My Diary #046

Dear Tigey,

We’re approaching the end of March and there’s still a light blanket of snow outside on the ground as I’m typing this. How rude. It snowed last night (Mar 25 2022) and there’s tentatively snow in the forecast for Monday, and Thursday, which will take us all the way to the end of March. Spring doko?

Also, I’m tired of writing this week, so let’s see how short I can make this for once.

Entry #046 (Mar 27 2022)

Table of Contents

Duplicating…
ට  School
ට  Work
ට  Life
ට  Games
ට  Plushie of the Week #44
ට  Song of the Week #21
ට  Memory Snippet of the Week #28
ට  Dreams

School

I’m tired of writing this week because I got tired of having my final Haiku paper hanging over my head like the Sword of Damocles, so I put my head down and banged out a 5250 word paper on the final death poems of the four most famous Japanese haiku poets (Matsuo Bashō, Yosa Buson, Kobayashi Issa, Masaoka Shiki) and how they tied in to their surviving disciples’ attempts to immortalize their legacy in a literary process called canon formation. It’s actually really interesting and I’m fairly proud of what I managed to weave together (even though I know there are holes and leaps of conclusion since being able to find sources in English was hard), but the main issue is that I have to shorten the 5250 word paper to about 4000 words or so and that feels like choosing a beloved virtual pet to die so that other beloved virtual pets can live, and that culling process is terrible. Still, I have until April 19th or something to do that bit, and just writing the draft took a huge weight off my chest.

I had to dig through several English translations and analyses of Japanese diaries and essays written around 1700-1900 or so to get my data, and I definitely couldn’t help thinking at points about my own diary here and wondering/hoping if I could become a case study for students 200 years from now the way that those people are for us now.

Two other noteworthy things happened this week. One was a notice that I had gotten an award, basically some sort of scholarship or bursary, for my study abroad application, which I applied for five weeks ago. It was an email that said I’d soon receive another one telling me exactly what that award was, but as of this time that email still hasn’t arrived.

The other was that my actual Singapore-side application opened, I don’t think this is considered acceptance yet, at least not by the target faculty, but it’s at least acceptance by the study abroad office over at the National University of Singapore. I’m probably not going to do an exhaustive point by point post on a separate page outlining the application like I did for the Sophia one, but I am going to leave some notes on the process for future wanderers.

The acceptance letter looked like this:

Dear [me],

To streamline your application process, we have created a draft for you in our NUS Online Application Portal for the programme Exchange (Coursework).

If you have not created an account in NUS Online Application Portal, a separate email will be sent to you shortly regarding the account you will be using when logging in to the NUS Online Application Portal. You will not receive any email if you have an existing account in our records.

Your application number is [number]. You may now proceed to access the NUS Online Application Portal and continue with your application by clicking ‘Edit/ Update Saved Application’. Your application will be submitted after you click the button ‘Confirm and Submit’.

Please note that you are able to edit or update your submitted application throughout the application period. A reminder to confirm the submission of your application again after editing or else, it would be considered as not submitted.

Once application period closes, you will not be able to edit your application. You may refer to our website for more information about the application period.

Do check your email [email] regularly as all correspondences from the University during the application stage will be sent to you via email.

To prevent our emails from being blocked or sent to the junk/spam folder, please add our email address to your safe senders list.

Please feel free to contact us at [email] if you need further clarification/assistance citing your application number for easier identification.

Thank you.

Best regards
NUS Online Application Portal

This is a computer generated email.

The NUS application site is a six step (over six pages) process. The first step is a Peoplesoft-based form where you can search for classes and add them to a list of up to eight courses that you have to declare that you want to take. As I understand it there’s some sort of computer-generated wizardry after that that either assigns people to their classes based on weighted order of preferences, or does some sort of lottery, I’m not really sure. I do know though that there’s a secondary registration step at some point later on where you actually are given a list of courses you’ve been approved to register for and can actually sign up for them. After that, there’s a second round of selection and approval and registration. It sounds very much like the Waseda University system, actually.

Anyway, what I noticed was that there were a bunch of courses that I was allowed to take, and I have local copies of the 2021-2022 version of that link as well as the 2022-2023 (1st semester only) one. Also linked from that pdf is a nice site where you can see previous iterations of a course you might be interested in. The oddity for this process for me was that besides that list of courses that I was allowed to take, that PDF also linked to another one (local) that listed classes I was NOT allowed to take, and… well, there were classes in the list that were not in either list. I thought it was very strange that I was given both a list of classes I could take, and a list that I couldn’t, and yet they didn’t overlap nicely with each other.

Checking with the coordinator though, I was told that as long as I met any requirements, as long as the system let me select a class, I could opt in for it, so in the end I added a bunch of Japanese-culture and Singaporean-culture classes. I was required to add in a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 8 classes, though apparently fall/winter exchange students can only take a maximum of 5 classes per semester while there. Still, that will probably be plenty — just like Sophia, NUS has a good reputation and their classes are likely going to be fairly intensive. I might not even end up taking 5. I did have 9 or 10 classes that I was interested in for this first semester though, and it was a pain to cut out some. It’s like trimming 1000 words out of a 5200 word final essay for a Haiku class.. theoretically, of course!

Students at the National University of Singapore apparently typically take about 3 years to finish their degree, so they had course numberings ranging from 1XXX-6XXX, where 1XXX courses were 1st year/junior courses, 2XXX-3XXX were senior courses, 4XXX were kind of also senior courses but more for honour or specialization students or something (there were barely any of these avaialble for international students and I didn’t pick any), and 5XXX-6XXX courses were grad courses. I thought it was interesting that compared to western Universities with their typical 4 year study period, it’s compacted into a 3 year programme there instead. Class numbers also confused me — some were labelled E1 vs L1 vs P1 vs D1 or whatever and the coordinator said not to worry about it, the only real thing to note was the ending number, since if a class had E1 and E2, it meant that there were two different lecture/seminar timeslots I could pick for the class. I hope the letters don’t correspond to something like in-person versus online classes or some secondary campus versus the main one or something though.

The rest of the application was pretty straightforward, there was a page asking for personal details, one for previous (post-secondary) academic history, one for uploading personal documents (transcript, current list of courses, passport, any language proficiency things, etc), some declarations, and then a confirmation page. Notably, compared to the Sophia one, they did not ask for a letter of recommendation from an instructor or anything like that, nor did they ask me to prove financial stability (though I’m not actually done the application yet as I am waiting for my official transcript to be mailed in an attempt to save $6 for an online version, and it won’t let me view the rest of the app). There is also no medical checkup part, though I did read elsewhere on the site that that would be eventually a thing. Just not in this application stage, I guess.

There was also no section for housing, so I guess that comes later too, though I also read on their website that on-campus spaces are much more limited due to COVID. I would probably rather live out of campus again though. I love the Singapore transit system and ease of travelling around and it would be unfair of me to grab a dorm spot and force someone else to seek alternate accommodations when I’ll probably be more familiar than most of the other international students with the transit system and how to get around the city (even if the experiences I’d be drawing from are from 25 years ago).

Work

Well, that was far too long. Let’s try that again. What noteworthy things happened at work this week?

Our support staff union at work reached a tentative agreement with the University leaders that’s allegedly similar to the ones that the teaching staff reached with them, after a couple rounds of arbitration, so they presented the proposal to us this week to sign off on. I guess we won’t be going on strike after all, and the chaos chronicler in me is a little bit disappointed in that, but it’s overall a good thing! I won’t actually be seeing any of the proposed raises though if it gets ratified as is, since they only kick in from next April or something and I’ll be gone by then if the my study abroad application for Fall 2022 goes through, and close to gone by then even if Fall 2022 falls through but Winter/Spring 2023 works. The pay raise also doesn’t even begin to approach the rate of inflation. Everyone will apparently be gaining a $2000 one time payout lump sum to help offset inflation the last couple years though, and people seemed to like that. Myself, I’m not rich, but I’m not living paycheck to paycheck either, so I’m kind of neutral to the thing and wary of the fact that the lump sum seems to be them trying to buy off any ill-will from forcing us to eat cuts for three years straight now and seeing our friends get laid off in that time.

And on Thursday, we had to sit through 3 hours of a 6 hour EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity) training session — it’s part one of a two-parter, with the other part being next week. At least they’re paying us for it I guess, since it’s within work hours, but wow what a colossal waste of time, especially after slashing our teams and laying off team members, and shredding our morale in the name of cost-saving. And even if I’m fully supportive and fairly cognizant of EDI issues myself, being transgendered and in a visible minority, having mandatory six hour “training” sessions, scheduled for different people at different times, is far too much and turned most of the people I know against it, with people talking about it using snide remarks in private, which means this little piece of virtue signalling will actually have a net negative effect on equity and diversity in the department, University, or whatever scope of people is taking part in this.

The questions the instructors asked us in class were extremely low-level too, with the instructors talking to us at points like we were youths in their class and showing no signs of trying to connect to us as adults, using empathy for our situation or humour or something. A good presenter could still have done that and won people over, I’ve seen it happen and I am very receptive to that sort of thing, I jive well with someone who has good charisma. Instead, we got two facilitators who were as engaging as wet tissue paper, and I got the sense that most people put on their best adult fake smile and sat through it, earnestly asking or answering questions with obvious answers to move the session along. And it’s one thing for people in charge of the hiring process or in positions of leadership to do it, but forcing all analysts to do it too, when the leadership not listening to us is a problem even if we could identify barriers that ought to be changed anyway (which was one of the things that came up), is utterly useless in a bad environment. Will this somehow fix the gender imbalance (2 females, 13 males) on my team so I might ever feel comfortable again? I’ve identified it, now what exactly do you think I can do about it? What about the racial one?

They used the three-panel cartoon image on this site (local) in one of the slides in the presentation, except the 3rd box said Justice instead of Liberation, which was funny because that EDI training was exactly a prime example of the department using the equality brush to paint everyone with “equal strokes” by making them take this course, instead of using equity, which might have been, say, only those in leadership and decision-making roles needing to do this training. (Still, that panel did provoke quite a bit of talk and was probably the most interesting part of the presentation. There are lots of cute and funny variations of that cartoon on Google too, including one with a box called Reality with the leftmost guy standing on so many boxes that he’s off the cartoon panel.)

That being said, the content wasn’t that bad and the importance of EDI isn’t inherently wrong, not in the least, but it was far too long and the presentation far too bloated to be of any use, even if there weren’t any bad blood between the administration and the support staff to bridge. I guess I’m also partially mad because I just finished 20 weeks worth of MLP training too and that was far more interesting, delving into the cogs that make a culture turn, and why things are the way they are, instead of this preaching about workspace culture on a very superficial level. And even that one could have gone a lot further. This felt like taking a Grade 7 class directly after finishing a Grade 12 class. At least the good thing about having this online is that I can leave my camera off as a passive sign of protest.

Life

That last section also wasn’t short in the least! Bah. At least I’m sure this Life section will be short, since I spent four evenings this week writing my paper, one more refining it, and basically two more writing this blog. Portions of two of the evenings were also spent with my Discord group reminiscing about old times in LoTRO and other MMOs, and rifling through old screenshots to share, which took up tons of time, but should be something I can write about for Memory Snippet of the Week sometime in the future when I have more time and energy.

As I mentioned last week, the end of the current anime season has arrived, and the show I’ve been infatuated with, Akebi-chan no Sailor Fuku, stuck its landing and finished on such a great final episode that it snuck into my top 5 anime list (largely losing out to other shows which have the strength of multiple good seasons behind them) for the time being. I also crested 1000 completed MyAnimeList entries in the past week or so, though I think it was technically late last week. I wish I kept track of my game-playing as meticulously as I am my anime-watching, which is perfectly and satisfyingly tracked down to exact dates started and ended for every show and video I’ve watched. But enough about the anime. Oh, this was the notebook I bought with my tea strainer thing last week, as a memorial thing. It’s going in the pile of pretty stationery I have, which is second only to my pile of plushies. Okay, now enough about anime.

The weather was great this week and went over at least once or twice, though it also sank back down later in the week. And then it snowed again. The ground, which was in the process of freeing itself from the most persistant remaining chunks of old winter ice, was layered with a thin blanket of stardust again. Gaaah. I did manage to squeeze in a couple late evening walks since sunset has now also crossed the 8pm mark (today, Mar 26, it was 8:01 pm) though, which I do appreciate. Here are a couple pictures from this week.. this one, this one, and this last one, which I entitled Friendship.

I also had a Little Miracle occur while I was out on my second walk, which is that an Amazon Prime delivery guy who was delivering a package had his hat blown off his head by the wind and it flew in my direction. It still landed about five feet short of me, after flying an ungodly 25 feet or so, and I stumbled and slightly scraped my ankle trying to catch it, but we still enjoyed a good laugh when I picked it up and returned it to him. It’s not like I ever meet anyone out on my walks since it’s late in the evening and I go around a few residential areas, and the most human interaction I get from them is usually waving to people from balconies (in the summer) or passing by one or two people returning home, so that was an uplifting and random experience.

Games

If nothing else, I can make this one short!

I pretty much played nothing this week until near the end of the week, since I was busy with my paper. Then I played a little bit of Tales of Arise.

There!

I am trying to corral my Discord friends whom I played Lost Ark with last month to all come online at the same time so we could take a group picture together. This came directly out of the conversations we had a couple evenings last week about other MMOs we used to play though, and how pictures were important. Still, not everyone (especially those who didn’t play much) plans to come along for the picture. Also, the game has next to no reason to group up, and a very group-unfriendly server architecture anyway with zones constantly split into “channels” (separate mirror copies) of the zone to minimize player load in each zone, so most of us basically never even saw each other, never mind had any group interactions with each other, except for the people right at the forefront of the levelling and gear curve.

Anyway, hopefully we will be able to find some time before next week for a group picture somewhere.

Edit: Picture get! On Sunday evening, so I’ll add it to this week’s blog.

Plushie of the Week #44 – Purple/Poopoo

Purple, also known as Poopoo, is our second oldest Unicorn plushie, she entered our household about five months after Unicoron did so, as a birthday gift to my sister from a friend when she was in Grade 7, so around May 14 2001 or so. As you can see, we were really creative with her name, but really, what else could you justifiably call a purple unicorn?

We don’t exactly have or at least remember any stories about her, she’s just always kind of been there, one of the earlier Canadian plushies we picked up, and we often think and talk about Unicoron and Purple as a pair. She’s very soft and always stylish and has a kind of princess aura around her.

Front:

Back:

Tag (the other side is completely faded):

As you can see, we have next to no information on where this plushie came from originally, but she’s a very valued member of our plushie collection, and one of the senior plushies that the newer crowd looks up to.

Song of the Week #21

Title: The Shine of Shance
Artist: Lisa Lynne
Album: Daughters of the Celtic Moon (1998)

This song is a Celtic-style fully instrumental tune that I fell in love with around March of 2013 or so. After Valley of the Giants, it’s probably my second favourite “Celtic Fantasy”/New Age sort of song, though that one leans more into the ambient genre than this one.

This one isn’t on YouTube or any video site that I can find right now, it’s a less popular track on one of Lisa’s less popular albums (even she doesn’t seem to like it (local)), and on top of that there seems to have been some scrubbing down by the hateful music industry.In addition, there seems to have been some oddity with its name, it’s known as The Shine of Shance in some places and The Shine of a Shane in others, and I have no idea why. Same exact song, though. Despite not being on YouTube, It’s on Spotify and Apple Music, and even whatever this website is, so you can probably listen to it on there.

For me, I was going through a state of depression in the 2010-2015 period, with a particularly bad stint from around 2014-2015 when I was away from work for some time, and New Age music, including this song, was one of the things that kept me going. I was really big into Celtic/Irish magical music then, which was my previous infatuation long before I had discovered anime and got hooked into Japanese music.

I apparently added this song to my Spotify playlist on Mar 31 2013, which is really, really close to my first gender transition day at work, Mar 27 2013, the day I first showed up to work as my preferred gender (prior to any surgeries — that was my first day of the 1 year Real Life Test that’s a standard part of the transition process). So you can imagine that Celtic music, and this song in particular, has a lot of connotations related to that stage of my life for me.

I was learning how to be the best girl I could be, and songs like this were stirring my heart and giving me mental images of a peasant maiden living in a medieval Irish village, dressed in a long, beautiful; flowing dress that came down to her ankles, dancing gracefully around a gloriously shining meadow in the middle of rolling, windswept hills with a friend playing this song on a flute nearby, seated on a large, flat rock next to a low stone wall that fenced in some sheep grazing on the grass by a glistening pond some distance away. That sort of idyllic image.

Later on, there would be many, many mornings or nights where I would lie in bed upset or depressed or just with a headache, and after putting on my Spotify playlists, this song (as part of the overall playlist medley it was in, but this one was one of the aces in the deck) would soothe my nerves and calm me down. Those songs are by and large no longer actively a part of my life, but they still contain many strong memories that resurface whenever I listen to the tracks.

Memory Snippet of the Week #28

Talking about Little Miracles, this is a specific strong memory I still have from sometime in 1997 or 1998, as I was walking home from what I think was the Tampines MRT Station to our Tampines 294 home. I was crossing a random residential side road like any other one on a bright, sunny afternoon, when I noticed a strange scene on the pavement on the other side of the road.

There was a dead bee or wasp (or hornet, I couldn’t tell the difference between the three of them at the time) lying face-up near the edge of the pavement by the grass, and six large soldier ants arranged in a circle around it. All six were facing the dead bee, and were situated a perfect distance from each other, as though rays radiating from a sun. They were unmoving as well, and all the right side up, as though they were soldiers standing at attention. There were no other ants or anything nearby that I could see.

That creeped me out big time. It felt like I had stumbled upon a secret insect summoning or sacrificial ritual or something. I gaped for a moment and then hurried on my way, passing on the right side of the scene across the grass while keeping a wide berth (about a metre or two) from them. Never saw them again of course, though it was a couple days before I dared take that path home again.

Anyway, for whatever reason, that scene has stuck with me all these years. Not as something scary or horrific, but just.. weird. Unexplainable. Mystical? Surely a Little Miracle, at least.

Dreams
Mar 22 2022
  • I had to run a multi-day marathon along a twisting and turning route through a bunch of outdoor stone corridors, where some legs of the marathon had optional tasks to complete or alternate routes for completion as well. On the first day, even though I was a bad runner, I sprinted early on and got all the way to 2nd or so, then jogged the rest of the way and ended up in 12th spot out of several hundred. One optional task on the first day was to grab some a grocery item from a large basket as we passed it — we’d have to either bring the item to the end of the race or consume it along the way for energy. I grabbed a corn stick and a small drink so that it would be easy to run, but I saw other things in it, like large 1 litre cartons of milk or juice, that would have been harder to carry. Another optional task had me answer a call from someone on a cellphone to troubleshoot their computer problem while I was running.
  • I eventually reached an outdoor room with a dozen or so small, raised stone circles set into the ground, which apparently was a boss fight that may or may not have been optional, and which needed multiple people to summon and then defeat. I waited around a short while and Zixiang showed up, so I summoned the boss with him, and several other people came in while we were fighting it to help us defeat it. We then moved on toward the finish line, which was at the foot of a narrow stone staircase that led up to some extra area that I didn’t care for.
  • On the second day, the initial part of the route was the same, but about halfway through the race there was a boat path that I could take instead, as I now owned a small fishing boat. I recruited a crew, which included two brothers that might have been twins, and who would pilot the boat, and an anime-ish warrior named Adel who was fashioned after Lent from Atelier Ryza, who had a big sword and would be my defence. I became friendly with a naval guild who was waiting around the area with about 10 boats or so, ranging from fishing boats to larger galleys, and they told me that there was a big naval war yesterday where they had been attacked by another naval guild who didn’t like them, in the final optional area.
  • I decided to join them and sail toward the destination with them as they were a friendly bunch, and there were a couple people in their ranks that I knew and liked. In the chaos of all the crew members running around, Adel got left behind, as I had informed my crew of my plans and told them they were free to follow me or choose to follow someone else. He just stood around in one spot because his AI was broken, and he only woke up to complain about it once we had already left. I told him to take the land route instead, and that we’d pick him up near the optional boss fight from yesterday, which was about halfway along the sea route. He did so and rejoined us there once I docked at a village just past that encounter and came back to get him so he didn’t have to fight the boss.
  • The guild I was with was worried about being Player Killed by the other navy guild on the way to the final area as well, but everything turned out fine. We docked at the end of the sea route, which was about 90% of the way through the race, and we drove cars the other 10% of the way toward the finish line. The road was a rickety road surrounded by high cliffs that went from a 3-lane road, to a 2-lane road, and then eventually a 1-lane road, and it was filled with a headache fog that blurred my vision and made it difficult for me to drive. James, who was with me in the car and apparently part of my group as well, mentioned that the reason I was feeling this way was that the University only had a partial subscription on the car to the tune of $3.50 per licence per month, and that we could upgrade to a $5 per licence per month plan, which would cause the cars to drive themselves and remove this issue. He said that I would probably find success if I made my case to our department’s executives, and I said that I would the next time I had to use the car for company business, which this wasn’t.
  • Once we reached the finish line, I looked up at the stone stairs leading to the optional area, and told the guild that I would bring my crew and go up first, since I was not actually in their guild, and I could then report back to let them know if the other guild was lying in wait. They said ok. I saw a few people standing around hoping for groups to join, and upon noticing Nak in particular, I recruited him so that our group became a party of 6. I lugged a cardboard box that my possessions were in out of the car, up the stairs, and into a wide, circular rooftop arena thing, where I received a notification that this was a World Zone where Open PVP was enabled. I was nervous about this because I didn’t want to lose my box of items, and there were a lot of people seated on various stone benches in the sun, no one was really hostile to each other and everyone was just sitting and chatting in a rather carnival-like mood.
  • I dragged my box and party over to an unoccupied bench, and told the rest of the guild that it seemed safe, so they came up as well to gather at another nearby bench. Looking around, I also saw that the area featured hourly entertainment, and this hour had some thin, summoned cartoony figures fighting each other by some benches as various people stood around to watch, cheer, and bet on them.
Mar 24 2022
  • I was on a double decker bus on a long overnight journey somewhere across Canada, except in my dream Canada was an entity that also spread across Northern China, Mongolia, and Southern Russia, and had land all the way as far west as Eastern Europe. There was a trivia question at some point about how many map squares Canada occupied on the grid map I was looking at, and the answer was 40.
  • Anyway, on the bus, I sat on the front leftmost double seat, just behind the driver’s seat, and I closed my eyes and tried to doze off for a bit. Various people came on and off and various events occurred, one of them being that the bus stopped by a gas station so that someone could get a coffee from the attached convenience store. The bus driver said that they probably only sold 5L drinks, but the person came back and said they sold 6L ones, so several other people also got off to buy drinks from the store, and the bus driver gave an older man a $10 bill so that he could buy the driver a large 6L cup of coffee too.
  • Much earlier in the dream, I remember a snippet involving a drama between two people who lived in rooms across a narrow hallway from each other, and liked each other, but refused to have sex with each other, which would have sealed some sort of deal. It was first the woman who refused, so the man went home to take a shower, and I and another woman eventually convinced the woman and went to talk to the man but the man refused this time. Later on we found out it was partially due to our presence and some sort of misinterpreted rule which the two of them thought meant that they couldn’t have a relationship with each other while we were present (or not present) or something like that.
Mar 25 2022
  • I arrived at a train station where there was an outdoor square, and then four escalators leading down into the ground set just outside the square in the four cardinal directions. The escalators on the northern, western, and southern ones led to the same train station, while the eastern one led to a different train station, and was guarded by a number of transit policemen. I needed to use that eastern train station, so I walked by them, prompting one of them to ask me for my ID, which I showed them. The train was arriving just as I descended the escalator, so I hurried down it and got onto the train.
  • I followed a girl that I recognized onto the train, and sat down on her left. I noticed that there were three other versions of her on the train as well, two seated across from me and one more standing. All four versions had a recognizable shoulder-length hairstyle and nearly identical facial features, and I recognized that they were copies of each other, although I then realized that the one I had just followed onto the train had scrunched up facial features that made her look like a broken doll from a horror movie. Still, I felt pity for her more than anything, and attempted to engage her in pleasantries, but she didn’t reply. Another mutual friend came along and sat to my left, before also leaning over and saying hi to the two of us. The girl on my right looked up blankly at her and one of the other copies of her said that she was an earlier version of the original person and was probably lacking a significant amount of memories that would allow her to recognize at least me, if not the both of us.
Mar 27 2022
  • I was one girl in a friends group of about 12 or so, and it felt like a mix between an idol group and the Akebi-chan anime, and everyone had different skills so we got called upon in various combinations of groups of 4 to go out and visit places or fight bosses with exorbitant amounts of hit points. I remember at one stage having a whole lot of armour to craft and noting that I had enough material to craft and wear about 9% of the armour. At another stage I was sitting at a canteen table with a couple of them, being interviewed by someone, and a couple more finished whatever they were doing and joined us. We greeted them happily.

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