wrong with conventional beekeeping wisdom. I don't pretend to know what it is, but if beekeeping were a perfected pursuit, beekeepers wouldn't be having so many problems.

    All that beginners like me can do is weigh the arguments and examine the assumptions behind them. If an argument passes the plausibility test, I'll research it further. If not, I adjust my approach accordingly.

    Everybody needs a bedrock set of assumptions in order to form a plan of action. In my case it's a somewhat negative bedrock: Trying to get rid of bugs on bugs by using bug killer is crazy. There has to be a smarter and more sustainable way to deal with the problem.

    When someone makes an assertion like, "If you don't use acaricides, your colonies will inevitably die" it takes only one counter-example to disprove this assertion. Period. That's how logic works. You can argue about why someone's untreated colonies don't die, but you cannot any longer insist on the truth of your original assertion. It's been proven wrong.

    Experience is like a mighty flywheel. If you spend many years working at a profession and work out an approach that gives you what you regard as acceptable results, then there is a natural human tendency to believe that what you are doing is the Right Way. With every year, you impart more and more momentum to that flywheel and you become more and more convinced of the rightness of your approach. If someone, especially someone you have no reason to regard as your professional peer, has the temerity to suggest that there might be a Better Way, you may be inclined to ridicule his assertion, even if he marshals a set of facts to support his view.

    A lot of that goes on here. It's counterproductive.

    All that said, forums like these are a tremendous resource for a beginner like me. I've learned a great deal from the posts of those who are more experienced than I am (almost everyone!)
    Last edited by rhaldridge; 04-29-2013 at 09:58 PM.

  20. #80
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    Default Re: Going Treatment Free - step 1

    Thanks Adam - somehow there seems to be at least a couple of different perceptions going on here. I am seeing and understanding the same things that you are describing - as well as a few others who have commented. Clearly there is another group of people who are taking away a very different impression. Just human nature I guess. According to the stats quite a few people have looked at this thread, so maybe a few will find it useful. It's been interesting. Again - thanks.

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