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Two members of the Uni-Chor meet outside the Course Reserve room in the library.

J: Hi! I thought you were in Kiev.
L: That´s what I thought too. But I also thought we were leaving on Thursday.
J: Oh no!
L:...The schedule go changed around so many times, and at one point the plan was that we were leaving on Thursday. So that´s what was in my Calendar.
J: That´s awful.
L: It´s my own stupid fault. And anyway, it´s not so bad--I´ve got a lot of work to do.
J: THAT I can understand.
L: So what are you doing?
J: (wishing to avoid the fact that the sheet of paper he´s just photocopied is NOT, in fact, an assignment, but just a specimen of a really pretty 12th century hand) I decided to stay here because I had so much work to do, but ironically I haven´t gotten much done...
L: (makes sympathetic noises)
J: ...everything was closed yesterday.

Explanation and Commentary:
The Choir, including Grace, headed off Wednesday morning on a 36-hr train ride to Kiev, where they´re going to be visiting and performing with the group that visited us. Apparently, they had to bring all their own food for the train ride with them, so Grace spent a lot of Tuesday making devilled eggs and chicken salad.
I stayed home because, well, I only have five more weeks before I have to start packing. Unfortunately, what with the concert I´d been too preoccupied to figure out WHAT, exactly, I would be researching while Grace was gone. Had I been more organized, I reflected gloomily on Wednesday, I would have been boarding a train myself, so as to spend a couple days in Karlsruhe working in the Staatsarchiv and crashing on someone´s floor. But as it turned out, it wouldn´t have mattered. Thursday was Christi Himmelfahrt, so while the pious celebrated the Ascension, the employees of all the archives went on vacation. Hence the Kantonsarchiv in Frauenfeld (plan B) was already closed when I tried to contact them on Wednesday; the i>Stadtarchiv in Überlingen (plan C) was still open when I phoned them, but they didn´t think they had the manuscript I wanted. This, they opined, was probably in the Herzogin Sophie Bibliothek (gets updated to Plan C2) in the town...whose custodian is apparently off sick. And today was right out: Latin class this morning preempts any plans for trips to random libraries, and I´ve looked at MOST of the relevant material in the Stadtarchiv here...which, in any case, is open for only two hours this afternoon!
So I´ve been at a bit of a loose end. I decided to go to church on Thursday, and since I didn´t feel like facing a second First Communion service, opted for the Lutherans, who had it outside in unsettled weather. (It was, nonetheless, packed out--possibly because they brought along a brass ensemble) For the rest of the time, I´ve been working though the Regesta, and finishing up one or two books.
And yes, trying to figure out how to make the Greeks the dominant civilization in a computer-generated world.
Oh well. It´s just as well, since my Dad´s coming to visit on Sunday, and it would not be so fun for him if we were both in Kiiyev!
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(Written late one Thursday night, when I really should have been getting my beauty sleep.)

Friends, I have decided, are a lot like socks in some ways.

If you are anything like me, you have a lot of socks. Some old, some new, some that you had forgotten about until they show up again in the most surprising contexts. And naturally, you want to pair them up. Socks are happier in pairs, however odd the socks--and the combinations of socks--may be.
Attempting to do this, however, usually leads only to frustration. Most of your socks are probably already in pairs. And while you have more than enough other socks to make more pairs, this is generally doomed to failure. There are some socks for which you just can’t find a match, leading you to wish--usually in vain--that another sock will suddenly turn up in the wash or in the back of your drawer. There are other socks that would probably work together, but one’s already folded up with another sock with which it’s a better match. Other socks seem to want to be paired up with a bunch of different socks successively; still others don’t seem to want to be paired up at all.
Most of the time, when you have a lone sock, if a quick search through your drawer doesn’t find a pair, it’s best to just wait, and hope that in time, a mate will turn up. Trying to go through all your old boxes or ask friends for help is generally only irritating to all concerned. But it’s frustrating when a sock is left unattached for long periods of time: so much so that, while one obviously doesn’t want to have MORE unmatched socks, you’re tempted to go out to a tag sale or something and get some more socks, just in the hope of creating some more pairs. But that’s assuming too much for the desire of socks to have you interfering in their personal lives. As evidenced by the phenomenon of the Migrating or the Disappearing sock, socks have minds of their own. Really, one should just be thankful for the socks--and pairs of socks--that one has.

I was going to make some point about friends, but I forgot what it was.

(And yes, I’m sure someone has made this joke before, but I was contemplating relationships and laundry, and I felt I just had to get it down.)

Meantime, today I slacked off to go to a wedding. Well, sorta. Germans are REQUIRED to get married before a government official in an office, so weddings tend to be a bit more low-key. But the Konstanzer Rathaus is a pretty cool place to get married (being 16th century and all) if you have to do it in a government building. A bunch of us from the Uni-Chor came along to sing, and I came too, since a) Chris and Christina are cool (otherwise, we would have ditched this choir for some group with a less annoying conductor), b) free champagne! c) I felt that SOME American had to come along to help sing "Have a Nice Day" properly. (No, not what I would have chosen, but...)
But then it was back to the archive, to try to finish up the "Verzeichnis der dienende knechte". 600 entries on all the non-local apprentices and journeymen in Konstanz at the turn of the 16th century, so very useful, but also very long.
"...We'll make him read obscure sources (lala la)
The weirdest we can find (lala la)
He'll have to data-entry them all
Then we'll monitor his mind!"
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OK, I should really be working on the introduction to my dissertation, but this is just too good to pass up...

Go to Wikipedia. Type in your birth date (but not year). List three events that happened on your birthday. List two important birthdays and one interesting death. Post this in your journal.
Read more... )

Meantime: we had our wonderful landlady (and her husband) over for dinner last night: initially planned to do Chicken Chasseur, but they don´t usually eat heavily in the evening. So I was going to do Mulligatawny Soup and popovers, until Grace (somewhat braindead after a week on a farm, but apparently more alert than I) reminded me that we don´t actually have any muffin tins. So we went the Traditional American route, with fried chicken and biscuits. And actually managed to keep conversation going through dinner. Go us!
Oh, and we fly to Istanbul on Wednesday...
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Yesterday was the first real day of Spring here--it abruptly got a lot warmer, and the crocuses that had been coming up slowly for the previous week seemed to be everywhere. It also cleared up, and the view was unbelievable.
Went to the Markuskirche in the morning, mostly to find out whether it was, in fact, some small remaining bit of the medieval Schottenkloster (founded by Irish monks from Regensburg). Never got a chance to find out: the congregation (small, apparently from a breakaway Lutheran group) didn´t seem very encouraging to people standing around after the service. The wall paintings, though, looked 17th century (more by their architectural style than the figures), so it probably wasn´t. But who knows.
Much clearer was the church in Wolmatingen, these days a suburb of Konstanz but preserving a lot of the feel of a separate settlement. Medieval tower and very pretty 15th c. chancel; modern nave done (for once) tastefully and with lots of light. Oh, and 15th c. altarpiece. I´ll have to go back for a closer look sometime when I´m not disturbing a baptism. (Mental process: "Is this some kind of childrens´service?? ...Oh right. Other people normally baptise children OUTSIDE the main Sunday service...")
On the way to Wolmatingen, I´d seen what looked like ANOTHER church tower to my right, so after I´d cycled round to look at assorted half-timbered houses, I went in search of it. Turned out to be the Protestant church, but because it was locked I never DID find out whether it was Romanesque or just the best imitation I´ve ever seen. If it was original, I´d lay bets it was a castle church at some point: perfect site for one...
Meantime, I´m running out of material in the Konstanz archive, and spending too much time reading Harry Potter 5 instead of figuring out when I´m going to go to other places. Ah well...
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...So the night before last we were attempting to watch Russian Ark (A rather bizarre film--it´s a tour of the Hermitage Palace in St. Petersburg´s history and art collections, all in one shot). I say attempting, because a) the various video programs on our computers have issues, and b) on Grace´s computer, it kept stalling at chapter 12. Hence, I tried it out on MY computer. And, after some trial and error, manage to get it to actually work. So I invited Grace over to our makeshift couch/daybed, and plugged it in.
A word about plugs. My computer has the standard power converter etc., but German plugs have a different shape than US ones; so while the computer is perfectly happy to run on European current, it needs a plug adaptor. For this purpose, I use an old thing that I think was actually designed for electric rasers.
So you can probably imagine what happened when I tried plugging this arrangement into the (rather old) multiple-plug extension cord under the day bed.
Yep. The lights went out. We managed to remain calm. Grace discovered that the lights over the kitchen sink and in the bathroom still worked; I went out into the front hall and located the fuse box for the building. Unfortunately, it WAS a fuse box...and I have never been initiated into the anceient art of Fuse Replacement. Nor were there any spare fuses, either there or (after some hurried searching) in the apartment.
I called the Hausverwaltung. No response. I looked up the word for "blew a fuse" (man sagt tatsächlich, "Die Sicherung ist durchgebrannt"), and called our landlord´s secretary.
"Herr Burson! How nice to hear from you! It´s been a long time! How are you?"
"Im moment nicht so gut...Die Sicherung ist durchgebrannt..."
We discussed this for a few minutes, discovering in the process that NEITHER of us actually knew the word for fuse. She said she would call her husband, who hopefully would.
Half an hour and a phone call to my landlord later, she was there, with husband, who examined the fuse box and revealed that there were in fact no fuses in the plugs for our apartment. We knocked on the door of our neighbor (whom we'd never met), in the hope of advice and/or spare fuses.
"Do you think it's too late?" flustered Frau Rabe. "I can hear him watching television..." I replied. He proved to be a somewhat irascible old man, but he gave us the vital information that HIS electricity was controlled by a separate panel. Armed with this information, we opened the closet by the front door, and discovered a row of Stromunterbrecher (Argh, what's that in English again?) Mission accomplished.
But I still don't know how to change a fuse.

Meantime, it's Saint Patrick's day. I feel like I ought to be out at an Irish pub drinking green beer, but I'm really not in the mood. Top o' the evening to ye, though!
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Rosenmontag: How could we be bored?

You know, I never thought it would be POSSIBLE to be bored during Carnival, least of all during a parade. And yet, that was exactly what happened on Sunday afternoon. There was a parade of EVERYBODY involved in Fastnacht, from the five solid minutes of Blätzle at the beginning to the Waldwichtel house at the end. In between came innumerable bands, witches, wizards, goblins, people in oddly terrifying traditional costumes, and combinations of the above, as well as the pirate ship, the castle from the Stefansplatz dance party (pretty unbelievable, considering how narrow the streets are), the Kaiser riding on a zeppelin. It should have been exciting, fascinating. After three hours of it, it was pretty boring. Probably a lot more interesting if you´re marching.
Read more... )
A lot of the last couple of days of Vasnacht was like that, actually--I felt like I should be having fun, but was actually not doing anything very interesting. Unfortunately, we didn´t have anyone to go party with--almost everyone was out of town or unreachable, and my TANDEM-partnerin hates masks and brass bands, and was buried under an essay on eucharistic theology into the bargain. And on Monday, for the last night of carnival, Johann Albrecht was so packed out that you couldn´t get in, whereas every place else in the Niederburg seemed to be deserted as a result...
As such, I never did find out what Rosenmontag was supposed to be about.

Mardi Gras: We were late for the bonfire of the vanities
As I should have expected, Konstanz sees Fasnacht out in style. Unfortunately, we didn´t know this, and so missed most of it. We did get to the tail end of them burning a bonfire of the vanities on Stephansplatz, complete with bands and theatrically weeping Waldwichtel, but we didn´t actually see what was on there. And we missed the blazing Blätzle dummy on the Augustinerplatz, and the bit where the Seegeister are ceremonially banished back to the depths of the lake. They should really print up a weekend schedule...
As we headed home, the bands were marching their way out too. People were still headed for the pubs, but the mood was quieter, and a small boy remarked, in response to some comment "Nein, Fasnacht ist schon vorbei."

Donnerstag nach der alten Vasnacht: Despite the snow
Perhaps it´s not surprising, given how early they put them up, that the Niederburg only today began taking down the Fastnacht banners. Or perhaps it was the snow, which has given us little accumulation but a lot of white-outs, and caused bus service up to the Uni to be cancelled this evening. (Wusses. The slope isn´t THAT steep. They should see Ithaca).
It´s Donrstag vor Invocavit. I can believe that it´s Lent. I can´t believe I´m more than half way through the year. yikes.
I also can´t believe that it´s also (and much more importantly) Thursday Before the Berlin Fulbright Conference. Again, how time flies.
Well, I guess that´ll make up for my relatively low-key Fasnacht.
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Being some reflections (architectural, liturgical, sociological) on Narrengottesdienst (the Fools´ Service) at St. Stefanskirche in Konstanz.
We´ll start with the building. I´d never been in for a service before, since I usually go to the Münster when the Old Catholics aren´t having a service and I want to go to church but am not in a lutheran mood. St. Stefan´s claims to be the city´s oldest parish church, which is at least arguably true. The tower´s a familiar landmark, and Margaret and Catherine may recall the statues of the church´s patron and (randomly) of John of Nepomuk outside. Inside, the Nave, with its medieval architecture, neo-gothic glass, and 16th and 19th century murals more or less works, and manages to include some renaissance monuments, modernist stations of the cross, and a rococo organ without too much difficulty. The Chancel, however, got Rococo´d at some point in its past, and while that´s unfortunate in itself, it´s pretty restrained and would be relatively attractive...if someone in the 19th century hadn´t partly re-gothicked it. As it is, the line of the original east window protrudes rather crudely through an 18th century cornice, and the bright colors of gothic revival windows clash horribly with the pastels of the celing painting. Moral of the story: if you´re going to redo a building, at least for the love of God make a thorough job of it.

Anyhoo, back to people wearing silly clothes. (And this time, it´s not just the clergy!)

Narrengottesdiest appears to be a well-established tradition (the Lutherans wera having one too), whereby people bring their costumes--and some of the atmosphere--of carnival to church, both literally and metaphorically. So the church was full of Blätzle and people in wizard costumes and camel outfits and carnival masks, we were played in with a brass band (also in wizard this a tradition, or just Potter-mania?), and the first reading was the Emperor´s New Clothes. (No, before the liturgists ask, there was no mocking of church services in general--no black puddings, or burning shoes in thurifers...) The Gospel, appropriately enough, was Mark 2:18-22: which of course has to do with fasting vs rejoicing, clothing, and wine, the themes of the week. And the sermon took this up, calling on the church to be willing to embrace the new and the strange without rejecting the old. Admittedly, some of the new things which the priest was praising were the arrival of some certain conservative politicians on the German and Catholic scene...but I´m willing to forgive him. He did the whole thing in verse.
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One of the ways in which Germans are very uninhibited is that they have very little hesitation about looking in one's windows. This was brought home to me with particular force around five yesterday afternoon, when a trio of strangely dressed (and slightly tipsy) people were looking in at me as I sat at my computer, commenting on the apartment and tapping on the window to tell me I should come out. I did, so they would get off my case.
"Ho Narro!"
"Ho Narro! Why are you still inside? You should be out partying! Are you working? Are you Swiss??"
"You're right..." "You're Swiss?" (Apparently they have a reputation for being excessively hard-working)
"No, I'm actually American. I meant..."
"Oh, you're American?" [Usual round of 'Where in America are you from?', etc., follows] "Do you live here? You should know that there's going to be a parade going down this street in two hours--you should probably close the shutters. And you should wear a sort of long white dress..."

I already did know that, actually. There's a tradition of dressing up in nightshirts on Schmötzige Donrstag (Dirty Thursday, the beginning of Carnival, for those with short memories). So I'd taken Grace's nightdress up to the Uni for their Fasnacht party earlier that afternoon, only to discover that it ended at three--greatly to the distress of Grace (wearing multiple sets of clothing and a bath brush in her guise as the "Shower witch") and her Tandem Partner, who'd arranged to meet her at...3:15. We chatted for a bit anyway with her and a Swabian Texan whose family runs a vineyard, then went back to the important task of checking email.

But I didn't know that the parade was happening at 7, specifically. So I rushed dinner onto the table, and then Grace and I got attired again, armed ourselves with chocolate, and headed out.
There were no Blätzle this time, but EVERYONE in the street seemed to be wearing nightshirts (an optical illusion--there were plenty in pirate outfits, Waldwichtel costumes, or even (God forbid) normal clothes, but they were the minority). When the parade showed up, there were more bands, and this time also fire...though noone juggling--v disappointing, though probably wise, given the croud. What there mostly was was a lot of schoolchildren, pausing in front of the many bands to chant before sprinting down the street, or caarrying huge signs on their shoulders that made fun of their teachers. Very cool, even without the giant people. Unlike yesterday's parade, it was a little hard to tell when this one ended, but it did and everyone went back to the enormous random block party that had already begun. The house next door had turned itself into a bar/headquarters for one of the many Besenwirtschäfte (societies of people who parade around with brooms), which was packed with people like us drinking wine and trying to dance to Sex Bomb. The music there and at the other place in the fifteenth-century basement across the street gave the impression that we'd been transported back to a Williams party in the 90s, but it was a great deal more civilized.
But people were still partying hard. We walked around the city, exclaiming at the pirate ship parked in the Münsterplatz and the giant devil with the disco ball just beyond; joined hordes of German teenagers dancing to techno on Stefansplatz (which I think I found a lot more fun than Grace); and listened to yet another de facto Battle of the Bands on the Obermarkt.
Yes, this event IS like a marching band convention collided with a Ren Faire and a couple of rather strange college theme parties. And possibly also an acid trip, given how bizarre some of the people and/or things look. Blätzle, for example.
Today the streets were covered with broken glass, discarded pizza plates, and confetti. No one was bothering to clean it up--possibly they too had hangovers, or possibly thhey just figured that trying to clean up before this thing ends would just be an exercise in futility. Tonight things are quieter, ironically enough, and I'm looking forward to getting a decent amount of sleep for a change. But nonetheless, Ho Narro! to all of you whose Mardi Gras is less exciting than ours.

Hm. I could use some more raisin bread...
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Although the decorations have been up practically since Christmas, and Blätzle (people in the traditional Fas(t)nacht costume which looks kind of like an early medieval rendering of a chicken) have been wandering about the place for several weeks, often carrying musical instruments, yesterday night was the official beginning of Fasnacht. We went out to watch the opening parade, which had about a zillion different groups. Unfortunately, I´d forgotten to clear the photos off the camera before we headed out so we didn´t have a lot of space for more. Grace has no doubt already posted what we did get: the official Night watch, complete with real lanterns and replica halbards, which should amuse Catherine, people and their kids in random costumes, slightly scary guys in knee pants and hoods (I was wishing for my garb...), and some of the gajillions of groups in the parade. But no camera could really get the flavor of the occasion. The impressiveness of people throwing flags of Konstanz and various Narrenzünfte (fools´guilds) into the air and catching them doesn´t translate well, even onto video. There´s no way to photograph the sound of two dozen Blätzle, in rainbow and black feathers and covered with bells, going by. And a camera can´t really capture the mood of the drunk ravers in skin-tight clothing skipping against the direction of the parade while shouting the traditional cry of "Ho Narro!" (as the crowd shouted it back at them, while trying to get them out of the way). Or the way the sound of a dozen guys in what look like gorilla suits all twirling wooden noisemakers...or the tiny bit of primeval panic when they charge you (and possibly throw glitter at you). I guess you could get a photo of the guy who looked like Jesus selling sausages and beer in the trailor pulled by a tractor...but that wouldn´t include the techno beat. And I tried this morning to get photos of the people cracking whips, but that doesn´t get the explosive noise, or the excitement. And of course, cameras aren´t good at getting the THUMP in your very bowels as a band all wearing goblin heads goes by.
Oh yes. There were bands. The WCMB (or the YPMB, for that matter) would have been having WAY too much fun. And hey, they´ve already GOT the basic requirement of silly hats.
Really cool. And ruling. Lots of beer, but people of all ages from retirees to babies marching while wearing silly--and yet somehow numinous--costumes. Later on, when we went out again, the bratwurst stands were in full operation, the X-treme Guggenmusik (minus most of their goblin heads, but still with the banner of Imperia with one) were holding an impromptu concert on the Münsterplatz, while the Überlinger Löwen (more like the medieval idea of a lion--all in red, and with crowns) had taken over the Leckere Waffeln place near our apartment. Later still (when I went out to see if anything was going to be open today), they´d teamed up with a band in silly peasant hats to sing and dance on the Münsterplatz. I joined in, despite not knowing any of the words (note: they should really have taught us some drinking songs in Landeskunde). And the "Jacobiner" had taken over the square by the Tiergarten (with the statue of a renowned Fasnacht standup comic in the middle), continuing 200 years of the Konstanzer making fun of the French revolutionary army that took over the city in the 1790s.
Professor Patschovsky warned us that this was the one time of year when we´d probably want the shutters on the apartment. We didn´t realize that we´d want them (and earplugs) not at midnight, but at 6:30 AM, when what must have been a "Coalition of the awake" paraded down Konradigasse. With a band. Twice.
I can understand now why there´s a "No Narro" party for people fed up with the whole business. But I still think it´s pretty damn cool.
It´s now Schmötzige Donrstag (dirty Thursday). Everything is closed except the bars and restaurants, a number of additional examples of which have sprung into existance, seemingly ex nihilo. And I´m up at the Uni for IT´s Fasnacht party. Which reminds me...I need to get into costume. By this evening, I´ll probably be speaking with a swiss accent (kinda like Margaret...). So more later.
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On Saturday I got up at a ridiculous hour to go hiking )

On my return, Grace and I went to the Uni-Ball, though we didn´t stay that long, being understandably a bit tired...

Meantime, Friday I met my Tandem (English/German conversation help) partner Britta, and witnessed something I thought I would never see: the Uni handing out free food.
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Yes indeed: yesterday there was a knock on the door, and I opened it to admit a large electrician in coveralls, here to have a look at the Waschmaschine situation. I took him down to the basement, and showed him the washing mashine, the taped together plumbing and the non-functioning pump. Then had to do this a couple more times as we were joined by
Another guy in coveralls (Installateur, which more or less=plumber), who opened up the pump (strong smell of sulpher) and the piping (further gush of water and smell of something growing...). In THEORY he´ll be back tomorrow to fix the pump.
Landlord´s wonderful scretary
Representative of the building management, who informed us that they now want to have the possibility of MULTIPLE washing mashines in this part of the basement, with SEPARATE plugs.
By this point, with five people all examining the situation, it really was starting to resemble the New Cooker Sketch...
choco_frosh: Borrowed from Sovay, who borrowed it from somewhere else... (Lord Peter)
I've also jumped on the bandwagon of naming one's journal after one's place of residence (as with
In the late middle ages, Schreibergasse ("Scribes' Street"), in the German city of Konstanz, was where all the minor clergy and bureaucrats lived. These guys staffed the courts of the Offizial and the Ammann (officials of the bishop, in theory at least), they compiled the tax registers and the town chronicles, they wrote the plays and the anti-peasant satires. If I had lived then, I would have been hanging out with them in the bar at the sign of Purgatory; as it is, I'm spending next year looking at their work for my dissertation. And living on their street, even if they changed the name to Konradigasse in the nineteenth century.
(Silly Germans. In this, I much prefer England, where Lombard St. remains obstinately Lombard St., centuries after Edward I's Italian bankers went bankrupt and moved back to Lucca, and Mickelgate stays Mickelgate eevn after the Danes have thoroughly assimilated into a local population who's forgotten that it once meant Main Street. But I digress. At least it's still a Gasse instead of a Strasse)

Anyway, this is my blog! Hurray! (Yes Seth, I know I should have just built my own, but I'm lazy). Entries here will appear as I feel like it, or have spare time (hah!), or have exciting things happen.

The icon is borrowed from Sovay, who got it from mswyrr. (Yes, I know, the prototype of Peter had a more pronounced chin). Anyway, I'll keep it until I create an icon of my own. Anyone know where I can find downloadable images from Beneventan Exultet Rolls...?


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