dorchadas: (In America)
On a whim, I looked up my old student Erina on Facebook, figuring that I might be able to find her since I actually remember her last name--her parents got divorced halfway through the semester, and her name went from two kanji that were easy for me to write to one kanji that was impossible for me--and she popped up as the first result.

She's also memorable to me because when I did a lesson about music genres and played the song there under "I hear," she raised her hand after it was done and said, "Na...name please." I later found out she was in a punk band with some friends.

Most of her account is locked down or unused, as is proper, but it does say that she went on to school for graphic design and her profile picture has her sitting in kimono in a Japanese garden. Good for her.  photo la.gif
dorchadas: (Default)
I've dreamed more in the last week than I have in the months before that--or at least, remembered more dreams--and they're all about chasing or being chased. On Monday it was hunting vampires in a giant haunted mansion that was half chic restaurant and half abandoned wreck, like a hipster upscale Castle Gormenghast. I spent half the dream delving into the decaying hallways looking for vampires and half coming back into the restaurant with the glittering chandeliers, waiters in formal dress, white-tablecloth tables, and patrons glaring at me and my partner for daring to sully their experience. Probably should have let the vampires eat them.

Tuesday night it was the same location, but now completely ruined. I spent the time running from murderous ghosts, but unfortunately I can't remember if they were ghosts of the vampires, diners, waiters, or anyone else from Sunday's dream.

Wednesday I can't remember exactly what happened, but I remember waking feeling uneasy and harried. And not in the normal way.  photo _raincloud__rvmp_by_bad_blood.gif

And last night's dream was being a fugitive from justice, on the run from the government through a vaguely-southwestern-America-inspired landscape, all scrub grass and red dirt. I'd avoid them for a while, then they'd managed to track me down and corner me in an area with parallel ridges of bare stone exposed to the sky...and then the dream would start over. I went through three or four iterations, being caught every time, before I woke up.

What is it that I'm worried about? I can't bring something to mind, though I just realized that it might be self-reinforcing. After nights of dreaming of being chased, what do I expect to happen, and then what happens? We'll see what happens tonight.
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
This is normally a day when I'd be writing up a summary of our Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom game last night, but it was called off at the last minute when one of the players came home to find their apartment had been broken into! The thiev(es) didn't take much, fortunately--they even left the WiiU behind, which seems like a joke itself--but that's not that much compensation. And they are moving in a month...  photo emot-ohdear.png

So instead, I spent most of last night playing Majora's Mask doing the Woodfall Temple. I'm not sure how I feel about Majora's Mask's yet--I've already lost about an hour of time due to freezing and the save system only allowing saving by restarting the three-day cycle, but I love the focus on a small city and the people who live there. I can definitely see a continuation of Link's Awakening, with its weird characters doing strange things and Link stumbling into the middle of it all and trying to sort everything out. I just wish I had a better sense of what's going on.

It's the problem with trying to learn a language. I don't want to read children's books or play games with little dialogue, because then I'm not actually getting any practice in. Studying requires pushing into areas I don't know. But that means that I'm never quite sure I understand the plot. I've got a walkthrough open in the background because of these issues, and I've already made a couple major errors that confused me until I went to check, like thinking that the monkeys in the swamp had captured someone instead of being captured by someone (Xに捕まえられています). The broad strokes I understand just fine, but in a game where it's very important that I'm in particular places at specific time, I need to understand the nuances to be able to play.

I redid the background image on my Dreamwidth page so it's locally hosted and shows up in 1080p. I tried a couple images of Tokyo in the rain, but they didn't display up well--with everything else on the page, it was just a blur of neon barely visible in the background. Which I suppose is accurate to some nights I've spent in Tokyo, but it doesn't make for a good aesthetic.  photo emot-fuckyou.gif

Looking forward to a low-key weekend and hopefully being able to finish Majora's Mask!
dorchadas: (Chicago)
I usually hide inside when the daystar is out, but lately I've been heading out even on Sundays to keep the streak going on Pokemon Go. Today I also had a library book to return, so I went a bit further than I usually do and I actually enjoyed the sunlight. It's nice and warm--18°C--without being hot and there's plenty of shade along the way in case the sunlight starts hurting my eyes. I think that's the cue to me enjoying sunny days--extremely small doses.  photo emot-sun.gif

I did take a picture while I was walking, though. There's a tree in bloom in the courtyard of a local church that reminded me a lot of the cherry blossoms in Japan:


Leaves tag used because I don't have a flowers tag. Emoji kawaii flower photo cute_flower_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51rbyx.gif

C2E2

Apr. 22nd, 2017 04:25 pm
dorchadas: (Enter the Samurai)
I'm not really a comics fan. I have a comics tag, but the Japanese it's translated from says manga, and the only convention tag I have is explicitly anime conventions. So when [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd suggested I go to the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo with her this weekend, I was hesitant. Would I know anything that was going on? Would I find anything that interested me? Well, I do like cosplay, so I suggested characters that we both know:

Morgoth Bauglir and Sauron the Great.

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dorchadas: (Gendowned)
One of my favorite games for the original Nintendo was Blaster Master. I played it for hours doing the same levels over and over again, because it was extremely hard. About half of my games never got past the boss of level 3, and those that did never got past the crab boss in level 5. Only once did I ever manage to beat the crab boss, and that was the last time I played Blaster Master.

So when I heard that there was a remake coming out for the Nintendo Switch, I was almost more excited for that than I was for Breath of the Wild. One of the main games of my childhood brought into the modern era? The same gameplay and areas, still with pixel art, but with modern conveniences like the ability to save and Switch's suspending the game at any time? That sounds amazing.

And it is. We ordered the Master Edition of Breath of the Wild, but I'm not playing that. I'm playing Blaster Master Zero.


Blasting again!

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dorchadas: (JCDenton)
Last night after Japanese class, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I stopped by the local watering hole for dinner, since we haven't spent much of our restaurant budget for this month and we both really wanted hamburgers. It's funny--I'll go weeks without eating any bread at all because I don't want any, and all it takes is one holiday saying I can't eat bread to make me want to dig into a nice sourdough with loads of butter.  photo emot-v.gif

I got a steak sandwich, the same food I got the first time I ever went there years ago. That time I made the mistake of ordering it rare, because it's steak, right? That's what you do. Well...sure, if you're eating it with a knife and fork. With a steak sandwich it meant I tore the bread to pieces trying to rip off chunks of steak with my teeth, and this time I learned and ordered it medium.


Though looking at it now, it makes me want a cheesesteak...

During Japanese class, I talked a bit with Aya-sensei about Pesach foods and she was pretty dismissive of matzah for not tasting like anything. And mostly she's right, though [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd did manage to find a brand that was olive-oil-and-herb flavored that was pretty good on its own. But just yesterday, I learned that cracker matzah is an invention of the modern age due to transportation and storage concerns, and that previous matzah was all soft like chapatis or tortillas! The source I read is here, though there's also RealMatzah.com, which looks like an Angelfire page from the 90s but has plenty of rabbinical opinions on soft matzah.

Some googling found a bakery in New York that makes it and ships it overnight, but there's no products listed on the website so I'm not sure if it's still in business or not. Maybe we can try making it ourselves, now that Pesach is over and there's no halakhic concerns if we screw up the recipe.
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyarhé.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Since Elaphe was seriously injured, the rest of the party left him to rest in the abandoned village while they decided to scout out the battlefield that Spring Breeze had mentioned. They rode the entire day through the rain, seeing no one except a few animals that fled at their passage, and as the sun was setting their search bore fruit as the Green Knight found a rusted sword hilt poking out of the ground.

All of them spread out to search for any clues. Amos muttered one of the incantations he had learned and asked the birds in a nearby copse of trees if they had seen anything, and after some prodding he learned that there were a large number of the walking dead that had passed through the field and gone away to the northeast, a fact confirmed by the Green Knight's questioning of the local flora. That also revealed there had been three figures that had performed a ritual to call up the dead from the earth, but they had left as well. Shining Star sensed the remnants of dark magic pooling in low places in the earth, but it was faint. Whatever had been done there was fading and not a continual source of problems. Finding nothing else, the four spent the night in an abandoned farmer's house after burying the partially-eaten bodies of the amanita farmer and their family. The night was uneventful, and they left in the morning, again seeing no one as they traveled back to the village they had left Elaphe in.

They found Elaphe peacefully relaxing in the house, looking slightly better but still injured, and spent the night in the village. Near dawn, the Green Knight heard voices outside speaking in Muskalan, and he woke Elaphe who took a look through a shutter. He saw an amanita, a mycon, and a chuzan sitting around a fire, talking in low tones about the walking dead, how one of their number had been killed, and the lack of easy pickings in Fontina. Elaphe woke Amos, who readied his bow and snuck out of the house to get a clear shot, but after observing the group for a few minutes he snuck back into the house and shook his head. They weren't worth the trouble, and indeed, in the morning when the party woke up the bandits had moved on and left only the ashes of a fire.

The group saddled up and rode north toward the town of Gyere, which they had left a few days before after fighting a vampire in the streets. The roads were mostly empty, but just after midday they heard the sound of marching feet and overtook a company of three dozen chuzan mercenaries under the banner of a red dove holding a sword.
Bonnie's player: "Is he cute?"
Me: "He's grizzled."
The group slowed their riding and questioned the captain, who said that he had planned to winter in the Scarlet City but they had heard there was money to be made in Fontina fighting the walking dead. He was less than amused when Bonnie and Shining Star told him about the vampires they had fought, but seemed confident in his soldiers' ability to hold their own. He thanked the group for the information and they kept riding. A mile later, they spotted a speck in the sky slowly descending, and the Green Knight readied his bow, but it turned out to be a pigeon that landed on the head of Elaphe's claw strider. There was a message tube attached to its leg with a note inside that said:
"Vampire in the city. Come quickly."
They reached Gyere just before nightfall, where they found a cold reception. The militia kept the gate closed and demanded they identify themselves, leading to some disbelief until Amos fired off his musket and they quickly opened the door. Elaphe rode straight to meet with Black Salted Earth while the others questioned the militia captain. They learned that six people had been attacked and four were dead, but all of them had been in their homes. They knew the jiang they had seen before couldn't enter structures built by mortal hands without an invitation, so something else must be afoot...

Elaphe met Black Salted Earth, who after asking Elaphe to prove his identity and accepting the Black Rose code phrases he offered, explained that there must be a shedo in town, a vampire capable of disguising itself to look like others. The town was in a frenzy of paranoia because of it and Black Salted Earth didn't have any means of distinguishing a vampire from the person it was impersonating and asked if Elaphe's associates did. He conceded they might, and led the amanita back to the Three Wheat Sheaves, the tea house they had stayed in last time they were in Gyere, and we ended there.


The session this time was a bit shorter, since Elaphe's player has just returned from a two-week trip to Paris and hasn't entirely recovered. We're going to play again next Monday, though, and that's when everything becomes a paranoid search of the town. How do they find a creature that can disguise itself as other people and stop it? Good question. I'm looking forward to what they come up, though I do think they'll heavily consider "burn down the whole town" based on their past performance.

Gyere is, of course, based on "Gruyere," since in classic Mario tradition everything has a cutesy name.
dorchadas: (Do Not Want)
There was a hashtag about gaijin confessions on Friday on twitter. My favorite is probably "Also told someone I wanted to buy a human instead of a carrot once" (Carrot is 人参 ninjin, human is 人間 ningen), but there's a lot of good stuff collected here.

It made me think of my own #gaijinconfessions, so here's a few of them:
  • To this day, my breakfast is miso soup, rice, salmon, and pickles while sitting on the floor at a low table. This despite that most of our students ate "bread and milk" for breakfast, including the kimono shop owner who met his wife through a 仲人 (nakōdo, "marriage broker").
  • I also took the trash out at night, because there's no way I was getting up at 8 a.m. on Saturday just to get the trash out by 8:30.
  • Japanese cheese is garbage and we happily paid $20 a pound for good cheese at the import foods store.
  • The first winter I was there I survived mostly off canned chicken soup from the Foreign Buyer's Club because we hadn't quite gotten used to proper shopping for our 3/4th size fridge yet.
  • We spent a week in Singapore in and I thought everyone was unconscionably rude because I was used to a Japanese level of service.  photo emot-nyoron.gif
  • I got used to being able to talk about anything I wanted and would happy tell off-color stories secure that people around me almost certainly couldn't understand me.
  • Even though I'm American, I actually don't own a gun or eat hamburgers every day.
  • My favorite onigiri is the kimchi-ume one I bought while we were in Ōsaka for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd to take the GRE. It was only sold in Ōsaka and the Japanese people we told about it thought we were making it up.
  • I was never sure whether to use Japanese or English with staff in Indian restaurants.  photo shrug2.gif
  • I once boarded a bus twice with the same ticket after I forgot my laptop. I disembarked and took the light rail back into Hiroshima, retrieved my laptop from the ramen shop, and got on the next bus on the same line using my same ticket. The attendant looked at me nervously, wondering why a gaijin was going to Innoshima, and I flashed the ticket and walked on. Saved me ¥4000.
dorchadas: (Darker than Black)
Originally, I was just going to skip this week. Then I was going to use some candy that we had gotten in our Japanese candy shipment that didn't have any chametz in it, but did have mochi and strawberry and looked like it would be a pink explosion. And then, as we were walking by a display of Passover goods in Whole Foods, I saw these. Chocolate? Yes. Seasonably appropriate? Yes. Worth spending an entry on?

C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER.
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dorchadas: (Green Sky)
Last night [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and [twitter.com profile] xoDrVenture and I were watching Revolutionary Girl Utena and I finally actually listened to what everyone is saying that gets translated as "End of the World."

So, until this point I'd always assumed that one aspect of Utena was the idea of "the world" as adolescence, and how when you're a teenager you fixate on a lot of things that seem like life and death at the time but aren't of any particular importance as you grow older. The duels are, in a way, their attempt to force some kind of structure on their lives--to create a framework where things make sense and the outcomes are known, while also being an example of the former. I mean, as of last night we got to episode 33 and no one has actually explained what the power to revolutionize the world even is or why everyone wants it so much. Question block photo emot-question.gif

The student council speech is incredibly melodramatic, as fits teenagers instilling meaning into their lives, but it does reveal something about what the power is:
卵の殻を破らねば、雛鳥は生まれずに死んでいく。我らが雛で、卵は世界だ。世界の殻を破らねば、我らは生まれずに死んでいく。世界の殻を破壊せよ。世界を革命するために
Translated as:
"If it cannot break out of its shell, the chick will die without ever being born. We are the chick. The world is our egg. If we don't crack the world's shell, we will die without ever truly being born. Smash the world's shell. FOR THE REVOLUTION OF THE WORLD!"
Basically, the power to revolutionize the world is the power to grow up into the kind of person they want to be, without being smashed into conformity and becoming a salaryman or OL endlessly riding trains and drinking with their bosses into the late hours. The End of the World is thus a source of wisdom for them because it represents the end of their constrained world and a rebirth into freedom.

But! As I said, last night I was listening and they don't say 世界の終わり (sekai no owari, "The End of the World") as I've just been assuming. They say 世界の果て (sekai no hate, "The Ends of the Earth"), meaning a physical distance rather than a temporal finality. This fits really well with the Utena movie, where the ultimate goal is to escape the academy where everyone is Jesus in Purgatory, and I suppose it still fits the above interpretation if adolescence is recast as a journey to complete rather than a prison to escape from. But I'm surprised I never realized this before now.  photo 3327b7f6b45a33781e80dce4e4461510-d4ipx9c.gif
dorchadas: (Default)
Owlboy is a gorgeous game with great music and a touching story that I can't recommend because it doesn't know what it wants to be.

Owlboy first came to my attention the same way Hyper Light Drifter did, by reading an article on Rock Paper Shotgun about it. A later review cemented it in my mind, with John Walker, who hates everything except puzzle games, gushing over the gameplay and story. And, of course, the art.

Well, I'm not sure how far Walker got into Owlboy. I suspect he never beat it, because if he had, he would have written one of his rants about difficulty preventing his enjoyment of a good game. I did beat it and that's what happened to me. I had nothing but goodwill for Owlboy when I started, but it was slowly worn away by the course of the game, and for the last hour or so I just wanted it to end. And then it finally did, I and I put down the controller, and I deleted the game, and I'm almost certainly never going to play it again.

 photo 20170408181606_1.jpg

This game is beautiful, though.

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dorchadas: (Nyarlathotep)
So the American government decided to send a carrier group to the Korean peninsula as a show of force against Korean nuclear ambitions, which prompted the representatives of the Eternal Lich President to issue its own response.

And then an hour ago, I saw that [twitter.com profile] nhk_kokusai had tweeted this out:



Here's my translation:
Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga [Yoshihide] highlighted that, in relation to President Trump's deployment of the military toward North Korea and refusal to lift sanctions, while America and South Korea maintain their cooperation, [Japan] must be prepared in case an evacuation of Japanese citizens living on the Korean Peninsula becomes necessary.
So, they're at least admitting the possibility of another war. Remember when people assumed that our Dear Leader would be an isolationist who wouldn't go around starting wars, unlike that hawk Clinton? Those takes, as they say, did not age well.

At least Twitter will keep us entertained in the 20 minutes after the missiles launch.  photo onfire.gif
dorchadas: (Chicago)
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I just got back from a brunch at Elizabeth themed around Game of Thrones:


Brioche bread with salted butter. Right: "foie growl" and raspberry jam. Left: poached egg and asparagus with elderflowers.

It was really good! We went there back in October for another brunch, that time with friends and a drink pairing, but this time it was just the two of us. And the food was still very tasty, but other than the decor I'm not sure what was supposed to be Game of Thrones-themed?

There were house banners hung on the walls, fur covers on the seats, leather silverwear cases, and various Funkopop Game of Thrones characters around...but a lot of the food was the same as it was when we went a few months ago. That foie gras owl next to jam with bread was one of the courses, as was the stinging nettle pasta with cheese. And the yogurt starter, though a few months ago it had an olive reduction and this time it had candied ginger and strawberries.

I suspect part of it is because of our dietary restrictions. Elizabeth posts on their website that they can't accommodate dietary restrictions, but both times we went it wasn't a problem. We told them no pork or shellfish and they graciously complied, but I noticed that the table next to us, for their own version of the above dish, got dark rye bread with breakfast sausage. I bet their bread was fried in pork fat or something similar, so it's possible that the lack of Game of Thrones connection was due to our request.


Front: Lemon curd with bee pollen topping. Back: Whiskey-glazed donuts.

It was still delicious and I recommend it if you can get tickets. But Game of Thrones? I'm not seeing it.  photo shrug2.gif
dorchadas: (Default)
Well, the time has finally come.

I've had a Dreamwidth for years, even since the initial migration, and I've always kept it updated with content from my Livejournal just it case. It turns out that case has arrived. I'm still waiting for the comments to import again, but a lot of the conversation on my posts has moved to Facebook and Twitter anyway. I'll be sad to lose some of those old comments if they don't import, but not too sad. And I'm not super interested in making sure that my blog follows the laws of the Russian Federation with respect to political or sexual diversity content.

I'm not looking forward to fixing all the internet links on my posts. Since I extensively link to things I've already written, there's a lot of Livejournal links buried in everything I write. I'll get to it eventually, probably starting with stuff like my video game reviews and my let's play of Baldur's Gate II, and move on from there. If you're someone who looks through my old posts, I ask for your patience.

Sigh. I used LJ for 14 years, but all things end. 永遠のものがない, after all.  photo shrug2.gif
dorchadas: (Darker than Black)
It's been a while! Various things came up, we had packed weekends, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd was gone for a retreat, she made me a tasty olive oil cake with no chocolate whatsoever--yes, I do sometimes eat desserts that contain no chocolate at all!--we had a Call of Cthulhu game...you know, things. But this weekend we didn't have much to do other than one thing that I'll probably also write about tomorrow, and so I took down some chocolate from our supply, opened it up, and we tried it.

I should have skipped another week.
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dorchadas: (Equal time for Slime)
This post is partially inspired by the eternal complaining about "censorship" and localization, and partially by this article about Vagrant Story's localization.

One of my favorite games of all time is Chrono Trigger, and my favorite part of Chrono Trigger is the Kingdom of Zeal, where dreams come true. It's the lynchpin of the game, the only part that isn't inspired by a historical era, and the most overtly fantastical. The Enlightened live on a floating continent above the clouds and away from the ice age below, using their magic to create a post-scarcity society and leaving their Earthbound cousins without magic to fend for themselves on the ground below. With the goal of surpassing even those limits and ensuring the eternal glory of the Kingdom of Zeal, they build a great machine.

In Japanese, this is just the 魔神器 (majinki, "Demonic vessel"), which is awful. For one, it gives the game away immediately and lets the player know that the Kingdom of Zeal is corrupted. For another, it's silly. No one thinks that they're evil, and the people in Zeal who mention the majinki talk about it as a means to attain greater power for helping Zeal, but with a name like that, how believable is that? Why would anyone name the machine designed to power their society the "demonic vessel"?

It's possible to read it slightly differently, as 魔・神器 instead of 魔神・器, but that just means "evil sacred treasure," which isn't any better.

In English, the majinki was localized as the "Mammon Machine," which is a fantastic name. It's alliterative and slightly ominous, but doesn't immediately make you wonder why all these people are okay with a demonic vessel powering their society. The people in Kajar and Enhasa spend their time in magical research or idle dreaming in their utopia, fed by cornucopia machines and with magic to do all the work, and talk idly about how the Mammon Machine will make their kingdom even greater, and it sounds a bit strange. And then you get to the Zeal Palace, and this music starts playing, and you know something is very wrong with the Kingdom of Zeal.


Of course, the name "Mammon" already gives it away, but subtly. Mammon, the pursuit of wealth which is the root of all evil. The people of Zeal already had a utopia, where no one needed to work and everyone could spend their days in the manner of their choosing. It was a bit like Omelas, it's true. There's a quote about how the Queen conscripted a bunch of Earthbound to work on the Ocean Palace, though the man phrases it in an obvious euphemism for slavery:
"The Earthbound Ones are being allowed to work on the construction of the Palace. So they do have a purpose after all."
But it's not directly build on the suffering of others, just on social exclusion, which is at least marginally better than active oppression. The Kingdom of Zeal had everything they could want, but in their pride and greed they wanted more. So pushed on by their Queen, they reached out to the power slumbering beneath the ocean, and they built a machine to tap into that power to push them beyond their already lofty place. And because of it, they lost everything.


Much more evocative than the "demonic vessel." A localization isn't a literally translation, and it shouldn't be, because sometimes it adds something that the original was missing.
dorchadas: (Office Space)
For the last couple of years, we've been ramping up to switch database software at work. This makes sense--the old database software was 19 years old and has been running on twine and duct tape for roughly the last decade, never conclusively overhauled because we were just going to replace it, so why put too much effort into it? Well, we finally replaced it.

You can tell from the title what I think of it.

Some of it is sour grapes. They made an effort to ask us what we thought of the new system and get our input on its development as we did testing, and as far as I can tell, they completely ignored every suggestion we made. For my part, the UI is still garbage. The new system is completely mouse-driven to the point that it doesn't accept hitting enter and you have to click the Search button like some kind of animal. The search window hides the original record and can't be moved, so checking to refine the search requires cancelling the search and losing the results, and searching takes long enough that I just have to chant the other bits of data myself to remember them like some kind of Leibowitzian monk.

A lot of old complaints don't even seem to be fixed--searches are still slow and it crashes roughly twenty times as often. It still offers suggestions for matches that are completely unrelated--different name, different state of residence, different specialty, different everything--to the record in question. Furthermore, the old database kept sending us the same records to research month after month with no way to tell the system that no, we were never going to find out who this physician is so stop asking, and the new system does the inverse by repeatedly popping up people who are already identified and asking me to identify them.  photo _thisorthat__or__compare__by_brokenboulevard-d4tole3.gif

And this leads to my main complaint. My work doesn't have great social value and I'm not saving the lives or children or anything, but at least I was accomplishing something. There was data, and I sorted through it, and I made the resulting output better than the raw input was. I no longer have any indication that's the case. I come in and I have 500 records to look through, around 99% of which the system already seems to know the answer to but just wants to waste my time with, and that number goes down as I work. But when the system inevitably crashes or logs me out for no reason and I login again and get back to work, that number is back to 500 again. Every day I am moving sand from one pile to another, one grain at a time, and then the wind blows it all back overnight.

And this is the system after it was delayed for six months.  photo emot-psyduck.gif
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Before Kingdom Hearts, there was another time that Square created a strange hybrid RPG with action elements!

I first played this with my sister and another kid who lived across the street, and we got almost to the end. If I remember right, we nearly stalled out in the volcano and then couldn't beat the Smith Gang when we went on to the final boss, which strikes me as almost unbelievable now that I'm replaying through. Was I ever that bad at video games? Is my memory just bad and we actually won?

Well, I won this time.


Shine get.

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dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
The train pulled up to Belgrade at 9 a.m., disgorging the investigators amongst a swarm of children eager to help them with their luggage and calling in a variety of languages. Demir snatched his suitcase back from a child and the rest of the party tried to keep track of their luggage when a young man called out to them in accented English. He introduced himself as Pieter Riticht and offered to guide them during their stay in Belgrade, suggesting the Hotel Moskva as a good place to stay. After a moment's consultation, the investigators took him up on his offer.

After dropping off their luggage at the hotel and arranging for Pieter to return in an hour, Jazmina called the National Museum to ask after the director. The secretary replied that Dr. Todorovic would not be available until 3 p.m., so the investigators decided to go to the Turkish Bazaar first and then go to the museum in the afternoon. They waited until Pieter returned to the hotel and allowed him to guide them to the bazaar.

The rest of the group was astonished to see the chan in Demir's mannerisms at the Turkish bazaar as he laughed, told jokes, needled the merchants, and was generally jovial while the professor followed along as best he could with his textbook Turkish. Rosaline wandered off to go look for antiquities and the others looked for new sets of clothes--Demir's clothes had a conspicuous hole in it, but the others' clothing was a bit worn after a month and a half traveling across the continent. As they were shopping, they noticed a fortune teller, an old woman of indeterminate ethnicity with a black hen at her feet, and the professor and countess went over to have their fortunes told. After a moment and with some reservations, Jazmina followed them to translate.

The woman reached into the hen's nest and pulled out an egg, and after waving it three times widdershins over their heads, she poked a hole in both ends and blew the contents out onto a plate. She peered at the contents and told them that they had lost someone or something, both recently and in the distant past. They seek something that was once whole and now is not, and they are on a journey. She told them to "Beware the one who is unseen" and that "The three who greet you are old as man," but did not explain and ends her divination.

As she was speaking, Jazmina had noticed that her hen was staring at the professor and countess fixedly, almost with anticipation, and as the divination ended, she questioned the fortune teller about it.
Jazmina: "Your chicken is staring."
Fortune Teller: "It is a chicken."  photo emot-colbert.gif
She was dismissive and broke off conversation, grumbling that she didn't have to explain herself, and Jazmina did not pursue the issue.

As they left to look for Rosaline, someone called out to them from the crowd and then a man walked up and asked them to help find his lost child. Demir brushed him off, but turned back to find that his brass knuckles had been stolen. When Pieter noticed this, he apologized profusely, blaming the Roma in the city. Demir scrutinized him carefully, but he seemed genuinely remorseful and not as though he was the point man in part of a scheme to rob travelers, so they accepted his explanation.

When they met with Rosaline in an area of the market devoted to antiquities, Jazmina spotted something that looked very similar to the simulacrum! They entered the stall and asked the man about the arm, but as he brought it out to be inspected, a burly mustachioed man ran into the stall, shoved Rosaline aside, and grabbed the arm, running off into the market! The seller shouted about thieves as the investigators gave chase, followed by some of the dealer's friends. They shoved their way through a narrow alleyway, leaped over a carpet seller, and pushed into a dense crowd. At this point Rosaline and Jazmina caught up with the thief, who swung the arm at them and a melee broke out. It was brief, ending as the man smashed the arm into Jazmina's right side, causing it to shatter into pieces and severely lacerating her. The professor ran up to administer first aid as the thief withdrew to join his associates, and as the shouts of the police drew closer, Pieter urged them to run and they followed him advice.

After a leisurely lunch and a visit to the hospital for Jazmina, the investigators went to the National Museum to meet with Dr. Todorovic, which they found in a museum hall, inspecting a statue of Venus. Throwing caution to the wind for once, the professor introduced himself and his companions, explained that they came on behalf of Professor Smith of London, and sought the Sedefkar Simulacrum. Dr. Todorovic wasn't familiar with the statue, but he knew of Professor Smith and mentioned his antiquities contact in the countryside, including showing some pieces provided by said contact, but said that there was a prohibition on exporting antiquities without a specific permit and would not give the name of his contact without a permit. The professor arranged a meeting the following morning and they went over to the government offices to get a permit.

Jazmina spoke to the secretary and after being led down several corridors, through stairs, through rooms, and down a stairway that almost certainly should have led to the boiler room, the investigators arrived at a small office. The man inside was unloved by their protestations until the professor revealed his station, at which point the man mentioned the poor of his village, the orphans left by the war, and gave the professor a knowing look. After a brief bit of haggling, the professor handed over £12 and the man wrote up a blank permit that the investigators could fill out later, and they were almost pushed out before the offices closed. They went back to the hotel and had dinner, after which they spent the evening relaxing and Demir went to have his tattoos repaired by a black market tattoo artist. Then, everyone went to sleep.

In the morning Dr. Todorovic arrived at their hotel to inspect the piece of the simulacrum. He was astonished at what he saw and said that he was unable to determine its provenience or its material, but he said that when he looked at it under the microphone, the arm appeared to be carved entirely out of entwined smaller arms. After asking if he could examine the other pieces and being told there was no time, he gave the investigators the name of his contact--Father Christian Filipovic, the village priest in the town of Orašac south of Belgrade. After offering to examine the statue when the investigators make their return trip, Dr. Todorovic bade them good day.

Before arranging tickets, the investigators went to the national library to research Orašac. In addition to some national propaganda about how the village was the birthplace of first Serbian uprising against the Ottomans, they found a record about a Byzantine expedition by Nikephoros I against a local cult of Cybele, where during the burning the form of the goddess rose out of the flames, hair waving like serpents find screaming with many mouths such that hardened soldiers fled in terror, but in the morning there was nothing in the temple but ashes.  photo Emoticon.gif

They went back to the hotel and packed their luggage, among sure to arrange storage of the pieces of the simulacrum with the hotel since it was far too dangerous to bring with them and too dangerous to leave unguarded. As they were packing, Demir reached to move the Mims Sahis after noticing that it had somehow come unwrapped and accidentally brushed his skin against it. Before he had realized quite what had happened, he wrapped his hand around the handle and thoughts filled his mind of skinning and using the skins to achieve...something. He made half a movement toward the pieces of the Sedefkar Simulacrum before he managed to put down the dagger and, carefully wrapping it up again, he tied it with string and put it away.

The train to Orašac was extremely crowded, mostly with Serbs, though there were also some animals as families brought food home into the countryside. At one point, the countess left her seat and when she returned, she found it occupied by a large, stubborn-looking, and very determined to remain in place rooster. Nothing she did could dislodge it, when it pecked through a coat that Demir threw over it, the investigators decided to leave the seat to it for the remainder of the journey. After fighting through a crush of people to change trains in Mladenovic and taking a small rural train to Arandjelovac, the investigators disembarked in a rural area as the sun began to set. Seeing their confused looks, a local pointed to a set of wagon tracks and Jazmina managed to convince a farmer to allow them to ride in his wagon to Orašac.

Orašac was a rural town, with dirt roads and animals visble from the road. Children stopped playing when the investigators approached, and things seemed like they might be difficult until a housewife approached and asked them their business in the village. Jazmina explained that they were looking for Father Filipovic, whereon the woman offered to guide them to his house at the top of the hill. They were greeted by the father and his wife Ibrisa, as well as the local mayor, Todor Nedic, and his wife Ilija, all of whom are happy to meet foreign guests. The priest asks the investigators their business, and when told about Dr. Todorovic directing them to the wilderness, he asks if they wish to meet "grandmother." She is a local woman who lives alone in the woods, as long as anyone can remember, but who is sharp as a tack and who has made good money from the National Museum with the sculpture she sends on. The investigators cannot go there tonight, however, since it is already very late, so the priest and mayor offer to allow them to stay in their homes and the mayor invites them to dinner.

As they leave for dinner, Rosaline notices a photo of the priest's wife from their wedding day. A younger Father Filopovic, and his best man Todor Nedic, beam out in wedding finery, while the Ibrisa is also radiant. Rosaline does notice, however, that while Filopovic and Nedic look their age, perhaps in their sixties, Ibrisa appears to be her in late thirties at most now, little changed from her appearance in the photo...
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
This is the section of the original Horror on the Orient Express that I remember the most about and part of the reason for all the [REDACTED] in my earlier posts. I thought it was one ridiculous nonsequitur the first time I listened, but [livejournal.com profile] mutantur has said that they've made more of an effort to blend it in with the rest of the campaign, so I'm eager to see what happened.

I really want to harness the black chickens and unleash them on our enemies, though. There was some frustration over the inability to move the chicken out of the seat, since it was set up as a moment of weirdness but without enough context to explain why it was that it refused to move or why no effort by the investigators could move it either. Fortunately, we eventually gave up and moved on without taking too much damage from the Immovable Chicken's claws of doom. I have seen HotOE players who were not so lucky.

Also, as [livejournal.com profile] mutantur was describing the camaraderie on the train and the way the villagers welcomed the foreign guests with open arms, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I kept confirming everything he said. We have real-life experience with that kind of thing, in Japan. Of course, this is Call of Cthulhu, so they could be setting up for the Foreigner-Skinning Festival, but I guess we'll see!  photo shrug2.gif
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
Last week I saw an article about millennials moving to dying Japanese mountain towns. It seems a bit overstated--I mean, how many rural mountain towns can sustain an economy on brewpubs, artist communes, or drone testing--but I love the idea, especially in spring or fall, when the sakura or the momiji are in bloom and I really miss Japan.

I'd never consider moving to rural America if I can help it, and reading this made me think about the difference. Some of it is political, but I think a lot of it has to do with distance. Even in Chiyoda, we weren't that far from anything. It was a forty-five minute bus ride on the highway into Hiroshima City, but the important thing is that there was a bus and it came three times an hour. If we had lived in Miyoshi, we could have taken the train. There were towns further in the mountains that were more isolated like Takamiya or Geihoku, but even then it wouldn't have taken that long to get into the city. And crucially, the only thing we'd need a car for is driving to the train or bus station. There are very few places, if any, where that's true in America.

I never thought I was a country kid until I moved to Japan. Like most 80s suburbanites, I assumed that there was nothing to do and "out there"--i.e., anywhere more populated than where I lived--was where it's at. That's part of why I decided to go to university in the city, an experience which proved that I really did prefer urban areas. But those three years in Chiyoda were wonderful and there isn't a week that goes by that I don't want to move back. If there was some way to do so and still keep my job, and for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd to not have to change her line of work entirely, I'd advocate for it in a heartbeat. But for some reason, the AMA considers working from home a perk of management-level employees rather than assigning it based on job duties, so even though everything I do is web-based now and could theoretically be done from anywhere, I still have to head down into the office every day. We'll see if that changes with the new database (more on that in a post next week, probably!), but I doubt it.

It wouldn't let me move back to Chiyoda, though. Probably nothing ever will.  photo japan001.gif
dorchadas: (Kirby Walk)
This is my favorite Kirby game!

I haven't played that many Kirby games, admittedly. Just this, Kirby's Adventure, and maybe five minutes of the original Kirby's Dream Land. But of those three, Kirby Super Star is definitely the winner. It doesn't have the complexity of Kirby's Adventure's wide levels and multiple secrets, or the simplicity of Kirby's Dreamland...but then again, in a way it has both. The real strength of Kirby Super Star is that it contains multitudes. It's structured as a series of smaller games, each of which is played and beaten individually. The first, "Spring Breeze," is a remake of Kirby's Dream Land, and the only one where King Dedede is the enemy. Another one, "The Great Cave Offensive," replicates Kirby's Adventure with its poking around every nook and cranny and using Kirby's various power-ups to unlock secrets through the medium of a treasure hunt. That's just two of the available games.

And, in perhaps the best part of the game, it's multiplayer.


Riding together.  photo emot-glomp.gif

Read more... )
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyarhé.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Bonnie dragged Shining Star away to give her time to summon a Knowing Whisper, a spirit servant of Nyarhé that can detect lies and read others' hearts, as Amos and the Green Knight questioned Spring Breeze. The amanita claimed that they hadn't seen any people as they walked, only wild animals, and asked again if there really was all that trouble to the north. Amos confirmed that the walking dead were rampant north of them as Shining Star and Bonnie returned, and Shining Star told the spirit to verify Spring Breeze's story. The Knowing Whisper confirmed that Spring Breeze was not secretly a necromancer in disguise or some kind of spirit-possessed monster and that they believed their story. They did ask about locla battles and were told about a story that mentioned a battle between the Kong Imperium and an unnnamed enemy that took place there long ago during the Imperium's attempt to expand into Agarica.

And so after advising the amanita to turn back and take the longer road around to get to Etemenanki, the party turned around and rode north as the amanita's whistling faded into the distance behind them.

They spent the night in the ruins of the same village that they had left that morning, stabling their horses and eating trail rations in an abandoned house. They go to sleep and Shining Star's watch is uneventful, but in the middle of the night, the Green Knight hears something prowling around outside the house. He grabbed his shield and crept outside, but banged the shield on the doorframe as he left (botched the Stealth roll). As soon as he stepped outside, something grabbed him from behind.

As the other members of the party all groggily woke up, the Green Knight grappled with his unseen assailant. He tried to claw them with his wooden claws, but was seized with an unbreakable grip--and then fangs plunged into his neck!

Elaphe and Amos exited the house to find a chuzan holding the Green Knight's arms to the sides with its mouth over his neck, and Amos circled around to try to get a better shot with his musket. Elaphe threw the torch at the assailant, but the chuzan sidestepped without seeming to move, not crossing the intervening distance but avoiding the torch entirely. Amos fired, blowing off the creature's ear, but as they watched, the blood flow slowed and the wound began knitting itself closed. It lifted its mouth from the Green Knight and hissed, revealing blood-covered fangs and blood-matted fur. A vampire!

Shining Star summoned up blazing chains of light that closed around the vampire as it threw the Green Knight like he was a toy, hitting Amos but failing to injure or even phase him as he reloaded his musket. Elaphe darted forward and slashed at the vampire, ripping open its chest with his dagger and using the secret arts of the Black Rose--unlike with Amos's musket blast, this time the blood flowed freely. Bonnie sent her iron jaws to attack the vampire, but it dodged aside as its claws blurred. Elaphe blocked the first strike with his dagger, but he was unable to block the second, which torn a chunk of flesh out of his side and sent him reeling backward.

Shining Star blasted the vampire with white flames and the Green Knight stood up and readied his shield. The Green Knight and the vampire charged toward each other to little effect--the vampire sidestepped the Green Knight's claws, and the vampire's strike impacted on the Green Knight's shield. Elaphe retreated into the house as Bonnie hurled a flask of glue which her familiar caught and then it ignited on the torch that Elaphe had thrown, and it bit down on the vampire's shoulder and began to gnaw.

Amos fired again, and the vampire tried to get out of the way, but not fast enough. It reeled back and hissed, and as Shining Star hurled another beam of holy fire at it and Elaphe threw a dagger from inside the house, it fled, moving so quickly that it left only a blurred afterimage in their eyes, around the corner of the house and out of sight.

Injured and bleeding, the party decided not to pursue, and Elaphe drank a cinnamony Hero's Recovery while Shining Star administered first aid to him and the Green Knight. Real treatment of his wounds would require a longer period of surgery, but for the moment he slathered on an alchemical paste to prevent his wound from becoming infected and the party mostly went to sleep. The vampire did not return that night.

In the morning, Amos and the Green Knight tracked the vampire north to a stream, where the tracks vanished. The Green Knight spoke to the local plantlife which, after some prompting, said that their quarry had killed a deer and then flew away to the north, confirmed by a monjara hiding in a nearby bush that Amos asked. With their leads exhausted, they returned to the village, everyone climbed on their various mounts, and they rode out to the north.


Vampires!

I was a little worried partway through that I was going to have at least one death on my hands. The vampire could have killed Elaphe in a single blow--it did 2/3rds of his health with one attack--but beyond using a Charm that let it convert damage dice into damage successes, it didn't roll very well, which is a pattern with my NPCs. It's also possible that that vampire would have died, since several attacks only barely missed. But it got away to fight another daynight.

Elaphe doesn't wear armor--Black Rose Style forbids it--which is why he took so much damage. Enough damage to be seriously injured to the point of disabling. He has a crippling wound requiring surgery (or sorcery unavailable to the party) to heal, but it would require several hours of downtime the party isn't willing to spend yet. Maybe after they check out that ancient battlefield to see if there's a necromancer there causing this zombie problem!
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
This is the first thing I ever kickstarted, back in the heady days of 2012 when Double Fine Adventure blew up on kickstarter and revealed the wonders of crowdfunding. I had only ever played the original Wasteland for maybe an hour, but I had read multiple let's plays of it and, more importantly, I'm a huge fan of the Fallout games which were its spiritual successors. So I kicked in for a physical copy of the game (with cloth map!) and waited. And then when it came out, I heard there were some bugs so I waited for them to be fixed. And then I heard there would be a director's cut with new mechanics, so I waited for that. And then I was playing other games. But now, five years later, I finally sat down and decided that this would be the next game I would play so I could taste the fruit of that kickstarter long ago.

It's okay.


All in a day's work.

Read more... )
dorchadas: (Green Sky)
I didn't stop watching, I just got very sidetracked!

Sleepless
The best line in my notes for this episode is "collective unconscious dream woo woo bullshit," because that's the perfect explanation of this episode's Mulder Moment. You know what I mean. When Mulder says, "But what if it's [incredibly unlikely woo woo explanation]," and everyone explains why that can't possibly be true, and then it is. I was fine with sleep deprivation research, but I'm not sure that we needed extending the collective unconscious into other people's brains and convincing them that their nightmares are really happening.

When they first revealed that Preacher was sending the dreams to others, I immediately to turned to [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and said, "He's using Phantasmal Killer." I spent the whole time thinking that Preacher was a wizard and thinking about spells per day and it completely took me out of the episode.

That said, the mood was great, and I liked the conversation at the end between Preacher and the doctor. How should blame be apportioned? The soldiers were volunteers, but this experiment obviously wasn't approved by an ethics board and I doubt any long-term studies were done of its effects. This is X-Files, it was probably just two people in black suits in a room saying, "What if...you never had to sleep again?" and then cackling evilly and approving a $1 billion secret budget appropriation. I wish they had taken the time spent on magic dream power and spent it in culpability, on "you did this to me" vs. "your hand pulled the trigger." Or at least spent a little more time than a single conversation.

I also liked Krycek, even though I realized almost immediately that he was evil. It's not just that he stepped out of a 1950s recruitment ad for the bureau, though that was part of it; it's that he was being too accommodating of Mulder. I mean, Mulder is a nutjob, and the only reason he's sympathetic is because this is X-Files so he's always right. It was when Mulder explained his theory that Augustus Cole is a sorcerer with the dreamspun bloodline and Krycek was like, "Yeah, that totally makes sense."  photo emot-ms.gif No! No it doesn't! It's the most ridiculous possible explanation and there's no reason you should believe it. Even if it is right. Honestly, I think they should have delayed the reveal for at least a couple episodes. Keep the suspense going.

I suspect Krycek will be compromised/redeemed (replace as applicable based on your employment by MAJESTIC) by associating too much with Mulder and turn on the bad guys, but we'll see.

Duane Barry
This episode would have been much more effective if the aliens hadn't clearly been people in suits. I could see the seams where the gloves met the rest of the outfit! They should have stayed behind the plastic sheeting with the white light and remained silhouettes.

The rest of the plot is very strange, and I'm not sure if it's because it's a two-parter and it'll get resolved next time or if there's genuinely something I'm missing. Mulder has no hostage negotiation training, but gets called in to consult on the hostage scenario for unclear reasons. The other agents think that Barry is delusional and are clearly annoyed when Mulder starts feeding into his delusions, but isn't that why Mulder was called out in the first place? Because the government knows that Barry was actually experimented on, and they want Mulder there to...what, exactly? What is this supposed to accomplish for MAJESTIC? Is it all a disinformation campaign, where Mulder was supposed to feed into Barry's delusions, screw everything up, and be horribly discredited? If so, that's almost how it worked out. Especially when he asked Barry if he was telling the truth, which led to Barry going into a rage and this quote:
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd: "Mulder, you are a fucking idiot."
My favorite part was at the end after the hostage situation had been resolved, when the lead negotiator told Mulder that X-rays found bizarre metal implants in Barry's body, in his nasal cavity, teeth, and belly, just as he describes, and even gives Mulder one. Then she just leaves. It's easy to think she's in on the conspiracy, but I think a simpler explanation is likely--she finds the concept uncomfortable, so she's going to ignore it. That happens all the time in real life, and right now I'm rereading From a Buick 8, where a big chunk of the plot is about that very human tendency. If that happens a lot, it helps explain why a world of man-eating bigfoots, alien abductions, mutant flukemen, murderghosts, and evil clones still remains wainscotted instead of leading to all-out war against the supernatural.

The truth is out there, but it's kind of weird so leave me out of it, thank you.

Ascension
I had to laugh at the Netflix blurb for this episode:
Mulder attempts to rescue Scully after she is abducted by a deranged man who believes in UFOs.
Why is Mulder kidnapping Scully??  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif

Poor Skinner. Caught between a rock and a hard place. I have to imagine every morning, he wakes up, drinks his coffee, and stares into the middle distance while muttering to himself before heading into work and wondering what it is that Mulder has done now. And then he goes to work and finds out, and yells at Mulder. Or, as [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd put it:
"You're a loose cannon, Mulder!"
I'm surprised that Krycek made his villain turn so quickly. I suppose after they immediately revealed that he worked for MAJESTIC in the first episode that he was introduced, that it wouldn't be long before Chekov's gun was fired. But maybe draw out the anticipation a bit? I mean, Chris Carter had a twenty-three episode-long arc before the alien invasion of Earth, right? Take some time.

I did like that he just vanished into the ether once his cover was blown and that the mysterious contact told Mulder that MAJESTIC can do anything they want. Skinner seemed to give up pretty quickly for being told that Krycek hadn't come to work and his phone was disconnected, though. Surely he could at least have some agents go to his house? How much does he know? Is he working for MAJESTIC, or aware of them? Is reactiving the X-Files part of a long-term plan to discredit Mulder, like Cancer Man seemed to indicate was the point of keeping him around?  photo ashamed2.gif

It's like when Mulder was talking to Scully's mother and asked her why she wore a cross if she was a skeptic. Mulder doesn't seem to realize that just because you believe in one thing you don't have scientific proof of doesn't mean you immediately have to believe in everything. The existence of aliens does not prove the existence of murderghosts or vampires. These are all discrete phenomena.

Also, Duane Barry proves that you should never trust someone who talks about themselves in the third person.

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