Answering Daniel C. Peterson’s call for assistance!

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DrStakhanovite
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Answering Daniel C. Peterson’s call for assistance!

Post by DrStakhanovite »

Dearest Daniel,

Greetings and salutations my old friend! I pen this epistle to you from my post at the Borgesian Archives of Moral Science here at Cassius University, having now just noticed your public request for advisement. I would be immersed in solitude at the moment if it wasn’t for our mutual comrade Reverend Kishkumen; I had ordered a high quality facsimile Codex Bezae and it came in today and the good Reverend couldn’t resist getting the first crack at it ahead of the esteemed Professor Symmachus while also imbibing more than a few cans of White Claw that I had stashed away in a hidden refrigerator.

There can be no doubt that philology is thirsty work and with these allegations of Aramaisms in this particular manuscript, the Reverend is taking an especially close look at Acts 13:29. See for yourself:

Image

I imagine you can see it straight away; we have “taking down” followed with an “and” as if there was a finite verb instead of the participle. This is permissible in Aramaic of course, a participle followed by an “and” which, in turn, a finite verb can be introduced. Possible Aramaism?

Glancing at the Latin portion of the manuscript the Reverend noticed something interesting:

Image

Can you see it? It took me a minute, but it became clear as day: “deposuerunt et posuerunt in monumento”. Two finite verbs linked by an “and”! It seems the rumors of a supposed Aramaism in this manuscript is nothing more than a simple scribal error.

I really should put a halt to this aside about classical languages, you were not seeking insight into comparative linguistics. Here at Cassius, we’ve taken inspiration from the ancient Chinese and Indian sages who insisted one must first become a competent grammarian before philosophizing in earnest. A sentiment I’m sure you agree with.

So on to the business at hand:
Daniel C. Peterson wrote:I’m interested in feedback on the reasoning that is set forth above. Not so much about reader opinions regarding near-death experiences in and of themselves but on the subject of whether the methodology of assessing levels of persuasion is substantially sound. Please advise.
Before getting into particulars, I would recommend you obtain a copy of Laurence Jonathan Cohen’s monograph ‘The Probable and The Provable’ for background reading. There is quite a mountain of literature out there about how to use probability theory to model the convergence of evidence and Cohen is at the heart of it (along with Charles Sanders Pierce, but Cohen is much more accessible at this juncture).

Now I’ve carefully read your blogpost (I am, afterall, a student of yours as much as I am of anyone else) and gathered that you have intuited agreement from multiple reports can establish a high probability for what is agreed upon by those reports. Taken individually those reports might have poor evidentiary value, yet taken as a whole, those same reports can provide an evidentiary value greater than their mere sum. Is this correct?

If the above is correct then it is a tricky business, but I can offer you some assistance in putting this notion to a preliminary test that should serve as a good starting point for further research. Michael Huemer put out a simple model of how agreement could work in his 1997 paper ‘Probability and Coherence Justification’ that utilizes the kind of probability calculus amenable to your apologetic endeavors.

Thankfully you have invoked the use of Bayes theorem in years past and with your familiarity with it, we can simply dive into it. Let us suppose the following:

H = There is a heavenly afterlife.
~H = There is not a heavenly afterlife.
E₁ = Hugh Nibley reports that he has experienced an afterlife through a NDE.
E₂ = Sterling McMurrin reports that he has experienced an afterlife through a NDE.

Now to formalize it:
Image

More work needs to be done because we need to make two assumptions about the independence of the witnesses. We must assume that the reports of both Nibley and McMurrin are independent conditional on the truth and the falsity of H: P(E₂/E₁, H) = P(E₂/H) and P(E₂/E₁, ~H) = P (E₂/~H). From this we effortlessly glean: P(E₁,E₂/H) = P(E₁/H) P(E₂/H) and also P(E₁,E₂/~H) = P(E₁/~H) P(E₂/~H).

We must also suppose that Nibley and McMurrin have equal credibility as individuals. Let us state that that i denotes their initial credibility: i = P(E₁/H) = P(E₂/H). Naturally it follows that: P(E₁,E₂/H) = P(E₁/H) P(E₂/H) = i².

Lastly it is given that if either Nibley or McMurrin give a testimony that is ultimately false, any of the n - 1 alternative explanations for an NDE can be invoked with equal probability. So the probability that either Hibley or McMurrin testifies falsely as to the nature of their NDE can be represented as P(E₁/~H) = P(E₂/~H) = (1 - i)/(n-1).

Considering what we stated above regarding independent conditionals and the falsity of the hypothesis, we find that: P(E₁,E₂/~H) = P(E₁/~H) P(E₂/~H) = (1-i)²/(n-1)². Combining this all into a neatly packaged model we get:
Image

With all of that in order, let us get to proving the concept. The jointly posterior probabilities are influenced by two factors: the number of equally likely explanations for an experienced NDE and the individual credibility of each testimony. If there are ten explanations (equal in likelihood) for experienced NDEs (n=10) and if a heavenly afterlife is one of them, then P(H) = .1. Continuing on, let us assume that i=P(E₁/H)=P(E₂/H)=.5. Feeding that into the above model returns P(H/E₁,E₂) = .9.

So if neither Nibley nor McMurrin’s testimony is good enough alone to render a high enough value to make a heavenly afterlife probable, combining them renders the value high enough to be considered highly probable. Thus, we have a simple model that demonstrates a convergence of evidence that your intuition was driving you towards.

Alas, there are a few flies in the ointment.
Image

If you ever do decide to study Cohen, I’d draw your attention to pages 100 to 107 where his infamous corroboration theorem is taken up. Testimonial independence is a sensitive matter and as he demonstrates, witnesses familiar with each other and each other’s testimonies will compromise the needed independence. Thus, if all the witnesses to the gold plates are, at least, one time compatriots of Joseph Smith, or the testimonies of NDEs are drawn from a pool of people who actively participate in communities that discuss NDEs, such testimonial independence can be seriously questioned.

Secondly, Huemer’s contribution shows that the model under consideration has an interesting implication. No convergence takes place if the individual testimonies themselves are irrelevant or somehow rendered useless: i = P(H) = 1/n. Plug that into the equation returns P(H/E₁,E₂) = 1/n = P(H) and we now have a demonstration that combining testimonies doesn’t move the posterior probability up. The takeaway being that full agreement does not necessarily result in having an effect on the likelihood of obtaining the truth of a supposed event, only if the circumstances are just right.

Speaking of circumstances, they dictate that I end my missive on that note Daniel, if you require any further assistance in the matter, please don’t hesitate to reach out. The full resources of Cassius University are at your disposal, should you but ask.

Yours,

Alfonsy Stakhanovite.
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Re: Answering Daniel C. Peterson’s call for assistance!

Post by Moksha »

Dr. Peterson wrote:I’m interested in feedback on the reasoning... on the subject of whether the methodology of assessing levels of persuasion is substantially sound. Please advise.
Try this for an experiment: Say something derogatory and deranged about some group (Protestants, ex-Mormons, the LGBTQ community) and see how many posters on Sic et Non agree with you. If you've been doing your banning properly, then you should have nearly 100% agreement. Next, ask them how strongly they agree. My guess is that they will all pledge their fealty.

The result could be used to display the confidence level in the persuasiveness and soundness of modern apologetics. Perfect for a Friday article in the Interpreter.
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Re: Answering Daniel C. Peterson’s call for assistance!

Post by Marcus »

i got this far in Peterson's request for "assistance":
If each of two lines of evidence from near-death experiences (NDEs) is 90 percent convincing of the existence of an afterlife....
Sigh.

Here is one of the "lines of evidence" under consideration.
What NDErs see and hear in the out-of-body state during their near-death experiences is generally realistic and often verified later by the NDEr or others as real.
Sigh again.

and the conclusion Peterson The Gullible came to:
I find it quite compelling, myself...
Triple sigh.
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Re: Answering Daniel C. Peterson’s call for assistance!

Post by Fence Sitter »

Marcus wrote:
Fri Sep 16, 2022 12:32 pm
i got this far in Peterson's request for "assistance":
If each of two lines of evidence from near-death experiences (NDEs) is 90 percent convincing of the existence of an afterlife....
Sigh.

Here is one of the "lines of evidence" under consideration.
What NDErs see and hear in the out-of-body state during their near-death experiences is generally realistic and often verified later by the NDEr or others as real.
Sigh again.

and the conclusion Peterson The Gullible came to:
I find it quite compelling, myself...
Triple sigh.
Given his line of reasoning for NDE's I am amazed he is not a full-on Trump supporter. That is exactly the kind of "evidence" the election deniers are promoting.
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Re: Answering Daniel C. Peterson’s call for assistance!

Post by Marcus »

I couldn't resist. i went back to see if there were any comments, and found one reader suggesting the flood story was an allegory for a planet-level NDE.

the gullible, led by The Gullible.
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Re: Answering Daniel C. Peterson’s call for assistance!

Post by Doctor CamNC4Me »

From DP’s blog post linked above, he referenced ‘Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death’ as a proof of NDEs:

https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/ ... filter-bar

A reviewer’s review reviewing the cherished book ‘proving NDEs’:
To sum up in a single sentence, this is perhaps the worst book I have ever read, next to "The Shack." It is both poorly reasoned and poorly written. Not a single one of Long's nine proofs is anything of the sort. Just a couple of examples: "Perfect Playback" (Proof #5) - how is recalling the past events of one's life proof of the afterlife? Who would not give an accurate account of their own life? Furthermore, even if one retold events in an imprecise manner, the only "check" that Long would have had would be the same person's claim to his own (in)accuracy - what kind of proof is that? Proof #6 is "Family Reunion": just from the title of the chapter, can anyone really be persuaded that "meeting" your deceased family members in some sort of vision while your heart lay dormant is proof of the afterlife? Long seems to be short on commonsense logic, which for a physician is downright embarrassing. There are many real proofs that would have convinced me, or perhaps made a skeptic think twice; one example would be if the person floated out of his or her hospital room and down the hall outside, far enough so that people there would have been inaudible from the hospital room, and then overheard a conversation, and reported it back after the so-called NDE with a precision independently verified by one of the people having the conversation. Or, if a deceased relative described to the NDEr some fact that would have been impossible for anyone--especially the NEDer--to know, such as the location of a murdered person's body, which the police have been unable to find, and then have this turn out to be accurate (think "The Shack"). You get the point.

To compound the problems, just about every single sentence reeks of false confidence, not uncommonly reaching arrogance, as if to attempt to shore up the lack of persuasive logic just by saying something more emphatically. One could find a half-dozen examples on every page. Just a few: (1) "Events often include seeing their own unconscious body as well as frantic resuscitation efforts to revive them. The observations have been verified as realistic in hundreds of reports."(p.47) Verified by who? Verified in the sense that the NDEr accurately reported the details of how the resuscitation took place, confirmed by one of the doctors (who, necessarily, had no personal stake in the report), with the possibility ruled out of a family member or another physician describing the events to the patient after the NDE? This is the sort of logic that someone who is going to "prove" the afterlife needs to consider, and there is hardly a single instance where Long engages with this type of reasoning. And what is "realistic"? That the NDEr sees people and not pink elephants? (2) "Yes, you read that correctly. I have studied thousands of near-death experiences."(p.44) Well, the inner cover flap says the database took 1,600 NDE accounts, an on the same page as the above quotation, it says "more than 1,300" NDEs. How one and a half thousand accounts qualifies as thousands is beyond me. And just to ensure that you don't forget it, he reminds us of these "thousands" at least a hundred more times (perhaps I am exaggerating, but I am taking my cue from Long himself). "Previous scientific NDE studies generally examined only a few hundred case studies at most." Well, there you go! (3) "With a flat EEG, it is still possible for electrical activity to be present in the lower parts of the brain, such as the brain stem. There is no chance that electrical activity in these lower parts of the brain could account for such a highly lucid and ordered experience as described by NDErs." (p.57) I happen to think this is really important--isn't the possibility of the entire NDE experience deriving from the brainstem something that one in Long's position would want to consider? Saying "no chance" is strong in wording but weak in explanation. Perhaps my non-neurosurgeon knowledge is making a mistake here (such as if the brainstem were unable to generate dreamlike images), but as most of us are not neurosurgeons, Long would have been wise to explain himself better than "no chance." (4) The whole thing about the tunnel with a bright light at the end is not helpful to the advocate of the afterlife; in fact, it is a liability. Scientists have demonstrated quite definitively that as the brain loses its oxygen supply, peripheral vision is lost first: thus, the tunnel. They have also been able to show that many aspects of the NDE could be induced in someone who has been given a stiff dose of ketamine, a horse tranquilizer frequently used as party drug. Long nowhere addresses the fact that "in order to guard against damage during trauma, the brain releases protective chemicals that also happen to trigger intense hallucinations" (borrowed from Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife" by Lisa Miller). In short, nothing of Long's descriptions diverges significantly from what might be expected with a powerfully vivid dream or hallucination. (5) "Worldwide consistency" is no proof to me either: it just tells me that the visions/dreams/hallucinations are hardwired in the brain, such that when hypoxic it generates similar-type images like reunions with deceased relative or out-of-body experiences or enraptured feelings of love.

From a personal standpoint, I am a Christian who believes resolutely in the afterlife. But I must say that I was sorely disappointed by Long's effort. If I were a skeptic this book would not remotely help; it would just ground me further in my skepticism. And even from a theological standpoint, Long's thesis doesn't hold water either. For example, is God--or his angels--so incompetent that they can't distinguish between someone who is really dead and someone who is--ha-ha--fake dead? Why bring someone to the gates of heaven when you have to shortly send them back? And, if everyone senses being embraced by love, and seeing a light, and seeing glowing individuals, does that mean everyone is going to heaven? Are there no NDErs who describe darkness, gloom, heat, and red men with horns?

I feel ripped off - like I just threw away $17 (thank God for Amazon, that I didn't shell out $26). But if I can prevent anyone reading this hard-headed review from throwing away their money as well, then it would have been worth it.
A review of The Shack (inb4 Shades asks a question), which is mentioned above, and is a similar ‘proof’ of this or that, when in reality it’s just people self-affirming their own beliefs, anyway:

https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/ ... filter-bar

This all goes back to DP’s “evidence” which is usually heavy on people just saying things that align with their existing notions. Everybody Wang Chung noted on a thread he started that DP’s blog has taken a dive recently, and I for one would like to posit that it’s directly tied to his beard. It’s common knowledge when a man grows out his beard he goes one of two ways:

1) he develops a fascination with motorcycles or cars, and eventually becomes a misandrist

or

2) his third eye opens, and yoga doesn’t seem all that absurd anymore

I still think DP owes himself an ayahuasca sesh.

- Doc
1. Speech is aggression.
2. Every utterance has a winner or a loser.
3. Curiosity is feigned.
4. Lying is performative.
5. Stupidity is power.
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Re: Answering Daniel C. Peterson’s call for assistance!

Post by Marcus »

oh my. Those Amazon reviews are gold.
The contents of this book are based on accounts shared by numerous individuals who claim to have had an NDE or something related to it. They first described their experience and then filled out a questionnaire that is attached to their account. The author, using a technique called the Chi Square statistic, then evaluated the data supplied. On page 4 he states that "mathematical calculation(s) are 99 percent convincing that the afterlife exists."

On page 3 he notes: "I am a man of science, and as a result I have examined the data from the NDERF study in a scientific way...
Has Kyler Rasmussen branched out under a pseudonym? He's already got the pseudoscience down.
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Re: Answering Daniel C. Peterson’s call for assistance!

Post by Marcus »

on a more serious note, the reviewer i quoted above continues:
What I find troubling is Dr. Long's apparent misuse of the term science. I have taught and done scientific research for the 30 years I was a professor of medical sociology. Scientific research is based on specific methods and assumptions. The objective of scientific research is an understanding of a specific subject. It is based on careful observations, precise measurements, and rigorous evaluations. Every step is clearly outlined and recorded so that the researcher and others can check what is done so as to identify mistakes, if any occurred, correct them and verify the conclusions drawn. Thus, step by step, the researcher and others can explore and explain the phenomenon under investigation. But the phenomenon must be observable, measurable, and verifiable. The Near Death Experience has none of these properties. Therefore all attempts to date have failed to verify accounts of individuals claiming to have experienced an NDE.

What various researchers besides Dr. Long have done is to collect vast numbers of cases and look at them for commonalities. These commonalities are argued to be the evidence that proves that NDEs are real. But NDEs, by definition, deal with the non-material, i.e. something that cannot be measured empirically or replicated, and hence verified. As I stated previously, the NDE is not amenable to science or its methods. There is no record that can be viewed independently or evaluated. Instead what we have are anecdotes where people report what happened to them but that cannot be empirically checked. I have studied thousands of NDEs and am totally convinced that they cannot be studied scientifically. Science studies empirical phenomena and the NDE is not empirical. I am not saying that the NDE is not real, only that it is not a viable area for scientific research.

https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/ ... filter-bar
Maybe the Interpreter could get this person to join their peer review panel.
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Re: Answering Daniel C. Peterson’s call for assistance!

Post by Marcus »

In summary, the subtitle of Long's book is inaccurate and misleading. While his book is interesting, informative and suggestive, there is no scientific evidence in his book. Furthermore, having taught statistics and statistical methods, I can state unequivocally that his statistical analysis is not only inadequate but wrong.

Harold Widdison
Medical Sociologist, Retired
On second thought, the Interpreter would publish no statistical analysis ever, if this guy was peer reviewing.

Oh, who am i kidding? Very few statistical analyses published in the Interpreter would pass a peer review even if a High School stats class were reviewing.
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Re: Answering Daniel C. Peterson’s call for assistance!

Post by dastardly stem »

DrStakhanovite wrote:
Fri Sep 16, 2022 4:54 am
Dearest Daniel,

Greetings and salutations my old friend! I pen this epistle to you from my post at the Borgesian Archives of Moral Science here at Cassius University, having now just noticed your public request for advisement. I would be immersed in solitude at the moment if it wasn’t for our mutual comrade Reverend Kishkumen; I had ordered a high quality facsimile Codex Bezae and it came in today and the good Reverend couldn’t resist getting the first crack at it ahead of the esteemed Professor Symmachus while also imbibing more than a few cans of White Claw that I had stashed away in a hidden refrigerator.

There can be no doubt that philology is thirsty work and with these allegations of Aramaisms in this particular manuscript, the Reverend is taking an especially close look at Acts 13:29. See for yourself:

Image

I imagine you can see it straight away; we have “taking down” followed with an “and” as if there was a finite verb instead of the participle. This is permissible in Aramaic of course, a participle followed by an “and” which, in turn, a finite verb can be introduced. Possible Aramaism?

Glancing at the Latin portion of the manuscript the Reverend noticed something interesting:

Image

Can you see it? It took me a minute, but it became clear as day: “deposuerunt et posuerunt in monumento”. Two finite verbs linked by an “and”! It seems the rumors of a supposed Aramaism in this manuscript is nothing more than a simple scribal error.

I really should put a halt to this aside about classical languages, you were not seeking insight into comparative linguistics. Here at Cassius, we’ve taken inspiration from the ancient Chinese and Indian sages who insisted one must first become a competent grammarian before philosophizing in earnest. A sentiment I’m sure you agree with.

So on to the business at hand:
Daniel C. Peterson wrote:I’m interested in feedback on the reasoning that is set forth above. Not so much about reader opinions regarding near-death experiences in and of themselves but on the subject of whether the methodology of assessing levels of persuasion is substantially sound. Please advise.
Before getting into particulars, I would recommend you obtain a copy of Laurence Jonathan Cohen’s monograph ‘The Probable and The Provable’ for background reading. There is quite a mountain of literature out there about how to use probability theory to model the convergence of evidence and Cohen is at the heart of it (along with Charles Sanders Pierce, but Cohen is much more accessible at this juncture).

Now I’ve carefully read your blogpost (I am, afterall, a student of yours as much as I am of anyone else) and gathered that you have intuited agreement from multiple reports can establish a high probability for what is agreed upon by those reports. Taken individually those reports might have poor evidentiary value, yet taken as a whole, those same reports can provide an evidentiary value greater than their mere sum. Is this correct?

If the above is correct then it is a tricky business, but I can offer you some assistance in putting this notion to a preliminary test that should serve as a good starting point for further research. Michael Huemer put out a simple model of how agreement could work in his 1997 paper ‘Probability and Coherence Justification’ that utilizes the kind of probability calculus amenable to your apologetic endeavors.

Thankfully you have invoked the use of Bayes theorem in years past and with your familiarity with it, we can simply dive into it. Let us suppose the following:

H = There is a heavenly afterlife.
~H = There is not a heavenly afterlife.
E₁ = Hugh Nibley reports that he has experienced an afterlife through a NDE.
E₂ = Sterling McMurrin reports that he has experienced an afterlife through a NDE.

Now to formalize it:
Image

More work needs to be done because we need to make two assumptions about the independence of the witnesses. We must assume that the reports of both Nibley and McMurrin are independent conditional on the truth and the falsity of H: P(E₂/E₁, H) = P(E₂/H) and P(E₂/E₁, ~H) = P (E₂/~H). From this we effortlessly glean: P(E₁,E₂/H) = P(E₁/H) P(E₂/H) and also P(E₁,E₂/~H) = P(E₁/~H) P(E₂/~H).

We must also suppose that Nibley and McMurrin have equal credibility as individuals. Let us state that that i denotes their initial credibility: i = P(E₁/H) = P(E₂/H). Naturally it follows that: P(E₁,E₂/H) = P(E₁/H) P(E₂/H) = i².

Lastly it is given that if either Nibley or McMurrin give a testimony that is ultimately false, any of the n - 1 alternative explanations for an NDE can be invoked with equal probability. So the probability that either Hibley or McMurrin testifies falsely as to the nature of their NDE can be represented as P(E₁/~H) = P(E₂/~H) = (1 - i)/(n-1).

Considering what we stated above regarding independent conditionals and the falsity of the hypothesis, we find that: P(E₁,E₂/~H) = P(E₁/~H) P(E₂/~H) = (1-i)²/(n-1)². Combining this all into a neatly packaged model we get:
Image

With all of that in order, let us get to proving the concept. The jointly posterior probabilities are influenced by two factors: the number of equally likely explanations for an experienced NDE and the individual credibility of each testimony. If there are ten explanations (equal in likelihood) for experienced NDEs (n=10) and if a heavenly afterlife is one of them, then P(H) = .1. Continuing on, let us assume that i=P(E₁/H)=P(E₂/H)=.5. Feeding that into the above model returns P(H/E₁,E₂) = .9.

So if neither Nibley nor McMurrin’s testimony is good enough alone to render a high enough value to make a heavenly afterlife probable, combining them renders the value high enough to be considered highly probable. Thus, we have a simple model that demonstrates a convergence of evidence that your intuition was driving you towards.

Alas, there are a few flies in the ointment.
Image

If you ever do decide to study Cohen, I’d draw your attention to pages 100 to 107 where his infamous corroboration theorem is taken up. Testimonial independence is a sensitive matter and as he demonstrates, witnesses familiar with each other and each other’s testimonies will compromise the needed independence. Thus, if all the witnesses to the gold plates are, at least, one time compatriots of Joseph Smith, or the testimonies of NDEs are drawn from a pool of people who actively participate in communities that discuss NDEs, such testimonial independence can be seriously questioned.

Secondly, Huemer’s contribution shows that the model under consideration has an interesting implication. No convergence takes place if the individual testimonies themselves are irrelevant or somehow rendered useless: i = P(H) = 1/n. Plug that into the equation returns P(H/E₁,E₂) = 1/n = P(H) and we now have a demonstration that combining testimonies doesn’t move the posterior probability up. The takeaway being that full agreement does not necessarily result in having an effect on the likelihood of obtaining the truth of a supposed event, only if the circumstances are just right.

Speaking of circumstances, they dictate that I end my missive on that note Daniel, if you require any further assistance in the matter, please don’t hesitate to reach out. The full resources of Cassius University are at your disposal, should you but ask.

Yours,

Alfonsy Stakhanovite.
This should not go without notice---that is one absolutely finely crafted opening post. I read it and am astounded, I read it again and can't stop from chuckling.
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