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We describe how a coarse classification of graph manifolds can give clearer insight into their structure, and we relate this particularly to the manifolds that can occur as the links of points in normal complex surfaces. We relate this discussion to a special class of singularities; those of "splice type", which turn out to play a central role among singularities of complex surfaces. An appendix gives a brief introduction to classical 3-manifold theory. This paper was written to serve as notesdoi:10.1142/9789812707499_0034 fatcat:5tns5k2a3bgafktgbhrhdqqxb4