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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Chapter Twenty Six - Sneak Preview


Walt Disney was no saint. This we know. That is why his face served as the caricature for the Arizona State University Sun Devils mascot named Sparky.

One of the things that earned Sparky -- er, Walt his reputation (never mind his money) was the infamous nature movie in which Disney placed lemmings on a Merry-Go-Round type of device, flinging them off of a cliff through the miracle of centrifugal force, thus propagating the myth of lemmings hurling themselves to an unspeakable fate.

They don't really do that. However, the same cannot be said about the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners... Yeah. They do that.


I'm not sure if he knows this or not, but John Taylor is my County Commissioner. Has been since '03, the year Charlie was born. That'd be the reason I sent the following email to him several weeks ago:


Date: Jun 4, 2016 2:12 PM
Subject: Fwd: Dennis Charles Wolf
To: Taylorjt91 <>

Hello, my name is Paul Heller, and my nephew is Dennis Charles Wolf. He died in a hanging accident in his front yard last July 26, 2015. The ME (Joyce deJong at WMed) ruled his death a suicide. That determination was based not on any factual evidence - to the contrary, in fact, with demonstrably false statements being listed as the reason for the inaccurate conclusion they reached.

Our family and attorney pleaded with them for months to change it. We were postponed and put off, then finally given a flat refusal, and cruel silence since then.

I have taken the time and initiative to explain this in a heartfelt and (I hope) honorable way on my blog, which I ask you to please read.

We have all the evidence to back our every claim, obtained through the FOIA... And would like to think we need not sue WMed to correct the public record, although we are more than certain that legal action is warranted by this point.

As you might imagine, the grief of losing a 12 year old boy in such a way is beyond description. To have a malignant and false public record made of it by WMed is so much worse.

Against our stated wishes, and against their own investigator's assurances to our family, they still felt compelled to perform a full autopsy on Charlie. And they billed you for it.

In accordance with MCL 52.201f, we ask the Commission to consider removing ME Joyce deJong.

Per MCL 52.201a, the ME directs the duties of its office's investigators and is responsible for their decisions. Well, their decisions (of which she has legal ownership) are provably erroneous, and their response in the 10+ months since has been an affront to their own code of professional conduct. Please bring before the County Board our request for action.

Thank you for your time, which I know to be valuable.


Mr. Taylor's initial response was direct and to the point. It went like this:


One week went by... Funny, if I just ignore my boss, I get fired. Anyhow, I decided to nudge my reticent public servant, but gently:


Dear Sir,

I await the grace of your reply.


To which he responded:


That's pretty damn annoying. Not even a cursory blow-off email. As Charlie would've said, "Fail!" But, hey, he's a County Commissioner... Not exactly Summa Cum Laude material, if I may be so bold as to generalize.

So I left him with this sneak preview, and I'm leaving you with it, too, Dear Reader. To give you an inkling of what I'll be bringing in the very near future, the way a cat brings home his prize chipmunk:


Date: Jun 18, 2016 9:14 AM
Subject: Dennis Charles Wolf
To: Taylorjt91 <>

Two weeks and no reply? I'll be blogging about you next... And wholeheartedly supporting the next person to run against you. Do your job or find something else to do. Ignoring your constituents is the dumbest thing you ever could have done. There will be justice in my nephew's case whether you like it or not, sir.

And now you're one of the bad guys in this story.

Don't bother responding now!


And, finally, he did what I told him. He didn't bother responding.

That's what a taxpayer gets for $12,240 a year.

A worthless shill.

pH 6.28.16


Friday, June 24, 2016

Chapter Twenty Five - The Playground


The Internet is a playground. It is a playground where fortunes have been made and lost in seconds, a playground where reputations have been built and destroyed. It is the playground where predators seek victims. Where people have been bullied to death.

It is my playground. It has been since 2001. But I learned all I needed to know about playgrounds before the invention of the home computer.

I had it all figured out by the end of my first semester in Kindergarten, when one of those mean-ass Slaughterbach kids annihilated his fellow Kindergartener with a snowball in the ear at point-blank range... Never turn your ear on a Slaughterbach, that's what I learned.

That was only the first of so many lessons, the first of so many acts to which I was a party or a witness, that took place on the hallowed grassy field behind South Westnedge Elementary School in the 1970s. And after.


It's a charter school now, called Paramount Academy. A sizeable extension on the West end of the building, and its parking spaces, took up some of the yard, but it remains a classroom unto itself for the general population of pupils in attendance.

Never mind my stories about it; my sister and I mined the playground for its importance in Charlie's life, too. We live more or less across the street from the school.

He didn't go to Paramount - he was enrolled in Kalamazoo Public Schools, which would have paid for his college tuition through the Kalamazoo Promise (another example of Stryker philanthropy). But he played there often, on that yard with sloping hillsides coming down from the North and South.

Charlie went to Parkwood Elementary for Grades One through Five, whereas we Heller kids all went to South Westnedge for First, Second and Third Grades, and then to Parkwood for Grades Four through Six.

When Charlie 'graduated' from Parkwood at the end of Fifth Grade, before moving on to Middle School, the keynote speaker at their ceremony was hometown hero T.J. Duckett. That's a pretty good keynote speaker!

The Ducketts grew up on Clover Street, one block over from us. They were all great athletes, but T.J., the youngest, had the best career out of them all. He was a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons after a record-setting career at Michigan State, and he went on to play also for the Seattle Seahawks and the Detroit Lions.

T.J. told the kids that day to hold on to what they had learned on the playground  at Parkwood, where he had scored his first touchdown... Remember, he said, to look back at all these things right now that might seem hard, and to understand later that these most important lessons, learned out on that playground, were actually the easiest ones they will ever have to learn.

So Charlie knew that playground, too. He knew them both just as well as I ever did.


When I moved back here, I was mortified to find out that my nephew was unable to ride a bicycle without training wheels. Our Dad, of course, made sure that we knew how to ride a bicycle at an early age. He would push us up to riding speed across the lawn and hope that we could master Newtonian physics in time enough to avoid catastrophe; fat chance.

Theresa didn't really want her son to learn the hard way like that - pushing a kid on a bike across the lawn is hard, y'know? So we dressed Charlie up in his helmet and knee pads and elbow pads, like Jeff Bridges in "TRON", and took him to the Paramount playground where gravity could do all the work.

From the South slope, we sent him coasting down the grassy hillside; it is actually quite a steep grade, so he could get a good head of steam going before crashing. We did this until he got it figured out, and he was an expert pedal-pusher thereafter. He learned how to use his brakes, too.


I cannot claim to have been a perfect Uncle to Charlie. There was one instance, at the school yard, where things went somewhat awry. I came across a couple of boomerangs in 2012, a bright red plastic one that worked perfectly well, and a wooden one that did not (see also, "a stick").

Here at the house, the risk of property damage became quite clear in the first couple of throws with the red boomerang, but I was intrigued. One summer day, I decided to take it to the school yard, and I brought Charlie with me.

We found a number of children already playing there, all of them a bit younger than Charlie, who had just turned 11. They wanted to play with the boomerang, too, and that got the attention of their parents, who wisely shepherded them indoors. Charlie and I had the whole yard to ourselves.

The Sun was shining brightly that day, so it was pretty easy to lose sight of the boomerang when it flattened out against the sky. That is how Charlie discovered that he was in fact very good at throwing a boomerang. By that I mean he threw it perfectly. It came right back to him... With a thud.

Medically speaking, he was all right, but he said he wanted to do something else, so I took him to Nana and Granddad's for lunch. Lesson One of the playground: You can't stay out there all day.


July 4th 2015. The family gathers to do our patriotic duty. Between us all, we probably detonate $500 worth of fireworks in the skies above Paramount. This is the result of recently relaxed restrictions on fireworks in Michigan, one of the only good things our idiot governor has done.

As the skies darken, and our big show begins to draw competition from the other ones going off around us, we all revel in and marvel at the smoke and the glow and the noise. I was very happy to see my nieces and nephews taking part in the grand American celebration marking the anniversary of our Independence.

How were we to know that Charlie only had 22 more days on this Earth?


Absent the light, the playground grew larger, no longer just a few dozen strides from end to end. It reverted, reverberated back to the size it had been when I was five years old, struggling to cross its vast expanse through the knee-deep snow, Slaughterbachs in hot pursuit...

I could not cross it now if I tried.

pH 6.24.16

Monday, June 20, 2016

Chapter Twenty Four - Names and Numbers


The phone rings on the table next to me. I look at it. The publisher's assistant - again. I answer tersely, because I'm busy: "What."

"Hey, look, remember what the boss said? Enough with the emotional investment already. No more ad hominem attacks, either. We want data, like we said. C'mon, bro, I went out on a limb for you, remember?"

I pause, hoping to limit my actions in the next few seconds; I really should just gently push the button to hang up the phone, rather than smash it to smithereens.



The data I uncovered in the course of my research is admittedly dated, but it is a comprehensive study that examines discrepancies between the M.E. Investigator's cause-of-death determination and the forensic pathologist's determination in the same cases.

The study involves all deaths reported to the Medical Examiner over a 10-year span in one of the largest, most diverse counties in the United States. Out of a total of 15,771 cases, there were 1,908 instances in which the judgment of the forensic pathologist (such as WMed's Joyce deJong) happened to differ from the opinion of the on-scene Investigator (think Kai Cronin). That's 8.25 percent of the time - roughly one out of every 12.

Why is this significant? I have no idea. It wasn't my study. Perhaps we'll learn more together as we crunch the numbers.

For example, out of those 1,908 little tiffs, 107 of them were ruled Homicide by the forensic pathologist (FP). In those instances, the Investigator was unable to determine the actual cause of death 87 times - "Undetermined". The rest were divvied up between other causes, such as Accidental death or Natural death. (In none of these cases did the Investigator believe that a determined Homicide was instead a Suicide - interesting.)

In the majority of disputed cases, 900 of them, the FP ruled death by Natural causes; of those, the Investigator ruled it a death by Accident 135 times. 10 were labeled Suicide, 10 were ruled Homicide, and the rest (745 of them) were Undetermined. So in 20 out of these 900 cases, the Investigator suspected foul play, but that was dismissed by the person doing the autopsy - a shade more than 1 out of every 50.

Of the 755 fatalities ruled Accidental by the FP, out of step with the on-scene findings of the Investigator, Undetermined was the Investigator's claim 718 times - Natural death was cited in 16 of those, Homicide in only 8, and Suicide 13 times. So Investigators' findings of Suicide were corrected, in a sense, in 13 out of 755 cases... Statistically speaking, 1.3 times per year.

In 70 cases, the FP ruled that the cause of death was Suicide despite the assessment of its own Investigators, which considered 9 of them to have been Accidental, 9 more to have been Natural, 3 to have been Homicide... And 49 of them Undetermined.

In 61 cases wherein cause of death was listed as Undetermined by the FP, the Investigator's call went like this: 25 Natural, 13 Accidental, 17 Homicide, 6 Suicide. Six. Suicide is, by far, the least likely category for all contested Undetermined deaths as ruled by the pathologist. Less than one-tenth.

The study was conducted in 2000 in Fulton County, Georgia (the Atlanta area). Its co-author is Joyce deJong.


Her views have most likely evolved since she counted up all those dead beans in Atlanta. Here in Michigan, there is never any reason for the Investigator to differ from the Medical Examiner above him or her, thanks to a law basically assigning ownership of all Investigator actions and protocols to the M.E., Joyce deJong... That eliminates those pesky gray areas.

Of course, deJong's take on this whole study is that, even with a "high" level of "concordance" between FPs and their on-scene Investigators (at least the autonomous kind), the M.E. should always dig as deeply as humanly possible into any corpse they want. This approach is why so many attorneys have begun to label the work done by medical examiners across the country as "junk science".

Joyce deJong knows a lot about the disagreements that exist between such professionals. After all, she was still a trainee in Fulton County there in 2006 when she went right over her teacher's head in a murder case, oh, yes... We have the data.


Joyce's attitude about never being wrong was already in full bloom when she was allowed to work on the case of Carisa Ashe. Ashe gave premature birth to her daughter Destiny in 1998. Destiny spent her first four weeks in the hospital, followed by just two days at home before she died. No overt signs of trauma were noted by ER doctors, who ruled the cause of death to be Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Under the supervision of a Dr. Michael Heninger, Joyce got to perform the autopsy. In the course of her work, she detected subdural bruising above the baby's ear (but no skull fracture), and commensurate bruising of the brain itself. While there was no bleeding in the eyes, there was some blood detected around the optic nerve sheath. There was no other damage to bones or soft tissue. No one in her home ever witnessed any abusive behavior.

But there you have it, she said, Shaken Baby Syndrome. Murder. Joyce deJong would go on to a long career of putting taxpayers behind bars for that same crime (real or imagined.

In fact, her zeal to do so up in Cadillac, Michigan has now landed her in court as a defendant in a federal lawsuit. Her slop-job there was so handily refuted by another pathologist that the prosecutor dropped the charges - hence the lawsuit brought on by the wrongly accused and imprisoned David Ferris II up in Cadillac, Michigan.

Atlanta detectives were so dubious that they did not arrest Carisa Ashe; rather, they served her with a murder citation at her home. The fact that deJong's instructor, Heninger, disagreed with her findings (he concurred with the initial SIDS diagnosis, a fact that was not disclosed to the jury in Ms. Ashe's trial) did not bother the prosecutor... It bothered the judge, though.

After years of delay, and facing the possibility of life in prison, Ashe took the "Alford Plea" in 2005 - attracting such delicate headlines as "Baby Killer Goes Free!". This got her a 5-year stint on probation... And the deal also included Carisa Ashe voluntarily undergoing a tubal ligation.

That's right. The government sanctioned the sterilizing of a woman. Straight-up eugenics, just like the Nazis... All due to the insistence of rogue pathologist in training Joyce deJong.


Isn't there some intersection, I ask the publisher's assistant, where raw data and language can actually meet? Are there not words to sum up or convey the meaning of these numbers? Or one word? I don't care if the editors get rid of it later. I'm saying it here and now about WMed, their quasi-public employees and their macabre brand of junk science, which conspire to torment my family:

It's just evil. That's all it is. Nothing new or different.

Pretty much, it's all one can expect when any amount of power is given to an apparently raging narcissist like this one... Pure evil, and nothing less. In this space, I will continue to treat it accordingly.

pH 6.2o.16

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Chapter Twenty Three - Toe to Toe


It is Sunday, August 23rd, 2015. The sun is approaching its zenith in the sky. I am sitting on a lawn chair in my back yard, hunched over, on the phone, rubbing my non-phone hand frantically over the quarter-inch of down that passes for my hair at that moment.

I'm on the phone with my boss at the bar. I don't mean someone in management. I'm talking to the owner. He is one of the kindest, most accommodating, most understanding people for whom I've ever punched clock. We've both had a rough summer as far as tragedy is concerned.

I'm telling him that I can't work my scheduled shift, because my sister tried in despair to kill herself the night before, Saturday night. Nobody knew - except her - that she had eaten a cocktail of medications (all of which were prescribed to her for her recovery from gallbladder surgery). But it didn't work.

Her body, probably because it had already been exposed to and developed antibodies against those particular agents, did not lose that fight. She woke up, barely, when I rousted her late in the morning. She had one of Charlie's baby pictures, in a nice frame, on the bed next to her.

(According to an ABC News report, bereaved parents are roughly twice as likely to suffer from an early death. That often translates into suicide, but also into heart attacks or other maladies brought on by the unending stress, and from the obvious health issues related to drinking, drug use, "comfort" food - all common coping mechanisms.)

The boss tells me not to worry about it, that he understands, that everything will be covered, that I need to take care of my family, and to take care of myself as well. I thank him profusely, hang up, throw my head back and openly weep in the sunshine.

It has been four weeks since Charlie died. Three weeks since Joyce deJong and her henchmen lied about the cause of death on his official Certificate. (The Certificate itself is dated July 27; the autopsy wasn't conducted until the 28th.) This would all be so much easier if everybody else in the family hadn't already gone up to Manistee.


There is a park, not sure if it's State or National, up in northern Michigan that we Hellers have gone to just about every summer of my existence. If ever there was a magical place, this is it. Set way back in the woods, camp sites are set out in various "loops" (i.e., Orchid Loop, Hemlock Loop, etc), all of them within walking distance to the dunes and shores of Lake Michigan.

I'm not going to tell you exactly where it is, because I'm selfish, and it's already too hard to get a spot there when you want one. It needn't get any worse in that regard, or it will become like that restaurant a reporter once asked Yogi Berra about: "Nobody goes there, it's too crowded."

Charlie LOVED going to Manistee, as we all did as kids. He would roll around the loops on his scooter or bicycle with his cousins, plummet off the cornices of the sand dunes, dive for rocks on the bottom of the Lake (if it wasn't too cold for swimming). When the waves were up, you could body surf until the sunburn sent you trudging back to the cool shelter of the canopy above the cluster of campers.

The annual Manistee trip was just four weeks away when Charlie's tragic accident occurred. He was particularly stoked about it, because we had not allowed him to go the summer before. We didn't go either. This was to exact a lasting and memorable form of punishment on the kid after he had taken part in some petty vandalism, along with a bunch of other naughty neighborhood kids, perpetrated upon an empty, bank-owned house.

It was nothing too serious, and we made him clean some of it up, but I and others told Theresa to do something to quell the sort of behavior that might someday get him into trouble. And neither of our cars were up to par for the road trip that year either, and we didn't have dog-sitting arranged or anything...

So we canceled the trip. To punish Charlie.

How he cried to me over the phone as I sat at my office desk at Decision Research, how he pleaded and begged for some other form of punishment, anything, anything... How I sat there, stone faced, feeling like a concerned uncle and a real asshole at the same time.

What would you change if you could do it over again? I have a lot of regrets. Anybody would. Some are worse than others. But that one's pretty bad.


One thing I didn't mention about the Manistee campground - and I hope this will keep you from looking for it - there's no cell phone reception out there. It's just too far away from everything, and is kind of behind a big hill besides. So when my sister tried to kill herself, with everybody but us up there (for the second year in a row), I had no way to reach anyone.

I texted my sister Marian in New York. Told her what had happened, that I didn't know what came next. I asked her not to text anyone. There was nothing anybody could do at that point, so why ruin their vacation, the only peace they'd had in a month? Besides, Renee is a nurse, so I left the decision-making process up to her. She and I did a pill count and tried to figure out what was what while Theresa slept.

After talking to my boss, I moped around the house. Theresa got up around that time. After lunch a couple of her friends came over. They were all sitting around in the lawn chairs when I left the gaggle of them to go over to my parents' house to take care of Stewie.

My Mom and Dad have a cat whose picture is in the dictionary next to the word 'Rotund'. He has been Knighted by the Queen as Sir Cumfrence of Girth. A small moon orbits him everywhere he strolls. There are large brown patches of dead grass where he has laid on the lawn.

As with other members of the bovine species, Stewie requires much feeding and watering. And the folks also keep a bottle of Bushmills in the cupboard, and Lord knows I needed a bite of that, so I headed over there. It is the house I grew up in, the only place I have ever known as home. It is, as my brother likes to say, a safe place.

I'm not sure how long I was there. A couple of hours, maybe, however long it takes that cat to eat. I killed some time, watched some TV, listened to the house settle... Might have even done a load of laundry. Swallowed some golden gravel. Headed back.

As I pulled in the driveway back at the house, the two friends who had come by were both leaving. Theresa and Renee went inside the house. I went to the garage - The Cave. The sun set. The pinks and purples faded to darkness.

Theresa came out to The Cave about an hour after the streetlights came on. She had been swilling wine with her friends, obviously, a grieving person who was no longer all that interested in her own well being. But something else was wrong.

As she sat across the coffee table from me, I observed her speech and motor functions crumble away. Sentences became strings of unattacheable words, at first, and then further devolved into soft consonants: "Zh-th-v-sh-f-wa-ba..." And she began dropping her phone. Again and again. Each time, it would break into three easy pieces. But, like David Hasselhoff with that ungainly cheeseburger, she couldn't get it together.

After a while, she stopped trying, got up from her chair and lurched out of The Cave. I sat there, for a couple of minutes, trying to figure out what in Hell I had just seen. I then went inside to see how (or what) she was doing.

I caught her in the kitchen with a large glass of wine clutched in both hands, a big grin on her face. I protested, "Hey, no. Put that down. We're cuttin' you off." (Words that have seldom, if ever, come from my mouth.) Renee agreed, and we tried to pry the flagon from her fists.

She didn't like that. Suddenly, her mobility and dexterity were restored as she struggled not to let go of her drink - no problem; I tipped her glass over sideways into the sink, emptying its carefully fermented contents down the drain. She liked that even less, and hollered some damning and hurtful things at me, but it was all stuff Renee already knew about, so as Charlie liked to say, "It did not affect."

We muscled Theresa over to a chair and sat her down in it. She stood right back up. We ordered her to sit. To her credit, she tried, but missed the seat entirely. Went right down on the floor. Not good. We hauled her up and plopped her down in the chair amid bawling insults and invective hurled from the depths of her lungs.

Then she went for it. As I stood next to her, trying to talk with Renee over her loudness, she threw the punch. I saw it coming out of the corner of my eye in plenty of time and locked up the abdominal wall. It made an impressive sound on impact. I looked down at my poor sister with sadness in my eyes.

"You hit like a girl," I said.


My old buddy Larry and I used to have a mutual acquaintance, a co-worker from Pizza Hut (at about the same time Kai Cronin also worked there) with whom everyone became friends. She hosted summertime parties, cookouts, that kind of thing. Her name was Robin. She was very attractive. Everyone wanted her... I'm pretty sure Larry got her.

Anyway, it was Robin who once told me something that I always believed to be true, something about Larry. She assured me that if I was ever in real trouble, like in a hostage situation or something, I could sit there with no fear. None.

No matter what, just because Larry is your friend, you'd know that Larry would come through the wall, or the window, or the ceiling, or the floor... Somewhere. He'd come in, kill all of your captors, and get you out. When you need him the most, no matter what, he's bound to show up.

At 10:45 that night, after my sister threw the punch, when I needed him the most, Larry showed up. Very suddenly, the front door opened, and Larry stuck his head in. "What's going on?" He said. He really was just dropping by on a hot summer night with a couple of beers, just like Mick had showed up out of the clear blue sky the Monday morning after Charlie's death.

We briefed him on our not-cool situation. Renee felt we should take Theresa outside and plop her in the chair by the fire. Walk her around a little bit.

"Can you guys handle her?" She asked us.

"Oh, yeah," I said. "We've handled much bigger drunks than him." The three of us took a second to laugh.

Then we dragged Theresa outside and watched her carefully. She seemed obsessed with the fire, tried to get very close to it at times. In between intervals of struggling, she would lapse back into her non-speech pattern, then catatonia. We put her in a nice, comfortable chair (the kind that is difficult to get out of) and more or less kept her there until she became loud in her protests, even flinging herself into the pile of firewood at one point.

So we dragged her back inside and watched her drop two straight glasses of water on the floor, and then we threw her on the bed. I really thought we were looking at a psychotic break that night. Renee thought she was just plain drunk and stressed out. Larry wondered what would we would do if she woke up the next morning the same way. We resigned ourselves to the uncertainty of the night.


It was three days later, after we had dropped Renee off at the train station at the end of her very long vacation, that Theresa told me it had been an attempted suicide on that Sunday night, as well. She'd switched her pills around so that we confiscated her blood pressure medication, believing it to be the pain killers... That's how nefarious it was.

She said she decided on those nights that she didn't want to live anymore, not without her son, not after she had been told that Charlie had committed suicide. By then, in late August, she had filed a FOIA for the police records from the month before. That takes time.

Anticipating that the reports would surely contain some sort of evidence to support the M.E.'s cause of death, she saw no reason to go on. Would the reports contain a suicide note, or something definitive, something medical?

No, as it turns out, they wouldn't. Had she not survived her second attempt - every bit as lethal as the one the night before - she would have never known that the determination of suicide was based in no way upon anything even remotely resembling reality. She would have gone to her grave, too, content to be with her child in Heaven. Or at least next to him in the cemetery.

And none of this would have ever been discovered. 

She doesn't think that way anymore, now that all has been made clear through the police reports, and from the damn poor lies that comprise the Medical Examiner's shamefully wrong conclusion. The fact that Joyce deJong refuses, like a truculent mule, to fulfill her public obligations and change this obvious farce is explained so well by her unprofessional history.


At the train station, Renee told me to put my sister's ass in the psychiatric ward if she gave me any serious trouble, but that stuff like this was to be expected. She wouldn't go so far as to call it normal, because in this thing, there is no normal.


The annual trip to Manistee is a couple of months away yet. I'm already looking forward to it. I'm going.

pH 6.16.16