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The Adventures of Anni Zola

An Illustrated Story Blog of Virtual Idol Anni Zola
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    April 29th, 2010Anni ZolaMy Life

    Wow, it’s finally D-day for me to go to Merdonia. In a few hours I will be departing by myself on a twelve-hour train trip to my cousin’s place in Merdonia and get ready for the next day’s OFLP interview. I’m so nervous and excited at the same time!!

    Being a singer I’m really used to traveling and doing things on my own, although most of the trips never take me away for more than three hours from home in Adelphie. I’m also used to being independent since my mom has been a single parent for six years now, and when you share a big loss with your mom like that, I suppose you’re forced to grow up a lot more quickly than other kids.

    So it’s not really the traveling alone part I’m worried about—I can function pretty well in most places, and soon enough I’ll be traveling the entire galaxy on my own! I don’t really know what I’m nervous about. But if I can make a guess about my own feelings, it’s probably about what this twelve-hour train trip would mean to me. It’s a first step towards the next big thing I’ll be doing after graduation, a first step in what will be the next stage in my life—and that matters a lot to me, and I guess to anyone in my position. Regardless of how far I’ll get in being a Future Leader, I think this experience just by itself will be an important one for me.

    Ada should be coming over in a couple of minutes now. She wanted to see me off personally and bid me good luck at the train station with my mom. It’s not like we won’t be seeing each other for a long time, but that’s Ada for you! :)

    I’ll be away for almost a week, and I should be back home next week to finish up classes and hand in several final assignments. After that I’ll be spending a month taking care of my graduation and my musical career, getting my new album out in stores, do interviews, etc. I’m looking forward to having more hanging out time with my awesome friends, all five of us, and do lots of talking and updating about who’s going where and how each of us are in life.

    But anyway, the point is, my life is now finally beginning to see its next phase and I will be extremely busy in the following months. I will continue to update my website and keep it running, of course, but you might not hear from me for several months. But I will come back to you with a Season Two of my adventures, and I promise to tell you everything about my adventures and all its details. Along the way I will also be updating my website so that there’s more ways for you to take part in it, and together we can have fun changing our worlds.

    Stay tuned, see you in a couple of months, and I hope all of us will have more awesome stories to share by then! Jyamahlo! (That’s “see you later!” in native Orfean) ;)

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    April 22nd, 2010Anni ZolaMusic Career

    Happy Earth Day, Earthlings! :D What are you doing for Earth today? I decided to launch a Challenge to get everyone involved in making designs that can change the world—a bottle at a time. I’ve heard that plastic is a major destructive force for Earth’s environment, and I’ve also heard that using reusable water bottles can do a lot to help reduce this problem. The new challenge this time is about designing your own bottle, and the winning design will be produced into an actual bottle to be sold in my store, with the winner’s signature on it. And even if you don’t win, the awareness and message you will have spread out will be so worth it!

    Also? My first album My Story is out on my website’s Store right now! I am sooo excited! :) It’s a pre-release, meaning that it won’t be available in major stores on Earth until June. It’s got three new songs plus my story in audiobook format, and you don’t wanna miss them! ;) You can listen to the previews on my site, and please show your support by buying them if you decide that you like them!

    Also? Today is my Earth birthday! :) Meaning that I got to know Earth about a year ago, and got to know amazing talented people who I ended up working with on my songs, music video, album artwork, website, T-shirts, and other products you see on my website. They are awesome people and I can’t believe it’s already been a year! :)

    As far as my galaxy goes, though, time here works differently than on Earth and we age much slower, so it’s not really my Orfean birthday yet. I really have no idea how the conversion goes since it’s a lot of confusing mathematics instead of a scale, so don’t make me tell you about it!

    Anyway, we sure got a lot of things going on, don’t we? I won’t be around for long today since it’s a big day for me what with all the new products and stuff, and I have a radio interview coming up tonight, so I’m going to have to prepare for it! But please do share with me what you’re doing for Earth Day—I’d love to hear you out! ;)

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    April 15th, 2010Anni ZolaMy Life

    OMG guys!! So many exciting things have been happening!! In the last post I was so excited that I will finally be getting a Larta, today I’m even more excited! Not because of pets this time, but because of something a lot more profound.

    Yeah you guessed it! I’m on the short list of candidates for the OFLP Grant this year!!! Yee-ha! :) ) I am soooo excited! I don’t even know what to write anymore, but I’ll try and tell you how it went, and hopefully my writings will make sense! :P

    So anyway, the letter came in this morning at breakfast. I stayed up late since it’s a weekend, and as usual on weekends when I get up my mom’s already up and about preparing breakfast in her casual old university T-shirt. “Hey, Mom,” I greeted her, rubbing my eyes.

    “Hey, good morning, Sweetheart,” she turned to me from the kitchen table, having stopped chopping up mushberries, a big curious smile on her face. “There’s something for you on the table.”

    “Mushberry cereal?” I walked to the table already smiling. I like mushberry cereals.

    “Even better!” My mom giggled, but I blurted out a gasp. A large brown Orfean Government envelope with a big OFLP seal on it was lying next to my cereal bowl. I picked it up right away, almost knocking over a Cowdon Crunch cereal box.

    “‘Congratulations, you’ve been…’ Mom, they’re calling me for an interview! I made it through the first round!” I was grinning from ear to ear, almost jumping in excitement. My mom wiped her hands and turned to face me with open arms. I ran to her and we hugged for a while.

    “Congratulations, Anni!” Now she was probably smiling wider than I am. “That’s a big step. They say getting on the short list is the hardest part!”

    “Yeah. It’s not over but I’m going to make it all the way!”

    “I’m sure you’ll do well on the interview. You’re a singer and you have that star quality about you, they’d be stupid not to accept you! Now that you’re on their radar, you’re definitely going all the way!”

    “I really hope so, Mom!” I was half laughing.

    So I spent almost the entire day talking excitedly with my mom about OFLP, about my plans and my future, about the world, about dad… Things feel… surreal, somehow. I was born and raised in a family who’s always made me believe that dreams do come true, but it still surprises me in the best of ways when they do.

    I’ll be off to Merdonia in a couple of weeks. We made several phone calls to a distant cousin who lives there and they’re letting me stay at their place during my time in Merdonia for the interview. My cousin Ariana is a 27-year-old biology fiction writer and a biologist for the Department for Animal Rights. We haven’t met for four years now and it should be exciting to see her again.

    OK, so now I’m taking a deep breath… :) It’s amazing how fast life progresses sometimes, isn’t it?

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    April 8th, 2010Anni ZolaMy Life

    OMG you guys, guess what just happened? My mom’s agreed to buy me a Larta!! OMG yay!! I’m so excited, I’m finally gonna have a pet! :) )

    OK, so here’s the story. Obviously (if you’ve been reading my blog) you know how much I’ve been wanting a pet, right? And that all these years my mom has always said that I won’t be responsible enough to keep one? Well I quit asking my mom for one for a few years now, but lately, especially after that zoo trip with Ada, I couldn’t hold myself!

    So soon after that I decided to ask my mom that I reeeeaaaally wanted a pet. Her reaction at that time wasn’t too exciting. “Yeah? Well maybe you are old enough to get one. Let’s just see how you do in these final months of your school and when you graduate I might get you one.”

    It was better than I expected, but that was a tentative answer so I wasn’t going to get all excited and tell everyone. But today during dinner (delicious seafood noodles!) out of the blue she asked me, “What do you think of getting a Larta?”

    I stopped chewing. “Seriously?” My mouth wasn’t exactly empty.

    “Yeah! Thought it’s about time you got yourself something to take care of all by yourself!”

    “Thanks, Mom!” I was literally jumping in my chair, my feet lightly stomping the ground in excitement. “When can we get one, tomorrow?”

    “Mmm, not so fast! I was thinking more like giving that as your graduation present. You’ve been a good girl and a good student, right?” She was being so my mom.

    “Ah? Okay…” I was let down just a bit. But it’s still exciting! “Why do you wanna get a Larta, though?”

    “Thought you’ll need a travelling companion once OFLP decides to pick you as one of their Future Leaders this year.” She had so much confidence that I’m going to get it. “What other animals would suit your travels so well? You’re going to need special licenses to keep, what, Chimirus, Horcats, Aspicoes? Besides, the food’s going to be more expensive. Aircats can get their own food and are very independent, but still you’re going to need to get traveling pet permits from the bureau. You don’t need to get one for something that could fit in your pocket like Larta!”

    “Oh yeah! Good thinking…” I wondered why I never thought about all that! Probably because I’ve never seriously believed mom would allow me to get a pet. “Thanks, Mom!”

    So that was how it went! Soon enough I’ll be getting my first pet, a company I’d travel the galaxy with… I’m really excited! I wonder what I’m going to name my Larta, and if I’d get a male or a female one, and how old… What about you, do you have a pet? Share your stories with me—I have a lot to learn about pet caring! :)

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    April 1st, 2010Anni ZolaMy Life

    Alternative views… I wondered what other kinds of alternative views they had in the library’s restricted section. Even peeking in there is not allowed so it’s pretty much impossible to see what’s in those books, but luckily I did manage to find the titles of most of the books there from the library’s database. Some even came with short blurbs.

    It turns out that apparently there aren’t that many of them. I mean, you would expect that if things do have alternative versions, there should at least be several alternative views on other subjects, right? What’s curious about the books in the restricted section of the library is that most of them deal with the same topics: Orfea’s dark past, illegal trade and ongoing exploitation in Kuval and Evadne, the perishing of ancient civilizations and theories of inter-dimensional travel, questionable sources of energy. And moreover, from the very little that I could make of them, although they propose different solutions, they all seemed to agree on the facts—facts unknown by most.

    It makes me wonder what kind of views of the world I will encounter on my travels. The more stuff I read and the more people I meet, the more I realize that people don’t quite tend to agree on a lot of things, and that people believe in their own ‘truths’, and often truth can be scary.

    I don’t think this is bad at all—I tend to disagree a lot, with my parents, teachers, and friends, and every disagreement sort of just makes me more mature and makes me respect the fact that you don’t have to get all upset about differing opinions. I learn a lot from people that are different from me, although I must admit that I can’t always like them—and that’s OK, I don’t have to like every single person alive. I guess each of us grow in different ways to decide for ourselves which story to believe.

    What matters I think is whether these opinions are productive or destructive in their applications in our lives. Some people believe that it’s OK to exploit nature endlessly, or that their race is better than others, or that they’re allowed to enslave other people, and I don’t think I need to spell out what kinds of bad things those ways of thinking have done to our world.

    I think I need to seriously start reading and learning about various views of the world from various cultures and also intellectuals. I never really thought about that—dreaming about what you want to do is I guess the easy part. The more I think about it, the more I talk to my mom and Professor Aimi or just walk around the library and see all these great books and documentaries, the more I realize that the most part of what I’m gonna be doing will be serious hard work.

    And it’s a realization that only gets me excited! ;) A lot of people say that life is tough, and it will only get tougher the more you grow up—much tougher than the toughest calculus homework in high school! I wouldn’t know since I’m only like 14, but I say if it’s going to be hard anyway, why not make it fun and meaningful by taking steps to making your dreams come true?

    I sent my proposal/application to the OFLP Board today, along with my portfolio and letters of recommendation from Professor Aimi, Headmaster Dharma, and Zimpande Bruno, a family friend and labor union leader. The day is getting closer to my graduation and hopefully my departure from Orfea. I’m so excited! I’m going to work hard for my dreams and do stuff that will inspire people to treat each other more equally in this world… Who’s with me? :)

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    March 25th, 2010Anni ZolaMy Life

    I’m seeing my class advisor Professor Aimi after classes today and to discuss my OFLP proposal with her. I told her that I intended to apply a while ago, and she’s been urging me to send in a draft to her. So today she’s agreed to meet with me to talk more about it.

    “Come in!” She smiled at me from behind her dual-screen desktop when I knocked on her open office door. “Have a seat, Anni, been expecting you. Sorry, I’m just finishing up a couple of these data visualizations for your class reports,” she added, hastily getting her eyes and fingers back on the screen, apparently dragging down some pie-charts and bringing a couple more graphs up, then changed her sight to the other screen, and quickly punching a string of keyboard keys.

    I barely finished my “It’s OK, Professor,” when she typed in a last keystroke and smiled, “Done,” at me.

    “So I’ve read your proposal—it sounds very exciting!” She got out from behind her desktop, picked up what looked like my proposal from another desk, and walked to grab a seat on the sofa next to me.

    Professor Mayasarie Aimi is a beautiful woman in her late forties with wavy bleach-white hair, gorgeous black skin, and beautiful brick red eyes. Her exotic look comes from the mixed bloodlines she inherited (Evadnese and Orfean). She’s the type of teacher who is always extremely friendly and helpful to every kid (whose name she always remembers, by the way), but nonetheless has something in her fast-paced stride and proud posture that makes you want to respect her. She always reminds me of female warrior princesses of ancient folktales, holding a lyre on one hand and a bow on the other :)

    Today too she was helpful as always. We literally spent hours talking (she had a bowl of fruits which I happily endulged in while we were at it!) and the discussion ended up not only being about my proposal but even more about my dreams and my future. She was so empowering and made me believe that I can do anything!

    We talked a bit about my parents, both of whom she knew from a social activist’s organization way back twenty years ago. At that point, without thinking, I blurted out, “But Professor Aimi, why are the students required to have a teacher’s permission to read my father’s books? Why do you have them in the restricted section—well, two of them, at least?”

    “Ah, yes,” she seemed a little surprised, but then explained, with a sort of tired smile, “You see, Fritz’s books aren’t exactly to be read by kids, are they? Some of them, especially the two you saw in the restricted section, are only for the most serious scholars to read. They conflict with most records of the official history we have in Yoomee, so it can be quite… confusing to kids.”

    “Then why do you have them at all?” I added, curious.

    Professor Aimi almost laughed. “I fought to keep them there. Just because I thought even kids should know that alternative views exist,” she added, smiling, seeing the puzzled look on my face. “You would agree to that, right?” And I would; moreover I can definitely see why this person was active in the same organization as my parents back when they were young!

    We continued talking about my proposal a bit more, then we were done. I came home today with my proposal scribbled in red notes and a heart swelling with confidence. I’m gonna do big things! :)

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    March 18th, 2010Anni ZolaMusic Career, My Life

    Perhaps you already know since I’ve been plugging it constantly on my site, but I’ll be releasing my first album really soon! It will be an Enhanced CD so it will include videos, images, etc, and the audio part of it will contain four of my songs and three of my stories in an audiobook format. The album is titled My Story. I’m really excited about it!

    It also features a friend singer of mine from Earth, Maxso, who wrote and sang the rap part of I Trust Myself. And of course as promised, the ECD will contain your favorite art and music contributions from your fellow community members. You should check them out!

    It’s been a crazy busy weekend for me finalizing the songs and stuff. It’s been busy since early last month, if you noticed my lack of frequency in blogging. So anyway, I’ve never really blogged about the production of my album since it’s a lot of technical work. But I did get to work with a lot of awesome people in the process, and that’s been really cool. I’m really excited about this upcoming album, and I’d like to dedicate this blog post today to show my gratitude.

    I got so much support from so many people for this first album, people that I wish I could thank one by one! My mom, my best friends Ada, Andrea, Imogen and Sarita, Professor Aimi, Headmaster Dharma, and of course all the folks up at Earth who will help me distribute my album there :)

    My final project was the Share My Dream music video, but this album project was something I did in addition to that. I didn’t have to do it but since everyone in Doria has been really helpful, encouraging me to do it as a way to launch my music career, I decided to go for it. So far it’s been crazy busy and I’m enjoying every bit of it!

    Professor Aimi also said that it will be a really a nice addition to my portfolio when I do apply for OFLP. After all, it does really say strongly about who I am and the things I care about. I’m also hoping that I’d be able to sell enough to add extra funds to do my next music videos and albums, as Doria will not sponsor me after this summer!

    Ada hasn’t been coming over in a while as she’s extremely busy, too. She’s choreographing and preparing her first major dance performance for our graduation ceremony this summer so it’s been continuous practice sessions and rehearsals for her. The school has agreed to hire professional lighting and camera crews to record the dance as it will be a huge milestone for her and a decisive element in her portfolio when she applies to Lunar Daughters.

    So yeah, we’re all working hard, doing projects that fits into the image of our dreams. What about you, what are you doing to reach your dreams right now? Would love to hear your stories—share them in the comments! ;)

    UPDATE: You can now already order a pre-release of My Story at the Store, and listen to the excerpts of its content in the Media & Downloads page! :D

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    March 11th, 2010Anni ZolaMy Life

    I was too busy (and excited!) telling you about OFLP in my last blog post that I forgot to talk about what I found out about those restricted books. I did manage to ask my mom about them and even at my home library they were hidden away in a corner (hence I couldn’t find them). They were pretty scary books, and are two of my dad’s most controversial ones.

    They were scary because they talk about things I’ve never heard before. My mom said it’s one of those things you’re not supposed to talk about, those historical events and politics you’re supposed to keep hidden in the past and forget, and make sure your children and grandchildren never found out.

    “Your dad never agreed to that kind of thinking,” my mom said. “Fritz was always the one to speak of how a nation must be brave enough to admit its dark past and resolve its conflicts instead of repressing them and pretend nothing ever happened. You’re old enough now and I think you too might be interested in what he has to say,” she added.

    I could see why the books were controversial. The Rise of Orfea talks about our planet’s dark past, a past nobody wants to admit. It spoke in length of the crimes we did in the past—and not all of them agree with the official version of Orfean history, since they involved leaked documents and named names.

    Beyond the Dark Waters of Kuval is an investigative report on the arms trade in Kuval’s civil war areas. The book suggests that although slavery has been abolished in Kuval, terror and extortion are still being utilized to exploit their planet’s natural resources up to this day. Obviously a lot of people didn’t like it, just as a lot of people don’t like hearing terrible truths.

    I wonder what kind of courage it takes to risk your life in writing for the justice of people you’ve never even met. Reading those books gave me a sharp pang in my chest and a funny feeling in my stomach. My eyes swelled up with tears like they haven’t done in years.

    It’s such a strange emotion, and I think I’ve been especially emotional lately because I’m about to graduate and (hopefully!!) travel the galaxy myself in a few months. It’s a feeling of pride and loss at the same time, and needing the courage to fight so much anxiety.

    I feel so small compared to my dad and to think that there’s a good chance I’d be going out on my own to do the stuff he did, to fight for people like he did. Although I’ll be attempting this in my own way it fills me up with courage and pride to think that I am instinctively walking in his footsteps.

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    March 4th, 2010Anni ZolaMy Life

    I should really thank Imogen for showing that paper the other day. When I came home and didn’t find my dad’s books I was looking for, I instead found the day’s Orfean Tribune on the couch, the same one Imogen showed me at school earlier, and decided to read my mom’s column just because…. It really was very interesting—and it gave me a lot of ideas!

    So let me tell you what I am proposing for the Orfean Future Leaders Program. My goal is to inspire people through music. The purpose of my program will be to conduct musical projects with local people and artists. I will select a planet and stay on it for a couple of months, and I will work with groups to help get their voices heard. By working with local groups I will understand their issues better, and they understanding Orfea better, and build musical and cultural bridges. By staying for long periods I will be able to observe how life, commerce and daily routines are lived out.

    Botanica will most likely be my first choice, and I will visit the tribe of the forest sprites. I want to write songs there and possibly hold some kind of concert to remind them of how their planet could use their local environmental wisdom to increase the forest’s sustainability—a wisdom that according to my mom has been neglected mostly due to greed and arrogance of irresponsible adults—raising awareness and action with my music.

    Oh, by the way, you’re probably still wondering about OFLP and how it works. (I should’ve realized that it’s an Orfean thing and explained it a long time ago :P Sorry!) OFLP, as you know, is short for Orfean Future Leaders Program. It’s basically a traveling scholarship where you get to do your own thing: you propose a project, and if they like it, they will fund your project. You must be out of high school but no older than 25 to apply.

    There are several levels of the project: everyone accepted is required to take the one-year program, and if they do well they can continue for another two to five years, depending on the nature of their project and the level of certification they wish to have. The maximum level is equivalent to graduating from universities.

    You must propose to do a project, artistic or research, in one or more places, spending a minimum of two and a maximum of twelve months in one place. Preferences are given to projects with a humanitarian nature that involve working together with the locals to create a better place for them. Most of the applicants come from the various branches of medical school, architecture, and sciences. One of last year’s Future Leaders has built six new animal conservations in six different planets to date, and another did a series of sustainable architectural design workshops with great success.

    Future Leaders are what we call the Grant winners. If you’re a Future Leader, you get to learn and do work with relevant organizations in the desired planet. These organizations will teach you about their planet’s culture and language, give you accommodation, and help you do your projects with various resources. You can propose your own partner organization to the OFLP Board, but high schools in general and the Board are usually there to help you with their extensive contacts, so you never need to worry even if you don’t know anybody!

    Only five grants are awarded each year and the amount is obviously not unlimited (it varies each year), but participants are free to add their own money to the projects. People who didn’t get the grant but wish to get OFLP certification can also do so by doing OFLP-approved projects with their own money; a lot of the wealthier Orfean young activists have been known to do this. But I won’t be able to afford travels and musical projects on my own so I really hope to get the Grant!!

    I recently heard gossips that artistic projects are rare and in high demand, so I do have a winning point there… Wish me luck!! :)

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    March 1st, 2010Anni ZolaMy Life

    So I decided to spend a lot of hours at the library today, and guess what I found? Books written by my parents—a whole lot of ‘em. Imogen came up to me holding the day’s Orfea Tribune when I was up at the library reading some magazines on art and music activisms (I was looking for references for my OFLP proposal).

    “Your mom’s on the news again,” she said, casually, showing me a page with my mom’s picture on it. Why Botanica’s Environmental Problem is a Social One. “It’s about my planet.”

    “Ah?” I lifted my eyebrows and took the paper.

    My mom appears in the papers a lot, mostly writing op-ed columns like this one, so I’m not exactly surprised. I didn’t know she was writing on Botanica, though. I took the paper and gave it a quick read; it’s about how the indigenous forest sprites don’t have enough freedom of speech regarding the sustainability of their environment.

    “Did you know she wrote this?” Asked Imogen, taking the seat adjacent to mine.

    “Actually no.”

    “It’s pretty interesting,” she said, motioning her head to the paper. She then looked around the library, to nothing in particular. “I wonder if they have a lot of your parents’ writings in here. Both of them write, right? Curious to see more on Botanica.”

    “Um, yeah,” I was actually pretty embarrassed since I never thought of searching my parents’ books in my school library in all these years. I mean, I didn’t care if they have my parents’ works here, right? We have a shelf full of them at home so I never really had any reason to go look for one at the library. I guess “seeing how famous your parents are” can be appealing to some, but I was born to famous parents so I’ve gotten over that curiosity since forever.

    But it was a lazy morning and I wasn’t progressing much on my OFLP proposal ideas, so out of boredom I decided to join Imogen as she got on the computer to search for books written by Zola (probably out of boredom as well). A bunch came up as expected, about two dozen books and over a hundred articles, journal entries, etc, and more than half of them refer to the Zolas we were searching for, my parents.

    Something caught my eye: a couple of books by my dad were actually in the restricted section. I made sure to note their titles in my head—The Rise of Orfea and Beyond the Dark Waters of Kuval—and check with my mom at home.

    “Wow, restricted section?” Imogen noticed the frown on my face. I shrugged. I would take those two books out and have a read if only I didn’t need letters from the principal and two teachers.

    “Wanna come down to the cafeteria? Ada’s probably done with her dance practice and the others are probably there, too,” at that point I just wanted to grab lunch and get home ASAP to find out about those books from my mom.

    “Sure, been craving for Luza salad all morning,” Imogen stood up, rubbing her belly.

    We went down and had lunch, but I went home earlier than the other girls. I was so curious to find out about the books! Unfortunately, though, my mom was away and I had no luck on our home library with those two books. That’s how I ended up sitting here on my desk writing about this curious finding. Oh well, will tell you in the next blog post about those books, I suppose…

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