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Subreddit Demographic Survey 2020 : The Results
2020 Childfree Subreddit Survey
Once a year, this subreddit hosts a survey in order to get to know the community a little bit and in order to answer questions that are frequently asked here. Earlier this summer, several thousand of you participated in the 2020 Subreddit Demographic Survey. Only those participants who meet our wiki definition of being childfree's results were recorded and analysed. Of these people, multiple areas of your life were reviewed. They are separated as follows:
Career and Finances
Religion and Spirituality
Sexual and Romantic Life
Childhood and Family Life
State of the Subreddit
Our sample is redditors who saw that we had a survey currently active and were willing to complete the survey. A stickied post was used to advertise the survey to members.
The raw data may be found via this link. 7305 people participated in the survey from July 2020 to October 2020. People who did not meet our wiki definition of being childfree were excluded from the survey. The results of 5134 responders, or 70.29% of those surveyed, were collated and analysed below. Percentages are derived from the respondents per question.
18 or younger
19 to 24
25 to 29
30 to 34
35 to 39
40 to 44
45 to 49
50 to 54
55 to 59
60 to 64
65 to 69
70 to 74
82.25% of the sub is under the age of 35.
Gender and Gender Identity
Because the list contains over 120 countries, we'll show the top 20 countries:
Country of birth
90.08% of the participants were born in these countries. These participants would describe their current city, town or neighborhood as:
The top 10 industries our participants are working in are:
Education - Teaching
Admin & Clerical
Restaurant - Food Service
Note that "other", "I'm a student", "currently unemployed" and "I'm out of the work force for health or other reasons" have been disregarded for this part of the evaluation. Out of the 3729 participants active in the workforce, the majority (1824 or 48.91%) work between 40-50 hours per week with 997 or 26.74% working 30-40 hours weekly. 6.62% work 50 hours or more per week, and 17.73% less than 30 hours. 513 or 10.13% are engaged in managerial responsibilities (ranging from Jr. to Sr. Management). On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), the overwhelming majority (3340 or 70%) indicated that career plays a very important role in their lives, attributing a score of 7 and higher. 1065 participants decided not to disclose their income brackets. The remaining 4,849 are distributed as follows:
$0 to $14,999
$15,000 to $29,999
$30,000 to $59,999
$60,000 to $89,999
$90,000 to $119,999
$120,000 to $149,999
$150,000 to $179,999
$180,000 to $209,999
$210,000 to $239,999
$240,000 to $269,999
$270,000 to $299,999
$300,000 or more
87.85% earn under $90,000 USD a year. 65.82% of our childfree participants do not have a concrete retirement plan (savings, living will).
Religion and Spirituality
Faith Originally Raised In
There were more than 50 options of faith, so we aimed to show the top 10 most chosen beliefs.
None (≠ Atheism. Literally, no notion of spirituality or religion in the upbringing)
This top 10 amounts to 95.01% of the total participants.
There were more than 50 options of faith, so we aimed to show the top 10 most chosen beliefs:
None (≠ Atheism. Literally, no notion of spirituality or religion currently)
This top 10 amounts to 94.65% of the participants.
Level of Current Religious Practice
Wholly seculanon religious
Identify with religion, but don't practice strictly
Lapsed/not serious/in name only
Observant at home only
Observant at home. Church/Temple/Mosque/etc. attendance
Strictly observant, Church/Temple/Mosque/etc. attendance, religious practice/prayeworship impacting daily life
Single and dating around, but not looking for anything serious
Single and dating around, looking for something serious
Single and not looking
Is your partner childfree? If your partner wants children and/or has children of their own and/or are unsure about their position, please consider them "not childfree" for this question.
I don't have a partner
I have more than one partner and none are childfree
I have more than one partner and some are childfree
I have more than one partner and they are all childfree
Dating a Single Parent
Would the childfree participants be willing to date a single parent?
No, I'm not interested in single parents and their ties to parenting life
Yes, but only if it's a short term arrangement of some sort
Yes, whether for long term or short term, but with some conditions (must not have child custody, no kid talk, etc.), as long as I like them and long as we're compatible
Yes, whether for long term or short term, with no conditions, as long as I like them and as long as we are compatible
Childhood and Family Life
On a scale from 1 (very unhappy) to 10 (very happy), how would you rate your childhood? Figure 3 Of the 5125 childfree people who responded to the question, 67.06% have a pet or are heavily involved in the care of someone else's pet.
No, I am not sterilised and, for medical, practical or other reasons, I do not need to be
No. However, I've been approved for the procedure and I'm waiting for the date to arrive
No. I am not sterilised and don't want to be
No. I want to be sterilised but I have started looking for a doctorequested the procedure
No. I want to be sterilised but I haven't started looking for a doctorequested the procedure yet
Yes. I am sterilised
Age when starting doctor shopping or addressing issue with doctor. Percentages exclude those who do not want to be sterilised and who have not discussed sterilisation with their doctor.
18 or younger
19 to 24
25 to 29
30 to 34
35 to 39
40 to 44
45 to 49
50 to 54
55 or older
Age at the time of sterilisation. Percentages exclude those who have not and do not want to be sterilised.
18 or younger
19 to 24
25 to 29
30 to 34
35 to 39
40 to 44
45 to 49
50 to 54
55 or older
Elapsed time between requesting procedure and undergoing procedure. Percentages exclude those who have not and do not want to be sterilised.
Less than 3 months
Between 3 and 6 months
Between 6 and 9 months
Between 9 and 12 months
Between 12 and 18 months
Between 18 and 24 months
Between 24 and 30 months
Between 30 and 36 months
Between 3 and 5 years
Between 5 and 7 years
More than 7 years
How many doctors refused at first, before finding one who would accept?
None. The first doctor I asked said yes
One. The second doctor I asked said yes
Two. The third doctor I asked said yes
Three. The fourth doctor I asked said yes
Four. The fifth doctor I asked said yes
Five. The sixth doctor I asked said yes
Six. The seventh doctor I asked said yes
Seven. The eighth doctor I asked said yes
Eight. The ninth doctor I asked said yes
I asked more than 10 doctors before finding one who said yes
Primary Reason to Not Have Children
Aversion towards children ("I don't like children")
Current state of the world
Environmental (including overpopulation)
Eugenics ("I have 'bad genes'")
I already raised somebody else who isn't my child
Lack of interest towards parenthood ("I don't want to raise children")
Maybe interested for parenthood, but not suited for parenthood
Medical ("I have a condition that makes conceiving/bearing/birthing children difficult, dangerous or lethal")
Philosophical / Moral (e.g. antinatalism)
Tokophobia (aversion/fear of pregnancy and/or chidlbirth)
95.50% of childfree people are pro-choice, however only 55.93% of childfree people support financial abortion.
I'm a student and my future job/career will heavily makes me interact with children on a daily basis
I'm retired, but I used to have a job that heavily makes me interact with children on a daily basis
I'm unemployed, but I used to have a job that heavily makes me interact with children on a daily basis
No, I do not have a job that makes me heavily interact with children on a daily basis
Yes, I do have a job that heavily makes me interact with children on a daily basis
This section solely existed to sift the childfree from the fencesitters and the non childfree in order to get answers only from the childfree. Childfree, as it is defined in the subreddit, is "I do not have children nor want to have them in any capacity (biological, adopted, fostered, step- or other) at any point in the future." 70.29% of participants actually identify as childfree, slightly up from the 2019 survey, where 68.5% of participants identified as childfree. This is suprising in reflection of the overall reputation of the subreddit across reddit, where the subreddit is often described as an "echo chamber".
The demographics remain largely consistent with the 2019 survey. However, the 2019 survey collected demographic responses from all participants in the survey, removing those who did not identify as childfree when querying subreddit specific questions, while the 2020 survey only collected responses from people who identified as childfree. This must be considered when comparing results. 82.25% of the participants are under 35, compared with 85% of the subreddit in the 2019 survey. A slight downward trend is noted compared over the last two years suggesting the userbase may be getting older on average. 73.04% of the subreddit identify as female, compared with 71.54% in the 2019 survey. Again, when compared with the 2019 survey, this suggests a slight increase in the number of members who identify as female. This is in contrast to the overall membership of Reddit, estimated at 74% male according to Reddit's Wikipedia page [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reddit#Users_and_moderators]. The ratio of members who identify as heterosexual remained consistent, from 54.89% in the 2019 survey to 55.20% in the 2020 survey. Ethnicity wise, 77% of members identified as primarily Caucasian, consistent with the 2019 results. While the ethnicities noted to be missing in the 2019 survey have been included in the 2020 survey, some users noted the difficulty of responding when fitting multiple ethnicities, and this will be addressed in the 2021 survey.
As it did in the 2019 survey, this section highlights the stereotype of childfree people as being well educated. 2.64% of participants did not complete high school, which is a slight decrease from the 2019 survey, where 4% of participants did not graduate high school. However, 6.02% of participants are under 18, compared with 8.22% in the 2019 survey. 55% of participants have a bachelors degree or higher, while an additional 23% have completed "some college or university". At the 2020 survey, the highest percentage of responses under the: What is your degree/major? question fell under "I don't have a degree or a major" (20.12%). Arts and Humanities, and Computer Science have overtaken Health Sciences and Engineering as the two most popular majors. However, the list of majors was pared down to general fields of study rather than highly specific degree majors to account for the significant diversity in majors studied by the childfree community, which may account for the different results.
Career and Finances
The highest percentage of participants at 21.61% listed themselves as trained professionals. One of the stereotypes of the childfree is of wealth. However this is not demonstrated in the survey results. 70.95% of participants earn under $60,000 USD per annum, while 87.85% earn under $90,000 per annum. 21.37% are earning under $15,000 per annum. 1065 participants, or 21.10% chose not to disclose this information. It is possible that this may have skewed the results if a significant proportion of these people were our high income earners, but impossible to explore. A majority of our participants work between 30 and 50 hours per week (75.65%) which is slightly increased from the 2019 survey, where 71.2% of participants worked between 30 and 50 hours per week.
The location responses are largely similar to the 2019 survey with a majority of participants living in a suburban and urban area. 86.24% of participants in the 2020 survey live in urban and suburban regions, with 86.7% of participants living in urban and suburban regions in the 2019 survey. There is likely a multifactorial reason for this, encompassing the younger, educated skew of participants and the easier access to universities and employment, and the fact that a majority of the population worldwide localises to urban centres. There may be an element of increased progressive social viewpoints and identities in urban regions, however this would need to be explored further from a sociological perspective to draw any definitive conclusions. A majority of our participants (57.47%) were born in the USA. The United Kingdom (7.6%), Canada (7.17%), Australia (3.58%) and Germany (2.17%) encompass the next 4 most popular responses. This is largely consistent with the responses in the 2019 survey.
Religion and Spirituality
For the 2020 survey Christianity (the most popular result in 2019) was split into it's major denominations, Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, among others. This appears to be a linguistic/location difference that caused a lot of confusion among some participants. However, Catholicism at 30.76% remained the most popular choice for the religion participants were raised in. However, of our participant's current faith, Aetheism at 36.23% was the most popular choice. A majority of 78.02% listed their current religion as Aetheist, no religious or spiritual beliefs, or Agnostic. A majority of participants (61%) rated religion as "not at all influential" to the childfree choice. This is consistent with the 2019 survey where 62.8% rated religion as "not at all influential". Despite the high percentage of participants who identify as aetheist or agnostic, this does not appear to be related to or have an impact on the childfree choice.
Romantic and Sexual Life
60.19% of our participants are in a relationship at the time of the survey. This is consistent with the 2019 survey, where 60.7% of our participants were in a relationship. A notable proportion of our participants are listed as single and not looking (25.81%) which is consistent with the 2019 survey. Considering the frequent posts seeking dating advice as a childfree person, it is surprising that such a high proportion of the participants are not actively seeking out a relationship. Unsurprisingly 90.13% of our participants would not consider dating someone with children. 84% of participants with partners of some kind have at least one childfree partner. This is consistent with the often irreconcilable element of one party desiring children and the other wishing to abstain from having children.
Childhood and Family Life
Overall, the participants skew towards a happier childhood.
While just under half of our participants wish to be sterilised, 45.21%, only 12.2% have been successful in achieving sterilisation. This is likely due to overarching resistance from the medical profession however other factors such as the logistical elements of surgery and the cost may also contribute. There is a slight increase from the percentage of participants sterilised in the 2019 survey (11.7%). 29.33% of participants do not wish to be or need to be sterilised suggesting a partial element of satisfaction from temporary birth control methods or non-necessity of contraception due to their current lifestyle practices. Participants who indicated that they do not wish to be sterilised or haven't achieved sterilisation were excluded from the percentages where necessary in this section. Of the participants who did achieve sterilisation, a majority began the search between 19 and 29, with the highest proportion being in the 19-24 age group (35.85%) This is a marked increase from the 2019 survey where 27.3% of people who started the search were between 19-24. This may be due to increased education about permanent contraception or possibly due to an increase in instability around world events. The majority of participants who sought out and were successful at achieving sterilisation, were however in the 25-29 age group (37.9%). This is consistent with the 2019 survey results. The time taken between seeking out sterilisation and achieving it continues to increase, with only 50.46% of participants achieving sterilisation in under 3 months. This is a decline from the number of participants who achieved sterilisation in 3 months in the 2019 survey (58.5%). A potential cause of this decrease is to Covid-19 shutdowns in the medical industry leading to an increase in procedure wait times. The proportion of participants who have had one or more doctors refuse to perform the procedure has stayed consistent between the two surveys.
The main reasons for people choosing the childfree lifestyle are a lack of interest towards parenthood and an aversion towards children which is consistent with the 2019 survey. Of the people surveyed 67.06% are pet owners or involved in a pet's care, suggesting that this lack of interest towards parenthood does not necessarily mean a lack of interest in all forms of caretaking. The community skews towards a dislike of children overall which correlates well with the 87.81% of users choosing "no, I do not have, did not use to have and will not have a job that makes me heavily interact with children on a daily basis" in answer to, "do you have a job that heavily makes you interact with children on a daily basis?". This is an increase from the 2019 survey. A vast majority of the subreddit identifes as pro-choice (95.5%), a slight increase from the 2019 results. This is likely due to a high level of concern about bodily autonomy and forced birth/parenthood. However only 55.93% support financial abortion, aka for the non-pregnant person in a relationship to sever all financial and parental ties with a child. This is a marked decrease from the 2019 results, where 70% of participants supported financial abortion. Most of our users realised that did not want children young. 58.72% of participants knew they did not want children by the age of 18, with 95.37% of users realising this by age 30. This correlates well with the age distribution of participants. Despite this early realisation of our childfree stance, 80.59% of participants have been "bingoed" at some stage in their lives.
Participants who identify as childfree were asked about their interaction with and preferences with regards to the subreddit at large. Participants who do not meet our definition of being childfree were excluded from these questions. By and large our participants were lurkers (72.32%). Our participants were divided on their favourite flairs with 38.92% selecting "I have no favourite". The next most favourite flair was "Rant", at 16.35%. Our participants were similarly divided on their least favourite flair, with 63.40% selecting "I have no least favourite". In light of these results the flairs on offer will remain as they have been through 2019. With regards to "lecturing" posts, this is defined as a post which seeks to re-educate the childfree on the practices, attitudes and values of the community, particularly with regards to attitudes towards parenting and children, whether at home or in the community. A commonly used descriptor is "tone policing". A small minority of the survey participants (3.36%) selected "yes" to allowing all lectures, however 33.54% responded "yes" to allowing polite, respectful lectures only. In addition, 45.10% of participants indicated that they were not sure if lectures should be allowed. Due to the ambiguity of responses, lectures will continue to be not allowed and removed. Many of our participants (36.87%) support the use of terms such as breeder, mombie/moo, daddict/duh on the subreddit, with a further 32.63% supporting use of these terms in context of bad parents only. This is a slight drop from the 2019 survey. In response to this use of the above and similar terms to describe parents remains permitted on this subreddit. However, we encourage users to keep the use of these terms to bad parents only. 44.33% of users support the use of terms to describe children such as crotchfruit on the subreddit, a drop from 55.3% last year. A further 25.80% of users supporting the use of this and similar terms in context of bad children only, an increase from 17.42% last year. In response to this use of the above and similar terms to describe children remains permitted on this subreddit. 69.17% of participants answered yes to allowing parents to post, provided they stay respectful. In response to this, parent posts will continue to be allowed on the subreddit. As for regret posts, which were to be revisited in this year's survey, only 9.5% of participants regarded them as their least favourite post. As such they will continue to stay allowed. 64% of participants support under 18's who are childfree participating in the subreddit with a further 19.59% allowing under 18's to post dependent on context. Therefore we will continue to allow under 18's that stay within the overall Reddit age requirement. There was divide among participants as to whether "newbie" questions should be removed. An even spread was noted among participants who selected remove and those who selected to leave them as is. We have therefore decided to leave them as is. 73.80% of users selected "yes, in their own post, with their own "Leisure" flair" to the question, "Should posts about pets, travel, jetskis, etc be allowed on the sub?" Therefore we will continue to allow these posts provided they are appropriately flaired.
Thank you to our participants who contributed to the survey. This has been an unusual and difficult year for many people. Stay safe, and stay childfree.
A proposal to eliminate the spread of COVID-19 in Ireland
This is a long one. There is no TL;DR, but Google tells me it should take about 10 minutes to read. Or, you can skip to The Plan - Summary if you want the bullet points. But why should you give this any time at all? My background is in data analysis. Making sense of numbers is what I do for a living. I have been studying COVID-19 since I was locked down in March and the experience has been frustrating in equal measure. The difference between what was happening on the ground, and the story that the media told was genuinely alarming. The government / NPHET never even tried to stop the virus getting into the country, and no one held them to account for their (non)decisions. The disastrous consequences are all around us, and much of it was preventable. Six months later, and the country has barely moved on. The ‘experts’ have no goals and little control over the virus. The media frame every issue as a crass binary choice between more or less restrictions and are otherwise happy just to have people to point their fingers at. The government / NPHET has nothing to offer the people, other than admonishments to do better and repeated cycle of restrictions. Meanwhile students, artists, the over 70s, small business owners, the entire events and hospitality industries, and regular people who cannot WFH have been left swinging in the wind. Some have been evicted, others are relying on drugs to get by. This situation is not just a problem for one or two parts of our society: this is a widespread degradation of our quality of life. If I can do anything to help, I feel obliged to try. Context As I see it, we have three choices:
Give up = ‘herd immunity’ / Great Barrington Declaration
Take the path of least resistance = ‘Living With The Virus’ (living in fear of the virus)
Solve the problem = elimination / eradication
I won’t argue over technocratic definitions like ‘elimination’, ‘eradication’ or ‘suppression’. These distinctions are semantic in an environment of oppressive civic restrictions, mass unemployment, waves of business closures, and general misery. Whatever gets us to a place where we can live our lives as normal (or close enough), and the public health infrastructure can take care of the virus, that’s what I’m aiming for. This proposal cannot work without public support. No proposal can work without public support. Public adherence is the single most important variable in the equation, yet it is the one that the politicians and the media and the ‘experts’ have ignored. FG burned through a lot of goodwill in the first lockdown (and money, and resources, and lives…). Instead of vilifying people who aren’t adhering to the rules, policymakers need to recognise the sacrifices that the people made (which were subsequently squandered) and they need to earn that trust back. This proposal cannot work without support from the North. That doesn’t mean that we need to convince them to adopt our plan. It means we need to convince them that the goal is worthwhile and achievable. From there we can work together to coordinate our policies. Managing our own affairs with competence, would be a good start. Picking up the phone to talk to them, instead of trying to browbeat them through the media, would also help. Irrespective of your goals or beliefs, some facts are certain: there will be lockdowns, there will be government spending to support the economy, and the virus will demand public health resources. All of that will happen in the coming months and years, whether we have a plan or not. The question is whether those resources are used to solve the problem, or whether they are wasted on a plan that keeps us going around in circles. So yes, there will be lockdowns in this proposal, but they will not be FG lockdowns i.e. lock them down and throw away the key. Through intelligent policies and a greater mobilisation of resources, we can do so much more with our lockdowns to reduce the burden on the people and make their experience more tolerable. Indeed, that trade-off always exists in public policy: better policymaking = happier people. Which is why the politicians usually get the blame, and rightly so. We need to move to a more ‘war time’ mindset. Not because we need a shared enemy to unite us, but because we need to mobilise every possible resource at our disposal and focus it on the single most important issue affecting us all. We need more tests, we need vehicles for mobile testing units, we need facilities for quarantines. Wherever there is spare capacity, we need to find a way to put it to good use. We need to take most of the power away from the narrow-minded medics, and get the rest of our society and our civic infrastructure involved in planning e.g. community representatives, legal experts, business leaders, An Garda, the army etc. People want to invest in their communities, they want to help their friends and neighbours. There are people all over the country who would rather be volunteering as part of a national plan to get rid of COVID-19, than to be sitting at home on the PUP, going crazy listening to the ‘experts’ – who failed to prevent this – talk about more lockdowns. We need to harness that latent energy and build it into the plan. One of the most important factors that is within our control, is the degree to which policymakers communicate with the people. And I mean real communication, not press releases or attention-seeking speeches from the other side of the world. We need to talk to the people, listen to them, answer their questions, take their feedback on board. The people aren’t stupid. They know a good plan when they see it – which is why few are paying attention to the ‘Living With The Virus’ stuff – and they have valuable information that can help make that plan work. Underlying these points is a need to create intelligent rules, and to enforce them strictly. Strict does not mean harsh. Strict enforcement is not authoritarianism, and it is not an invitation to a fight; it is simply administrative competence. In the context of a contagious outbreak, administrative competence is the difference between life and death. I’ll finish this section with the caveat that all parameters are suggestions or placeholders. The exact numbers will depend on resources, on more data and further analysis, and on input from communities and other stakeholders – all of which is within our control. The Plan – Summary Like any problem in life, if you can’t solve it directly, you break it down into smaller, less complex parts. Instead of putting the whole country into lockdown and trying to eradicate the virus from the whole island at the same time – a miserable experience for all – we should go county by county until the job is done. We seal off a county, flood it with resources, clear it of COVID-19, and then let it reopen as normal. We repeat the process for neighbouring counties and then combine them when they are cleared, to create a larger ‘Cleared Zone’. The process continues and the Cleared Zone keeps growing until it covers the whole island. This approach allows us to focus our resources on one area at a time (nurses, doctors, tests, volunteers etc) instead of spreading them over the whole country. We can be more comprehensive in our testing and quarantining measures, and more confident in our plans. Short, sharp, strict lockdowns work best. By maximising the ratio of resources to population, we also lower the burden on the people. In particular, we minimise the amount of time that people spend in lockdown, and the less time they spend in lockdown, the more likely the plan is to work. This structured approach also makes it easier for us to measure our progress and make reliable forecasts. We can allocate our resources more efficiently and plan our responses more effectively. Observers can watch our progress and judge for themselves whether it is a good idea (i.e. politicians in the North and / or protestors in Dublin). Perhaps most important of all, the structure makes it easier to explain the idea to the people and get buy-in before anything happens. We can outline the plan, explain how it works, explain how it compares to the alternatives, and then give them realistic estimates of what would be required and how long it would take. Then we can hear their feedback and take the conversation and planning from there. I have heard any people talking about elimination and ZeroCovid, but do any of them have a plan for getting to zero? Or a plan to get the people on board? Step 1: More structure and responsibility from leaders Step 2: Less uncertainty, easier decisions, better outcomes, less stress for everyone Step 3: Profit. Elimination. The Plan – Implementation We isolate a county and lock it down for an initial 3 weeks. An Garda man the county borders. They are supported by the army, who provide boots on the ground so that An Garda aren’t stretched. Most routes are closed off so that all essential travel goes through a few well-manned checkpoints. If we do a good job with planning and communication, there won’t be much work to do. We test systemically high-risk households and high-risk individuals early and often i.e. large households and essential workers. With help from local volunteers, medics screen as many people as possible every day. We use multiple measures and repeated applications to improve the quality of our results. We want to identify and remove cases at the earliest possible point, both to reduce the chance of further infection, and to protect the individual’s health. Low risk confirmed cases (young / healthy) go to a safe and comfortable quarantine. Local hotels and guest houses could be used, ideally before we invest in building quarantine facilities. Local taxis, kitted out with extra protective equipment, could take them there. High risk confirmed cases (older / comorbidities) go by ambulance to local medical facilities as required. During this period, we work with local politicians, community leaders, residence associations etc to ensure that everyone is looked after (in reality, these conversations will have started weeks before). We get our neighbourhoods communicating, looking out for each other, making sure they’ve got enough food or heating or whatever else they need. Local volunteers and taxi drivers can do odd jobs like sending packages, collecting prescriptions, lifting heavy stuff, or just checking in on people. If it is feasible, we can even invite local artists to play gigs for people in their streets or apartments. Towards the end of the second week, we begin a mass testing program with the ultimate goal of testing every person in the county (scale depends on resources). Once we have completed the tests and cleared the confirmed cases into quarantine, we can begin a slow, staggered opening process. We must be especially conservative at this point to ensure no slippage. When one county is clear, we move to the next one, and repeat the process. When we have cleared two bordering counties, we can join them together in a bigger Cleared Zone and the process continues from there. Eventually the Cleared Zone covers the whole country, except Dublin (or more realistically, the Pale). What would the other counties do while they wait for their turn? I’m assuming that, they would be doing whatever the ‘Living With The Virus’ plan dictates. This proposal succeeds in line with what happens in the sealed off zones, so I am more concerned with them. However, it would speed up the process if the bordering counties could be encouraged to get a head start. If the plan is going successfully, I’m confident they would. With its population density and its complexity, Dublin / the Pale will be the last county to be cleared. However, given that every other county would be cleared by that point, and with so much effort having been put in, it might make more sense just to burn Dublin down. We could go with a concrete mausoleum as per Chernobyl, but it might be easier and quicker if we just raised the city and started from scratch. The country needs to rebalance, so it’d be two birds with one stone. Or maybe we call that plan B. Dublin’s plan A would follow the same principles as for the rest of the country. Break it into smaller parts, focus resources on one area at a time, use layers of risk measures where precision isn’t an option, and get cases as early as possible, using whatever resources available. By that stage the rest of the country would be clear and the demand for medical resources low. We would have learned a lot along the way, and we would have plenty of ammo to throw at the problem. In general, the more resources we have, the faster we can move. The county by county approach that I have outlined above is too slow. With greater resources, we can increase the number of counties that are being cleared at any one time. One option is to work by province. Another would be to define the zones with respect to observed travel routes, in order to reduce the risk of leakage and reduce the inconvenience on local communities. At the end of the day, lines have to be drawn somewhere, and some people will inevitably lose out. The better we communicate with people in advance, the lower the burden on the people and the more of these problems we can avoid. Following on from that, one of the skills we need to take from this crisis is the ability to isolate and quarantine regions. Whether it is a city, a town, a county, a specific building, or even the entire country, we need to be able to seal it off and control movement in and out. This is an essential tool for outbreak management – whatever the outbreak and whatever the disease. The same goes for individuals. We need to be able to create and operate safe, comfortable, and effective quarantines, and to do so at short notice. It should be a matter of national embarrassment that FG and NPHET couldn’t even organise a quarantine in a pandemic. The whole process might take 3 to 4 months. That means we would have cut off all non-essential air travel for that time, but it doesn’t mean the whole country is in lockdown for 3 or 4 months. The lockdown is staggered, and the individual’s experience will depend on their location and their place in the ‘queue’. The first group of counties to go into lockdown will also be the first to come out. Once they have eliminated the spread of the virus, they will return to a normal, although somewhat isolated, society. The experience steadily improves as more and more counties join them in the Cleared Zone (or steadily deteriorates, depending on your county pride). While the first group is in lockdown, the rest of the country continues as normal i.e. living with the virus. Everyone watches as the first group goes through its lockdown (just think of the #banter). Several weeks later, as the first group is opening up, the second group is preparing to go in to lockdown. As the second group comes out, the third group goes in etc etc and the staggered lockdowns roll like a wave across the country. Every county goes from Living With The Virus -> intelligent lockdown (needs a better name) -> Cleared Zone. The earlier you are in the queue, the less time you spend Living With The Virus and the more time you spend in the Cleared Zone. The individual would only be in a strict lockdown for a matter of weeks, maybe 3-6 depending on the complexity of the region and the resources available. For counties with smaller populations that have shown that they can do a good lockdown, it will be quicker. For Dublin, it will be slower. Strengths I think this proposal has a lot of strengths. It’s a plan, for a start. We haven’t had a plan since this thing began (the FG lockdown wasn’t a plan – it was the inevitable consequence of not having a plan). The leaders take more responsibility to lower the burden on the people, it mobilises idle resources, and it fosters communication and community across the country. These are three strengths that I want to emphasise. 1 It provides clarity This might be the most important point. Uncertainty is painful. Uncertainty is a cost. Even if the bad thing is unlikely to happen, just the fact that it is a risk, or that it could happen means that you live with a cloud over your head. Suffering is bad enough on its own, but suffering for an unknown length of time is torture. And if that period is determined at the whim of a politician or an ‘expert’, that is a recipe for society-wide anger and even civil disorder. With this proposal, we can forecast the length of the period of lockdown with greater accuracy. The people will be able to understand what is being asked of them. We can make plans around resources required versus those available. The economists can make forecasts. Businesses can plan their finances. The people can plan their weddings, book their holidays, get back to training, sign up for courses, and have things to look forward to. At the end of the day, any successful proposal must remove the uncertainty and provide meaningful clarity to households and businesses. 2 Never let a crisis go to waste This plan will require tools and capabilities like rapid local testing, safe quarantines, rapid isolation of towns and regions, emergency decision-making frameworks etc. If we don’t have a capability, then we need to build it. When people say ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ this is what they mean: you build the tools in the crisis that will help you protect yourself from the next one. Nature works the same way. You lift weights until the muscle fibres tear, then they grow back stronger. We build aerobic endurance by pushing ourselves to a limit, then our body naturally reacts to increase the limit. A vaccine works similarly by stimulating antibodies for the disease. Well, we need a civic emergency vaccine for Ireland. These tools are the antibodies that will protect us next time. The sooner we build them, the better. Now is the time, not later. 3 It's the only way we can protect the economy The risk to the economy isn’t the next few months of revenue. We can borrow to cover lost income in the short run. The real risk is a wave of defaults that precipitates a financial crisis. As more individuals and businesses are put under financial pressure, more borrowers will default on their debts. But one man’s debt is another man’s asset, so as the borrowers default, the lender’s financial situation also deteriorates. Defaults are contagious, and if a wave of defaults threatens a major lender, the entire financial system will be at risk. Only an elimination plan can protect the economy. Along with the virus and the uncertainty it creates, we need to eliminate the risk of financial contagion. Weaknesses Could ya be arsed The End Goal Think about what’s on the other side of this… This is a massive challenge – the kind that defines a nation. However you think of your community, this would give you something to be proud of for generations. It would be like Italia ’90, except 10 times bigger, because we would be the players, we would be the ones making it happen. We’d become the first country in Europe to eliminate the virus. And of all the countries in the world, we’d be doing it from the largest deficit too. Those Taiwanese and Kiwis made it easy for themselves with their preparation and their travel restrictions and their competent leaders. Our challenge is much greater than theirs, but they show us what is possible. Have you ever wanted to scoff at the Germans for being disorganised? Wouldn’t you love to have a reason to mock the Danes? Aren’t you sick of hearing about New Zealand? Let’s make the Kiwis sick of hearing about the Irish! If we take this challenge on, the world’s media will be on us. The FT, the Economist, the NYT, the Guardian, Monacle, Wired, the New Scientist, China Daily, RT, Good Housekeeping, Horse and Hound, PornHub… all of these international media empires would be tracking our progress, interviewing key people, reporting daily, willing us on. The world is desperate for good news, and we can be the ones to give it to them. We would become a model for other nations to follow. They would take the Irish model and adapt it to their own situation. Instead of us copying other nations, they would be copying us. Instead of a pat on the head for the diddy little Irish fellas, we would be literally LEADING THE WORLD. Back at home, we get our lives back, and society can breathe again, free of restrictions. The over 70s come out of hibernation. The students go back to university. The protests stop because people go back to work and we announce an inquiry into what exactly happened in February and March. The pubs go back to being pubs. Our hospitality industry is taken off life support. The tidal wave of bankruptcies is avoided. We can play sport and celebrate the wins. We stop talking about things we can or can't do. Just imagine that first session... And imagine how good it would feel knowing that you had worked for it, and knowing that you had set the nation on a better path for generations to come... I think it’s worth a lash! Don’t you?
Previously on the Cryptic Zombonium *** A priest, a wolf, and a german walks into a bar. One of them is an atheist, the other an agnostic, and the priest says he has the cure for the Zombie Virus, but only if you believe in God Almighty. “What do you mean, you have the cure?” I spat blasphemously. “And what do you mean we have to have faith?” the German joined in. “Is he the leader now?” Travis asked Hannah. “He said he was the leader now.” The Vatican Archivist, Father Connor, the priest, the holy trinity of cool nicknames, put a finger to his mouth, like he was hushing a bunch of toddlers. “That’s not what I meant,” he said softly. “I simply stated that the Virus comes from the heavenly archives of the Vatican, and that it is in fact not a Virus.” “What in the god-forsaken shit fucking hell is it then?” I asked politely. “Language?” Hannah suggested. “He is a priest and all.” I nodded thoughtfully. “Sorry, Father. Didn’t mean to say ‘hell’.” “Sit, children,” the Archivist sang weirdly. “And all shall be explained.” We didn’t have anywhere to sit, so most of us just shuffled around awkwardly as he told us in great detail about his incredibly complex backstory, for some reason starting at his birth. The real juicy parts came right near the end though, so I’ll be skipping to that part. Apparently the Zombie Virus wasn’t a Zombie Virus at all. It was Demon Virus. Yes, you heard me. According to the Father, the Vatican collects samples of demon blood (or fluids as he would have it, but let’s just go with blood), and stuffs them in boxes all the way down there in the catacombs. “So how did it end up here?” Kat asked. “We shipped a vial of the foul blasphemous fluid overseas by mistake,” Father Connor replied. “Blood,” I coughed. “Let’s call it blood. And what in god’s name in vain did you mean to send?” “Holy Water, of course,” he said. “The quality stuff has to be blessed by the Pope himself. We keep it on the shelf next to the demon fluid.” “Blood,” I coughed again. “As we all know, some people are more blessed than others,” Father Connor continued. “That’s because they were blessed by the Pope himself. Costs a pretty penny though, mind you.” “So some rich asshole paid for super-blessed holy water, only to receive demon blood instead?” “Yes,” the Father nodded solemnly. “But as it turns out, it wasn’t just any old demon fluid.” “Don’t fucking tell me,” I said. “It was the bodily fluid of the Antichrist himself,” the Father murmured, crossing himself feverishly. “Or herself,” Eileen Dover chimed in. “Who’s to say the Antichrist isn’t a she?” “Or themselves,” Hannah said. “Could be non-binary too.” “All realistic options,” I agreed. “But what’s the big deal? Is it contagious or something?” “That’s exactly it,” Father Connor said. “The Vessel of the Antichrist now spreads unlife wherever it journeys, and the Afflicted then spreads it even further. The only way to stop it, is by destroying it.” “And this Vessel would be?” Travis inquired. “A five year old girl,” Father Connor replied. “By the name of Kreszentia.” “And by destroying it you mean...” the German said. “Killing her, yes,” Father Connor nodded. “Humanely, of course. We have to crucify her.” There was quite a bit of uproar at this statement, and deservedly so. Killing a five year old girl? Antichrist or no Antichrist, you just don’t go around murdering children willy-nillily. The group split up into smaller cliques, all of us trying to make sense of the situation. Could we trust the Father? Was he really an Archivist? Did he have some credentials to that effect possibly? Like a badge or something? And how much did the Vatican charge for super-blessed holy water? “CHEESE,” Max suddenly yelled. “WE SHOULD GO GET THE CHEESE.” “I’m sorry,” Kat said. “I thought we’d given up on that plan?” Grant stepped forward. “We did,” he said. “On account of all them zombies.” “I KNOW A SECRET STASH,” Max shuffled around excitedly. “NO ZOMBIES THERE PROBABLY.” “Probably?” I said. “How probably are we talking?” “LIKE MAYBE THREE,” he replied weirdly. “THREE PROBABLY’S.” “I like those odds,” Travis said. “We desperately need the food,” Hanna sighed. “If we’re gonna keep adding more wackjobs to our group, we’re gonna have to find a way to feed them.” “Alright,” I stepped forward. “As the leader of this group, I say we give it another go. Eileen, Hannah, Travis, the German; you’re with me. Max, get busy drawing us a map or something.” “SHOULDN’T I COME WITH?” Max asked. “Are you kidding me?” I exclaimed. “The Z-boiz (trademark filed) will be on us the moment you open your mouth.” “FAIR POINT,” he nodded loudly. “Who made him leader of the group?” Eileen Dover asked. “He did it himself,” Travis said. “Last episode.” *** We sped down the bumpy roads moments later with Hannah behind the wheel. Max had drawn us a fairly crude map with some bizarre notes, but having staked out the factory for weeks, I had the place memorized like someone had carved it right into my brain with tiny sharp needles. “Are you guys buying the priest’s bullshit?” I asked. “Demon blood? The Antichrist?.” “Demon fluid,” Travis corrected. “I don’t know,” Hannah said. “And I don’t care. I’m here for the cheese.” Eileen Dover nodded. “Demons, Zombies, Antichrists, they’re all baddies in my book.” I shrugged. “And you, the German?” “Please, just call me German, no need to be so formal about it.” We pulled off the main road, and slowed down as we approached the harrowing brutalist structure of the cheese factory. The sun was in descent, and we had to be quick about it if we were to pull off the heist before nightfall. “Strange,” the German said. “What is?” I asked. “I don’t see any walkers around,” he said. “Uh, I mean zombies.” He was right. “He is right,” I said. The place looked deserted. Not only human deserted, but the other kind too. Dead deserted. With all the deafening noise we served up last time we were here, there should at least be a horde or two shambling about. Eileen Dover pointed ahead. “The gates,” she said. “They’re open. Were they open before?” I shook my head. “They were not.” Hannah parked the car, and we all slipped out stealthily, slowly making our way to the main gates. The place was eerily silent, and you could hear a squirrel’s neck snapping from a mile away. We entered the factory, and we all stumbled back in shock at the sight that unfolded. Well except me, of course. I don’t do shock. “What the fuck?” I said, stumbling back in shock. “There is no cheese,” Travis mumbled. “There should be cheese, right?” “I’m more concerned about the insurmountable mountain of zombie corpses,” the German noted. It was huge. Three-four hordes worth of re-deaded dead, stacked so high that they almost reached the factory ceiling some twenty feet up. Travis nodded. “That too,” he said. “Look,” Eileen Dover said, pointing at one of the mangled zombies on the floor. “Look at the forehead.” Hannah bent down, inspecting the thing with some interest. Carved deep into the rotting flesh was the letter “M”. “They all have it,” I said, dragging limp bodies down from the massive pile. “They’re all marked.” “What does it mean?” the German mumbled. “Who the hell did this?” “No time for wacky theories,” I said. “Although it was obviously done by a crazed gang of nutjobs as an insanely laborious way to send us a deeply unsettling message. They’re probably watching us right now.” “What?” Travis exclaimed. “I don’t like being watched.” “No matter,” Hannah said. “We’re obviously too late. There’s not a single cheese crumb left in this place.” “Don’t be so sure,” Eileen Dover said, reaching into her sweater. “These guys beg to differ.” She produced from the depths of her baggy clothing two lively rats, and held them out for us all to see. “This is Microwave,” she shoved a rat in my face, “and this is Tea.” “We sometimes call her Rat Girl,” Travis whispered to me. “You know, because she’s got rats, and she’s a girl.” “What?” I said sourly. “If she’s Rat Girl, why can’t I be the Wolf then?” “Do you own a Wolf?” Hannah asked. “No, but-” I started. “There’s your answer then,” she said. “OK, bring us the map, and we’ll let the rats sniff around.” We started moving from room to room, trying to decipher the rather cryptic messages Max had scribbled down. After about thirty minutes of not getting anywhere, Travis came running out from one of the offices, waving the map around. “I found it!” he yelled excitedly. “I think I found the stash.” “Are you sure?” I asked. “How can you be sure?” “Look, look,” he pointed to the map. “See, right next to the big X, he wrote ‘nursery rhyme profanity’.” “And?” “There’s a bookshelf in that office,” he said. “And one of the books are ‘FUCK LICKETYSPLIT’.” I shrugged. “I don’t see the connection.” “In my hometown we had this old nursery rhyme called LICKETYSPLIT, and I always had a feeling the verses were hiding something.” “Well, it’s all we got,” Hannah said. “Rat Girl, we need Microwave and Tea.” Rat Girl scurried into the office, and gently placed the rats next to the bookshelf. We watched in weird silence as Microwave and Tea sniffed around the big old thing, until they both eventually disappeared behind it. “Cheese,” Rat Girl grinned. “There’s cheese behind that shelf, I guarantee it.” We all stared at each other for half a second, before snapping into action, tearing the bookshelf apart piece by piece. It took us a minute or two, but at the end we heard Rat Girl giggling gleefully as Microwave and Tea scurried back into her sweater. “Cheese,” I said, wiping sweat from my forehead. “We’ve got cheese.” The room wasn’t large, but it was stuffed to the brim with wonderful cheese. Brie. Camembert. Mozzarella. Other foreign names. “Won’t last us years,” Hannah said. “But it’ll do for a month or two.” We quickly cleaned out the room, backpacks soon filled with the dairy gold. Without pausing, we made our retreat, the sun now all but disappeared behind the horizon. I convinced the German to carry my backpack, since I was lactose intolerant. “You can’t eat cheese?” he asked. “Why so eager to loot this place then?” “Oh no, I can eat it,” I said. “I just can’t have it anywhere near my skin,” I lied. We approached our car a few minutes later, but Hannah, who was leading the way, suddenly stopped dead in her tracks, and signalled for us to shut the fuck up. “What is it?” I whispered. Hannah took a few cautious steps toward the car. “Not sure,” she said. “I think I hear something.” We all stopped moving, and stood there perfectly still. And sure enough, I heard it too. A soft wheezing, a pained gargling. The sound of the dead. Hannah waved us closer, and we all tippy-toed the rest of the way, soon spotting the parked car right where we left it. But there was something else too. Something strapped to the hood. “Fuck me,” I said. “These guys are all about the games, aren’t they?” The bloody zombie, once a middle-aged man by the looks of it, was missing it’s hands and feet; nothing now but an undead head on an undead torso. A chain held the thing in place, and carved deep into its forehead was that ever-ominous “M”. “That’s horrible,” Travis mumbled. “But not horror,” the German noted. “A short scary story if I ever saw one,” I said. Hannah and Rat Girl had already started unchaining it, while we were busy pointing out the different gruesome aspects of the deed. Without saying anything, they both simultaneously took a step back, eyes wide with what I can only imagine was fear. “What?” I inquired. “What’s wrong.” The zombie squirmed disgustingly, crimson blood smearing the hood of the car like some kind of messed up art piece. Then it opened its hideous mouth and wheezed discordantly. “Please,” it gargled. “Please kill me.” [TO BE CONTINUED]
Since 1983, I have lived, worked and raised a family in a progressive, egalitarian, income-sharing intentional community (or commune) of 100 people in rural Virginia. AMA.
Hello Reddit! My name is Keenan Dakota, I have lived at Twin Oaks, an income-sharing, intentional community in rural Virginia for 36 years, since 1983. I grew up in northern Virginia, my parents worked in government. I went to George Mason University where I studied business management. I joined Twin Oaks when I was 23 because I lost faith in the underpinnings of capitalism and looking for a better model. I have stayed because over time capitalism hasn't looked any better, and its a great place to raise children. While at Twin Oaks, I raised two boys to adulthood, constructed several buildings, managed the building maintenance program, have managed some of the business lines at different times. Proof this is me. A younger photo of me at Twin Oaks.Here is a video interview of me about living at Twin Oaks.Photo of Twin Oaks members at the 50th anniversary. Some things that make life here different from the mainstream:
The labor system - all work is considered equal, whether you are earning income for the community or not. Cooking/cleaning counts the same as planning the annual budget. Also, you don't have to do the same job all week - your day can be a mix of indoor and outdoor work, you have freedom to arrange your day, and you can gain skills in a wide array of tasks and trades.
Non-gender binary, queer and trans people are very welcome at Twin Oaks. People introduce themselves with their pronouns and a significant number of our members go by they/them.
Verbal consent culture is very important here. It is not okay to touch anyone without asking.
Nudity and partial nudity is allowed in some parts of the farm, such as in the sauna, swimming hole, on the hiking trails, etc.
Our social norms prohibit using phones in common areas when other members are present, with the exception of a few cafe-style spaces.
Every day we provide a home-cooked, plant-based lunch and dinner with options for special diets including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and no onions & garlic.
Raising kids here is easier. Some of the time that parents spend raising their children counts towards their labor quota. Many of the kids are home-schooled or "unschooled", and they spend more time outside than in front of a screen. The kids have no problem passing the state's annual standardized test to move onto the next grade level.
We have a shared clothing resource called Commie Clothes, which is like a free thrift store. Borrow something and then return it dirty, and it gets washed and re-hung up.
More about Twin Oaks: Twin Oaks is an intentional community in rural central Virginia, made up of around 90 adult members and 15 children. Since the community's beginning in 1967, our way of life has reflected our values of cooperation, sharing, nonviolence, equality, and ecology. We do not have a group religion; our beliefs are diverse. We do not have a central leader; we govern ourselves by a form of democracy with responsibility shared among various managers, planners, and committees. We are self-supporting economically, and partly self-sufficient. We are income-sharing. Each member works 42 hours a week in the community's business and domestic areas. Each member receives housing, food, healthcare, and personal spending money from the community. We have open-slots and are accepting applications for new members. All prospective new members must participate in a three-week visitor program. Applicants to join must leave for 30 days after their visit while the community decides on their application. We offer a $5 tour on Saturdays of the property, starting in March. More info here. Ask me anything! TL;DR: Opted out of the rat-race and retired at 23 to live in the woods with a bunch of hippies. EDIT: Thanks for all the questions! If you want some photos of the farm, you can check out our instagram. EDIT2: I'm answering new, original questions again today. Sort by new and scroll through the trolls to see more of my responses. EDIT3: We DO have food with onion & garlic! At meals, there is the regular food, PLUS alternative options for vegan/vegetarian/no gluten/no onions & garlic. EDIT4: Some of you have been asking if we are a cult. No, we are not. We don't have a central leader or common religion. Here are characteristics of cults, FYI. Edit: Yikes! Did I mention that I am 60? Reddit is not my native land. I don't understand the hostile, angry and seemingly deliberately obtuse comments on here. And Soooo many people! Anyway, to the angry crowd: Twin Oaks poses no threat to anyone, we are 100 people out of a country of 330 million? Twin Oaks reached its current maximum population about 25 years ago, so not growing fast, or at all. Members come and go from Twin Oaks. There are, my guess is, 800 ex-members of Twin Oaks, so we aren't holding on to everyone who joins—certainly, no one is held against their will. Twin Oaks is in rural Virginia, but we really aren't insular, isolated, gated or scared of the mainstream culture. We have scheduled tours of the whole property. Local government officials, like building inspectors, come to Twin Oaks with some frequency. People at Twin Oaks like to travel and manage to do so. I personally, know lots of people in the area, I am also a runner, so I leave the property probably every day. There are lots of news stories about Twin Oaks over the years. If you are worried about Twin Oaks, maybe you could go read what the mainstream (and alternative) media have to say. Except about equality Twin Oaks is not particularly dogmatic about anything. (I know some people at Twin Oaks will disagree with that statement.) Twin Oaks isn't really hypocritical about Capitalism, Socialism, or Communism, we just don't identify those concepts as something that we are trying to do. Twin Oaks is not trying to DO Communism, we are trying to live a good life with equally empowered citizens—which has led us to try to maintain economic parity among members. Communists also do that. In making decisions in the community I don't remember anyone trying to support or oppose an idea due to excess or insufficient Communism, Socialism, or Capitalism. In most practical senses those words aren't useful and don't mean anything. So, no need to hammer Twin Oaks for being insufficiently pure, or hypocritical. Twin Oaks is very similar to the Kibbutz in Israel. If anyone has concerns or questions about what would happen if places like Twin Oaks suddenly became much larger and more common, read about the history of the Kibbutz, which may have grown to possibly 1% of the population at their largest? There was and is no fight with Capitalism from the kibbutz—or with the State. My point is—not a threat. To the other people who think that the ideas of Twin Oaks are interesting, I want you to know it is possible to live at Twin Oaks (or places like Twin Oaks) and happily live ones entire life. There is no central, critical failing that makes the idea not work. And plenty of upside. But do lots of research first. Twin Oaks maintains a massive web site. (Anyway, it takes a long time to read.) But what I would like to see is more people starting more egalitarian, income-sharing communities. I think that there is a need for a community that is designed and built by families, and who also share income, and provide mutual support with labor and money. If you love this concept, maybe consider gathering together other people and starting your own. Ideologically speaking: -Ecology: the best response to ecological problems is for humans to use fewer resources. The easiest way to use fewer resources is to share resources. Living communally vastly cuts down on resource use without reducing quality of life. -Equality: ideologically speaking, most people accept the idea that all humans have equal rights, but most social structures operate in ways that are fundamentally unequal. If we truly believe in equality then we ought to be willing to put our bodies where our ideology is. In a truly equal world, the issues of sexism and racism and all other forms of discrimination would, essentially, not exist. -Democracy: Twin Oaks uses all manner of decision-making models and tools to try to include everyone and to keep people equally empowered. There is no useful word for this. We do use a majority vote sometimes, as a fallback. But sometimes we use consensus. We sometimes use sociocracy (dynamic governance). The word "Isocracy" (decision-making among equals), would be useful to describe Twin Oaks' decision-making model, but Lev in Australia has written an incomprehensible "definition" on Wikipedia, that he keeps changing back when someone corrects it. -Happiness: The overarching goal of all ideologies is to make people happy, right? I mean, isn't it? Capitalism is based upon the belief that motivation is crucial to human aspiration and success (and therefore more happiness). Under Capitalism, equality is a detriment because it hinders motivation (less fear of failure, or striving for success). Twin Oaks believes that humans are happier when they are equal, and equally empowered. So the place to start up the ladder of happiness is to first make everyone equal. Well, Twin Oaks is mainly still working on that first step. EDIT5: Some have asked about videos - here are links to documentaries about Twin Oaks by BBC, VICE and RT.
Part 1 What if it wasn’t about anything related to the text? What if it was similar to the riddles that brought me to those pages? What if the mystery behind them was related to their page numbers, or hell the page numbers in general? Once at home I went to work. I told myself once more that I needed to get the full picture. So I went to write down all the page numbers in the book, one after another. When I was done, I took a step back and stared at the result. Yet, there was nothing that stood out to me right away. I haphazardly picked one of the secret pages. Page 427 was in front of page 811. Then I continued. 811, 812, 813, 814, 815, 816, 817, 818, 818, 820, 821, and right after was yet another secret page. This one was page 528. And after that, the regular page numbers continued. 822, 823, 824, 825, 826, 827, 828, 829, 830, 831, 832, 833, 834, 835, 836, 837, 838, 839, 840, 841, 842, 843, followed by another one, page 143. This list of ongoing numbers made me suddenly wonder. My thoughts drifted right back to what had gotten me to do this, the secret pages. What if they weren’t placed randomly? Yet, as I checked their distribution, it felt almost too random. I checked the number of regular pages before and after, put them in sequence, but there was no correlation. Then I got another idea. I added up all the pages before and after, but this also made no sense. Half the results were too big and exceeded the total number of pages in the book, by far. Then, starting at number 111 to 137, which I’d just added together, I got yet another idea. What if I only added together their last digits? The result I came up with was 648. Which was exactly the secret page that followed afterward! My eyes grew wide. I’d had it, hadn’t I? The hint I’d been looking for! I was going livid. Right away I went to the next one and calculated all the preceding numbers, only to come up with an entirely different result than the page number of the secret page following. Cursing I got up. It had been another goddamn coincidence. I laughed, but this time in abject misery, mocking my stupidity. How’d it be so damned easy, you idiot? There was no way. None of this was easy. None of it! But as I stared at the result I’d come up with just now, I noticed something. The result of my calculation was 702. The page number was 351. Wait. Wait. Wait. That’s half of 702! Maybe it really was nothing but a coincidence and I was just grasping at straws, but what else was I to do? The next result I came up with was 176. If I multiplied it by three, it gave me the page number of the secret page that followed it, 528. The number 715, divided by 5, gave me the page number 143 that followed it. I continued adding, dividing, and multiplying and it all checked out. All the page numbers of the secret pages resulted from calculations of the last two digits of their preceding pages. What does it mean though? Does it even mean anything? The exhilaration I’d felt ebbed away, and I sat there, staring at all my calculations wondering if there was any meaning to it. Yet, there had to be, right? This couldn’t have been designed as yet another red herring. This was too damned complex. No, there had to be a reason for this. What if there was an order? If I went through all the calculations I quickly noticed that the result was never divided by the same number. The highest number that a result was divided by was 26, the highest a result was multiplied by was 27. It was exactly 53 different calculations. With that, I started ordering them, one by one, starting backward from the highest division, to the highest multiplication. Then I put the topic of each page behind the numbers in the resulting list. I’d hoped for something. I’d hoped to find it starting with the page about the universe, followed by constellations and stars up to the evolution of apes, plants, and other animals. Yet, it was all mixed-up nonsense. There was no order to it at all! Even when I ordered them in other ways, trying to find any sort of correlation, it was always the same. Nothing, but nonsense. My hands started shaking as anger flooded through me. I crumbled up the stupid, ordered lists and threw them across the room. Then I cursed in sheer and utter rage. This was freaking stupid. This was insane! This was nothing at all, just pure fucking nonsense. I picked up a random object on my table and hurled it against the wall where it shattered into pieces. Then I threw aside a chair I found standing in my way and kicked over the small couch table, creating general chaos in my living room. I was stopped from going any further when my neighbors banged against the wall, screaming to knock it off and threatening to call the cops. That made me stop. The anger went away. I stared in shock at my living room. What the hell was happening to me? Why’d I done that? Why’d I destroyed my things at 1 am in the freaking morning? Then I slowly smoothed out the lists I’d created and put them on one of the few free spots remaining on my living room wall. Who knows, I might need it later. I laughed as I looked from them to the rest of the wall which was now entirely covered. Even worse were the stacks of notes that had accumulated in front of them. I was proud all right, but I also knew that this thing was absolutely insane. Once more, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing. Shaking my head, I turned around and made my way to the bedroom. Yet, as my fingers rested on the light switch, I turned around one last time. I stared at the mad lines, the mad paths who were connecting here and there. There was nothing but lines upon lines. Here and there, if I looked hard and long enough, I could almost make out shapes. I froze. What if it was a visual puzzle? What if there was a hint hidden in the shapes of the paths? For days I sat down, drew points and lines and connections, warping them into surreal shapes. This was crazy, wasn’t it? How’d it be visual? There’s probably not a damn thing to be got from this. This was stupid. Yet, I couldn’t stop. Each day, I spent my entire afternoon, my evening, and even half the night, drawing. And eventually, it all came to nothing. There was nothing but mad lines and not a clear shape in sight. I didn’t give up though, wasn’t discouraged. I was beyond that, far beyond that. What if there was something else? Maybe there was a hidden code between these pages? When I was at work, I’d completely forgotten about my former vow not to talk about the book or do anything related to it. Instead, I read up on cryptography. Going through article after article. I read up on Caesar Code and Binary Code, on the Polybius Cipher and Hex Code. I went mad with it. Before long I spent more time reading up on things than doing any of my work. Eventually, I even brought pages filled with numbers with me, cross-checking them for hits of any and all codes. I heard co-workers whispering behind my back, asking me what I was doing and I told them, I just hadn’t closed the weird articles after break time. They knew it wasn’t the truth. They’d heard me mumble, saw the little notebook I was writing in, noticed the endless lists of numbers I brought with me each day. My superior eventually came up to me. He asked me what I was doing with all those weird pages. I told him it was nothing but a little puzzle. “Well, Todd,” he started in a condescending voice. “You’re not here to do any of those ‘little puzzles’, you’re here to do your damn job. Where are the calculations for this month? I’ve been waiting for them all day.” “Oh, I guess, I’m almost done with them, I just need another hour or-“ My voice trailed off when he picked up one of the pages I’d been looking at mere minutes ago. Suddenly, when I saw him holding it, I felt nervous. “What even is this? It’s just random numbers.” He saw my face, saw the way my eyes grew wide when he’d picked it up. The hint of a smile washed over his face as he crumbled it up. He opened his mouth for another remark, but before he could I jumped up from my chair and ripped the page from his hand. He cringed back a step in shock at my reaction. “The hell’s wrong with you?” he screamed at me, but I didn’t listen. Instead, I carefully smoothed out the paper and made sure he hadn’t torn it apart. By now half the office had gotten up to watch the weird exchange. Only now did I realize what I’d done and how everyone was staring at me. Suddenly I felt very watched and almost sunk back into my chair. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to,” I mumbled but broke up under the pressure of all those eyes. “Get back to work and finish those damned calculations! If I see you tinkering with any of this shit again, you can clean out your desk!” With that, he stormed off. I heard people whispering all around me, some laughing, others speaking in a more reserved tone. Yep, I thought, it’s official. I’m the office nutjob. Right away, I forced myself to close all the Wikipedia articles I had still open and put away all my notes. And then, grudgingly, annoyed and half-mad at the distraction it represented, I went back to work. Somehow though, it felt meaningless, calculating all these stupid orders and filling out this customer database. What the hell was I even doing? What if it really was a code? What if it was actually a mixture, a double-code? My mind went wild with ideas. Five minutes later, I found myself holding one of my notes again. I couldn’t even remember taking it out. Pushing it back, cursing, and not a little afraid, I forced myself to work calculations until the day was over. At the moment my shift ended, I jumped off my chair and rushed for the door. People stared at me, looked after me, their faces a mixture of amusement and worry. I didn’t care. I had work to do. The important kind of work! I’d just tried to find another connection between the page numbers of the secret pages when my doorbell rang. I ignored it, but it just kept ringing. When it finally stopped, I sighed in relief. Just leave me alone, I cursed, I’ve got work to do. Then, mere moments later, my phone vibrated on the other end of the room. Dammit, I’d forgotten to mute it again. I waited for it to stop, but it started up right away. Cursing I went over to see who it was and noticed the name instantly. It was my friend Andrew. Annoyed, I answered it. “Yo, Todd, you home?” I heard his voice from the phone next to my ear and more distant, muffled from the front door. My first reaction was one of annoyance. Then I pushed the thought away. What the hell was wrong with me? This was Andrew. He was my best friend, the only one of our old group who still lived in the same city. Right away, I thought about how long I’d last seen him. Surprised I realized that it must’ve been weeks. One glance at the mad mess in my living room told me why. “Yeah, sure hold on,” I said over the phone and made my way to the front door. Andrew smiled at me brightly and held up to six-packs. “Haven’t seen you in forever, how about we have a few! I got quite the story for you, my man!” I smiled at him. “Sure, come on in.” We made our way inside and Andrew had barely set foot into my living room when he stopped. His eyes grew wide as he stared at the wall and the stacks of paper all over the place. “Holy shit man. I was wondering why I haven’t heard from you. The hell’s all that? You working on some sort of project?” “Kind of,” I mumbled a little embarrassed. I quickly picked up the papers on the couch and put them aside to make room for him to sit. “Sorry about the mess.” “Nah man, it’s all right. So, the thing I was about to tell you, you remember Thomas, right?” Thomas, I thought. Did I know a Thomas? Then I remembered him. Of course, I remembered him, he’d been part of our group. I rubbed my temples for a second before I nodded. “He’s getting married and you won’t believe who the lucky girl is!” With that, Andrew told me the entire story of how our friend Thomas had been dating Susan, Andrew’s cousin for the past three months, and the two of them had decided to get married. I listened, nodded here and there, even laughed a few times absentmindedly, but my eyes wandered to my notes again and again. For a moment I spaced out entirely, thinking about an idea that had popped into my mind just before he’d arrived. What if there was something about number sequences? I must’ve sat there for an entire minute, simply holding my beer and staring off at nothing when Andrew waved his hand in front of my face. “Yo, dude, you listening?” “What? Oh, sorry, no, I think I spaced out for a moment.” “All right, man, I got to ask, what’s all this? What sort of crazy thing are you working on? Haven’t seen you this into something in years.” I smiled at him awkwardly and then sighed and pointed at the book. “It’s one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books,” I started. With that, the flood gates broke open, and I told him all about it. He listened, at first curiously, but after a while, his face changed. There was visible concern, as I rambled on about secret pages, strange objects, and cryptography. “Todd, hold on, hold on, what the hell are you even talking about?” I stared at him. “The book. You know those secret pages must’ve some sort of meaning. At first, I thought there was a simple order to them, but it was too chaotic. If you add up all their page numbers though, you get 20670, and if you divided this up by-“ “All right, man, stop,” he cut me off. “So you’re adding up all those numbers, I get that, but for what?” I began explaining again, I tried, but he couldn’t follow me. “Yeah, I don’t get it, man. Just, what the fuck?” “All right, look,” I said and walked over to the wall covered in lines and numbers and started once more. I told him about the different adventure paths, the references, the secret pages, and when and how they appeared. His face was blank as I rambled on and on and on. “Yo, dude, you might want to take a bit of a break, this sounds, well, a bit crazy.” For a moment I was quiet, then a short, nervous laugh escaped me. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” He stepped up next to me, staring at the wall. “Shit man, you did all this? Just for a damned book?” Before I could answer, he reached out and was about to take one of the pages off the wall. My hand shot forward instinctively, batting his aside. “Don’t touch it!” I called out before I realized what I’d done. Andrew stumbled back a few steps, shocked. “Shit man, sorry, I didn’t mean to-“ And then it happened. I didn’t even listen to his words anymore as he bumped against some of the stacks of notes I’d placed neatly in front of the wall. They toppled over one another, the pages scattering all over the floor and intermixing. My eyes grew wide. Oh god, no, freaking god no. Anger rose in me. It had taken me so goddamn long to sort them all out, to order them. There was a freaking method to it all and now he’d destroyed it. He’d destroyed the work of entire fucking days! “What the fuck are you doing?” I screamed at him. He cringed back, only now realizing what had happened. “Hey, didn’t mean to,” he said and began picking up random pages. I ripped them from his hand and pushed him back. “No, don’t fucking touch them. Those two don’t belong together you idiot! Are you freaking insane?!” With an empty face, he watched as I gathered up some of the pages, stared at them, and began sorting them as best as I could. “You know, Todd, that’s what I should ask you.” “What the hell do you mean?” I snapped at him. “You destroyed the work of days! Days! This is-“ “This is what, man?” he cut me off once more. “It’s nonsense. It’s a freaking children’s book, nothing else.” That did the trick. I got up and stepped up right in front of him. “Nonsense? You’ve got no FUCKING idea, how far I’ve come! You’ve got no clue what’ve done already! And here you are telling me this is NONSENSE?” His face had grown hard. For a second he was about to say something, but then he simply shook his head and laughed. Without another word, he picked up his things, the beer, and left. If he said any words in parting, I didn’t hear them. I was already busy re-ordering my notes. It was hours later, when I was done sorting them all out, that I realized what I’d done and how I’d acted. For the first time, I grew truly scared. That hadn’t been normal. That wasn’t me. Why’d I gone crazy like this? I took first one step back from the wall, then another before I went to pick up my phone. When I tried to call Andrew, he didn’t pick up. Instead, the call went straight to voice mail. Then I saw how late it was, long past three in the morning. I wrote him a quick message, apologized for my behavior, and told him he was right. I should take a break from this entire thing. That’s what I did right away. I picked up my laptop, made my way to the bedroom, and this time I turned off the light without looking over my shoulder. I lay down on my bed and started browsing YouTube and told myself to just enjoy it and take a break. Yet, even as I watched video after video, the little voice in the back of my head spoke up again. It told me I should go on, told me to go back to the living room. You almost had it, Todd, you almost had it. Just one more hint and you’re done with it. Then you can let it go and you can- “Shut up, goddamnit!” I screamed at myself to quiet the subconscious voice in the back of my head. “I freaking know,” I said quieter. “God, I freaking know.” I sat in bed, the video that was playing already forgotten. As video, after video played, I was on my phone, checking stars and numbers before I eventually drifted off to sleep. The next morning I didn’t even get to make myself a coffee. I was mad, pissed off and I wanted to finally make progress. For a while, I tinkered about the various codes I’d read about. What if there was a code, but what but if it concerned the entire book and not just the secret pages? What if it was related to the adventure after all? Maybe you could scramble up page numbers and- I stopped and rubbed my temples. Calm down, don’t go crazy. Calm down and take a step back. You don’t even know if there are any damned codes hidden in the book. You did well deciphering all the different adventure paths and the connections between them. You did well discovering all the secret pages. But what if there’s something you haven’t discovered yet? That was the question that told me what I had to do. Something I hadn’t dared to do so far. I had to go through the entire book. I had to make my way through it not following the adventure, but going page by page and look out for anything new. There might be chapters I hadn’t discovered yet, hadn’t read yet. With newfound energy and a new plan, I started right away. My phone rang shortly after noon, but this time, I didn’t even bother with it. I just ignored it. After all, I had more important things to do. This time I didn’t just write down chapters, choices, and connections. This time I wrote down every single thing that came up. I took note of every single object that was mentioned then added the page number, the corresponding path, and any reference I knew about it. It was a momentous task. I spent the entire day doing it and barely made it through the first 130 pages. The next day, Sunday, I didn’t even finish another hundred. The further I came, the more objects I noticed, the more combinations, and references. At times, I even had to go back, to cross-check things, and to change notes accordingly. It was the most enduring task I’d ever attempted, concerning this damned book and probably my entire life. It took me weeks. I finished stacks upon stacks of notes. I went to the office supply store multiple times a week buying stacks of papers I ended up filling by the day. Work during this time was barely an afterthought. I was barely functioning at all. I was typing in numbers and names almost on autopilot. By now I didn’t even get stares anymore. I was entirely ignored, a shell of a man, a ghost that stumbled to his cubicle in the morning and rushed back home in the evening. Days went by, then weeks, as I slaved away over the book’s many pages. Until one day, when I was finally done. I can’t even say how many weeks I’d been at it. There were stacks of hundreds of papers, maybe even more. Notes, references, objects, names, words, anything basically. I’d just created a table of how often each and every single object appeared and in which setting when I noticed a new hint. I stared at it with a giant grin on my face. The Ruby Orb had been the very first object I’d added to the table. It appeared in all paths:
Fantasy - 31 times
Space - 3 times
Stone Age - 2 times
Ocean and Pirates - 11 times
Desert Ruins - 29 times
Mountains - 17 times
City-State - 7 times
Ancient Rome - 5 times
Jungle Tribes - 13 times
Small Village - 19 times
Underwater Civilization - 23 times
As I wrote those numbers down, there was something about them. Somehow I knew those numbers. I went over them, staring at them for a while before it hit me. I cross-checked it online, and I was right. They were all prime numbers! Yes, I thought, I’d found something new! I quickly rechecked another object, the Desert Orb, and realized it was the same here, too. This one’s appearances made up a simpler sequence. It only appeared once in the city-state, twice in fantasy, and finally 11 times in the desert ruins. I couldn’t help but grin. I did it for another object, this one the Ebony Stick. It too appeared in all paths and its number was increased by two, starting at 4 and going up to 26. That’s when I knew what I had to do. I had to go through all the objects, all the hundreds of objects in the damned book, and check how often they appeared. There was a correlation, another part of the puzzle. I was exhilarated, in a state of glee and unbound excitement. These number sequences, maybe they were the key to figuring out what the secret pages meant, or maybe the page numbers in general. I started laughing. I could feel it, I was so damn close. I slept when necessary, ate when necessary, right there on the living room floor. It was only once that I thought about work, only in passing, and the idea that I should go never even came to my mind. My phone was at the other and of the room. I ignored it entirely during that time. It wasn’t important. This right here, that’s what was important. I was done by the end of the week. It was long past midnight on Saturday when I’d finally deciphered the number sequences of all 311 objects in the book. When I was done with my work, I looked at the tables of objects in a state of awe. I spread them out in front of me and marveled at the dozen or so pages. For a moment I was about to dive into them when I realized how tired I was. For the first time since the beginning of the week, I picked up my phone. It was off, must’ve been for days. I connected it to the charger and turned it on. I was bombarded with a plethora of notifications. For almost a minute the damned thing started ringing and vibrating. There were a few messages from Andrew, asking how I was doing and if I’d stopped with my damned obsession yet. I laughed and closed the chat. I’d also received countless emails. Most of them were from work and only now did I remember that I hadn’t shown up for an entire week. They started normal enough, reminding me to call if I was sick, became reproachful after a day or two, and finally angry. The last one told me this was the last straw. I should come in on Monday for a talk and be prepared to clean out my desk. It was strange how little I felt about it, how little it mattered in the grander scale of things. I almost laughed again as I threw the phone aside and laid down to catch some sleep. When I woke up, I went right back to work. I tinkered with the number sequences, looked at each one of them, added them up, multiplied, and divided them. It was the Crown of Ice that finally made me look up. When I added all its appearances together, I came to a total of 1000. This damned thing, I thought, it was by far the most common object in the damned book. I started to read up on it in my notes. It was said in the Manuscript of the Seven Seas, that the Crown of Ice was found in the Crypt of the Dragon. The Crypt of the Dragon was located in the desert ruins. I went back to it, page 1544, and read the part again. There were three choices. One sent me to leave without the crown and sent me back to a desert tribe. Destroying the crown ended in painful death while the third option was wearing it. All right, wearing the crown opened a secret passage that sent me to the location of the Magic Water and from there back on my way through the desert. Dammit, I thought I had something! I was about to go back to the list. Maybe the number thousand was another coincidence. Then something made me look up. The crown appeared in the desert ruins a total of 53 times. I thought about it. The desert ruins one was by far the shortest path. How long was it in total again? I stepped up to my living room wall and counted the chapters. When I followed them, there was only a single path that was longer than 50. It came to a total length of 78 chapters before it started from the beginning. Chapter 53 described what you found if you opened a chest hidden in the Ancient Pyramid. I read the entire chapter again. It was titled ‘The Treasure Chest.’ There was a total of 289 gold coins in the chest. When I went back to the list of objects, I noticed that the gold coin was mentioned a total of 289 times. The same was true for the sparkling diamonds. There were a total of 33 in the chest and the object itself came up 33 times in the book. I almost laughed when I noticed that it was true for the third object in the chest as well. I got an empty page and like a child, I wrote the words Chest, Pyramid, and Treasure in huge letters at the top of it before I went and added all the two dozen objects in the chest. While I did it, I wondered if there was something like this for every other object in the book. What if every object’s number of appearances was mentioned somewhere in the book? Not just in this chest, but just somewhere. And then, on a whim, I asked myself another question. What if certain objects didn’t? What if there were just a few or maybe just one whose number was mentioned nowhere? Maybe those were the important ones! For the entirety of Sunday, I followed through with this idea. I calculated, I added objects to yet more lists, I followed through paths and loops, studied my notes, and slowly, the number of objects remaining got smaller and smaller. Eventually, just as I’d hoped, there was a single object whose total number of appearances was mentioned nowhere. It was a small, red die. One that was mentioned here and there, only in passing when people played a game of dice in bars or the streets. There had to be something to this damned thing, I knew it! After this entire week, no after all these entire months, I finally had something, I’d finally narrowed it all down to a single object. A shiver went down my spine when I realized that this might be it. This might be the solution that I’d been searching for all this time! I went back to my notes about the red die and all its appearances. Here a few kids were playing with it in the streets, there was someone holding it in their hand, and here it rolled onto the floor when a fight broke out. Finally, I found what I’d been looking for. There was only a single instance in the entire book where you could interact with it. It was in a bar in space where you could join a futuristic game of dice. When the game was done, you could pocket the red die. The short chapter that followed it was mundane and almost unimportant. But when I read it, I noticed something else, not in the text, but the choices below. Weren’t they the same as in the chapter before? I went back to the preceding page and reread it. Yes, the same two choices, sending you to the same two pages. Almost as if picking up the die didn’t matter at all. Making it appear as nothing but a red herring. And I grinned. I grinned wider than I had ever before. There had to be a hint here, no, there had to be a way of finishing this entire damn thing. I wrote down the entire paragraph and went back to work, studying it. I checked everything that was mentioned in it: the page number, the chapter title, colors, words, anything I could think of. Until late in the morning hours, I pondered over this one, single paragraph. I could barely keep my eyes open when I stumbled upon it. It was silly, but I exploded with joy and was suddenly wide awake again. The number of words in each sentence was eight. The number of sentences was eight as well. There were eight sentences here, with eight words each. This was no coincidence. This was it, the total number of words was 64, the square number of eight. There was too much here for it to be a coincidence. I rushed back to the buck, almost stumbled over my feet, and threw open page 64. Like a crazed, starved animal I poured over the words on the page, almost pressing my face against it. The chapters, there had to be something here, the solution had to be right in front of me. Yet when I was done reading it, I was dumbfounded. The entire page comprised a single chapter, a chapter I knew damn well. And I realized that I knew the number 64 damn well, too. I was at the beginning of the fantasy setting. I read once more that I was a young farmer, standing in front of a burned down far, the bodies of his dead parents next to him and that I was about to set out on a grand adventure. For the next three hours, I analyzed every single word in the paragraph, every single one and I found as many hints as I could search for. I went back to the die paragraph and slowly I came to another conclusion and then another. The number of certain letters corresponded with the number of other objects in the space path. If you put certain letters from certain words together you ended up with yet another number. I followed every single one of them, but each one ended at another mundane position in the book. I slaved away over those as well, reached and analyzed them and I found more hints, more connections, more clues. And the longer and the more deeply I analyzed them, the more I could find, if only I wanted to. There was almost an endless number of nonsensical clues and hints if you wanted so. They were all leading me on, leading me around in a circle, on and on and on and on. And I sat there, over the damned book, over hundreds, if not thousands of pages of notes. I sat in front of an entire wall covered in information and I laughed. For long, terrible minutes I couldn’t stop laughing. This was all crazy. This was all entirely and utterly crazy. And finally, it clicked. At this singular moment it finally and ultimately clicked. There was no solution. The book had no solution. It finally made sense. I’d slaved away for weeks, no for months, and all I’d done was to walk in circles, continue from one hint to another, only to be sent back to the beginning. The entire damned book was a loop, a loop of loops with secret loops that sent you to more secret loops. And then, for the first time in months, I closed the book and put it away. After that, I slowly went and took down all the mad pages from my wall, stacked up all the notes, and put them together in a box in an almost apathetic state. I was done. All of this had been utterly meaningless, a fundamental waste of time. That night, I didn’t sleep. I lay in bed, contemplating a lot of things. My life, my work, the book, and why I’d been so taken by it. Yet, as with the book, there was no solution. There was nothing to it all. The next day, with the book in my backpack, I made my way back to the store. It felt as heavy as the world, an endless number of possibilities all resting on my back. I knew I had to return it, I had to get rid of it before it might throw me into another crazy fit. When I entered the store, the old man looked up. “Can I help you with,” he started but broke up, a surprised look on his face. “Well hello there, young man. Haven’t seen you in quite a while.” I only nodded, took down my backpack, heaved out the book, and brought it to a rest in front of him. “I’d like to return this.” The old man probed me for a moment. “We’ve got a no-money-back policy,” he said and pointed at a small, almost illegible sign behind himself. “Yeah, that’s fine, I just want to get rid of it. I’m done with it.” “So, you got your reward then?” I couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Guess so.” “What was it?” the old man asked curiously. “It’s meaningless, there’s no end to it. It just goes on forever.” “Oh,” he mouthed with an expression of surprise. “You ever tried it yourself, old man?” “Did once, when I was younger, but I got nowhere. Was too damned hard for me.” “There’s one thing I’m wondering about. Who the hell wrote a thing like this? I mean, it’s freaking insane. How’d’you ever write something like this?” “Well, to tell you the truth, there’s something I didn’t tell you when you first came in. I originally bought the book from a street merchant, half a century ago. He told me a few things, and I learned a few more over the years from other people.” “Like what?” “There’s nothing but rumors of course. The merchant told me it was written by the Devil himself. Then someone told me it was supposedly written by Machiavelli back in the day, to confuse a man who’d wronged him and drive him mad. There was also a guy who was convinced it was the work of aliens. The most plausible thing I heard is that there’s no single author, but that it was written over the course of centuries, with each new writer adding to it and extending it, making it better and ever more complicated.” “Heh, sounds about-“ I started, but the old man raised a hand and pushed his head forward, towards me. “There’s one more. Someone else told me it was written by no other than God himself as a big, giant joke about our earthly existence itself.” I laughed, but it was a weak laugh. Nothing but a giant joke, that fit it damn well, didn’t it? And as I stepped out of the store and stared at the city surrounding me, watching the urban bustle, I began thinking. People were hurrying past me, on their way to work, cars and buses rushed down the streets. As I watched it all, this ever-repeating bustle of civilization, I realized that it was all another never-ending loop. On and on and on we all went, doing the same thing over and over and over again. And as I walked on I started laughing. Maybe that was all right and maybe it didn’t matter. Who knows, maybe the book was true. Maybe all of this, all of life, all of existence, just like the damned book, was nothing but God’s big, giant joke.
External Stepmania Song Management Tool - Feature Requests Appreciated
Overview: Way back in 2015 I created a really simple utility to manage my StepMania library that I dubbed StepManiaHelper, which I released on this subreddit to seemingly little interest. Given the simplicity and narrow use-case of the tool though, that was perhaps not surprising. The original idea of the tool was that I had a song library of over 10k songs, and that caused the game to take a long time to startup. Since many of these songs were ones I'd never play (some were too difficult for me, some were slow and boring, and others were made for keyboards while I play with a dance pad), it seemed kind of silly to have them in my song library slowing down my load time. However, separating out these songs was a task I felt was better automated than done manually. Recently a user of said tool sent me a request for some additional features, and I thought I'd revisit it to see if I could do better. I've uploaded an in-development screenshot here so that you can get an idea of the current state of things, although the GUI is still very much subject to change as features are added and I have to figure out how to make them all play well together. Current Workflow: The current functionality is that you run the program, point it to your StepMania "songs" directory (or a specific song pack directory, or a specific song directory) and hit the "Parse" button in the upper right. This will scan the selected folder for song information and create the grid seen on the right. As this scan is going on, the "Parse/Filter Output" section on the bottom left provides feedback on what it's doing and where it is in the process (for instance "song pack 5 of 100" and "song 3 of 12" [of songs in the song pack]). If the scan is taking too long, you can also cancel it by clicking the "Parse" button a second time (it's text will change to "Cancel" while parsing). When the scan is complete (or cancelled) a binary file is created in the selected directory which houses all of the information found in the scan. The application will use this in future scans, speeding things up. This allows you to resume scans at a later time, or scan for newly added songs, and not have to do a lengthy re-scan every time you want to use the program. Once songs have been identified you can define filters for moving songs out of the library using the "Filters" and "Filter Options" on the left, and then hitting the "Apply Filters" button. Again, feedback on the progress will appear in the "Parse/Filter Output" section. Songs that are flagged by the filters will be moved out of the "songs" directory (where StepMania will no longer be able to see them) and into a folder with the name shown in the filter ("_DUPLICATE", "_NONPAD", etc.). The checkboxes on the right under the filter columns indicate whether the song is located in the filtered folder or the regular songs folder. Checking or unchecking this checkbox will move the folder. The current filters are:
Exact Duplicate (everything in the two songs folders much be 100% identical)
Non-Pad (Songs with more than 3 simultaneous notes)
Alternate Song Versions (Remixes or different mappings of the same song; the sensitivity of this association is configurable between a couple different levels)
Inaccurate Difficulties (Attempts to determine the average difficulty of each numerical difficulty, and identify outliers to this established norm [currently just uses steps divided by song duration, but this may change])
Too Difficult (Songs with no difficulties below the specified number)
Too Fast (Songs with a BPM over a certain threshold)
Too Slow (Songs with a BPM under a certain threshold)
Variable BPM (Songs that change their BPM throughout the song; the filter allows for a percent deviation from the average BPM)
Songs with Stops (Songs that have a number of stops over a set threshold)
Features I'm currently investigating/implementing: The following are the things I currently have plans to work on or at least investigate:
Better songs parsing (there are still some songs the application has difficulty parsing).
Quick way to quickly undo a specific filter for all songs.
Allow more customization of what is show in the grid
Allow more information to be show in the grid.
Possibly a way to listen to the songs from the GUI.
Section to see information about a song selected from the grid, that contains information that can't be shown in the grid (for example a breakdown of each difficulty).
"Favorite" folder(s). Will act kind of as an opposite of a filter, where instead of moving files out of the StepMania folder, it will copy songs from other songs packs into what is effectively a custom song pack. This copies will be symbolic links, so they won't actually take up much disk space.
Clean up the code (it is not well designed because it wasn't intended to grow in size or scope) and make it open source.
Move the filter checkboxes into a separate control which can be hidden, to keep the GUI less busy (or remove them entirely if I can accomplish the below two items).
Possible ability for user to define display search-filters for the grid (for example, show songs that have the word "star" in their title, or songs with only difficulties over 10).
Assuming I can do the above, I may be able to replace the filter GUI from the left entirely (along with the multiple filter checkboxes in the grid), with an option for the user to name their own filter folder.
EDIT: Support for exporting the song list to csv.
What I want from the community: If any of you feel that this tool, or something that I could conceivably add to it, might be useful to you, I would love to hear your thoughts on what I could do or change to make it more useful to you. I can't guarantee I'll be able to add everything, and I'm not even sure when I'll be able to release it since I don't have a ton of time to work on it, but any and all feedback is welcome.
NOTE: I'm pasting this guide from where I originally found it, over on Studentloandefaulters. It was originally pasted there from someone who found it after the original was deleted.
Student Loan Default: The Guide (reuploaded)
📷 The original guide that was recently deleted here:https://www.reddit.com/studentloandefaulters/comments/cg1fd7/student_loan_default_a_guide/ I take no credit for this post, just happened to have it saved in a document and thought I'd be doing an injustice by not sharing this information once I saw the original post was missing! All credit goes to the original author, and without further ado... Student Loan Default: A Guide I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time, and seeing that person be in $500,000 of debt and no one really helping him on studentloans, I felt it was time to summarize everything I’ve learned. While there is great information on this sub, it is not centralized. It requires some digging. I hope now to bring all of it to the surface. Definitions: Strategic Default: When a borrower realizes that he or she can spend less money by not paying a loan. The borrower waits out the statute of limitations and then either settles or waits the debt out. Shills: People who are paid to prevent the spread of student loan default information Statute of Limitations: The number of years your state requires before a debt can no longer be collected. Cosigner: The poor person who is just as legally required to pay your loans as you are Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion: A tax rule that states any US citizen can earn up to about $100,000 a year in another country and report their US taxes as 0. Fraudulent Transfer: When a party tries to move assets to someone else in order to avoid a lien on their property. Lien: Essentially when the government slaps a bill onto your property forcing you to pay off a debt before you can sell the property. Income Based Repayment (IBR): Federal loans can be paid with 15% of your discretionary income (money earned after taxes) instead of a higher, unpayable amount Aggregate Student Loan Limit: The total amount a student can take out before the federal government or a private lender stops authorizing new loans Wage Garnishment: When a court forces your employer to take out a certain percentage of your paycheck to pay back a debt Bank Levy: When the government or a court takes all of the money directly out of your bank account to pay a debt Private Loans: Loans that originate from anyone but the federal government. These loans have a statute of limitations and less power but higher interest rates. Federal Loans: These loans have no statute of limitations, the government can collect anything you earn to get these back, and they come with IBR which is manageable Sallie Mae: The worst private lender on the market. They only offer deferment for four short years. Forbearance: A period where you do not have to pay your student loans, but interest accrues. Deferment: A period where you do not have to pay your student loans, but interest does not accrue. Credit Score: A number that tells people how responsible of a borrower you are. Student Loan Tax Bomb: After you have paid for 10 - 25 years on your federal loans, you are forgiven the rest. That is considered income by the IRS. You then add this “income” to your regular income for the year and pay the tax. It can be over $10,000. Insolvency: When you are unable to pay your debts. This works well for defusing the student loan tax bomb. Public Service Loan Forgiveness: If you work for 10 years at a government job, you can get your entire federal student loan balance forgiven. In 2019, the feds are making it near impossible to collect. This could change. A note on cosigners before we begin: Look, your cosigner is probably going to be very mad at you. Prepare for your relationship to be strained. You need to try and get them on the same page as you, and I do offer a tactic here to at least shift all of the financial burden off of your cosigner below. If you decide to do any of these tactics without getting your cosigner off the hook, there could be more risk involved if you or your cosigners have a lot of assets. Strategy Student loan default is a strategy. And to have a good strategy, one must plan as much as possible. You have to know all of your options. While strategy is your overall game plan, tactics are the individual options you have to get your strategy accomplished. Below are the tactics that you can employ to beat the student loan companies. Tactics Paying Your Loans: [low risk] In the rare chance you have anywhere between $1,000 to $20,000 in federal student loans and you have completed your bachelor’s degree, you should probably just pay the damn loans. All you have to do is set up an auto debit and forget about it. It will be about 15% of your income. You really want to try and avoid consolidating if you can, because it will count against some of your IBR payments. You would also lose your grace period if you did this. At the end of 10 to 25 years, you will be forgiven all of the loan amount you did not pay. That forgiven amount is considered income by the IRS, so you will be put into a higher tax bracket. I would get an accountant when this comes. In your case, your tax bomb will be low enough where you could probably just pay it. If you want to really shake things up though, you are welcome to try either the Asset Creation Tactic or the Madlad Method below. Here is more information on Income Based Repayment: https://www.studentdebtrelief.us/repayment-plans/income-based-repayment-plan/ Default Private IBR Federal (Staying Put): [low risk] The standard strategy here on studentloandefaulters. As mentioned above, for the federal loans, it’s best to just IBR and automatically debit your bank account each month and forget about it. For the private loans, this is where the game begins. Your overall plan here is to default, wait out the statute of limitations in your home state, and either settle the debt for less than 30% or just hope they leave you alone and you don’t pay at all. From this moment on, whatever you would have paid for your private monthly bill, sock that money away. Once you go past 120 days of no payments, you are in default. This is where the phone calls come in. They will start to harass you. They will call your work, your cell phone, your cosigner, etc relentlessly. Most likely, they’ll start doing this before you get to default. As they call you, you can either just give them the cold shoulder or start immediately acting like you do not own the debt. Never admit that you own the debt. Tell them you think they are crazy and have the wrong person. Inform your cosigner to do the same. Once your loans are sold to a collection agency, wait until they call you and ask for verification of the debt. If they do not provide it, you won. Chances are, they will be able to verify it, so just make sure you never admit to the debt on the phone or make a payment. If you make a payment, you’ll reset the statute of limitations. Do not give them five dollars, two dollars, a penny. If they do sue you, show up for court. Get a lawyer if you can afford it. You have to show up to court, or they win automatically. Even if you don’t have a lawyer in court, you need to make them verify the debt. You could still lose here. If you do lose in court, go to my tactic of “The Cat and Mouse Game.” They are playing a numbers game, and if you are harder to sue than John Smith down the street, they may prey on him or her instead of you. Now, there are four states in the United States that do not have wage garnishment: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. You could move there, and if you have barely any assets, you are considered judgement proof. This means you’re not worth the time to be sued, because you have nothing to take and cannot be garnished. Moving is hard, though, so that’s a personal decision. Also, from what I understand, if you do move to these states, you can switch your statute of limitations over to their states which may be less time until you cannot be sued anymore. If you do lose and just want to stop here, you could get your bank levied and you could be slapped with up to a 25% wage garnishment until paid in full Clarification: a lot of people do not ever get garnished, and bank levies are rare (they are non-existent on federal loans). Do not let this freak you out!. I repeat this is super rare and not likely to happen. Anyways, you have options at this point. If it does happen, try another tactic like leave the country or cat and mouse below. Default Private Default Federal: [medium risk] Some of the wilder people have attempted to default on both federal and private loans in order to do a cash settlement. The same strategy above in Default Private IBR Federal applies, but realize that the US government could just step in and do an administrative garnish on you eventually. If you were living some sort of cash existence, you could potentially avoid them and then write them a money order and settle for 30% or something. This way, you avoid the tax bomb and would probably pay a lot less interest overall. If you do this and it works, I would love to hear about it. Cat and Mouse: [medium risk] So, you want to avoid getting sued or you lost a judgement? You don’t have to sit back and take it. u/nowaysalliemae has successfully avoided being sued by essentially going on the run. You see, to be sued successfully, they need to know where you work. If you get sued, move to another state, and switch jobs, they have to do the entire process over again! This means find you, verify the debt, sue you, etc. You can essentially do this until your statute of limitations runs out. And then, you dispute the debt on your credit score. They take it off at that point, and you just saved a lot of money. I decided to put this as medium risk, because moving around a lot would require some luck. Especially since you would need to work wherever you go, there are a lot of moving parts here. I think it is totally doable, and if you are an adventurous personality type, it could be a lot of fun. This only works for the private student loan side, because the US government has a lot more power. You would still IBR your federal loans on this tactic. For more information, go through nowaysalliemae's post history. Leave the Country: [medium risk] What if you want to avoid all of this altogether? Do you want a reset button on your life? You can just leave the country and start over. Seriously. Your credit score does not follow you across countries. The federal government cannot garnish your paycheck if you work internationally. You are not a criminal doing this. Furthermore, there is something called the Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion. Since you will still IBR your federal loans on this plan, as long as you make less than $100,000 in another country, your US income is zero. This means you just got a free education while you make money in another country. Once you pay zero for 25 years, you will have to defuse your student tax bomb. Tactic Below. Private companies do not stand a chance here. There are countries in the commonwealth such as Australia and Canada that are more willing to take you in if you meet certain requirements. You could teach English at a bunch of places. You could apply for residency at these places or be a perpetual tourist. A perpetual tourist is someone who essentially moves to a new country, goes to a neighboring country for a weekend, and then goes back to that new country they are trying to start a new life in*. This in no means you have to go back to the U.S. Ever. For example, you want to live in Panama forever, every 90 days, you take a weekend trip to Nicaragua. You come back to Panama after the weekend is over and get another 90 day pass. Rinse and repeat. This gives you another 90 days in your country of choice. If you make money on the internet, this strategy would work pretty well. You can just be a perpetual tourist or marry someone in another country and start a new life. This will not be a good fit for everyone, but there’s something exciting about this. If you are young, single, and restless, this could be the adventure of a lifetime. Here's more info on being a perpetual traveler and the FEIE: https://www.escapeartist.com/blog/perpetual-traveler-us-tax-code/ Suspend Payment Without More Debt: [low risk] So recently, it has been brought to my attention that there is a community college, Luna Community College (in Las Vegas, NM), that has tuition so low you could go half time all year for about 684 dollars. They have a small amount of associate's degrees. If you just want to stop paying without taking any more loans, this would be the way to do it. You could do this for many years. Luna Community College's tuition matrix: https://luna.edu/tuition_matrix Convert Private Loans to Federal: [low risk] From this point on, these are my special tactics I’ve been thinking about. They might work really well for some people. So, you have a bunch of federal loans and a good amount of private loans. You don’t want to fight debt collectors or move around. Try this. This plan only works if you have a bachelor’s degree though. Anyways, there is a special loan offered by the US Federal Government called the Graduate Plus Loan. This loan is incredible, because there is no aggregate student loan limit. In other words, you can borrow as much money as you want here. Even a million dollars no questions asked. All you need is no delinquency or default on your credit report. If you do have these things, you can get a cosigner in on the plan. They won’t ever be responsible anyways because you will defuse the tax bomb at the end. This works to your advantage, because you could go back to school at the graduate level, get a diploma mill master’s degree online, use your room and board payment to start paying off your private loans ASAP. Just make sure you are doing whatever your school considers half time enrollment in order to avoid student loan payments while doing this. Once you’ve gone to school long enough and converted all of your private loans to grad plus loans, you could just go on an IBR plan. This will at least make your life manageable. You would have to defuse your student tax bomb once this is over. Tactic below. Convert Federal Loans to Private: [medium risk] So, what if you wanted to go the opposite way? Maybe you want to convert all of your federal loans to private ones, default, and then leave the country? Hey, maybe there are reasons you want to hurry up the settlement process. You could essentially do the same strategy as above, but instead just borrow from Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, etc until all of your federal loans are paid off. Then, either cat and mouse or leave the country. I don’t think a lot of people would find a use for this, but hey who knows? Asset Creation Method: [high risk] What if you wanted to not just pay off your loans but get ahead in life? Maybe you feel like using your student loan debt to your advantage. Thanks to the work done by u/BinaryAlgorithm, you could really come out on top here. Remember those Grad Plus loans we were talking about? Well, there’s nothing stopping you from continually borrowing all year on these loans, investing the room and board, and acting as if you do not have the debt in the first place. While I had originally said that rental property does not count as income, I cannot find any documentation proving this. You can still invest this money however you want, and you just defuse the tax bomb at the end (if anyone can find that documentation, please let me know). I did find that rental properties offer a lot of ways to reduce your adjusted gross income (management fees, advertising, etc), and these could reduce your income closer to zero. We’re not done here. Moreover, you could get a job that qualifies for Public Student Loan Forgiveness, enjoy your investments, and then pay for the 10 years. Be sure to convert all loans to federal before starting this tactic. I only put this as high risk, because the whole plan falls apart if Grad Plus loans get capped. Will they? Probably not, because those are the loans doctors and lawyers take out to go to their professional schools. It would take an act of congress to change the way the law stands now, but still, you should know that. This plan spans decades, so a lot can change. Also, having this many installment loans may lower your credit score over a multitude of years, but based on what everyone has found out here, it's not by much. For more information, go to this subreddit's search bar and type in "aggregate" and go look at BinaryAlgorithm's two posts on the subject. Defusing the Student Tax Bomb: [low risk] So lucky for you, I talked to an actual lawyer and an actual IRS agent about this. This is completely legal and doable. Okay, so you were a good person and paid your IBR for 25-30 years. What now? Well, you’re about to be hit hard with a tax bomb. All of that money that is now forgiven counts as income on your taxes. This could mean a bill in the tens of thousands if you combined this with any of the other methods here—or just borrowed a lot to begin with. Luckily for us, there is something called insolvency. This means you are unable to pay your debts, and there is a really simple formula for whether or not you are insolvent. As long as you have more liabilities than assets at the time of student loan forgiveness, you are considered insolvent. In other words, right before you are about to be forgiven, like year 24 out of 25, you would take out a loan on something. All you would need to do is buy a house, buy a car, or buy something with a huge price tag. As long as your liabilities are way higher than your assets (like aim for 100K or something more), you are considered insolvent and you don’t have to pay any of the tax bomb. Boom. The IRS agent said this is fine. The lawyer said this is fine. I cannot believe this is fine. Where could you get the money to borrow for a house? Check Asset Creation method above. You could always sell the asset after the tax bomb is dealt with. For more information on defusing the student loan tax bomb: https://lawyerist.com/defusing-student-loan-interest-tax-bomb/ Getting Your Cosigner Off the Hook: So 90% of us have cosigners based on some statistic I read. These people are going to pissed at you, because they get harassed. If you have a lot of time to plan your strategy out, you can simply convert all of your private loans to federal ones. They are no longer responsible. The plan is above. Check out “Convert Private Loans to Federal.” Furthermore, if you are attempting to go the default route with private loans, you could potentially get your cosigner off the hook by refinancing your student loans without the cosigner. After you refinance, you could just default then. You would need good credit and meet certain requirements for this. Also, if you plan on defaulting, you might want to get your cosigner to transfer their assets to their spouse or someone trustworthy. Even though liens are rare, this could give you some peace of mind. As long as about 3-5 years go by, this is no longer considered a fraudulent transfer. Your state will have certain rules about this. If you are from Florida, apparently houses are untouchable there. You will need a lawyer to plan the asset transfer. At the same time, you may not be able to get your cosigner off the hook. Make peace with that. Student loans are brutal, so all you can really do is educate yourself and your cosigner and hope you come out on top. Madlad Method: [high risk] Now, here comes my personal plan. This is what I’m doing, because I want to live a life on my terms and not really work for anyone my entire life. I’m also not a normal person, so this will probably appear crazy to some or most of you. So at this point, if you understand all of the methods before you, you are a powerful player in the student loan circus. You can do anything from fight the man to maliciously comply and bankrupt the system while becoming upper-middle class. I don’t really care for any of that. I want to go to a tropical paradise and make music for 20 years, so here is my interpretation of everything. I have some federal loans and private loans. I net about 25K a year through the Grad Plus loans, and I work about 4 hours a week in the online classroom. I take that federal loan money, and I sock away a few hundred every month to save up for my private loan settlement in about five years. Since I save 300 every month, I’ll have about 18K in 5 years when I go into default. I will settle ASAP. At the same time, I will continue to go to diploma mill universities, get master's degree after master’s degree, and move to a Latin American country where the cost of living is even lower. This way, my 25K a year puts me in the upper class of that country. I can live where I want and really do whatever I damn well please for as long as the Grad Plus loans are around. As an added bonus, I will already be starting a new life in another country where I can make connections and maybe even get married. I studied linguistics, so I know how to teach English. I can do that if I want a source of income anywhere. So there is my plan, and honestly, one day we might get someone in office who just wipes out all of this debt anyways. If that’s the case, I can just play the waiting game until all of this is over. Here are the rules on adverse credit history and Grad Plus loans: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/plus-adverse-credit.pdf Final Thoughts: Defaulting on student loans is not immoral or a sin. It is a business decision. Everyone else gets bailouts, why should student borrowers be any different? You’re going to have to ignore the people who tell you why they think you should be a good little slave and pay your loans. Those people are not your friends. Those people are not on your side. Some of the best advice I ever received in life was you have to do what’s best for you. Also, if you have anything you would like to add to this or would like to challenge, please let me know. I want this to be as accurate as possible. I will be looking at this perpetually to make sure there are no errors. Take care. Good luck. You can do this.
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