May. 13th, 2017 10:05 pm
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It's done. Commencement was today, and I am a Master of Public Health.

And what a day it was. I got up plenty early to get over to the shop and get the Mariner checked out. Could have been a whole lot worse - broken flex pipe. Relatively inexpensive fix, but a few other issues were identified. These will probably be taken care of in Liberty. To their great credit, the shop here was able to get the repair done in time for me to drive to commencement, saving me the cost of a Lyft. I used one of Dad's cards to park for free at the Galt House, and got back to the arena for lineup and commencement.

Commencement was about what I expected, and I'm glad I brought something to read. My cohort was the very last group to be recognized, so we mostly made the best of it. We decided we would make slow walks across the stage, not crowd or rush each other, just enjoy our last moments as students. It worked. It was good.

Afterwards, lunch with Mom&Dad, and that was a good time. Mom's having some issues with mobility right now, so Dad went back to the hotel garage to get the Canyon and come back to the restaurant to pick her up. And this is where the trouble started.

After, oh, 20 minutes or so, I get a text from Dad - "I can't find the truck." I show Mom, we laugh, and decide that we'll both walk back to the hotel and I'll help Dad. No big hurry, we'll just mosey along at Mom's comfortable speed and when we get to the hotel, Dad will have found the truck and all will be well. This turned out to be a very good idea for Mom's sake.

Dad texted me at about 2PM. We didn't find the goddamned pickup until 3:45. Dad kept saying some combination of parking level and space, so, logically (at least to me), I tried to find it. Well, I did ... and no truck. And Dad says, "Okay, good, this where I was parked this morning before I went out to find breakfast for me and your mommy." And I'm pretty sure I heard that record-scratch sound from TV sitcoms. I managed not to yell, but did raise my voice above conversation level when I asked what. Dad figured that if he could find where the truck was, he could retrace his path to find where the truck is. As I am telling a story, you may have already guessed that this did not work. We found the truck. Pardon - I found the truck. And while I maybe overreacted, I felt myself sliding up my scale of anger. I was silent during most of this search, almost swore at Dad in frustration. Mom had started texting during the search. She was starting to get some anxiety hits. I do not blame her.

Got home a little after 4PM. Tried to take a nap before going out for Housemate's birthday to-do. Had just gotten stretched out on the couch when a serious motherfucker of a muscle cramp hit my left calf. Oh goddamn did this thing hurt. If I move my foot the wrong way, I can still feel a little bit of soreness. Okay, anyway, headed out to the restaurant. Got sick of waiting for flakes to show, so I started ordering - damned good cheeseburger, for the record. I'd had a vibe that this would happen - Diane showed up. About a half-second of eye contact, and, welp, my decision from about this time last year was vindicated like you wouldn't believe. Nothing there. Nothing. Anyway, some good talking with other party members, then off to the bar, and I waved off of that after about 20 minutes because I was just tired.

And now I'm on my couch for a few more minutes before crawling into bed. Tomorrow, I'm either binging on movies over at Village 8, or lying in bed all damn day. I have earned either one.

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Graduate regalia acquired, and Rebel Alliance starbird sticker placed on the cap. Rehearsal tonight, and then dinner with Mom&Dad, I figure. They're coming up this afternoon, staying downtown to avoid a very early start tomorrow morning.

I've had some off-the-record talks with some professors about ways to make up for the policy class. If/when I pursue a terminal degree, that's almost certainly the field. My undergrad policy instructor has provided a healthy reading list, and suggested that I go hard on self-education and consider writing, essentially, a thesis by any other name. A couple of instructors here at SPHIS have offered to tag me in if the right opportunity for collaboration comes along, and agree with the undergrad instructor's suggestions.

Replaced the ancient router this week. Tuesday night, it dropped the wireless connections four times in an hour, and my patience just evaporated. Now there's a sinister-looking dual-band device handling things, and everything is hunky-dory so far. This has me in the mind of a couple more little projects. Simplest, and just a matter of dropping $30 on a couple of sticks, is the Peppermint laptop. More complicated, and quite possibly more than I'm capable of, is replacing the old Macbook's optical drive with a solid-state drive. That's a little bit more expensive, because in addition to the new SSD, I feel obligated, somehow, to max out the thing's RAM.

No, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me, either, but I hung onto the old machines to tinker with them.

On the negative side regarding technology, the Mariner needs exhaust work and the most recent Alexa update seems to have removed TuneIn function from the Echo Dot. One of these has a much higher priority than the other - my little cute-ute should not be nearly as rumbly as the old Monte Carlo.
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Friday night, a couple of Imperial Assault missions. Saturday, a lot of nothing. Weather was crap, didn't want to go anywhere near Churchill Downs, didn't even go out that night. Sunday, I think, was more of the same. Reading, some job-hunting.

The run-up to graduation starts today. There's a graduate celebration breakfast in a couple of hours. Pick up the regalia tomorrow. Rehearsal Friday evening, and commencement on Saturday morning. I guess everything is about as settled as it can be. People know where they're supposed to be and when. Just have to download a couple of podcasts.
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She finally posted grades, and I guess I'm a Master of Public Health now. I should have scored higher than I did, given the problems with the class, but maybe I got a better grade than I should have in Determinants, so it balances out. Whatever, it's over, yay, and now it's time to find an employer. 

It's two days before the Kentucky Derby, which has become known as Thurby. It's not an especially pleasant day to be all dolled up and at the track - rainy and in the low 60s. Tomorrow - Oaks Day - looks about the same, maybe cooler, and Derby Day itself keeps the streak alive. If the forecast holds, the rain will be over in the evening, so I and a gazillion other people can get out and roam around and celebrate whatever we feel like. I'm planning on cheap drinks at The Back Door and shooting a lot of pool and watching people.
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Still waiting on one grade to post. GroupMe conversation with the HPBS cohort this morning led to the consensus that the instructor completely forgot about the class as soon as we all left the final session on the 19th. This has not made me regret the harsh evaluation I gave this class and instructor.

The thing is, as a person, and as someone with deep knowledge of the subject matter, the instructor is fantastic. She definitely Knows Her Shit, she just isn't a good teacher at all. We got very little feedback as to our progress in the course over the semester, and, well, here we are nine days after turning in our final assignment, and we're still waiting.
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Still waiting on two grades to post. I expect Dr. Wilson is going to get message-bombed today.

The first of us has left Louisville. Marc moved back to Columbus Friday evening. Stephen and I helped him load up his truck. Marc's a good dude. One of the best in our cohort.

Also on Friday, we got the Star Wars game back underway. Things went pretty well, but problem player appeared and behaved in the manner that led to him getting the boot in the first place. Whatever. The PCs captured a Sith-influenced petty dictator and recovered parts of a holocron. We laughed, we had a good time, all was well. Next up, going to give one of the players his chance to visit Hoth before Echo Base is established.

Went to Liberty Saturday morning, planning to stay until Sunday night. Got super restless Saturday evening and went back to Louisville. Detoured through Lexington and picked up some new ships for my Armada collection. Got home, read, called it a night around 2. Not much accomplished on Sunday - reading, some game planning, job-hunting, long overdue cleaning.

This is Derby Week. Got to see one of the balloon races Friday morning - yay for living across the road from the takeoff site. A few events this week, building up to the Great Steamboat Race on Wednesday, Thurby on Thursday, Oaks on Friday, and the race itself on Saturday. And most important, getting out and screwing around until an unholy hour on Saturday night.

Got the Origins orientation e-mail from Joe P this morning. It all feels very familiar. I'm getting excited about this trip.
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Wanna know what I did last night? Got out of class around 5:30, went home, renewed my WoW subscription and while 8 months of updates downloaded and installed, stretched out on the couch and read a hundred pages or so of Ancillary Justice, watched The Flash, then went to the grocery.

And felt absolutely no guilt whatsoever about any of this. One way or another, my MPH program is over. Now we wait on the grades to post.
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Dr. Wilson was happy with my practicum presentation, and since he's the one who assigns the grade, his take on it is about all that matters to me. Our final paper for Social Determinants is done, the presentation PPT mostly so.

We, most of the HPBS cohort, had a celebration dinner last night. Marc was in Columbus, Jessica and Dammit Alice unreachable. But their loss. It was good. Some last venting about the program, but mostly celebrating ourselves and the couple years of work we've completed. Just one more class session.

My Star Wars game is back on this week. Looks like all the active players are in. Ready to do this.
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One way or another, in about 29 hours, my run at a MPH will be over. Expecting grades to be posted by the end of the week. And there's the fear.

Claimed my Origins shifts. Lots of Pandemic variants for me, and some New Angeles to break the monotony. I've always pitched Crafty's pretty generous comp package when recruiting people for GenCon, but man, it must be nice to have Asmodee's money. For 24 hours on the clock over the five days of the con, I'm getting my room comped, an hourly rate, and parking and mileage reimbursed. That? That ain't bad at all.

I don't know what I'm going to do with myself after tomorrow night. Job search, of course, but I'm going to have free time. I can do nothing for a while and not feel bad about it. I can read more than 15 pages of a non-academic text at a sitting without feeling like I'm blowing things. I can renew the WoW subscription. I can ... play with trains. I can go somewhere for the weekend and not have to lug textbooks with me.


Sweet Christmas, I can feel my shoulders loosening up.
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I'm progressing, just not as quickly as I'd like. After my shift ended yesterday, I worked for a couple of hours in the SPHIS lounge, then played some Imperial Assault, then worked until midnight or so when I got home. Woke up crazy early this morning and went back to SPHIS around 7AM, worked for a couple of hours, then back home when I started losing focus. Power nap. Still focusing on the policy paper, since it has to be more objective than the practicum writeup. I want to be done with the policy paper before going to bed tonight, and if that requires coffee or something stronger, then so be it.

Weather has improved enough for the airshow to happen. I've heard a lot of planes at Bowman in the past couple of hours, and WHAS11 is streaming their coverage. Kinda wish I was there, but, priorities.

Got invited to go to Origins with the FFG delegation, and, fuck it, I'm going. I've wanted to see this con for a few years now. The people who invited me are some of my best friends here in Louisville, and, y'know, life's short. Details to come; I figure I'll be on Star Wars duty of some kind.
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Yesterday's presentation went well enough, and now we are done with that mess of a class. Have to go over to K-Wing (not the New Republic bomber) to pick up a hardcopy of the report for our MPH instructor. Got a couple of pages to lift from a previous term paper and edit into a report on the ACA and Kynect and Benefind this morning before diving back into my policy brief and practicum report.

Tomorrow is Thunder Over Louisville, the kickoff to the Kentucky Derby Festival. Big airshow and fireworks display, drawing about 650,000 people to downtown and the riverfront. Weather forecast is not good - heavy rain throughout the entire day and air temperatures in the upper 50s. I can't go - will still have work to do, and though I do love that kind of weather, I prefer to watch it through the window or from a nice sheltered front porch. I've seen a few of the aircraft participating already - a F-18 flying up and down the riverfront, and a P-51 and what I think was a Tucano flying over the neighborhood.

I've been coming into SPHIS early this week, getting here around 6AM, to make use of the quiet to get work done - heck, I'm awake before 5AM, so why not make good use of the time. It's actually very nice. I can lock up a conference room and just press on. Traffic is, unsurprisingly, very light and I get here before the full morning shifts at UofL hospital come in, so parking is easy to find. I've seen the ending minutes of some underground utility work on the corner, more ambulance runs than I expected, and other little moments. I'm going to miss this place, I think.

I'm looking at getting back into painting miniatures when I have free time again (which is in less than a week holy shit this is really happening). At the very least, I want my Armada squadrons to be more easily identified in the case of mirror matches, and, well, the red Imperial Guard paint job on TIE Interceptors looks very good. As I finally gave in and started playing Imperial Assault, I've got those figures to work on.

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We got an extension on one of the final papers, from 4PM Friday midnight Monday. The reprieve is nice, and I want to take advantage of it and get to bed early. But, those are hours I can spend getting more work done and finishing things sooner. Evaluation presentation tomorrow, practicum presentation Monday, Social Determinants presentation Tuesday night.

Still thinking - maybe overthinking - about what to do next. I really don't want to leave Kentucky, so that keeps me here or in Lexington. Working in rural health care isn't nearly as appealing as it was - it's hard for me to get excited about trying to improve the lot of a population that consistently acts against its own best interests. Despite my incredible dissatisfaction with my policy class, I'm still interested in the policy process. Unfortunately, we don't offer a policy-based doctoral track - but goddamned UK does, and in a DrPH program at that. Would I go back? If that's my best option, sure. Have to figure out a lot of things before I pursue anything else.
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Last semester, and maybe more so this one, I have had some straight-up panic attacks over the amount of work (particularly large papers and projects) required in this program. These have been mostly self-created, if I'm being honest with myself. I can handle the work; I just have to remember to handle it in chunks instead of looking at the entirety of the project. What I also have had to remember is, when I'm piddling around and procrastinating, is ... I like doing this stuff. I like diving into existing literature on the subject. I like figuring out how to pull relevant data out of different reports and studies and synthesizing something out of it. I like putting the words down. 

I have to do a lot of it in the next few days. This is what's still outstanding: Integration final exam tonight. Policy presentation Wednesday. Evaluation presentation Thursday morning. Policy report Friday afternoon. Practicum presentation on the 24th. Social Determinants group paper and presentation on the 25th. And that is it. One way or another, my grad school run is over in eight days. Long nights ahead.

I'm trying to stop griping about this final semester. There is nothing to be done, as Kim Stanley Robinson wrote. Just have to deal with the problems, hit the markers, and get out into the field. Put PhD and other considerations aside and focus on the local, the immediate, the things I can affect. Talk, seriously, with the faculty members who have contacts and experience, and can point me down paths I don't know exist.

In the wider world, there's a lot going on. Under Lord Dampnut's direction, the US is pushing for North Korea to be "handled." There's some reason for concern here - remember, of course, that Dampnut is unstable and aggressive and not very smart, and he's already attacked a Syrian airbase with a shitload of cruise missiles. (He also misnamed the nation the missiles' target was located in, while apparently focusing on the quality and size of the cake he was eating at the time. These fucking people.) North Korea tested a ballistic missile yesterday, but the launch failed; there was talk of a nuclear test (April 15 being a national holiday there), but it seems that nothing came of it.

After seeing the Spycraft 1 game at Conglomeration, and a talk with Erin about it, I've had a hankering for an espionage game start to rear it's head. Despite my love of Spycraft, I don't know that I'd use it. I feel like that's ground I've covered comfortably. There's the 007 clone, Classified, and something else I picked up along the way. Merle Rasmussen and some other folks bought the Top Secret name and product rights from WotC, and are launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund Top Secret: New World Order sometime soon. Always good to have options.

I need to go somewhere. Just go. Driving up to a truckstop 15 miles inside Indiana a couple of weeks ago was, I think, the first time I've left Kentucky since GenCon. Christ, I can't recall traveling anywhere besides my routes to Liberty since Thanksgiving. There's a day or weekend trip coming soon, either to celebrate or deal with the end of the semester.
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Three years ago today, I left my job at the LHL after 14-and-a-half years there. I survived numerous mass layoffs, a couple of near-firings, changes in assignments and teams, and towards the end, constant attacks on my mental health. I don't miss it. I miss a lot of the people.

Since then, I've faced trials of wholly different kinds. As noted in a previous LJ entry, I've fallen, but in almost every case, I've fallen forward, and I'm okay with that. I'm facing some uncertainty in the job hunt, as I don't really want to leave Louisville, and if I stay in Kentucky, it will almost have to be here or back to Lexington. One of my professors cracked a good-natured joke about my career plans within earshot of the dean yesterday morning, leading to an informal chat and some suggestions from him. My plans have changed - I don't know that I want to work in rural healthcare anymore, having a lot more interest in drug treatment and policy and emergency preparedness.

First, though, finishing the program. Last night was the final presentation of the somewhat useless Integration class; final exam next week, and that sucker is done. Some discussion tonight in Social Determinants and a short group paper, and it's done. Paper and policy dev for the Policy course, presentation next week. Two presentations in evaluation, one this week and one off-site next, and that's done. And my practicum presentation on the 24th, and that's it. Assuming I hit the markers, I'll be a freshly-minted Master of Public Health.

I, and my classmates, have been dissatisfied with this final semester of our program. Classes seemed haphazardly put together, and the crossover course with the nurse practitioners has turned out to be a smoking mess. Our evaluations have not been kind. It's only cathartic for us; hopefully, they'll help the future students.
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Last week brought an uncomfortable realization. Two years ago, all of us in this cohort were strangers. I don't think any of us knew each other. We met on orientation day, then spent the first semester seeing each other every day before splitting into our concentrations, where smaller groups of us saw each other every day - well, four days a week in class, and regularly out of class to work or not work. And now things are winding up, and when this is all done, some of us will never see each other again. Marc's set on going back to Columbus. Marina's maybe heading to law school. Stephen's taking a year before dental school. I'm looking for epi graduate certificate programs. Katy's been mum about her plans. Jessica, too, but we're betting she chases down a PhD somewhere. We became a family, and as families do, we're about to scatter to the winds. I will miss these folks.
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Conglomeration 2017 has come and gone. I spent most of my time at the con in the gaming area, teaching X-Wing and Imperial Assault. Someone ran a Spycraft 1 game! Lots of usual-suspects tables - D&D, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu. I had marked down three games to try to get into, but wound up aborting out of all of them. One D&D game after recognizing the GM's name, and another D&D game and a Star Wars 1st Edition game because I really needed to be home and working on projects.

I wound up working all night, finishing things around 7AM. I didn't need to, but once I was writing, I just didn't feel like stopping. I napped for a few hours before snapping back awake and doing some laundry; starting to flag now, so back to bed before I mow the lawn, a task I'd prefer to be wide awake for.
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SPHIS reactivated the student ambassador position, so I've gone back to worth this week. No changes in the job, and other staff and faculty are glad we're back. The break was nice, as it let me put a stake in my practicum.

The X-Wing season wrapped up on the 31st. I backed into a playoff slot, and put together a fast-moving very agile squadron, but my opponent's big guns tore me apart in the first round. My buddy Ben S was our eventual champion, playing Rebel Alliance squadrons throughout the playoffs. Now, a few weeks of even more casual play, and probably some Armada and Imperial Assault games, too.

Classes are coming to a close. I'm not as panicked about things as I was a couple of weeks ago. Things look more realistic now. There is a whole lot of work still to be done, but I can manage it.

Weather's looking interesting today. Right now, it's a pretty day, clear skies and warm, but there are watches and warnings to the south, and they're heading this way. Just heard that Auburn University is shutting down for the rest of the day, and Atlanta is getting hit pretty hard. Our currently pleasant weather is expected to feed this mess when it gets close. Have talked with some of the cohort about skipping class tonight, because the front is supposed to hit about the time we go in and stick around through the evening.

This should be my last posting here. The new terms of service don't sit real well with me. I don't have any fear of posting up something that'll break the host country's laws, but for personal and political reasons, I'm not keen on involvement. I'm migrating over to Dreamwidth, with the same journal name, in case anyone wants to follow. Dreamwidth is importing everything from here to there, and I understand that to be a pretty complete and painless progress. Lots of people doing that, looks like, as my entries and replies are deep in a queue. No hurry. Do your thing, machines.

Eleven years and change here. Huh.
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I am done done done with my practicum. Put in my last day at the Cave yesterday, then Tim and I went out to lunch and just shot the breeze for a while. Not going to lie. It feels pretty good to be done with this.

The afternoon brought more good stuff. Paul Ryan cancelled the vote to approve the ACA replacement. That cheered me enough that I went out for X-Wing after all, and managed a pretty good win in league play.

The problem player in my Star Wars game seems to have self-resolved - or would have, if I hadn't suspended the game for school. He posted to the club page that he had run into a financial crunch and had to sell his X-Wing collection. Sucks - I don't like seeing misfortune unless it's hitting someone really deserving. Anyway, a buyer did appear - someone on temporary assignment to Knox - and I guess that got handled. So, the problem player, if his post is accurate, won't be able to make game nights for a while. This would be awfully convenient for me if the game was still on; we'd continue the game, of course, and find that the group dynamic was just working better without him, plus a new player and and and. So, if I stay in Louisville and restart the game next month, we'll see how things shake out. (Footnote: guy wanted someone from the club to buy the collection and keep it at our host store so he could still play. That didn't work out, obviously.)
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Spring Break was a bit of a wash, but it made a lot of progress towards completing my onsite hours requirement for the practicum. In fact, I'll hit that mark on Friday, and then I can put a stake in that motherfucker. Write up my report and put the presentation and poster together and that thing is done.

Still a lot of work to do. Graduation is less than eight weeks away, and I think the last day of the semester is 38 days out. With any luck, Integration will be done on the 3rd. One individual paper, one paired presentation, one team paper for Social Determinants, and that's done. Big ugly paper and project for Policy, and that's done. Train wreck of a group project and some niggling assignments, and Evaluation is done. Planning on many many long nights over the next month.

Had a talk with Dr. Wilson before class this afternoon. He wanted to confirm that the practicum was on track, and seemed pleased that I'd logged a whole lot of hours this month. We're going to have a longer discussion soon about me pursuing another degree in 2018.

I'm not exactly dissatisfied with the HPBS program, but I'm not in love with it, either. I've gotten as much out of my Management Systems electives as I did any of the HPBS courses, and Dr. Esterhay made a heck of a pitch for the new MHA program. It's interesting, and there are really good employment prospects there, but it's just not really something I can see me doing. I've ruled out a PhD or DrPH at this stage - that three-year process would put me just shy of 50 at completion, and I feel like that would be better as a career capstone with active retirement prospects. What's looking good now is an epidemiology MS. Epi was my first choice for the MPH concentration, and I opted out of it for stupid reasons. If the Epi department accepts my HPBS coursework as the bulk of the second-year elective workload, then I can pick up the MS in a year of classes and a semester or two of thesis work. Looking at job postings, I see a lot of epidemiology slots to be filled, and the paired Masters have to look good. More conversations to come.

Saw Logan over the break, in Baxter Avenue Filmworks' ridiculously comfortable recliners. It is a damned good movie, if more than a little bleak. Jackman and Stewart are phenomenal, and Dafne Keen ... she reminded me of Hailee Stansfield's turn in True Grit. Spectacular. If this is indeed the last appearance of Jackman and Stewart as Wolverine and Professor X, they have sure enough gone out on a heck of a high note.
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Mercy, but I am tired. I think that's going to be my default setting for the next couple of months. Finishing the academics, finishing this ill-favored practicum, finding work, making a decision on further study.

I think I'm going to wrap up the practicum with some comparison analysis. This is the 80th anniversary of the great Ohio River flood. We're sure to have some kind of flood response protocol at OEP, beyond "close the floodgates and ride it out," and I'd like to look at the protocols from St. Louis and Cincinatti. Take a deep fast dive into these models and look for overlap, gaps, different ways of doing the same thing. And it's on-site work, filling up those self-reported hours.

(Note to myself: Yep, saw what we expected to re: last entry. Lulz.)


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