Is Service in your DNA?

Here’s a sign that I was able to contemplate at leisure while waiting to get a license plate (Florida delegates what would a massive DMV bureaucracy to counties).

The “Is Service in your DNA?” headline made me wonder how often people write “If not, Moderna can add it for you” underneath.

Could service actually be in your DNA? Conscientiousness and Agreeableness, out of the Big Five, seem likely to be important for doing a good job in customer service. Wikipedia says these are 49 percent and 42 percent genetic.

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Let’s go to Brandon (Florida)

Our 8-year-old ran out of books to read on our recent excursion around the Florida Free State. Google Maps showed us that the most convenient bookstores between Lakeland and Tampa were in… Brandon, where the hated anti-#Science governor recently went to sign an anti-#Science law passed by the anti-#Science legislature.

According to Wikipedia, Brandon, FL is merely an unincorporated part of a county, i.e., not an actual city or town. It is home to a huge shopping mall, a bunch of strip malls, various components of the health care industry, and some car dealers. For the COVID-averse, the Westfield Mall has an outdoor dining area:

If you’re concerned that you’re not sufficiently obese for SARS-CoV-2 to get a good grip on you, you can get an entire pint of Cinnabon frosting inside the mall. Also a hijab, if you’re not satisfied with Is the face mask the Church of Shutdown’s hijab?

(It was much more common to see covered women, including in full burqas, in the Tampa area compared to in Jupiter/Palm Beach.)

The LEGO store in the mall had a huge stack of “Everyone is Awesome” rainbow kits near the register. The web site says “The new LEGO Everyone is Awesome set celebrates positivity and kindness in our families, our communities and our world.” and contains an inspirational story from the designer, Matthew Ashton: “Being LGBTQIA+ myself, I knew I needed to step up to the plate and make a real statement about love and inclusivity, and generally spread some LEGO® love to everybody who needs it. Children are our role models and they welcome everyone, no matter their background. … Being quite an effeminate kid, I was constantly told by different adults around me what I should and shouldn’t play with, that I needed to behave like a ‘real boy’ and to toughen up. I was dissuaded from doing the things that came most naturally to me. … I was actually fine with all the kids at school. … this set is not just for the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s for all of the allies – parents, siblings, friends, schoolmates, colleagues etc. – out there as well.”

If you need some body shape inspiration before hitting the food court, the mall includes a manatee sculpture:

Inconsistent with the town’s status as the World Center of Deplorability (not only in Florida, but also named “Brandon”), there is apparently a high demand for Alfa Romeos:

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Karen visits a Florida theme park

This is a quote from a friend’s Facebook post, but I am not going to use the WordPress Quote style because it will be easier to read if not in italics. The names have been changed. The author is a professor who lives in a Biden- and Fauci-supporting town. Any similarities to Confessions are purely coincidental… (and let me just state for the record that the author is a far smarter and nicer person that I have ever been!)

I’ve made what might have been the single worst error of judgment in my 40 years of life. If any good will come of it, it’s only in the confession and warning that I now feel morally compelled to give my friends.

One month ago, my 8-year-old daughter [Alice], who just finished the Harry Potter series, begged to go to Universal Studios in Orlando over Christmas break to see their Harry Potter park. It seemed like a good time: Alice (and her 4-year-old brother [Robert]) hadn’t enjoyed any trip of this kind since before the pandemic, Alice at last would finally be vaccinated, [wife] and I had just gotten our booster shots, Delta was in retreat, and covid numbers were actually extremely low in Florida. Plus we figured it would be mainly outdoors, and we’d mask, and [wife] found a website claiming it wouldn’t be very crowded on the dates we wanted to visit.

So I plunked down a few grand for (non-refundable) tickets. And then, literally the next day, we learned about the Omicron variant from South Africa. And to my eternal shame, I didn’t cancel the trip, despite my understanding of exponential growth. I couldn’t bear to face my daughter and tell her she wasn’t going after all, nor could I bear to face my family and tell them the planning and money were all wasted.

So now we’re here. And the reality is: it’s crowded as hell — one of the most unpleasant, sardine-packed places I’ve ever experienced in my life, before or during covid. The majority of guests (and even many employees) are unmasked. It’s mostly indoors. For every single ride, you stand for more than an hour in cramped, enclosed waiting areas while hordes of unmasked people breathe on you. It’s obviously an Omicron superspreader site. Indeed, the chances that one or more of us caught it today are EXCEEDINGLY high. Plus … it’s not even fun, like Disney World is. It sucks. Just endless lines, crowds, ripoffs, and uninspired rides.

Many of the rides play jokey recorded audio messages about how the ride is so terrifying, how much danger you’re in, phew you survived it, etc. etc. All those messages now take on new, unapproved meanings.

From the minute we arrived, I started saying “we have to leave this place, we have to leave, WE HAVE TO LEAVE NOW” — and yet, I’m ashamed to say, it took us 5+ hours to do so. I kept deferring to the … err … majority vote among my family, that we shouldn’t make a TOTAL loss of this trip, and surely we can find something here that’s relatively covid-safe?

Our mistake did, at least, give me perhaps my first opportunity of this entire pandemic to stare directly into the heart of the half of the country for which the virus might as well not be real — and I found the view absolutely terrifying, and it’s given me a new, visceral understanding for how we managed to lose 800,000+ Americans, and that understanding will stay with me as long as I live.

I’m sorry to everyone for whom I was a bad example. I’m sorry to everyone who my family might have endangered. Please learn from our mistake.

In the meantime, do any of my friends have suggestions for what to do for the rest of this trip? (Where one possibility is, “take the next flight back to [cozy Deplorable-free university town] and never look back”?)

ADDED: [wife] wanted me to emphasize how Universal Studios is endangering lives for greed, by packing people way, WAY more densely than can possibly be safe.

Alice [the 8-year-old], alone among us, actually enjoyed the park (!) and wants to return to it tomorrow.

Thus endeth the Confessions of Karen. The Confessions of Greenspun begins here…

I’ve made what might have been the single worst error of judgment in what feels like nearly 100 years of life. If any good will come of it, it’s only in the confession and warning that I now feel morally compelled to give my friends. I purchased an annual pass to Legoland Florida (Winter Haven, just south of Orlando) and we decided to visit during the beginning of the two-week Florida Christmas school vacation.

The park is nowhere near as crowded as Disney (think suburban shopping mall on a Saturday versus Times Square on a Friday night), but we didn’t know what to expect so I paid up for the $90/day skip-the-lines band ($60/day during non-peak periods). Unlike Professor Karen’s experience at Universal, above, we found that we almost never needed to be indoors to enjoy Legoland. Most of the lines, which we skipped in any case, were outdoors. The park recommends masks when indoors, but the core customer base seems to be Floridians and therefore hardly any of the visitors were masked, indoors or out.

Our 6-year-old loved the water ski show so much that Senior Management needed to sit through two repeats.

If you thought that COVID-19 was bad, it is only because you haven’t been on Mia’s Riding Adventure. “Many of the rides play jokey recorded audio messages about how the ride is so terrifying, how much danger you’re in, phew you survived it, etc.,” said Professor Karen (above). If I could take over as dictator of the U.S. and thus were able to force Legoland to install such a message, it would start with “How much would you enjoy it if your first horse ride were as a jockey in the Kentucky Derby at 37 mph?” and then note that the ride was best suited for those who booked all of their coast-to-coast flights on the Vomit Comet. (Recommendation: Try the Dragon rollercoaster, which is not too violent and which starts with a flat slow tour through some fun LEGO scenery.)

The San Francisco miniature is not consistent with Reading list: San Fransicko. There wasn’t a single homeless encampment on any of the LEGO sidewalks. There was no open-air drug market.

Miami Beach without a traffic jam of Lamborghinis, Rolls-Royces, and Ferraris?

If you split your time between 12th Street and Haulover beaches, this might be the souvenir to bring home:

(One of my worst days since moving to Florida was at clothing-optional Haulover beach. Everything was awesome until some wag called Marine Mammal Rescue and they showed up at my blanket with a whale sling.)

Not every visitor was Deplorable. Here is a fully masked family:

They’re walking by a bust of a notorious racist (also known for popularizing Mileva Marić‘s explanations of the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, and conversion of matter into energy) made out of 500,000 Duplo bricks.

Short summary of my friend’s theme park experience and our own family’s: I’m not surprised that Floridians, who never entered the Covid Olympics and therefore don’t care which medal they win, show up to parks. But I am surprised that anyone who supported school closures, mask orders, and other Covid-related restrictions will show up (this is about half of Americans, so the parks should be at least half empty!). And I am truly shocked that the federal government allows the parks to remain open (also, the Super Bowl; why?). From Disney World during Code Orange coronapanic (September 2021):

(According to #Science, COVID-19 is a sufficiently serious public health issue that schools have been closed (for 1.5 years in our big cities) and/or children are made to wear masks 7 hours per day while also forgoing normal interaction (American kindergarten is now set up more like high school detention; kids must sit at their individual desks and not get close to other kids… while also wearing masks). If we are losing life years, contrary to Social Security and life insurance financials, the only sensible #Science-informed policy would be a presidential order shutting down all American theme parks. Pulling together 200,000+ people per day at Disney World (all four parks combined) means pulling together people in airliners (most of the folks we met had flown there), in restaurants, in hotels, etc. Even if they don’t get infected while on a roller coaster, they’re a lot more likely to get infected than if they’d stayed home, which remains the best demonstrated method of cutting one’s infection/transmission risk (our best vaccines can cut infection/transmission in half right now?). As a society we’ve determined that it makes sense to deny an education to millions of children if just one life can be saved. Shouldn’t the same logic apply to theme parks? If child can wait 1.5 years to learn, why can’t adults and children wait until the pandemic is over to ride a roller coaster?)


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Farewell to Christmas lights

I hope now that everyone has been inspired by the example of Kamala Harris’s family in quickly breaking down the Christmas decorations (illustrated in a photo from her childhood) to make room for Kwanzaa (no photos available). Tonight is New Year’s Eve, so it is time to say goodbye to the winter-themed Christmas decorations of which our Florida neighbors are so fond.

The twin pillars of religious faith for roughly half of Floridians (Disney and Jesus):

Only loosely related, the twin pillars of political faith for roughly half of Floridians, photographed 12/26 (air temp: 82; water temp: 75):

(Note the apparent gerrymandering in the above districts; they are neither rectangular nor contiguous.)

Speaking of politics, front yard political expression in our part of Florida is rare (1 in 500 houses?), so the few examples stand out (“Lets go Brandon, I agree,” says Santa?):

When you are having a tough time choosing among Mickey, Baby Jesus, penguins, snowmen, nutcrackers, reindeer, angels, Santa, etc.:

a few details from the above house:

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Covid epidemic among air traffic controllers in Orlando

Numerous COVID-righteous friends have reported problems getting to vacation destinations this year. Dr. Fauci apparently told them to cram themselves onto 100-percent-full airliners and then congregate with others in hotels, restaurants, ski lifts, etc. Many of these plans for #StoppingTheSpread were thwarted when airlines canceled Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Christmas-New Year’s Week flights. The airlines’ explanations were generally centered around pilots and flight attendants being sick with COVID-19 and my friends accepted these explanations uncritically.

It did not occur to them, in other words, that a junior airline pilot who had been scheduled to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day would instead find it convenient to say “I have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19” or “I tested positive for COVID-19 using a home kit” and then be home for the holidays rather than alone in a far-away Hilton Garden Inn.

Today I happened to be flying around Florida. Orlando Approach was refusing to provide any services to VFR (visual flight rules), saying that they were understaffed due to people being out with Covid. IFR flights, other than flights to MCO and other airports within the Orlando Class B airspace, were being routed down the west coast of Florida. Jacksonville Center, Daytona Approach, Palm Beach Approach, Miami Center, et al. were up and running normally.

What’s different about Orlando, I wondered, that, compared to anywhere else in Florida, there should be so many more controllers felled by mighty SARS-CoV-2? Pravda shows that the “case rate” is actually higher in parts of Florida where ATC was up and running normally:

Then I reflected that kids are out of school this week while Disney World, Universal, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND, et al. are open. I wonder if we would find that holding an annual pass to a theme park, with no blackout dates, turned out to be a risk factor for calling in disabled from COVID-19 during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

A couple of photos from our destination, beautiful Gainesville, Florida (well, the campus is beautiful anyway!):

It was 80 degrees and sunny. Three of the Navy guys were coming out of the FBO in full flight suits with all kinds of gear attached, preparing to get into their T-45 Goshawks. I was walking in from the Cirrus SR20 in gym shorts and a T shirt (don’t over-dress if your plane lacks A/C!). I asked “Why do you need more than this [indicating T shirt] to fly a plane?”


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Photography suggestions from the Google

If you remembered to put your Canon mirrorless system in the back of the Rolls Royce for the trip to the Bal Harbour mall, here’s the Google Maps suggestion for where to stop and take pictures… Haulover Nude Beach (note camera icon pin):

From February 24, 2020 (from the same date… “Nancy Pelosi Visits San Francisco’s Chinatown Amid Coronavirus Concerns” (NBC): She said there’s no reason tourists or locals should be staying away from the area because of coronavirus concerns. “That’s what we’re trying to do today is to say everything is fine here,” Pelosi said. “Come because precautions have been taken. The city is on top of the situation.”), at the Bal Harbour Shops:

The red vehicle at top left is a Ferrari Enzo, available as a 20-year-old used car for about $3.5 million.

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Demotivated from non-summer travel now that we’re in Florida

When we lived in Maskachusetts, this is the time of year when I would start surfing travel web sites. Maybe it would be nice to go to a beach resort, a tennis destination, a sunny mountain town out West.

Now that we’re in Florida, though, even if travel were free of coronapanic-related hassles (e.g., testing and risk of multi-week quarantine/stranding) it is tough to come up with the motivation to go anywhere that the minivan or a feeble 4-seat airplane won’t take us. If we want to be on a beach, that’s a 12-minute drive with free parking and clean restrooms on arrival. If we want to be on a world-class soft white sand beach with gentle waves, that’s on the west coast of Florida, a 2.5-hour drive away (or 3 hours by plane, after factoring in driving to the airport, updating the GPS data cards, flight planning, etc., etc.). If we want to do some sort of outdoor activity, e.g., tennis or golf, that’s walking distance from our apartment. If we want sunshine, that’s almost every day. If we need our brains rewired, the theme parks of Orlando are 2.25 hours away by minivan.

There are a lot of interesting destinations that are more accessible from MIA and FLL than from BOS. The UNESCO World Heritage sites of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia (Cartagena at least!), etc. (101 cultural, 38 natural, and 8 mixed) Without cold, gray weather as a spur, though, it is tough to find motivation. Maybe that will change after we get burned out on all of the things that make our own corner of the world a popular year-round tourist destination. And I’m sure that will change on May 27 when the kids are done with school and it is 90 degrees every day.

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Among the Deplorable anti-vaxxers (doctors and nurses in Florida)

We were invited to a birthday party for one of the kids in the neighborhood. A slender mom who appeared to be in her early thirties, on finding that we had moved from Massachusetts, said. “I have a close friend up there, but I haven’t been able to visit because she is afraid to be around anyone who is unvaccinated, even though I had Covid back in August.” It turned out that her Covid encounter was similar to what other unvaccinated friends experienced in 2020. She had a low fever, took a nap each day for a few hours, and had some body aches. Per standard, she tested negative several times before testing positive. Why hadn’t she been previously vaccinated? “Covid is not that big a deal and I didn’t trust that the immunity from the vaccine would be good enough or last long enough to be worth the risk of taking a new medicine.” She was not against older people choosing to get Covid vaccine shots, but she was against the government requiring it. #NotHerFrontDoor:

What was the anti-science Deplorable’s job? Nurse practitioner. Some Democrats explain the tendency of married women to vote Republican as due to brainwashing by husbands. Following the same logic, maybe a science-ignorant husband had controlled her mind? I asked about her husband’s job. “He’s an E-R physician,” she responded. “He got one shot and then decided it was mostly hype and never got the second one. I think all of us [in the family] have already had Covid at some point in the last two years.”

It turned out that the father of the birthday girl was a internal medicine doc and therefore more than half of the adults attending were doctors or nurses, all under age 50. Nearly all turned out to be anti-mask, anti-lockdown, anti-school closure, and anti-forced vaccination. They wanted to save lives, and in fact for most of them that was their day job, but they did not believe that salvation from SARS-CoV-2 infection was achievable via public health orders. (I.e., they might have been willing to fight a war against Covid if they believed that a war was winnable.)

None mentioned Donald Trump or any other political figure, so I don’t think that their Deplorable attitude toward Saint Fauci and the lockdowns, masks, and vaccines is driven by politics. In fact, the young nurse practitioner said, in response to my description of our old neighborhood with the political and social justice sign forest in front of most houses, “I have no interest in politics and these remote issues. I think about our kids, our jobs, and our friends.”

Separately, one attendee was from Martinique (an athletic coach, not a doctor). He talked about how the French government imposed the same rules on Martinique that apply back in France. “They’re supposed to check your vaccine passport and exclude you from a restaurant if you don’t have it,” he said, “but everyone in Martinique knows everyone. Are you going to exclude your brother-in-law from your restaurant? It never made sense because almost everything in Martinique is outdoors. They sent the military police in from France to enforce the rules. It is not a good place to be right now.” (see “France sends police reinforcements to Martinique to quell Covid unrest” from December 1)

Finally, what is the current #Science on immunity via infection versus immunity from vaccines? I personally know at least one person who became seriously ill with Covid 5.5 months into his Moderna protection period. I don’t know anyone who got Covid twice, though. And I haven’t read about people returning to the hospital for treatment of severe Covid 6 or 12 months after their first bad Covid experience. I asked some doctor friends “Do people get welcomed back to the ICU with a second case of Covid and doctors tell them ‘Here’s your old bed and ventilator”?” The answer was that it is vanishingly rare and essentially only the immunocompromised who have gotten Covid more than once.

From May 28, “Why COVID-19 Vaccines Offer Better Protection Than Infection” (Johns Hopkins):

Immunity from natural infection starts to decline after 6 to 8 months. We know that fully vaccinated people still have good immunity after a year—and probably longer.

(Just as 14 days to flatten the curve may take several years, good immunity for longer than a year runs out in 4-5 months.)

From August 25, 2021, “Comparing SARS-CoV-2 natural immunity to vaccine-induced immunity: reinfections versus breakthrough infections” (Israeli study):

SARS-CoV-2-naïve vaccinees had a 13.06-fold (95% CI, 8.08 to 21.11) increased risk for breakthrough infection with the Delta variant compared to those previously infected, … This study demonstrated that natural immunity confers longer lasting and stronger protection against infection, symptomatic disease and hospitalization caused by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, compared to the BNT162b2 two-dose vaccine-induced immunity.

In the U.S., in other words, #Science says that the vaccines are way better. In Israel, #Science says that natural infection is much better (previous infection results in 1/13th the reinfection rate compared to those who got vaccines).

Color me confused!

From an immigrant physician friend:

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Real estate peak near? (cost to buy a crummy old apartment building about the same as to build new)

I met a real estate developer in Sarasota who said that his specialty of buying “Class B-/C+” apartment buildings on behalf of investors and lightly fixing them up no longer made sense. “A year ago, I was paying $60,000 to $70,000 per door and now it is $130,000 or more,” he said. “I can build something new for about the same price.” (These are buildings with at least 40 units.)

Why didn’t he buy the fanciest buildings? “You don’t want to buy in the ghetto, but these buildings are like a Toyota Camry,” he responded. “Even if the economy turns down, there will always be a market for a Camry.”

If used apartment buildings are about the same cost as building new, doesn’t that suggest that the real estate market is near a peak? I say “Yes” because (a) new is better, and (b) there is still a lot of land in the U.S. The developer, who surely knows more than I do, says “No.” He expects 3-5 more years of 20 percent annual inflation in SW Florida until prices reach parity with California. “People are moving here every day from California and also from Miami,” he said. “They want to get away from taxes in California and from the crazy congestion in Miami.”

Readers: Is there anything special that happens to the real estate market when used buildings being to cost as much or more than new buildings? Am I right in thinking that the curve will flatten? (after only the first 2 years of 14 days!)

The Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium reminded us that invasives will displace a native population.

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Art Basel Miami 2021

As we remember the day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, we can look at a recent attack on our shores by the Omicron variant of COVID, arriving inside the bodies of rich art world people from around the globe. Of course, I’m talking about Art Basel Miami, previously covered here in

My journey began at an Art Basel Week party in a Miami Beach house. The host is a refugee from the disorder and filth of San Francisco (wife insisted on a move due to worthy locals shooting up heroin in the driveway of the $10 million house). By the time the party was in full swing, the street looked like the aftermath of flash mobs robbing Ferrari and Mercedes dealers. The dessert table and dock (yacht on order, but delayed due to “supply chain” issues at Volvo for the engines):

I migrated from the party to the vaccine papers check tent, as previously discussed, and then entered the convention center:

In 2018, sponsor UBS was celebrating women. Not this year, however. It is unclear if this is because the term “women” is undefined in our 2SLGBTQQIA+ world, if the “imbalance” that needed rectifying in 2018 was fully addressed, or what. From 2018:

Monica Bonvicini gets my vote for maximum prescience with this 2019 work, titled “Hy$teria” (13′ wide):

John Giorno (1936-2019) should get some credit for this letter from CO2-emitting humans to our beloved Mother Earth (“You Got to Burn to Shine”; also a good tutorial on black-body radiation?):

Speaking of artwork by deceased artists selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars… The gallery owner calls the artist and says “I’ve got some good news and bad news.” Artist: “What’s the good news?” Gallerist: “A collector just came in and bought all of your paintings at list price.” Artist: “That’s fantastic. What could possibly be bad then?” Gallerist: “The collector is your oncologist.

Christine Wang can’t get credit for prescience, but this 60×60″ 2021 painting would be nice to hang right next to an original Hunter Biden.

Fair to say that this artist has never been to Walmart?

If you’re looking for something that you could replicate via a trip to Walmart, this pegboard piece by Theaster Gates seems like a good candidate:

Do you have $220,000 to spend on a pony? (there are almost no price tags, of course, but I was crass enough to ask)

Note that the guy doesn’t have a lot of hair, but if you average with his female companion, there is enough to go around. In Miami, it is not a good assumption to read this scene as a father-daughter excursion. (forgive the assumed gender IDs, which I adopted for brevity)

Torbjørn Rødland shows that Norwegians might be good at pumping oil and buying Teslas, but they are not competent at interior painting (55×40″):

Here is a can’t-lose investment, consistent with established Wall Street wisdom, “they’re not making any more USB sticks”:

The value-added tax on this one is going to be staggering (cost: some wires and hatchets):

Some local color:

Some folks who refuse to #FollowScience:

(Note the Pomeranian whose only visual hint of qualifying as a service dog is the green hair dye.)

Also perhaps suitable to hang next to your Hunter Biden collection, a work by the late Tina Girouard captioned “1992 Immigration Migration 1492”:

Generally the show is geared toward folks who have blank walls that are at least 15′ in width and 12′ in height and/or a lot of empty floor space. Here are some photos showing the scale:

If you missed your chance to buy a 1954 Rothko, come down with your checkbook:

Or just make something kind of like it (Idris Khan, 2020, 100 inches high, no doubt made with far higher quality paint that won’t fade! Apologies for perspective distortion):

My best 2021 dress-to-match picture:

One of the only works with a price tag, a 2007 work by El Anatsui (though actually created by “dozens of assistants”) at $1.65 million:

Camera notes: These are a mixture of iPhone 13 Pro Max and Canon R5 with 50/1.8 STM lens. The iPhone did a much better job with white balance than the Canon.

Worth a special trip to Miami? Not unless you’re connected enough to the art world to get invited to one networking event after another and can expect to know at least 25 percent of the people who are there. Worth fighting through traffic and $65 for a ticket if you’re already in Miami? I think so!

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