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xccj

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About xccj

BioniLUG Members
Year 18
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    Senior Staff Mask Maker
  • Birthday 11/04/1988

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    Titan, orbiting Saturn
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    Aiming heat seeking cruise missiles full of chocolate pudding towards the Neptunium captial...

    And Animorphs, Bionicle, and un-official (totally fake) martial arts... and eating. Can't forget that... and not working...

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  1. But of course Andrew got Ninjago City Gardens to build.
  2. Hehehe, just realized Andrew mixed up his Looney Toons with Tiny Toons and said Babs Bunny instead of Lola Bunny. IMO this looks like a series I can mostly pass on. It has the same issues as the Simpsons waves; very custom head molds and very generic torso prints for the most part. There are a few elements that I'm interested in (cheese printed cheese slopes!!) but I'm not a big enough Looney Tunes fan to go all in. Honestly would not have predicted this as a wave of figs, but I guess they could do worse.
  3. Yeah, so this isn't quite a standard review, but rather a discussion about the theme and the TV series. I actually fell behind on the Ninjago TV series and recently caught up with it on Netflix. The shorter episodes were a bit off-putting, but they still tell a decent story, with the occasional break to focus purely on side characters. (And the fact that sometimes they switch to a more anime-like animation style was neat too.) The fact that the last season heavily focused on Cole was bittersweet after the passing of his voice actor, Kirby Morrow. For the character, I liked how he was able to connect to his mother's past as another Earth elemental, some of the scenes were pretty moving. And even so, plenty of the other characters got their chances to shine, which is not something all seasons of the show have been able to pull off. And yes, the action and humor is generally aimed for a younger audience so it would be mild for most adults, but I enjoyed how they incorporated all the sets and characters (and annoyed at some of the characters and locations that didn't get properly featured in sets. That fancy city had potential.) The best joke was also their take on the LotR quote with "You shall not... be granted permission to transverse beyond this point." More photos on Instagram Now, for the sets, there was the whole concept this year of combining them into larger portions to make a large board game. I ended up getting 71717 Journey to the Skull Dungeons, 71721 Skull Sorcerer's Dragon, and 71722 Skull Sorcerer's Dungeons. Journey and Dungeons have the bigger landscape pieces that look like they fit together the best (kinda reminds me of the Helms Deep set and then the wall extension set that were clearly made to go together.) Journey on it's own is lackluster, but it still provides a more substantial landscape than in the Dragon set. (And the Dragon set has better landscapes than the other sets, from the looks of it.) Still, the adjustable pathways are a bit of a mess when you try to connect them all, and I wasn't really able to get all the loops properly connected. It is nice to have a full set of the Ninja; always cool to see the team all together. And, of course, I tried to pair up all the dragons I had built with the Skull Dragon to show off it's massive size. Anyway, this was a fun theme for Ninjago and I think the theme is still doing alright. A new mech and dragon every year is fine with me, especially as the designs keep changing and bringing something new to the table. And the show still seems to be doing well; not bogged down too much in the story of previous years but still alluding to it when appropriate. (Although it is a bit annoying when they're falling and in trouble and we forget that a few years ago they had Airjitzu that they could use to fly). I look forward to see where they're going with the theme next.
  4. And now to move onto the biggest set of the themes... More photos on Instagram: The build process Set highlights and action features The minifigures 71722 Skull Sorcerer's Dungeons is $99.99 and has 1171 pieces. And it is good. Ninjago has done a bunch of big based before, but something about this one feels like more of the adventurer big sets from the late 90s... y'know, the ones I never was able to buy but admired a lot in the magazines. Part of this has to do with the game board setup, where you have paths leading up and around the temple, giving it more of a sense of adventure than a standard building or temple. The rocky structure works out nicely, but the detailed skull design that fits atop it really draws the eyes, and the underlying orange plates as lava add to the environmental feel. On the main level, you have a campfire on one side of the skull and a weapons cache on the other. Meanwhile, on the back side of the mountain you have the Skull Sorcerer's office, complete with some nice decorations and a portrait of him before he got all skull-faced. The right path is pretty meager and comparable to the paths seen in some of the smaller sets, although it features a mini stone bridge. The left path has a more substantial bridge and uses a neat trick to extend the ladder up towards the tower without actually connecting to it. To add to the game play, there are also hidden hearts and weapons along the paths. (I tried to look up the rules for the board game but it's so generic that I think you're better off customizing them yourself.) There are a couple of fun action features squeezed into the landscape too. If you push the pathway beneath the skull's mouth, you can open the doorway to one of the swords. (This is a fun feature that has been utilized a few times before, like in one of the Elves castles, but it's still a good one.) You also have a lever you can pull back on the top to send back the spikes and reveal the other sword. Meanwhile, if you turn the tower on the left, you activate all sorts of sequences. It causes blades to spin on the bridge and raises / lowers the cage on the far right. (The cage, meanwhile, is the exact same design from the cheaper set.) The most ambitious part, however, is the paths leading up to the skull, which the sequence causes to rise and fall. The latter one does have a tendency to get stuck so it's not quite as fluid as I would've liked, but it's impressive. And the main tower uses a rubber piece to lock the turns, so you don't have a lot of slack running through the full thing. You get a full selection of figs to play with too. Lloyd, Zane, and Cole fill out the Ninja roster (the other half of the team is in the skeleton dragon set.) You also get the troll Munce character and the goblin Ginkle character, who turn out to be Ninja allies in the show. The black Skeleton warrior is not tho, but he's generic so it's okay to hate him. The Skull Sorcerer is nicely detailed, and the same as he was in the dragon set. Unique to this set is Vania, who has her own unique color scheme that really stands out in the dungeons. Also two game play stands and a dice spinner. As a play set, I think this might be one of the better Ninjago sets from the whole theme. The concept of tying all the sets together as a board-game really adds to their play value, and I could see younger kids spending a lot of time with this set with all the adventures it offers. From a purely display angle, it's not the most picturesque with some of the flimsy paths, but the skull design certainly holds its own. It makes a worthwhile set for any Ninjago fan... s'long as they can afford it, because it is on the pricey side.
  5. So I've been forced to relearn how to deal with images in BZP blogs. (Yeah, this isn't the highest traffic place around anymore, but how else am I supposed to scream my thoughts out into the void??) Flickr restructured and became unusable for a large quantity of images, and Brickshelf is another older platform that I just don't use that much anymore. I was trying to go for the Instagram route for photos of sets to do quick reviews on, but then embedding broke on BZP (I don't know which side is responsible, but knowing the issues with the forum's server I bet it's on our side.) But, lo and behold, we have that whole gallery thing that I've never utilized. And sooooo... went and spammed a bunch of review pictures there and updated all my mini reviews from the last couple of years. I'll still upload full galleries to Instagram but I'll at least have some visuals to post here. And I still have some Ninjago stuff to cover from last year before I start focusing on the new sets. So without further ado... More photos and videos on Instagram, obviously. The Skull Sorcerer's Dragon, AKA Skeleton Dragon, goes for $79.99 USD and has 1016 pieces. I'm reluctant to call it the largest Ninjago dragon ever (it probably ranks up there) but it's the largest I've owned so far, so it's still quite impressive. The wings are the biggest stand out for me; they are cloth and have a really awesome printing to them, even as they take up a TON of space. The dragon is mainly white with dark grey along its spine and trans bright green highlights. The torso is impressive with it's skeletal rib designs, and guess what, it also has a Tridax pod built in! If you push a lever on the dragon's back, the ribs pop opened and the trans green boulder can be dropped. The head tops it off with an impressive spikey design. Of course, the dragon has its faults, and the biggest one is possibility. While the hind legs have the standard motions you'd expect from a Ninjago dragon, the front legs are locked at the shoulders, forcing it to remain in the same forward stance at all times. (It has elbows to allow it to raise itself up and down a bit, but I think too much mobility is lost without the shoulders.) As such, the dragon only really looks good in one pose, and trying to adjust that just looks awkward. And it doesn't help that the front legs also tend to hide the cooler rib designs of the torso. I also found the swinging tail to be quite annoying after a while; it's hard to pose in a position that is not wrapping back around the dragon's body. Good as a play feature, yes, bad for posing. Of course, keeping with the game-board-like designs of all these Ninjago Master of the Mountain sets, this one has some landscape bits, but they are rather weak. You have a turntable that can act as a switch to swing them to three different islands in the laval. One of those islands also has a statue that's built on a neat little action feature; press down slightly on the game stand that the Ninja is supposed to land on, and the statue falls on top of them. It also comes with two of the game stands with heath hearts, which are in most of this theme's sets, as well as the dice-spinner. The figs are decent, but again are secondary to the main dragon. You get Kai, Jay, and Nya in their new armor. (Fun fact, the other half of the Ninjas come in the Skull Sorcerer's Dungeon, so if you get both of those sets then you get a full team of ninja!) The new armor and helmets are interesting, and while Nya and Jay have neat torso designs, Kai's feels a bit bland with just a giant emblem. Printed shields are a plus tho. On the bad guy's side, you have the Skull Sorcerer himself, with a detailed robe and a fancy special mask (built into the hat tho, sorry). The two black skeletons are identical and a bit generic, but hey it can help build up your skeleton army. In the end, I'm not quite sure if this is the most worthwhile set. The dragon is massive and detailed but is not exactly the best to display with it's lack of posability. (I might remove the front legs entirely and make it a Wyvern, but then it would be far too front heavy.) The figs are great, the landscape is meh, and the pieces are actually pretty good, with a lot of fun whites. (Not a while lot of new stuff that I could see.) A fitting dragon for sure. Anyway, more Ninjago stuff to come. Allow me to continue to scream into the void.
  6. I got a handful of Ninjago sets this last month, so I'll start out the new year by looking at some of the Ninjago "Master of the Mountain" sets from last year! First up: The Spinjitzu Burst spinner packs. More photos and videos on Instagram In case it wasn't obvious, I'm a sucker for exclusive Ninjago figs, and the various spinner packs are always enticing for their new figs, even if they are generally lackluster in the builds. This batch is another spinner you set off by slamming a lever, not unlike the Spinjitzu Slam sets from 2019. Unfortunately, only three were released, so you only get Cole, Kai, and Lloyd. This irks me, because as a completionist, I am now left without Jay, Zane, or Nya. (And like the Arcade packs only came with Jay, Kai, and Lloyd, and last year's Spinjitzu slam only featured Lloyd, Kai, Zane, and Jay. Nya seems to get left out of all of these packs.) (Plus I just caught up on the show, and only Cole actually does the Spinjitzu Slam, so what are Kai and Lloyd trying to do here??) The figs themselves are actually pretty neat, with elemental energy torso designs and new head prints. They also come with rounded straw hats, and when I got a red and black hat out of Cole and Kai, I was hopeful for a new green variant for Lloyd, but alas he only gets a boring silver hat that doesn't really match with his scheme at all. The spinners themselves are new. The central bit has a stud connection for the ninjas and then bar attachments on four sides, so maybe reusable. The various fins are crystalline and come in some neat colors, but the problem is they're only connection point is a bar clip... and I'm not sure how secure it would be in different bar settings. When you rubber band them together, they hold together and form a Spinjitzu tornado, and the rounded straw hats actually fill out the top nicely. The bases (and the main build) for all three sets are pretty much identical, with the only difference being the colored trans 1x1 piece decorations. The coloring fits in with the rock and lava style from the main sets, but it would've been nicer if it wasn't the same exact repeat three times; previous spinners have done their bases in different colors, why couldn't we have had that again? Anyway, the idea is you position the spinners on the base, slam down on the lever, and send them spinning. The results vary. You need to apply a lot of force to get them started, so anything half hearted just causes them to immediately slump over. If you can get them moving fast enough, the fins actually fan out as it spins, which is neat. Otherwise, it's a classic Ninjago top. Fun for a little bit, but replay value seems limited (I mean how long can you be entertained by spinners. They've pulled this gimmick off quite a lot and I'm sure it's getting old.) And, of course, there's no real display value. So overall. It's fun, and if you haven't gotten one of these before it could be nice to pick up and test out a bit. And some of the fin pieces could be nice to use in sets, and of course the unique figs are a draw. But unless you want all the figs, not really worth picking up multiple copies. (Alas, I am in the former, and will always beckon to the call of impulse spinner sets with unique figs.)
  7. Huh, I thought Lego Creator would've been the first, but Lego Island actually predates even that one. Interesting stuff. There's a lot of Lego video games out there; I'm curious if they'll eventually delve into some of the online games as well.
  8. More photos on Instagram. The first wave of Hidden Side was pretty great, but the second wave was lackluster. Designs improved again in the third wave, and I think the highlight is the Phantom Fire Truck. It goes for $59.99 and has 760 pieces, including some newer elements. Not bad. This reminds me of the upgraded school bus from last year. The front of the fire truck is well done and lots of nice details. In particular, I like the wheel guard designs they came up with here, very clever. Inside the cab also has a small living space with a computer monitor (sorry, no picture of that) but I did find the top a bit tough to take off; it tends to take too many pieces off when I do. The back of the truck looks okay, even if the blue turret is a bit of an odd attachment. But then suddenly the back shifts and a mech steps off the truck. And I'll be honest; I was only lukewarm towards the set until I learned about the transforming feature. The mech itself isn't super well proportioned; the leg joints are a bit clunky, to be honest. But the fact that the legs fold up and transform quite seamlessly into the back of the truck is cool enough to forgive all the other flaws. And, to be fair, the turret arms look pretty crazy, especially with the multi-layered disc design they used. The main enemy is this spindly ghost guy. His legs are made up of black vines attached to a standard base, but surprisingly he had a couple of poses you can put him in (even if some put him off balance.) And honestly, you don't often have a figure shaped like this, so I'll give them credit for being innovative with him too. The figs are a standard batch of the Ghost fighters or whatever; I'm not sure there's too much different between them here and their versions in the School Bus. You do get one spooky black fig, who has a neat transparent head. The new walking computer is a nice callback to Alpha Team. Speaking of callbacks, there are a lot of references to old themes in the stickers, but the most important one is the Hau. I always appreciate Bionicle references, and they may influence my decisions to buy these larger sets sometimes. Overall, this is a solid set with a good cast of figs and a fun transforming feature. And the pieces are good too. I haven't grabbed any of the other wave 3 sets, but I picked up this one because it looked the best of the batch and it does not disappoint. (And maybe there won't be any more Hidden Side sets next year, so it's worth getting this one to end the theme with a bang.)
  9. More photos on Instagram. I'm a sucker for Ninjago sets, and the new Skull Dungeons theme looks pretty crazy. I want some of the larger sets but don't currently have the budget for them, so I picked up the cheaper one earlier this year to get the figs and get into the theme. It's 401 pieces for $29.99, so not a bad value. So this small set doesn't appear to be any major location, but mostly builds a rock ledge with some steps leading up to it. That premise is actually kind of boring, if I'm being honest, but the bricks will be useful if I want to make more MOCs that use rockwork designs in em. The main trail of steps are connected to hinges so you can rotate them a bit; this is incorporated into attaching this set to the others and build up a massive board for some sort of game. The concept is interesting, but it doesn't really add a whole lot to this small set alone. The spiral stairs that lead up to the top of the rocks is a more interesting design; not unprecedented but still solid. The rock wall features some wooden panels and trans orange lava flowing by, which helps build up the scene. There's a small wooden fence on the top (where the black sword is stored, I guess) and there's a pulley system attached to a small cage. The cage is well done, but it does use techniques from previous sets (some in the Ninjago theme, although it also reminds me of Pirate of the Caribbean.) The back is mostly empty, but I think it's supposed to be the sleeping quarters for the troll. There's also a few torches utilizing the flame piece in trans green, which is a plus. There's a small side build that includes a stand for the character and three hearts which goes with the board game setup. Instead of a character, I put the new spinner on it in the photos. The new spinner piece is cleverly also a dice; it has a hexagon style build with one, two, or three dots printed; so you spin it and whichever side is facing up is your roll number. A fun way to incorporate spinjitzu into the game. I have a habit of collecting all the Ninja figs, and you get three in this set: Jay, Lloyd, and Nya. They're extra armored up here, with massive shoulder places and extra silver printing on their torsos. In addition to some standard weapons, they also have shields with dragon prints on em! There's also a sand green troll who wouldn't look out of place in a fantasy castle theme. Honestly, while this set has some benefits, it's pretty lacking, especially compared to some of the larger sets like the full Skull Dungeons or the Bone Dragon. It feels very much like a supplemental set to add onto the larger ones; it gives you a taste of the full theme at a cheaper price point, but doesn't quite hold up on its own. And yet, it has three Ninja, the new spinner, the fancy black sword, and the crazy green flame elements. I feel like if you can afford it, the larger sets would be more appealing.
  10. More photos on Instagram. Okay, Jurassic World continues to push out lackluster sets that I want just for the dinos. (The big one this year with the Ankylosaurs is pretty bland, but I want it for the Ankylosaurs!) This set is cheaper but it definitely shows. All the same, you get two baby dinos here; a small baby Ankylosaurs and a slightly larger baby Triceratops. The set is almost worth it for the two dinos alone; and if you're not interested in them, then don't bother, as the rest of the set isn't really worth it. ($19.99 for 164 pieces is a bad value, although pretty standard for licensed themes at this price point.) The build is the interior of a lab, but it's very sparse. (Granted, it looks better with the stickers, but since I'm not planning to keep this together for long, I didn't apply them.) On the far right, you have a window into an enclosure for the dinos, with a convenient lever to knock it down and allow them to invade the lab. (Seriously, why does Jurassic Park build destruction levers in all their buildings? Seems like the opposite thing they should do for safety's sake!) Then there are some computer monitors and screens, and a little tables with a basic microscope built in. (Some of the Friends science sets have had better lab equipment designs.) The most interesting build is the egg display on the left, with a little dome and a robot arm that can pick up the eggs. And the most interesting piece is a 1x1 trans orange brick with a mosquito printed on it, to resemble the bug trapped in amber. Classic reference there! The figs are Own and Dr. Wu, who have been in plenty of other sets before and are hardly even worthwhile to comment on. The Ankylosaurs has some great details and printing on it; it can fit onto a 2x3 plate and had a single stud on it's back. The Triceratops is about twice as big, and the bricks in its back can be removed to allow a fig to ride it (in Lego horse style). The two baby dino molds are great. Is this set worth it? I mean... no, probably not. Jurassic Park / World sets have a problem with having very lackluster builds but then intricate dino molds that jack up the set prices, and the two baby dinos do that here. They're great molds, better than getting another raptor or something. But it is a little spendy to get them, and outside of the amber brick, there's not a whole lot else that's exciting in this set. So the value really depends on how much you want the baby dinos. The rest is just filler.
  11. More photos on Instagram. This is actually one of the minifigure collections released last year, but I only just got around to opening it recently. It's $39.99 for 164 pieces, which is a lousy value. But it has 14 figs and a few other exclusive parts, so the price is somewhat reasonable for a fig pack. I believe a few of the fig torsos may be unique, but I'm too lazy to go do the research. As it is, none of them really stand out as must-haves, but they are also all generic enough to make for good City-filler, and that's sometimes difficult to get from other themes. The standout figs are the scout, the camera-woman, and the new baby carrier (even if I switched which fig it was on). The baby had a new body too! The builds are simple and generally lackluster, although that's been par for the course for these large fig packs. The largest build is the tent, which has a brick built base that the light plastic wraps around; it works out well enough, but it's quite easy for the plastic to fold out of shape, so you've got to be careful when setting it up for display. There's also a simple ramp for the motorbike, a camp stove, a camp lantern, and a short rock wall for the climber. Also included is a sign for Mount Clutchmore (haha) and Lego City; the tile printings are nice. One of the big yellow rafts is also included. The highlight of the set, however, is the new eagle mold, which I still believe is exclusive to this set. The coloring is very well done, and the detailed feathers in the mold are great. It's got a wide wingspan too; each wing is almost as long as a minifig is tall. (Almost). And the feet can fit on a stud so you can perch it or have it grab onto a fish. Is the eagle alone worth this set? Maybe not, but it's close. I mostly got this for the eagle, and the fig pieces will supplement my collection nicely, so I think it's a worthy purchase. Too bad it's retired. I guess this is why I should review current sets.
  12. Hmmm, I do have a bunch of mosaics that could easily qualify... Edit: Never mind, the one I have built would be against the rules...
  13. I do tend to view 2001 Bionicle with a lot of nostalgia; it was a huge defining focus of my childhood growing up, and even as the official story moved on, I was still writing stories and talking about it on BZPower years and years later. So I am very biased about the first year of Bionicle, just getting that out there. And the crazy thing is, it very well could not have worked. Lego was throwing all sorts of ideas at the wall to see what would stick. Throwbots / Slizers did well enough, but there was also Galidor and Jack Stone in that same era (generally), so not all of them were winners. But they managed to strike gold with Bionicle, something I'd be willing to say they haven't been able to do with any other home-grown theme besides Ninjago and TLM. But Bionicle had plenty of ridiculous notions to it that still make AFOLs hate the theme; so I'd have to say that a little luck was also involved on Lego's part. I mean, there have been other one-shot themes that had good sets and a decent story with a movie or show, but they eventually ended, and it's surprising that Bionicle ended up lasting for as long as it did instead of fading away after a year or two. In general, while the sets did improve over the years, 2001 had a lot to offer without really being compared to previous waves. Sure, Slizers did buildable characters, and the Rahi were similar to technic Cyber Slam sets. But the Rahi had complex functions and cool animalistic looks that hadn't really been done before. And the Toa builds weren't as varied as the Slizers, but all six were very distinct from each other and their color blocking was done very well, which helped separate their characters, and they had simple but effective functionality. And then there was collectability. I'm sure Lego did a lot with collectible sets and figs in the 90s, but man the collectible Kanohi masks were just so infectious, you just had to get more. And $2 packs were pretty affordable and widely available, so everybody could easily start building their collection. The toys themselves fit into the action figure niche that Lego really hadn't tapped before. Yes, they were widely different from almost anything Lego had done before, but they were cool enough that they sold well. It was the right toy design at the right time. And yes, the story mattered immensely, with the comics and MNOLG really building up the world and characters and narrative, allowing you to play out the story with your sets as the Toa fought the Rahi and searched for the masks. It does boggle my mind just how "lightning in a bottle" the whole situation was; the game and movie got canceled, forcing the side Matoran game to suddenly handle the brunt force of the story, but the Templar people did an amazing job at telling this compelling story even with all the restrictions they had (in regards to violence shown, animation speed from slow internet of the time, the huge rush to get new content out, and 9-11 happening in the middle of it all.) It worked out so amazingly well and I don't think the franchise would've survived if it hadn't been for that game. It's importance isn't to be dismissed, and it's all the more impressive because it was not supposed to be the flagship game for the theme, but it handled the burden admirably. (To be fair, the comics were also very well done in 2001, and they were what first got me hooked into the story, but the MNOLG was what got me invested in it.) But looking at the deeper story of the Toa on Mata Nui, it had a lot of deep mystery and great lore going for it. And it had one advantage that other years lacked; cultural appropriation. In retrospect, knowing all the ideas and name they stole from Maori culture is very off putting. Maori and Polynesian culture is very interesting in and of itself, and you gain a lot of that mysticism through Bionicle's first year... but the fact that they were making a profit off the concepts from another culture is very distasteful. They certainly veered away from such things later on, as the various character names became more ridiculous. (Turahk, Keerahk, Voporahk, Reidak, ext. At least in later years they started referring animals with stuff like Carapar and Chirox, but then you also had Mutran and Stronius.) People say that the overall themes of 01 were better, more mystic, ext, and a lot of that comes from them setting up a story without diving into the particulars (Metru Nui, Great Spirit Robot, Brotherhood of Makuta). And there's a lot of Faber's concepts that stand out on their own, with hero capsules healing a buried giant robot. But a lot also comes from borrowed Maori culture, and while it made for a great story, it still wasn't the right thing to do for a toy theme. Lotta mixed feelings here. Anyway, that's some of my ramblings from the early years. TLDR: The stars aligned for everything for Bionicle, with good sets and a good story, presented very effectively by the MNOLG, but it also had the distasteful advantage of taking elements from Maori culture.
  14. Yuck, that's awful. We're experience that too up in the PNW right now, and I'm just on the edge of the evacuation zone. This was not part of the California culture we wanted imported up here! Glad you're okay, hope you don't have to deal with any other major fires this year. But I don't see this smoke going away any time soon.
  15. Wow, that's awful. Hope you and everybody can stay safe down there. Shame California seems to burn every summer.
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