Why Go Vegetarian ?

piglets

Coming from a family of mostly vegetarians being vegetarian as a child came naturally. I constantly get asked why it is that I am vegetarian and have never answered with anything more elaborate than, “because I was raised that way”. Here are some of my actual reasons why.

  1. it takes 14 times as much grain to feed an animal than what you get out of it in meat — an enormous waste of resources. World hunger issues anyone?
  2. Plant protein is just as good if not better than animal protein. If plant foods were really so inferior, then how did cows, pigs, and chickens who eat nothing but grains and other plants get their protein? Wasn’t it odd that we were eating farm animals for protein, and they were eating nothing but plants?
  3. You save animals. Ten billion animals are slaughtered for human consumption each year. And, unlike the farms of yesteryear where animals roamed freely, today most animals are factory farmed: —crammed into cages where they can barely move and fed a diet tainted with pesticides and antibiotics. These animals spend their entire lives in crates or stalls so small that they can’’t even turn around.
  4. You save money. Whether its dining out or grocery shopping, on average its always cheaper eating green.
  5. Lead a healthier lifestyle. If you want to get healthy, you start with the food that you eat!

I am not trying to convert anyone to vegetarianism, just trying to educate and make aware some of the issues that surround animal cruelty. Be aware of where your meat comes from, buy grass fed, and free range !

Why ‘slice’ my arguments?: the jazz behind array.prototype.slice()?

The commonly accepted way to convert a function’s arguments into a true array is by calling the JavaScript’s array slice method: Array.prototype.slice.call(arguments);

But my mom always taught me to look before I slice.  So I started wondering —Why do I call the ‘slice’ method, even though I’m not cutting anything shorter?

Research to the rescue!  First — the JavaScript source code (ECMAScript 5.1 currently) explains that the slice method is specially designed not only for taking snippets out of arrays, but for accepting various types of input — a single array, object, or array-like input — and returning an array.  Slice has thenew Array() code built in, so returns an array no matter what kind of input it receives.

Next, I looked into the syntax.  Why would I put ‘arguments’ into the first slot instead of a start index?  

As it turns out, using the ‘call’ method provides ‘slice’ with an optional first argument — often referred to as the binding argument — which binds all instances of ‘this’ in the slice method to that first element (arguments) rather than to the context in which the slice is called.  If you understand how ‘this’ works in JavaScript, you know why that’s a significant step.

What about indices?  Shouldn’t I have to put indices for the slice, eg. Array.prototype.slice.call(arguments, 0, arguments.length)?

From the ECMAScript source: If no starting index is entered, slice is instructed to start at index 0.  If no ending index is entered, slice is instructed use this.length as the default.  So you’re basically taking a snippet — in this case, the entire arguments set — and calling new Array() on it.

David Foster Wallace-Kenyon Commencement Speech 2005

This is the commencement address he gave to the graduates of Kenyon College in 2005. It captures his electric mind, and also his humility–the way he elevated and made meaningful, beautiful, many of the lonely thoughts that rattle around in our heads. The way he put better thoughts in our heads, too. 

(If anybody feels like perspiring [cough], I’d advise you to go ahead, because I’m sure going to. In fact I’m gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket].) Greetings [“parents”?] and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story [“thing”] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I’m supposed to talk about your liberal arts education’s meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let’s talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about “teaching you how to think”. If you’re like me as a student, you’ve never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. But I’m going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we’re supposed to get in a place like this isn’t really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about. If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I’d ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your scepticism about the value of the totally obvious.

Here’s another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: “Look, it’s not like I don’t have actual reasons for not believing in God. It’s not like I haven’t ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn’t see a thing, and it was 50 below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out ‘Oh, God, if there is a God, I’m lost in this blizzard, and I’m gonna die if you don’t help me.'” And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. “Well then you must believe now,” he says, “After all, here you are, alive.” The atheist just rolls his eyes. “No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp.”

It’s easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people’s two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy’s interpretation is true and the other guy’s is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person’s most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there’s the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They’re probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists’ problem is exactly the same as the story’s unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being “well-adjusted”, which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education–least in my own case–is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualise stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotised by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master”.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.

By way of example, let’s say it’s an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there’s no food at home. You haven’t had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It’s the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be but you can’t just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store’s confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to manoeuvre your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough check-out lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can’t take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn’t yet been part of you graduates’ actual life routine, day after week after month after year.

But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.

Or, of course, if I’m in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV’s and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, 40-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] (this is an example of how NOT to think, though) most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children’s children will despise us for wasting all the future’s fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.

You get the idea.

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It’s the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the centre of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.

The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.

Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.

Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it’s hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat out won’t want to.

But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving…. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.

I wish you way more than luck.

A 14-Year-Old Girl Sailed Around the World — And She Brought a Camera

Entertainment

You may remember this news story from about five years ago: a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Laura Dekker, wanted to sail around the world on her own. Her family had a deep connection to boats and the sea — Laura was even born on a boat — but the Dutch government intervened and attempted to block her from going. She prevailed and set out, 14 by then, for what would become a two-year-long, 27,000-mile trip that would take her around the globe and beyond.

What you won’t remember, though, because the fact didn’t make it into the general discourse about whether Dekker should be allowed to undertake the trip, is that Laura Dekker had a camera with her. In a collaboration with first-time director Jillian Schlesinger (who was not on board the ship but met up with Dekker at a few stops along the way), the young sailor recorded the bulk…

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17 Things That Happen When You’ve Been Friends With Someone For, Literally, Ever

1. The ability to be humble in the most earnest sense. People whose accomplishments don’t come precedented by declarative sentiments of why they are deserving and able, but those who have so honestly worked for what they have and in that work have displayed such intimate parts of themselves that there is no other way to feel but human, not superior.
2. Complete selflessness, whether or not the situation calls for it. People will usually provide for those who are desperately and honestly in need, but it’s the people who are selfless in their day-to-day lives, without the expectation that they’ll be praised for their loving hearts, who are most admirable.

3. Those who retain awareness of themselves and how they could be perceived in light and in acknowledgement of other people’s feelings, intentions, desires and motives.

4. The willingness to learn and the willingness to be wrong. The strength of mind and heart to be open to possibilities that may debunk whatever their sense of peace is resting on. That is evidence of the truest strength a person can have.

5. The ability to express genuine happiness for other people without being resentful or bitter. To be able to remove themselves from their own frame of reference and experience the joy someone else is and understand why they want to share it with them, rather than succumb to the knee-jerk reaction that people only live to make them feel bad about themselves.

6. Genuine confidence, especially in the face of uncertainty.

7. Honesty even when it portrays them in a less than flawless light. People who can be completely upfront about the ways in which they are human, normal, flawed but trying, deceptively deep but honest and hurt but healing are those who understand that what’s greater than proving to others that they’re perfect is bonding with them over the ways that we’re all not.

8. Unconditional empathy. Those who throw doubt and inhibition and question to the wind and honestly feel for another person as though they were the ones having the experience.

9. Knowing that they don’t know it all, and probably never will.

10. A sense of personal style. There’s just something so admirable about people who have their own sense of self that they express outwardly for other people to see and understand. It’s easy to be stylish and attractive in the socially-normative sense. But there’s something endlessly fascinating and compelling about people who are unapologetically themselves, inwardly and outwardly.

11. Unforced gratitude; a curated mindset that everything they have is a privilege and blessing. People who are always thankful for things done for them, no matter how small or insignificant, because they realize that there is nothing more off-putting than those who don’t acknowledge what another person went out of their way to do for them.

12. Respect for that which they don’t understand.

13. Respect for people just because they are also living beings who deserve it innately, regardless of what they’ve chosen, done, believed or said.

14. The ability to hold a great conversation, one that does not revolve around berating someone else or complaining about themselves.

15. Those who don’t take stock in appearances, not theirs and not other people’s. Too often, upon meeting someone we feel the need, almost the social necessity, to describe them physically and backup their imperfections with but they’re such and such a thing. People who see beneath this don’t do that.

16. Admiration, not jealousy, for those who can do that which they are incapable of.

17. Understanding, especially in the face of those who act out against them. This is probably the most important one, because most people (myself included) forget that what people do to them and against them has much more to do with that person than themselves. Understanding that is understanding people at a very basic level, a level that is too largely ignored, and such ignorance results in a growing inability to acknowledge one other as anything other than enemies we should be slated against as opposed to fellow humans who are swaths of intentions and motives and defenses we will probably never understand completely. 

Thought Catalog

1. Inevitably, you move to different states, go to different schools, and sometimes lose touch. But when you return, you’re still as weird and dysfunctional as ever before.

2. You don’t even need to get to the punchline anymore, they’re already laughing.

3. You become friends with their parents too, seeing as they’ve all but adopted you at this point. It’s not uncommon to receive texts from them on the reg.

4. You really do start acting like an old married couple. You’re not afraid to bicker, and honestly, you’re probably too attached to each other to stay mad for long.

5. Personal space has no bearing on you. Boundaries have completely dissolved into the “it’s 2 a.m. I’m miserable and getting into bed with you deal with it” abyss.

6. You get comfortable with silence, arguably the most awesome aspect of any relationship. You can go on trips together or…

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Santa’s Been Reading Your Letters Because Now There’s a Nutella Bar

NewsFeed

All the boys and girls of Chicago must have been very good this year, because Monday marks the opening of one of the greatest concepts ever brought to the foodie world: a Nutella bar.

The bar is located inside of Mario Batali’s 63,000 square foot new Eataly, which is 30% bigger than the New York location.

The Nutella bar combined with David Burke’s recently opened Chicago bacon bar is reason enough to take a trip to the Windy City in the dead of winter.

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The Flaw in Microsoft’s Windows 8 Logic

Tech

One of the more important assumptions in Microsoft’s design of Windows 8 comes from the company’s observations of how people used touch on smartphones and tablets. Microsoft clearly understood that touch was a key way people interacted with the screens on their various mobile devices.

However, the reason people adapted to touch so fast is that on smartphones and tablets, the finger is the best option for navigating content on a small screen. There is no room for a trackpad or mouse on these products, and touch input was deemed the best form of navigation at the time. Of course, user interfaces on small screens are bound to someday include more use of voice and gestures, but touch will still be the main form of input and navigation on these smaller-screen personal computers for many years.

On the other hand, PCs and laptops have bigger screens and have used keyboards…

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