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Achievements in Gaming

Achievements in Gaming was inspired by the D6 Generation podcast. It is a weekly post, where this writer shares his gaming accomplishments, thoughts, ideas, dreams, and contributions.

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You Can Never Have Enough Legos

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"You can never have enough Legos" has been a common phrase in my home as my wife Tammy and I have three sons. "Really?" was often Tammy's reply. The thought of LEGO board games is so cool, it's hard not to find a way to acquire them all. I reserve a special place in my heart for Legos. It was by far my favorite toy (ahead of GI Joes & Matchbox cars) as a young boy.



I had the opportunity to play two simple Lego games this weekend including Banana Balance and Shave a Sheep. While very simple games, they are both just very visually appealing (quoting the Spiel podcast, "truck loads of goober.") When you join a lego game, and know up front that it is a very lite filler targeting the Lego crowd (you know who you are) there is a lot of smiles in those small boxes.


Once you build the dice, the banana tree, and the sheep, set up is minimal. Minus the four starting palm leaves, you only need to build the tree once as it fits nicely back into the box. The game begins with four palm leaves on the tree, and a small pile of Lego bananas. The goal is to have the most bananas at the end of the game. After you roll the dice, there are three possible moves to make, add a palm leaf, add a banana, or put the monkey in the tree and take a banana. Once you have added all of the leaves and bananas, you take a monkey move. The game ends when either all of the bananas have been taken or the tree falls over. If the monkey falls out of the tree, you put one of your bananas back into the supply to be "re-treed." It plays very quick, and the pieces are cool to play with.

The goal of Shave A Sheep is for your sheep to grow and shear wool while avoiding the wolf. Wolves and sheep don't mix! If your sheep ever grows five cubes of wool, it automatically shears. Who ever has the most wool wins, and the game ends when you run out of wool. Again, its a very simple game, but the sheep are just cool. Minus the very random mechanics and that they lack any strategic & tactical depth, I just had simple fun including watching the boys laugh while exchanging table talk.

I have my eyes on Lego's Orient Bazaar but it is not carried in any local stores. I am also interested in the upcoming (2011) Lego Heroica series which is an expandable dungeon crawl. In addition, Lego has created a co-operative game entitled Ninjago: The Board Game (2011.). Given their popularity, I guess a Lego deck building game is next. Secretly, I would love a meatier more gamer’s Lego game, but know that’s not going to happen. Why? Because Legos target children, not 40 year old board game fanatics. The truth is that Lego is no 3M. If you have not read Americanopoly by Bruce Whitehill, he summarizes 3M’s desire to create board games for adults. “The wrapping paper and ribbon division was looking for a way to expand revenues when employees chose the idea of a game line, aimed at providing mental diversions for upper middle-class buyers. Two up-and-coming American inventors, Sid Sackson and Alex Randolph, were enlisted in 1962 to create a games unit, and the “bookshelf” box was born.
(http://thebiggamehunter.com/company-histories/3m/) But how sweet that would be!
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Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:14 am
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Should I go or should I stay now?

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Should I go or should I stay now? If I go there will be trouble, if stay it will be double. One of my favorite mechanics in Fresco is the victory point track/progress choice. Just to refresh your memory (or if your were unaware) when moving your victory point token, if your token lands on a point that if already occupied, you may go ahead one or fall back one space. I think having that choice is refreshingly powerful. Do I want to play aggressively, or sit back and wait to make my move. It plays into one of my favorite games; the meta-game (the game beyond the game.) In Fresco, being the leader, like many games, affects your play style and decisions. I have played Fresco aggressively and in a one back/drafting the leader position. Surprisingly, my game play experiences were very different. Regardless, what I like best, is having that choice, plain & simple. Fresco's turn initiative/catch the leader mechanic is eloquently combined. As the leader, you choose your time to go to the market last but if your willing to pay, going first is often available. Thus being in the lead is not as punishing as other games ( you have some control.)

While moving forward or falling back is not (per game mechanics) a huge decision, it is a very suttle choice. I have prescribed to Greenleaf's theory of servent leadership for many years. Are you a leader or follower? The best leaders were/are also good followers. I am willing to be both a leader and or follower. Within the meta game, if I am the leader & you choose to bring me down, I am at some level controlling your game play. If I choose to draft the leader, I have more choices as I don't have to look back over my shoulder. Will I choose to pass you or lurk behind you??? Wouldn't you like to know.

This week's gaming achievements were quietly rewarding. I found two games while thrifting that I am excited to see hit the table, Rio Grande's Corsairs & Reiner Knizia's Dead Man's Treasure. I managed to listen to the most recent podcast episodes of the Dice Tower, the D6 Generation, and Ludology. During game night I played two games of Innovation, and a short game of Let's Kill.

Having recently played 7 Wonders, my feelings are reaffirmed that Innovation is (in my opinion) a superior game to 7 Wonders given the player interaction and level of gaming tension. Despite having several games of Innovation under my belt, I or we have played some part of it incorrectly. If for some reason anyone from Asmadi Games reads this blog, please post an FAQ. Within the rules, we misunderstood a rule in the Dogma section that states that when a card draw of a # card other than from a supply pile has run out, that person does not draw a card vs. the rule on the reference card that state when you draw a # card from an era/supply pool runs out, draw from the next higher era.

A short note about Let's Kill, it is very very silly. Our game ended when Andy used Gary Coleman as a weapon to beat to death a victim who turned out to be Elvis for his final point. The premise is that each player is a serial killer who is trying to amass the greatest point total/body count.
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Tue Mar 29, 2011 3:01 pm
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Reiner Knizia’s Great Wall on the Great Wall

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During my recent trip to China, I hiked my copy of the Great Wall of China up to the Great Wall. While there, I played a two person game. While we were playing, a spirited card game was occurring among some local teenagers. They offered me a seat, but after watching several hands, I could not figure out what they were playing. Although when they played a card, they would slap it down passionately. We hiked the Jinshanling Pass which is about 93 miles north of Beijing. This section of the Great Wall is less traveled/visited by tourists.

Throughout our trip, I saw many kinds of games being played as well as being sold. After visiting the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, I saw Mahjong, Dominoes, and Chinese Chess being played. While shopping in the market that surrounds the Yu Garden in Shanghai, I saw various card games being played by the local merchants.


I was surprised to find so many games for sale. The costs were much less than my friendly local game store. Before haggling, Stone Age cost 128 Yuan which is about $22. It was hard to say if they were real or counterfeit copies. As a Sid Sackson fan, I was tickled to find a Chinese copy of I'm the Boss! for sale in a store in Shanghai.
In that same store, I saw a card game called Blitzkrieg Death Front. It did not include English rules, and it is not in the BGG data base so I passed. I can’t believe I did not at least take a picture of it. I did however find a link to it via Swan Panasian games; http://www.boardgamer.org/product_info.php?cPath=364&product...

In addition to playing the Great Wall, I also played a game of Hive at the Wall. We were able to camp along the Wall, and I was hoping to facilitate a game of Werewolf, but it gets very dark on the Wall after the sun goes down. What an awesome setting that would have been.


During the plane trip to and from China, my son and I played Mate which is a simple card game out of Sid Sackson's Gamut of Games. Sid considered it a pure information game.
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Mon Mar 21, 2011 3:58 pm
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Do you record your game plays?

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Many if not most of us take pictures of family vacations, holidays, and special occasions. Gaming sessions can be just as (if not more) memorable than some of those family gatherings. So why not capture that special play of your favorite game? If have almost 99% of the time, recorded a played game for the past two ½ years although I sporadically began recording my played games in 2003 just after beginning my Board Game Geek account. I love the game played feature on BGG. For the most part, I only log the play and do not list any specifics including where, with whom, and out come. I have met and played with gamers who carried a written journal when they gamed. I've always admired a person who could journal or make use of a diary. I am just not disciplined enough to make use of a journal. Fortunately I have a good memory, and would like to share a few recent gaming memories. Gaming is a family tradition that was passed down to me by my parents, and grandmothers. These are not in any order.

1. I have taken all three of my sons to GenCon. Granted, when they go, it is a very different experience than when I go with just my buddies. I purposely pick games that I think they will enjoy. The requirements are that they must be easy to learn and teach. During Ryan and Hunter’s first GenCon in 2003, I convinced my wife to let me take Ryan to a late night game of Zombies!!! by Twilight Creations. Ryan is so bright, that within a few turns, it was clear that he just might beat a table full of adult men. Subsequently, a few opponents also realized this, and began to plot against Ryan. As they cornered him (cutting off his path to win the game) I drew a card which allowed me to switch player token positions. I switched my token with Ryan’s, thus allowing him a clear path to victory. Several of the other players were annoyed with me as I “kingmade” Ryan. Ryan had no idea as he was proudly sporting a new Zombie t-shirt.

2. While coming home from GenCon in 2005, Pat, Andy, Ryan and myself decided to host a winter gaming party (that celebrates mine and Pat’s birthdays.) Thus White Dragon Con was born. While not a huge event, we have had 20 or so gamers attend the past several years. The gaming swag is a pair of specially designed dice. During White Dragon in 2007, my father joined us and was enthralled with a dexterity game call Crokinole. It was my father’s last White Dragon Con.

3. On Thursday May 27, 2010 was the last day of school for my sons Ryan (18) Hunter (17) and Ian (9.) So I picked Ian up early today so that we could thrift for games, buy an end of the school year gift, and play a board game at home. Ian picked out Apples to Apples Jr. for his gift. While thrifting, we found 2 3M games; Stocks & Bonds & Facts in Five. Upon getting home, we played two games of The Lost World Jurassic Park Game. Ian managed to get three humans to the chopper and win while my dinos ate 9 humans! Playing with Ian while he giggled - PRICELESS. After dinner we played two 4 player games of Apples to Apples.

I had a good week in gaming this past week including Roll Through the Ages, Fresco, and 7 Wonders. My initial assessment of 7 Wonders stands, very little player interaction and gaming tension. I enjoy the game, but I guess I was expecting more. Given my tastes, I already know that I will grow bored of it. While another gamer and I were discussing this, I mentioned that I prefer Innovation to 7 Wonders, when a third gamer quickly stated his disdain for Innovation as it was a cross between Fluxx & Munchkin! I immediately came to it's defense, Fluxx??? I can see the long stretch of Munchkin as both games included a stab your neighbor mechanic. However, Fluxx?? Other than being printed on cards, what comparison do the two games have?

I have completed my assessment of possible games to take to China, and have decided on the following games; Yomi, Factory Manager, Cookie Fu, The Great Wall, Innovation, Irondale, Looney Pyramids, Let's Kill, Hive Carbon, NHL Ice Breaker, & Sixis. Plus I have the rules for two games from Gamut of Games; Mate, Blue & Gray. It is a nice mix of games that completely fits into a plastic tub.

Achievement Unlocked!

Check out episode #33 of this podcast; http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/underdiscussion-the-undergop......

Gencon 2011 Event Note
Are you a fan of or newcomer to Sid Sackson board games; Acquire, Focus, Can't Stop, Holiday/Shanghai, Buy Word, & I'm The Boss? If so, please join me in celebrating these wonderful games as I will be hosting an event at GenCon. Multiple copies of these games will be available for play. Rules will be taught if your a new comer. Prizes/swag for all participants. Game ID:BGM1119613
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Tue Mar 8, 2011 3:09 pm
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Why I Play Games

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Why do I love to collect and play games?

I wanted to weigh in on this after having listened to the most recent Ludology podcast and as I am frequently asked by my co-workers and students. Geoff and Ryan (the hosts) presented 6 reasons that gamers play games including competition, as a social outlet, to foster the imagination, to learn & analyze new games, as a collector, and to learn about history. In the tradition of the Dice Tower (& David Letterman,) here is my top ten list.

10. To have fun.
9. To exercise my brain.
8. To assess & analyze the game.
7. While I enjoy the competition, I enjoy the tension of the game more.
"In terms of the game theory, we might say the universe is so constituted as to maximize play. The best games are not those in which all goes smoothly and steadily toward a certain conclusion, but those in which the outcome is always in doubt. Similarly, the geometry of life is designed to keep us at the point of maximum tension between certainty and uncertainty, order and chaos. Every important call is a close one. We survive and evolve by the skin of our teeth. We really wouldn't want it any other way.” George Leonard
6. While using my imagination, immersing myself into a culture or event that is very different than who I am or what I do & or learn about a time/event from history.
5. As a way to be with, meet, and make new friends.
4. It's a family tradition that was passed down to me. My mother and I played Scrabble and my grandmother spared little mercy when teaching me how to play Dominoes.
3. Games are a work of art. My game room is filled with 2D & 3D art the ties into my game collection.
2. As an escape from the day to day reality. Its an important part of my self care plan. My gaming group often tease my choice of factions as I often pick the "bad guys." When I play Warmachine, I always play the Cryx, undead, soul eating troops. My buddies tease me that as clinical social worker, my alter ego always wants to be the evil undead. It keeps me balanced, and keeps them guessing.

And Finally # ONE!!

1. As a way to spend time with my family. While my sons love their Xbox, they have also learned how much fun a good old fashion board game can be. I wish I could beat my wife, Tammy in Blokus.

An honorable mention, it fuels my obsessive nature!

My week of gaming was very good although I did not find any deals while visiting a few thrift stores. I played three different games this week including playing Hive 6 times and first plays of two games I had never played before. I was very fortunate to receive 7 Wonders from my Secret Santa this year, and I finally was able to play this very nice game. However, I have to admit that it could have been packaged differently; such a huge box for card type game. I have always been very fond of games where I get to build something. I have been very fortunate to play several “building” games this past 6 months including Innovation, and Irondale. Overall, I felt that Innovation is a “meatier” game than 7 Wonders, but the later will be easier to teach my 9 year old how to play. In addition, my 7 Wonders experience lacked any significant player interaction whereas Innovation has greater levels of interaction. 7 Wonders lacked some gaming tension that crave for and admire in many other games but it demands more plays.

My first & only play with Power Grid: Factory Manager was very enjoyable. The bidding, machine pull down, and purchasing contained just the right amount of tension that I really enjoy in a game. I came in second but I think I made a mistake that should have my total net worth about $8 less. During my second to last income phase I did not multiply my energy cost to the rate, 4 x 3, so I collected $90 minus 4 rather than 12. When I walk away from a game thinking about what I did or should have done...... thats awesome! It is a auction/resource management game. I honestly think that it might be a gateway game for much heavier games.

In two weeks, my 17 year old son and I will be leaving for vacation in China. I am planning to bring my new copy of Hive Carbon. What other games should I take?

Check out episode #33 of this podcast; http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/underdiscussion-the-undergop...

Gencon 2011 Event Note
Are you a fan of or newcomer to Sid Sackson board games; Acquire, Focus, Can't Stop, Holiday/Shanghai, Buy Word, & I'm The Boss? If so, please join me in celebrating these wonderful games as I will be hosting an event at GenCon. Multiple copies of these games will be available for play. Rules will be taught if your a new comer. Prizes/swag for all participants. Game ID:BGM1119613
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Tue Mar 1, 2011 4:29 pm
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Board Games are Works of Art

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While catching up on several Dice Tower podcast episodes, I was fairly surprised when I heard the host, Tom Vasel, state that he did not think that board games were an art form. I was so surprised that I had to go back and hear his comment again just to make sure I didn't misunderstand what he was trying to say. His thoughts on this can be heard in episode 197 around the 33 minute mark.

Professionally I am a social worker, and completely understand & respect different points of view. However I am very willing to take a stand when I hear something I totally don' t agree with. I am probably more sensitive to this issue than most others given my mother was an artist for Hallmark Cards and my father was an interior designer. In addition, given our country's economical struggles, the arts are often the first programs to be cut. Just recently the Kansas Governor eliminated an arts council to trim the state budget short fall. I could go on & on about the benefits of the arts as compared to the danger of eliminating them but I won't (although it's tempting.)

As an avid gamer and voracious reader, the graphics bring to life that game or book for me. I could not tell you how many times while reading the Dragon Lance series, I stared the various covers, trying to imagine what you would be like to meet Tanis the half elf. During the fall in 2009 I was a guest lecturer at an honors art class at Desoto High school. The students shared with me that they often dream of seeing a piece of theirs hanging in a gallery or museum. I asked them how they would feeling seeing their work on the cover of a book, in a game board, on a playing card, or in the pages of a comic? Having visited with Franz Vohwinkel several times at past Gencons, each assignment he gets whether it's a MTG card or game board, he is challenged to give life to that designers game.

Is there any doubt that a beautiful board bridges the gap between a game mechanic and the game's theme. Two boards from 2010 that I think were nicely done were Chaos in the Old World,Fresco & Tobago in 2009.


Aside from the physical game itself, the game design can also be an artistic expression. Many fans of the arts can identify a particular artist given their use of colors or brush strokes, (Barry Windsor-Smith comes to my mind - Conan, Archer & Armstrong,) just as many gamers can identify a Reiner Knizia game given his use of game mechanics. Sid Sackson writes in his book "Beyond Tic Tac Toe" (1975,) "games mean many thing to many people; to me they are an art form of great potential beauty. Just as a composer's creation is brought to life by the performing musicians, a game inventor's creation is brought to life by the players of the game. When the creation is inspired and the players are talented, a true work of art results."

Have you seen the newest came by Flying Frog Productions, Conquest of Planet Earth: The Space Alien Game? While pre-ordering it at Gencon I could immediately see their attempt to capture the campy feel of the "War of the Worlds." I can almost hear Orson Welles narrating game play. The art and layout are wonderful. I tip my cap to the Flying Frog team. While it's still early in 2011, it is leading the way for most artistic game. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder (an English 18th century proverb) "art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self." Jean-Luc Godard

Gencon 2011 Event Note
Are you a fan of or newcomer to Sid Sackson board games; Acquire, Focus, Can't Stop, Holiday/Shanghai, Buy Word, & I'm The Boss? If so, please join me in celebrating these wonderful games as I will be hosting an event at GenCon. Multiple copies of these games will be available for play. Rules will be taught if your a new comer. Prizes/swag for all participants. Game ID:BGM1119613
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Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:32 am
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Soon I will be on Holiday in Shanghai

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It has been a wonderful week of gaming achievements. I got caught up with The Dice Tower podcast and played 5 different games this week. Including 5 games of Hive and a second play of Yomi.

I recently acquired Shanghaias it has been on my wish list for the greater part of 2010. I have purchased and played Chinese themed games this year in preparation for my trip to China this coming March. It was designed by Sid Sackson and published by Ravensburger in 1997. It is a re-implements Maloney's Inheritancethat was also publish by Ravensburger in 1988. Maloney’s Inheritance was a re-implementation of Holiday!. Holiday was publish in 1973 by Research Games Inc. The box cover declares that it a “glorious game of world travel.” Holiday plays 2-8 while Shanghai plays 2-6. Holiday is a very rare gem that is a “grail” for many Sid Sackson fans. Cash is very tight in both Holiday and Shangai while not so in Maloney’s Inheritance. Shanghai differs from Holiday as it contains a random event deck. In addition, Shanghai’s theme is Chinese in nature while Holiday is more about traveling around the world. Shanghai won the Vuoden Perhepeli which is the Finnish Game of the Year in 1997.

Shanghai is the largest (population) city in China. The city is located in eastern China, and sits at the mouth of the Yangtze river. Players bid for the right to chose which of three locations that Lang-Tsu will travel too thus enabling the player to bribe him for information. The game turns are played during the course of a day, and kept track by a clock with Chinese symbols. The goal is to overtake the Junk that is moving throughout the harbor. Each round begin with an auction. A key mechanic is that even if you loose the auction, but have cards that match Lang-Tsu’s location, you can gain free information (victory points.) Thus this game can be very interactive. Loosing doesn’t mean you can’t make a gain.

Shanghai's production is beautiful. However Holiday rates better. After playing both games back to back, I agree that Holiday should rate better. While both games have a wide open bidding/auction mechanic, Shanghai has a very random element that detracts from the game. Who ever wins the auction either takes of choose another player to take a event card. The effects are either positive or negative, and the negative can be REALLY negative. During our game this evening, Andy won a heated auction, played two location cards, had the points double, but all in vain as the event card deleted the points he had earned. Ouch!!! I could see it on Andy's face, his enjoyment thus far evaporated just as quick as the points he had just lost.
 
Are you a fan of or newcomer to Sid Sackson board games; Acquire, Focus, Can't Stop, Holiday/Shanghai, Buy Word, & I'm The Boss? If so, please join me in celebrating these wonderful games as I will be hosting an event at GenCon. Multiple copies of these games will be available for play. Rules will be taught if your a new comer. Prizes/swag for all participants. Game ID:BGM1119613
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Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:33 am
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A Cryokentic Reanimate & A Precise Watchmaker

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Tonight I met Fred Randall a cryokentic reanimate & Max Geiger a precise watchmaker.

Before I delve into this weeks achievements in gaming, I want to congratulate my son Ryan and the Desoto Scholar's Bowl team for winning the 4A Kansas state championship this past Saturday. Their team was just awesome this year as they completed the trifecta winning league, regionals, and state.


It was an outstanding week in gaming. I got in two games each of Acquire and Settlers of Catan during the week. In addition, I found a copy of a 1999 Avalon Hill Acquire on eBay. This edition includes detailed plastic miniatures.

On Saturday I was interviewed by Under-discussion the Under-gopher podcast about my book project on Sid Sackson. While actors have the voice and face, and radio personalities have the voice, I have neither. However it was fun to share what I have learned about Sid. Speaking of Sid, I acquired two new Sackson titles this week including Shanghai and Doorways to Adventure. I found Doorways at a local thrift shop for .75 cents. Shanghai is a remake of "Holiday."

I took my 9 year old to game night at Pulp Fiction tonight. We played Gamma World Roleplaying Game. Gamma World is a RPG that feels like a board game. The game master was Brady, and he was so patient with Ian (who never stopped talking.) My character was Fred Randall a cryokentic reanimate. However my favorite character was Carl who was part great ape and tyrannosaur rex who used a stop sign as a melee weapon! Major kudos to Brady as well as Andy and Eric. Ian had a wonderful time (he talked all the way home about wanting to play again next weekend.)

Afterwards, I played a first game of Yomi. Yomi is a new card game that has a paper, rock, scissors mechanic. I first heard about this game on the Dice Tower podcast. After a first play, I want to review the rulebook and FAQ before getting in another game. I played Max Geiger a precise watchmaker deck. The game offers great potential. Overall this week was a 8 out of 10!
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Mon Feb 14, 2011 5:25 am
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