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Easy-Peasy Can Be Fancy-Shmancy

By Bianca Bruno

While everyone and their mother may be going on post-holiday cleanses and/or diets, it is still fun to indulge in baking delicious goodies that will make all of your suffering friends envious of your sweet skills. Rather than throw away your leftover baking supplies from the holidays, make some quick batches of these super-easy cookies and give them to those you may have forgotten on your gift list, or who unexpectedly gave you a present despite the fact that you are truthfully only kind-of-sort-of friends (aka acquaintances). Homemade gifts are not to be beat, and these recipes from my family’s arsenal will surely become go-to’s in your own kitchen. While they are simple, they taste just like the recipes from Bon Appetit that have a million obscure ingredients and take hours of work. But be warned: once you give these to your friends, expect requests and demands for these every year.




Coconut Joys
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 cups powdered sugar
3 cups coconut (sweetened, shredded)
Semisweet or milk chocolate chips for melting (about a cup)

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar and coconut, mixing well. Shape mixture into small balls. Place on cookie sheet and make a small indent in the top of each cookie using the tip of your finger. Fill the centers of the indent with melted chocolate. Chill until firm, at least an hour. Store in refrigerator.
Makes 3 dozen cookies

Cracker Candy
1 sleeve Saltine Crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 bag chocolate chips (12 oz)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a cookie sheet (the kind with a lip) with foil. Lay crackers in rows on the cookie sheet, being sure that they don’t overlap. Heat butter and brown sugar over medium heat to a boil. Continue to boil for two minutes, stirring constantly. Pour mixture over the crackers, using a spatula to spread the carmel as evenly as possible. Heat in oven for five minutes. Take out the candy and sprinkle chocolate chips over it. Cover with another cookie sheet or piece of foil and let sit for five to 10 minutes until the chocolate chips are soft and melted. Spread melted chocolate chips over crackers with a spatula and refrigerate for at least two hours. Peel foil off bottom of candy and break into pieces. Serve immediately.

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By Will Schmidt

I blew my nose today. Black shit came out. Not snot. More like – ash. I looked into the folds of that white tissue and was convinced. I am not human.
Or at least I’m turning from humanity. Becoming something else. Something elemental. Ash. Everything dies eventually, everything goes back to dust. Ash is just a different kind of dust.
Who knows what comes next.
Maybe I clip my toe nails and they crumble. Ash.
Brush my teeth. Pearly white fades into black ash.
If I wash my hands maybe they’ll wash away leaving trails. Smears of black.
I sneeze – no moisture escapes. Only ash spews forth.
When I blink, my eyes burn. Covered in ashes.
Every step I take dismantles my cartilage. Bones grinding each other into powder –
To ash.

When I become fully ashen, maybe my mind will still remain. No longer able to move myself, the wind becomes my legs. The rain becomes my sweat. The sun my heart beat. A state of nature. A state fueled by nature.

Maybe I should stop taking acid.
But who wants to wait around all day for the mailman?

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New Year, New Hope

By Olivia Ford

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better (wo)man.”
Benjamin Franklin

First and foremost, a very happy New Year to all you STEM readers! It was a strange holiday season for me and, quite frankly, I’m a little relieved it’s over. Don’t get me wrong, returning home is nice, but sometimes that return brings on remembering that is less pleasant. Home cooked meals? Delicious. Parents bickering? Not so appetizing. Seeing your two closest friends? Wonderful! Meeting their boyfriends and hearing about how in love they are when you’re still single? Depressing.

Obviously, I’m really happy for both of them. One of my best friends, who lives down the street from me, has been dating someone since this summer and is convinced he’s the real deal. They’re considerate of one another, passionate about the same things and most importantly, she’s genuinely happy with him. It’s only when I put my single status in context to their relationship that I feel a little queasy.

See, my best friend is one of those girls who always seems to have a boyfriend. I’m one of those girls who are 22 and feel like they’ve never had a real boyfriend. She has an entire box of notes from boys, pictures of them together at dances, crappy drawings and Valentines from former admirers. I have a list of guys who I’ve had one-night stands with.

She and I met at the bus stop in sixth grade and I remember listening eagerly as she told me all about the boys she liked and who liked her. I was in the most awkward of awkward phases then and thought that surely it would only be a few more years of growing up before I caught up with her and no longer had to live vicariously through her stories. Well, joke’s on me because there I was this Christmas break, more than a decade later, sitting across from her and eagerly listening as she told me what it felt like to be in a comfortable and caring relationship.

It was a little hard to stomach. Eleven years later and am I still in my awkward phase? Will I ever grow out of it? Do some things just never change? My friend rolled her eyes when I expressed my self-concern and told me she was jealous I hadn’t put myself through the grief of so many break-ups and relationship hardships. “I used to be so upset all the time with these stupid guys who didn’t treat me well,” she lamented before adding, “Now I know, when it’s the right guy, everything is so easy. So easy.” I was happy for her triumph, but still wondering if I’d ever find my own right guy.

Still, the best part about the holidays is finishing all that Christmas-time reminiscing with a chance to start fresh again in the new year.

Today I came across a wish list I had made for 2011. It read:
1. A real relationship with someone who…
a. Is not gay (it’s happened before).
b. Is interested in spending quality time with me (i.e. not just on the weekends, or late night booty calls, or only wants to meet up at bars).
c. Doesn’t leave me wondering all the time.
d. Makes an effort.
e. I can laugh with, a lot.
f. Is good in bed.
2. A job I can handle and don’t totally hate.
3. An agreeable living situation.
4. A great birthday.
5. Hope for years to come.

Of that list, the middle three were certainly checked off, which only leaves the first and last one to carry over to this year. And, in the spirit of resolutions, maybe we can work on that last one right now: Maybe 2011 didn’t bring everything I wanted, but it brought me closer, and with hope, lots and lots of hope, 2012 will also.

On New Year’s Eve I went to a bar with my friends and found myself kissing a very handsome and laidback surfer from Argentina – not as the ball dropped, but a good 40 minutes after. Other guys had approached me earlier in the evening, but none that I was interested in. Midnight came and I hugged my friends, deciding that if how you spend the first minute of the new year is how you spend the rest of it, I’d be better off being happy alone than regretting wasting it making out with a guy who was no good. Then, lo and behold, twenty minutes later, I start talking to this really good-looking and nice guy who makes me laugh, a lot. He was just passing through and I doubt I’ll see him again, but still, I left the bar content with my first kiss of the New Year. Maybe my friend is right. Had I been in such a scramble to kiss someone at what I thought was the right time, I might have never ended up kissing the right guy that night.

Here’s to the new year. May it bring restored hope and many more worth-waiting-for kisses.

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The Best Thursday Ever: Hillcrest’s Taste ‘N’ Tinis PLUS The White Buffalo At The Casbah

By Kaitlin Perry

Post-grad Thursdays aren’t as fun as they used to be. Instead of parties in Mission Beach, most of us maturely sip on wine and read books. But now that it’s the holiday season, Christmas parties are literally taking place every single weekend. What better way to get yourself in the mood for White Elephant and Secret Santa than a night on the town, filled with festive cocktails, free samples and moving music at Hillcrest’s Taste ‘N’ Tinis, and Casbah’s White Buffalo show.

From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. THIS Thursday, Dec. 15, I’ll be sampling my two favorite things, food and alcohol, at Hillcrest’s Taste ‘N’ Tinis – and you can too! With ticket sales benefitting the Hillcrest Business Association, Taste ‘N’ Tinis will feature over 30 restaurants offering samples of their menu offerings, as well as boutiques providing holiday cocktails and much-needed shopping deals. Even better? Free gift wrapping for the unique gifts you purchase. Taste ‘N’ Tinis is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the holiday season like a grownup, and to experience what Hillcrest has to offer. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 day of. If you plan on trying the irresistibly named cocktails (Scroogedriver, Candy Cane Cosmos, YUM), you must be 21. Purchase your tickets here, and then head over to the Casbah’s website to purchase tickets for your next event: The White Buffalo.

Ah, The White Buffalo. His music has been featured on two of my favorite shows (Sons of Anarchy and Californication), and my good friend’s band, April Ventura & The Magnolias, is opening up for him. I told you it was the best Thursday ever.

The White Buffalo’s live show is described as powerful, and his music is reminiscent of the blues, meaningful folk and the Lost In The Wild soundtrack. His latest EP, titled Lost & Found and released on Dec. 6, is music at its best. The songs (my personal favorite being “Insane”) have a perfect tempo, their stories are relatable and they conjure up images of Jax Teller and Hank Moody being, well, moody and hot. The White Buffalo’s full-length album Once Upon a Time in the West is set to be released in February 2012, and should probably be my Valentine’s day gift, hint hint.

But don’t take my word for it (even though you should). Check out The White Buffalo’s website here, look at how long his hair is and then admire his album artwork. Sold!, for $12 tickets in advance, and $14 at the door.

Opening for The White Buffalo alongside April Ventura is River City, a band that is also folksy, amazing and soulful. I’m seriously so excited, so come join me for the perfect Thursday evening.

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The Pain Begins In The Right Arm

By David Duenas

The pain begins in the right arm. It’s probably there for no reason. And even more likely, just a figment of his imagination. All things considered, it is as real as anything else. And, to be specific, it starts at his wrist. He thinks to himself that perhaps it has something to do with his pulse, which would imply that there is a problem with his artery, and thus his heart. If this is the case, he is dying.  He is sure of this by the time she arrives at the words he knew were coming.

The funny thing is that he hadn’t really heard a thing she had said at all. He looked up and saw that there were no stars on account of the clouds that had moved in so quickly, blown in by the Santa Ana winds. She’s gone but the feeling isn’t. And the feeling isn’t heartbreak. He’s convinced it’s more of a heart attack.

If the blood isn’t getting through, then more beer will help. He comes to this conclusion having heard once that alcohol thins the blood. In his mind he sees that there is a thick vein connected to his physical heart. He doesn’t know a thing about anatomy, but this vein must be important. And standing in the way of the blood that should be pumping blood through his heart, and then the rest of his body is a little man. He imagines that this little man is morbidly obese, bearing similar but not identical characteristics of himself.  By the third beer, the heart attack begins to subside. And by the glory of God, he will be able to see the night through.

He’s not drunk, but certainly not sober when he decides to drive to the bar. The bar is in Pomona, and that really isn’t too far if he’s careful and sticks to the side streets. At the bar he orders another. It’s the waitress he had hoped would be working the shift. In the back room a band is playing, but no one seems to be paying attention. He thinks about this and looks around. In fact, besides himself at the bar, there are only a handful of clientele, none of which, besides the two girls who are obviously romantically involved with the shitty folk musicians, give a damn about the music. At the end of the song, he applauds.

“Applauding from the bar, huh?”

“Sure,” he says. “It’s better than nothing. And I know what it’s like to be the opening act.”

“Are you playing tonight?” she asks.

“No. And I don’t think I would if I could get the gig.”

“Why is that?”

“Because all the interesting people are either drinking at the bar or serving them drinks.”

That had shut her up for a while. So she moves up and down and across the bar, which appears to be made of good wood if you knew anything about it. Normally they would share minor witticisms, but this was the first time he was so bold. The heart attack and the drinking had certainly done the trick.

And isn’t she beautiful. He could never quite make out her chest tattoo but this only excited him more. She never seemed to mind her hair as she served her drinks.  She was a dirty blond with green eyes. And today she’s wearing a man’s wife beater. It’s a bit big on her but looks good as it appears to flow with every turn she makes, from bar to liquor, from liquor to beer and then bar again. As the crowd thickens, so does his inebriation.

“Another,” he says. “The same.”

She hasn’t yet responded to his remark, but serves him his drinks. After the fourth drink he puts down two dollars beside his drink, which is his customary tip, despite the amount of drinks he has been served, and steps out for a smoke. Half way through the cigarette, and just as the rush at the bar ends, she finally works up the courage to give her number to a complete stranger. Something she has never done before. And just as she places it beside his customary two-dollar tip and his half-drunk beer, he decides that it was foolish to have been so bold, and what was more foolish was thinking he ever had a chance.

An hour passes before she finally allows an impatient patron to take his seat at the bar, where the two dollars and the number hastily written down on the back of a business card and the beer still remained. Finally, she empties the beer, pockets the two dollars and throws the number away. At the liquor store, no longer in Pomona, he purchases a six pack, considering it a preventative measure against  what he was sure are early signs of heart disease.

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Acquisition: The Circle Of Life In The Valley

By Kyle Strickland

Silicon Valley, with its multitudinous startups that make VC’s mouths water, is a breeding ground of cannibals. As Radiohead’s Thom Yorke might put it, “the big fish eat the little ones,” with large companies throwing down their cash weight to gobble up the competition or buy their way into new markets.
Last Friday it was announced that NICE Systems had acquired my current company, Merced Systems (unfortunately they won’t be renaming the new entity MICE Systems, to my dismay). I knew the announcement was coming up on that Friday because of a fellow employee’s intuition and smart snooping, but I had been planning on being in Park City for my dad’s birthday for a while and didn’t feel like sticking around for the shit-show that would undoubtedly ensue. I’ve been at companies when big news like this emerged, and I know an emotional and awkward atmosphere is inevitable. For instance, I was at HP when Mark Hurd, CEO at the time, resigned over a scandal with a humongous severance package (#goldenparachute) and saw the outrage in employees who have spent scores of their lifetime with HP. No work was done that day; all eyes were on the news and how it affected them.
The acquisition decision is very strategic and great for both companies, that much is true. In fact, my dad has been pushing both companies to do so for some time, since he is an independent IT consultant to both. But the news isn’t nearly as great for the people, many of whom lost their jobs as a result. Entire departments were let go instantaneously and are still expected to report for one more month. People who have been with the company for six years are gone, and few are happy about it.
During an acquisition, it is normal for only about one-third of the staff to remain through the merger. It is a trying period to survive with so much up in the air about new management structures, pay increases/decreases, job security and even job location. NICE, for instance, is headquartered in Israel. Who’s to guarantee you won’t have to move internationally to keep your job? Nobody.
For the people who have been let go, they depart only with a small stock payout and an even smaller severance. Acquisitions are great for the people that start the companies because they have large stakes in the company at a very small price; but if you just joined three years prior and have minimal stock options, you’re not about to see much of a profit from the merger. The original members are ready to retire, while others scrape together only a couple thousand to hold them over to their next job. It’s unfair, but timing and luck are everything if you want to get that big payday in the risky game of startups.
NICE is coming into the office daily now, and it will gradually impose its will and vision on the employees until they flee or succumb to the new way of life. The new reign means new everything, and it almost makes sense to get a new job where the headaches of uncertainty, changing management and possible relocation won’t follow.
For me, I am in a similar position as most. Lots of uncertainty enshrouds my job’s future, but it seems like I am in one of the few positions that our new parent company wishes to really hold on to and develop. We will soon see if they can offer me up something really NICE to keep me on board through this mess.

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Holiday Fashion, New York Style

By Hannah Watanabe-Rocco

So, this year I’m not going home for Christmas or New Year’s. I’m excited about spending the holidays in New York City for the first time, but I’ve never spent the holidays away from my family, and it’s kind of sad. It’s been making me think a lot about my holiday traditions, and how I can bring them into my life here. My family loves the holidays, even though we’re not religious at all. We’re less into organization and more into procrastination, so we get around to decorating the house at our own pace. My sister and I often take over tree-trimming duties, with our faithful dog Cassie sitting around looking really adorable, cheering us on, and sometimes wearing reindeer antlers. On Christmas day, my sister still wakes us all up at the crack of dawn to open presents even though she’s, like, 20 now (oh God, so weird!) and then we go to our family friend’s house to have Christmas breakfast. At night we go over to our grandparents’ and aunt’s house to eat really good food and open even MORE presents.

Rochas boots, Comme des Garcons Girl top, Comme des Garcons Girl dress

New Year’s is always a good time, too. The New Year is a big Japanese holiday, so we go over to my grandparents’ house to eat a lot of good Japanese food that’s all symbolic of stuff that I can’t remember. But it’s always really tasty! We also always go to Little Tokyo to participate in even more Japanese festivities. New Year’s Eve has always been the province of friends, though. My friends and I really like to party hard on New Year’s Eve. We do craaaaazy stuff like play Settlers, like, ALL NIGHT, or build blanket forts, or go watch the Korean Bell to be rung only to get some crappy mp3s of the bell ringing while watching people pretending to ring the bell instead…we’re pretty cool. It’s hard to think that I won’t be home for all of the usual holiday adventures with my family and my oldest friends.

Left: Madewell blouse, J. Crew hat, Alexander Wang shoes, J Brand jeans
Right: Madewell sweater, Madewell skirt, Chloe shoes, New Scotland hat

But since I’m in New York City this year, I really feel like I have to step up my game, fashion-wise. I mean, I know everyone’s heard this a million times, but everyone here is pretty intimidatingly fashionable. It took a lot of courage for me to buy a bulky, practical down coat this year for the sake of comfort, because I feel like such a dork around all of these beautiful people walking around in beautiful, unsubstantial-looking coats. Seriously, do people here not get cold??? But holiday fashion is always so much fun that I’m excited to have the chance to actually wear some of it. As you might imagine, playing board games doesn’t really lend itself to fun outfits. I really want to go for some sequin skirts and brocade pants this year, which I somehow haven’t really embraced before despite my love of all things gaudy. Also, a lot of really fashionable boots. I’m seriously the hugest boot person. I think they’re comfortable AND cute, which I can’t say the same of heels (not comfortable) or sneakers (not cute). I can find a way to incorporate boots into ANY outfit, fancy or not. Besides, once it starts snowing, you really don’t have any other choice!

Left: Jil Sander shoes, J. Crew jacket, J. Crew skirt, J. Crew cashmere sweater, Gilly Forge hat
Right: Opening Ceremony shoes, Anthropologie slacks, J. Crew sweater

Now I have to start a lot of new traditions for myself this Christmas with my boyfriend, friends and family on the East Coast, and it wouldn’t hurt to make “looking cute” one of those traditions! I’ve already gone to see the tree at Rockafeller Center get lit up, and I’ve started my gift-buying (like Leslie Knope, I consider myself an excellent/competitive gift buyer). Now I want to go to Central Park to go ice-skating, and bake some cookies, and watch The Muppet Christmas Carol on YouTube, and knit some really cute ornaments. Even though I won’t be with my family back home, I’m slowly finding a way to make home wherever I am.

All drawings by Hannah Watanabe-Rocco.

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Measuring The In-Between

By Olivia Ford

“The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists.”
H. Allen Smith

If I’m lucky enough to have anybody read this column regularly, you might be wondering, what ever happened with Mr. Times Square? Forget about all these guys from last year who fucked it up, what about the guy that’s supposed to be there right now? (And for those of you who need catching up or reminding, read about how we met here).

Maybe the reason I haven’t been keeping a detailed chronicle of what’s current is because I’m always better at understanding the things that have already passed, and hoping for what’s to come. The present is the icky in-between that I can’t quite put my finger on, at any given moment I’m trying to prepare myself for which category to place it in: Doomed past or hopeful future? Is this going to be the one that saves or destroys me?

This is all the more difficult of a fixation to relinquish when your present feels especially in-between things itself. Mr. Times Square and I are still going out on dates, but I don’t think we’re dating. We’re sleeping together, maybe even exclusively, but we’re not a couple by any means. We’re…well, I have no idea what we are, or if I should care, or if we should stop being whatever it is we’re not being.

Is it clear enough at least why I’ve been putting off writing about him for so long?

I’ve been telling my friends clued in to the situation that dating or not dating, the title doesn’t necessarily matter to me. Though I do feel like I’m at an emotional readiness in my life to settle down and commit, I’m still new to a big city and it’s no time to settle in that sense. Mr. Times Square and I hang out semi-consistently (once a week to once every two weeks) and that’s good enough for me right now. There’s someone to spend time with now and then, and to keep me from feeling completely deprived of male attention but not so time consuming a relationship that I’m failing to engage in other areas of my life.

Then again, I can’t help but feel there isn’t something not quite right about it. Am I settling for less than I deserve? Or letting myself be used as a convenient and glorified rebound fuck buddy? Am I letting him have his cake and eat it too, while I’m barely scraping the pan? In a very neurotic Bridget-Jones/Carrie-Bradshaw-at-her-worst attempt to figure out what exactly the problem is, I put our relationship on paper. I listed every date: when and where it took place, what I wore (irrelevant, but fun) and if we had sex after or not. Here were my “scientific” findings:

Mr. Times Square and I have been seeing each other for three months now. In this time we have gone out on eleven dates, including: three outings with his friends, two with mine, at least ten different bars (some nights included bar-hopping), two movies in theaters, four morning-after bagel runs and two actual sit-down breakfasts. We have never actually had a meal alone together aside from breakfast. More alarming, we’ve only actually had sex a total of six times.

It’s this last one that really struck me. In its defense, six times is probably a lot for both of us given the circumstances. I’m used to one-night stands, he’s still fairly fresh out of a long, serious relationship, and there’s something kind of sweet about us compromising in the middle. But considering we started sleeping together almost immediately, it’s a shockingly low number, one that I suspect gets banged out (pun-intended) by other couples in a period of a week or two, not three months.

Of course, there’s a lot of good stuff that can’t be listed objectively on paper. We have good conversations, similar tastes and interests and the sex itself is good. But let’s face it – a fuck every fortnight does not a relationship make.

So what to make of this uncomfortable in-between? Or is the real struggle to not make something of it at all? To just go with it for as long as I’m happy? Or is it to see that I’m not as happy as I’d like to think I am?

Quite frankly, my attempt to be objective and see things clearly has left me more lost than ever. For now, let me say, I know we are definitely not a couple. The comfortable “what are we doing tonight” feeling just isn’t there. Still, it’s far from the worst situation I’ve ever been in. In fact, compared to the worst, it’s actually quite good. Not the best, but a solid good. And while I do deserve the best eventually (as I hope everyone knows they do), let’s not jump to any conclusions or categorize the present as past or future quite yet. Who knows what that solid good will turn into? For now, let’s just keep our fingers crossed, look forward for the best to come, try to relax until then and for god’s sake, not make any more stupid lists to freak us out.

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Safe No More

By Karlie Massie

You told me on the cold, stone bench we had claimed our own. I think you felt safe there amidst the jagged rocks that divided us from the ripples of the sand. But your honest words were my demise, and they ruined our place. They sliced and struck the safety net we had carefully constructed together. I sat and watched it fall while you sat and thought of her.

And then, I saw you with her. I felt myself break. Is that possible? I wanted to ask you, but instead I endured. My hands were clasped together with knuckles a smooth, stark white. Urgently, I held them to my chest trying desperately to keep everything inside. But I failed myself. My eyes burned and my limbs shook. Even my teeth radiated with rage. And as each part of my body dissolved and slid towards the dirty ground, your lips held firmly onto hers.

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Marie Says

By David Duenas

Some girl says to me, “I may not have a monopoly on despair, but I’m a big shareholder.” People pretend to listen. Music plays loudly in another room; it is an excuse at best. The women parade big ass and men only talk over beer and smoke. There is candlelight… and walls saturated with conversation, music. Always there is the music playing loudly in another room. An excuse. To forget. A man, forgetting, and she is left only with the music. But it doesn’t care enough to really listen.

I may not have a monopoly on despair, but I’m a big shareholder.

And to be honest, she has been practicing the line for days now. Keeping it secret and close for the moment she thought it would really matter. And perhaps it is too soon. She allows the words to slip. And hope, for a moment, dances. It crosses the floor hand in hand with the smoke of drunken men and careless women.

I may not have a monopoly on despair, but I’m a big shareholder.

Marie says she cannot love. And just stares off distantly, withdrawn.

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