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Archived Posts for October 2003

Please note: The posts on this page are at least 3 years old. Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.
30
Oct 03
Thu

Double Conviction is a World Record

A Russian has made it into the Guinness Book of World records after being convicted twice of the same crime. In a case of what sounds like double jeopardy, the second conviction came ten years after the first. What a strange legal system.

  10:15pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Law  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (2)  • 
29
Oct 03
Wed

Cafe Del Mar

Finally! I got all ten volumes of Cafe Del Mar, plus the 20th anniversary set. Go BitTorrent! (Yes, I am still on 28.8k dialup. Yes, it did take a painfully long time.) Still need the chillhouse mixes and a couple other ones though.

My favourite is still Volume 7. Jose Padilla’s stuff is the best. Bruno’s selections (Vols 8, 9) are rubbish, although Volume 10 does manage to redeem him.

How Not To Run a Door-to-Door Survey

That’s it. I’m not answering the doorbell anymore. No good can come out of it. I’ve had countless telecomm salespeople, religious nuts and midnight parcel delivery psychopaths. However, this afternoon was a watershed for traumatic door encounters.

So someone buzzes the door this afternoon. My ever-so-dependable “Stuart you answer the door” wussy flatmate happened to be legitimately indisposed at the time.

“Hello, I am doing door-to-door surveys, would you like to do one?”
“Erm, no sorry.”
“You get a scratchie.”
“Oh. Ok. Come right up.”

So this pudgy Asian girl bounded up the stairs and into my apartment, said, “Nice place you have here,” and launched straight into a rather lengthy self-administered questionnaire without any survey introduction at all.

Twenty minutes later, after answering countless mindnumbing questions on my softdrink drinking habits, I started questioning whether it was worth the scratchie. Example questions:

“Do you identify any of these drinks as masculine? What about feminine?”

“Do you strongly or slightly agree or disagree with the statement, ‘Solo is low on the fizz so you can slam it down fast?'”
To this, I just cracked up laughing and said, “Uh, I suppose so? Strongly?”

It did make me somewhat self-conscious when she asked, “What softdrink types do you know?” and I rattled off a list so fast that she had to ask me to repeat it several times because she couldn’t keep up (and all she had to do was circle the brands). I guess we are all guilty of consumerism when we can run off a list of 10 different
softdrinks without thinking. I was relieved when the demographics section, signalling the end of the survey, arrived.

“Would you be interested in participating in any focus groups?”
“Definitely not.”
“Do you have an internet connection? Yeah? What about our online research program?”
“Hmmm, yeah ok.”

I got this really weird look from her, like she didn’t realise how much more comfortable it is to answer questionnaires online. Anyway, she took down my contact details, and it was only when she asked for my e-mail address that I thought it probably would have been wise to ask her if there was a privacy policy or something attached to the information I was giving. And it only occurred to me because the event of disclosing my e-mail
address signalled, “Spam! Spam! Spam!” in my head. So I gave her an email address I had set up for situations like this.

Luckily, she later pulled out a slip of paper disclosing Millward Brown’s privacy policy, passed me two scratchies, and a slip of paper to sign. That’s when things got… interesting. As I was filling out the piece of paper, she continued asking rapid-fire questions and
talkingreallyfasteventhoughthesurveyhadfinished:

“So you’re a uni student right? What do you study?”
“Law.”
“Oh cool, at New South?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Ah, so what year are you in?”
“First year.”

This always elicits a quizzical look, because I don’t look like I’m 18 (despite what the cinema box office staff think), so inevitably I had to follow it up with an explanation.

“Oh this is my second degree. I did an IT degree first.”
“So how long was your first degree?”
“Four years.”
“And how long is law?”
“It’s another three years, yeah it’s a long slog!”
“Damn. I can’t imagine studying for five years, let alone seven…”
“Ah, but uni life is excellent. The only problem is that you don’t make money while you’re doing it!” I joked.
“Yeah… so you’re like… poor.”
“Uh…”
“Don’t you feel like you need to work? And why is law taking so long?”
“Well, in my first degree, I worked for about 18 months full-time and decided from that that the working life could wait.”
“Why didn’t you do law at the start? Didn’t you get the marks?”
“Yeah I did, but I wanted to do IT, and the course I did meant that I couldn’t do combined law at that stage.”

Quizzical look. More explanation required. A disturbing suspicion and discomfort growing.

“I got a scholarship for IT which meant that I couldn’t combine it with law, hence the longer time it takes to do the two degrees separately.”
“Oh wow, you got a scholarship?”
“Yeah.”
“At New South?”
“Yeah.”
“And now you’re doing law?”
“Yeah.”
“Are you really smart?”

What the? How the fuck are you supposed to answer a question like that?

“I’m alright, I suppose,” I muttered with a disturbed chuckle. Cue the bomb.
“Do you have a girlfriend?–“
“Uh… I–“
“–do you want to go out with me?”

I think I held my composure in a physical sense, but it took me a split second to regain my mental composure, which had been momentarily obliterated. (She was quite unattractive, by the way – that’s an important point.)

“Look, I don’t know you. And all you really know about me is that I drink too much Coke for my own good.”
“Oh…”

She left soon afterwards.

I felt violated. And I only won a measly $4 off the scratchies.

So, no more doorbells. Unless they’re really good looking.

Phrase of the Day

Came across this quaint phrase yesterday: Hobson’s Choice. A Hobson’s Choice is where you really don’t have a choice.

Hobson’s choice is said to have had its origin in the name of one Thomas Hobson (ca. 1544-1631), at Cambridge, England, who kept a livery stable and required every customer to take either the horse nearest the stable door or none at all.

In 1914 Henry Ford offered customers of the Model T a famous Hobson’s choice, making it available in “any color so long as it is black”.

As I said, quaint.

28
Oct 03
Tue

Acquaintances

Another very interesting Wired article:

In 1974, a Harvard sociologist made a seemingly unremarkable discovery. It is, in fact, who you know. His study asked several hundred white-collar workers how they’d landed their jobs. More than half credited a “personal connection.” Duh. But then it got interesting: The researcher, Mark Granovetter, dug deeper and discovered that four-fifths of these backdoor hires barely knew their benefactors. As it turns out, close friends are great for road trips, intimate dinners, and the occasional interest-free loan, but they suck for job leads and blind dates – they know the same people you do. In other words, it’s not so much who you know, but who you vaguely know. Granovetter called the phenomenon “the strength of weak ties.” He had discovered the human node.

I reckon uni is a microcosm for social networks. As for human hypernodes in uni… you know the people I’m talking about.

  10:34pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Culture  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (4)  • 

The Diamond Industry

Have you ever tried to sell a diamond? Intriguing article written in 1982 about the diamond trade and how the market forces are carefully regulated by the De Beers cartel. I though the 40% premium idea was a particularly nasty, but clever, piece of work. Compare with this Wired article, over 20 years on.

  10:05pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Culture  •  Tweet This  •  Add a comment  • 

Google IPO

Google thinking of IPO… via online auction. I-Banks queasy about US$500m in fees that they could have just missed out on. How typical of a company like Google to attempt something like this: “If Google really does bypass this system in favour of an online auction a revolution could ensue.” That may be a bit dramatic, but it’s definitely an interesting situation, seeing what Google decides to do.

25
Oct 03
Sat

Yen Industries Advert Competition

There’s a stick of OCZ 512MB PC3500 High Performance Ram up for grabs if you design a good sub-200kB 468×60 ad banner for Yen Industries. See here for more details.

Legacy of the Drow Quartet

Read the third set of Salvatore’s Drizzt books during the last holidays. As a quartet I really liked its variety, how it kept moving through different scales and environments. The fourth book, Passage to Dawn, was a really refreshing read (the wizard duel between Harkle and Robillard was a classic), although the “surprise” at the end during the showdown with Errtu was fairly predictable. Pirates of the Carribean actually reminded me of Passage to Dawn quite a bit, which is probably testimony to the rollicking good fun that Pirates was.

Amalgamated Post

Daylight saving is back. It’s the start of Week 13 tomorrow. That means exams are three weeks away. Luckily, after a long week, all the assessments and assignments for this session are out of the way. Had a crim law presentation on attempted crimes, followed by a gruelling finance exam on Tuesday (let this be a lesson that while it is possible to learn, virtually from scratch, an entire semester’s worth of Applied Valuation over three evenings, it is most definitely not recommended). Got a couple of assignments back and it never ceases to amaze me how savagely they mark law essays. Went to Oktoberfest in which I performed my bi-annual test to check if my alcohol allergy was still around. Yep, it was. I think UNSW smashed through Macquarie’s pitiful world record for people drinking shots on the same day.

Elsewhere…
– iTunes? This is me. Although a Winamp 5 beta has been released. It’s version 5 and not 4 because it’s Winamp 2 + 3. What is with companies and version numbers? Even Adobe has caught on, naming their latest version of Photoshop as “Photoshop CS” which stands for Creative Studio, I think.
– New 5MP Sony digicam with zoom lens that’ll comfortably fit in most pockets. Very nice.
– Warren, of Virgin 5c SMS messages fame, has a web site. *Shudder*
– Native Koreans tend to have a very difficult time grappling with English, but I don’t think resorting to surgery (“frenotomy”) is the panacea to your child’s pronounciation problems. I’m pretty sure that all Australian-born Koreans have no problems with the Aussie accent.
Google hunting for I-Bank to underwrite its IPO, wants US$16bn valuation. I’d invest.

Intolerable Cruelty

Well… this film had its moments. I think Shan and I were the only two people in the cinema cracking up at the lawyer in-jokes (which weren’t all that funny, come to think of it).

21
Oct 03
Tue

Some Links

- The most powerful diesel engine in the world. It’s 2300 tonnes.
Toshiba e800: the first Pocket PC with a 640×480 resolution screen.

19
Oct 03
Sun

44 Day Famine

Blaine’s Out.

Newspaper Conspiracies

Interesting…

The Sydney Morning Herald has been publishing, or at least archiving, Target on the Web since 18th March 2002 – http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/puzzles/2002/03/18/target.html – or maybe the 19th because the first two are the same. Two things to note:

* The previous day’s solution (i.e. the last non-web Target) was TERRORISM.
* This year’s Iraq war started on, what, the 19th or 20th of March, depending on your time zone? So the one-year anniversary of Target being published on the Web, give or take a day.

Now I know that the SMH takes Target verbatim from some UK newspaper, I forget which. It could quite possibly also be published in other papers in other countries, particularly within the Coalition of the Willing.

Tentative conclusions:

* Could newspaper puzzles (Target, crosswords, Wordwit) be a transmission medium for details of US “military targets” or, as they are more commonly known, “foreign policy”? (And is this going to turn me into John Nash?)
* Conversely, might it be possible to affect world events by heaping, say, foreign place names into a crossword that George W is known to take a shot at (or at least read the solutions for in the next day’s paper)? Word/name familiarity is fairly well known to affect decisions, that’s why stupid but memorable ads sell products… this would effectively be a form of subliminal advertising, but for potential military targets instead of shampoo.

I should get back to work now.
– Shish

So should I.

17
Oct 03
Fri

Champagne Bottles

Recently, the definition of “Nebuchadnezzar” came up in a game of Balderdash. A while later, a question was asked at trivia about how many bottles of champagne did a “Magnum” hold. A couple days ago I got a “Split” of champagne for making the mooting semifinals (we actually won our moot, but they were running three moots for the semis and only took the top two winners). So, due to the abnormal spate of champagne references in my life, I decided to check up on these curious names. I adapted the list below from this website.

Split: 200 ml
Fillette: 375 ml
Bottle: 800 or 750 ml
Magnum: 2 bottles
Jeroboam: 4
Rehoboam: 6
Methuselah: 8
Shalmaneser: 12
Balthazar: 16
Nebuchadnezzar: 20 regular-sized bottles

Kill Bill

Two thumbs up!

  11:10pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Movies  •  Tweet This  •  Comments (1)  • 
15
Oct 03
Wed

Oops

Bob Carr hits the headlines with his soon-to-be-infamous “obey the law or leave the country” quote:

“My message is simple: Obey the law of Australia or ship out of Australia,” he told reporters. “We’re not going to see, step by step, our civilisation dragged back to medieval standards of revenge cycles. We’ve got private vengeance, private vendettas being pursued here and we won’t have a bar of it.”

When asked to explain how Australian citizens – if found to be responsible for the crime – could be forced to leave the country, Mr Carr only referred back to his original comments.

“I make no apologies for saying we don’t want this in Australia.”

Then came a swift Labor “clarification” after Brogden stepped up to criticise Carr:

NSW Labor backbencher Janice Crosio said she understood how Mr Carr’s comments could be seen as racist, but migrants had to understand they must obey Australian law.

“We are a nation that has welcomed migrants for 200 years since European settlement first started. We all love our country and we would like all our new settlers to do the same.”

Welcomed migrants for 200 years? Really?

Quickies

- Turn That PC Into a Supercomputer: A 25 gigaflop co-processor on a PCI card. And affordable.
iTunes for Windows: iTunes is actually a pretty good piece of software.
China in space: Third nation to do so.

13
Oct 03
Mon

Lethal Injections

This is quite disturbing. I was always an advocate of the death penalty, but over the last couple years, I’ve gradually come around and realised that it’s not a good thing at all for society. This article may not constitute a reason against a death sentence, but it certainly raises the unsavoury nature of having to impose such sentences.

Lawrence (1917 – 2003)

Word arrived that my grandfather passed away in Singapore last week. Mum went back to visit him a couple months ago. After a doctor’s report came through early last week that he only had a few days to live, Mum had booked a flight straight away. Unfortunately, the doctors overestimated how much time he had left to live (something extremely unusual given their usual conservative estimates), and he succumbed to lung cancer on Wednesday. Mum’s flight left on Thursday.

This is not an obituary. Obituaries are written by people who know the deceased well. This is more like a diary entry, because it seemed fitting to write something to record the sad event. Like most grandchildren who are born overseas, I never was especially close to my grandfather. Didn’t see him enough. When I did see him, communication difficulties were the main issue, even when I grew old enough to be reasonably conversant with adults. It didn’t help that he was quite hard of hearing and I almost had to shout to get my words across.

It was ironic in a way. His command of English was by no means perfect, but he was still more or less fluent, which is a bonus with Asians of his generation. By all accounts, he knew how to speak six or seven different languages/dialects, which to me is absolutely amazing.

In contrast, I only know a single language – the product of years of growing up in a country town public school in the mid-80s where everyone still went around calling Asians “ching-chong Chinaman!” and then pushing up the corners of their eyes to make them slanty. (Relatives keep chiding me for not picking up my mother tongue when I was young. But why would a 6-year old, the only Asian in the class, learn Cantonese when it’s something that would serve no useful purpose other than to make you seem even more alien from your peers? No thanks, I’ll stick to English. 6-year olds simply don’t have the foresight to see past that kind of relentless teasing. My remedy back then to those situations was a well placed fist-to-the-face that saw me get hauled up in front of the Principal on several occasions where he pulled out the old “sticks and stones” aphorism. Nonetheless, I found that the brawls were quite effective in stopping all the racist teasing!)

I was in Singapore by myself in early 2001, and Mum had demanded that I pay a visit to my grandfather out of respect. Always a strongly independent person, he lived alone, by choice. Well, almost alone. There was quite a stir because a mainland Chinese girl – a student, supposedly – had recently moved in, renting out a room in his flat. Most of the family were convinced that she was after his money, and tried to get him to kick her out. However, he refused to turn her away because he appreciated her “companionship”.

Anyway, I was quite reluctant to visit him. Not out of disrespect, but mainly because of awkwardness. I would be there by myself for a few hours. What would I talk to him about? What would he say to me? I’d never had a conversation with him in my life. The whole prospect was unusually daunting. And this was my own grandfather no less!

A few hours later, another relative dropped by to pick me up. Of course, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Sure the conversation at times ground to a halt. There were periods of silence. There were times when he seemed to zone out for a few minutes, perhaps lost in thought. But it wasn’t as if we had nothing to talk about. I’d just come in from Europe, and that sparked off a round of stories from him about his travels when he was young. Old people always have stories to tell. (And there was one moment when the phone rang and I witnessed the most unexpected sight of an 80-something year old answering a mobile phone!) Don’t get me wrong, I still felt awkward, but I was glad that I had dropped by.

When Mum called up later to check how everything was, word got back to me that my grandfather had enjoyed the visit immensely, and it occurred to me just how important companionship was to the widower. To me it was just an awkward couple of hours, but to him it was much more. And in that light, it didn’t seem so awkward anymore. I’ll miss him dearly.

9
Oct 03
Thu

World Record

Phenomenal. Matthew Hayden just broke Lara’s record for most runs scored in a Test innings. Ever.

Sodium Party

1.5 kilos of Sodium. Add water. This is what happens.

8
Oct 03
Wed

Vulgar Number Plate

A link on Fark caught my eye: “DMV tells Dennis Udink that his last name is vulgar; won’t issue personalized plate” Yes, it is the e/n Uncle Dennis!

Backbench Issue 3

Backbench issue 3 is out. Check it out.

1
Oct 03
Wed

Thinking Style Quiz

From Fuzzy, a quiz by BBC tries to match you to a particular mode of thinking. No surprises about what I got:

Logical-Mathematical thinkers:
– Like to understand patterns and relationships between objects or actions
– Try to understand the world in terms of causes and effects
– Are good at thinking critically, and solving problems creatively

Careers which suit Logical-Mathematical thinkers include: Physicist, Chemist, Biologist, Lawyer, Computer Programmer, Engineer, Inventor

Story Time

After seeing the trailer for Return of the King, I got all fired up about LOTR again. When it gets released in December though, I’ll most probably be in Malaysia. Based on the previous two overseas experiences, watching the premieres of the first two instalments in Bangkok and Singapore, I gained a new appreciation for the excellent quality of Australian cinemas – comfy seats, adequately tiered seating, terrific sound and huge screens (if you get the right cinemas). Dave is going to try and book out a bunch of seats in Kuala Lumpur at the end of the year in the “gold seating” area of the cinema. Incidentally, a premium ticket there is cheaper than an ordinary ticket in Australia. However, I remain skeptical about the quality of cinema screens in Asia. I also appreciate the “first come, first served” nature of ticketing in Australia. We don’t give a stuff how much money you have, if you want good seats then you’ll just have to line up earlier. (Excepting those gold class and La Premiere yuppies who are getting ripped off.)

I was grumbling to Dad about Asian cinemas when he promptly launched into an anecdote about how the cinemas of the good ol’ days totally 0wN3d today’s cinemas. No, he didn’t actually use the word “owned”.

During the middle of the 20th century, Singapore used to have a huge cinema which sat over a thousand people. The seats were zoned and priced accordingly. There was upper level seating (“circle seating”) in addition to the regular floor seating. The seats closest to the screen cost $1, those further away cost $2, and the circle seating was $3. The circle seating was mainly occupied by the British colonialists who were still fairly prominent in Singaporean society at that time, comfortably segregated from the slantier-eyed plebians sitting below.

Going to the movies was a bigger deal back then than it was now, no doubt due to the relatively costly nature of it. Dad recalled when one day his grandfather took him and my uncle out to the movies. My great-grandfather was a well known business tycoon, making his millions doing something or other with palm oil in the shipping industry. Despite the respect he garnered among even the colonialists, he never adopted the coat and tie attire of the West, preferring to wear the simple garb of “Chinamen”. More than one occasion arose where he was mistaken for a simple pauper and shooed away from stores, only to return clutching an imposing wad of paper bills to the intense chagrin of the store owner.

Family legend has it that he went shopping for a fridge one day. Upon inquiring about the price, the sales attendant snidely remarked, “Uncle, if you can afford it, I will give it to you for free!” My great-grandfather chuckled and declared that he would buy all the fridges on display. The amused attendant didn’t recognise the simply-dressed man, but the store owner certainly did. He was an acquitance of my great-grandfather. After a flurry of apologies, the owner chased off the sales attendant, reprimanding him. “Do you know who that man is?”

My great-grandfather was a strange fellow. He had money — money which has long since evaporated through the spending and vice of the following generations — so I guess that made him eccentric. One day he arrived home in the evening and declared to my Dad, about 12 at the time, and my uncle that he would be taking them to a movie. They both expressed delight at the treat, and went off to get changed from their pajamas into something more presentable. Before they could move, however, the old man grabbed them by the wrists and whisked them into the waiting car with a stern, “No! There’s no time! Let’s go!”

What followed was a period of extreme mortification for Dad. I can only imagine the scene. A simple-looking chinaman arrives at the circle seats of the cinema, among the formally-dressed, pecunious upper-class white folk. He is dragging his two utterly embarrassed grandchildren, who are wearing nothing but PJs. He received strange stares all night. It’s like rocking up to A-grade opera seats in PJs today. Dad claims he still has nightmares about the incident.

Baby Yabbies

When she got pregnant, it was time to rename “Marsellus” to get her gender correct. One of our yabbies got laid a few weeks ago, and right now she’s packing hundreds of baby yabbies underneath her tail. It’s quite a repulsive sight actually, but I’m sure once the yabbies mature they will be a bit cuter.

Pregnant Yabby
The piece of shell in the picture is a leftover from a recent moult
(or more accurately, a recent occurrence of ecdysis)

I went scouring for a bit more information about Yabby breeding habits, since I’ve heard that yabbies eat anything, and that anything includes their young. And if they don’t eat their young, then we still have a slight problem if nearly 100 baby yabbies are roaming around the tank.

- PDF Datasheet

Yabby FAQ

When freshwater crayfish mate, the male deposits a small packet of sperm gel on the female, near the reproductive openings. The female then passes the eggs out through the openings and across the sperm packet, during which process they become fertilised. The eggs are guided to the underside of the tail (kept cupped during egg laying), where they are fastened on to the swimmerettes (the small legs on the abdomen) and carried until they hatch. Juveniles have special hooks on their legs to allow them to cling to the hairs of the female’s swimmerettes; they moult several times before leaving the parent.

The female protects the eggs carefully. If the level of dissolved oxygen falls, she elevates her tail and fans the eggs. If the water becomes too warm, she will find a cooler place. However, because the eggs are large, and because of the time and energy she devotes to them, she can afford to produce only a few hundred compared with the hundreds of thousands of relatively minute eggs of the marine lobsters. The newly hatched young are known as ‘juveniles'; they resemble the adults and do not pass through the free-living larval stages of lobsters, prawns and many other crustaceans. The juvenile yabby is consequently better equipped for survival than the young of most of the marine crustaceans and not as vulnerable to predation.

Breeding begins in spring when the water temperature reaches 15 to 16*C. The first batch of eggs (100 to 500 eggs per individual, depending upon the size of the female) hatches 8 to 10 weeks later in early summer. As soon as the young have left (a further 3 weeks later), the female is ready to breed again. Because of the higher water temperatures in summer, the second brood takes only 3 to 4 weeks to incubate. Some females will breed three or more times during the breeding season [oh shit], which, if the temperature remains high enough, can extend into autumn. In the warmer water in the west of the State, the breeding season may continue almost year around. … The yabby is not averse to attacking and eating its own kind, especially when the prey is smaller, or soft after moulting. (Src)

In courtship the male yabby uses his claws to impress the female. After mating the male has no interest at all in the upbringing of the young yabbies. The eggs which have been fertilised lies between the females rear legs so she curls her tail around them to cover them. Hundreds are laid at a time though not all hatch. After birth the young hang onto their mother for 4 to 6 weeks At this stage they are known as “Larvae”. (Src)

i have been raising yabbies for about a year and a half now, and everything has been going really well. in fact, 3 weeks after introducing a new female into the tank with my big male, she got pregnant. unfortunately i have not had another tank spare to move the female and the young ones to, and now i have around 70 to 100 baby yabbies roaming the tank. a problem has arisen from this, however, as i had an internal power filter running on the tank, but the babies were being sucked into the filter and i have taken it out. this leaves me with no filtration and no aeration, which brings me to my point. has anyone got any suggestions on how i might go about aerating the water? (Src)

Hmm. Yes, the aquarium’s going to be interesting over the next few weeks.

We find the prisoner guilty of the theft of a Long Sword +3

There’s such thing as intangible property, sure, but this is ridiculous. Some gamers want to be able to prosecute people for mugging/swindling/killing them in MMORPG worlds. The brunt of these claims comes from, surprise surprise, the game crazy nation of South Korea: “The police in South Korea – a country as mad about gaming as the UK is about football – report that of the 40,000 or so cybercrimes reported in the first six months of 2003, more than half (22,000) had something to do with online gaming.” Read BBC Article. Amusing, but also disturbing.

And for no particular reason, here’s a map to Mordor.



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