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September 25th, 2015


09:07 pm - Guitar solos
Guitar solo faces make a lot more sense when the guitars are replaced with giant slugs.

Strangely true.

I can't bring myself to put this into my "interesting links" feed, but it's been amusing me every time I tab by it for the last two days.

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September 23rd, 2015


03:43 pm - Woohoo! Spirit Island!
About 3.5 years ago, I started work on a game called Spirit Island. Playtesters loved it all out of proportion to how clunky it was (being a very early prototype), so I had a pretty good idea this would be something to pursue.

Of course, about 3 years ago, I became a dad. So board game development slowed way down.

But now, Spirit Island is on Kickstarter! The game's undergone a huge amount of development, and I think it's awesome.

If you haven't haven't heard me talk about it already... I'm not entirely sure how that happened. But here's the quick overview. It's a cooperative game with a different take on a common euro trope: you're not colonizing anywhere; rather, you're trying to drive off invaders from beyond the seas before they overrun and colonize your island. It's a "gamer's game" - heavier than many co-ops out there, perhaps a touch below Mage Knight or Robinson Crusoe. It plays 1-4 players, and takes about 90-120 minutes. Play is simultaneous, so you're involved for the whole time. Every Spirit plays quite differently, and each game plays differently, as the spirits will grow in different ways.

There's loads more information on the Kickstarter page, on the BGG page, and on the designer diary I'm just starting on BGG. I'm also happy to answer questions here - or on the announce I posted to the G+ Board Games community, since that's a little more prominent than my private blog, and the answers will be seen by more people.

The Kickstarter went up yesterday, and is already >80% funded, so it looks like there'll be lots of stretch goals as free bennies / upgrades. :) Spirit Island is being published by Greater Than Games (of Sentinels fame), who have substantial experience in printing games and Kickstarter fulfillment.

If the game interests you, I hope you'll check it out! If you know folks you think would especially like it, pass the word along to them *if* you feel comfortable doing so! Thanks!

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March 15th, 2015


12:02 pm - Link Roundups: switching to syndication
I'm changing how I share links - instead of making topic-grouped posts, I'm using Pinboard and tagging links "interesting" that I would have saved for a Link Roundup. There are two ways to read them:

1. To read here on LJ, add mindways_links to your reading list. (Thanks jennet!)

2. To read in the RSS reader of your choice, go to my "tagged: interesting" page - there's an RSS link in the upper-right.

I have a huge backlog of bookmarks to pull in from Instapaper, so sometime this spring the feed will go high-volume for a little while, but after that it'll settle back down to a link every day or two on average. I always culled about 30% of my saved links during collation, so you might find the quality slightly lower... or slightly higher. :)

In addition to saving me oodles of time, you can now search my Pinboard account. (Sometime later this year or next, I'm hoping to go through my old Link Roundup posts here and put them on Pinboard, for just this purpose.)
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December 7th, 2014


05:35 pm - Link roundup and musings, protest edition
I've been following as I can the rising anger and protests over Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and others. A few tabs that have stayed open for me to read/re-read:

The narrative after a shooting.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association does not represent all St. Louis police officers.

I think I linked to this in a past post, but JIC not: What I've learned from two years collecting data on police killings. (The site set up for this is fatalencounters.org. It is a 501(c)3 public charity; donations to it are tax-deductible. They're also trying to get a grant, with letters of support helpful through Dec 12th?)

~ ~ ~

I am wondering where this is going to go. I am hoping that this is true, and if it is, that enough people will rise to the occasion to effect something resembling real change.

By reputation, my generation is both cynical and pragmatic. I like the latter, but am sometimes sad at the amount of the former in conversations about whether personal action - be it protests, writing legislators, voting, or any other activism - can ever effect real change. When I look at history and at other countries, this cynicism seems misapplied; change can totally happen. It is just rarely easy.

I just looked up JFK's speech because of the "not because they are easy, but because they are hard" quote. But reading, I think the later portion applies better: ".... because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win...."


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April 27th, 2014


08:58 am - Games for kids
I just assembled this for a friend, looked at it, and thought, there are probably other parents who could use this.

So, you're looking for some boardgames for your 2.5-4 year olds? Chutes & Ladders is not your only option!

GENERALLY: boardgamegeek.com has a sub-domain specifically for children's games, meaning you can browse them separately. There's also a list with single-paragraph descriptions of many of the top games.

FOR KIDS 2.5 - 4 YEARS OLD: A large number of GeekLists of "games appropriate for kids" have been posted. I did a search on "kids" (checking "title only"), and on the first two pages of results found the following lists. (Make sure to look at the descriptions; some of these are for 3-4 year olds, others are for families including slightly older kids.)

The best of what I saw:
* http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/153654/games-my-kids-play-ages-2-and-up
* http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/69681/games-i-play-with-my-kids
* http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/155217/games-for-young-kids
* http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/147882/growing-up-geeky-board-gaming-with-my-kids
* http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/167871/best-and-popular-most-games-for-toddlers-2-3-years

Still pretty useful:
* http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/51727/the-best-game-for-children-under-6-gg-on-offer
* http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/151927/great-games-for-young-kids-and-ones-that-look-grea
* http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/158342/calling-all-geek-parents-best-games-for-kids-by

Slightly different in approach (and still useful):
* A list of adult games for which you can simplify rules for kids
* A page linking to lists of games purely by kids' ages, each year from 2 - 6.

MY EXPERIENCES - some games that I personally have seen / heard of working well, or which I've played and think might work well:
* Ingenious - Omit scoring. Virtually every play is legal; kids wanting direction rather than a pastime can try "place like colors next to each other".
* I've played both Botswana and Coloretto with a 5-year-old, who handled them full-rules no problem. The figures from Botswana might be a hit even if the game isn't.
* Loopin' Louie is a dexterity game with a little motorized guy in a plane who goes around and around, "stealing" (knocking over) players' chickens. Fun for adults, too.
* I've heard Blokus is great - the pieces are pretty and fun for unstructured play, and the game rules are simple enough for young kids to learn. Note: small pieces are a choking hazard for visiting younger kids. (There is apparently a "Blokus Jr" version, but I didn't know that until doing this research; most seem to find the base game fine.)
* The various Carcassonne titles can be fun if you start them out purely as a tile-matching game, then eventually add meeples, one type at a time. (Farmers last.)
* Qwirkle has shapes and colors. I've seen advice to start with one piece at a time and just focus on finding a place to play it legally. (Like Ingenious, omit scoring.)
* I've played Hey, That's My Fish!, though not with kids - I hear it works pretty well, though adults are likely to win. The rules are simple enough I can imagine young kids learning.
* And finally, one game I've never played but always hear mentioned as a good kids' game that adults will find engaging is Gulo Gulo, which will hopefully be coming back into print this year.

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March 6th, 2014


10:46 am - Any math-y folks got an idea on this?
I'm looking to make a randomizer deck of 24 cards(*) which provides me an as-fair-as-possible random choice between a set of items.

If the set of items were constant, this would be easy. To choose between A/B/C/D, I put each letter on 6 cards. To choose between A/B/C/D/E, I put each letter on 5 cards, except for one letter which gets 4; that's as close as I can get.

However, the set of items in play to choose from is variable. It'll be some non-empty subset of (A,B,C,D,E,F). So it could be "choose between B/E", or "choose between A/C/E/F", or "choose between all 6", or any other combination.

Were I using a (massive) deck of 720 cards, there'd be an easy approach: put one possible ordering of A/B/C/D/E/F on every card. Choose whichever item comes first in that ordering. (Eg: I'm picking between B, D and E. If I draw D-C-A-F-B-E, that chooses D. If I draw F-A-B-C-E-D, that chooses B, because F and A aren't valid choices.)

But I don't have nearly 720 cards to work with. I feel (perhaps incorrectly) like the above technique should be able to get within spitting distance of fair randomization with a much lower number of cards, but am not at all sure what orderings to use. If I work with simple patterns, it's very easy to give each letter equivalent frequency in every position (1st through 6th) - but patterns introduce biases. Eg: simple rotations (A-B-C-D-E-F // B-C-D-E-F-A // etc) will select E over F five-sixths of the time, and even if you also mirror those orderings (F-E-D-C-B-A // A-F-E-D-C-B // etc) you'll still rarely choose D out of (C,D,E).

Any thoughts?

(*) = I'm oversimplifying - these randomizers appear along the bottom of another type of card, which is why I'm limited to exactly 24.

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February 18th, 2014


04:58 pm - "In the Red corner... Gol-goroth!"
I know enough mythos fans - and luchador fans - that I really ought to post a link to Los Cthuluchadores, an Elder Wrestling boardgame designed by a couple of folks I know. (I've not tried it, so I've no idea how it plays.)

I've been accumulating interesting links but not posting them; I should fix that. Winter is a little too good at sucking energy away.

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January 30th, 2014


12:55 pm - Link roundup, Robot Hugs edition
* Healthy Relationships - not one-size-fits-all.
* Best Night Ever - gee, can't imagine why this speaks to me. :P
* I Am Not Your Teachable Moment - avoid Othering, but also avoid Pestering.
* Body Policing Police
* Science! The Movie!
* Solstice - I'm more cold-sensitive than dark-sensitive, so this one speaks to me.
* But Men! - awesome meta-example. Saving so can link to as needed.

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November 13th, 2013


11:19 am - Obduction... and Sentris
The Obduction kickstarter is in its final days, just shy of goal, and not far off from Oculus Rift support. Woo!

But the one that has me going "huh!" is Sentris, a hybrid puzzle game / musical creation tool1. The prototype looks like a really neat blend of the two, with each supporting the other.

(I particularly like that some of her favorite compositions have come from accidental poor plays. The serendipity of discovery. :)

1 "Tool" isn't the right word, I don't think. "Toy" is closer, but not quite right either; it's correct in the sense of "something to fiddle around / play with", but it has perjorative connotations of frivolity that don't seem appropriate here.

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October 17th, 2013


12:46 pm - 3 Kickstarters makes a post?
1. I'm a big fan of public-domain art1. And there's a fair body of music in the public domain that has no freely available recordings of that music. The Musopen project is working on changing that; their current project is all of Chopin's works - plus some original compositions2, if they hit a stretch goal they're less than $2K from.

2. Are you a fan of The Middleman3? They're crowdfunding a new Middleman graphic novel. It's $5K from being printed in color.

3. I'm not a huge video gamer. When inXile announced their kickstarter for Torment - a spiritual successor to the deepest (and most assumption-challenging) CRPG I'd ever played4 - I thought that was about as excited as I could get about a video game.

I... may have been wrong.

It turns out that Cyan Entertainment - the makers of Myst and Riven - is still out there, making games.5 This morning, they put up a Kickstarter.

They'd like to create a spiritual successor to Myst. New game, new world, but aiming for a similar experience.

Yes. Yes, please.

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September 19th, 2013


02:53 pm - Link roundup, visual edition
Video of what happens when you wring out a washcloth in space.

A rather pretty-looking Tarot on Kickstarter.

There is a lizard which repels predators by squirting blood from its eyes. [YouTube] Found via the "WTF, Evolution?" Tumblr.

Lovely RegEx crossword puzzle from this (or last?) year's Mystery Hunt. Have fun!1 (OK, not actually visual. :)

Violin song/video: Elements [YouTube].


1 Checksum: once complete, the MD5 of the letters left-to-right, top-to-bottom is 3353E2A493AD55391DF50CCD824E1967.


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September 10th, 2013


07:14 pm - Seeking recs on colonial imperialism?
TL;DR I'm looking for information on functional differences between the colonization styles of different nations during the Age of Exploration / Age of Imperialism. Any recommendations?

Long version: I'm currently working on a cooperative board game in which the antagonists are, in general, colonizing Europeans.

To boost the difficulty of the game1, players can fight against specific colonizing Europeans2 - eg, a French Agricultural Colony, or Spanish Treasure Seekers.

Ideally, I'd like these antagonists to (at least a little) reflect the strengths / weaknesses / cultures / peculiarities of the historical countries in question. Which means I need to learn how those countries did their colonizing.

One friend pointed me at Civilization: The West and the Rest, which was helpful3, but I'm looking for more. I have not turned up much via internet searching - plenty of compare / contrasts on the home nations themselves, but not their methods / strengths of colonization.

Anyone have any suggestions?

1 Because cooperative games need difficulty boosts to remain challenging - and ideally, they get harder in ways which mix up the gameplay, though that's less common.

2 Or non-European colonizers - but the board-game trope I'm inverting tends to center around Europeans (Puerto Rico, Goa, Navegador, Colonial, Age of Empires, Endeavor, etc.), so I'm going there first.

3 The middle chunk of that book was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for - it did, eg, a compare-contrast of English colonies with the Spanish exploration of South America. Also some info on French and German colonies, esp. in Africa.

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August 29th, 2013


02:05 pm - Memory, and its price
How much do I care about remembering who I used to be?

I've just been sorting through the last of my CDs - those few1 which made the cut to be kept by the CD player in our kitchen. Over half of them are mixes, made for other people by me, or for me by other people, and they trigger memories of those people and of those times. If it weren't for the CDs, these recollections would remain dormant, and perhaps fade altogether in time.

Memorabilia. Physically, an object; practically, a hook that drags reflections of the past into the present. How much space am I willing to devote to them? How much time am I willing to spend on perusing them, turning delicate reminiscences over in my mind for a while before putting them back in their boxes?

Sometimes it's pleasant to recall who I've been: nostalgia can be a heady drug, and my memorabilia are saturated with it. Sometimes it's painful, or surprising.

In many cases, the choice to throw away an object is the choice to throw away a memory, and to lose a little bit of knowledge about who I was in the past. I almost say "...and to change who I am now", since memory is such a strong part of personal continuity and identity - but if I couldn't recall the memory without the object, how much is it really informing my sense of self, anyway?

Stories and histories teach us that to forget one's past is dangerous, unmooring, a risky and perhaps deplorable loss of understanding. But they also teach us that memories can be an anchor, a straitjacket: that one should learn from life and move on, not lose one's self in the past.

How much time, space, and energy do I want to spend on retrospection?2


1 By which I mean "over 100", but hey.
2 Or introspection *about* retrospection? ;)


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July 24th, 2013


11:45 am - Link roundup, your mind edition
A brief reflection on deciding. The line that caught my eye: "You have to say no to a lot of good things to have a great life." Plus, a metaphor to help with deciding among close options.

How your brain behaves when reading fiction. (And a similar article with a focus on storytelling.

Why your mental narrative is wrong.

When really working on something, it helps if it's the top idea in your mind. I find this *incredibly* true, and why I can really only work on 1.5 things effectively at once. (More than one is fine, because my mind needs something else to turn to to get a bit of a break / avoid getting stuck in a rut - but there's only one top thing at any given time, and if it switches too often, the benefits of that get diluted.)

Has anyone read Punished by Rewards?

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June 6th, 2013


10:35 am - Games and controversy: a medium taken too lightly
Games are fun. Ask people to define "what is a game?", and "fun" will probably be mentioned.

But just because something's fun doesn't mean it can't also be serious, or controversial. (Witness: sports, music, movies, sex, reading...) Nor is "fun" mutually exclusive with "meaningful" or "thought-provoking".

A friend recently talked a bit about games and controversy. The post is well worth reading.

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April 30th, 2013


09:26 am - Link roundup, bad decisions edition
A very good TED talk on why we make bad decisions. (video) The speaker is talking about economic decisions, but our brains take many of these shortcuts for non-economic things as well. If you have the 20 minutes to spend, this is well worth watching.

Why we (in the general) don't believe in science.

An article on economic fallacies that won't die - #6 is a little deceptive1, and I couldn't swear #4 is true (haven't seen data / studies), but the others seem spot-on to me.

Will Wheaton: Depression Lies.

An excellent explanation of why software development task estimates are routinely off by a factor of 2-3, using the California coastline as a metaphor. (The site will say you can only see the top answer; the top answer is the interesting one.)

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April 16th, 2013


09:14 pm - Any recs for a PCP?
I switched primary care doctors a year or two back, and the new one isn't working well for me.

Does anyone in the Boston area have a primary physician they'd recommend?

I tend to strongly prefer doctors who do not make me feel like the appointment is rushed, who are happy to explain medical issues in detail1, and who have a network of really good specialists to whom they refer2. No gender preference, no age preference.

1 Bad: "TMJ problems are caused by a misalignment in your jaw." Good: "[draws quick sketch of jaw structure] This is the temporomandibular joint. This small disc of cartilage both acts as a pivot for your lower jaw's rotation, and slides forward as your jaw opens. It's held in place by a number of ligaments. If those ligaments get stretched, the disc can develop a tendency to start slipping off, which will make opening and closing your jaw problematic or painful. That jolting jaw-crack you mentioned just before your jaw starts working again? That's the disc popping back into its correct location."3

2 I suspect this aspect of being a PCP is underrated / undervalued by many.

3 I may have details wrong here, but you get the idea.


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April 2nd, 2013


03:01 pm - Torment: Tides of Numenera
I know a number of folks who enjoyed playing Planescape: Torment back in the day. If you're one of them, you might want to check out the Kickstarter for Torment: Tides of Numenera that's wrapping up in a few days. It's not a direct sequel, but as you might guess from the name, it's intended as a spiritual successor in many ways. They have a number of people on-board who worked on P:T, and will be adding one of the P:T lead developers if they reach another stretch goal or two.

(They've also brought Patrick Rothfuss on-board for some writing work, which is neat.)

If you've backed it, note that they have forums where you can propose things for the game and vote/comment on proposals.

The notional release date is 2015 sometime (it was Dec 2014, but they've hit so many stretch goals they're going to have to take longer), so even if they hit all their deadlines this game isn't seeing light of day for a while. That works just fine for me; perhaps I'll have more time to play computer games two years down the road. :)

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March 31st, 2013


10:06 am - Link roundup, violence edition
* Should we be treating violence like a contagious disease?

* A interesting paper on bystanders helping to de-escalate (or escalate) violent confrontations. One conclusion: the "bystander effect" - where people get involved less if there are many bystanders - may not apply to episodes of violence.

* Gun control and violence: statistics vs. tribal mindset.

* We tend to underrate frequency of exposure as a factor on day-to-day risks. Or: "how a daily shower is like camping under a dead tree".

* While violence is certainly a going concern in modern society, overall, the world is much less violent than it has historically been. (Video)

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February 8th, 2013


06:19 pm - Kind of nice out there...
I recently got back in from Snowblowing Round One1, and it's actually rather lovely out there. There's the sound-muffling of snow overlaid by a faint crystalline rustle from icy snowflakes impacting glasses or windows, and a whirling cone of white glints illuminated by the LED streetlight's beam.

It's wet and heavy snow, which will make shoveling a bear - but it's fantastic for snowballs and snowmen, and once the stuff hits the ground it's not moving around much despite the middling gusts of wind, which means snowblowing now may actually help the digging out later.2

While I was out, two different neighbors came by walking dogs, one of whom was Very Excited At All The Snow.

It's the sort of night where it would be fun to wander from friend's house to friend's house, accepting that at some point the storm would likely get bad enough to prevent further travel, choosing where you were crashing for the next 24-48 hours. (Or, conversely, to host friends doing the same, keeping tea and hot chocolate and snacks in ready supply, and making up the guest bed for whomever ended up at your place by Blizzard Roulette.) But my friends are distant enough to make the safety of this notion dubious, among other problems, and I'm not close enough to any of our neighbors to feel like going over and knocking.3

So instead, I'm staying in, drinking tea, enjoying a quiet house, and getting some brainless, repetitive tasks that I've been putting off for 3+ years done with.

1 Fight!
2 Later Addendum: Nope. As temperatures fell, the snow got less sticky, and as of 10ish snow depth is being entirely determined by wind patterns.
3 I feel like I *could* go over and knock, and would likely be made welcome; I'm just not in the mood for that, because they're acquaintances, not friends.


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04:56 pm - Timely
Snow preparations complete and ready to hunker down, I check the front vestibule. Behold! A package, delivered earlier in the day.

It is approximately one hundred dollars worth of tea.

Just in time. :)

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December 26th, 2012


02:44 pm - Link roundup, neat things edition
Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of solo string pieces. (This is an understatement.) But this one - titled "Failing" - is awesome.

A comic homage to the pet dog.

How to paint graffiti made out of moss.

3D printers continue to become more mainstream.

I loved the Fool's Errand back in the day. A Fool and His Money has finally been made!

Back issues of OMNI seem to be available for free online?

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October 27th, 2012


01:49 pm - Link roundup, medical-ish edition
Custom-building a new windpipe for someone - how methods are improving.

Human muscle being regenerated with animal help. (Namely, their precious bodily fluidsextracellular matrix tissue.)

There's neural tissue in our guts? Egads! (I mean, there's nerves throughout the body, sure, but this sounds a little more involved than that.)

A subset of autism (perhaps a third of cases?) might have to do with inflammation, starting in the womb.

Hey, a street drug that messes you up like cocaine and amphetamines at the same time! Who thought *that* was a good idea?...

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October 15th, 2012


09:40 pm - Link roundup, working and suchlike edition
[Firefox has gotten so slow it's faster to close tabs and post links.]


Can lessons from restaurants improve hospitals?

I knew that standard 40-hour workweeks - in addition to being good for worker productivity - were a right that was fought for and won by unions. I didn't know that it was acceded to by business leaders because it's also good for business.

Why remote workers are more engaged. (Probably only applies to white-collar office work.)

A new 65-year study concludes that tax cuts don't lead to economic growth. (Approximately. There's more to it than that. But the largest effect of lower high-tier tax rates is, perhaps unsurprisingly, "greater income inequality".)

On the state of the middle class.

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October 5th, 2012


10:43 pm - Turning vegetables into (tasty) food
What are your favorite simple recipes for turning raw vegetables into something tasty?

I'm looking for dishes which require at most:
* ~1-3 different vegetables
* ~0-2 other ingredients (spicing doesn't count vs. this limit)
* Minimal prep time, and minimal to medium cooking time

(I'm looking for things at least a touch more interesting than "steam, salt to taste", though that does meet the criteria as stated.)

EDIT/ADDENDUM: I'm allergic to soy. A small splash of soy sauce I can handle, but soy sauce marinades or tofu as a main ingredient aren't options.

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