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A trip to Dudley! [31st Jul, 2015|12:21 am]
Logan
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On Wednesday, eliki and I took a trip to Dudley. Yes, we went there voluntarily, which doesn't happen very often. We had a good reason, I promise! It was to see the My Little Collection exhibition at the town museum. (That's a Facebook link; if you prefer, here's a different one from the Express & Star.) This is one local woman's collection of more than 2,000 ponies from more than 30 years of collecting, brought together in one gallery.

And it was amazing. The majority of the collection pre-dates Friendship is Magic, so I was a bit hazy on many of the details, but the sheer variety and scale of the thing was impossible not to be impressed by. Both the original My Pretty Pony toys, a full wall of mint-on-card G2s, a whole heap of scarce foreign "Nirvana" ponies such as a hideously rare Greek Easter exclusive and a great deal more. Plenty of G4s, too: a full set of Build-a-Bear plushies and Funko vinyls, SDCC Derpy and all.

We spent well over an hour in there, after which we decamped to Costa (on account of its being about the only decent coffee shop in Dudley) and partook of muffins and drinks. Plus, of course, spent the rest of the afternoon rambling on about this and that in the way that friends do. =:) The pony exhibition goes on until the end of October, so with any luck we'll manage a return visit in the autumn, but... wow.

(No photos of my own, I'm afraid: it wasn't clear whether they were allowed, and in any case the lighting was subdued in the usual gallery way.)

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Pony party pleasure! [27th Jul, 2015|02:40 pm]
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Saturday's regular Worcester ponymeet date clashed with the birthday of meet leader Pigasus -- so we turned the meet into a birthday party! First it was off to Flames World Buffet, which is one of those flat-rate all-you-can-eat buffet affairs. I wouldn't say the food was spectacular, but it was perfectly edible and for £7.95 (plus drinks) it's hard to quibble too much. Besides, we were there for the company. I'll admit to being very naughty and having one marshmallow, since I couldn't resist the chocolate fountain entirely! For those who know Worcester, incidentally, Flames is next to Poppins and very close to McDonald's.

Once that was over, we decamped to our usual haunt (Caffè Bolero) and had a drink -- non-alcoholic, I hasten to add! After we'd handed over the birthday cards, out came the playing cards for our usual game of Chase the Ace, which I somehow managed to win by a street. The final act of the afternoon was most memorable: Gyroprodius had baked a sponge cake, but we were unsure whether the café would want us eating home-made food in there. So, Dodj went up to show them the cake and ask whether it would be okay just this once. He returned claiming that they needed to "check it". Hmm. A minute later, the staff came down the stairs carrying the cake, singing Happy Birthday! =:D

Astoundingly, given general conditions of late, it was even sunny for quite a bit of the day. I'll probably have to miss the next ponymeet (early August) owing to family commitments, as well as a couple more in the next few months, so I was really pleased that this one turned out so well. =:)

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And back! [19th Jul, 2015|07:52 pm]
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Back from my trip to see my granny, who I'm pleased to report is in good spirits and good form. =:) I didn't do anything terribly thrilling during my stay, since that wasn't the point, but I did fit in three ice creams (a mango, a mint Cornetto and a good old 99). Unconnected with that, I also managed to pick up the latest MLP magazine, complete with alicorn Twilight figurine. =:)

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Meet of ponyness (and cherry ice creamery) [27th Jun, 2015|09:04 pm]
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A good day today. I added to my ice cream list with morello cherry (one of my favourite flavours, but not always an easy one to find) and then proceeded to the ponymeet. It was a very entertaining affair: only six of us this week, but we had a good time nevertheless. It's always amusing to watch the faces of the people coming down the stairs (the gents are at the other end of the room from the table we usually sit at). Their expressions when they see the various ponies on the table vary between amusement and "Bloody hell, I need to get out of here right now". The adults, anyway; kids just take it in their stride. =:P

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ice cream again [24th Jun, 2015|03:53 pm]
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Blackberry! Very nice it was too.

Oh, and since I don't only talk about ice cream here: as anyone who reads Louder Yay will know, I now have my UK PonyCon ticket sorted out. (The hotel was booked a while back, as I said at the time.) So health permitting, I'll be off to Leicester this October. It was a great experience last year (until I fell ill!) and I'm hoping for the same again this time around.

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Conventionally speaking [28th May, 2015|08:54 pm]
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First up, I hope everyone who went to ConFuzzled had a good time! =:) That event, together with a few others, has unsurprisingly got me back to thinking about my potential convention schedule for the next year or so. I'm talking pony cons here, so feel free to skip this post if that doesn't interest you, though I expect some of what I say will have more general relevance.

There are five(!) MLP-centric cons scheduled over the next 12 months, though I'm still to be convinced that more than three of them will actually take place. They're as follows:

July: Great British Brony Convention (Manchester)
August: My Little Convention (Southport)
October: UK PonyCon (Leicester)
November: BronyScot (Edinburgh)
April 2016: BUCK (Manchester)

However, the first two seem a little flaky to me. GBBC seems unhealthily dependant on one person's bank balance, and has been a bit light on information. MLC has been the subject of some public disquiet over on UK of Equestria, mainly for apparently not keeping invited guests in the loop. So I don't think I'll risk either of those.

UK PonyCon is my number one priority: if I can only get to one con, that will be it. UKPC scores on having a city centre location, on being an all-ages event in practice rather than just in theory, on having cheapish tickets and on (wonder of wonders) a venue that doesn't scream at attendees for taking in the odd bottle of water. =:P

BronyScot ran for the first time last year, and despite having to shrink to a one-day event was a success. If it were a bit closer, I'd be tempted, though last year's reports suggested it was a little more boozy than I'd like. (Yes, it's an all-ages con -- all British pony conventions are -- but there was a hay of a lot of evening drinking going on!)

BUCK is on a different scale to anything else in the field: I think last year's total attendance was around 1,400. As a two-time attendee I'd like to go again, but it is much the most expensive in just about every way. I'm also not terribly enthused by the new venue: EventCity by the Trafford Centre, which has no rail or Metrolink access.

I suspect I may eat rather unhealthily for a few days at any con I go to, but never mind: if the caterers can do what BUCK did last year and provide huge stocks of muffins and cider, I think most of us will be content. =:)

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UK PonyCon hotel booked! [17th May, 2015|03:59 pm]
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See title! I'll be staying in the Loughborough Central Travelodge on the Friday and Saturday nights. (That's 9th and 10th October.) I'm not staying up on Sunday night, as UK PonyCon doesn't tend to go into Sunday evening and as long as I leave the con venue by about 8pm I can easily get home that same night. I did think about just staying for Saturday night, but I'd have to start about 6am to do that!

Now, you may be looking at this and thinking, "Huh? Loughborough? But isn't the con in Leicester?" And yes, it is. There are a couple of reasons why I'm doing it this way rather than staying in Leicester itself:

1) The con weekend is during the Rugby World Cup, and Leicester is one of the host cities. That means hotel prices in the city are well above what they'd normally be, and is presumably why the most obvious Leicester hotel (the Premier Inn down the road from the con venue) is already booked up. The Leicester Travelodge is a hike across the city centre, and not really convenient.

2) I don't want to stay in the actual con hotel. Even with the deal they're offering for con attendees it's rather expensive (being a four-star place) and those who stayed there last year say it's also got irritatingly thin walls. At my advanced age, I need a peaceful night's sleep, free from the sounds of someone's room party drifting in from down the hall at half past midnight!

3) Loughborough to Leicester is really, really straightforward on the train. A ten-minute journey, running frequently all day. The hotel is 10-15 minutes' walk from Loughborough station, and the con venue is even closer to Leicester station. I've stayed out of town for before (BUCKs 2013 and 2014) and the inconveniences were pretty minor; certainly worth it for the monetary savings.

This is going to cost me £81, which isn't too bad for two nights, one of which is a Saturday, on a flexible tariff. (I need the flexibility, since my health isn't sufficiently reliable that I can absolutely commit to going this far out.) It would have been at least £50 more to stay in Leicester. And since I booked through LateRooms, I can pay on arrival, so won't have the money tied up for five months.

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Oh yeah, and there was this pony show, too [10th Apr, 2015|11:50 pm]
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I won't be posting about every episode on here -- that's what Louder Yay is for! -- but a season premiere is a special case. Especially when it's as good as this one. I was very pleased that they didn't try to out-epic the Season 4 finale, and I was impressed by just how dark they were willing to go. I could nit-pick about this and that, but overall I thought it was great, the second-best season premiere behind "The Return of Harmony". It definitely makes me optimistic for the rest of Season 5. =:)

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Stuff wot I did at the weekend [31st Mar, 2015|11:39 pm]
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Despite my ill health, I was just about well enough to keep two appointments this weekend. One was simply nice to be able to manage; one was much more in "now or never" territory. Here's a summary:

Saturday was the Worcester ponymeet. As observant readers may have noticed, we've finally settled into some sort of routine with these: they now occur on the second and fourth Saturday of each month, absent any particular reason for changing this. A decent turnout: Maz, Gene, 14jammar, King, Sunflowmon, Dodj and of course our glorious leader Pigasus. A good time was had by all, I think, even if I did return to my usual losing ways at Chase the Ace!

Sunday was rather special: I finally got to meet reynardo in person, hugs and all! Not to mention her very pleasant husband lederhosen and the inimitable notasquirrel. There wasn't time for a long meeting, but we did have a very nice chat over a cuppa in the George Hotel in Bewdley, for which I will always be grateful. Oh, and Reynardo gave me a platypus. Not a real one, fortunately! I really ought to get on with thinking of a name. Many *hugs* and huge thanks for going to such effort; it was a lovely thing to do. =:)

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The RCL solution [27th Mar, 2015|12:58 am]
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You may remember that I said, when I posted my news about the Royal Canterlot Library interview, that the little quiz at the end was intended as a sort of homage to something. I also said that, if nobody got it, I'd explain, so: it was based on the test papers scattered through 1066 and All That. =:)

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A high ponyfic honour [28th Feb, 2015|11:48 pm]
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The Royal Canterlot Library has decided that my Pinkie Pie ponyfic, It Doesn't Matter Now, is worthy of being featured. As part of the deal here, they did a text-based interview with me, and you can read my responses here on the RCL site. (Along with some embarrassingly nice introductory comments by several of the curators.) Although pony-centric, not all the questions are about MLP. Nobody's got the reference in my answers to the final question, though I'm absolutely certain that some of you here would get it instantly. =;)

I've been trying to stay calm about this, but in truth I'm not. In the world of ponyfic, an RCL feature is a big deal, considerably rarer than an Equestria Daily feature.* Part of that is because you don't submit stories to them; they choose you. I got a PM out of the blue from one of the curators telling me they'd selected my fic, and would I accept the honour and do the interview? There are five curators, all of whom are themselves big names in the literary side of the fandom, and you can't get in just by impressing one of them: there has to be general agreement that your story is good enough.

I'm now in ponyfic's Big League, it seems. Help!

* Well, for most people. Most of my fics (including this one) come in below EqD's minimum word count, so I can't submit them there anyway!

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A nice day out... if not quite the one I was expecting! [13th Dec, 2014|11:25 pm]
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I'd expected today to consist of a meeting with a couple of friends at the Birmingham Christmas Market. Sadly, various things came up that meant that neither of them were able to make it. A great shame of course, but fortunately I had a back-up as there was a small ponymeet in Worcester today as well. This, too, was hit by illness and total attendance was just four -- Pigasus, Mattyhex, Sunflowmon and me -- which is about half what we usually get. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable afternoon, with chat, coffee, muffins, silliness and cards of both Christmas and playing variety. As the weather was cold, I also got the opportunity to wear my Derpy scarf -- the first time it's been worn in anger since I bought it at BUCK in August.

Although the meet was an afternoon affair, I decided to go into the city in mid-morning to enjoy some of the atmosphere. It was a gorgeous day, with sparkling sunshine, frosty air, bustling crowds and Salvation Army carols. I like Worcester anyway, but these are the sort of conditions when it shows itself at its very best. I walked all over the city centre, poked about in various shops for new and second-hand goods alike, successfully avoided clipboard-wielding market researchers and nipped into the library for a little R&R (that's reading and recreation) when I got cold. All in all, in spite of not being the day I'd planned it to be, I'd call it a success. =:)

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And there we go, one Rainbow Rocks review [8th Nov, 2014|02:36 pm]
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It's stuffed with spoilers, so I don't advise clicking on this unless you've already seen the film -- but what I will say here is that it gets 8.5/10, making it very much a recommended movie. If you still detest everything about the entire Equestria Girls sub-franchise, I doubt this film will change your mind. However, everyone who could at least tolerate the first movie ought to give this one a shot, as it's undoubtedly a better story. Oh yes, a link:

http://louderyay.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/film-review-rainbow-rocks.html

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Oh yes, Rainbow Rocks [5th Nov, 2014|04:55 pm]
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I didn't get round to mentioning this at the time, but on Saturday I went to the Worcester Vue cinema with seven or eight other local bronies to watch the second Equestria Girls film, Rainbow Rocks. Just us and one actual family, as the film had been out for a full week (in half-term, too) by then. A pretty standard modern cinema, but it was pleasant enough: the staff seemed totally unfazed by all these (allegedly) grown men buying tickets for a My Little Pony film. Also, Vue isn't obsessed with stopping people taking their own refreshments inside: only hot/smelly/alcoholic stuff is banned. Very nice.

Okay, so here we are in the auditorium, which was comfortable (I still expect cinema seats to be tippy-up ones!) and sensibly air-conditioned. And the film... was great. Really, it was very enjoyable indeed. I'd certainly put it on a plane above its predecessor, perhaps in some part because it didn't have to waste time introducing the characters. Unsurprisingly given Rainbow Rocks' central plotline, there was a good deal of music, and most of it was excellent -- and with noticeably high production values, too. I can nitpick here and there, but that can wait for my blog review. In short, I enjoyed this film a lot.

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Some photos from UK PonyCon [21st Oct, 2014|02:29 am]
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These aren't mine, I should stress! They were taken by Cute Horny Unicorn, who is the guy you saw dancing in the zebra fursuit in the video I posted a few days ago. Facebook I'm afraid, but they are public so there's no need to sign up for anything. I could actually have copied them over and posted some individually (CHU allows this with credit) but I'm too lazy. =:P As such, I'll just link to the full set of somewhere around 80 pictures:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.579252435512856.1073741831.244730112298425&type=1

Lots of variety in there! You've got some of the cosplay contest near the start, then a few of Ayla's pony bellydance show, then a whole heap of vendor stalls. After that, there's a little bit showing the decorations, some general atmosphere shots and a few of The Rainbooms (our live band) to round things off. =:)

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Well, that's rather handy! [16th Oct, 2014|08:33 pm]
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Remember I used to say that I wished we had a family-friendly furry event in the UK? Turns out we've already got one... and it's UK PonyCon. =:P Herewith three fursuiters (one pony, one zebra and one fox) having a bit of a dance in the main hall:



( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ui9nPdULgA0 )

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UK PonyCon swag haul [12th Oct, 2014|09:31 pm]
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As some of you already know, my weekend in Leicester didn't go quite to plan, as I was unwell and had to come home on the Saturday evening. However, I really enjoyed the time I did spend at the convention, and I'd love to go back next year if it's in a location I can reach. (It's held somewhere different every year.) I'll write a bit more about it over the next few days, though detailed feedback is likely to be over on the UK of Equestria forums or on my Louder Yay blog. But for now, here's a photo of what I picked up at UK PonyCon:

Click to enlarge


Top row: Glow-in-the-dark Derpy Mystery Mini; Con badge and upgraded lanyard; Applejack Mystery Mini
Second row: UK PonyCon 2014 poster showing the con ponies -- like BUCK, their mascot is called Britannia!
Third row: Tote bag; conbook; T-shirt
Bottom row: Pin badge; mug; hair for customs; fridge magnet; guitar pick

(Everything except the upgraded lanyard, the Mystery Minis and the fridge magnet was included in the goodie bag I ordered when I bought my ticket.)

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UK PonyCon this weekend! [9th Oct, 2014|08:53 pm]
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I'll be attending both days of UK PonyCon in Leicester this weekend. It's quite a different type of con from BUCK -- for a start, it's for all generations of MLP, going right back to the 1980s. Secondly, it's smaller and lower-key -- I'd imagine an attendance around the 200 mark. And thirdly, it's a lot cheaper -- weekend passes were £25. (You can buy £15 day passes on the door, should anyone want to make a last-minute trip!) I honestly don't know what to expect, but it does help a lot that I know Leicester a bit from going to brony meets there and that some of my friends will be going. I won't be taking a camera (beyond the one on my phone) but you will get a report in due course. =:)

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BUCK 2014: post 6: Sunday [18th Sep, 2014|12:48 am]
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I've taken much longer than I'd hoped to get this done, but at last here is the third and final part of my BUCK report. Sunday dawned very cold (for August) but at least it was dry and bright. Unfortunately, the uselessness of Sunday morning trains meant that I couldn't get to Manchester Central in time for doors-open, which in turn meant that I missed the Flash Fanfic contest. A shame, as I got an honourable mention in that last year. Oh well.

Instead, I took the opportunity to ease myself fairly gently into the day, meeting up with existing friends, talking to a few new people and doing some merch hunting. All of these continued all day, of course: I didn't buy a huge amount of stuff, but I couldn't really resist the deal I was offered for a Derpy scarf and a plush parasprite. Well done, Pegasus Embroidery UK: I'll keep your name in mind for the future!

In fact, I didn't attend any formal, timetabled events all morning. Instead, there was a lot of singing at the karaoke, as well as guiding one or two people towards the VIP autograph sessions I'd been to the previous day. Lunchtime arrived, and BridleTimeout, Vcgriffin and I decided to have lunch together. After a rather longer walk than we'd been expecting, we ended up at a Subway sufficiently far out that there were hardly any other bronies there. :P

Although it was sunny and quite warm at the time, things started to cloud over as we finished lunch and the temperature dropped, so we headed back to Manc Central. I chose to attend Heather Breckel's panel/presentation on digital colouring: not being a terribly artistic pony I didn't understand that much of it, but it was quite interesting nevertheless. (If I hadn't gone to that, I'd probably have been to the community VAs panel in a side room.)

A big highlight of the con now: Dave Polsky's presentation. He was brilliant, with a wide-ranging talk taking in the likes of Goethe and Einstein, and even those of us who don't list him as their favourite writers were favourably impressed. It's by now well known that he dealt very professionally with a very difficult question about "Twilight Time", but that was only one element of an all-round excellent performance. A shame this clashed with Pipsqueak's stand-up comedy, which I enjoyed in 2013.

Then, a bit more of the impromptu singing (see Saturday's report!) when we realised that we hadn't done "Smile", something that needed rectifying at once. I did drop in on the Cadence [sic!] Stage for lesser known musicians occasionally, but the only one who really caught my attention was a guy named Vocal Score. His excellent acoustic cover of "Make a Wish" was what sealed it for me, and I'd recommend giving his music a listen.

The final regular event of the con was the joint VIP panel. All three of them sitting on sofas being interviewed by one of the con staffers, and it worked very well. They all seemed relaxed and the intended "friendly chat" atmosphere was what we got. After that, all that was left was for everyone to be silly in the main hall for a while before the closing ceremony. That was as you'd expect, right down to the mass choruses of "PFUDOR" and "Winter Wrap Up".

So, that was BUCK for this year. There won't be another one for at least two years, if there's one at all, so I'm glad that 2014's edition took us out on a high. Not everything was perfect, and I don't think the venue had quite the sense of occasion that the Bridgewater Hall had, but I'm still extremely happy that I was able to go. As with last year's event, I'll keep some of the memories from BUCK 2014 with me for a very long time. Good con? Good con.

All right: photos! 1) Worshipping at the Shrine of Best Pony; 2) Eating appropriately in my Derpy scarf; 3) Heather Breckel's panel; 4) Griffin, Bridle and me, with Diamond Dog (and Twilight); 5) The obligatory fursuiters photo; 6) It's getting very near the end.



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EPCU stuff [6th Sep, 2014|02:56 pm]
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Something interesting I discovered: one reason pony cons differ from furry cons in their level of family-friendliness is because (in BUCK's case, at least) they have to. Membership of the European Pony Convention Union requires it: "EPCU members should ensure that their events are suitable for all ages to attend."

So, on top of the differing constraints each con has in terms of legal/regulatory paperwork, ConFuzzled couldn't be run along BUCK's lines (because they couldn't allow any adult material at all) and BUCK couldn't be run along ConFuzzled's lines (because they'd lose their EPCU accreditation). Maybe there's a wider difference between the two types of con than it looks to we outside observers after all. And who knows, maybe that difference actually helps both cons to flourish! (Present tense, since BUCK may yet be back for 2016...)

For anyone interested, the EPCU's Rules and Governance document is public, and can be read here (GDocs).

NB: Yes, I've made my peace with why ConFuzzled is 18+. While I'd still prefer it to be otherwise, I understand why they do what they do... and it's the one con for which I might, just might, compromise my "no 18+ cons" principles. So maybe one day!

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