The Shaft Podcast – end of an era…

When The Shaft Podcast announced that their 5th-anniversary episode would also be their last, I was rather taken aback, even though I’d not been involved with the show for some time. But it’s rather understandable, given that Minecraft’s sort of tailing off in some regards. The Shaft became a big part of my life, not only because I enjoyed the dynamic between Brent Copeland, Eric Fullerton and Wes Wilson, but also because it made me aware of the Minecraft community – the first gaming community I’d ever been aware of. And as a result of joining the community, the wonderful Kristal Crow (@thecrystalcrow) came into my life, just over four years ago. I’ll always be thankful to The Shaft and Minecraft for that 😀

Speaking of Kristal, there’s something the guys said in the anniversary episode that I have to clarify. Pretty early on, I got permission from them to let me include Kristal in the production of the show notes. I’d been able to dig up some material for the show, but the vast majority of sourced news was made available because of her. It got to the stage where she’d source all the news, we’d discuss the Listener Contributions and decide which ones would make it onto the show, and then I’d write it all up. And then Kristal would look at the show notes and point out/remove the idiosyncrasies of British English (which happened a lot). Basically, without Kristal, the show notes wouldn’t have ended up anywhere near as good as they were. Thank you, my darling! 😀

Going back to what Eric said about me emailing the show a lot… yes, that was true, I’m a little ashamed to say. I was so caught up in how wonderful I felt the show was, that I went into “gush mode”, and pretty much reached the point of obnoxiousness with the number of emails that I was sending! 😦 So when BitBurner suggested I start a Minecraft blog, I thought it would be a great idea… partly because I wanted to impress Brent, Eric and Wes (I know, I know), but also because it meant that, instead of bombarding the poor guys with emails, I could redirect it all into the blog 😀

In the anniversary episode, Wes talked about the various dynamics involved in the show, including me having conversations with them via the show notes. The guys may not remember how that started, but I do… There was one episode where they were all really drunk, and derailed quite significantly from the notes. When they finally decided to return to what they were meant to be doing, they couldn’t remember where they were at. So, remembering that Google Docs was all about live editing, I wrote “YOU ARE HERE” in huge letters at the correct point in the notes 😉 It all took off from there, and was a handy way to pass on relevant information more directly than trying to email them during the show, or trying to make myself heard in chat.

And finally, I’m not sure I ever really properly wrote about why I stopped writing for the show. I’d cited “health reasons” when I wrote up the relevant bit about me in the notes – and this truly was the only reason I made the decision to leave what had been a thoroughly enjoyable part of my life. Here’s the thing: Even before becoming unemployed back in January 2012, I didn’t (and still don’t) have a proper sleep schedule to speak of. Basically, I try to sleep when I’m feeling tired, and get up when it seems my body doesn’t want to sleep any more.

So there’d be occasions where I’d start feeling tired about an hour before a show was about to start, and I’d have to force myself to stay awake until the recording was done. The end result was that I’d wind up feeling really nauseous.

Then there’d be other times when I’d managed to wake up about an hour (or less) before a show, and find that Kristal, with her wonderfully determined attitude towards keeping the notes as current as possible, had come across more stuff that needed to go in. And it would need to go in, because delaying it by a week would make the material irrelevant; Kristal always did a far better job than I when it came to sourcing news 😀 So I’d be frantically trying to write up the new bits before the show – and I recall at least a couple of occasions where I was updating the show notes with the new material as the show was being broadcast!

And it was all becoming too much for me, and making me horribly depressed. I wanted to do my best for the show, but felt that I couldn’t deliver any more. When I told Brent that I was planning to leave, he was incredibly helpful, making suggestions to accommodate me and allow me to continue. But, unbeknownst to him, all of his suggestions were things I’d tried previously and failed with. Brent was, as ever, gracious about my final decision, and I’m very grateful to him for that.

Anyway, thank you to Brent, Eric and Wes, all the subsequent hosts, guest hosts, and the listeners for a wonderful podcast series! And a special thank you to Wes for his reaction in the anniversary episode – I’ve never had someone splutter on their beverage and applaud me before! 😉

Posted in Personal News & Thoughts | 2 Comments

I’m a Gadget fiend!

I know it’s a terribly shallow thing to say, but ever since Minecraft merchandise started appearing, I’ve been envious of those who have been able to lay their hands on such things, be they cuddly toys, LEGO sets, or those cute little plastic figurines. But no more! (Well, less so, at least…)

When I was nosing around in Toys ‘Я’ Us at the Meadowhall Shopping Centre on June 10, I came across a bunch of Minecraft toys of various descriptions. I was on the verge of pouncing on a creeper, when I noticed that there was a cuddly bat available! The bat is my favourite out of all the Jazwares stuffed toys, so I had to find out how much he cost; the price labelling in that area was confusing, so I wasn’t sure if he’d be £4.99 or £9.99. When I learned that £9.99 was the price, I decided that it’d be best if I didn’t bother, especially since I’d already blown over £10 on American food at Gobstoppers in the same visit. But I couldn’t resist for long… and a few minutes later, I’d returned to the shop (at speed) and snagged him 🙂

The tricky part was trying to figure out a name for him; for some unknown reason, I don’t like to leave my cuddlies nameless for long. But the front-runner, Vlad, wasn’t quite doing it for me. Then, I hit upon calling him “Gadget”, because of the sizeable Mojang label on his tush. (In case you aren’t aware, “Mojang” is Swedish for “gadget”.)

So, meet Gadget!

Gadget the Minecraft bat, with his own copy of Minecraft: Pocket Edition.

Gadget the Minecraft bat, with his own copy of Minecraft: Pocket Edition.

That Mojang label *is* rather large...

That Mojang label *is* rather large…

You’ll note in that picture that I also possess Minecraft: Pocket Edition – I bought that a few months ago, but never got around to mentioning it here in the blog. It’s cool, but my heart will always belong to the PC edition 😉

Meanwhile, Gadget’s settling in nicely with the other cuddly toys in my household. Thankfully, I don’t keep lava around, given Minecraft bats’ terminal attraction to the stuff 😉 It’s a bit of a shame that he can’t sit or stand properly, but no matter: I’ve got him leaning up against the right-hand arm of my couch, where some of my other toys sit. Welcome to the family, Gadget! 🙂

Gadget meets some of the other inhabitants of Astra's Sanctuary for Cuddly Animals.

Gadget meets some of the other inhabitants of Astra’s Sanctuary for Cuddly Animals.

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Kristal's RV Update 3

(Side note, before I begin: Apologies for the lack of Minecraft updates. As it is, my graphics card is powering up but not actually working, so I’ve had to remove it. Playing any sort of game, other than browser-based games – and sometimes, not even them – is impossible, for the foreseeable future. Still, at least my computer can do what I need it to do, even if it can’t do what I want it to do.)

So, Kristal was able to get most of the repairs done, and get off the property before the October 1 eviction deadline. But there’s still a broken window that needs to be fixed, along with the exhaust. That last one’s a biggie: it’s shoving so much carbon monoxide into the vehicle that it’s setting the detectors off 😦

Kristal’s presently ensconced at her friend Dorothy’s place. But ultimately, Kristal may need to move at any time after her knee surgery at the end of the month. Dorothy’s been a great friend to Kristal, but having a severely disabled person stay on the property is a huge thing even to ask of a long-time friend or partner, and Kristal’s only actually known Dorothy for a few weeks.

This is just part of what your donations have wrought. THANK YOU!

This is just part of what your donations have wrought. THANK YOU!

Between the lot rental at the campground, food, gasoline, her medications, insurance and taxes, she desperately needs to raise that remaining $6,000. It’ll buy her about a year of time, hopefully safe and free from unwarranted stresses – and the campground apparently has Internet, so that’ll be her lines of communication properly open again, and one less thing to have to pay for. Without the money, she’ll be reduced to parking on back roads and places like Wal-Mart parking lots – and she’s in no fit state to defend herself if an intruder gets in.

In the absence of a willing soul who can put up $6,000 in one great lump (oh, if only), Kristal’s GoFundMe campaign is still ongoing – and Kristal has more-detailed updates over there, too (the last one was done via her smartphone, so it took a while!). And a huge thank you to all those who have donated so far! If you can spare just a few dollars, that’s absolutely fine, and always appreciated.

And if you’d prefer to donate items instead, Kristal’s Amazon Wishlist is still open, with details of the items she needs for the RV and day-to-day living.

Whether you’re able to donate or not, please consider spreading the word. You can link people either to this blog post, or to the GoFundMe campaign directly.

Thank you from both of us.

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Kristal's RV Update 2

Thanks to a thunderstorm in North Carolina taking out at least Kristal’s router, she doesn’t presently have Internet – and may not get it again before she moves; she’s been occasionally tweeting from her phone, but she has a data cap, so she’s trying to be careful, and has asked me to get in touch with all of you. So here’s a mini-update!

Kristal has been able to buy an RV, and it’s now with her in NC. And she had something of a close call while bringing it back home: a front tyre blew out, and the spare was bad, too. All seven tyres need to be replaced, at a cost of around $1,300. Beyond that, there are other repairs: generator hook-up, brakes, a tune-up, possibly the suspension… so the overall repair bill is going to be in excess of $2,000.

Kristal’s GoFundMe campaign still has a little under $6K to go before completion – if you can donate, please do so. Any donation is gratefully received! If you’re not in a position to donate, don’t feel bad, but please consider spreading the word instead. It’s just as important, and you might reach someone who can chip in.

I should also mention that, if you prefer to donate supplies instead of money, that’s also great! Kristal’s Amazon Wishlist has details of the items she needs for the RV, and for day-to-day living.

From both of us, a huge thank-you.

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Kristal's RV campaign: an update

OK, since trying to keep up with the events of the RV campaign has wreaked havoc on Kristal physically, she’s asked me to update all of you with the way things stand so far.

First of all, a MASSIVE thank you to all the donators, as well as the people who have been spreading the word like wildfire. If you’ve been able to do either or both of these things, your contribution is important and valued! 🙂 Also, special thanks to KaeyiDream for making a video explaining the situation and rallying her followers; Wedgehog for doing the same; LadyAijou for gathering up a bunch of streamer friends to stream for the whole week to raise money; and the streamers themselves: GruntCatcher; SniperPanda, Ziffx; NGJSOfficial; DirtyGamesNetwork; Moojack; Heyfunny; and The Shaft Podcast’s Brent Copeland! The streaming is going on for the rest of the week, and you can find it at the Streaming For Kristal Twitch channel.

Next comes stuff that’s not so awesome. Kristal will be unable to stay on the property after October 1st. Kristal and I are hoping that she’ll have an RV by then, but it’s by no means certain.

Also, it was expected that the case would be decided in December. However, the lawyers in North Carolina haven’t respond to Kristal’s attorney’s office, and it’s unknown if the case has actually been moved from Virginia to NC. So that most likely means that December is out of the question, and will probably end up being late 2015 – meaning Kristal will have to live in the RV for longer than she was expecting.

So the goal is now $20,000, because Kristal’s going to need to deal with upkeep costs for longer. If you can donate, please do so, over at Kristal’s GoFundMe page. Once again: Even if you can only donate a single dollar, that helps to build the total, and every donation is appreciated.

If you’d rather donate items, there’s the Amazon Wishlist that Kristal set up, to get things for the RV (such as grab bars, detergent, bowls, etc).

If you can’t do either, please don’t feel bad, but do spread the word on social media – it’s just as important as donating, and it helps get the word out to those who might be in a better position to donate.

Thank you, all of you, for all that you’ve done so far. Hopefully, between us all, we can reach the new target.

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Wanna donate STUFF to Kristal? Now you can!

Kristal’s campaign has blasted the $10,000 goal, with an amazing $13,345 raised so far! But there are people who would prefer to buy things, rather than donate money – and that’s just fine! So, in response, Kristal’s set up an Amazon Wishlist of the stuff she needs: practical stuff, such as water-tank sanitizer, mixing bowls, and laundry detergent. And the great thing about the way Amazon handles the wishlist is that Kristal’s mailing address is already set up in it, so that any purchases made by you kind folk will be automatically sent to her, and the item will also be removed from the wishlist, to avoid duplicates. The joys of modern technology, eh? 🙂

The other positive aspect about buying these things for Kristal is that the money raised in the main campaign can go towards buying fuel for the RV, lot rent and such, rather than going towards the “everyday” items (which she still needs, of course).

So if that’s the way you want to go, it’s NOT a problem, it’s very much appreciated, and Kristal’s got it in hand!

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TheCrystalCrow needs your help again, please.

If you can donate even just one dollar, please do so, over at Kristal’s GoFundMe page. If you can’t afford to donate, that’s OK – but please spread the word instead. And so many people have commented that their donation is “not a lot”. That’s not true at all: every dollar donated is appreciated, and received by Kristal with love and thanks.

Back in January 2012, Kristal Crow (my partner, and fellow gamer) managed to get a lifeline thrown to her by the generous donations from the Minecraft community and beyond, securing her $600 to buy a camper, and avoid having to bed down in her van.

For these past two years, Kristal’s camper (and, of course, Kristal) has been parked on a relative’s land. But now, her relative wants to sell the house and move back to New York state. That’s not an option for Kristal…

Now, Kristal’s been trying to be awarded Disability payments for the last few years, and she’s been turned down twice; her attorney’s now at the stage of suing the Federal government. And although Disability is a federal program, it’s administered at state level. When Kristal began her claim, she was in Virginia, but she’s had to move it to North Carolina, because that’s now where she lives. Moving from NC would cause all manner of problems, so if her relative does manage to sell the house and move to New York, it’s going to leave Kristal up the creek without a paddle. And the camper, which wasn’t in great shape to begin with, is falling apart at the seams. It’s not even certain whether it would survive a single move to a new location, let alone several moves, if she’s not able to find someone willing to let her park up for the duration. And Kristal had to sell the aforementioned van a year ago, in order to be able to afford medication.

Pretty much her last option, while she continues to wait on the glacial pace of the justice system, is to buy a used Class C RV. They’re not huge, but it’s more than what Kristal has at the moment, and it would be a huge improvement on the camper. Kristal’s established that it would cost about $7,000 to get one via Craigslist, with another $2,000-$3,000 to sort out taxes, fees, titling, registration, plates, insurance and gas, with a little left to live on. Yes, this is a lot to ask – and it’s taken Kristal a huge effort to even put up the campaign page: she was brought up never to ask anything for herself, so doing so is humbling and painful. Yet, over the years, she’s been helping raise money for all sorts of people and causes – including me. And I can’t provide the money myself, because I’ve been unemployed for close to two and a half years, now. Believe me, I damn well would if I could. But I can spread the word for my beloved Crow.

Please donate if you can. Thank you.

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HojjoshMC and Aureylian: All kinds of Crafty…

OK, so I’ve dropped off the radar somewhat with this blog (again; sorry!), but I came across something yesterday in the Minecraft community that was just too good to pass up… I’ve been a fan of HojjoshMC’s (Josh McLemore) parodies of contemporary songs for quite some time, and when I saw (thanks to thecrystalcrow’s tweet) that he’d teamed up with Aureylian to make a parody of Iggy Azalea’s Fancy, called Crafty, I got excited before I even clicked the link 🙂 Aurey has done some great work – I especially loved her gorgeous rendition of Survive The Night, with Approaching Nirvana – so I had really high hopes for how Crafty would turn out.

Aurelyian getting all kinds of Crafty up in here, with the help of HojjoshMC!And I was not disappointed: Crafty is simply excellent, and I even went so far as to tell Josh – truthfully – that his parody was better than Weird Al’s Handy (which came out the day before Crafty debuted). There are times when people come together to collaborate on a project, and the whole thing just works – the fit between all the individual parts is so good. Crafty is the result of one of those times. Josh’s lyrics are sharp, and he raps like a boss (as always). And it was a great move to turn the song into a duo! Aureylian, on singing duties and “spoken backing highlights” (sorry, I don’t know if there’s a proper technical term; just listen to the song to see what I’m babbling about) does a first-class job, and Palmmute’s production just makes the whole thing sound sweeeeet! Top it off with a cool video by Minecraft4Meh, and boom!

Long story short: You NEED Crafty in your playlist! And if you want to do just that, you can pick up the single at iTunes – do it!

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Get Scribe posts in your inbox!

Thanks to the patient helpfulness of WelshPixie, you can now choose to get new Minecraft Scribe posts via email, if you’re so inclined! If you look down in the bottom-right corner *points*, you should now see a “Follow” button – click that, provide your email address, and each subsequent post should land in your inbox 😀

And, just to make it clear: Even if I do end up seeing the email addresses, I will NEVER send you spam, sell the address, or anything else nefarious relating to information like that!

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Setting up home on Krash Palisades

So, if I’m back blogging here, I must be Minecrafting, right? Well, not necessarily, but as it turns out, I am – thanks to both Kristal, and my friend Meles…

A little while ago, Meles invited both Kristal and me to join his private server, Krash Palisades. I thanked him for the offer, but politely declined on the grounds that I wasn’t playing the game any longer. Meles was fine about it, adding that he figured I probably would say no (because of those reasons), but it didn’t hurt to ask. True enough!

Kristal accepted, however, and it gave her an excellent location from which to record her Let’s Play series, Return To Vanilla. The more I watched of her series, the more I missed both playing Minecraft, and playing alongside Kristal. I’d been checking out other games in the meantime, such as Skyrim and Fallout 3, but it just wasn’t the same as co-op with Kristal; not simply because of us being in a relationship, but also due to the fact that we work very well together as a team. But I didn’t feel that I wanted to come back to Minecraft.

And then it happened: During one of Kristal’s episodes, all she did was find diamond… and I got that wonderful little frisson of delight, as if I had found the thing myself. It was at that moment that I knew I had to get back into playing again! 😀 So, I politely asked Meles if he was still willing to have me on Krash Palisades, and he very kindly said yes – and Kristal got the shock of her life when she found me on there!

Then, there was a surprise for me: Kristal didn’t want me to share a house with her, as we’ve done ever since playing on Pete’s Sanctuary server. But, as usual, Kristal’s reasoning was solid1: if I was living there, and doing things off-camera, it would seriously screw up the continuity for her series. So, I’ve got a base2 of my own, though we do still play and adventure together 😀

My humble little base on Krash Palisades.

My humble little base on Krash Palisades.

In amongst establishing myself on the server, I did end up joining Kristal for a rather large undertaking: making the spawn area safe! One of my own hallmarks in this is my OCD-level lighting: every fourth block in the area has a torch planted upon it. Admittedly, a more natural, haphazard lighting method does look nicer than a regimented grid of torches, but at least this way, I don’t have to run around like a lunatic, with F3 on to check block lighting on every single damn square…

Kristal (with help from Wedgehog and me, as far as I recall) tore up the whole of spawn, enlarging it, and making it both prettier and more practical:

  • There’s now a hostel, mined into a tall hill, which contains both beds and storage for essentials – handy for new inductees to Meles’ whitelist;
  • The various types of farms were moved to the rear area of spawn, out by the skeleton-spawner XP farm, so it’s all together in one place;
  • Kristal added The Blocke Shoppe, for all your blocky needs (so long as you’ve got the wherewithal to pay for it);
  • And she has a second business out at spawn: The Mustang Ranch – which actually isn’t a ranch so much as a large stable, from which she sells horses, donkeys and mules.
Kristal's hostel - an ideal place for new residents to start out with supplies.

Kristal’s hostel – an ideal place for new residents to start out with supplies.

The new spawn farms, with the skeleton XP farm entrance in the bottom-left corner.

The new spawn farms, with the skeleton XP farm entrance in the bottom-left corner.

Need materials? Got the diamonds? Then you need to visit Kristal's Blocke Shoppe!

Need materials? Got the diamonds? Then you need to visit Kristal’s Blocke Shoppe!

And before I get into what I’ve been doing on my little homestead, I just want to say that I absolutely adore the equine additions to Minecraft! They’re so cute and sweet, and they make getting around so much easier! But then, those of you who continued to play Minecraft in the latter half of 2013 know that already 😉 Thank you so much to both Mojang and Dr Zhark for collaborating to make them a reality!

Kristal's Mustang Ranch, formerly Kristal's Classy Donkey Chassis - sure, you could catch and tame your own horse, but these are bred for high stats!

Kristal’s Mustang Ranch, formerly Kristal’s Classy Donkey Chassis – sure, you could catch and tame your own horse, but these are bred for high stats!

So, given that it was incumbent on me to find a place of my own to settle down and breed (animals), I took a walk out from spawn to see if there was a nice, spacious area to work with. And I got very lucky, because there was a gorgeous location, only a few hundred blocks out! A vast sea on the northern side; a good, hilly area to the west; and a decent amount of space to the east for building and farming – perfect. When Kristal saw my place, a little while after getting started, she said that I “always pick such pretty places to build”, which I thought was very sweet of her 😀

As I was setting down roots, I made a nice discovery: there was a small canyon, a few blocks to the south-west, which I figured would serve very nicely as my mining area. And when I got to actually do some mining, I made an even better discovery: my very own skeleton spawner! I’m still trying to make the thing into a proper XP farm, like the one at spawn, but I need to put a lot more effort into it…

Everyone on KP has their own Nether portal, for making transport much faster. I decided that I wouldn’t have mine too close to my main building, because I can’t stand the bloody noise of the thing – and it also means I don’t get up-close-and-personal with zombie pigmen. So I built a little pier out into the bay, and placed it there. But then there was a couple of small sand-spits alongside, from which I would fish, although fishing at night led to interruptions from mobs bobbing across the water towards me. The result was that I extended the pier off to the side, and built a big fishing shack, complete with chests surrounded by packed ice (one for drinks, one for the fish) – so now my friends and I can hang out in Skype, while we all fish in safety! (And fishing is much less boring, this way!)

My fishing shack, next to my Nether portal. The shack's ideally located for fishing at any time of day.

My fishing shack, next to my Nether portal. The shack’s ideally located for fishing at any time of day.

Inside my fishing shack - equipped with everything you need for fishing to your heart's content.

Inside my fishing shack – equipped with everything you need for fishing to your heart’s content.

The actual “house” part is still very small and boxy, and the basement isn’t even half-full with chests. But it does what I want it to do, though I’d like to come up with a better design than a wooden box! My animals – Beauty the horse, Lula the donkey, and Misha II and Dottie the mules – have a larger space than I do, and I’m fine with that 😀 I hadn’t actually planned on having four: it’s just that when I carelessly lost the first Misha3, Kristal loaned me a mule, whom I bought and named Dottie.

I wanted my animals to live in comfort, so I built a nice, big stable for them!

I wanted my animals to live in comfort, so I built a nice, big stable for them!

Improving my house is less important in multiplayer than the people I play alongside on the server; yeah, yeah, sounds cheesy, but I don’t care 😛 Anyway, although the people on KP are mostly those whom I already befriended on Twitter, I’d not actually played with them, or hung out with them on Skype. And every one of them is a delight to get along with, which is great 😀

There is a rather… odd situation, though, and it relates to Lawrence Salvatore, better known as “morningelegance” in Minecraft, and presently @Xevante on Twitter. He’s a lovely guy, and a great builder – but has this very disturbing habit of declaring war on everyone! Ironically, he doesn’t seem to do a very good job of keeping himself alive when he’s not trying to do away with others… which makes his chances of survival significantly slimmer!

Anyway, I shall conclude this particular blog post for now! Before I go, though, I’d just like to thank everyone on the server that I’ve hung out with properly so far: Meles, Wedgehog, DeamonEngineer, zattack, faithfulcupid, chiprock, and of course, thecrystalcrow 😀 And thanks also to Meles for letting me change my mind and join his server! 😀

1 This statement sounds sort of like moony-eyed gazing up at Kristal on a pedestal, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. If you need advice, and she has experience in that area, you’ll get some very sound advice from her. And in a debate, she always has solid reasoning on her side. I’ve probably embarrassed her now, by telling you all this!

2 Since playing Feed The Beast, I’ve taken to building bases, rather than houses. I’m less concerned with virtual home comforts, and now I’m more about trying to keep things relatively practical 🙂

3 Meles’ Enchanted Forest (of Doom) is not a good place for animals. Worst part was, I’d left Misha in the Nether tunnel near Meles’ portal, and we think she wandered through. I am far more careful now.

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