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    The Mommy Gamers Podcast Episode 170: Of Eclipses and Uranus

    The Mommy Gamers Podcast Episode 170: Of Eclipses and Uranus

    For Episode 170 of The Mommy Gamers Podcast Carrie and Marcia are joined by Jeff Hannah, Principal Technical Artist at Volition Games to chat about the release of Agents of Mayhem. Jeff chats about all of the local community hype revolving around the game launch, and Carrie gets extra excited about all the Uranus jokes because #ButtStuff. The ladies introduce a new segment titled “You Know You’re Old When…”, everyone chats about their experience with the solar eclipse, and for some reason something about a poop emoji plunger Kickstarter made it in here too. An awesome listener question regarding the current trend of early access games turns into a really great discussion, which helped make this a very well balanced episode and one you won’t want to miss.

    Shout out to our newest Patreon supporter Dee Phair! If you love our show, and want to support us and get fun rewards including a shout out on the next podcast, you can join our Patreon community here.

    Also, you don’t have to come back here every week to get the latest podcast. You can subscribe to The Mommy Gamers podcast for FREE on iHeart RadioGoogle Play MusiciTunes and Stitcher or you can access The Mommy Gamers app through Podcast Box on iTunes or in the Amazon app store for Android. Don’t forget to catch the live streams on Twitch and follow them us on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook too!

    Care for Our World

    CareforOurWorldGameTheMommyGamers

    My daughter Amber and I received a copy of Care for Our World, an interactive storybook app for iPad, and we had a blast playing around with it. Care for Our World, written by Karen Roberts, was originally published as a book in 2012. It included punch-out animals for children to play with. Sunbreak Games, have brought that creative play to the app with features like Habitat Playset (Amber’s favorite feature) where children can use interactive stickers to create their own animal habitats, Coloring Book where you can color a scene from the book almost anyway you want to, and Animal Encyclopedia where your child can learn about all of the animals mentioned in the story as well as hear what they sound like, and see pictures of them in the real world.

     


    The actual storybook part of the app is well done for the most part, and is highly interactive. Nearly everything you touch has a reaction, and narration. The colors are vivid, and the illustrations are whimsical. In fact, the only thing that didn’t sit well with me was the narration. In my opinion, when you have a story with words that are rich and full of life, you should strive to have a narrator that matches them with their voice. Unfortunately, in this case the narrator falls a little flat, and while his voice is not unpleasant, he’s not far enough away from monotone for my liking. I also feel that since the app is geared for ages 3-8, not having an option for narration in the, Animal Encyclopedia section of the app was a missed opportunity, as younger children will need someone to read for them.

    Overall, I think Care for Our World is lovely, and has a great deal of replay value for children. It is well worth the $2.99 investment. You can download it now on the iOS App Store by clicking here.

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    What Is It with This Pokemon Go Thing Anyway?

    pokeGOlogoYou’ve been hearing about it ad nauseum, and you’re shaking your head at the bands of kids trespassing on your property in search of the Pokemon that’s apparently hiding in your backyard. You put up this meme:

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    Nevertheless, at least half the people walking down the street with their phones are clearly not 10, either. Some of us even have jobs. So what is the deal with Pokemon Go? Why do you hate it so much? Why does it feel so invasive? Why is everyone playing it in inappropriate places? Well, before you out yourself as the grumpy old person yelling at kids to get off your lawn, here’s what you need to know:

    

The Basics

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    The teams are Valor (red – discipline), Instinct (yellow – intuition, and Mystic (blue – intellect). Players can choose a team at Level 5.

    Pokemon Go is a free app available for smartphones, an “augmented reality” game from The Pokemon Company and Niantic, Inc. This basically means that it puts virtual gameplay onto a map of the real world, and players interact with both. Pokemon Go is designed to get people out and about, to make them happier and healthier. It does this by generating virtual “pocket monsters” (that’s what Pokemon stands for), well known from previous Pokemon games and thus already favorites with fans, that appear on the phone screen.

    Players catch Pokemon with a flick of the wrist – throwing a virtual Pokeball toward the target. 

In addition to roaming Pokemon, the game also includes PokeStops and Pokemon Gyms. PokeStops are basically stationary rings that you can spin to get free items such as Pokeballs, which are used to catch Pokemon, along with eggs, which hold Pokemon inside and can be hatched if you do a certain amount of walking, and other enhancements. Gyms are places where players can battle each other. If you win a battle, you can take over the gym.

    Playing Pokemon Go is easy. Open the app, and the GPS finds your location. Your screen shows you which Pokemon are close, and where nearby PokeStops and Gyms are located. Start walking. You’ll find Pokemon along the way. At level 5, you can join one of three teams – Instinct (yellow), Mystic (blue), or Valor (red). Think of it as being sorted into a house at Hogwarts – your identification becomes tied in with these groups.

    

The Good

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    The Art Institute of Chicago posted a controversial Facebook post this week encouraging visitors to come find Pokemon inside – in this case, in front of its iconic Chagall windows.

    Pokemon Go is a game of discovery. It makes people get out and explore their neighborhoods, and it encourages socializing. My son has actually been getting off the couch this summer and going outside. Last night I took him to Ravinia Festival for an outdoor musical concert, and he talked to at least ten people about the game. We went to the zoo, where I’ve been volunteering every other week 20 years, and I didn’t recognize half the PokeStops because they were at statues and landmarks I’ve ignored in all my visits there. I had no idea they existed. In my hometown, I discovered a war memorial I must have passed 100 times, and never noticed before.

    Anecdotes already abound about how Pokemon is helping people’s mental health. And it’s giving local businesses a boost. Because Pokemon Go is so popular, entrepreneurs are trying to figure out how to utilize it for their own purposes and small businesses are seeing an uptick in sales from people coming in the door to find Pokemon. Pet shelters and museums and retailers are advertising the presence of Pokemon to get people in the door. (If you are looking for ways to leverage the popularity of the game, I recommend making an in-app purchase; spend $1 – 100 PokeCoins- and set off a lure, which will attract Pokemon and customers for 30 minutes after you activate it.) Also, T-Mobile just announced that data used to play Pokemon Go will not count towards its users’ data allowance.

    Ultimately, the addictive appeal for Pokemon can be a good thing. The goal of hatching eggs is already making more inroads than my Fitbit Alta in getting me to walk places, and I’ve never seen my son so excited to go places that might have Pokemon. The zoo! The botanic garden! The hardware store down the street, which has a gym! And there will be more ways for small businesses to leverage the game’s popularity, too, such as sponsorships that will turn them into portals.

    The Bad

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    Here’s a screenshot of my phone, with a promotion that showed up on my feed from Binny’s Beverage Depot.

    As with any other engrossing app, Pokemon Go has people looking down at their phones instead of ahead. This can cause problems, because people not paying attention can cause accidents and such (although that traffic accident supposedly caused by someone playing the game is totally false, bad things are happening to players who are careless or who are putting themselves in danger). In addition, Pokemon tend to spawn everywhere, even places that aren’t necessarily friendly to the public, and Gyms and PokeStops can be located in unexpected locations.

    This is because, by the way, Niantic put out a previous game called Ingress, in which users submitted “portals” to be included on the virtual map that’s now basically being used for Pokemon Go. There are rules for these submissions, so PokeStops and Gyms do not interfere with private property, emergency services, or schools. Not all of these locations are completely current because things change so often in the real world, which is why players may end up in locations that don’t truly exist anymore (Please note: you can now submit requests to create portals in the game).

    There are other issues (for example, click here for the word on the game’s overly broad permissions ask). Different Pokemon are found in different locations, and at different times of day. So it can very well be dangerous for some people to play. I know a white man who feels uncomfortable loitering around parks where women and children are clustered. I’ve heard stories of black men who feel the game is too dangerous for them to enjoy, given the present climate. I’ve heard tales from physically disabled people who literally cannot access places where where Pokemon are found. It is not a perfect situation.

    

The Ugly

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    A game screen, with map. The blue rings at the bottom are a PokeStop; click on it, and a photo of the landmark appears. You spin it to  get items. The darker blue landmark in the distance is a Gym, and it’s blue because right now it’s controlled by Team Mystic. On the bottom right of the screen, the white box tells you which Pokemon are near. If you click on a Pokemon as it appears, the screen changes to a camera image of what’s in front of you, with Pokemon superimposed and a PokeBall ready to “throw.” I caught a Rattata on my bed this morning…

    In the nine or so days that the game has been available, there’s been been a lot of buzz on the Internet, and much of it is bad. Any obsession, enjoyed without rules and not in moderation, can of course be dangerous, and there is etiquette to be learned and followed. The game is new, and people haven’t thought about the consequences of their actions yet (most of them have never heard of Ingress, so they don’t have experience with a game of this type). On the other hand, Pokemon Go gamers have been called many bad names by people who don’t understand the game’s appeal. The Internet is judgey, as usual. The comments sections should not be read.

    If Pokemon Go players are encroaching on your space, you have every right to say something. If they are breaking rules by sneaking in someplace that requires paid admission, that’s wrong. It’s true that there are currently PokeStops in some places that might be viewed as inappropriate – those places were put on the map by previous Ingress players and are only now being deemed offensive because of the number of people playing Pokemon Go. No one even noticed them before. In the past, however, Niantic (once a part of Google) has been responsive about removing them. The people who placed portals in these places most likely had good intentions – bringing people in, for example. It doesn’t mean players are being forced to use those stops, though. As more people play, and as everyone understands the problems of having Pokestops in these locations, things will change.

    But in my experience, it is both possible to stay out of the way of people while I’m playing Pokemon Go, and also be tolerant of people who are, after all, simply enjoying a fun little game that is getting them out and about. Just give players a little time to adjust. I’ll also remind the naysayers that the novelty will wear off – and although there will be updates and changes (an announcement about trading and other improvements has already been made), Pokemon Go – which is, after all, a fun game but not a really great one – will be much less appealing in the winter. At least, here in Chicago. If you live in Florida, you may be out of luck.

    If some kids do cross your lawn in search of Pokemon, feel free to channel the spirit of the game. Instead of yelling at them, why not ask them about it and make some new friends?

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    Thanks to Neko Atsume, I’m A Virtual Cat Lady

    neko-atsume-logoI admit it. Lately, I haven’t been playing that many games. Oh, I still dabble in Clash of Clans or Super Mario Maker once in a while, but life – and work – keeps getting in the way, and I was never any good at gaming anyway. I do play enough that some Facebook quiz, trying to guess my gender, age, and income level via the apps on my phone, seems to think I’m a 32-year-old married man with a $52,000 per year salary. In reality, I’m a middle-aged single mom trying to eke out a living as a freelance writer, working from my laptop at home, baking Alton Brown recipes for fun.

    In other words, I’m a perfect candidate for Future Crazy Cat Lady. Enter Neko Atsume.

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    My milkshake brings all the cats to the yard. Or something like that…

    Preparing me for my upcoming feline-friendly career, Neko Atsume is a cat-collecting game. You must have seen it. It’s a non-game kind of game, which is pretty much perfect for the amount of brain cells I have alive in my head by the time I’m ready to do anything fun.

    My son, through the kids at his school, introduced me to this free mobile game. But it doesn’t matter. I would have found it some other way. For one thing, my college alumnae pet group (I went to a women’s college) is obsessed with Neko Atsume, and I’m always getting on to Facebook to find my feed littered with advice on how to get certain cats, or just people posting screen captures of the cats in their yard. I played this game for two months, off and on, before I actually got interested in it.

    I don’t get it. There is no reason this game should occupy me the way it does. I mean, you buy stuff. You put it out in your yard. Cats show up. They go away, leaving gifts behind that you can use to buy more stuff. That’s literally it. Nothing else happens.

    Yet there’s something very Zen about Neko Atsume. The stakes are low. If you leave, there are no consequences. No one attacks you while you’re gone. There’s no action whatsoever. There are cute kitties, sometimes with bags on their heads (isn’t that adorable?). Because they are drawn to different objects, it’s almost like they have personalities. You make them happy by providing items they like. It’s like virtual love, with the minimum amount of energy expended.

    I’m not the only one who feels this way. Heck, I’m late to the party. Plenty of people have spent time pondering this simple game’s popularity, and many others have jumped on the bandwagon. Academics and comedians have weighed in. Blog posts have been written. Buzzfeed has done a list (because of course they have). There’s a Tumblr (duh). There’s a sub-Reddit. The cats have been ranked. Recipes have been created. Heck, I learned to capture screenshots on my Android phone just so I could share pictures of my collected cats. I don’t even share pictures of my REAL cats (much).

    For those of us aspiring future multiple-cat-owners-about-to-be-raided by-the-humane-society, Neko Atsume is perfect. These cats don’t pee where they’re not supposed to, or need to go to the vet to have their teeth cleaned, or shed fur all over all my black yoga pants (I’m looking at you, Beasley), or steal tuna off the counter (I’m looking at you, Elsie).

    I think I like being a virtual cat lady. It’s at least a touch less pathetic than being a real one. Right? Right?

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    Apps, Games, Mobile Apps
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    The Avengers Get Schooled in MARVEL Avengers Academy

    8a26fdc9-653c-4f8c-a289-00039092c26dWhether it’s on TV, in movie theaters, or in the pages of the comic books that spawned them, you can’t turn around these days without seeing superheroes. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I mean, I’ve made no secret about my crush on Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man. But as much fun as these characters are, it’s kind of hard for some of the younger crowd to really relate to them. After all, it’s not like they’re dealing with things like school, socializing, or fashion faux pas when they’re not out saving the world. That’s where TinyCo’s new mobile game, MARVEL Avengers Academy, comes in.

    MARVEL Avengers Academy takes the cast of characters from Marvel and reimagines them as college age students at the newly minted (and still under construction) Avengers Academy.  Players will recruit Marvel heroes and villains as students enrolling in the school, teach them how to use their powers, and even build up the school with new classrooms, dorms, and superhero necessities like aircraft hangars and shooting ranges. Imagine “The Avengers Meets Saved by the Bell” and you’ll start to get a good idea about the game.

    Building on that whole hipper, younger superhero theme, TinyCo pulled together a surprisingly talented cast to voice this fresh faced version of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The game features Dave Franco (Now You See Me, Neighbors) as the smooth and charming Tony Stark, Alexandra Daddario (both Percy Jackson movies, American Horror Story: Hotel) as the hyperactive fashionista, Janet Van Dyne (a.k.a. the Wasp), and Colton Haynes (Arrow, Teen Wolf) as the God of Thunder, Thor.

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    Haynes pointed out that he’s no stranger to the world of spandex and superpowers. “I have more experience with Super Heroes and the supernatural than some, but this is the first time I’m playing an actual god. Thor literally brings the thunder, and has helped build people’s passion for Super Heroes for over 60 years. I was excited that this is a really fresh take on the character, being a young adult going to college. It was great working with Marvel and TinyCo on bringing him to life in MARVEL Avengers Academy.”

    TinyCo even picked up WWE superstar (and fodder of memes everywhere) John Cena to lend his voice to Marvel’s gamma-irradiated powerhouse, the Hulk. Talking about his role as the Jade Giant, Cena said, “I had a ton of fun playing one of my favorite Super Heroes ever, the Hulk! In MARVEL Avengers Academy, this is a Hulk that has to exist in an environment with ‘rules’, not just ‘smash’. It really allowed me to show some lesser-seen sides of the big green guy that people might not experience in the movies. It’s was great getting a chance to work with crew at Marvel and TinyCo on this awesome project.”

    MARVEL Avengers Academy was officially released last week for both iOS and Android devices. The game is free to download, but like most free-to-play games, features in-app purchases ranging in price from $1.99 to $99.99 (Wow! Does anyone EVER actually pay that much at once for a mobile game?). On the upside, that cost is for packages of either gold coins or crystals, which can also be earned through various in-game activities.

    Game Title:             Marvel Avengers Academy
    Publisher:                TinyCo
    Publisher URL:      http://www.tinyco.com

    Platform:  
    iOS – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/marvel-avengers-academy/id1061768547
    Android – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tinyco.avengers

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    Games, Mobile Apps
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    Cute Valentine’s Deal from Artifex Mundi

     

    mainsite_imageIt’s nearly Valentine’s Day, love is in the air and nothing makes my heart flutter quite like a great deal on games.  If you don’t already have a relationship with Artifex Mundi, now is a great time to start up a fling with this casual gamer creator and publisher.  Their “Cute Valentine’s Deal” has three of their games priced up to 85 percent off now through February 19th.

    Artifex Mundi is best known for their stunning hidden object games with compelling stories. As an added bonus their games are available on multiple platforms, which is something I appreciate.

    For Valentine’s Day, they are running sale promotions in the Mac App Store, Google Play, BlackBerry World, the Windows Store, and the Windows Phone store. There are 2 games in each store, discounted at different levels at least through the weekend. Here’s the breakdown:

    Mac App Store:
    Clockwork Tales:Of Glass and Ink, $2.99 (normally $6.99)
    Time Mysteries 3:The Final Enigma, $1.99 (normally $6.99)

    Google Play:
    Grim Legends:The Forsaken Bride, $1.99 (normally $4.99)
    Time Mysteries 3:The Final Enigma, $0.99 (normally $4.99)

    BlackBerry World:
    Grim Legends:The Forsaken Bride, $1.99 (normally $4.99)
    Time Mysteries 3:The Final Enigma, $0.99 (normally $4.99)

    The Windows Store:
    Clockwork Tales:Of Glass and Ink, $2.99 (normally $6.99)
    Time Mysteries 3:The Final Enigma, $0.99 (normally $6.99)

    The Windows Phone Store:
    Clockwork Tales:Of Glass and Ink, $0.99 (normally $2.99)
    Time Mysteries 3:The Final Enigma, $0.99 (normally $2.99)

    Visit the Artifex Mundi site for more information and links to purchase any of these games. I really enjoy their games and I hope that you will too.

    Puzzle game Best Fiends now available for iOS mobile devices

    Best_Fiends_Screenshots_5_1536x2048-768x1024Seriously, a Helsinki, Finland-based mobile entertainment startup, has released its first IP, an iOS game called Best Fiends.

    The title is set in Minutia, a world populated with cute yet fiendish creatures that players must collect. These adorable, courageous little guys lived in harmony until a meteor struck, transforming the Slugs of Mount Boom into an army of pests that are now sliming and chomping their way through Minutia. Now, our tiny heroes have to save their families from the slugs by gaining special powers as players level up. To do so, players engage in the type of puzzle-based gameplay that has them matching shapes to make them disappear.

    The new IP has a pedigree worth noting; the company behind it was created by former Rovio (Angry Birds) executives Andrew Stalbow and Petri Järvilehto, with music from “Despicable Me”‘s Heitor Pereira performed by the Budapest Art Orchestra. Best Fiends was designed from the ground up as the first of what Seriously hopes is a global entertainment franchise.

    Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Järvilehto said in a press release, “The story of Minutia and the cute yet fiendish creatures that inhabit it is something we’ve been passionate about developing for a long time. For us, this launch is the beginning of an incredible journey that will unfold through a trilogy of games.”

    Best Fiends has already had a soft launch with what the company says were promising results, and the next installment in the trilogy is already in the works. The second game is due out in 2015.

    The game is free to play with in-app purchase options, and is currently only available at The App Store worldwide for iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. Check out the Best Fiends YouTube channel, complete with trailers, reveal videos, making-of pieces, and more. Get it at www.AppStore.com/BestFiends, or find out more information at www.bestfiends.com. The game is expected to be available for Android devices via Google Play and the Amazon App Store before the end of the year.

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    Facebook Messenger Is Not The Devil You Think It is

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    Ever since I got on this website called Facebook and started sharing in my very own online community, I’ve been very cognizant of what Facebook offers me – for free. I’ve reconnected with high school acquaintances, discovered that my fellow college alumnae have created an amazing network of groups for every topic from race relations to fashion, and met some super-cool people I now consider my friends even though I’ve never met them in person. Like Marcia and Desirai, for example.

    And every time Facebook makes a change, I can hear the multitudes universally condemning Facebook – for no longer showing posts chronologically or changing its privacy rules or what have you. I always roll my eyes because, you know, Facebook is free, and no one is stopping anyone from leaving (unlike Comcast). Honestly, our society requires constant change to keep itself fresh and innovative. Change can be good.

    I guess I’m pretty laid back in general. Stuff like this doesn’t bother me.

    But naturally, I’m concerned about my privacy. When I first got the message on my lovely little Samsung Galaxy S4 that I was going to have to get the Messenger app in order to send messages on Facebook, I was indeed  irritated. I thought it was a bit high-handed of Facebook to make me download a whole new app to just send messages (I had just gotten my Samsung a few months ago after trading up from a phone that would barely show me any of my messages at all, so even getting my FB mail was an upgrade).

    I held out for a while, then got curious and downloaded it. (PRO TIP: Use Facebook through your phone’s web browser if you really, really don’t want to install Messenger. You can access your messages that way.)  Then I uninstalled it, because I was having issues with battery life that started around the same time and wondered if Messenger was the culprit. It wasn’t.

    So I reinstalled it, and guess what. I LIKE IT. I like the little Chat Heads that pop up and show me Desirai just sent me a message. I like its functionality and dependability. I find Messenger pretty seamless overall, and I use my phone for Facebook now more than even my regular computer.

    There have been a lot of complaints about the permissions that Messenger requires. I get it. It sounds like Big Brother. You look at the list, and alarms go off in your head. For like a minute.

    According to the applications manager in my phone, Messenger is allowed to: directly call phone numbers, read phone status and identity, edit my text messages, read my text messages, receive text messages, send SMS messages, take pictures and videos, record audio, find my approximate location through a network, find my precise location through GPS, read my call log, read my contacts, read my contact card, modify or delete the contents of my USB storage, find accounts on the device, read Google service configuration, change network connectivity, download files without notification, get full network access, view Wi-FI connections, run at startup, draw over other apps, control vibration, prevent phone from sleeping, change my audio settings, read sync settings, and install shortcuts.

    Whew. Freak-out time, right? I mean, WTF. All these permissions seem intrusive and risky. Until you think about it. The Facebook help page about Messenger says this: “we use these permissions to run features in the app. Keep in mind that Android controls the way the permissions are named, and the way they’re named doesn’t necessarily reflect the way the Messenger app and other apps use them.”

    That’s important, right there. Every permission that Facebook asks for helps Messenger, you know, operate. It’s what makes Messenger a good app. It gets permission to take photos because how else are you going to send them to your friends? Would you rather a statement pop up whenever you want to send your admiring fans a selfie, asking you for permission to upload and send it out? If you got that EVERY SINGLE TIME you posted a picture using your phone, wouldn’t you at some point choose to bypass the permission question anyway?

    If Messenger doesn’t record audio, then you can’t send voice messages and make voice calls. If Messenger can’t directly call numbers, you can’t call people. If it can’t receive text messages, you can’t add phone numbers to your account. If it can’t read contacts, it can’t figure out if a contact is already in your system and sync them. Here’s a nice article from Fidonerdi that breaks some of this down further: The Truth About The New Facebook Messenger.

    I think what’s gotten lost in all this hoopla about being required to install Messenger and accept its permissions is that it’s a good app, and it works well. So, breathe. It’s all okay. Facebook is not the devil.

    Yet.

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