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Overture Of The Renewal Symphony Chapter 22: Cemetery Gates

2023.03.28 21:23 Sarjenkat Overture Of The Renewal Symphony Chapter 22: Cemetery Gates

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Task force Heron launched from Eareckson Aeorspace Base the moment it slid out of view of where they knew the orbital track of the ASPS orbital base was.
On board the Falcon heavy troop transport, Major Hardack, known as Headache to his men, made sure everything was ready. The weapons were well lubricated and ready to go, the graphite leaving a dull grey streaking instead of oiled gleam. Tanks were topped off and scrubbers were slapping in as his men made sure all was prepared. Once sealed, they'd have seven days of food, water, and air. "Major Headache, sir, we are twenty minutes out. Fighter escort has engaged, but there's been no response, even when they shot out the known turret emplacements."
"Very well, everyone button up, we're going in for a combat docking. Engage the mag boots, and remember, this is a capture, not a kill, fire only when the mission or yourself is in clear danger. We sweep this 1 kilometer long station, and herd all the people back to the shuttle to exfil back to Earth. That is all"
"Headache's Pills bring relief!" the squad echoed, all long standing vets of many wars. They got up, and in a nearly mechanical set of motions, everyone stood, and held onto the oh shit handles to prepare for a quick docking. The ship nuzzled up, almost as if it was a ravenous beast sliding up to the feeding trough. With a loud bang, the clamps tried a sedate docking, and locked right in. "Seal mated, unlocking hatches, hatches unlocked....GOGOGO!" came over each radio in their headsets. With that, the twenty men slid out the hatch, in pairs, ready for anything.
And that was the first moment Headache felt that things were wrong. He expected resistance, bright lights, and all kinds of chaos. Through the external microphones, they could hear little, except the sound of the air exchangers and some muted beeping from control consoles. "Sir, this place is a tomb. Are you sure they didn't have enough time to escape?" His sergeant was a pain, but he was the best at his job, so Headache tolerated him. "Look, we have reliable reports from the spy that was inserted that they had over twenty thousand people here, packed and crammed in like sardines. There is absolutely no way they could get that many people off a space station in this short a time. Besides, we've been watching them, we'd know if they'd had any ships visit."
The sarge gave a noncommitted chuckle, knowing they'd been soundly routed before because of some unknown happenings. Headache knew this had to be a trap, his senses were screaming at him, but he didn't know why.
Private Bates said lazily, "Major, something's screwy with my LIDAR, it's not showing anything but us and the ships."
Headache ade a snap judgement. "Ignore LIDAR, use Dead Reckoning trackers and keep your heads on swivels. Keep in groups of 4. Silent spread, move out."
The boots moved silently, the bottoms padded with smart material that could muffle footsteps. Meanwhile, the suit's active camouflage made them all look clear, but still seen, like a blur of air in their places. Each team split off, checking door to door.
"Sir, none of these doors are open. We started forcing one open, but turns out it's unfinished areas of the station. All the doors here have similar indicators, so it seems we caught them in mid construction."
Headache considered. "Ok, give each door a quick weld. We don't want them coming in behind us through those doors.." At that, each team whipped out small strips of sticky material. They pressed it, then snapped a capsule in the end of it. With a flare of sparks, the frame and door glowed red in a line, and welded shut.
For over two hours, they slowly cleared the hall to the first bulkhead. "Sir, something is wrong here. The DRT says we've gone 200 meters in, but the LIDAR...."
Headache snarled "I said forget the LIDAR, they're jamming it. Ignore what you're feeling, it's nothing."
After the first bulkhead, things started getting quite odd. For one, once they stepped beyond the bulkhead, the lights were down. Their night vision showed things fine, but again, not one soul or sign of a person.
"Ummm, sir, this is NOT in the blueprints, is it?" the Sergeant asked, puzzlement and nervousness starting to sound. The ceiling was tall, reaching deep into the heavens, and the hall they stood in was massive. The hallway was twice the size of the blueprints, and this ceiling modification wasn't there at all in the plans.
And then Headache realized what he was feeling. He tested it, turning his mag boots off. He shifted and bounced......... "Men, turn your mag boots off, we have earth normal gravity going here. Fan out, search the place."
As they marched, they realized they might be over their heads. When they got to the end of one kilometer, instead of a dead end, they saw a huge vista. A vista of Hell. Across this unnatural plain of carnage and fire, they could see all manner of creatures feasting on each other.
Headache had the men ready their weapons, and silently back off to the shuttle. As they backed off, one beast with a snake's head opened it's mouth, unfurled a cobra's hood, and hissed loudly, "Yooouuuuu were warned!" and the entire horde of thousands all roared before slithering, leaping, and clawing their way to the team.
"OPEN FIRE WEAPONS FREE!" Headache screamed, and let loose with his weapon. The thuds of the butt felt muted as terror leapt in their hearts and minds, launching tungsten rounds at a hungry rate, short bursts flailing into the crowds, the rounds shredding the flesh as the things closed the distance.
But as they backed towards the hatch to the last area, they saw the things did not stop. Headless horrors twisted till new eyes glared at them, and huge maws opened within their mouths, slathering with viscera as they just kept coming. Even a grenade thrown into the horde didn't do a thing to stop them.
They slipped through the hatch and sealed it just in time, as Headache could hear the claws screeching and slamming against the bulkhead. He took a breath, eyes closed. They had a long run back, but they'd make it fine.
"Major? We have a problem here......." the Sarge said shakily, and Headache opened his eyes, to see what fresh nonsense was going on. He saw nothing but an empty hallway that went on as far as anyone could see. "Ok, this is not the way we came. Everyone, tether up, 100 meter spread. Private, you got shit detail, you're up front. Sarge, guard the rear in case those bastards slip through."
At two kilometers, with no end in sight, Headache decided to pull back together, when he noticed something odd. He had no slack on the tether. But,, according to the reel, he still had 95 meters of cable. A quick check and everyone reported the same thing. But, as he reeled it in, the numbers didn't change, but he saw and felt the tether pulling him closer. And he was able to take at least five meters of the cabling. But it took him winding almost 100 meters into his hand to get to the next soldier.
They had no options, going back was suicide, so they trudged on forward. The suits had assist frames that could let them walk while resting, even sleeping. So for days, they kept on the move, dialing back their oxygen to make their supplies last a little longer. Headache hated conserving like this, but after the second day of moving at a quick march, there was no end in sight.
But after six days of monotonous marching, they FINALLY got to the docks. As they got near the airlock, an emergency bulkhead slammed closed behind them, and tentacles started seeping from the walls, almost like animated wires as the metal started reaching for them. Headache saw the idiot light on his display alert his waste disposal system had overloaded, and he felt his urine and feces seep into his suit and run down his leg.
The wires changed shapes, till the demons were growing from the waving shards of metal, all screaming "You were warned, now your souls are ours!" and Headache found his mind snapping as horrors beyond anyone's mere words could convey.
At Edwards Aerospace Base, alerts sounded. On their radar, twenty small objects were incoming from space. Telescopes were able to make out something that looked like old Victorian style coffins, each carried by oversized raven's wings growing from the lids. Flapping like some mockery of nature, the "birds" flew down, ignoring all radio commands, but slowly flying to land on the end of the most distant runway.
As the MP's approached, each coffin landed, and the wings dissolved in a whirl of darkness, as if they turned into soot. From inside each coffin was unhinged screams. As they opened them, they found each member of Task Force Heron bound from head to toe, like flies in a spider's larder. Each one was screaming.
At first, no one could make out what they were screaming. But as they tried to sedate them, they realized it was words.
"They just want left alone. They just want a new home. Leave them alone!"
And each had to be restrained for the remainder of their lives, all members of the task force trying to claw their own eyes out to stop seeing the horrors inflicted upon them.
All the while, ASPS station was sitting in it's new position, it the best place to hide from ALL of Earth's cameras. Right in the blind spot of the James Webb space telescope. Where the station used to be was a simple 10 meter wide chamber with a few hard light projectors.
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2023.03.28 18:22 Hot_Temperature_5754 HOTEL LATVIA: SELL OUT, HANG IN OR PARTNER?

In mid-2013, Amit Sandis sat back in his chair to watch the sunset, wondering what the future would hold in Latvia. Business was starting to look up, and he had a new family to take care of. They had just a few days left in their summer vacation in the Maldives before returning to Latvia to join his two co-owners in making a critical decision. Sandis, together with his two best friends, had, in 2002, followed an entrepreneurial dream to build a five-star hotel in the cultural centre of one of Latvia’s top seaside cities, Liepaja. To achieve that dream, the three co-owners had negotiated and survived many challenges over the past decade.
After several early years of confidence and profit, the co-owners had spent the past five years struggling, due to the massive downturn in the Latvian economy, as a result of the European Union (EU) financial crisis and subsequent slow recovery. Since the crisis began, the business had declined from generating an annual profit to its present situation of making a loss or just breaking even. Now, however, the EU was showing signs of recovery, business confidence was returning, bookings were recovering and income generation was starting to look up. The co-owners’ frustration with the situation in recent years had at times been so bad that on several occasions they had spoken about selling the business while they could still break even. Now the question confronting them was whether they should put all their struggles behind them, retain the ownership of the hotel and look forward to enjoying the potential days of profit that lay ahead. With these questions on his mind, Sandis thought about the meeting he had planned in a week’s time with his two partners in Latvia. Many variables needed to be weighed before they decided on the strategic direction they should take. The co-owners were his two best friends, and they had spent many years working together.
In Latvia, the winter temperatures fluctuate between –25 and –2 degrees Celsius; and during the daytime, it is grey and dark after 4 p.m. Because of this climate, observers often say the Latvian people can, at times, seem a little depressed and not so joyous or communicative, compared with those in southern Europe. For those who live in warmer Mediterranean climates with year-round sunshine, life appears comparatively more relaxed and carefree. Because of Latvia’s northern location, in the winter, Latvians go to work in the dark and when they finish work, they return home in the dark. The long cold winter stretches from November to April. In contrast, Latvia’s climate from May to October is delightful.
Sandis spent 25 years working as a high-ranking city official in Latvia during what he described as “the good times under Soviet control,” when Latvia enjoyed high levels of employment, productive manufacturing plants and very little corruption due to the tight security and military and police control. Even though wages were low, most Latvian people led simple lives and were happy.
Not long after 1991, when Latvia gained independence from the Soviet Union, discussions commenced toward it becoming a member of the EU. From then onward, most of the Soviet-backed manufacturing plants began closing down, unemployment increased, uncontrolled corruption grew and the country’s gross domestic product dropped significantly. Many security professionals and soldiers who had worked for the Soviets no longer had a job, which led to a new industry of private protection and security services, although some of those involved had questionable standards of corporate governance.
With independence, Latvians started looking forward to a new-found freedom. The Latvian people felt excitement and confidence in the media and in government officials promoting successful growth. Celebrating their new independence, the Latvian politicians were riding the wave of popularity. However, Sandis had worked in a government facility and had an insider’s view of how these elected representatives really operated. He felt that most of them worked hard only near an election, but after the election was over, their overall priority was to make money. Sandis’s long-term experience led him to conclude that when an election was coming, government leaders would show great care for the public, make unrealistic statements about positive strategies for the future but after they had been re-elected, they often forgot most of the promises they had made.
After more than two decades working as part of the Soviet security establishment in Latvia prior to 2001, Sandis and his colleagues, Johachim Kaspars and Kemat Valdis, had developed strong bonds, friendships and acquaintances with many powerful government and military officials, some of whom were in high office. They had also endured many years working under tough conditions and were now ready to try to do some private business of their own. Their belief and research had heightened their expectation that tourism was likely to grow in Latvia, as the country became a full member of the EU. In addition, all economic indicators suggested the demand for tourism facilities and accommodation was likely to grow. After long hours of discussion and consideration, the three former Soviet servants were confident that collectively they had now accumulated enough money and trusting relationships with bankers to be successful in realizing their dream of building a five-star hotel in the centre of Liepaja, Latvia’s resort and seaport city.
Politically, the relationship between Latvia and the EU was also evolving. Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis felt that the enthusiasm and the West’s growing confidence in the Latvian business environment made it the right time to invest in the hotel industry. With good planning and management, they were confident of success at a time when the Latvian economy was entering a period of expected growth.
The co-owners registered their new business in the Latvian Official Company Register for €200s, and their application was approved after they had established their company bank account containing a minimum deposit of €3000s. Their first taste of what lay ahead was the realization that, at that time,
running a company in Latvia meant an almost constant need to satisfy the demands of the Revenue Service (RS).
In what seemed to be an after-effect from the Soviet era, Latvia company bookkeepers and accountants devoted a large portion of their daily work time to ensuring their company was complying with RS rules. At times, this task proved to be all encompassing and an unwanted difficulty as the RS decision makers were prone to making changes to the countries taxation rules on very short notice. As Kaspars lamented, “Such legalistic changes were liable to happen up to 200 times during any given year.”
Another complication was that when the RS changed a taxation rule or created a new rule, companies were not given any standard period of time to adjust but were expected to immediately correctly implement and abide by the new law or rule. Tax rates and taxable items were constantly changing, which led to complaints among members of the business community. But it made no difference to the RS officials, as they exercised total control and were not afraid to use their power. Unless one had a strong relationship with an RS insider, these government tax officials were rarely prepared to listen to any complaints. Consequently, company bookkeepers were under constant pressure to keep up to date. They needed to constantly be on the lookout for RS Information Releases and continually consulted their RS contacts and communication networks so they could implement any given changes in a timely manner. Complicating the matter further was that the RS sometimes gave only minimal directions and explanations on how new rules and laws should be correctly interpreted and implemented. The lucidity and interpretations of the changes could vary greatly, and the RS would not hesitate to impose a fine on any company found applying the new rules in an incorrect manner.
Although Latvia was now a part of the EU, the senior RS officials had spent all of their working life operating under the Soviet system. They knew no other way and were reluctant to change or respond to training. Their type of communication, thinking, behaviour, management and work environment continued to exhibit characteristics from their Soviet past, when the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) had previously controlled Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Estonia, countries whose people had followed the socialist philosophy of Marx, Engels and Lenin. Most people holding senior positions in the Latvian RS had started working there when Latvia had no private companies, restaurants, shops or hotels, and everything was owned by the state and operated under the Soviet socialist philosophy. In those times, private ownership was banned, and people had to prove they could work hard, be honest and share communal facilities. The general public had little power to make their own decisions regarding how much they were able to spend or what they would spend it on. The buying choices were usually narrow (e.g., only three types of car could be purchased — if anyone could afford one), and the socialist ideology promoted the philosophy that owning any property was bad and that capitalism only exploited working people.
Latvians thus experienced a significantly different style of thinking and government from the norm for people in the EU and Western market economies. After Latvia gained independence, change was initially slow. A significant period of time passed before senior government officials and employees, long entrenched in government positions under Soviet conditions, chose to retire or to adjust their thinking toward the characteristics of the EU market economy. Latvia had supposedly become an open-market economy, and many new emerging entrepreneurs who had worked hard to become successful now enjoyed the fruits of a market economy. These successful businesspeople could afford to own a modern car and a private house, yet they were still being made to feel guilty under the former Soviet ideology. As Sandis explained:
If you were making money, the members of older generations made you feel like you had robbed somebody or you had stolen something and they were usually angry with successful modern business people. Sometimes they would say it to your face that they “are so angry with you being successful and making money, driving a Mercedes and having a nice place to live” even though you may have worked hard to get all of these material things. Some of my friends in Latvia got so tired of this attitude that they decided to sell their business, sell all of their possessions and leave the country. These successful people were paying a lot of tax and the older generations working in the government offices didn’t understand that their salaries come from these taxes. My colleague who had worked in the Revenue Service from the middle of the 1990s started telling me that the biggest taxpayers were the bureaucrats. I had to stop him and say that “I’m sorry my friend, the source of your salary and the bureaucrats is from taxation charged on private businesses.” This was the way the older generation that grew up under the Soviet rule continued to think although small changes are slowly taking place and it is starting to become a little bit easier for successful modern business people in society. Many of my friends, even from outside Latvia, believed it would take two generations for this attitude and type of thinking to be fully eroded and perhaps gone. Now we are trying to explain this new concept to the 40-, 50- and 60- year-old employees that worked in the Revenue Service or Finance Police Department all their lives under the Soviet control.
Latvia became independent in 1991 and immediately after fell into a deep crisis. Jobs, money and opportunities dried up, and by 2000, many skilled people were leaving Latvia to seek a job abroad. They would try to find a job in another EU country, then save some money and later return to Latvia to buy a flat and maybe set up a business to improve their living conditions.
Introducing Latvia into a market economy had led to many problems, and the average workers were the people who suffered in the long term. The Latvian government was not ready for this change and took no action to avoid a significant banking crisis that was incubating due to its vague transition strategy and questionable governance. The banking crisis began not long after Latvia had been granted independence from the Soviet Union and the commencement of its new membership in the EU. Under the new EU policy and conditions, banking officials responsible for granting loans started being paid bonuses on the amount of money they could loan, not on the ability of borrowers to realistically repay the loans. This approach was a complete change in policy from the former Soviet banking environment; as a result, Latvian loan officials soon realized their opportunity and started to take advantage of the situation by approving loans much too easily, without conducting due diligence on prospective borrowers. As a result, borrowing money became much easier, and credibility checks on those applying for loans were often questionable and minimal. Bank officials were taking the opportunity to make more money than ever before and were unconcerned with the ability of borrowers to actually make repayments or repay their loans in full. The bank officials’ main motivator was the commission they would be paid, based on the size of the loan.
When Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis decided to pursue their Hotel Latvia dream, they had been unaware of any of these developing credit problems or the difficulties they could create for their new venture in the future. Feeling confident, they made a request to the bank for a loan of €22 million in 2002, and were surprised as to how easy it was to gain approval.
Sandis explained:
When we gained the €22 million loan to finance building our hotel, our bankers were coming and asking “Why did you take only this amount? Why don’t you take more?” We said, “We don’t need more. What we have been loaned is enough.” We didn’t know the bank officers responsible for providing the credit would get bonuses from the amount of money they loaned to the people. Their checking and due diligence was almost non-existent and they were not even asking for credit records or proof of income. Instead they were asking questions like, “If you need more money or a new car then why don’t you take a bigger loan?”
Prior to purchasing the land on which they would build their hotel, Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis had first built one large apartment building in the central historical area of Riga, the Latvian capital, as a test case to provide them with the opportunity to measure the market, gain some experience in the real estate market, develop a better understanding of the construction industry and begin to generate some income while their larger project was developing. Enjoying success on this first smaller project saw their confidence grow toward the construction of their much larger Hotel Latvia complex. With their larger loan secured, the Hotel Latvia project started in 2002, when Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis identified, researched and purchased land in the centre of Liepaja, Latvia’s resort and seaport city. They wanted to build the hotel in the old part of the city, as it was in a central location, which would be attractive for customers. Because of the location, they expected they could charge slightly higher rates when serving their target markets of businesspeople and tourists who expected quality facilities. In preparing to build, they needed to remove from the existing site the remains of a few old decaying structures that were in serious danger of collapsing. They thought it would be easy to clear and start construction soon after; however, gaining the approvals to demolish these old ruins for their much larger project proved to be significantly more complicated. In a frustrated tone, Kaspars recalled the situation:
You could not imagine the politics involved when you want to build something in the historical part of Liepaja. On the proposed Hotel Latvia site we had purchased, there were several crumbling down and neglected ruins that had no official status or any conditions existing on them saying that “they needed to be restored.” The buildings were totally ruined and we had proceeded to commission three private, official, independent assessments of the proposed site that all concluded they were impossible to restore and that the only safe action to take would be to demolish them. These on-site ruins were in danger of collapse at any moment. However, despite this evidence, the government said there is no possibility that we could demolish them and build something new in the historical part of the city.
To try to change the decision we had to arrange several meetings with several politicians and government officials to get approvals from their respective departments to undertake the construction. It was a big headache to get all of these approvals. Although we could demolish most of the buildings the government departments informed us that each of the front facades of the ruins had to be restored. As a condition of the approval, we had to pay all restoration costs. Another building company we knew who were building in a nearby city also had problems and were not allowed to demolish even one wall of an old decaying building on their site even though it had large cracks in the building and the façade was not even traditional. The one they wanted to demolish was a very ordinary building with no historical value. On one occasion they were officially granted permission from the Architectural Authority to proceed with the demolition at 10 a.m. and then later on the same day at 11.45 a.m. received a second notification from another department saying that “permission to demolish it had been refused.” Today, this building still remains untouched in the centre of the city. Unfortunately, we learned of their experience well after we had begun our building process.
In Latvia’s new market economy, the officials who granted permissions were taking advantage of their newfound power. For businesses to gain any kind of documented approval, they now had to offer the officials something extra to get their signature of approval. Many approvals could not be completed by dealing directly with the officials responsible but had to be done through networks of connections. Valdis was frustrated and threw his arms in the air, stating “You had to use somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody.” Before Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis could even consider beginning construction, much more time was wasted and “under-the-table” fees needed to be paid to a portfolio of connections. Then, after construction had commenced, if the authorities wanted to stop the process to extract some additional favours, they could always find a mechanism whereby someone could complain and put a halt to everything. So, in total, it took the group several years to get all of the approvals to actually go ahead and commence the building construction.
When construction of Hotel Latvia finally commenced, a new problem confronted Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis. The builders and construction employees knew demand on construction services was vastly outstripping the current supply in Latvia, as only a limited number of building companies could build such large structures. As a result, the pressure on at the worksite was always intense, and the co-owners looked at using three builders to carry out the construction. If the builders arrived in the morning to commence the day’s work and if all of the materials or equipment were not there, or if some problem prevented them from starting immediately, then the builders would pack up and head off to work on another site. When this happened, the disruption resulted in the builders having to return later, and the price of construction would increase. This interruption in the schedule also resulted in frustrating delays; sometimes the builders would not return for several days. The hotel was a big project, and in the end, Valdis had to spend every day at the worksite to supervise the building company’s employees and ensure they were working. If no building company supervisor was present on the worksite, then the employees would often not work to capacity, significantly reducing their productivity. The construction companies knew that they were in a strong bargaining position. Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis were in a tough situation, as Latvia had too many buildings under construction, most were only partly completed and Latvia lacked a sufficient number of companies that were competent enough to do all the construction.
Valdis reflected:
We had a separate contract with a German company to do all the installations on the ground floor comprising the hotel’s entry, front desk area, bar and all the other features and facilities. They did a quality job and did it very quickly. The local Latvian builders were working on another part of the hotel at the same time, and the German builders had commented how at times the Latvian builders could not be found, were smoking outside or just sitting around doing nothing. In the end, I had to go to the site every day to supervise their work for the last four months including on the weekends, from the morning to the evening. Sometimes we had to threaten the builders to make sure they were doing their job because they took short cuts, time off or left to work on other building sites.
The German building company had designed the hotel and brought with them all of the materials to complete the entrance hall, and another German company came to install all of the lamps in the hotel. The German lighting employees were professional and efficient, and it took only three employees to complete the job in three days. For the Latvian construction companies, progress was much slower. After having to apply constant pressure on them to keep working effectively, the construction of the hotel was finally completed in one and a half years.
Finding the talented employees to staff the hotel was another issue. A large number of applications were received; however, finding the right standard and quality of employee suitable to staff this five-star operation required intense interviewing and a comprehensive training program.
The Hotel Latvia finally opened in 2006, and business started well. The hotel’s initial marketing campaign was successful: after six months of business, it was performing better than its competitors but was still not generating enough income to meet the co-owners’ strategic target. In the first two years, they generated enough income to service their loan but sometimes needed to contribute their own money to meet the repayments. Some adjustments were necessary, and halfway through their second year of operation, they sold their initial trial investment in Riga and asked the bank to deposit the funds from the sale into an offset account to reduce the interest being paid on the loan.
By the third year, Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis had also renegotiated an increase in the term of their loan from 20 years to 25 years, with the goal of reducing their repayments and, thus, the level of financial pressure. This strategy helped them to adjust to the change in market conditions and encouraged the untried entrepreneurs to become more contingent. Following the 2008 financial crisis, the level of tourism declined sharply in Latvia in 2009 and 2010. By then, due to the significant drop in tourist numbers, the co-owners were generating only 60 per cent of the revenue required to meet their business target.
To try to cope with the downturn in bookings and reduction in income generation, they needed to make some strategic changes. These changes included downsizing the staff by 18 per cent, closing one of the guest floors, eliminating one of the elevators to reduce power costs and opening their five-star restaurants only on weekends.
During the downturn, not only did individual people stop travelling but companies, government and universities stopped holding conferences and/or reduced the number of delegates they were sending to conferences. These changes resulted both in universities, governments and associations reducing their number of conferences and in many existing industry conferences significantly decreasing their budgets.
Said Sandis:
We had many solid and developing contracts for annual conferences and tours but at the beginning of 2009 there were many cancellations and a sharp drop off in group tours and individuals coming to stay at the Hotel.
At about this time a Dutch professor I knew came to Latvia for a short term on foreign exchange to give some lectures and organize some student exchanges. After a time, he told me he believed a high percentage of the Latvian university students will leave Latvia for Germany and other countries after they graduate. Although he was a foreigner, he was worried about the situation in our country. He believed the IMF [International Monetary Fund] had made a mistake to place such heavy austerity measures on Latvia and it had created a very bad situation that would be difficult to recover from. Although it was not openly reported in the Western press, Latvia was in trouble much earlier than Spain, Greece and Italy with their gross domestic product declining by 18 per cent in 2009. Most of the decline was in construction because, during the preceding period of steady growth, the real estate and construction sectors grew out of control and too many buildings were built for the demand at that time. This had resulted in the problem of an oversupply of rooms in the hotel sector.
Eventually, the Latvian economy collapsed, real estate prices declined, companies and many individuals holding loans went bankrupt, salaries decreased by 30 to 40 per cent, and many people lost their jobs with unemployment rising significantly. The government was in financial difficulty and could afford to pay people who had been retrenched only a small percentage of their promised redundancy or unemployment payments. Even worse was that the government’s unemployment financial assistance following redundancy usually lasted only nine months; and when these payments ceased, the unemployed persons had to take care of themselves.
The downturn delivered to Latvia a market economy reality check that very few people who had lived under Soviet control could predict, understand or imagine. Huge excesses had occurred at the beginning of the growth phase in 2002, when bankers and financiers had enjoyed considerable wealth, and they now had to be paid for. Not conducting the required due diligence on those who wanted to borrow the money when times were good and giving out poorly backed or unsupported loans was now having a severe and adverse effect on the Latvian economy.
Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis had worked hard and had built their hotel from the ground up during the peak in construction activity; as a result, their construction costs had been higher than expected. After the slowdown, business did not run according to their expectations and, like many others, they were in a difficult situation regarding loan repayments to the bank. Many people had taken out large bank loans and mortgaged everything, including their homes, to ride the boom. After the downturn, many companies went bankrupt, were taken over by the banks or closed down because they could not afford to make the repayments. Most were overexposed with too much debt and no liquidity to make the repayments. Although this situation was happening throughout Latvia, Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis still had the liquidity to continue making repayments, though their strategic options were severely reduced.
Due to their tight fiscal management, the three Hotel Latvia owners did not have to sell the hotel but began to consider whether they should get out while they were still able to break even. They realized that to go on trying to make money from the hotel would be hard work, and the venture had not delivered their expected outcome. They started wondering about their future risk on the amount of return they could generate. Were the hardest times over, meaning it would now be a mistake to sell? Solving all the approval problems during the years of construction had taken its toll, and with the building problems and increase in costs, it appeared that if they sold now, they could make a zero net gain in value on their decade of hard work and investment. At another time, the outcome would have been very profitable; however, the business environment following Latvia’s entry into the EU had taken its toll on and had disadvantaged Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis, as a result of a tough combination of factors: the Latvian people’s slow adaptation to the evolving market economy, corrupt bankers and government officials, building contractors taking advantage of the excess demand in the construction industry and the sudden economical crash.
Despite their situation, their bank was not currently concerned about their financial situation and was not putting pressure on them to liquidate their property or make any extra repayments on their loan. The bank had many other poorer performing loans and associated issues to worry about and its main concern was the number of its bad loans. Many lenders owed their banks substantial amounts of money, and many companies found themselves overextended and facing bankruptcy.
Valdis expressed his concern:
When we saw some good businesses being taken over by the banks without warning or with very short notice, we became concerned. We anticipated we may have to sell the hotel not long after it was completed because the cost of construction had gone 18 per cent over budget and, as a result, our monthly repayments and period of the loan had both grown significantly. Our business had started so well we thought the future would be profitable. Following the EU crash, it appeared some type of recovery had started and we thought there may be an opportunity to sell it in 2012 as Latvia’s credit and investment ratings proposed by the International Rating Agency, Standard and Poor’s, were improving and looking better.
But another serious problem was looming in the hotel sector. Latvia’s average price per room had dropped sharply because many hoteliers were in deep trouble and had started slashing their prices because they were located in less marketable locations. One example was the Reval Hotel that boasted 240 rooms in suburban Riga. Facing very poor occupancy, the operator in charge had suddenly slashed prices and had begun to sell rooms to large groups of tours at prices that were so low that they decimated the whole market. Once the Reval Hotel owners found out what their managers were doing, they immediately dismissed them and changed their operator but it was too late. For the rest of the market, the damage had already been done through the reductions in their bookings and through agents and customers who were no longer prepared to pay the former prices.
This incident happened at a critical time, when Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis were considering searching for a new partner to purchase 30 per cent of the hotel, in an effort to help reduce their loan pressure. Ideally, they needed a partner who had the cash to buy a portion of the property, and then the co-owners could use the money generated to offset or repay a larger part of the loan and thereby reduce their debt. With a fourth partner joining the group, it would have made it significantly easier to survive but after the Reval Hotel had slashed its prices, that option was no longer possible. The unpredictable situation drove away all potential buyers; they were afraid to invest and had decided to wait until the situation improved. Kaspars’s connections in a different bank informed him that the financial markets did not know what the situation may be for the future in Latvia, and much doubt surrounded the industry and marketplace. Some price targeting had broken out from time to time, and the reduced number of customers who required accommodation in Latvia were enjoying quality deals.
Upon reflection, compared with most of the businesses at that time, Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis were among the lucky ones. Despite their many problems, they still believed that, if necessary, they could still sell their hotel, pay off their debt and get out without losing money. Looking at the market around them, they saw many others lose everything; gone was the confidence that had existed before the crisis. Wisely, they had made sure they had mortgaged only the property on which the hotel was being built; none of their own private dwellings were included as part of their collateral on their original €22 million loan.
The Hotel Latvia was built on a prime piece of land in coastal Liepaja, so it retained most of its value following the crisis and did not decrease by in real estate value as much as other properties further from the centre of the city or in less marketable locations. As time wore on, many competitors disappeared completely. Those that had managed to survive had experienced significant decreases in income. At the beginning of 2012, Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis again commenced negotiations with a large global finance company based in London in an attempt to sell the hotel. They found that from 2008 to 2011, the sale price of the hotel had decreased by approximately 35 per cent. Their agents had tried selling the Hotel Latvia to different investment companies, and their responses had initially been positive. However, when investors saw the predicted future of Latvia and its poor credit and investment ratings, the buyers’ interest had ceased, and it was difficult for the agents to generate any serious interest.
Selling agents would tell us, “We know you guys have a good hotel but the country is no good. The climate for business and investment is poor and the future is not good.”
In the seven years following the boom that had begun in 2002, most of the surge in business activity, income generation and increases in prices had been in the construction industry. As a result, when the decline hit the construction companies, the support industries and related jobs were the worst affected. Only when the credit and investment ratings began to rise a few points in early 2013 did any purchasers begin to show any real interest in buying the hotel. Western investors were becoming interested again but their offers were still much below what the co-owners considered to be an acceptable price.
As Sandis explained:
They all came with the idea that they could buy our hotel for what we describe as “sandwiches.” I mean, for a very cheap price, and we thought they really wanted to buy it for nothing. The poor prices and demand were as a result of the construction bubble throughout Europe. Believe me, the politicians and bureaucrats could see it coming long before the crisis arrived but they did nothing because they were all set to make a lot of money out of it.
By the beginning of 2013, a slight recovery had begun, especially with the number of Russian tourists again beginning to grow. To Russian tourists, Latvia was now being marketed as an EU country and hence an international destination. In addition, rumours had begun that the EU was beginning to emerge from the recession, and that the steep austerity measures currently imposed at the time were soon to be eased.
Sandis, Kaspars and Valdis were at the point where they now had three options. One was to keep the hotel and continue working hard to enjoy the fruits of the supposed upturn that appeared to be commencing. The second option was to now find another partner to purchase a share in the company and to use this money to reduce their debt repayments and risk. Their third option was to sell the hotel completely and walk away with approximately the same amount of funds they had started with in 2002. Were there any other options?
Sandis knew the meeting with Valdis and Kaspars would occur on the evening after his return to Liepaja. He sat in the chair in his bungalow on the Maldives and wondered what they should do.
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2023.03.28 17:05 DaBrokenMeta Endothelial and Astrocytic Support by Human Bone Marrow Stem Cell pt1 Grafts into Symptomatic ALS Mice towards Blood-Spinal Cord Barrier Repair

Scientific Reports 7: 884 DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-00993-0 1 www.nature.com/scientificreports Endothelial and Astrocytic Support by Human Bone Marrow Stem Cell Grafts into Symptomatic ALS Mice towards Blood-Spinal Cord Barrier Repair Svitlana Garbuzova-Davis1,2,3,4, Crupa Kurien1, Avery Thomson1, Dimitri Falco1, Sohaib Ahmad1, Joseph Staffetti1, George Steiner1, Sophia Abraham1, Greeshma James1, Ajay Mahendrasah1, Paul R. Sanberg1,2,4,5 & Cesario V. Borlongan1,2 Vascular pathology, including blood-CNS barrier (B-CNS-B) damage via endothelial cell (EC) degeneration, is a recently recognized hallmark of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) pathogenesis. B-CNS-B repair may be a new therapeutic approach for ALS. This study aimed to determine effects of transplanted unmodified human bone marrow CD34+ (hBM34+) cells into symptomatic G93A mice towards blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB) repair. Thirteen weeks old G93A mice intravenously received one of three different doses of hBM34+ cells. Cell-treated, media-treated, and control mice were euthanized at 17 weeks of age. Immunohistochemical (anti-human vWF, CD45, GFAP, and Iba-1) and motor neuron histological analyses were performed in cervical and lumbar spinal cords. EB levels in spinal cord parenchyma determined capillary permeability. Transplanted hBM34+ cells improved behavioral disease outcomes and enhanced motor neuron survival, mainly in high-cell-dose mice. Transplanted cells differentiated into ECs and engrafted within numerous capillaries. Reduced astrogliosis, microgliosis, and enhanced perivascular end-feet astrocytes were also determined in spinal cords, mostly in high-cell-dose mice. These mice also showed significantly decreased parenchymal EB levels. EC differentiation, capillary engraftment, reduced capillary permeability, and re-established perivascular end-feet astrocytes in symptomatic ALS mice may represent BSCB repair processes, supporting hBM34+ cell transplantation as a future therapeutic strategy for ALS patients. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal disease characterized by gradual motor neuron degeneration in the brain and spinal cord leading to paralysis and fatality1 . About 50% of patients die within 30 months of disease symptom onset and only 20% of patients survive 5 to 10 years after symptom onset2 . Between 90–95% of ALS cases are sporadic (SALS) while the remaining 5–10% of cases are genetically linked or familial (FALS). Within FALS cases, several mutations in genes coding for Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1)3, 4 , TARDBP (TDP-43)5 , FUS/TLS6, 7 , ANG8 , and C90RF729, 10 have been identified and are discussed in comprehensive reviews11–13. The clinical presentation and underlying pathology of SALS and FALS are similar, and treatment options for ALS patients are mainly supportive. The only FDA approved drug to treat ALS is riluzole, which extends the lifespan of ALS patients by only a few months14. 1 Center of Excellence for Aging & Brain Repair, University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida, 33612, United States of America. 2Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida, 33612, United States of America. 3 Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida, 33612, United States of America. 4 Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida, 33612, United States of America. 5 Department of Psychiatry, University of South Florida, Morsani College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida, 33612, United States of America. Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to S.G. (email: [email protected]) Received: 5 January 2017 Accepted: 17 March 2017 Published: xx xx xxxx OPEN www.nature.com/scientificreports/ Scientific Reports 7: 884 DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-00993-0 2 ALS is a complex multifactorial disease with numerous intrinsic and extrinsic factors underlying disease pathogenesis (reviewed in refs 15–24) such as glutamate excitotoxicity, mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, altered glial cell function, impaired axonal transport, protein aggregations, immune reactivity, neurotrophic factor deficits, and neuroinflammation. These multiple pathogenic effectors and the diffuse motor neuron degeneration in ALS present a formidable obstacle to treatment development for this disease. Accumulating evidence has demonstrated impairment of the blood-CNS barrier (B-CNS-B) in ALS and this barrier damage likely represents an additional pathogenic mechanism. Compelling results showed structural and functional alterations in the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB) in ALS patients and in animal models of disease25–33. These studies demonstrated degeneration of endothelial cells (ECs) and astrocyte end-feet processes surrounding microvessels, impairment of endothelial transport system. Also, dysfunction of tight junction proteins has been implicated to compromise BBB/BSCB integrity. Additionally, vascular leakage, microhemorrhages, decreased capillary length and reduced blood flow have been shown in the spinal cords of ALS mice. Importantly, BSCB alterations were indicated in SOD1 mutant mice and rats prior to motor neuron degeneration and neuroinflammation29–31, suggesting vascular damage as an early ALS pathological event. These vascular pathologies, demonstrating impairment of neurovascular unit components in the brain and spinal cord, are key factors identifying ALS as a neurovascular disease34. It is possible that the initiating pathological trigger for ALS is a dysfunctional B-CNS-B, allowing detrimental factors from the systemic circulation to penetrate the CNS and foster motor neuron degeneration35. Since the damaged capillary endothelium in ALS does not adequately maintain vascular homeostasis in the CNS, repairing the altered B-CNS-B by replacement of endothelial cells via cell administration may be a new therapeutic approach for this disease. Bone marrow is a primary source of the putative EPCs but whether these progenitor cells are derived from hematopoietic stem cells or cells of endothelial lineage is still under debate (reviewed in refs 36–41). In terms of identifying the desired pro-angiogenic EPC lineage, it has been shown that EPCs are enriched in CD34+/CD45- cell populations and are not derived from CD133+ or CD45+ cells42. CD34+ cells are pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells, capable of long-term in vitro self-renewal and of differentiation into multiple hematopoietic cell lineages that fully repopulate blood cells throughout adulthood43, 44. However, lineage potential of the hematopoietic progenitors during proliferation, commitment to multipotential differentiation, and maturation are controlled by various intrinsic properties44 and microenvironmental factors. Additionally, transplanted bone marrow-derived CD34+ cells migrate and home into damaged tissue, as shown in treatment of patients with ischemic or degenerative retinal conditions45 or cardiomyopathy46 by contributing to revascularization via formation of new blood vessels from existing vascularity in ischemic tissues. Since EPCs are presumably derived from CD34+ cells, human bone marrow CD34+ (hBM34+) cells stand as a promising cell source for B-CNS-B restoration in ALS. We hypothesized that hBM34+ cells systemically transplanted into ALS mice induced BSCB repair by differentiating into endothelial cells. Whereas previous treatment-based studies have largely focused on pre-symptomatic ALS animal models, examining the effect of hBM34+ cells transplantation into a symptomatic mouse model of ALS increases the translational relevance to the clinic. The aim of this study was to decipher the mechanisms of BSCB repair promoted by unmodified human bone marrow CD34+ cells intravenously transplanted into symptomatic G93A SOD1 mice. A specific focus was determining transplanted cell differentiation potential and dose effects on motor function and motor neuron survival in cell-treated animals. Methods Ethics Statement. All described procedures were approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at USF and conducted in compliance with the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. All mice were housed in a temperature-controlled room (23 °C) and maintained on a 12:12h dark: light cycle (lights on at 06:00 AM). Food and water were available ad libitum. Upon progression of neurological symptoms, a highly palatable liquid nutritional supplement was placed on the cage floor, ensuring access by the animal. Animals. All animals used in the study were obtained from The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, MA, USA. Seventy-two transgenic male B6SJL-Tg(SOD1*G93A)1GuJ mice, over-expressing human SOD1 carrying the Gly93→Ala mutation (G93A SOD1) at 7 weeks of age, were randomly assigned to one of four groups receiving different doses of hBM34+ cells or media: Group 1 - hBM34+ (5×104 cells/mouse, low dose, n=15), Group 2 - hBM34+ (5×105 cells/mouse, mid dose, n=15), Group 3 - hBM34+ (1×106 cells/mouse, high dose, n=21), and Group 4 - Media (n=21). At 8 weeks of age and then weekly, mice underwent pre-transplant behavioral testing (extension reflex, grip strength test, and rotarod) and monitoring of body weight. When initial disease symptoms appeared such as deterioration of motor function and reduction in body weight (approximately 13 weeks of age), mice intravenously (iv, jugular vein) received either the appropriate hBM34+ cell dose or an equal volume of media. A non-transplant control group (Group 5), consisting of non-carrier mutant SOD1 gene mice from the background strain (control, n=20), only underwent behavioral testing. At 14 weeks of age and weekly thereafter, mice again underwent behavioral testing until 17 weeks of age. Cell preparation and transplant procedure. Cryopreserved human bone marrow CD34+ cells (hBM34+, AllCells, Alameda, CA, USA) were thawed rapidly at 37 °C then transferred slowly with a pipette into a centrifuge tube containing 10ml of Dulbecco’s Phosphate Buffered Saline 1X (DPBS), pH 7.4 (Mediatech, Inc., Manassas, VA, USA). The cells were centrifuged (200 g/10min) at room temperature, the supernatant discarded and the process repeated. After the final wash, cell viability was assessed using the 0.4% trypan blue dye exclusion method before and after transplantation. Transplant cell concentrations were adjusted for each group: 250 cells/μl www.nature.com/scientificreports/ Scientific Reports 7: 884 DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-00993-0 3 (5×104 cells/200μl/injection, Group 1), 2,500 cells/μl (5×105 cells/200μl/injection, Group 2), and 5,000 cells/μl (1×106 cells/200μl/injection, Group 3). The hBM34+ cells were delivered intravenously via the jugular vein of mice under anesthesia with Isofluorane (2–5% at 2L O2/min) as we previously described47, 48 with minor modifications. Briefly, anesthetized animals received a sagittal incision at the base of the neck, and the jugular vein was identified. A 26-gauge needle was inserted into the jugular vein and needle placement verified by a reflux of blood into the syringe. A solution containing the cells was injected during 3min, and immediately following injection moderate pressure was applied onto the needle vein entry point using a sterile cotton tip. After transplantation, the incision was closed and sutured using monofilament nylon (Ethilon) or a stainless steel wound clip. To assure hemostasis, needle puncture was performed through the muscle overlying the jugular vein, allowing the muscle, combined with digital pressure, to facilitate bleeding stoppage. The media-injected mice in Group 4 received 200μl of DPBS, the same volume administered to the cell-transplanted mice. Animals in Groups 1–4 received cyclosporine A (CsA, 10mg/ kg ip) daily for the entire post-transplant period. Characteristics of disease progression. The evaluation of animal disease progression has been previously described47–49. All measures of animal disease progression were performed blind by independent investigators to avoid subjective bias. Body weight was assessed weekly throughout the study. Extension reflex, rotarod, and grip strength tests started on week 8 and were repeated weekly until 17 weeks of age. Extension Reflex. The mouse was suspended by the tail and the extension of each hindlimb was observed. If the mouse showed normal hindlimb extension, a score of 2 was given. A score of 1 indicated partial hindlimb extension. If no extension was observed, the score was 0. Grip strength test. The mouse was held by the tail and carefully placed with all 4 paws on the grid using an instrument to determine grip strength (IDTECH-BIOSEB, France). The animal was gently pulled by the tail and a sensor recorded the force (Newtons, N) with which the mice resisted the pull as a measure of muscle strength. The test was performed three times and the average of the tests was recorded. Rotarod. The mouse was placed on a 3.2 cm diameter axle rotating at a speed of 16 rpm (Omnitech Rotoscan, Omnitech Electronics, OH, USA). The latency (seconds) that the mouse stayed on the rotating axle during a 3minute maximum period was recorded. Perfusion and tissue preparation. All cell-treated, media-treated, and control mice were sacrificed at 17 weeks of age (corresponding to 4 weeks after initial treatment at symptomatic disease stage) for immunohistochemical analyses in the cervical and lumbar spinal cords for administered cell differentiation/engraftment and astrocyte expression. Histological analysis of surviving motor neurons was also performed in ventral horns of spinal cords. The mice (Group 3: n=4; Group 4: n=4) and controls (Group 5; n=5) were injected with 2% Evans Blue dye (EB, Sigma-Aldrich, St. Louis, MO, USA) in saline solution (4 ml/kg body weight) via the tail vein 30min prior to perfusion. Based on our previous studies showing that 1×106 stem cell dose is beneficial in treatment of animal models of ALS47 and mucopolysaccharidosis type III B50, spinal cord EB extravasation was evaluated only in mice receiving the high (1×106 ) cell dose vs. media and control animals. Mice were sacrificed under Euthasol® (0.22ml/kg body weight) and perfused transcardially with 0.1M phosphate buffer (PB, pH 7.2) followed by 4% paraformaldehyde (PFA) in PB solution under pressure control fluid delivery at 80–85mm Hg to avoid capillary rupture. Mice assayed for EB extravasation received only the PB solution. After perfusion, the entire spinal cords were rapidly removed for the EB extravasation assay described below. In remaining mice, the cervical and lumbar spinal cord segments were removed, post-fixed intact in 4% PFA for 24–48 hrs, and then cryoprotected in 20% sucrose in 0.1M PB overnight. Coronal spinal cord tissues were cut at 30μm in a cryostat, every fifth section was thaw-mounted onto slides, and the tissue was stored at −20 °C for immunohistochemical and histological analyses. BSCB permeability. Evans Blue (EB) dye, 961Da, was used as a tracer for assessing BSCB disruption. The EB extravasation assay was performed as previously described51–53. Briefly, after perfusion, mouse spinal cords were weighed and placed in 50% trichloroacetic acid solution (Sigma). Following homogenization and centrifugation, the supernatant was diluted with ethanol (1:3) and loaded into a 96 well-plate in triplicate. The dye was measured with a spectrofluorometer (Gemini EM Microplate Spectrofluorometer, Molecular Devices) at excitation of 620nm and emission of 680nm54. Calculations were based on external standards in the same solvent. The EB content in tissue was quantified from a linear standard curve derived from known amounts of the dye and was normalized to tissue weight (μg/g). All measurements were performed by two experimenters blinded to the experiment. Immunohistochemical staining of hBM34+ cells in the spinal cord. For identification of intravenously transplanted hBM34+ cell engraftment and differentiation potential, serial cervical and lumbar spinal tissue sections from randomly selected mice treated with different cell doses or media (n=5/group) were stained with human anti-Von Willebrand Factor (vWF), an endothelial cell marker, and CD45, a hematopoietic common leukocyte marker. Briefly, the mouse monoclonal antibody (vWF, 1:100, Abcam, USA) was combined with the secondary antibody, monovalent goat anti-mouse Fab’ fragment conjugated to FITC (1:200; Jackson ImmunoResearch, USA), and incubated at room temperature (RT) for 2 hours. The tissue sections were pre-incubated with 1% normal human serum (NHS) and 0.5% Triton 100X in PBS for 30 min at RT and subsequently incubated with the previously prepared antibody cocktail overnight at 4 °C. Next day, slides were www.nature.com/scientificreports/ Scientific Reports 7: 884 DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-00993-0 4 thoroughly washed in PBS and coverslipped with Vectashield containing DAPI (Vector Laboratories, USA). The tissues were then examined under epifluorescence using an Olympus BX60 microscope and images were taken for further analysis of vWF fluorescent immunoexpression. In a separate set of the cervical and lumbar spinal cord tissue sections (n=5/group), initial staining with the human-specific nuclei marker (HuNu) was performed as we described previously47–49. Briefly, the mouse monoclonal antibody (HuNu, 1:100, Chemicon, USA) was combined with the secondary antibody, monovalent goat anti-mouse Fab’ fragment conjugated to FITC (1:200; Jackson ImmunoResearch, USA), and incubated at room temperature (RT) for 2hours. Prior to applying this antibody cocktail overnight at 4 °C, the tissue sections were incubated in blocking solution for 30min at RT as described above. The next day, after several rinses in PBS, the tissues were placed in 10% normal goat serum (NGS) and 0.3% Triton 100X in PBS for 60 min at RT and then double-stained with mouse monoclonal antibody for CD45 (1: 200, BD Biosciences Pharmingen, USA) overnight at 4 °C. The next day, the slides were rinsed and goat anti-mouse secondary antibody conjugated to rhodamine (1:1000, Alexa, Molecular Probes, USA) was applied for 2 hrs at RT. After several rinses in PBS, the slides were coverslipped with Vectashield containing DAPI (Vector Laboratories, USA). The tissues were then examined under epifluorescence using an Olympus BX60 microscope. To test for specificity of the immunostaining for vWF and CD45, the primary antibodies were omitted from control slides. No staining was observed in the control sections. Immunohistochemical staining of astrocytes in the spinal cord. Serial sections of the cervical and lumbar spinal cord from randomly selected cell-treated, media-injected, and control mice (n=5/group) were rinsed in PBS to remove the freezing medium. The tissue sections were pre-incubated in a blocking solution of 10% NGS and 3% Triton 100X in PBS for 60min at RT, followed by overnight incubation with rabbit polyclonal anti-glial fibrillary acidic protein primary antibody (GFAP, 1:500, Dako, Denmark) at 4 °C. On the next day, slides were rinsed in PBS and incubated with goat anti-rabbit secondary antibody conjugated to FITC (1:500, Alexa, Molecular Probes, USA) for 2hrs at RT. After several rinses in PBS, the slides were coverslipped with Vectashield containing DAPI (Vector Laboratories, USA). The tissues were then examined under epifluorescence using an Olympus BX60 microscope and images were taken for further analysis of GFAP fluorescent immunoexpression. Immunohistochemical staining of microglia in the spinal cord. In a separate set of the cervical and lumbar spinal cord tissue sections from randomly selected cell-treated, media-injected, and control mice (n=3/ group), immunohistochemical staining for microglia was performed as we described previously48, 49 with minor modification. Briefly, tissue sections were rinsed in PBS to remove the freezing medium. The tissue sections were pre-incubated in a blocking solution of 4% NGS and 2% Triton 100X in PBS for 60min at RT, followed by overnight incubation with rabbit polyclonal anti-ionized calcium binding adapter molecule-1 primary antibody (Iba1, 1:500, Wako Chemicals, Richmond, VA, USA) at 4 °C. On the next day, slides were rinsed in PBS and incubated with goat anti-rabbit secondary antibody conjugated to rhodamine (1:500, Alexa, Molecular Probes, USA) for 2 hrs at RT. After several rinses in PBS, the slides were coverslipped with Vectashield containing DAPI (Vector Laboratories, USA). The tissues were then examined under epifluorescence using an Olympus BX60 microscope and images were taken for further analysis of Iba-1 fluorescent immunoexpression. vWF and astrocytic immunoexpression analyses in the spinal cord. Analyses of vWF and GFAP fluorescence immunoexpressions in the cervical and lumbar spinal cords from 17-week-old mice were performed in the ventral horns by an investigator blinded to the experiments. Animal codes were removed prior to analysis. Immunohistochemical image analyses for vWF and GFAP were performed by measuring intensity of fluorescent expression (%/mm2) in NIH ImageJ (version 1.46) software. Thresholds for detection of vWF and GFAP fluorescent expressions were adjusted for each image to eliminate background noise. To avoid bias in the analysis of fluorescent images, specific spinal cord areas were identified in a section using a 106/0.30 numerical aperture (NA) lens, and then areas of interest were photographed with either a 206/0.50 NA or 406/0.75 NA lens, photographing the slide in a random raster pattern. Briefly, measurements of cervical/lumbar ventral horn area were first performed by determining the cross-point of a line passing the central canal perpendicular to the midline. The area of ventral gray matter was determined below this line in the right and left cervical/lumbar spinal cords in coronal sections from each mouse group at predetermined uniform intervals (150mm). For detection of vWF immunopositive cells in cell-treated mice, immunohistochemical images (n=5 mice/group, n=8–10 images/ spinal cord segment) were taken in randomly selected areas from right and left ventral gray matter of the cervical and lumbar spinal cords at 40X. Fluorescent intensity (%/mm2 ) was measured in the entire image. Data are presented as averages of vWF cell immunoexpression of both sides. For GFAP intraparenchymal immunoexpressions in cell-treated, media-injected, and control mice, immunohistochemical images (n=5 mice/group, n=12–14 images/spinal cord segment) were taken from right and left ventral gray matter of the cervical and lumbar spinal cords at 10X. Density of astrocytes was determined as percentage per mm2 separately for the cervical and lumbar spinal cord sites as we previously described49. Also, fluorescent images of GFAP immunoexpression were taken of lateral and anterior white matter from both sides of the cervical/lumbar spinal cords at 10X for analyses. Additionally, GFAP perivascular immunoexpression was analyzed in the cervical/lumbar ventral horns of both sides from cell-treated, media-injected, and control mice. Fluorescent GFAP intensity of astrocytic end-feet (perivascular astrocytes) was measured adjacent to abluminal side of capillaries of approximately 25–30 µm in diameter (n=4–5 mice/group, n=14–16 capillaries/spinal cord segment). Density of perivascular GFAP immunoexpressions was determined as percentage per mm2 separately for cervical and lumbar spinal cord sites. Also, the proportion of reactive versus non-reactive astrocytes was observed based on cell morphology. Reactive astrocytes present larger cell bodies and thicker, easily visible processes, as opposed to non-reactive cells, which have more delicate features. www.nature.com/scientificreports/ Scientific Reports 7: 884 DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-00993-0 5 Histological staining and stereological count of motor neurons in the spinal cord. A separate set of cervical and lumbar spinal cord sections from randomly selected mice from each group (n =5/group) were stained with 0.1% cresyl violet using a standard protocol for examination of motor neuron condition for the Nissl substance. Motor neuron numbers in the ventral horn of the cervical and lumbar spinal cords were determined by the optical fractionator method of unbiased stereological cell counting techniques using a Nikon Eclipse 600 microscope and quantified by using Stereo Investigator® software (MicroBrightField). The virtual grid (150×150 µm) and counting frame (75×75 µm) were optimized to count at least 200 cells per animal with error coefficients <0.07. Outlines of the anatomical structures were done using 10X/0.45 objective, and cell quantification was conducted using 40X/1.40 objective. The motor neuron numbers (20–25 μm diameter) were counted in discrete levels of the cervical (C1–C3, C4–C6, and C7–C8) and lumbar spinal (L1–L2, L3–L4, and L5–L6) cords (n=7 sections/level/spinal cord segment/group separated by approximately 120 μm) and presented as averages per ventral horn for both spinal cord sides. Motor neuron morphologies were also analyzed in the cervical and lumbar spinal cords. Statistical analysis. Data are presented as means ± S.E.M. One-way ANOVA with Tukey’s Multiple Comparison test using GraphPad Prism software version 5 (GraphPad Software) was performed for statistical analysis. Significance was defined as p<0.05. Results The hBM34+ cells were intravenously administered into symptomatic G93A SOD1 mice (13 weeks old) at different doses and sacrificed at 17 weeks of age, corresponding to 4 weeks after initial treatment. Of the 64 total G93A SOD1 mice used in the study, five mice (Group 1 – one, Group 3 – three, Group 4 – one) were excluded due to death precipitated by conditions other than disease progression, more specifically, anesthetic complications during cell or media administrations. Also, four mice (Group 2 – one, Group 3 – one, Group 4 – two) were found dead at 16 or 17 weeks of age. Data on behavioral outcomes of these animals were included in analyses. Effect of hBM34+ cell transplantation at different doses on disease outcomes. Body weight, a general indicator of mouse health, and also a valuable marker for detecting progression of muscle atrophy, was measured weekly. As expected, body weight started to slowly decline at the symptomatic age of approximately 13–14 weeks in media-treated G93A mice and by 17 weeks of age, these mice had lost about 12% of their maximum body weight for this period. Although hBM34+ cell-treated animals lost weight more slowly, there were no significant differences between media and cell-treated mice at 1 week post-transplant. Significantly (p<0.05) higher body weights were determined in all cell-treated mice at 2 weeks post-transplant (15 weeks of age) compared to media-injected mice (Fig. 1A). At 3 and 4 weeks after cell transplantation (16 and 17 weeks of age), all cell-treated mice maintained significantly higher body weights (p<0.01) than media-injected mice. Of note, there were no significant differences in body weights between mice treated with different cell doses during the entire post-transplant period and at 17 weeks of age cell-treated mice weighed 2–2.5 grams more than media-injected mice. Cell-treated mice also displayed superior performance in tests of functional ability. Deteriorating extension reflex was noted in media-treated G93A mice, beginning at 12–13 weeks of age (1.93 ±0.03 and 1.88 ±0.04 score, respectively), with extension progressively declining until 17 weeks of age (1.13±0.13 score). However, hindlimb extension of mice treated with cells deteriorated more slowly than media-injected mice. At 16 weeks of age (3 weeks post-transplant), mice receiving cell transplantation displayed a tendency towards delayed deterioration of hindlimb extension compared to media-injected mice (Fig. 1B). At 17 weeks of age, only mice receiving 1×106 cells showed significantly (p<0.05) higher extension reflex scores vs. media-injected mice. Also, these mice demonstrated hindlimb extension scores (1.63±0.04) superior to mice receiving 5×104 cells (1.36±0.09) or 5×105 cells (1.39±0.08). In the grip strength test, media-treated G93A mice started to show decreased muscle strength at approximately 13 weeks of age (1,24±0.07 N), with strength progressively declining during the course of disease until 17 weeks of age (0,64±0.08 N) (Fig. 1C). Delayed loss in muscle strength was determined mainly in all cell-treated mice vs. media-injected at 15–16 weeks of age with significance (p<0.05) in mice with 5×105 cells (0,96±0.10 N) and 1×106 cells (1,01±0.13 N) at 17 weeks of age (Fig. 1C). Although muscle strength in mice receiving 5×104 cells (0.86±0.10 N) was superior to media-injected mice at 17 weeks of age, no significant difference between these groups was determined. Declines in performance on the rotarod test were observed in media-treated mice starting at week 13. Cell-treated mice demonstrated longer latencies for the entire post-transplant period vs. media-injected mice. At 17 weeks of age, ALS mice receiving 1 × 106 cells showed significantly (p < 0.05) higher rotarod latency (84.07 ± 23.22 sec) compared to media-injected (23.28 ± 6.25 sec) or other cell-treated mice (5 × 104 cells: 53.85±13.66 sec; 5×105 cells: 45.23±19.12 sec) (Fig. 1D). Importantly, at 16 weeks of age, 14, 19, or 22%, of mice transplanted with low, mid, or high cell dose respectively were able to complete the rotarod test (180 sec) while media-injected mice could not complete the test (Fig. 1E). At 17 weeks of age, about 6% of mice receiving the high 1×106 cell dose were the only animals to complete the test. Thus, intravenous transplantation of hBM34+ cells at different doses into symptomatic ALS mice ameliorated behavioral outcomes during 4 weeks post-treatment vs. media-injected mice by maintaining body weight and delaying losses in hindlimb extension, muscle strength, and rotarod performance. However, the most beneficial effect on motor function was determined in G93A mice treated with high 1×106 cell dose.
submitted by DaBrokenMeta to ResearchPapersSquirt [link] [comments]

2023.03.28 13:07 Shipposting_Duck Heaven Burns Red Review/New Player Guide

This was the first time Steam recommended me a gacha so I thought I'd try it and after about 3 weeks, the impression I have of the game is good enough that I thought I should recommend it.

The people who made the game

Heaven Burns Red is a visual novel with gacha elements created as a collaboration between Key (that's the guys who made Angel Beats! and Clannad) as writers, and Wright Flyer (that's the guys who made Another Eden) as developers. Once again, I'm struck by just how good games by Wright Flyer can potentially be when they're not anime adaptation cash cows, but unfortunately for Another Eden itself, Heaven Burns Red is on another tier entirely.

The kind of players who would like the game

Because Heaven Burns Red is a visual novel at its heart before anything else, easily 85% of its appeal comes from its dialogue and story. However, the game only has Japanese, Korean and Traditional Chinese localizations. The writing is so important to the game that machine-translating any of these into English would probably nuke all the nuances and bad puns it involves, so unfortunately, this is something I can only recommend to someone who can understand one of the three abovementioned languages. For the same reason, HBR is rarely talked about among EN gacha communities, which is kind of a shame given how good it is, and I'm writing this partially in the hope that players who do understand one of the three languages who haven't heard of it yet will hear of it through this - and maybe have an easier time starting the game than I did, given I couldn't find any EN guides for this at all.
It's unclear if it'll ever be localized into anything other than these three as the way the jokes are written will require extreme rewriting to work, and the kind of localizers who normally work in the gacha industry sometimes have problems even with basic grammar or spelling, let alone high-level wordplay. However, having a VN with writing of this quality available for free is definitely more than worth the gameplay time for people who like VNs.
It is also extremely music-focused, with a soundtrack that is better than anything else in the industry except Blue Archive, and recently had a rhythm game mode added to it because the developers know the players love its music (that has rewards that can be used in the main RPG mode), so players who are fans of games like Blue Archive, the Kiseki series or Touhou Project due to their music may want to check out its soundtrack online even if you don't know the required languages and can't play the game itself.
The rest of this post below will only be relevant if you do know one of the required languages and are potentially interested in the game itself.

General unqualified review

Some details follow, but as a rough impression:
Commercially, while in Japan it's currently the 3rd highest grossing gacha behind FGO and Uma Musume due to 1st anniversary effects (ahead of Genshin at #4 and Blue Archive at #5), without anniversary effects it normally squats at a comfy #5 just behind Blue Archive, the other mobile gacha that basically appeals to VN players, but actually has an EN localization.

Aesthetics and setting

It's a post-apocalyptic setting, but nowadays it seems 3 out of 4 games is a post-apocalyptic setting. People really seem to hate the world, it seems. The enemies ('Cancers') you fight are strangely organically smooth compared to the rest of the world, giving them a strange hypertechnological feel in the same way the Ironblood's bots from Kiseki look and feel. While every character you meet is female without exception (there's some explanation in the story that doesn't entirely eliminate the chance of future content having males), none, literally none, of the characters are sexualized in design, even though some are overtly perverted in personality, which is kind of rare in today's gacha environment. This may be a plus or minus depending on whether it's something you want.

Battle system

The combat is focused on squads of six characters, of which three are in the frontline and three in the backline. A styles usually has 1 skill, S styles usually have 2, and SS usually have 3, but you can move non-ultimate skills between styles of the same character, so you can potentially load a character with as much as seven skills. As the 'styles' are ways the same character fights, all styles of the same character share the same 'base level', though each has unlockable stat nodes that applies only to itself. For F2P players you will generally use single LB SS characters or full-LBed S characters, while 'carrying over' skills from other S styles of the same character. The base level of a character is 90 with an A style, 100 with an S style or 110 with an SS style, and further limit breaks add more levels.

Buffs and Debuffs

Debuffs unconditionally expire in one turn, so one important tactic is to rotate debuffed characters to the backline so you have a constant output of damage/healing. Some healing and buff skills also affect backliners though the vast majority only affect the front three. Buffs unconditionally expire in one skill use, so it's possible to prebuff before the burst phase using only autoattacks, buffs and heals before 'unloading'. Each skill can be affected by up to 2 buffs of the same type at once (so loading 4 buffs means it works for 2 skill activations), and targets will take up to 2 debuffs of the same type at once. As Extra Turns and Overdrive Turns don't count as time passing, debuffs will not fade through those turns.


An overdrive gauge exists in the top right, where you can get up to three overdrive 'charges'. Activating overdrive increases all damage dealt by 10%, and adds turns/SP according to charge level: 1 charge = 1 turn + 5SP, 2 charges = 2 turns + 12 SP, 3 charges = 3 turns + 20 SP. As overdrive requires 40 hits to charge (a recent update made it such that autoattacks always give 3 hits instead of the number of actual hits in the autoattack), if you manage to deal 40 hits in three overdrive turns, you'll charge another overdrive turn, which you can chain into that to continue hitting. The reason why overdrive chains are as strong as they are is that 'time does not pass during extra turns', which means that you can debuff the boss's defense twice for instance and then have all attacks during the entire chain act on the double-debuffed target. Overdrive can be activated either at the start of the turn or at the end, but the start of a chain should usually be done with a start-of-turn, as it can then lead into another chain, while an end-of-turn chain cannot trigger another end-of-turn overdrive. It can also be used as an ohshit maneuver to prevent an enemy from getting its turn to wipe your team. My current setup for the main team is an OD3 start chained into an OD1 start chained into an OD1 end.

Damage types and party composition

There's three base damage types (piercing, crushing and slashing), and five elements (fire, ice, lightning, light, dark). Anything that is resisted will not charge the OD gauge, so you'll eventually want to equip accessories that give elemental autoattacks based on the map - if there are monsters that resist slashing + ice for instance and others weak to slashing and ice, putting that ice bangle on a slashing character makes sense. However, there's also two types of HP: Deflector (DP) and Health (HP), and while Strength damages HP, Dexterity damages DP, so a 'balanced' team usually has one high Dex slash, one high Dex crush, one high Dex pierce, two high Str characters of different elements (just so the one getting the kill won't actually get resisted by anything), one debuffer, one buffer and one healer amongst the six characters. That's 8 roles among 6 characters, so some characters will have to pull more than one role. Ruka (your MC) is a free high Str slash with a heal, so she'll usually occupy those niches, while you'll have to get the other 6 roles among 5 characters to be able to react to anything.


Like Blue Archive, Heaven Burns Red works around a 3% rate with 200 pull spark. Unlike Blue Archive with about 80 pulls per month all-in between PvP, events, maintenances and missions, Heaven Burns Red gets you about 20 pulls per month all-in, so we're looking at one guaranteed character per 10 months or so. A large part of this is because BA has 120 pyros per pull while HBR uses 300 per pull, and the other part is that we get about half the number of quartzes per month. This makes the reroll extremely important, as getting two solid SSs to begin with will essentially put you ~ 9 months ahead of someone who took a random SS from the tutorial gacha and then proceeded not to pull any SS in the first 10 pulls.


It's pretty fast to delete account data from settings after the rolls to recreate it, and WFS has been nice enough to allow players to skip everything until the first tutorial roll. On PC, press the Ctrl key to speed through dialogue while doing this.
For the most part, the characters you'll want from the the tutorial roll are either Higuchi Seika 'Higumin' or Byakko (the white tiger) for an extreme buff with Higumin, or a good low cost AoE pierce with extreme high hit-count single target nuke with no cooldown with Byakko. There's a bunch more characters you could get in the first 10 pulls with available banners, but for the most part, you want someone with AoE skills, extreme high hit-count nukes, strong buffs, buffs that also affect backline, strong debuffs or heals that also affect backline. Never start with any SS Ruka because you'll already have a guaranteed max limit-break SS Ruka from missions, and you can't use two Rukas at the same time. Bludgeoning AoE characters are also a good idea if you can get them as they're relatively rare.
Ignore that one EN website with reroll recommendations for the starter characters, the writers clearly did not understand the game system and somehow managed to almost perfectly invert the tier list from actual character utility, putting the actually strong characters at the bottom. Someone should give them an award for being the first I've seen to get something this wrong.
Because of how low the F2P quartz rates are, you really, really should reroll unless you're intending to whale a lot.

Surviving without high-rarity characters

I intentionally played the game with only 5x A characters in 31A (maxed level, with 6 star accessories) and one SS Ruka just to see how far it would go (as well as for immersion purposes), and the answer is, it so barely clears the final boss fight of Arc III, it does so with six characters' deflectors broken at the last turn. But it's doable. The party wiped to the first random encounter of Arc IV, so from then on you'll need at least S characters to survive.
Obviously using A characters to grind equipment will also be intensely inefficient, but without the Energy requirement that dungeons normally have, Story/Event mode is actually relatively forgiving. Until Act IV.
With a Higumin + Byakko combination that took about six hours to reroll, I'm currently able to clear all content up to the point that gives Nordström crystals and skill guides without having spent any money on the game, but can't get gold trophies from Score attacks reliably.

Event characters

The nice thing about event S characters is that you can full limit break their S characters. If she ever comes back you'll want to max out the drum girl Miyuki Irie from Angel Beats!, but from pre-existing events, look up which character fits the gap in your team and do that event to get her. In particular, make sure you unlock Ruka's S style from the Tropical event, as the AoE fire slash does frankly obscene amounts of damage when loaded into the free SS style even if you merely unlock the skill at level one and spend no further resources on the skill. It also screws over targets that resist non-elemental damage while the free SS Ruka has no elemental skills of her own.

Things you should know about grinding


As the rates for pulling characters are pretty low whaling does give a significant gameplay advantage, but as no leaderboard or PvP exists nobody except you will ever know you whaled, which may not be a good thing for those who like to spend money for the feeling of dominance. This is probably the reason it is unlikely to ever earn more than BA in Japan on a long term basis - the game doesn't really reward spending enough - though I hope it at least makes enough to survive, because the game's writing is really that good.

Current events and quartzes

If interested to try out the game, now is a good time as there is a event that basically gives enough material to forge a full set of 6 star accessories for the party, and another event that gives 200 quartzes (2/3 of a pull) a day for the next 15 days. If interested in a bit more quartzes you can get 1000 quartzes on a one-time basis by using an invitation code - anybody's invitation code works, though mine is g7n6j7eh8ndgo0kh if you don't have any other friends playing the game. Old events are unlockable using edelweiss, though I wouldn't recommend actually grinding any event not on a x3 modifier unless you need its S character for your team. Since each event gives one edelweiss you can potentially play all past events, so the only content currently not accessible is the Angel Beats! collaboration that ended earlier this month.
This guide will not be updated, so if you're viewing this guide a few months from now, the event section will no longer be up to date, though I don't think they've disabled invitation codes yet, so that bit should always be relevant.
submitted by Shipposting_Duck to gachagaming [link] [comments]

2023.03.28 04:50 JLGoodwin1990 There's an old Gas Station in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. If you ever see it, keep driving

I wrenched the steering wheel over to the right, causing the tires to scream in protest. A deep horn blared loudly, almost rupturing my eardrums, and the interior was momentarily illuminated by harsh white headlights. For a split second, my life flashed in front of my eyes, and then I felt the bumpiness of the grassy edge of the road jostle me around. The eighteen wheeler which had veered into my lane missed me by less than a foot, blasting by in a blur at what had to be seventy miles an hour or more. After a split second of catching my breath, I jabbed the driver’s window switch down and stuck my head out into the pouring rain.
“Asshole!” I screamed at the retreating logging truck, though I knew the driver wouldn’t be able to hear me. A moment later, an outraged woman’s voice tumbled from the speakers of my rented Chrysler 300. “I beg your damn pardon?!” Regaining my senses and remembering I’d been in the middle of a phone call, I sat back down in the seat. “Not you, Erin” I said apologetically, “If you didn’t hear the commotion on my end of the line, I almost got splattered all over the front end of some moron’s Peterbilt who wandered over to my side of the road” There was a moment of silence from the speakers, and then my agent let out a small snort. “Well, isn’t that just grand? You’ve gotta love idiots on the roads these days” It took a softer tone. “I’m glad you didn’t get into an accident, Al. I don’t feel like losing my best client and close friend in one go” I laughed. “Helps me relax to know you care” I admitted, then, after a moment getting the tension out of my muscles, I pulled the car back on the road and continued on.
It was the winter of 2022, and I was on my way to a book signing in Seattle from where I lived in Gold Beach, Oregon. I was a writer who’d just broken the New York Times Bestseller list with my debut novel, and as such, I was on the start of my book signing tour which would take me around the country. Obviously, as many people would quickly realize who I am if I used my real name, I have changed it, along with others. Erin, my literary agent, had suggested I fly to Seattle from the airport in North Bend, but I’m someone who’s had a major anxiety over flying ever since the September 11th attacks in 2001. So, instead, knowing I hadn’t purchased a new car to replace my rather shabby and broken down one yet, she’d arranged me a rental, and I’d begun the almost seven and a half hour drive north.
“I wouldn’t have had to deal with those dingbats if Interstate 5 hadn’t jammed up with that accident” I muttered. “Well, you were the one who wanted to drive, Al” Erin’s chiding voice came through the speakers. “Do you have any idea where you are?” I glanced at the GPS map for what had to be the hundredth time. The screen almost seemed to glitch, jumping as the antenna on top of the car attempted to communicate with an orbiting satellite above. Piece of shit. “No, this stupid navigation system is apparently on the fritz” I snorted. “So much for Enterprise being a good car rental company” I looked back up just in time to see a sign with the gas symbol flash past. Thank you, God, for small favors, I thought. “Hey, there’s a gas station coming up soon. I’m a bit low anyways; I’ll stop there, get directions and then call you when I’m on my way, okay?” There was a sigh on the speakers. “Okay, just, please, try not to be too long. The publishing house won’t like it if you show up to your very first book signing late tomorrow” she said.
“I’ll be as quick as I can” I said reassuringly, then pressed the red disconnect button on the steering wheel, ending the call. I let out a sigh of relief; Erin was my saving grace and had been the one to orchestrate my contract, including a very nice advance, but after a while, it became exhausting to deal with her. I stared out the windshield at the two lane road in front of me, relishing the silence, save for the rain pelting the car’s windshield, the windshield wipers flicking it off, and the tires on the wet pavement. For a few more minutes, all I saw was nothing but endless trees pushing in close to the road, almost seeming as if they were jostling to see who drove up and down past them. Then, almost as if my thoughts had summoned it, I saw the bright lights appear ahead on the right like a lighthouse beacon.
It was clearly one which had been here a very long time; the overall appearance gave the impression it had been around since at least the 1950s, if not earlier. I grunted with surprise as I saw the lit up station logo swinging around in a lazy circle on its pole. The faded green outline of a Brontosaurus and similarly weathered red letters spelling out Sinclair were ones I thought I would never see in person, seeing as how the company had gone defunct back in March. Guess nobody told the owner of this one that. I pulled into the station, my tires driving over a small black wire which caused a classic bell to ding loudly twice, somewhere out of sight. Pulling up next to the green pump, I shut the engine off and relaxed back into the comfortable leather, listening to the tick of the engine cooling down. As I closed my eyes, I could only hear the loud buzz of the fluorescent lights overhead, and the rain pelting the metal awning over the pumps.
I opened my eyes as I heard the rain peter out and looked around, glancing at the analog clock on the dash, illuminated by the overhead lights. 7:30PM. Ten minutes had passed. I sighed. “Come on, man” I muttered, then quickly tapped the horn. The blaring sound of it almost seemed to shatter the stillness like a baseball through a plate glass window. Still nobody. “Damn it” I whispered, then unbuckled my seatbelt and pulled on the handle, using my foot to kick open the door. A bitingly cold wind smashed into my face as I stepped out onto the cracked concrete, causing me to flip up the collar of my coat in response. I glanced around, only hearing the sounds of the wind whipping through the trees, crickets chirping, and what had to be the hoots of an owl somewhere off in the forest beyond. The garage bays were open, and in the faded yellowed light of what had to be old incandescent bulbs, I could see what looked like a 50s Cadillac and a 70s International Scout up on the lifts, but no mechanic in sight. Leaning back into the car, I leaned on the horn, longer this time. Again, the sound reverberated off the trees and station. For some reason, I shivered at the noise. It almost feels sacrilegious to disturb the silence out here. I shook my head. Where the hell had that thought come from.
I shook it away and waited another minute or so. There was still no sign of life. Maybe the station IS actually closed. The thought was worrying; I hadn’t seen another sign of civilization, aside from the dumbass logging truck, in two and a half hours. I didn’t know how far it was until the next town or gas station, and as good as the Chrysler had been on gas, I didn’t want to try driving further on only a quarter tank. I decided to find out for myself, slamming the driver’s door closed with a loud thunk. Stepping around the front of the car, I walked across to the open bays, the sound of my footfalls echoing back at me. I glanced around, noticing the spilled oil on the ground, and mismatched tools, bottles and hoses heaved unceremoniously on the bench in the back. But still saw no one. Great, I thought, looking up to see the bright moon begin to appear from behind the clouds.
I had begun to turn and stride towards what had to be an office or convenience store when the figure burst out of the door, nearly causing me to jump out of my skin. “Gah!” I involuntarily let out, receiving a good natured laugh in return. “Sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to startle you, let alone make you wait so long!” I caught my breath, then let out a strained chuckle and looked up at the man. He appeared to be in his late forties or early fifties, dressed in a green Sinclair jumpsuit adorned with the same green dinosaur on the front patch; the patch on the other side proclaimed the man’s name to be Harold. The remaining hair on his head was slicked back, and he flashed me a smile with, surprisingly, bright white teeth. I held up my hand, giving it a little wobble and gave a laugh of relief. “Don’t worry about it, man. For a second, I thought this place was permanently closed or something” I said, the steadiness returning to my voice. “No sir, just the fact it’s only little old me working the night shifts!” he declared, jokingly wiping his brow. I snorted and smiled. The man clearly had a decent sense of humor.
“I’m guessing you need gas?” he asked, changing the subject to business and gesturing to my car. I nodded. “Yes, please, if you could fill her up with regular” He nodded, then began towards it as I jogged back around, opening the driver’s door and pressing the button to pop the gas cap. Harold let out a low whistle as he pulled the pump from its cradle. “Very nice car, sir!” he exclaimed, looking it over. “It looks expensive” I shrugged my shoulders. “It is a nice car, a Chrysler 300S, but, unfortunately, it’s not mine” He looked up at me and cocked an eyebrow as he slid the nozzle in and pulled on the handle. “It’s a rental” I added quickly, realizing it sounded like I’d jacked it or something. He seemed to relax. “Ah, that makes sense” he said jovially, “It’s nicer and newer than anything we normally see out here usually” I jerked my thumb at the open bays. “I’d say you have people with good taste around here, seeing as how that’s a 55 Coupe Deville back there” I said. He laughed, nodding approvingly. “I see you know your cars” he said with an impressed tone, glancing at the readout on the pump. “I do, love ‘em” I replied.
He looked back up at me. “So, are you some kind of auto collector or race car driver, then?” he asked. I shook my head. “No, afraid not. I’m a writer” He jerked his head up, his green eyes seeming to twinkle in the fluorescent lights. “A writer? Well, blow me down, I never thought I’d get a God-to-honest writer in my station!” he exclaimed, smiling. I nodded, feeling a slight sense of uncomfortableness wash over me. I still hadn’t gotten used to the reaction people had when they learned of my profession. He pressed forward. “What kind of books do you write?” he asked excitedly. “I write in the horror genre, honestly” I admitted, causing him to smile widely at the news. “Horror is my favorite style of books to read!” he said. “I love everything from the old classics, to Stephen King!” He looked at me quizzically. “How many have you written so far?” I held up a single finger. “Just one published; I’m actually on the way up to a publicity signing right now” He nodded approvingly, then looked back at the pump before speaking again.
“So, have you ever seen anything truly scary?” I raised an eyebrow at his question. That came completely out of left field. “What’dya mean by that?” I asked in return. He still watched the pumps, but replied. “So many horror writers I’ve heard about talk about how they’ve had their own frightening experience, whether it’s a plain old scare, or even a supernatural experience. It’s what helps them write truly horrifying tales” Now, he looked back at me. His face held a smile which caused me to inwardly shudder a little bit. It almost seemed far too wide for a moment. Then, blinking, I realized it was just a regular grin, if not just a bit of an odd one. The lights must’ve caused you to see things. He finished. “So, I was just asking if you’d ever had a scary experience which got you into writing horror” For a moment, there was silence between us as I pondered his question, only broken by an owl’s screech somewhere in the gathering darkness. Then I shrugged.
“Honestly, I hate to disappoint you, but, no” I admitted. He gave me a slightly surprised expression. “Really?” I nodded, deciding to be honest with him. “Really. To be completely truthful with you, Harold, as much as I love horror, both writing it, and reading and watching it, I’ve stopped being scared of it a while ago” The surprised expression seemed to grow on his face. “Really?” he repeated, then looked down at the pump again. “That’s a shame” he said, his voice almost holding a trace of sadness in it. I nodded, having to agree with him. “It is. I used to love getting scared by a good horror film or book, but, as I got older, it just seemed to, you know, drift away. Now, I just write what I know others are afraid of, like I did with my first book here, but, honestly? When I write, I don’t feel that fear in me at all” I hated admitting it; even when I’d given my first online interview with a magazine about my novel, I’d lied about it, saying that my own work could scare the hell out of me. But, in a way, it felt good to finally admit the truth to someone, even just a stranger I’d likely never see again.
I looked up to find him giving me a rather intense, and honestly, extremely creepy stare. His green eyes almost seemed to glow in the lights, and his smile had completely disappeared. I took a step back at the abrupt change in his demeanor, but just as quickly, it too, was wiped away, replaced by the smile I’d known since he appeared. “Well, I’m sure if you search hard enough, you’ll find that feeling again” he said, his voice filled with what sounded like genuine empathy. I nodded, looking out at the woods. “I hope” I truthfully admitted, then heard the sound of the pump finally clicking off. “Ah, all done!” Harold said happily, pulling the pump out of the car and replacing it back in its cradle. He looked at the readout. “That’ll be $23.17!” I started slightly. Under 24 bucks for three quarters of a tank? I hadn’t heard of gas this cheap since I was at least a teenager, but, at the same time, I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I reached into my back pocket, pulling out my wallet, and from it, my credit card. “Do, you happen to accept credit?” I asked, half afraid he’d tell me he didn’t.
But he plucked the card, happily, out of my hand. “Of course we do, Mr.-“ he looked down the name on my card, “Mr. DeMascus! The credit card reader, however, is back inside the main building” He gestured back towards the door he’d exited from. “Would you mind if I took it back there and ran it?” I shook my head. “No, by all means, go right ahead” I said, and he turned away and strode back across towards the building. “I’ll be back out with your receipt quicker than you can say, Bob’s your uncle!” he called. I let out another laugh at the phrase I hadn’t heard in years when I noticed something. I hadn’t seen the man’s back since he’d appeared, and this was my first time. The back of his jumpsuit was the same stained green as the front, with a red oil rag peeking out of the back pocket, but my eyes were drawn to one thing. What looked like a large tear in it, just below the large logo patch adorning the back, almost as if he’d been slashed. I could see an equally stained white shirt underneath it.
“Uh, hey!” I called out to him. He stopped and turned back to me, still smiling. “Yes?” he asked. I pointed to my own back. “Your, uh, your jumpsuit has a huge tear in the back of it. Just wanted to tell you, in case you didn’t know!” For a moment, the same funny look came over his face, and then he waved his hand dismissively. “Oh, I know; I haven’t had a chance to mend it yet!” he said, then, holding up a finger, pulled open the door, causing a bell hung from the inside handle to jingle, and stepped inside. I was left alone again, with only the buzzing sound of the lights almost causing my ears to ring in the sudden silence. Not wanting to seem rude by waiting back in the car, I instead walked to the front and leaned against the hood, staring out into the night. My eyes absentmindedly drifted off into the gloom as I waited for Harold to return.
That’s when my eyes finally glanced over at the large sign directly ahead of me. It was the one which advertised the price for gas by the gallon, and as I’d pulled in from the other way, not to mention getting too caught up talking, I hadn’t even looked at it. You could easily tell it had fallen into a bit of disrepair, as the light inside which allowed you to see the prices at night flickered on and off, precariously seeming as though it would burn out at any second. You could even hear it flickering loudly in the silence. That wasn’t what drew my eye, though. No, what drew my eye was the prices displayed on that flickering sign. “There’s absolutely no freakin’ way” I whispered to myself. I scanned down, but kept looking at the top two figures. Eighty-eight cents a gallon for regular? I felt a small wave of confusion fall over me. No matter how out in the middle of nowhere this station was, there was no way that it would charge that little for gas. Not to mention, it showed prices for both unleaded and leaded gasoline, something that had been banned since at least the mid 90s.
As my mind attempted to process this, something else finally sunk in. The entire forest around the station had fallen silent. And I’m not talking a normal silence, either. The crickets, the owl, the rustling of what I’d thought were deer or elk in the trees, had vanished. Even the wind had seemed to stop. It was an almost unearthly stillness, as if the entire forest were holding its breath. It was beyond unnerving and eerie, to say the least, and it caused a shiver to shoot up my spine. The only sound I could hear was the almost maddeningly loud buzz of the overhead lights, which seemed to drone like that of a growling creature. I realized every muscle in my body had tensed up, though I couldn’t understand why. Sure, the silence is eerie, but, it’s nothing to be truly afraid of, I thought. As much as I repeated that thought to myself, I couldn’t help but feel increasingly on edge in the stillness. “Okay, fuck this” I said finally, the sound of even my own echoing voice sounding just…off to me, pushing myself off my hood and beginning for the door Harold had gone through. As I walked, I looked at the watch on my wrist, seeing another fifteen minutes had passed since he’d left. Where the hell is he? Letting out a sigh, both of frustration, and to try and relieve some of the odd sensation forming in my gut, I finally reached the door and reached out, gripping the handle.
It felt almost shockingly cold in my hand, and I quickly twisted it, opening the door and causing the bell to jingle, sounding too loud in the quiet. I stepped inside and allowed it to swing shut behind me, the bell giving another jingle, this time muted in the building’s interior. I looked around. Aside from an old Coca-Cola machine in one corner of the room, there were no food or drinks in here. Instead, the two or three aisles taking up most of the space were filled with what looked like older style cans of motor oil and other assorted automotive bits and bobs, all adorned with the dinosaur logo. I drew in a breath, then coughed a little. It felt more than a little musty in here, as if it hadn’t been aired out in a long time. Looking directly ahead, I saw the counter that Harold must usually be stationed at. An older style cash register sat atop it, and behind it lay an open door marked Employees only. Beyond was a long, tiled hallway which stretched out for a while before disappearing around a corner.
I stared at the cash register. Haven’t seen one of these old jobs since I was a kid in the 90s, I thought, a few nostalgic emotions breaking through my other emotions and tugging at my heartstrings. But it was just as quickly shooed away by the uneasy feeling that was settling over me like a cloud of dust. This whole thing, this whole place just seemed…wrong. I couldn’t tell why, but it was making my arms and legs feel as though insects were inching along under my skin. After a moment’s hesitation, I opened my mouth. “Uh, hey, Harold?” I called, my voice seeming muted just like the bell had. I waited. No answer. “Hey, Harold, are you back there?” I called again. Still nothing. Feeling increasingly on edge as the fluorescent lights in here sounded like they were also buzzing too loud, I craned my neck to look down the corridor. Just barely at the corner, I saw the bright blue sign indicating a restroom. I made my decision, calling out again.
“Look, if you can hear me, Harold, I’m coming over the counter to use the restroom, okay? I can’t hold it until I get to the next town!” It was a lie; I hadn’t eaten or drank anything in the last two hours to make me have to go, but, just in case he came around the corner, I didn’t want to get into trouble, as odd as I felt. I still didn’t want to piss the man off. Taking a deep breath, I hopped the counter and stepped into the corridor. Unlike the main room, this was lit by three or four incandescent light bulbs, dangling down from the ceiling. It gave the hall a slightly dimmer look than behind me, and I hesitated for a moment before starting down it, taking care not to have my footsteps echo too much. The hall seemed to go on forever, but eventually, I reached the corner. Wanting to keep up appearances, I turned the knob for the bathroom and opened it. After looking into it for a split second, I shut it quickly, suppressing a cough and a gag. It had looked disgusting, as though it hadn’t been cleaned in years, if not decades. Turning back, I noticed a brighter light down at the end of the next stretch of hallway. I debated for a moment, then began down it. All I wanted was to be out of here.
I passed another open door; glancing through it, I saw the two garage bays and the view outside. The blast of cold, fresh air relieved me somewhat, and I continued on. As I reached the doorway, I looked around, seeing that it was an office. Two desks stood inside, each with nameplates on the edge of them. I spied Harold’s name on the far one. I also saw my credit card sitting in the middle of the table; the bright blue stood out among the dark wood and white papers. Letting out a relieved sigh, I crossed to it quickly and picked it up. I decided I’d just leave a twenty and a ten in cash on the desk instead and get the hell out of here. I didn’t know where the man had gone to, and every fiber of my being was telling me to leave. As I reached for my wallet, my eyes caught a plaque on the wall behind the desk, the faux gold glinting in the low light. I stared at it. The photograph was clearly Harold’s, looking almost the same as I’d seen him, just a lot cleaner. Below that was a declaration etched into the fake gold. Employee of the Month, Harold Jankowski. I couldn’t help but smile a little at how hard he must’ve worked for it. Less than a second later, though, the smile dropped from my face as I read the inscription underneath it.
August, 1976. I shook my head, hoping that I was just seeing things in the low light, hoping that it would change to 2006, or hell, even 1996. But, no. It remained the same.”What the fuck?” I breathed out, feeling another shiver go down my spine. There was absolutely no way that, if he’d looked to be in his forties or fifties in the mid-seventies, that he would still look the same forty-six years later. He’d at least be in his eighties or nineties now, and would very much not still be working here. “What the hell is going on…” I whispered again. Feeling like tendrils of dread were reaching out of the gloom and jamming themselves in me, I turned to book it out of the room, and out of the station entirely. But I froze, as I saw Harold.
He sat in an old style black swivel chair, his back to me in the next room. I couldn’t tell what the room was, as it was lit only by a single, very dim bulb directly over him, but the room was giving me off truly creepy vibes. For the first time in years, I felt the first inklings of fear. Before I had a chance to move or say anything, he spoke. “Well, Mr. DeMascus” he said, his voice almost inflectionless. I began to speak. “Look, I’m sorry I barged back in here, it’s just-“ I was cut off as he continued. “Well, Mr. DeMascus, how do you feel?” My shoulders slumped as I felt a wave of confusion envelop me. “Ex-excuse me?” I managed out. “How do you feel?” he repeated, then continued, his voice finally seeming to gain some cadence to it. “Do you feel…afraid? Do you feel…fear?” He let out a low chuckle, one that almost seemed different from the happy one I’d heard outside. I didn’t know how to respond. Finally, he spoke again. “It’s okay; you don’t have to tell me. I know, I can feel it” He let out another chuckle, and I felt multiple shivers shoot up my spine.
“And, frankly, Mr. DeMascus, I’m happy about that” he said, standing up, but still keeping his back to me. “Because, you all taste so much better when you’re afraid” This time I did manage to say something. “…The fuck…” It wasn’t the most eloquent response, but apparently Harold found it funny, as he let out another low, creepy chuckle. He finally turned towards me, and I jumped backwards, slamming into his desk and causing his nameplate to fall to the ground. The man still smiled at me, his smile now holding a very definite wideness to it, holding an almost pants pissing wickedness in it. But, he didn’t seem…alive. His previously sparkling green eyes now seemed glassy and unseeing. To put it bluntly, he almost more resembled a ventriloquist’s dummy, a puppet, than anything. He almost seemed to lean towards me. And finally, he spoke. “I’ll make it sporting, though. You have twenty seconds to run” he said. Swallowing hard, I looked around and saw a tire iron on his desk. I snatched it up, ready to club the man over the head if he made a move towards me.
That’s when he simply dropped forward onto his face. He fell halfway forward into the room and didn’t move. I looked down at him, and gasped as I realized what I was seeing. The man looked nothing more than like a deflated beach ball, as though all the organs and blood in him had been sucked out. I saw the tear in the back of his jumpsuit again, this time much more pronounced. Behind it, his dirty white shirt had been torn as well, and it revealed…oh, fuck me sideways…a hole in his actual back. I could see the white of his spine clearly visible in the yellow light. As I stared down at him, I heard a voice. This one, though, was not Harold’s. It seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once, much lower than I’d ever heard a human voice speak, and. It alone almost caused me to piss myself, because it held a truly evil, sadistic tone to it. Twenty. Nineteen. Eighteen. Seventeen. I looked up and into the darkened room Harold had fallen out of. And finally, for the first time in years, I screamed.
Hovering just in the darkness beyond the edge of the dim light’s gaze, were two enormous, glowing green eyes. They were larger than a human’s eyes ever could be, and in a very inhuman shape, looking like crescent moons. They held the most evil, sadistic glee I had ever seen in my life. At my scream, the voice stopped counting down, and…it fucking laughed. A great, booming laugh that sounded like nails on a chalkboard. And then it began counting down again, the malicious excitement in it audible. Sixteen. Fifteen. Fourteen. I didn’t wait any longer. I didn’t want to see what those eyes belonged to. I turned and I sprinted out of the office, running down the corridor, my footfalls and panicked breathing echoing back to me like a gunshot. The corridor seemed to go on forever, and I couldn’t understand why it was taking so long to reach the corner. Finally, though, I reached it. And froze.
I was back at the entrance to the office. What the fuck?! Behind me, I heard the voice reach ten, and I began sprinting again down the hallway. It seemed to take even longer to reach the corner, and this time, I reached out to grab the corner edge with me hand-only to grab the wooden edge of the office door. My eyes widened and I felt tears begin to fall from my eyes as I ran again. The voice continued as I dashed for down the ever increasing corridor. Seven. Six. Five. I let out a strangled sob as I grabbed for the tiled corner, pushing off the edge of the corridor to snatch at it. Instead, I smashed into the wall…next to the office door. I fell in a heap, trying to force myself up when I heard it finish.
Three. Two. One. Ready or not, Mr. DeMascus. Here. I. Come. As it finished uttering the last word, the voice dropped even lower, as if I were hearing the voice of the devil himself speak to me. I realized if I looked behind me now, I’d see it. Standing in the middle of the office, over its human puppet. I refused to look back; I knew it wanted me to. Tears flowed freely down my cheeks, mixing with the blood from my head where I’d slammed into the wall. Every horror movie death in movies and books flashed through my mind. And I knew all of them weren’t even remotely as horrible as what that…thing had planned for me. That’s when a thought, just a tiny glimmer of hope, flashed through my mind. Something I’d seen as I’d walked down the hall to the office. I felt adrenaline course through me. I might die trying to do this, but I have to try, I thought.
I heard the floor behind me rattle, and felt hot, stinking breath fall across the back of my neck. For a microsecond, I felt paralyzed with fear, and then I let out a strangled cry, exploding into motion. I heard a bellow of frustration behind me, followed by a laugh. It knew once I reached the end of the corridor, it’d use whatever power it had to bring me right back to it. It had power over this corridor. But it doesn’t realize it left a weak spot open. The thought still echoing in my mind, I ran, unable to keep myself from screaming this time as I dashed down the corridor. It seemed even longer than before, but as I reached the halfway point, I saw what I’d been hoping to spy. The door into the garages stood open, almost hidden out of sight behind a shelf of oil. I let out another cry; this one of determination. Behind me, I heard the creature stop laughing. Now, it let out a bellowing cry of rage, realizing what I intended to do. I felt it begin to thunder up the corridor after me, to snatch me up. The feeling of something sharp sliced across my back.
And then I was leaping for the doorway. And through it. I landed in a puddle of still sticky oil underneath the Cadillac, what I saw now was rusting away with decades of disrepair. Not wasting a second, I jumped to my feet and ran for the open bay doors. Behind me, I heard a louder bellow, but I didn’t look back. I burst out from inside the doors into the night, now laden with the sounds of the forest again. I dashed for my car, almost flying over the hood and ripped open the driver’s door. Crashing into the seat, I stabbed at the start button, for a moment terrified that, like the typical horror cliché, it wouldn’t start. But, to my surprise- and gratitude, it did, the roar of the V6 thundering out. As I grabbed the knob to jam into drive, I risked one glance up. And I couldn’t help but scream out again.
The entire gas station had gone dark. The inside, the overhead lights, everything. I could see the outline of the building, but that was it. And the eyes. The eyes glowered at me from inside the bays with absolute rage and hatred. Still screaming and staring at them, I slammed my foot down onto the accelerator. The tires screamed, and the car shot forward like a rocket, tearing out from under the awning and out onto the road. I refused to look in the rear view mirror. I knew I’d see those eyes one final time in them, and I didn’t want to. I just kept my eyes on the road in front of me, as far as my headlights reached, my knuckles white as I gripped the wheel and roared away from the hell behind me.
I just about never let up my foot from that gas pedal, taking the corners far too fast. Not until the warm lights of the next town finally came into view, one I can’t recall the name of. I felt myself beginning to cry, this time tears of happiness and relief. I drove straight through to the police station. I knew I could never tell them what had actually happened to me; they’d think I was utterly insane, or on something. But, I could tell them I’d been attacked by a crazed lunatic at an old gas station. And that’s exactly what I did. I burst in, begging to speak to someone. The officers at the desk calmed me down and took my statement, taking it all very seriously when I showed them my back, which, as it turned out, had three deep slashes in it. But when I told them where it happened, confused looks came over both their faces. As a paramedic rushed in from outside to check my wounds, one of the officers walked into the back, returning with the sergeant on duty, an older gentleman in his sixties. “Please tell me again, what happened to you” he asked gently. I did, and when I finished, he shook his head. “Son, it couldn’t possibly have happened at the Sinclair station ten or twelve miles back” he said softly. I stammered. “W-why not?” I demanded, struggling for my words. “Because” he began, “It closed in 1979, after a huge fire gutted it, killing everyone inside”
It’s been almost half a year since that incident now. I never made my book signing, which earned me a furious phone call from Erin. Her fury disappeared when she heard I’d been attacked. I told her it had been from someone I’d pulled over attempting to help on the side of the road. I didn’t want to repeat the same conversation I had with the police. They said they’d try and find whoever attacked me, but I know they never will. Not after they showed me a newspaper article, yellowed with age, showing the burned out hulk of the gas station I’d been to. Along with a very familiar photograph of a smiling man next to it. I still am a horror writer. The horror I saw that night didn’t stop me from writing. My second novel is due out this year. But now, whenever I sit down at my computer and begin to write a truly scary scene, I feel the chills of fear from my own creation jolt up my spine. Because I know true horrors lie in this world. And I hope I never come across them again.
I’m posting this here, not only to tell the truth finally about what I experienced, but also as a warning. To anyone who will listen. If you’re ever in the Pacific Northwest, on a lonely two lane road in the middle of nowhere, and you happen to come across an old looking gas station, lit up with a faded green Brontosaurus logo spinning in the night? Just keep your foot hard down and keep going. Because you may not be as lucky as I was.
submitted by JLGoodwin1990 to nosleep [link] [comments]

2023.03.28 01:45 Formal-Mud-990 Everything HxH and it's real life equivalent

Edit' I'll try to organize it better
Here are several things in Hunter x Hunter that resemble real life things with similar characteristics. Here is a example:
The Phantom Troupe: Neapolitan camorra A groups Who clashes with various mafia groups, are reminiscent of real-life gang wars and turf battles. One example is the Mafia- Camorra War, which occurred in New York City in the early 20th century. The war was between the Italian Mafia ,which more or less died off from this, and the Neapolitan Camorra, The Neapolitan Camorra is a powerful criminal organization based in Naples, Italy, and is considered one of the oldest and largest mafia groups in Italy, along with the Sicilian Mafia. The Camorra originated in the 19th century, and it is estimated that the organization has around 7,000 members, divided into various clans, each with its own hierarchy and territory.
Like the Phantom Troupe in Hunter x Hunter, the Camorra is involved in a wide range of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering, and arms trafficking. The organization also has a strong presence in the construction industry, and it is known for its involvement in illegal waste disposal and toxic dumping.
The Camorra is known for its violent tactics, and its members are notorious for their willingness to kill anyone who gets in their way, including police officers and rival gang members. The organization is also known for its use of torture and intimidation to maintain control over its territory and business interests.
Similar to the Phantom Troupe's hierarchy, the Camorra also has a well-defined internal structure, with a boss, underboss, and various lieutenants and soldiers. The organization also has its own codes and rituals, and members are required to take oaths of loyalty and secrecy.
Despite efforts by law enforcement to dismantle the organization, the Camorra remains a powerful force in Naples and continues to operate to this day, with many of its members still involved in a wide range of criminal activities.
1 Whale Island: The island where Gon grew up is said to be located off the coast of the Republic of Palau in the Pacific Ocean. The island is said to be inspired by real-life Palau, which is known for its beautiful beaches, coral reefs, and diverse marine life. It is known for its pristine natural beauty, which includes crystal-clear waters, lush tropical forests, and abundant marine life. Palau is also famous for its world-class scuba diving, which draws thousands of tourists to the islands every year. Whale Island is depicted as a remote, tropical island that is home to a small community of fishermen and hunters. The island is surrounded by clear, turquoise waters and dotted with palm trees and other tropical vegetation. Many of the characters on the island are shown to have a close relationship with the ocean, and rely on it for their livelihoods.
  1. Greed Island: In the series, Greed Island is a rare and expensive video game that is said to have been created by a group of expert game designers. It has similarities to real-life MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games)based on real-life video games and RPGs. It has various features such as quests, levels, and spells, which are commonly found in such as cards and quests.
  2. Chimera Ants: In the series, Chimera Ants are a fictional species of insect that can absorb the traits of other creatures they consume. This concept is similar to real-life viruses and their ability to mutate and adapt.are based on real- life insects and the Idea of the insect kingdom evolving into a more intelligent species's.are based on insects such as ants and bees. Their society and hierarchy are similar to that of insect colonies.
  3. Kurta Clan: The Kurta Clan in the series have red eyes that turn even brighter when they experience Intense emotions. This concept is similar to the real-life phenomenon of red eyes caused by certain medical conditions or emotions. is based on the Romani people, an ethnic group that has faced persecution and discrimination throughout history. The character Kurapika's ability to use chains is inspired by the Chinese martial art of Wushu, which often features the use of weapons with chains.
  4. Hunter Exam: The Hunter Exam in the series is a grueling test that requires physical and mental endurance, as well as problem- solving skills. It has similarities to real-life tests such as the Special Forces Assessment and Selection or the Navy SEALS BUD/S training.
  5. Dark Continent: The Dark Continent in Hunter x Hunter is based on real-life myths and legends of unexplored and dangerous lands. In outer space is the last real unexplored Dark continent IMHO.
  6. Zodiacs: The Zodiacs in Hunter x Hunter are based on the Chinese zodiac and astrology.
  7. Yorknew City - Yorknew City in Hunter x Hunter is based on New York City. The city's architecture and layout are similar to New York's, and several landmarks such as the World Trade Center and Times Square are referenced.
  8. Kukuroo Mountain - Kukuroo Mountain is a prominent location in the Hunter x Hunter series, and is home to the Zoldyck family, a clan of skilled assassins. The mountain is located in the fictional country of Kakin, and is said to be one of the tallest mountains in the world of Hunter x Hunter. The mountain range's terrain and climate are similar to the Himalayas. As far as a family living in zoldyck mansion matching results search at your own risk ,a complex on the scale of the Zoldyck estate without attracting attention or interfering with the surrounding environment, Based on what is known about the Zoldyck estate. it's difficult to say for sure whether or not it could actually exist in real life. The estate is depicted as a massive, sprawling complex with numerous buildings, gardens, and training facilities, all of which are hidden deep in the mountains. Possible example of could be the real deal is Shakti 360 ... That is at your own risk like I said. (Another example is the Murdock Mountain Ranch in Utah, USA, which is a private ranch owned by billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr. The ranch is located in a remote mountainous area and is home to Huntsman's family and a collection of exotic animals, including zebras and wildebeest.) While these examples are not exactly like the Zoldyck estate, they demonstrate that it's possible for wealthy individuals and families to live in seclusion and privacy in remote mountainous areas.
  9. NGL (Neo-Green Life) - NGL is The "Neo-Green Life" country in the Hunter x Hunter manga is believed to be based on the real-life country of Bhutan, which is known for its emphasis on environmental conservation and sustainable living. In terms of political structure, Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy with a king as the head of state. The king of Bhutan is highly respected and revered by the people and is known for his emphasis on Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a measure of the country's development. With much emphasis on not using modern methods. Similarly, NGL is also a monarchy with a king as the head of state. In addition, both Bhutan and the NGL have a strong reverence for nature and wildlife. Bhutan has a government policy that mandates at least 60% of the country must remain forested at all times, and the NGL is a sanctuary for rare and endangered species of insects and animals.
  10. Zaban City - Zaban City is a city in Hunter x Hunter that is based on Cairo, Egypt. The city's architecture and landmarks such as the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Giza are referenced.This city in the Republic of Padokea is said to be located in the Sahara Desert. The city's architecture and culture appear to be inspired by traditional North African and Middle Eastern architecture.
  11. Meteor City - Meteor City in Hunter X Hunter is a place where people who do not belong in society reside. It is based on real-life slums such as Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dharavi in Mumbai, India. Meteor City in Hunter x Hunter is a fictional city that is portrayed as a lawless, abandoned and poverty-stricken place where outcasts and criminals reside. The city's architecture and layout are characterized by a haphazard, ad-hoc arrangement of dilapidated buildings and structures, which were built from salvaged materials such as scrap metal and old shipping containers. Due to its harsh living conditions, the people who live in Meteor City are forced to rely on their own resourcefulness and ingenuity to survive, often resorting to illegal activities to make ends meet.
In terms of policies, there is no formal government or law enforcement agency in Meteor City, resulting in a lack of order and social services. The city's residents are forced to fend for themselves, with no access to basic amenities such as clean water, healthcare, or education. This has resulted in a high crime rate and a general sense of lawlessness in the city.
This makes me tend to believe the garbage piles themselves are most important clue And honestly there is only one place in the world like that And it fits the pattern for world wide geographic locations according to best I figure it. India. Probably meteor city is one of the worst slums of India. IMHO.
  1. East Gorteau -* East Gorteau* could be that it is a fictional country in Hunter x Hunter that is based on North Korea. The country's isolationist policies,harsh living conditions, and oppressive government are similar to North Korea's. Or that it is a country in Hunter x Hunter that is based on Ethiopia. The country's geography, culture, and architecture are similar to Cambodia has a history that is similar to the rebellion leader in that they win he secretly goes to remote area of region lives out alone in peace with double back doing whatever so he can.
  2. Hell-Ly Family - The Heil-Ly Family in Hunter x Hunter is based on the Rothschild family, a wealthy and influential family in real life.
  3. Kakin Empire, the country is described as a wealthy and powerful nation with a complex political system and a monarch at the head of the government. This is similar to many real-life countries in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, which has a constitutional monarchy, and Indonesia, which is a republic with a president as the head of state. The name "Kakin" itself is believed to be a play on the word "kakki," which means "wealthy" in Japanese. This is fitting for the country, as it is portrayed as a very wealthy and influential nation in the Hunter x Hunter universe. The architecture and design of the buildings in Kakin also reflect Southeast Asian influences, with elements of Thai and Indonesian architecture seen in the design of the royal palace and other buildings. The clothing worn by characters in the Kakin Empire also reflects traditional Southeast Asian styles, with many characters wearing long, flowing robes and headdresses. has a distinct political structure and culture that is heavily influenced by real-life Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia. One example of this is the royal family's mannerisms and cultural practices, which bear resemblance to those of the Thai monarchy. The Kakin Empire also has a complex and hierarchical social structure, with a focus on social status and hierarchy, which is similar to some real-life Southeast Asian societies. In terms of political views, the Kakin Empire is portrayed as a powerful and ambitious nation with a strong desire for expansion and conquest, similar to some real-life imperial powers in Southeast Asia's history. The empire's government is depicted as being heavily centralized, with power concentrated in the hands of the monarch and his inner circle, which is similar to the political structure of some Southeast Asian countries. Additionally, the Kakin Empire is shown to have a complex and corrupt political system, with powerful figures vying for influence and control. This is a common theme in many real-life Southeast Asian countries, where corruption and political instability have been persistent issues. Overall, the Kakin Empire in Hunter x Hunter draws heavily from real-life Southeast Asian societies and their political structures and cultures. the Thai monarchy has faced criticism and controversy over its involvement in politics and alleged human rights abuses.
there are real-world organizations that share some
similarities with the Hunter Association in terms of their mission, structure, and purpose. For example,
some organizations that aim to promote exploration, adventure, and discovery, such as the National Geographic Society or the Explorers Club, share some similarities with the Hunter Association in terms of their goals and values.
Similarly, some professional organizations or guilds, such as the Screen Actors Guild or the Writers Guild of America, share some similarities with the Hunter Association in terms of their role in supporting and advocating for their respective professions.
If we're looking specifically at organizations that are hired as problem solvers when no one else can solve a particular problem, then there are several options to consider.
One example is the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which is known for its expertise in management consulting and problem-solving for businesses and organizations. McKinsey has been hired by various governments, corporations, and non-profit organizations to tackle complex and difficult challenges, such as optimizing operations, developing new products, and improving efficiency.
Another example is the Crisis Management Team of the World Health Organization (WHO), which is response to global health responsible for providing rapid emergencies, such as disease outbreaks and pandemics. The WHO Crisis Management Team is made up of experts in epidemiology, public health, emergency response, and other related fields, and they are trained to quickly identify, assess, and respond to health crises around the world.
In addition to these examples, there are also many other organizations that specialize in problem-solving and are hired to tackle complex and difficult challenges, such as the Corporation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These organizations have a range of expertise and capabilities, and they can be hired to address various types Boston Consulting Group, the RAND of problems, from business challenges to social and environmental issues
If we are talking about organizations that are hired to handle conflicts and fighting, there are several options to consider. One example is private military and security companies (PMSCs), which provide military and security services to governments, corporations, and individuals. PMSCs are hired to provide a range of operations,including security, combat operations, consulting, and training of security forces. Some examples of PMSCs include Blackwater (now known as Academi) Aegis Defence Services, and G4S.
Another example is international peacekeeping organizations, such as the United Nations Peacekeeping Force, which is responsible for maintaining peace and security in areas of conflict around the world. The UN peacekeeping Force is made up of military personnel, police officers, and civilian personnel from different countries, and they are deployed to areas of conflict to provide security, protect civilians, and support peace processes.
In addition to these examples, there are also many other organizations that specialize in conflict resolution and management, such as the International Crisis Group, which provides analysis and advice on conflicts and crises around the world, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which provides research and analysis on global security issues.These organizations can be hired to provide expert advice and assistance on conflict-related issues, ranging from strategic planning to tactical operations.
. Similarly, the Hunter Exam in the series may be inspired by various real-world tests and competitions, such as the Special Forces selection process or the entrance exams for prestigious schools. There are pretty much license for any type of out doors vehicle or flight diving Mt guide ECT that allow after hard tests access to alot of areas otherwise not normally accessed. There is FCC for radio frequencies not normally accessable to public for communication, there is various security and security system access or maintenance licenses that do the equivalent of sometimes better then high level clearance. Sometimes.
In addition, the conflicts and power struggles between various factions and individuals in Hunter x Hunter may be influenced by real-world political and social issues, such as war, corruption, and inequality
On reasons of "WHY ALL THE SECRECY" in regards to teaching of NeN
Nen: unseen energy source able to be used through unknown to public means
Examples of real life.
Shamanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner (shaman) interacting with the spirit world through altered states of consciousness, such as trance. The goal of this is usually to direct spirits or spiritual energies into the physical world for the purpose of healing, divination, or to aid human beings in some other way.
Animal magnetism, also known as mesmerism, was a protoscientific theory developed by German doctor Franz Mesmer in the 18th century in relation to what he claimed to be an invisible natural force.
The Odic force (also called Od [õd], Odyle, Önd, Odes, Odylic, Odyllic, or Odems) is the name given in the mid-19th century to a hypothetical vital energy.
Qi is the central underlying principle in Chinese traditional medicine and in Chinese martial arts it is known as
Qigong (/ˈtʃiːˈɡɒŋ/),[1] qi gong, chi kung, chi 'ung, or chi gung (simplified Chinese: 气功; traditional Chinese: 氣功; pinyin: qìgōng;
Ase or ashe (from Yoruba àṣẹ)[1] is a philosophical concept defined by the Yoruba of Nigeria to represent the power that makes things happen and produces change in ,thought, is dependent upon it In addition to its sacred characteristics, ase also has important social ramifications, reflected in its translation as "power, authority, command." A person who, through training, experience, and initiation, learns how to use the essential life force of things to willfully effect change is called an alaase.
According to Melanesian and Polynesian mythology, mana is a supernatural force that permeates the universe. Anyone or anything can have mana. They believed it to be a cultivation or possession of energy and power, rather than being a source of power. It is an intentional force. is a Polynesian traditional concept denoting something holy or sacred, with "spiritual restriction" or "implied prohibition"; it involves rules and prohibitions. The English word taboo derives from this Accordingly,
Māori regarded all things as possessing a life force or mauri.
Orenda /ˈɔːrɛndə/ is the Haudenosaunee name for a certain spiritual energy inherent in people and their environment. It is an "extraordinary invisible power believed by the Iroquois Native Americans to pervade in varying degrees in all animate and inanimate natural objects as a transmissible spiritual energy capable of being exerted according to the will of its possessor.
Manitou (/ˈmænɪtuː/), is the spiritual and fundamental life force among Algonquian groups in the Native American theology. It is omnipresent and manifests everywhere: organisms, the environment, events, etc.
Reiki (霊気, /ˈreɪki/) is a Japanese form of energy healing, a type of alternative medicine. According to ancient and medieval science,
aether (/ˈiːθə, alternative spellings include æther, aither, and ether), also known as the fifth element or quintessence.
Vitality (from Middle French vitalité, from Latin vītālitās, from Latin vīta 'life') is the capacity to live, grow, or develop. More simply it is the property of having life a component to the will to live. As such, people seek to maximize their vitality or their experience of vitality—that which corresponds to an enhanced physiological capacity and mental state
Élan vital, a philosophical term coined by Henri Bergson in 1907, roughly translated as "vital impetus" or "vital force An incantation, a spell, a charm, an enchantment or a bewitchery, is a magical formula intended to trigger a magical effect on a person or objects. The formula can be spoken, sung or chanted. An incantation can also be performed during ceremonial rituals or prayers. In the world of magic, wizards, witches, and fairies allegedly perform incantation.A curse is a spell or incantation intended to harm.
In Old Norse, seiðr (sometimes anglicized as seidhr, seidh, seidr, seithr, seith, or seid) was a type of magic which was practised in Norse society during the Late Scandinavian Iron Age.
A psychic is a person to use extrasensory perception (ESP) to identify information hidden from the normal senses, particularly involving telepathy or clairvoyance, or who performs acts that are apparently inexplicable by natural laws, such as psychokinesis or teleportation. Although many people believe in psychic abilities.
Orgone (/ˈɔːrɡoʊn/) is a pseudoscientific concept variously described as an esoteric energy or hypothetical universal life force. Originally proposed in the 1930s by Wilhelm Reich and developed by Reich's student Charles Kelley after Reich's death in 1957,*** for those of you keeping track that is technically the most recent to current modern day theory proposed He got killed in prison for building boxes that cured cancer shortly after Don't believe me Google it Anywho...
if you look you will see Even further back in ancient antiqueties you find all it over as well. Examples.
Pneuma (πνεῦμα) is an ancient Greek word for "breath", and in a religious context for "spirit" or "soul".Greek translations of
ruach רוח in the Hebrew language From Proto-West Semitic
*rūḥ-. Cognate with Arabic رُوح‎ (rūḥ).: /ˈruah In Islam, the Holy Spirit acts as an agent of divine action is seen as the intermediary between God and man and "the outpouring grace of God and the effulgent rays that emanate from His Manifestation
Nephesh (נֶ֫פֶשׁ‎ nép̄eš) is a Biblical Hebrew word which occurs in the Hebrew Bible. The word refers to the aspects of sentience, Adam "became a living nephesh." Nephesh when put with another word can detail aspects related to the concept of nephesh; with רוּחַ‎ rûach ("spirit") it describes a part of mankind that is immaterial, like one's mind, emotions, will, intellect, personality, and conscience, as in Job 7:11
Shaktipat or Śaktipāta (Sanskrit, from shakti "(psychic) energy" and pāta, "to fall")refers in Hinduism to the transmission (or conferring) of spiritual energy upon one person by another or directly from the deity. Shaktipat can be transmitted with a sacred word or mantra, or by a look, thought or touch – the last usually to the ajna chakra or agya chakra or third eye of the recipient. In Hinduism, especially Shaktism (a theological tradition of Hinduism),
Shakti (Devanagari: शक्ति, IAST: Śakti; lit. "Energy, ability, strength, effort, power, capability") is the primordial cosmic energy, female in aspect. Shakti represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the universe.
Chakras (UK: /ˈtʃʌkrəz/, US: /ˈtʃɑːkrəz/ CHUK-rəz, CHAH-krəz;[2] Sanskrit: चक्र, romanized: cakra, lit. 'wheel, circle'; Pali: cakka)
. In Hinduism, Kundalini (Sanskrit: कुण्डलिनी, romanized: kuṇḍalinī, lit. 'coiled snake are various focal points used in a variety of ancient meditation practices, collectively denominated as Tantra, or the esoteric or inner traditions of Hinduism.
Prana (प्राण, prāṇa; the Sanskrit word for breath, "life force", or "vital principle") permeates reality on all levels including inanimate objects. Used in yoga Persian martial arts and medicine.
Jīvitindriya (Sanskrit and Pali) is a Buddhist term translated as "life faculty" or "vitality". Jīvitindriya is identified as one of the seven universal mental factors within the Theravada abhidharma teachings. In this context, jīvitindriya is defined as a mental factor that sustains the life of the citta (mind) and other mental factors it accompanies. The characteristic of jīvitindriya is said to be “ceaseless watching.
I'm sure there is more I missed of you know of any please don't hesitate to comment just a name is enough for me to go off of thanks in advance for any an all efforts to forward that endeavor of mine.
So I won't lie that some of this is based on real lifes mystical chi, chakra, ki, spirit , faith ,there's many more and wiki is a great source on the subject in regards to when an where specifics. So some of this is based off of my real life experience perceptions of the world Some is speculation I'll try me best to note the difference for easier understanding purposes
Now it is said in most ancient cultures with bad ass warriors being a main staple of said cultures development and legacies Top warriors have a certain code
This is not in dispute
If anything whats disputed is what the code is What is important to remember is tho they may have differed slightly in the end point is all top end martial masters seem to have one regardless.
Some ancient military records flat out describe some warriors doing and not just once but every time having unexplained ways of winning against numerous enemies at once over and over and over battle after battle after battle Point of fact most live to become old in seclusion often wrighting books Like the art of war, there's more but if you can't find the ones who lived it apart from those who didn't you stop reading now an save your time .
Now there is just about as many legends and storys of places too good for it not to be NeN if in fact they did exist and did also do what is said Sometimes a big task researching enough to say for sure May be we.destroy more then we preserve as a species on average I do know I think there is some real top the list contenders for real life equivalent being real and I'll list them as examples but I want first to do one as a whole reason why I think "all the secrecy" today's times next first .....
So In layman's terms..... Sounds like a good public cover story for why everyone being like yo Netro why those bullets bounce off you bro wtf...... Now this is mostly speculation but at the heart of speculation is the experience of perceptions by who ever is doing the speculation that's why I did the layman's terms for this section first not last In the middle of Africa is the congo. I bring this up because In Africa there is ppl called hunters There word is dozo or dono Googling the three journalist deaths in africa causing uproar and demanding investigation for answers Should be effective Note the ppl who were hired as guides They literally are quoted as saying there magic will protect them from bullets harming them And they are a "association of ppl for hire" Again that's a direct quote from the locals who referred them as the ones.to get as guides inland without dieing all on top of they are called a hunter association by the locals they are also protected by bullets with magic ...
In layman's terms that's my first with enough effort can be verified in real life existence as we speak
Zushi and wing
Rick wing Real life Kung Fu master google him I believe his master seen Bruce Lee Realized the unlimited potential but obviously lacking of nen knowledge Think of when kuriapika has his license stolen. Rick wings teach found Bruce Lee in his exile from being a life long Chinese monk but losing his temper fighting at a no contact demo All when Bruce a fellow Chinese man was bragging I can beat anyone anywhere that I accept all.challanges with advertising on posters around his dojo n gyms as well in local n some natl news papers Also Bruce Lee only talks about.his fight with this guy in the papers.once ever And is one.of.the few who says he lost Albeit Bruce says he left so he tech lost but he is not a masochist and the guy didn't fight back just let Bruce punch him in the back of the head until his hand hurt as the guy kept stepping away Interesting Bruce who can one inch punch solid wood apart Couldn't even damage a guy enough to knock him off his feet enough to even stop is steady advance away from Bruce. killua Fighting zushi then talking to gon after He says yea I won but towards the end there I lost my temper cause he wouldn't stay down and.i accidently way over did it I thought I killed him But I didn't even scratch him.Bruce would understand better then prob most humans ever that if he throws a say one inch punch at a human an regrets it so fast that his first thought is fuck I just killed this guy but then sees that in fact he did no damage at all. I can teach you the secret your missing meet me later. Bruce would understand it must be real Cause his punches fuck shit up normally Wong man jack was this guy's name a legit Chinese monk of Kung Fu his most accomplished student is named Rick wing who teaches in some secret area google.
Now bonolenov the dancing music fighter from the phantom troup who I think is the prince that killed his uncle king in Brazil and is the most accomplished copoeara maestro ever while also having a good reason to hate ppl I might add as his tribe really was killed off completely from industrialization But only after many including but not limited too the original slave owners and even the east india trading company .this guy was kidnapped as a baby raised by priests new latin and cpl other languages an by 15 escaped made it back to Brazil an was such an accomplished warrior in battle quickly earning his way to the leader of the armies of his uncle king who up until he said I want to give in for peace an the nephew poison killed an took over to continue fighting instead was by all accounts great prosperity culture enriched loving community turned kingdom of what originally amounts to some run away slaves Thus all his speech of tribe being important and honored and the dance fighting style an also the well spoken learned mannerism of bonolenov
Bungeegum origin story
So the wrapper has comic strips and is a prize of sorts in another snack food treat That inspired stretching retractable sticky or hard ...also is bright pink.... Bazooka bubble gum prize wrapped in comic strip wrapper inside as prize of cracker jacks Which where a baseball and carnival's circus famous snack food
______---part two. H.A is the Burj khalifa. Burj Khalifa is a real-life skyscraper located in Dubai, UAE. It is currently the tallest building in the world, standing at a height of over 828 meters (2,716 feet). Its primary function is as a mixed-use building, housing offices, residences, and a hotel. Its height and grandeur serve as a symbol of human achievement and modernity. Apart from looking and sitting physically structured in height floor levels and layouts function and . The show will run through March 3, 2018. Jasper Hope, Chief Executive at Dubai Opera, said "This is an incredible show with acrobatics, athleticism and agility that has to be seen to be believed - I am delighted we're able to welcome this extraordinary company to Dubai." Direct from Shaolin, China, the birthplace of Kung Fu, Shaolin Warriors delivered a fully choreographed, theatrical production featuring rarely seen Buddhist meditation alongside deadly martial arts expertise. Starring 21 Kung Fu masters, the breathtaking extravaganza is based on the journey of a young child's initiation to achieving fully fledged warrior status through diligent training. The opening for the day the building that looks just like heveans arena opened up and also has just the same number as floor masters for Kung Fu masters doing it all in real life years after it was in the magna first
Could ging be an enhancer like bill
So hear me out We know going off Netro Ging is top 5 And it's really really rare for enhancer to do stuff for others not themselves We.never see hide not tail of gings true power just his mastery itself of Nen Like copy leorios after being hit He says he can more or less make his own use of someone's uses of nen if he is hit in the face with it to pariston then uses the power in a much better way but also says he had talked to him about it He plays that show off your mastery of nen game making different animals and shapes with your aura around different body parts in a horse trick shot kinda manner and smokes all of paristons lackys in doing so on black whale Kite admitted ging personally helped him come up with his crazy slots So what if gings true nen power is to enhance someone else into having the best fitting for that persons hatsu.then trains them accordingly. There is a "Father of archeology" who could be gings real life counter part I'm not totally convinced the old captain of the boat in the first episodes isn't actually gings dad and Gon's grandpa. The st Elmo's fire is of st elmo the patron saint of sailors and sailing chartering Flinders Petrie who fits the description givin to gon by satotz
Palm...uses the same thing as gypsy hand readers crystal ball also used for scrying of ppls location Who just happens to look like the wicked witch pointy shoes n hat when she uses hatsu
Netros real life equivalent is easy enough Search thousand arms bodhisattva cave Note the unknown monk ....
Chrollo Lucifer has the ability of copying others when he learns your most un free will of traits about yourself with the stated description of loving to twist the users definitions and personal preference to his dark ends and gets enjoyment out of it more so then anything else in life. It is said the true difference between God and Lucifer The strongest angel was one key thing God kept to himself alone solely reserving the right of forever That is of origin creation Devil can twist and try to make an affront through all kinds of means mockery misery ECT But never can make originally creation and thus is stuck in essence having to steal an copy others.
Nobunaga Hazama: Another real-life samurai who shares traits with Nobunaga is Oda Nobunaga, a famous daimyo of feudal Japan. Nobunaga was known for his strategic thinking and leadership abilities, as well as his unconventional tactics and willingness to take risks. He also had a unique personality and style, often wearing flamboyant clothing and displaying his wealth and power.
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2023.03.28 00:49 Phoenix_the_Grey How I Kickstarted a TTRPG to $250k with no Kickstarter Experience – From Start to Finish

This will be a very long post with a lot of information. To make it easier to navigate, I have divided it into sections so you can easily skip to the parts you’re interested in. But to start, here’s a link to the Kickstarter I’ll be discussing: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/phoenixgrey/lewd-dungeon-adventures-a-role-playing-game-for-couples

Expectations versus Reality

Since this was my first Kickstarter ever, my expectations weren’t particularly high. I had originally set my funding goal at $500 and would have considered the Kickstarter a success if it made $10,000. I would have considered it a big success if it made $30,000.
When the Kickstarter hit $100,000, I literally cried. Never in a million years did I dream it would make it all the way to $250,000.
Because my goal was set so low, I did what everyone told me not to do. I had a lot of physical items with the Kickstarter. When the Kickstarter blew up, this later became somewhat of a regret because it complicated everything so much and added a bunch of additional expenses I hadn’t prepared for. Which brings me to my next section, and the very first thing you should do before you launch your Kickstarter.

Planning and Pricing Accordingly

There is a lot of conflicting information about whether you should price your products at a discount, at retail pricing, or above retail pricing (to accommodate for all the extra expenses that come with running a Kickstarter(and depending on what you’re offering, there can be a lot)). I had originally planned on discounting all of my tiers, but an author friend advised me not to, and boy, am I glad I didn’t.
Expenses you need to take into consideration besides manufacturing: Kickstarter fees, Backerkit fees (if you decide to use them), Marketing agency fees (if you decide to use them), shipping fees for physical products (I’m talking about actual postage, not just packaging), customs/VAT (if you plan to pay it), warehouse fees (if you plan to use one).
The first three on the list are fees that companies don’t have to pay once the product goes to retail, which is typically why you see the price of a Kickstarted project being more than what it will be when it hits retail.
I consider myself pretty business-savvy and thought I had everything figured out before I launched. I did not. Lol I never anticipated that I would need a warehouse. Nor did I account for the shipping costs of having physical products shipped to me (paperbacks to sign, candles to label) or shipping them to the warehouse, which was a lot. By the end of everything, I incurred an extra $12,700 in unanticipated expenses. My boyfriend calls it ‘the learning tax,’ but it was damned expensive. This is all to say that you should go over your numbers, then go over them again, then probably do it a third time before you launch.
If you plan to use a marketing company…or even do marketing yourself, it’s important to know what your ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) will be so that you don’t sink all your profits into ads. Here’s a great article on calculating that number: https://help.backerkit.com/article/608-guide-to-setting-your-target-roas The basic equation is Average pledge divided by Margin per pledge = Break even ROAS.
Another big mistake I made was that I only had Stretch Goals planned up to $150k, which I had already thought was a pipe dream. I had them all the way up to $150k despite thinking I’d only make $30k max because I had seen other TTRPGs make around $100k, and I thought it was better to plan for more than for less. Everything you see on my Kickstarter page past $150k is Stretch Goals that were created as I went.
For most of my planning, I looked at Kickstarters similar to mine and tried to copy what they were doing. As the saying goes, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. But I also knew that a lot goes into a Kickstarter beforehand. To learn about that, I bought the book Get Your Book Selling on Kickstarter by Russell P. Nohelty and Monica Leonelle because it was recommended to me by an author friend. I did most of the stuff in the book but not everything, even though I wasn’t Kickstarting a book. I feel like the marketing stuff for Kickstarters is pretty much the same no matter what you’re trying to Kickstart.
This next tip is going to be specific to TTRPGs and really doesn’t belong anywhere else in this post, so I’m leaving it here. If you are creating your own TTRPG system and can offer up a Kickstarter-exclusive conversion to another popular system, like Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition, do it. I leveraged this to the tune of about $100k in sales that I probably wouldn’t have made if I hadn’t done it. Doing this is kind of like creating an insurance policy for your Kickstarter.
Things I did this time: Priced at retail.
Things I’m doing differently next time: Pricing above retail. Why? Because I have an incredibly low-cost product, and even by increasing my prices, with all of the Stretch Goal and Early Bird reward stuff I’m offering, people who pledge are still getting way below the retail price for all of it combined. Plus, it helps to offset Kickstarter, Backerkit, Marketing, and any unplanned fees.
One of the biggest reasons why Kickstarter creators run out of funds and can’t deliver their products is because they don’t financially plan correctly. This is a lot easier to do than you would think.

Building Social Media and a Mailing List

Whether you’re a fan of social media or not, it’s here to stay, and you will need it to run a successful Kickstarter. Lewd Dungeon Adventures had zero social media presence when I started all this. Ideally, you’ll want to start working on building social media for your product before you even go into Pre-Launch. I started maybe a week before Pre-Launch.
I created a Facebook Page and ran ads to build it quickly. To get followers to Twitter and Instagram, I created a giveaway that I posted primarily on Facebook that used people following the other two social media platforms as an entry into the contest. The prize was my highest tier on Kickstarter. I used the paid version of Gleam.io for this, and it did work decently. Much better than my original approach.
According to online research, the cheapest and fastest way to get Instagram followers is to follow people similar to your Instagram page. The theory is that a certain percentage will follow you back. Don’t do this. It’s a complete waste of time.
The Gleam contest also had a link to my mailing list to encourage sign-ups. But I mostly built that list through Facebook ads because it was much quicker and more effective. To build my mailing list, I gave away a playtest bare-bones no-color PDF copy of the Core Rulebook & Starter Adventure for my game in exchange for people signing up. In the book industry, this is a pretty tried and true method, and it didn’t fail me this time either. I believe that I had around 1,000 people subscribed to my mailing list by the time I launched.

Preparing for Pre-Launch

For the sake of brevity, I’m not going to go into all the nuances of using Kickstarter itself. But at the very basics, before you can pre-launch, you will need an image to represent your Kickstarter, ad copy (Your Story or sales pitch), and some tiers. You should also have a video trailer and an idea of whether or not you’re going to do Early Bird Rewards and have Add-Ons.
I did have the two covers for the two campaign books I was offering in my Kickstarter designed before I pre-launched, but those were literally the only art pieces I had. The entire reason I was Kickstarting the game was because hiring artists is expensive.
I decided to use the cover of The Core Rulebook & Starter Adventure as the main image for the Kickstarter. When you go on Kickstarter, you will see tons of main images with text, but Kickstarter advises against this because it doesn’t look good as a thumbnail. Using just an image was something that I was admittedly a bit nervous about, but I also knew that this was pretty standard practice with Facebook ads. Not long ago, they penalized ads that had text in them. I figured there were probably statistics backing up the success of non-text images, so I went with it.
Good cinematic video trailers are typically very expensive to have made. That’s part of why you see so many people just posting videos where they talk about their product. The other appeal is that it helps to connect the creator with the product, which builds consumer trust through feelings of familiarity, as if they are somehow connected with the creator on a deeper level. This is pretty solid marketing, so if you want to take this approach, by all means, do it. It works.
I actually hate being on camera, and I also didn’t want to spend the money to hire someone to make the video trailer for my game, so I learned how to make it myself. This was incredibly time-consuming. I spent close to a week making the trailer, and it still cost around $100 for the program I used and the assets. But I actually enjoy doing this kind of work, so it was worth the savings to me.
For my story (ad copy), I copied the format of several popular Kickstarters in my genre, leaving out what wasn’t relevant to my particular campaign. The first section always talks about what the product is and how it came to be. Telling that story helps to get people emotionally attached to your product. This section of your Kickstarter page should be honest and uniquely you and your product.
Though Get Your Book Selling on Kickstarter had a section about Early Bird Rewards, at the time I was planning my Pre-Launch for Lewd Dungeon Adventures, I had only seen one Kickstarter that was offering Early Bird Rewards, and it was not difficult to figure out why. It is damn hard to come up with a lot of freebies to give away, especially as many as Get Your Book Selling on Kickstarter suggests.
The whole point of doing this is mainly to get people to pledge early so that you get better placement on Kickstarter’s front page. Giving away free stuff also adds more value to your Kickstarter, which, theoretically, should make more people want to pledge. I do think this works, and I do plan to do it for every Kickstarter.
I wracked my brain trying to come up with Early Bird rewards, and even came up with a few that I was pretty sure most TTRPG players would not care about, like a collection of romance books. Admittedly, I am not planning to have as many Early Bird rewards this next time around, mostly because I really want to keep them relevant to my game.
For tiers, I looked at the top three TTRPGs on Kickstarter to see what they were offering, and then I modeled my own tiers around theirs. I strategically placed the 5e conversion of my game on a higher tier. My main goal was to sell my own system, so if people wanted the 5e version, they would have to buy the original version as well. This worked really well, and it is how I will be running future Kickstarters.
As mentioned in the previous section, I had Stretch Goals planned all the way to $150k. Honestly, I did a HORRIBLE job planning Stretch Goals. Without having fully created the product before launching, I assumed it would have X amount of art, so that’s what I promised with my Stretch Goals. When I actually created the finished product from playtester feedback, that number changed, so I did not deliver on all of my Stretch Goals and ended up making up for it by creating a compendium and sending that to all backers instead. This is all to say that if you’re going to offer something as a Stretch Goal, it’s best to know that you’ll be able to deliver what you say you will. Luckily, none of my backers were upset, but depending on your audience, that might not always be the case. Plan better than I did.
One thing I don’t regret doing was not revealing all of my Stretch Goals at once. The next Stretch Goal was only revealed after the previous one had been reached. This allowed me to modify things on the fly as necessary. It also hid from backers where the bar of funding was truly set. Had I only planned Stretch Goals to $30k and revealed that many right away, I might have seen backer decline after the final Stretch Goal was reached, as there would be nothing else to get excited about.
And finally, I wanted to discuss artwork for your Kickstarter. As mentioned above, I only had two pieces of artwork pre-designed for the Kickstarter. Everything else was screenshots from the interior pages of the game, things I’d made in Photoshop, or stock photos. If I’m being completely honest, aesthetically, my Kickstarter was ugly. You don’t need a pretty Kickstarter to make a lot of money; you just need a good product.

What I Did During Pre-launch

My Pre-Launch was a month long, and I mainly spent it building my mailing list and social media accounts. My Gleam contest also had an entry option for people to click Notify Me on Launch on my Pre-Launch page. Honestly, that’s probably where the vast majority of my Pre-Launch people came from. Aside from doing that, I went through Facebook and made a list of Kickstarter and TTRPG groups that allowed posting of Kickstarter Pre-Launch pages. I found 30 groups in total and posted ad copy with my link to 1 group a day. By the time I launched, I had about 180 Pre-Launch sign-ups, which isn’t great but not the worst either.
I read on a Kickstarter marketing website that having around 10,000 Pre-Launch sign-ups before you launch is best. Even for my upcoming Kickstarter, I currently only have about 800 sign-ups. If I’m lucky, I’ll have 1,000 by the time I launch.
The theory is that a certain percentage of your sign-ups will convert to backers on day 1 of launch, and you want a lot of backers right out of the gate so that your campaign will appear higher in the Kickstarter rankings. From my own experience, I don’t think you need a ton of Pre-Launch sign-ups to have a successful Kickstarter. Do they help? I’m sure they do, but I would not postpone my launch if I didn’t reach some magical target number.
Also, during this time, I worked on all of the emails and social media posts I would send out for hitting Stretch Goals and warning people that Early Bird rewards were about to expire. There was a lot. It took almost an entire day to write the majority of them. Some of them, I wrote on the fly. Still, having all of these written up in advance is a good idea so that it isn’t an added stressor after you launch.
The last big thing I did during pre-launch, which I firmly believe got me to $250k, was looking for a marketing partner, which I will discuss in the next section.
Things I did this time: Ran a Gleam contest to get Pre-Launch sign-ups.
Things I’m doing differently next time: Running Facebook ads directly to my Kickstarter pre-launch page.

Finding and Working With a Marketing Partner

If you look at the very bottom of the page of a Kickstarter that is making bank, you will often see a banner that says Promoted by ‘Insert Advertising Company Name Here.’ These companies have typically compiled massive mailing lists of backers for various projects and have marketing teams specializing in Facebook, Instagram, and Google Ads.
As I’m writing this, the two biggest players in the game are Jellop and Backerkit, with Backerkit being the best. Yes, I said it. Backerkit is the best. Why? Because you don’t have to pay any advertising fees upfront. They won’t ask for that money until after your Kickstarter has ended and you have the funds. They also charge less than Jellop, 15% of the money they bring in as compared to a fluctuating 15%+ charged by Jellop.
Neither of these companies are big risk-takers. They typically do not take on a Kickstarter project unless they believe it has the potential to earn 6-figures. Backerkit is even pickier than Jellop.
Backerkit rejected my campaign when I submitted it. I honestly didn’t expect Jellop to accept, either. While I was a mid-tier author in 2 genres, I had never created a Kickstarter before. But Jellop said yes, and that was the first time I realized that reality would likely exceed my expectations of what my Kickstarter could fund for.
As I mentioned above, the problem with working with Jellop is that I had to come up with the funds to market my Kickstarter during launch…and they don’t play with small money. On day 1, you are expected to spend $400. That is the baseline, so you need to be able to maintain that spend for a few days until they can figure out if it’s worth putting more money into it or pulling back.
The great thing about both of these companies is that they meticulously watch your ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) and will adjust accordingly. They will also tell you how to optimize your Kickstarter pre-launch. I am currently working with Backerkit on the next Kickstarter. Yes, I switched teams for this one because I wanted the unlimited marketing budget. With that said, I will tell you what they made me change about my pre-launches so far.
Jellop: Made me change my launch date. I had scheduled for a Tuesday thanks to the advice in Get Your Book Selling on Kickstarter saying that was the best day to launch. The problem is, that’s when all the biggies launch, so the competition is fierce. They said launching on a day when fewer people were launching was better, so they had me change my launch date from a Tuesday to a Friday. They also made me change my funding goal from $500 to $5,000. Let’s be honest, there was no way I could buy all the art I needed for $500…or pay for any of the other expenses to actually produce the product. I had planned to pay for that out of pocket if I didn’t reach my funding goal. But their reasoning was that setting my funding goal to $500 made the project look cheap. People don’t see a quality product when you set your funding goal that low.
Backerkit: On my current campaign, Backerkit asked me to raise my prices. Why? Because they want to maximize the amount of money we’ll both make. People who launch TTRPG Kickstarters typically charge way more than what I did for my last Kickstater. And to be completely honest, I gave waaay too much away for free last time. By raising my prices, both Backerkit and I will make more money, and backers will still be getting a better value than if they just bought the retail version of the product. Everyone still wins. They also asked me to change my launch date…from a Friday to a Tuesday. LOL Honestly, this Kickstarter hasn’t launched yet, so I have no idea what that will do, but I’m nervous about it. Backerkit specializes in TTRPGs, though, and they have a much bigger mailing list for them than Jellop, so I’m just going to go with it and see what happens.
Both companies require you to sign contracts and upload digital assets (images for them to use for their ads). Backerkit seemed to want these to be ready-made for them. Jellop took my game covers and made a few of their own. To be honest, the stuff I uploaded to Jellop wasn’t that great, but they did the best they could with what they had to work with. Both companies will give you your very own marketing rep.
My relationship with Backerkit Marketing has just started, but they’ve been great to work with so far. I don’t want to focus on them much because this post is supposed to be about my last Kickstarter, so for the rest of this section, I will focus exclusively on my partnership with Jellop.
Jellop gave me a marketing team and put me in a private chat with them. I was given a live dashboard to watch my stats as the Kickstarter was live. The team was very nice and professional during pre-launch. As soon as I launched, it literally became all about how much money I was willing to spend. Our relationship turned very impersonal, and I quickly realized it was all about the money and numbers. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it was a bit stressful as they pressured me to keep spending more because they saw the Kickstarter’s potential. Honestly, if I wasn’t limited to the 3 credit cards I was spending on, I could have made more than $250k, but I legit maxed out all 3 credit cards for a total ad spend of $35,000.
In the Jellop dashboard, there is a place to input your credit cards—a primary and a backup. I had thought that this was just for initial set-up and that I would talk to my marketing representative if I needed to update these later on in the process. I had a large expense coming to the main credit card I was using. When I told my marketing rep to update my credit card in their system, she said she would and never did. This got me into financial trouble as I ended up maxing out the credit card, which put a halt on my ads. They did not ever apologize for this, even though I got pretty pissed off about it. It was not until later that I learned it was up to me to update my credit cards in their system for whatever I wanted them to spend on. This was never told to me, by the way, I had to figure it out on my own. Ultimately, it was a big miscommunication, but it was handled very coldly and left a bad taste in my mouth.
The only other thing I disliked about working with them was the constant pressure to up my ad spend despite the strain on my personal finances. They tried to convince me to apply for more financing or take out a loan. And let me tell you, before I got paid from Kickstarter, I was very poor from how much money I had poured into advertising.
I am also somewhat convinced that they take credit for sales they did not generate, as the amount credited to them in their dashboard overlapped with what was generated by Kickstarter, but with the vast amount of money the Kickstarter generated because of their efforts, if they were skimming, it wasn’t enough that I particularly cared.
And I do know that they’re responsible for the vast majority of the success I saw. I know this because I cut ads with them for a few days to try running my own Facebook ads. I will preface this by saying that I have 8 years of experience successfully running Facebook ads for books, so I wasn’t going into it a novice. But no matter what I tried, even up to using the same ad copy and images they had used, I could not replicate their results, so I handed the reigns back to them and don’t regret it.
Though there were a few hiccups and misunderstandings, I absolutely would work with them again if Backerkit Marketing had not accepted my campaign this time around.
Things I did this time: Used Jellop as my marketing partner.
Things I’m doing differently next time: Using Backerkit as my marketing partner.

What I Did During Launch

Launch time was mainly spent blasting social media, mailing out to my mailing list, and responding to comments on the Kickstarter and Facebook ads. Jellop gave me links to all the Facebook ads they ran so that I could respond to comments. Being on top of customer support is crucial during your launch because responding quickly to all inquiries builds backer trust.
I also went through the list of Facebook groups I’d made during pre-launch and posted to one a day throughout the launch to let them know my Kickstarter had launched.
My one regret is that I didn’t post more Updates. Honestly, I still wasn’t sure how the Update system worked then, and I looked at it as just a way to spam people who had just backed the Kickstarter. I personally HATE being spammed, so I did not post Updates about Stretch Goals reached or anything beyond what I deemed absolutely necessary. I have come to realize that during launch, Updates should be used as a hype tool, so I will be posting more Updates this time around.

After Launch - Manufacturing

When the Kickstarter reached about $100k, I realized I had made several mistakes in my offerings. One was that I offered a set of 4 candles…which I would have to label myself. Another was offering signed paperbacks.
My original plan was to have everything shipped to my house, put the packages all together, then load them up in my car and take them to the post office. This was when I was expecting to make $30k max. Surely, I wouldn’t have more than 50 packages to physically ship myself…… yeahhhh. By the time the Kickstarter was over, I had 1,600+ orders that included physical items beyond just the unsigned books. There was no way I, as one person, could do it all myself.
But before we get into the logistics of warehousing and shipping, let’s get into manufacturing, because this project had a lot of different physical products from a lot of different places. I’m only going to list the items I had issues with.
Art – The main reason I Kickstarted Lewd Dungeon Adventures in the first place was that I could not afford all the art I wanted to go into it. During the Kickstarter, I offered 2 additional bonus campaigns as Stretch Goals. This was 2 extra installments of the game that both needed art. It was not long before I realized that my one artist would not be able to illustrate the entire thing and get it done before the projected deadline. I ended up hiring 8 more artists to work on the project. I hired them from a variety of places, from 99 Designs to DeviantArt, to Fiverr, to artists recommended by author friends, and even artists I’d worked with in the past. Two of them, I am not using again because of lack of communication and turning in art late. One of them submitted plagiarized work that ended up getting caught by a fan after the final product was delivered…which was mortifying and a complete nightmare. But for the most part, my artists delivered their work before the deadline, which helped get the product delivered to customers early.
Dice Tray – The dice tray for my game was manufactured by someone on Etsy. The prototype actually had an error when she sent it to me, but her customer service was so good that I decided to still move forward with using her for the Kickstarter, and I don’t regret it. This angel seriously stored those dice trays for me for about 6 months and still was gracious enough to offer me a discount and free shipping.
Candles – I decided to offer a set of 4 votive candles with the game’s logo on them. These were actually relevant to one of the campaigns in the Kickstarter. I ordered the candles from Michaels and tried a few different companies for the logo stickers. I ended up sticking the logos on the candles by hand…and there were about 1,000 of them to do, which took me two days of labor plus having my mom over to help. I would never do it again and do not recommend it.
Signed Books – I also had about 1,000 books to hand-sign. I will NEVER offer signed books again unless I put a limit on the quantity.

After Launch – Shipping and Warehousing

Once I realized I would have more physical products to ship than I could handle myself, I started looking for shipping solutions. Enter EasyShip.
EasyShip is one of the biggest name shipping companies for Kickstarters. They reached out to me directly, and after doing some research, I accepted a contract with them. I was then assigned my own shipping representative. They hooked me up with the warehouse I would be working with, UFreight, and we started coordinating everything.
I do not know if my shipping representative was new or just…not great at his job, and I’m not going to be a dick and name him outright, but he dropped the ball more times than I find acceptable, which made for a pretty frustrating experience, if I’m being honest.
For instance, when I was uploading order information to their platform, all of my orders errored out due to the form missing a field. His solution was for me to enter the missing information on 1,600+ individual orders manually. And I was like… there’s got to be an easier way than this, talk to your tech department. And there was.
Other not so great experiences included being told that the couriers would just bill my account the difference if the weights of packages weren’t right…and having most of my orders returned because of it, which led to a pretty good chunk of fees from the warehouse from needing to have the orders re-shipped. And not knowing that a certain courier would only accept a minimum amount of packages, which I didn’t meet their requirements, so these packages just sat at the warehouse, and I knew nothing about it until a customer reached out to inquire about where their order was.
Would I use EasyShip again? I’m not going to say no, but I 100% won’t say yes until I’ve explored other options first. I am actually taking a break this next Kickstarter from needing to use a shipping company, but when I do have physical products to ship, I will be using a different company. My experience with EasyShip was just too needlessly frustrating to want to continue a business partnership with them.
UFreight, however, was great to work with. My rep there was always on the ball and kept me informed every step of the way. I would highly recommend them as a warehouse partner.

Other Important Things

If you are going to have add-ons for your Kickstarter, I highly recommend using Backerkit for your backer surveys. Setting it up is a bit of a pain, but it makes it really easy to organize and deliver things to who they need to go to. Plus, they will do a lot of customer support for you, leaving you to focus on other things.
With that said, not everyone will fill out their backer survey. It’s frustrating and even a bit perplexing. I have people that pledged to my highest tier but still haven’t filled out their survey, and I delivered the Kickstarter to everyone else in February. It happens, and you can either make a choice to refund people or just wait until, hopefully, one day, they’ll claim their pledge.
Some backers will also try to update their mailing address after their pledge has shipped. As a creator, know that as soon as a package leaves your residence/warehouse and is with a courier, it is no longer your responsibility to ensure it gets where it’s supposed to go. In most cases, the best thing you can do is either give the backer the courier’s information so that they can try to intercept the package or suggest mail forwarding, if they have just moved. Thankfully, most backers are understanding of all of this.

In Conclusion

I know this was a lot. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments, and I will answer them as best I can.
And for anyone curious about following my next Kickstarter, you can find it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/phoenixgrey/price-of-the-dragon-a-role-playing-game-for-couples Honestly, I’m not really sure how well it will do, but we’re expecting 6-figures.
I hope this helps someone out there that’s trying to get started. Running your first Kickstarter is intimidating and a bit scary, and you probably will make a few mistakes your first time around – Lord knows, I did – but it’s definitely worth it if you’re willing to put the time and effort in.
submitted by Phoenix_the_Grey to kickstarter [link] [comments]

2023.03.27 20:41 SquishyDrones Phineas and Ferb: The 104 Days Edition + After, Full Canon

After watching Candace against the Universe, I became interested in P&F again. Learning there is more than 104 episodes, and with Dan confirming there is just 1 summer and no multiples, I made this. It took 2 and half weeks because I kept fucking up
My Rules
-All ”Big Ideas” that shows up in the movies
-A Majority of Doof’s backstories based on his past
—Doof’s character development to a good person
—-Rodney Rivaly
-All Important Episodes about Vanessa
—Vanessa and Candace becoming friends
-Baljeet and Buford becoming friends
-Candace’s character development to stop being obsess with busting
Note: some episode either happens at night, different universe or replaces a different day because of time travel
If you have an episode I should add/replace with something else, please tell me.
SEASON 1(36)
Candace Loses Her Head101b)
The Fast and the Phineas(102a)
Lawn Gnome Beach Party of Terror(102b)
The Magnificent Few(103a)
Flop Starz(104b)
Raging Bully(105a)
Lights, Candace, Action!(105b)
Tree to Get Ready(106b)
Jerk De Soleil(108a)
It's About Time!(107)
I, Brobot(110B)
One Good Scare Ought to Do It!(109)
Mom's Birthday(111a)
Journey to the Center of Candace(111b)
Run Away Runway(112a)
I Scream, You Scream(112b)
It's a Mud, Mud, Mud, Mud World(113a)
Dude, We're Getting the Band Back Together(114)
The Flying Fishmonger(115b) -Phineas and Ferb Get Busted(116)
Greece Lightning(117a)
Leave the Busting to Us!(Pre-Episode)
Leave the Busting to Us!(117b)
The Ballad of Badbeard(113b)
Crack That Whip(118a)
Traffic Cam Caper(121a)
Bowl-R-Ama Drama(121b)
Oil on Candace(122b)
Unfair Science Fair(123a)
Unfair Science Fair Redux(Another Story)(123b)
Out to Launch(124)
Got Game?(125a)
Comet Kermillian(125b)
Out of Toon(126a)
Hail Doofania!(126b)
SEASON 2(38)
Attack of the 50 Foot Sister(203a)
Backyard Aquarium(203b)
Don't Even Blink(205a)
Perry Lays an Egg(206a)
Gaming the System(206b)
The Chronicles of Meap(207)
Thaddeus and Thor(208a)
De Plane! De Plane!(208b)
At the Car Wash(209b)
Oh, There You Are, Perry(210a)
Hide and Seek(211a)
That Sinking Feeling(211b)
Vanessassary Roughness(212b)
Phineas and Ferb's Quantum Boogaloo(214)
Bubble Boys(216A) -Isabella and the Temple of Sap(216b)
Cheer Up Candace(217a)
Fireside Girl Jamboree(217b)
Finding Mary McGuffin(218b)
What Do It Do?(219a)
Nerdy Dancin’(220b)
Suddenly Suzy(221b)
-Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation!(222)
Undercover Carl(223a)
Hip Hip Parade(223b)
Ain't No Kiddie Ride(225b)
Phineas and Ferb-Busters!(226b)
The Lizard Whisperer(227a)
Robot Rodeo(227b)
The Beak(228) -She's the Mayor(231a)
Agee Ientee Diogee(Flashback, MML203b)
The Lemonade Stand(229b)
Nerds of a Feather(232)
We Call it Maze(234a)
Split Personality(236a)
Brain Drain(236b)
Make Play(238a)
Wizard of Odd(233)
The Secret of Success(235a)
The Doof Side of the Moon(235b)
Phineas and Ferb: Summer Belongs to You!(237/238)
SEASON 3(22)
Last Train to Bustville(301b)
The Belly of the Beast(303a)
Candace Disconnected(306a)
Magic Carpet Ride(306b)
A Real Boy(309b)
Skiddley Whiffers(311a)
My Fair Goalie(312)
What A Croc!(318a)
Mom's in the House(319a)
Minor Monogram(319b)
Bully Bromance Breakup(324b)
The Doonkelberry Imperative(325a)
Buford Confidential(325b)
Meapless in Seattle(327)
Sipping with the Enemy(329a)
Norm Unleashed(330b)
Road to Danville(331b)
Where's Perry?(332)
This Is Your Backstory(335)
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the Second Dimension
Thanks But No Thanks(413a)
Troy Story(413b)
Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe
-Tales from the Resistance: Back to the 2nd Dimension(423)
It's No Picnic(417b)
Phineas and Ferb Save Summer(427/428)
Night of the Living Pharmacists(429/430)
The Last Day of Summer(433/434)
Doof 101(421a)
THE MILO MURPHY CHRONICLES (Used this link: https://kimcartoon.li/Cartoon/Milo-Murphy-s-Law https://kimcartoon.li/Cartoon/Milo-Murphy-s-Law-Season-2)
Season 1
Going the Extra Milo(101a) + The Undergrounders(101b)
Rooting for the Enemy(102a) + Sunny Side Up(102b)
The Mysterious Pistachio Protectors
The Doctor Zone Files + The Note
Smooth Opera-tor + Party of Peril
Worked Day + The Wilder West
Family Vacation(106a)
Murphy’s Lard(106b)
Secrets and Pies(107A)
The Substitute(108a)
Time Out(108b)
We’re Going to the Zoo(109a)
School Dance(109b)
Battle of the Bands(110a)
The Math Book(110b)
The Little Engine That Couldn't(111a)
The Llama Incident (Episode 111b)
Missing Milo (Episode 12-Special)
Disaster of My Dreams(114b)
Perchance to Sleepwalk(115b)
Some Like it Yacht(117a)
Backward to School Night(117b)
The Race(118b)
Love Toboggan(Episode 17a)
The Island of Lost Dakotas(Episode 17b)
Derek’s 50+ Yeared Planed Invasion
Fungus Among Us(Episode 18)
The Phineas and Ferb Effect(201)
Snow Way Out(202a)
Teacher Feature(202b)
Picture Day(203a)
Agee Ientee Diogee(203b)
Game Night(204a)
Pace Make Waste(204b)
Cake ”Splosion(205a)
Doof’s Day Out(206a)
Disco Do-Over(206b)
The Ticking Clock(207a)
Managing Murphy's Law(207b)
Milo’s Shadow(208a)
Octalians Scheming
Sick Day(208b)
Fields of Screams(209a)
Spy Little Sister(209b)
Dog Walker, Runner, Screamer(211a)
Now I Am Murphy(211b)
Free Fall(210a)
Abducting Murphy’s Law(212)
The Goulash Legacy(213a)
The Dog Who Knew Too Much(213b)
Adventure Buddies(214a)
Ride Along Little Doggie(214b)
Look At This Ship(215a)
Cast Party(215b)
Safety First(216a)
First Impressions(216b)
The Speech and Debate League of Death and Destruction Cross Town Explosion Event(217b)
The Mid-Afternoon Snack Club(218a)
Parks and Wreak(218b)
Octalian’s Abduction Scheme 2
Milo in Space(219b)
Sphere and Loathing in Outer Space(220)
Phineas and Ferb: O.W.C.A Files(426)
Phineas and Ferb: Act Your Age(423)
submitted by SquishyDrones to phineasandferb [link] [comments]

2023.03.27 18:38 chrisapplewhite Ranking the Top 40 NFL QBs, Free Lamar edition

Reddit comments need help. Your bad opinions are taking years off my life. With today’s Lamar Jackson news, we are going to get a lot of wild opinions that will be presented with confidence that borders on anger. There is no need to live this way, fans. I did this initially as a check on my own opinions, and now let me share what I came up with to keep you from embarrassing yourself further today.
I watched all-22 for every single guy on this list. I used stats in close cases and to fill in any gaps in the film. This is a ranking of my own personal opinions backed by over a decade of experience in the game.
As far as the list itself, the tiers are much more important to this exercise than the ranks within the tiers. Even I, a working, mildly successful football coach, cannot fully account for schemes, teammates, coaching, etc. You can nitpick 8 vs. 9 if you want but I don’t care. Different guys will perform differently on different teams.
Third, my biases, as best as I can list them, are: I love the Cowboys, but I don’t like them. I refuse to go to any more games as long as Jerry Jones is alive. I hate the rest of the NFC East, although I pity Washington. I respect NE but I enjoy it when they lose. I dislike GB and SF based on our 90s rivalries. I value a young QB over a vet I know has peaked even if the vet is a little better right now.
I watched Philly the most. I am an OL coach, they have the best OL, so I study them closely. I know a bunch of Eagles fans will see the little star next to my name and freak out, but hopefully, whoever is reading this to them can explain that I know their team better than they do at this point. Since they can't throw batteries at me through the internet, please ask them to throw them through a window of a local toy drive. Aim away from any children.
Salary is taken into account in extreme cases.
Feel free to mock or ignore anyone who cites PFF. If you want to argue about meaningless metrics go bicker with a technical analysis on wallstreetbets.
Lastly, I use a lot of hyperbole to make points. Please do not be that guy in the comments. I get a lot of those guys.
Tier N/A
He was good, then LA had about 10 improbable things happen all in a row and won a SB. Now he’s crippled. LA is shopping him with no takers because he may never play again and his contract is a beast. The Rams are really about to roll out a practice squad with Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp. Wild times.
Tier 1 - Undeniable
Mahomes is the best QB in football. This is not something I want to spend a lot of time on because no serious person would disagree.
In my opinion, any list of the top 5 players in the NFL, irrespective of positional value, would include Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs traded Hill and the passing offense went from historically great, to . . . even better. If you really feel the need to argue there are several other websites where you can find like-minded people.
Tier 2 - Best of the rest
Josh Allen is incredible at football. He also is incredible at doing the stupidest possible thing like 3 times a game. It’s like the football Gods wanted to pour Pat Mahomes’ talent into another person, but this person is 6’6 so they ran out before he filled up so they finished him off with some Carson Wentz. It’s science.
Allen tries to do too much, and when it goes wrong it is as ugly as it gets. But I understand the instinct. Other than Diggs, he isn’t surrounded by talent. They had to pull Cole Beasley off 4chan moderator duties for the playoffs. The OL goes on strike every time they call a run play. I have so much respect for Allen because he digs his team out of holes left and right (even if he sometimes creates them). He carries that entire offense. He’s the run game, he’s the passing game, he’s the team. Do you know how much confidence in your QB you have to have to call mesh from empty on 3rd and 1?
Allen is not as good a passer as Joe Burrow, Tom Brady, or a few other guys. But considering the circumstances, and his incredible athletic ability, I think he’s the next off the board after Mahomes. Buffalo needs a better OL and one more playmaker at WR. If they get that, I think we’re going to see a special season.
If Tom Brady actually retires, Joe Burrow will be the best “just read the defense and throw it to the open guy” in the league. This sounds like an easy thing but it isn’t -- a QB has to know where his own guys will be, what the defense is playing, where the protection is weak, what adjustments are made within the play, etc., every single snap of the game. The mental strain is incredible.
What separates Burrow further is his ability to use the Madden directional passing in real life. Brady hits his guy in the chest, Burrow throws both to his guy and away from the defender, constantly giving his man the very best chance to catch it on every play. There is no way to describe how impressive this is without turning this into a 4,000-word essay, but be assured that watching Burrow when he’s dealing is like watching Neo when he’s resurrected at the end of The Matrix. He’s playing a game few QBs are even aware of.
He’s not perfect. He doesn't have an elite arm which limits his options down the field as the play develops, which is a huge reason why his production drops off a cliff under pressure. This means he needs to operate within the scheme, which isn’t easy to do against good defenses that can force you to play left-handed. But his strengths far outweigh those “flaws,” which are less a weakness and more a lack of elite ability in certain areas. His game should age like a fine wine, too, meaning Cincinnati should be in the discussion for the next 10 years. This does mean that we are all going to have to brace ourselves for the fact that Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals is going to win a SB at some point. What a time to be alive.
Being ranked as the 4th best QB in football is impressive but it still kills me to put him here because I am in love with the guy. He may have the highest ceiling other than Mahomes. He makes 4 throws a game that cause me to curse in disbelief. You know those Madden glitches where the ball flies right through the defenders hands to the WR behind him? Herbert does that irl. I fully believe he will throw a football through someone’s torso at some point, like when the T1000 gets shot.
Unfortunately, that murder completion will probably happen on an 8 yard pass on 4th and 27 because Herbert plays for a poverty franchise and a dipshit head coach that thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room. The Chargers backed into the playoffs this year because Keenan Allen publicly shamed Staley into punting more and LA played a piss poor collection of QBs in their stretch run (also, ATL had them beat and fumbled a fumble recovery at the end). Jacksonville, an average football team, put them in their place. Herbert has to account for leaky pass pro on nearly every down, too. He handles it beautifully, but it takes its toll. Jalen Hurts gets more clean pockets in a game than Herbert got all year (hyperbole, don’t check this).
So, it’s hard to tell just how good Herbert is. He is definitely a top-tier talent, but until LAC figures out it’s shit, I can’t justify putting him above Burrow and Allen and their postseason resumes even as he carries the Chargers on his back every week. There are also stretches where he tries to do too much and gets the offense out of its rhythm. Sometimes it works, but stuff like that isn’t consistent enough to win over the course of 20 games.
Tier 3 - The Legacies
Tom Brady is retired, allegedly. Even so, this is a ranking of the best QBs right now, and Brady could still play. He’s not what he once was, but most of what makes him special is still there. The only thing prime Brady had that Father Brady doesn’t was a superhuman toughness, used to summon a scramble at the absolute biggest moment in the game for a first down.
This Brady doesn’t want to run and doesn’t want to get hit. He’ll throw too early at times and is too willing to let his fundamentals lapse in order to avoid a hit during a throw. When he’s protected, though, he’s the same old guy and could probably make it 50. I, for one, will mourn our missed opportunity for divorced dad energy in the league.
I get the sense that GB is fed up with him and ready to see him go . . . and boy did they play like it. I don’t know how many calming crystals Rodgers had to attune last year after games but I’m surprised he didn’t snap and strangle one of his teammates. GB was so bad last year that even a real-life superhero couldn’t save them.
It got better as the season went and Watson developed as a threat. And, to be fair, Rodgers did have at least one incredibly goofy mistake each week. But overall, it looks to me like he’s still 90% of what he used to be. Instead of contorting himself to some impossible angle and throwing a dime 35 yards across the field, now he’s off by a foot and the ball bounces out of the hands of some guy who shouldn’t be playing.
AR is declining, and he’s probably long past his tipping point of being somebody his teammates want around, but he can 100% still play at a high level if he can find his limits as an old man. The guy is maybe the most talented passing QB of all time and will still casually do the impossible from time to time. His throw to Watson along the sideline against the Jets is just . . . like who else could do that?
Dez caught it, but the biggest reason Dallas lost that game is because AR played the best game I’ve ever seen a QB play. I think at one point in the second half he was just throwing fireballs like power flower Mario. Yes, he’s an annoying hippie, but that’s Chico, CA’s main export. In a Space Jam scenario, I would pick him to win one single game. I would also not rule out him playing on mushrooms next year and actually seeing the Dolphins' defense as big cartoon aliens.
The point is, do not underestimate this man.
PS - I would absolutely love to see Matt LaFluer and Brandon Staley coach against each other in some random high school game. The Clusterfuck Bowl.
Tier 4 - Send Help
Still, part of me wants to put him up with the other big dogs. He was MVP, after all, and is at worst an above-average passer with instant big play ability at any time. When he’s feeling it he’s as good as anyone, and a genuine joy to watch when he’s running.
But there are real reasons he’s been lousy in the playoffs, imo, and that is what keeps him out. I think he can do it if he refines his dropback decision-making a little more and Baltimore can add another weapon. If the last few years have taught us anything it’s that a true #1 WR will unlock a whole new level of play from even the best QBs. Part of this is one Baltimore.
Dak Prescott is a very good QB, let’s just get that out of the way. He reads defenses quickly, accurately, and delivers the ball more or less where it’s supposed to go and has enough raw talent to make things happen when the play is dead. He’s smart, a great leader, physically gifted, and puts more on his plate every year. His raw numbers are unreal.
There are reasons I don’t consider him a top guy. He’ll often throw the ball where it’s “supposed” to go even if the WR isn’t there or is blanketed. He isn’t great in tight coverage on deep throws and, for some reason, loves to misdiagnose leverage outside the numbers and throw a pick-6 every game. It tells me that he’s missing that mental ability that great QBs have to adjust their throw mid-motion.
Dakota Prescott is an A- player who is asked to be A+ week in and week out. He’s good, but not as good as Dallas seems to think he is. He probably needs a great weapon on the perimeter to truly unleash his abilities.
Dallas will have to work to limit the very worst of his game in order to win a title, but if they do, they have an excellent window over the next few years. If not, let’s just enjoy our yearly wildcard win while the real contenders bounce us in round 2.
Hurts is an interesting one to slot in here. On one hand, he has the easiest setup in the league. His OL is deep and elite. Hurts barely has to break a sweat on most throws (worth noting that he was still sacked exactly as many times as noted statue Matt Ryan. It’s a QB stat, people!). Philadelphia fleeced Tennessee so bad for AJ Brown (a top 5 WR with perfectly reasonable contract demands) that it got the Titans GM fired. They played the easiest schedule in football, facing 3 good QBs before meeting KC in the SB, and one of those 3, Trevor Lawrence, played like absolute ass in that game with 4 or 5 TOs. The fact is, a good number of QBs could’ve done the same thing.
Philly limits what it asks Hurts to do. Throws are often single-read deals and they lean on the run/RPO game more than any other team I’ve seen. But the flip side of this is that Jalen Hurts is excellent at what they have him do. He’s an accurate thrower down the field, makes great decisions with the ball in RPOs, and can run out of any situation since, as broadcasters love to tell us, he can squat 600+ pounds and is one of the better power backs in the league. He also has the most random elite skill in football -- the ability to throw a corner route over a flat defender and in front of a deep defender. He is startlingly good at that and does it every week.
The next few seasons will tell us if Hurts is merely a great system QB or a great QB on his own. He’s going to have to improve as a passer outside of their playaction/RPO stuff. He gets sacked waaaaay too often for someone with his running ability and two hall of famers in front of him blocking. His extension will limit Philly’s ability to bring in stars and have high-quality depth along both lines. He could end up in the top 5, or he could fall if other parts of his game don’t develop. We’ll see. Either way, he’s an easy guy to root for.
It took half the year for him to unlearn Urban Meyer, but there’s no doubt he showed up bigtime in the latter part of the year. I suspect this is as low as I'll ever have him.
He just finished a his 2nd rookie year, and makes young QB mistakes. He misses a few reads and had turnover problems early in the year. I fully expect him to threaten the top 5 at some point soon, but let’s slow our roll on him for now. He flaashed terrific instincts and accuracy this year but also played a lot of bad football early on.
Tier 5 - Fatally Flawed
Before the season there was an NFL hot take thread. My contribution was that Goff would have a top-10 statistical season. It got 2 upvotes so hopefully those two guys can swing by and vouch for it.
I love Goff, as a fan of pretty football. He might, without exaggeration, have the nicest throwing motion of all time. It is smooth, efficient, and mechanically brilliant. When the pocket is clean and his guy is open, he will deliver a perfect ball more often than not.
His fatal flaw is that the pocket is not always clean in the NFL. It takes a level of grit to sit in there and I’m not sure Goff has it. This will bar him from the highest echelon of the sport, but even so, he was in a SB once. LA played the one team that will drill down on your biggest weakness and exploit it and the Rams were nearly shut out. But he was there and that counts for something. If he has a good system around him, he can win for you. If you give him Jeff Fisher, he won’t.
Tua has two elite skills, which is probably why he’s named that. First is accuracy and is evident from watching him play. The second is his anticipation, which is as good as anybody I’ve ever seen. There are throws on tape that I wouldn’t coach him to make, but he sees it clearly and makes the play. He might be the best slant/glance/post thrower in the league because of his ability to time his guy through a window in coverage.
The fatal flaws are also obvious. He’s small. His arm strength is poor and he’s terrible when pressured as a result. He needs both feet planted and full rotational force to make regular NFL throws. He’s left-handed (just kidding). In order for him to lead a great team, he has to be perfect and it’s an easy bet that he won’t be because nobody is. Right now he’s throwing to the best athlete in the sport and another guy who’d be most teams #1, both of whom excel in yards after catch. It’s a well-built offense (Tua was #1 in yards per attempt! #2 was . . . Teddy Bridgewater!) but Miami can’t count on having the game’s best skill player for the rest of Tua’s career.
There’s also the ugly fact that he’s one bad hit away from being forced to retire.
Jimmy G is a good QB who gets knocked because he’s not a great QB, and because he can’t stay healthy. Unlike the next two dudes on the list, he is popular in the locker room and mostly knows who he is on the field. He also holds the distinction of the only Briles-tree college QB to be worth a shit in the NFL. You can count RG3 if you want, but I don’t. Here’s hoping for Hendon Hooker.
Jimmy is a little too comfortable throwing into tight windows down the field, and must’ve made some monkey paw deal to make it in the league because he can’t stay on the field. Every single snap for him is like a John Wick movie. Jimmy G will get hit by a car somehow in during a game.
His biggest knock is economic -- nobody wants to pay a huge chunk of their cap for a guy in the training room. On the field he wins, he’s popular, and he’s manageable, and if you really want to be gobsmacked, look up who is currently #1 in yards per attempt in the NFL since 1955.
Kirk is a worse version of Jared Goff. There is no need to get too in depth with it other than that. They both are fine in good situations but are missing that extra something that will push through tough situations. Goff is taller, younger, and more sound, so he’s higher. Kirk is also a giant weirdo who every coach he’s ever had wants to replace.
Sometimes average means a player doesn’t do anything well or poorly. Sometimes it means a player has several great qualities and several extremely poor ones that cancel them out. Murray is, in my opinion, a perfect example of the latter.
Murray can, if you catch him at the right time, look like the best player in the world -- dodging 4 guys before putting a dime on his guy in the back of the endzone for a go-ahead touchdown. The problem is context -- he’s also probably the reason AZ was down in the first place. Missing reads or holding out for a big play is why he had to run around. He’s also, famously, a piss-poor leader who doesn’t understand the support/body language side of his position.
That stuff is invisible to a casual fan, but there are big red warning lights flashing all the time with him. Murray is noob bait. Don’t fall for it.
Brock Purdy annoys me. It is fun to watch SF have a good team and constantly trip on their own dicks, but this time they tripped and fell into some kid who showed up and immediately became one of the best QBs in football, statistically. If you listen to the right people, you know that Shanahan wanted to draft Mac Jones, but got stuck with Tre Lance. So instead, he fell backwards into a better version of Jones with the last pick in the draft. This is annoying to me.
There is no wow factor to his game. Nothing he does is amazing. It’s just really impressive how competent he is. If you fast forward 15 years and tell me he’s the next Tom Brady, I would believe you. Brady grew up like 30 minutes from Santa Clara, giving it a worryingly poetic symmetry. If you went forward and told me he was the next Andy Dalton, I would believe that, too.
SF is stacked on offense. It’s not that hard to chuck the ball over to one of 4 guys they have that can house any short pass. But Brock is definitely a starting QB, it’s just a matter of what his ceiling is. I don’t see a star but I see someone at least good enough to earn a giant contract that SF regrets after a year.
Listen, there’s a little Joey Burrow in there. Maybe like 30%. Don’t freak out about it yet but, like, let’s see where this goes.
I don’t know what his ceiling is. He’s a right-handed Tua, maybe? His ability to throw people open as a rookie is awesome, but there are still some questions I have about how he’ll play when he’s sped up by pressure and falls out of his fundamentals. Some of his misses may be rookie things, but he can’t lean on that excuse anymore. He’ll need to do normal grown-up QB things like eat the ball and take a sack, or hang in for an extra half second to get the ball downfield. If he doesn’t, he’s never going to be more than Kirk Cousins 2.0 or something like that.
Still, for a small sample size, I’m encouraged. Pitt may have stolen one here.
Tier 6 - Meh
There is an unconscious bias against Brissett, I think, because he’s an old-school QB. And by old-school QB I mean he looks like he smokes at halftime. I don’t know why, he just moves and throws like his knees and lower back always hurt.
That being said, he’s a perfectly decent QB. The Browns didn’t ask a ton of him and, based on how many teams he’s played for, I get the sense that offensive coaches get frustrated with his limitations. Cleveland ran the ball a lot and threw a ton of quick game. Brissett is currently dead last in active passers in yards per attempt.
Still, I don’t see any obvious drawbacks to his game other than being slightly overly conservative like that uncle you tolerate at family gatherings. He’s maybe the worst aesthetic QB in the sport, but that’s subjective. He protects the ball, he’s decisive, fairly accurate, and can extend plays. He doesn’t do anything exceedingly well but he’s a high-floor player that can operate an NFL offense.
Look, Geno didn’t escape a decade of backup roles just to suddenly bust out as a star at 32. He’s a decent QB that gets to play with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. If a player is wide open he’ll get it there, and a lot of Seattle's big plays are scheme throws to very talented WRs. If there’s nobody open he’s going to get sacked or bounce one off the turf somewhere. He holds onto the ball too long and isn’t great with improvisation.
He’s very talented and capable of making some spectacular throws. He’ll also just disappoint you if you get your expectations too high and some of those high-variance shots don’t land. I remember the year before when he came on after Wilson was injured and played pretty well. I was like, oh, ok, Geno Smith! Then he stunk in the following couple of games before Wilson came back. Then it’s like, oh, right, Geno Smith. It’s a wonderful story but, come on.
What if Aaron Rogers wasn’t supernaturally talented? Then you’d have Derek Carr. This guy plays like he’s 13 and playing in a park somewhere. No footwork, middling decision making and accuracy. There’s also definitely a bit of “fuck it throw it to Devante,” which is understandable at least.
If you wonder why he’s so inconsistent year to year, even game to game, and can’t seem to break his team into the big time, that’s why. There’s just nothing there to lean on. He has talent, but his fundamental base is limited. It makes sense his best football came under Gruden, who doesn’t let stuff slide, but he’s canceled and Carr was back to his old self last year. Not sure what NO is expecting here but there are 40 million reasons why they balked at a trade.
If Tennessee wants to contend anytime soon they are going to have to take Ryan Tannehill out into a cornfield and threaten to beat him to death and bury him in there unless he takes a pay cut. He’s a perfectly fine football player, but man I bet most Titans fans would prefer Tanny donate half his salary to keep AJ Brown around.
Tennessee is in a rough place. The OL blocks like they have the other team’s defense in fantasy. Derrick Henry is majestic but watching him run into 11-man fronts is genuinely depressing. All so they can pay the league’s largest cap hit to Ryan Fucking Tannehill.
And look, Tanny isn’t bad. It’s not his fault their last GM gave him the equivalent of the state’s GDP and balked at Brown’s very reasonable contract demands. But it has to count in this case because that team is a mess, and is wasting Henry’s prime.
Tannehill is a competent QB with enough athletic ability to add an element of movement to the offense. But look at Tenn’s numbers in 2021 when Brown was on the field vs. when he was off and you tell me who drove the bus for that offense.
I cannot believe the NYG gave him so much money. He’s played one half-season of not-awful football, and that came in a system that asked absolutely nothing of him. Bill Walsh once said that he was only competing against 8 teams each year, and signings like this are big reasons why teams aren’t in that 8.
The Giants historically love to get high on their own supply. Biggie warned us of this.
Mac Jones has a higher ceiling than some guys currently ahead of him, the problem is that none of his above-average skills are physical. He has to play the mental/technical game, which is very hard to do 35-40 throws a game.
What makes it harder is that NE plays very bland, robotic, by-the-numbers football. Everybody does what they’re supposed to with the joyless precision of a North Korean military parade. This works when Tom Brady is there, smiling menacingly and waving with a bad haircut. It works when Danta Scarnechia is coaching the OL. This does not work when you have no good offensive players and Matt Patricia (!?) takes over the line. These little chinks in the armor add up and submarine teams built for consistency.
Mac will get better under Bill O’Brien because Bill O’Brien is not Matt Patricia or Joe Judge. But the way NE operates puts all the pressure on the QB and Mac Jones is not that guy. Billy B is also notorious for dumping talented players the very second they become valuable. This is 2022 New England Patriots offensive football -- Everything Is Average Everywhere All At Once. Good luck Mac!
Mariota is one of the bigger beneficiaries of watching the tape. Initially, I had him in the 8th tier but moved him up after seeing what he can do. Obviously, he isn’t great, but neither is ATL’s pass game. It lacks in both personnel and design, and the pass pro was very rough at times.
His accuracy isn’t good enough to consider him a GOOD starting QB, but he can do enough to be in the club. His decision-making is fine and he can run around enough to make some things happen. He won’t be good enough to carry an elite offense but I do think, with the right weapons around him, he could be a solid stop-gap option for a team otherwise ready to contend (Since I wrote this, Philly scooped him up as insurance on a team ready to contend).
This is a tough one to rate. One one hand, he, JJ Watt, and DeAndre Hopkins carried a poverty franchise for 4 years. On the other hand, he threw away 2 years of his career, signed an onerous contract, and came back like football’s Ben Simmons. He’s not only lost a step physically, but he’s behind mentally, too.
And it’s not like he’s in a Justin Fields situation. Cleveland has a very good OL (they are, admittedly, much better run blockers than pass protectors), a powerful run game, and several decent-to-good weapons around him. He’s in the right system for his skill set. He’s just bad at football right now.
Watson could take the offseason, improve, and come back into the discussion as the top 10 guy he once was. But based on the last 2 calendar years I cannot put him any higher than this, as it is just as likely he'll move to the next tier down.
I think Mills can be a good QB. His biggest weakness is that he plays for a FEMA disaster site masquerading as a football team. I don’t want a lot of Texans football because I don’t want my face to melt off like the nazis from Indiana Jones, but I forced myself to do it for this project and you know what? He’s not bad at all and I don’t miss my face as much as I thought I would.
He’s got prototype size and arm talent (which all Stanford QBs since 1970 do) he makes quick decisions, and has a nice compact release that can get balls where they are supposed to be on time. Of course, his intended target is usually in the middle of falling over or looking the wrong direction when the ball gets there, but that’s Texans football, baby.
If anyone reading this is running a football team with an ability to take a flier on a young QB, Mills is worth calling for. His cap hit is going to 1.5 million this year. I’d rather have that on my books than David Carr for 30. Or Daniel Jones for 30. Or Kyler Murray for soul flees my body 50. Or Baker Mayfield for any amount of money.
Tier 7 - Past Their Primes
There are certain players you know won’t age well. When that wall hits, it HITS. Russ hit that wall this year. He was probably never a brilliant drop-back passer, but he could escape pressure and was brilliant at creating big plays out of it. Seattle has also had a Quixotian commitment to running the football, which lowers the overall ceiling for the offense but generally helps the QB by taking pressure off of him.
This one is simple -- of the 30ish qualified passers in the NFL, only Justin Fields was sacked as often (55 each. 3rd was a tie between Kirk Cousins and Geno Smith who had 160 and 90 more attempts than Russ, respectively). Russ lost a step and he can’t get away from anyone anymore. It’s easy to blame that on an OL but nobody is sacked 50+ times just because of that. Sacks are at least 50% a QB stat, maybe more in his case. Watch the tape, it’s there.
There’s a pattern for running QBs as they get to the NFL -- they are so used to being able to take off in high school and college that they never develop the ability to throw into tight coverage or come down to a 3rd read because they never had to. They’re behind developmentally in a crucial NFL skill and almost none of them end up getting there. Once the legs go, there isn’t much left.
The one thing to monitor is the Nathaniel Hackett factor. Russ will probably improve now that the franchise is run by a competent football coach so we’ll really see how cooked our man is or is not in ‘23.
He’s thrown for over 60k yards and would’ve won a Super Bowl had Dan Quinn stuffed Kyle Shanahan into a locker at halftime. Still, time comes for us all. Older QBs start to falter when their bodies break down, or they just get tired of the beatings. Ryan is a textbook case of this. He’s sped the game up for himself, almost desperate to beat the pass rush. Combined with a little lost velocity, you get a guy who just can’t operate anymore.
Indy was a circus this year and I don’t judge anybody there based on anything that happened after the coaching change, but Ryan was probably toast before he ever got there and is only this high out of respect for a good career.
Tier 8 - Does One Thing Well
Fields is at the top of this list for one reason -- He’s an ELECTRIC athlete who makes other professional athletes look like tiny nerds who were picked last for dodgeball in high school. He’s at the bottom of the tiers because he sucks at everything else.
Chicago’s offense is the exact offense you’d run if you didn’t trust your QB. Fields misses open receivers or takes off before they come open all the time. Sometimes it results in a big play but it won’t consistently. It’s pretty clear he isn’t totally comfortable reading defenses because he throws a lot of 2 yard routes into coverage and bails on concepts to just throw a go route down the sideline. Yes, his team isn’t great, but he isn’t helping.
So I’m not optimistic on Fields, but if anyone from this last tier busts out I’d pick him just based on his physical tools. There’s a place in the multiverse where Chicago does what Philly did with Hurts and puts the best OL in football in front of him and falls into one of the best WRs in the game, but in real life they signed a bunch of veteran LBs and safeties. Good luck, Bears fans.
Jameis Winston is impossible to rate. Jameis Winston is chaos personified. Is he the 30th-best QB in the NFL? Yes. Is he the 5th-best? Also yes. Is he the 50th-best? Believe it or not, yes. In relationship terms he’s the crazy ex you keep in your life for the life-altering sex but UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES do you introduce this person to your family!
Jameis Winston is capable of incredible feats of athletic beauty. Then he gives us the ugliest of ugly, so that we may appreciate those moments of beauty. He is the flower in the gun barrel of the NFL. I do not want him anywhere near my team.
Tier 9 - Zach Wilson
Poor Zach. There’s so much hate for this kid that he’ll probably run out of New Jersey and have to set up a new colony out west. This was a joke about Mormons.
Here’s the thing, playing QB in the league is an impossibly hard thing to do and requires every single person in your building to support you. NYJ is not that place. His WRs are open less than one of those flowers that bloom once a decade. Like it’s an event when a Jets WR gets open. You should take photos and cherish the memory. His OL blocks like it’s coated in vaseline. Then who gets the blame? The QB. And if you feel like you’ve lost the confidence of your team, it’s over. There are some psychos like Tom Brady who can alter reality through sheer force of will, but most of us are not like that.
But boyos, I’m not exaggerating. I went into this expecting a shitshow at QB, but the shitshow I found everywhere else is so much worse. Usually, there is one person open somewhere and the good QBs will find it and the bad ones won’t. In Jets games, there are entire stretches of the game where there’s nobody to throw to. And when there is, it’s 50/50 if the ball is actually caught.
This doesn’t automatically mean he’s good, either. The only thing worse than the play calling at NE was Wilson’s 2nd half accuracy. Something broke in him and he was airmailing everything. It was hard to watch and he earned his benching.
So I made him his own little place on this list and we’ll see what happens in the future. Hopefully he can get on MILF Manor 2 and clear his head a little bit.
Tier 10 - Who Gives A Shit
Let’s be clear, Dalton was never that good. Dalton got to throw to Ochocinco and prime AJ Green who covered up a lot of sins. He’s a good backup QB that can fool bad GMs into not drafting another QB.
Huntley is not a good QB. It’s a credit to Baltimore that they made the playoffs with him and came within a fluke QB sneak fumble from beating Cincinnati. He’s athletic and can help the run game, but if you take away his initial read he’s toast, and pretty much everybody knows they are trying to get to Andrews on 3rd down. The offensive design got a lot of shit under Roman, which I think is a little unfair. Tyler is an OK backup at best and they stayed competitive. That’s an achievement.
I have already spent too much time on this to justify the 7 upvotes it’s going to get, so I’m not going in deep on Taylor Heinicke. I would be very happy if he were my team’s backup QB.
An actual, real life NFL team took this guy #1 overall. You can look it up, it’s real.
He’s not totally useless. He plays with swagger, in a good way, he just, you know, can’t see over the pass rush. Or coverage LBs. And he isn’t accurate enough outside the numbers to compensate.
Tiny sample size in a meaningless game, but he’s got a shot to be a top 20ish starter in the long run. We’ll see.
It is way too early to make any kind of final judgment on a rookie who only played a handful of games, but if I had to put money on it, which I don’t but will anyway, I think Atlanta drafted a career backup. I saw no indications of high-level play and several instances of being unable to get through a dropback progression and some wtf accuracy issues. For a guy that has as many college starts as he has should be further along. Mariota was better than this.
ATL should give up whatever it can for Lamar.
I don’t like kicking people when they're down unless they disagreed with me once on the internet, but holy shit is he terrible. He’s so bad I actually felt bad for his teammates having to run around all game knowing they will have to spend the afternoon trotting back after a sack and having to catch balls thrown 53 mph at their shins. He’s the anti-Burrow, with a miraculous ability to throw his guys into defenders. I cannot fathom how this guy was an MVP candidate at one time. He is broken and I would not take him as a backup at this point.
I’ll be honest I did not watch any 2022 Drew Lock film. Because there isn’t any. He sucks. He’s always sucked. Geno Smith not only salvaged his own career but Lock’s, too, since sitting on the bench keeps Lock’s XFL future at bay for at least one more year.
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2023.03.27 18:32 ChallengeLate1947 Delta 9 edibles?

Greetings from VA! Ever since the state decriminalized, THC derivative products are in every vape store and gas station.
I’m a daily smoker of usually mid homegrown, but decided to dry a 200mg Delta-8 gummy on Friday night. I didn’t think it would do much, but for some reason it hit me so hard I got really paranoid and had to lay down. Basically wasted my entire night. I haven’t been that affected for many years. Now I have 2 50 mg “Delta 9” gummies I want to try, but I’m starting to be concerned about whats even in these things.
Where the real thing can’t be sold retail, it worries me a little how these “Delta 8” and “Delta 9” and other variants are made. Anyone with more knowledge of what exactly these are care to elaborate?
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2023.03.27 07:27 ImaginationSea3679 Peaceful Alternatives! The Experiment Chapter 3

Here’s chapter 3, with more pronounced differences than chapter 2.
I hope you are alright with this.
Experiment 173-2 Documentation
Date [standerdized human time] July 2, 2136
Subject Species: Human
Subject Age: Unknown (presumed to be in early-to-mid-twenties)
Subject Sex: Female
Subject Weight: 75 kilograms
Other Information: Subject was left alone for approximately 24 hours after Experiment 173-1. During the period, the Subject slept a total of approximately 4 hours, with long breaks in between rests. It is currently unknown whether this is normal or a response to stress. Subject’s magnetic bonds were remotely released to allow it to relieve itself of waste.
Subject was attached to a standard, government-issued electroshock therapy device for the experiment.
Purpose of Experiment: Establish how Humans respond to varying levels of pain. Make further research into Human fear responses.
Experiment Description: A squad of five pirates were directed into the cell. Up until this point, the Subject was unaware of alien life and underwent considerable distress. Subject attempted to attack the nearest individual, chasing them from the cell before being quickly sedated. Subject was transported to a room aboard the Reaver that had been equipped with an electro shock chair, normally used to treat individuals with predator disease.
Upon seeing the device, the pirates hesitated to strap the subject into the chair. Doctor Ka used threats as a means to coax them into following through, with success.
Subject was left alone for approximately 10 minutes until it regained consciousness. Upon waking, Subject began to thrash violently and emitted extremely loud vocalizations similar to screaming. It appeared to be repeating a single Human phrase. What was being said has not been determined.
Subject was left alone until it returned to a calmer state.
NOTE: It is believed that the screaming was triggered by fear, rather than the pain.
NOTE: It is at this point that the cause for screaming is believed to be from the pain.
The final input(shock on Level 5, prolonged for 20 seconds) was cancelled due to a random power malfunction disconnecting all power aside from life support from the room. Subject could be heard sobbing for approximately 5 minutes before falling unconscious. Very shortly afterwards, a squad of pirates approached to provide medical attention to the Subject. Doctor Ka’s protests against this action were ignored.
Doctor Ka begrudgingly decided that the results gathered from the trials that could be done were conclusive enough to form a definitive enough answer.
Experiment concluded.
Experiment Conclusions: Humans have been proven to have both a reliable sense of pain and to have visible and audible reactions to it, along with possessing fear of being inflicted with it. Subject suffered burns along where the electroshock rods were placed.
Additional Notes:
It is my opinion that providing the Subject with a translator will make research easier to do. It said many unfamiliar words in this experiment that could be beneficial to research. - Assistant Nellan
I have investigated the power fuses and there was no damage to facilitate the shutdown of the electric chair. It is most likely that the shut down was simply a result of improper integration of the electric chair into the *Reaver’s power system.* - Assistant Nellan
Now that pain responses have been recorded, I plan on researching how much sleep a Human needs, and how long they can go without it. - Doctor Ka
I am once again recommending that we find some way to provide sustenance to the Subject. We can’t learn much from a starved-out corpse. It has already lost two kilograms in weight. - Assistant Mardo
submitted by ImaginationSea3679 to NatureofPredators [link] [comments]

2023.03.27 04:54 Kusko25 I just finished Forbidden West for the first time and I skipped the credits

Horizon Forbidden West was the only game on the PlayStation that I wanted to play. However, I couldn't justify buying an entire console just to play it. As a result, despite being a fan, I just played the game for the first time when it became available as a cloud game in PS-Plus.
After playing really good games, I usually sit and let the credits roll, enjoying the music and reflecting on the game as a way of respecting the work of the people who went into making it. But sadly, unlike Zero Dawn, I didn't feel the need to do that this time.
I'm afraid this post will turn into a rant, and despite gaining some catharsis from reading such rants here on Reddit (specifically after combat), this isn't really what I want to do. Instead, I'd like to lament, praise the game where it inspired me, and share why it let me down when it didn't follow through.
Praise I can give without reservation goes to the world design. The entire map is beautiful, with all its varied biomes, and most importantly, the different tribes that inhabit it. Guerilla excelled at giving all of them unique identities through architecture, fashion, tribal markings, and history. It is all beautifully worked out, and whoever was responsible for that can be truly proud.
This leads well into the characters that live in this world and their relation with Aloy. I truly find almost all of them (I don't really care for Zo) intriguing and inspired and would have loved to see how they clash and interact with Aloy, who is, if we're being honest, often arrogant and rude. Yet all of them fell short in development. Most grievously, I believe the AIs were hard done by. Games often, when addressing truly sentient AIs, play into the question of whether they should have the same rights as humans and be treated as equals, with the clear answer that, yes, obviously they should. Yet, at the same time, it seems they are content to reduce them to plot devices.
GAIA was named after a primordial divine creature. All the world was made from her, and it is an apt descriptor if we look at how complex such a mind must be. Distributed across the entire world, directing countless machines and terraforming equipment all at once, a mind that has tended an empty earth for hundreds of years before and watched the rise of tribes across the globe. But in the game, she is reduced to an exposition machine. She has no sense of humor, isn't adventurous or maternal, or even flirty, nor is she unknowable and mysterious. She delivers every conversation with the impassivity and monotone of a corporate secretary who doesn't care much for her job but is too integral to ever be let go.
Similarly, I was excited to meet the subfunctions, and two of them stood out as particularly interesting. The broken HADES had so much personality in the short conversation we had with it. As a monster brought low, HADES still believes in its purpose, but lacks the ability to act on it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, HEPHAESTUS was more robotic than any other subfunction, yet it still exhibited a distinct personality. HEPHAESTUS displayed neither hate nor malice, and it didn't want to destroy anything. It simply recognized that local human populations were a threat to the things that mattered to it, and thus they needed to be culled. This is similar to how humans would cull wolves living near settlements to feel safe. HEPHAESTUS was driven and never deviated from its purpose. It was a true psychopath, ruthless and cruel not out of evil, but simply because it saw no reason not to be. I didn't expect a deep dive into all the subfunctions, but it felt inadequate that each subfunction was only given a sentence to speak and no other interaction before being cut out, losing their intelligence, independence, and individuality, to become a light on the wall.
Introducing interesting concepts in characters and then never exploring them applies to almost all of the companions. Varl and Zo were deeply spiritual people who were both confronted with the reality that their religions were just stories that became myths, either invented to explain the world or distorted through time until they became dogma that they believed in.
Hekarro Kotallo was crippled, and losing an arm comes with a loss of ability and a massive mental toll. We see a little of this with how much anger he carries when we first meet him, but this seems to fade without any need to confront it. For that matter, his abilities seem almost unaffected by the loss of an arm; he is still an outstanding fighter against machines and humans alike. Even climbing a sheer cliff face isn't a problem for him, and that's just not how humans work. Through him, we could have explored PTSD, feelings of helplessness, the need to accept that we can't define ourselves through only one thing all our lives, and instead have to see value in the self rather than just what you can do, but no. The deepest we go is that he has conflicting feelings about his replacement arm. (Sidenote: Did my game glitch, or did he just not use it ever outside the small quest where he shows it to you? Even when Regalla was advancing on the chief, he wasn't using it.)
Erend already had some character development in Zero Dawn, too bad that he appears to have forgotten that. He is a clumsy meathead, and everyone seems fine to bully him a little about it. He considers himself a useless failure, and every time he mentions it, everyone just awkwardly grins like this kid. Someone give him a hug.
Interestingly, Alva, as the companion that gets introduced the latest, has the most complete arc. She confronts the shortcomings of her culture, her worries about her family, duty vs. her own interests, and how the paragons of her myths were dickheads in real life. And she's having a great time with it, despite it all, the big nerd.
Finally, Beta... Beta is a living foible for Aloy's own preconceptions. As much as Aloy dislikes being praised, she has a certain attachment to being the only one who can save the world, the chosen one created to heal the very earth, and suddenly she is confronted with someone who has the same theoretical qualifications as her but doesn't ever confront her self image. At the same time, Aloy takes quite a bit of pride in that she managed everything alone and became so great through only her own merits, but that is, of course, only partially true. Rost cared for her and loved her, and despite their disagreements, he gave her a home to grow in. Beta, by comparison, was truly alone, and it left her broken and despairing. While the game eventually sort of addresses this, it is way too little and only stuffed in at the end. It feels like bad pacing to me and an insult to people who actually grew up in abusive conditions when they portray it like all is needed is one nice conversation for you to get over yourself. I understand there are limitations of what you can do in the context of a game, but I don't think that is a sufficient excuse. (Another sidenote, does the name Beta imply that there was another attempt to make a Sobeck clone, or is Sobeck herself the Alpha?)
Beyond that, Regalla is introduced as a main villain and then promptly ignored, to the point that I felt nothing about her when it came time to decide her fate. I actually thought it was a rather interesting plot device in Zero Dawn that Helis thought of himself as your great opposite and chosen of the sun when he really was just an obstacle in your way and a tool for HADES (and a tool, period). Applying the same to Regalla doesn't quite track though, given that she isn't just a fool, but actually in proper ideological opposition to Chief Hekarro. There was great potential there for exploring their common past, examining the drive for vengeance against the need for peace, but instead, she became a one-note antagonist, and we had less than 15 minutes of interaction with Hekarro.
Similarly, the Zeniths are introduced as maniacal egocentric bastards and only really used as an evil Deus Ex Machina. Aside from Tilda, I don't remember a single one of their names and couldn't even be bothered to look them up. They didn't work well as caricatures of greed and excess because they actually had a lot of power. It would have worked marvelously with the metaphors for CEOs and the hero worship of the Quen if we could have exploited their shortcomings. Perhaps we could have learned more about the individuals by investigating old Far Zenith facilities, or we could have managed to turn some of their tech against them by using old login credentials because they stopped caring about basic sensible security procedures and were still using legacy code. Alternatively, we could have had the boss fight against the blonde guy be a fake-out once the shield was down, where he still talks the same big game but goes down in a single hit because they hadn't been in real physical danger in a thousand years. We could have also made fun of their clothing and design choices, which all screamed more money than taste. Unfortunately, none of these things happened, and all we have is the Zeniths showing up, doing some things, and then going away.
This leads somewhat into Aloy and the team just being a bit dumb in this game. They make barely any efforts to learn about the Zeniths, even though they are helpless against them. Aloy finds their base by accident and never even sets up a camera. They allow Regalla enough free reign that she can just march on the Grove twice, essentially unopposed. And there are so many moments where Sylens should have become a bigger priority: when he lured Aloy into the West, when he delivered her to the Zeniths, when it became clear that he was responsible for the civil war and no doubt had more plans, when he first demonstrated a weapon that can kill a Zenith, and when they were exposing themselves to Zenith attack without that weapon. They never tried to get to him, instead running directly into a doomed scenario with Cauldron Gemini.
As expected, this has turned into a rant, so I'll quickly double down on that and list some of the most irritating points:
Why introduce so many new options without examining their impact on gameplay? More and more arrow types clog up the weapon wheel. Acid, adhesive, and purgewater are just versions of fire, ropecaster, and useless, respectively. So many open-world activities are locked behind equipment that you only get through main missions. Why not unlock them through well-developed side missions that can be completed anytime and that main missions may point to?
What is this massive focus on melee combat in a game that so heavily focuses on avoiding damage? The only occasions where I have found the complex weapon combos to be useful were in one-on-one battles with humanoids. Machines don't get staggered, so you can't pull off the entire combo without dodging, and multiple humans fire on you and their own people indiscriminately, so you can't focus on melee there either.
Why remove the long dodge? All enemy attacks have so much area that you need to abuse the i-frames to survive, and even then, I constantly get staggered even without being really hit (played on hard). Why nerf the jump slowdown? It wasn't game-breaking any more than concentration is now with the larger pool and refresh speed, but not having the zoom was helpful for short range.
Why does nocking another arrow cost stamina and have to be re-learned? Why hold onto the "buy better gear with money and machine parts" system but also introduce a crafting system where you use money and machine parts to improve your weapons? Either system works fine on its own, but it is annoying when I have to spend ages improving a weapon I bought for a lot of money, and at the same time, it's frustrating when I discard gear that I have invested effort into upgrading.
Why are you trying to be a platformer when it really doesn't work for you? Why are machines now able to spam their attacks without cooldown (Stormbird kept dive-bombing me, Thunderjaw was just shooting constantly)? Why did you replace so many canisters with purgewater (hooray, a status effect that doesn't debilitate their physical attacks at all and whose only benefit is that it accelerates better status effects)? Why did you replace canisters amongst variants? My brain is small and can't keep track of what is where when they still look the same.
Why is HEPHAESTUS capable of producing so many Hunter Killers, even though the whole point of Cauldron Epsilon in the Frozen Wilds was that he could produce there without restrictions? Why are about 2/3 machines apex? Why build so many new spectacular machines that aren't properly balanced? Elemental Clawstriders spew more stuff than a Bellowback but don't have a single tank, large machines are so full of attacks that unless you exclusively use Tearblast, they will always die before you can cripple them. Projectiles are psychic and track you not only mid-flight but also target you while the machine doesn't know where you are. Agile creatures have their only weaknesses at the back, which you'll never see.
I could probably go on, and this was cathartic, but there is no need. In conclusion, I played Forbidden West in its entirety, and I'll likely do NewGame+ as well and maybe replay it some other time, but it's not a great game. It has too many big flaws and wasted potential for me to love it, and I hope for better, maybe even in DLC.
submitted by Kusko25 to horizon [link] [comments]

2023.03.27 00:14 Admirable_Tie4708 Start here about your new game before you create it,

Hello, and congratulations on wanting to make that game you wish was out there. Before you spend years developing that game, think about this. Are you building a game that everyone will play and you are not emotionally attached to, or are you building a game that everyone will play because you love it?
Like people who start businesses in every field, those who fail, do so because they build their businesses around what they want, not what their customers want. This isn't a field of dreams, this is where you wasted a lot of time and money on something only you will ever play when you could have done something better.
Business entrepreneurs create a practicality plan. It turns into a business plan if the answers are positive and saves time, and money, and yes, even marriages if the answers prevent someone from spending big bucks and countless decades designing something that will never get played.
The first step is the conceptual or practicality stage.
That's what this post is about. Create a one to two-page concept for your game. Include the story, setting/world, characters, world, game system, and how you intend to get people to play the game. This is your blueprint before you do anything else. It tells you how likely your game is going to be liked and played by the world before you create it.
Others will read your practicality plan and tell you what they think.
Comments are constructive suggestions, but understand that they might sting too. If you are hearing things you don't like, don't justify them; ask why and for a solution or alternative. There are a lot of us who design games. If you can't describe your entire game design in two pages, you aren't ready to start building it. This way, we can help you become better at building your game, and you're building one that has traction right from the beginning.
If you're serious, then do the work and let us guide you to being your best. If you are doing it for fun and not for a lot of people, then don't post anything here. That's okay too. And if anyone else wants to subscribe for designers with a concept page, please do. The more, the better.
And if anyone wants to help create a template for the conceptualization plan, make one and share it.
For now, a budding designer should answer these questions - and you designers, remember this: you must paint a picture for us using words so we can visualize your game in our heads. TTRPG is real storytelling, right?
Describe the world of your game:
What's the premise?
Is it a world based in Vietnam and its literally about combat in the jungle to beat communism and save the world? Is it fantasy, SciFi, historical, or other?
What makes it different from the million other fantasy or SciFi games?
What game system are you using?
Is it created from other game systems already in use?
Is it brand new and no one has used it before?
Is it card based?
We don't need to know the rules of the game itself, just if you are making your own rules, if you are getting them from a particular game like D&D and adapting them to your game, or if you are not changing the rules at all.
What stages do you plan for your testers to play? More stages help build the game in steps.
How will you keep players if you get people to play in the first place - short, mid, and long-range goals.
How much time are you willing to devote to the design of your game?
If anyone wants to add to this, please feel free.
submitted by Admirable_Tie4708 to RPGdesign [link] [comments]

2023.03.26 21:28 chronic-venting The Price of a Stolen Childhood

When Nicole was a child, her father took pornographic pictures of her that still circulate on the internet.
Victims of child pornography can now collect damages directly from those convicted of possessing their images. But how much can restitution help them repair their lives?
By Emily Bazelon Jan. 24, 2013
The detective spread out the photographs on the kitchen table, in front of Nicole, on a December morning in 2006. She was 17, but in the pictures, she saw the face of her 10-year-old self, a half-grown girl wearing make-up. The bodies in the images were broken up by pixelation, but Nicole could see the outline of her father, forcing himself on her. Her mother, sitting next to her, burst into sobs.
The detective spoke gently, but he had brutal news: the pictures had been downloaded onto thousands of computers via file-sharing services around the world. They were among the most widely circulated child pornography on the Internet. Also online were video clips, similarly notorious, in which Nicole spoke words her father had scripted for her, sometimes at the behest of other men. For years, investigators in the United States, Canada and Europe had been trying to identify the girl in the images.
Nicole's parents split up when she was a toddler, and she grew up living with her mother and stepfather and visiting her father, a former policeman, every other weekend at his apartment in a suburban town in the Pacific Northwest. He started showing her child pornography when she was about 9, telling her that it was normal for fathers and daughters to "play games" like in the pictures. Soon after, he started forcing her to perform oral sex and raping her, dressing her in tight clothes and sometimes binding her with ropes. When she turned 12, she told him to stop, but he used threats and intimidation to continue the abuse for about a year. He said that if she told anyone what he'd done, everyone would hate her for letting him. He said that her mother would no longer love her.
Nicole (who asked me to use her middle name to protect her privacy) knew her father had a tripod set up in his bedroom. She asked if he'd ever shown the pictures to anyone. He said no, and she believed him. "It was all so hidden," she told me. "And he knew how to lie. He taught me to do it. He said: 'You look them straight in the eye. You make your shoulders square. You breathe normally.'"
When she was 16, Nicole told her mother, in a burst of tears, what had been going on at her father's house. Her father was arrested for child rape. The police asked Nicole whether he took pictures. She said yes, but that she didn't think he showed them to anyone. A few months later, while her father was out on bail, Nicole was using a computer he gave her to work on a presentation for Spanish class when she came across a file with a vulgar name that she couldn't open. She showed it to her mother and stepfather, and they brought the computer to the police.
A search detected five deleted video files of child pornography, two of them showing Nicole and her father. In the spring of 2006, he was charged with a new crime—producing the videos—and he fled the country. At this point, the police didn't realize that Nicole's father had also distributed the images.
Months later, the police said they had no leads on her father, so Nicole went on television to ask the public for any tips that might help them find him. A police officer in Toronto involved in tracking child pornography around the world saw the broadcast and recognized Nicole as an older version of the girl in the notorious videos. The Toronto officer set off an alert that reached the police in Nicole's hometown, informing them that she was the victim in a major pornography-distribution case.
The alert brought the local detective to Nicole's house on that December day, to confirm that she was in fact the girl in the pictures that circulated around the globe. "It was the worst moment of my life," Nicole said of seeing the pictures of herself. "In a way, I didn't remember it being that bad with my father—and then I saw that it was. Knowing that other people, all over, had seen me like that, I just froze. I could hear my mother crying, but I couldn't cry."
Nicole's appearance on TV produced a tip that eventually led the police to arrest her father in Hong Kong. But by going public, she had inadvertently exposed her identity to thousands of men who for years had collected her images. On one Web site with an American flag design, on a thread that continued for four years, commenters described in detail the acts of rape and bondage Nicole had experienced. One called the videos "legendary." Another called her "an eager participant" because her father instructed her to smile and talk in the videos. "The fact remains that she is the most searched for, sought after and downloaded ever," a third commenter wrote. "There are hours of video out there. It's just too bad there are not more willing like her."
For Nicole, knowing that so many men have witnessed and taken pleasure from her abuse has been excruciating. "You have an image of yourself as a person, but here is this other image," she told me. "You know it's not true, but all those other people will believe that it's you—that this is who you really are."
Until the 1970s, magazines with titles like Lolita were rife with sexual images of minors and routinely sold alongside adult pornography at red-light bookstores. In 1978, Congress made child pornography illegal, and four years later, the Supreme Court upheld a state law banning its sale. The court's decision changed the market along with the law. "The commercial distributors started to go out of business," said Kenneth Lanning, a retired F.B.I. agent who consulted on child pornography cases for decades. For a time, distribution and production plummeted. But then came the Internet. By the mid- to late 1990s, Lanning said, "there was a way for people seeking it to find each other and send images."
A decade later, the Justice Department interviewed veteran experts like Lanning for a 2010 report, and concluded that "the market—in terms of numbers of offenders, images and victims"—was growing to a degree described as "overwhelming" and "exponential." In the early-Web year of 1994, only 61 defendants were sentenced in federal court for child-pornography offenses; in 2011, 1,880 were, a 30-fold increase. The federal definition of child pornography extends to young people up to age 18, but the 2010 report noted that it had become more common for images to involve young children, as well as violence and sadism.
Precise numbers of child-pornography viewers are hard to come by. Unicef estimates that there are at least hundreds of thousands of Web sites with child pornography worldwide. Child-pornography consumers are even more likely to swap with one another via hidden networks. Using a tool developed at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2009, police have logged close to 22 million public I.P. addresses offering child-pornography pictures or videos via peer-to-peer file sharing, which allows users to download content from one computer to another; almost 10 million of the I.P. addresses were located in the United States. Many of the users shared only a single illegal image, perhaps downloaded inadvertently, but others offered collections of hundreds or thousands of pictures.
To gain access to a group of downloaders, a recent arrival may have to prove himself by delivering new material. Often this involves digitally altering an existing image, but in some cases, it can also mean seducing children to create new pictures to trade. The most desired series zoom around the Internet. "A lot of these guys have a collector's mentality," Lanning said. The pictures Nicole's father took became must-haves and went viral.
For Nicole, knowing that her photos were circulating was an unrelenting burden. It was hard to concentrate at school and hard to forge new friendships. She stayed close to just a few friends from her church. Her family is deeply Christian—"I've found comfort in my faith," she says—and she was home-schooled for a few years as a younger child. Her friends from church were the only ones she told about her father. "Everyone else I held at arm's length," she told me when we met this summer at her lawyer's office. Nicole speaks deliberately and carefully, and on that day she was wearing an outfit that matched her coral nail polish and perfectly applied makeup. "But other kids found out after my father was charged. I remember walking down the hallways and thinking I could hear people saying, 'There's the girl who was raped by her dad.'"
In her junior year, Nicole transferred to a community college with a program for students who wanted to earn an associate's degree while finishing high school. "At the time I'd have said I went for academic reasons, but looking back, it was also to isolate myself," she said.
Late that spring, Nicole got a series of messages on Myspace from a man who said he had been looking for her for five years. He asked, "Want me to come visit u?" When Nicole blocked him, he wrote to one of her friends on Myspace, telling her that Nicole was a "porn star"—and sending two images. "That's when I fully realized what it meant for these pictures to be out there," Nicole said. "I couldn't get away from it, not really. I started getting paranoid and having nightmares."
The man was arrested and went to prison, but Nicole couldn't avoid the knowledge that other men were still looking at the sexual photos of her young self. Later that year, she got a letter from the Victim Notification System at the Justice Department. Congress had passed a law in 2004 mandating that crime victims receive notice every time a suspect is arrested or has a court appearance. The letter was addressed to Nicole's mother and stepfather because she hadn't yet turned 18; it informed them that a man in California had been arrested for possessing a pornographic photo of her. "It just sat there on the counter for days," Nicole remembered. "We didn't really know where to put it." More arrests followed and more letters—piles of them. "We stacked them in a laundry basket in a walk-in closet so I wouldn't have to see them," Nicole said. "Then there were more baskets, and we had to move them to the garage. It was really hard for me. I was still scared of my father, but I knew him. These other people, they were strangers, and there were so many of them."
The piles of letters would eventually connect Nicole with another young woman who had also been abused and then lead them both to court. Back in April 1998, in one of the first investigations into Internet trafficking of child pornography, the F.B.I. started tracking an AOL user, with the handle HAZMAT029, who was posting on an AOL bulletin board service. HAZMAT029 sent 80 illegal pictures to another user, BMR169, along with e-mails that included the message: "do me a favor. get a peice [sic] of paper and wright HI HAZ on it and take a pic of her in nothing but stockings pulled down below her [genitals]." BMR169 e-mailed back pictures of a young girl, her shorts and underwear pulled to the side, sitting on a gray carpet in front of a wooden dresser. Next to her, a note read, "HI HAZ."
The F.B.I. traced BMR's AOL account to a suburban house in a small town, and in October of that year, a team of agents arrived with a search warrant. In a basement bedroom, they found the gray carpet and the dresser. They also seized a computer full of illegal images, including pictures that showed the same girl being forced to give oral sex and being raped. The man the F.B.I. suspected was BMR wasn't home, so the agents showed the face of the child in the photos to his wife and his adult son. Did they recognize the girl?
They did. As they spoke, one of the agents looked out the window of the house and saw the girl playing in the yard across the street. "It's something I'll never forget," he told me.
Amy, as she's called in the court documents, was BMR's 9-year-old niece. Shown sanitized versions of the pictures, Amy denied that her uncle had abused her. She said he told her she was special and took her to buy treats like beef jerky, and she didn't want anything bad to happen to him. "How is he?" she asked her parents in the weeks after his arrest. "Is he going to be mad at me?"
Over months of therapy, Amy began to talk about the abuse. "My mind has everything in it," she told her therapist, according to court records I read with her permission. She remembered her uncle trying to have sex with her—it hurt, and she pulled away. And she remembered, at his direction, chatting with men over the Internet about the photos he sent them.
Amy's uncle pleaded guilty to one count of rape and two counts of child sexual abuse in state court and was sentenced to the minimum for each one, adding up to 12½ years in prison. In federal court, he pleaded guilty to one count of production of child pornography and received a 12-year sentence. Amy's current lawyer, James Marsh, says her parents were told the state and federal penalties would run consecutively, but instead, her uncle was allowed to serve the two at the same time.
Amy was given a diagnosis of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder the year her uncle was sentenced, but she also asked to stop going to therapy—she told her parents that she didn't want to talk about the abuse anymore. Her mother, who worked in health care, and her father, a tradesman, blamed themselves for trusting Amy's uncle with her. For years Amy's mother barely spoke to Amy's aunt, who remained married to her husband, even though the sisters continued to live across the street from each other.
As Amy grew up, she tried to push aside what had happened to her. Every few months, in middle school and high school, her parents would ask if she wanted to talk about it, and each time she would say no. "I was always thinking about it, but I wasn't ready to deal with how I felt," she says now. Amy threw herself into her social life, going out and drinking in the hills behind her house. Even to the friends who knew, it almost seemed as if the abuse hadn't happened.
When she was 17, Amy received her first crime-victim notice from the Justice Department. "My mom said it was a mistake, because I was still a minor—the letter should have been addressed to her and my dad," she said. "But it had my name on it, and I never got mail, so I wanted to open it. My parents took me into their room and said we needed to have a talk." Amy's parents had never told her that her uncle had distributed images of her to other men. "It had been so long by then, eight years," she said. "They didn't know how to tell me."
Amy's parents took her to see Marsh, who had started the public-interest Children's Law Center in Washington. At their first meeting, he explained to Amy that the letters meant her pictures had been traded countless times online. "I just felt so full of shame," Amy said. "I started wondering, Has he looked at them? He said he hadn't, and that made me feel better. But then I thought, Who has?"
Marsh researched legal remedies for Amy. Combing through his casebooks, he found a provision in the Violence Against Women Act that he had never heard of before: it gave the victims of sex crimes, including child pornography, the right to restitution or compensation for the "full amount" of their losses. Enumerating what those losses could be, Congress listed psychiatric care, lost income and legal costs and concluded, "The issuance of a restitution order under this section is mandatory."
The provision for restitution, enacted in 1994, had yet to be invoked in a case of child-pornography possession. The basis for such a claim wasn't necessarily self-evident: how could Amy prove that her ongoing trauma was the fault of any one man who looked at her pictures, instead of her uncle, who abused her and made the pornography?
Marsh suggested that Amy see a forensic psychologist, Joyanna Silberg, who evaluated Amy and said she would need therapy throughout her life and could expect to work sporadically because of the likelihood of periodic setbacks. Silberg attributed these costs—Amy's damages—to her awareness of the ongoing downloading and viewing. "Usually, we try to help survivors of child sexual abuse make a very strong distinction between the past and the present," Silberg, who has given testimony on Amy's behalf for restitution hearings, told me. "The idea is to contain the harm: it happened then, and it's not happening anymore. But how do you do that when these images are still out there? The past is still the present, which turns the hallmarks of treatment on their head."
Marsh put together a lifetime claim for Amy totaling almost $3.4 million. With the crime notices arriving in the mail, Marsh started tracking men charged with possession of her pictures. He looked, in particular, for wealthy defendants. He planned to use the concept of joint and several liability to argue that each defendant should be on the hook for the full amount of his client's damages—that is, for millions of dollars. Joint and several liability is often used in pollution cases: when several companies dump toxic waste in a lake over time, a plaintiff can go after the company with the deepest pockets, and a judge can hold that single company responsible for the entire cost of the cleanup—with the understanding that it's up to that polluter to sue the others to pay their share.
In July 2008, Marsh learned about the arrest of Alan Hesketh, a former vice-president of Pfizer, who was charged with trading nearly 2,000 child-pornography photos online—among them four pictures of Amy. Marsh filed one of his first requests for restitution with the prosecution. Hesketh pleaded guilty, and his sentencing was scheduled for later that year.
At the time of the Hesketh case, Amy was struggling. She was 19 and living with her boyfriend. She had enrolled at a local community college, but she drank too much to concentrate on studying. The crime-victim notices had stirred up the past for her, and she wasn't in regular therapy. "The last class I went to, there was this PowerPoint slide, something about child sexual abuse, and I thought, I can't do this," she told me as she sat in her kitchen smoking a cigarette. "It just brought everything back." Amy dropped out after that, without telling her parents. "I told myself I would just take a year off," she continued. "But you know, statisticwise, once you leave school, the chances you'll finish go down about 80 percent."
Amy has a quick intelligence—she's a college dropout who can rattle off her own odds of going back—and asks lots of questions. She has focused her curiosity on the legal strategy that Marsh has pursued for her. When Hesketh was sentenced, Amy decided she would be there. "I kind of wanted to face my fear," she told me. She also wanted to prove a point: Hesketh was arguing, through his lawyer, that he had committed a victimless crime—a common defense in cases of child-pornography possession. "I thought, I want him to look at me and know that I'm not a picture; I'm a person," she said.
In a federal courthouse in Bridgeport, Conn., in October 2008, Amy sat on the opposite side of the courtroom from Hesketh's family. The judge opened the proceedings by acknowledging that there was a victim in the courtroom. Amy listened as Hesketh's grown children asked the judge for mercy for their father. "His kids kept saying he was the best grandfather ever," she said. "And I was like: 'But you know. You know what he did.'"
Then Hesketh took the stand. As Amy remembers it, he said, "I'm so sorry." Earlier, he said that "he hadn't hurt anyone," Amy told me. "Now he totally flipped around. I felt like I'd made an impact. It was like, 'He knows now.'"
Hesketh was sentenced to 6½ years. Four months later, in an unprecedented move, the judge advised Hesketh to settle the restitution claim and he agreed to pay $130,000.
Not long after, Amy found out she was pregnant. She wasn't sorry—at the time she had faith in her boyfriend, whom she had told about the abuse and the photos. But he was a heroin user and dealer, and he went to jail two months after their son was born. Amy started seeing another man who she says had a jealous streak and broke her nose, twice. He also broke her infant son's leg, she told me. She took the blame when he threatened her, and she had to give up custody to her mother for six months.
As she recalled this time in her life, she took out her phone and scrolled through her photos until she found a close-up of her beaten face: lip split, one eye half-closed, nose swollen and cheek yellow with bruises. The young woman next to me had clear skin and bright eyes, and I had just watched her charm a police officer into calling us a cab. The girl in the photo was expressionless.
Amy stared at the picture on her phone. "That was my normal," she said.
Six months after Hesketh's sentencing, Marsh went after another child-pornography defendant, Arthur Staples, a 65-year-old sheriff's deputy in Virginia, who had chatted online with an undercover detective and expressed an interest in young children. Staples sent one image of a young girl (not Amy), and he was caught with more than 600 pictures on his computer, including hers. Staples agreed not to appeal any sentence or restitution judgment. The judge sentenced him to 17½ years, and made the unusual move of ordering him to pay all of Amy's claim. To Marsh's surprise, Staples turned out to have $2 million in assets. He has since paid $1.2 million to Amy. (Marsh says the government let Staples's wife keep part of the estate.) While Amy has been turned down for restitution by some courts, which have stated that there was not enough proof that any one man who viewed her pictures was responsible for the harm she has suffered, she has won more than 150 cases, totaling $1.6 million. Most of the amounts aren't large: $1,000 or even $100, paid out in checks as small as $7.33.
Nicole has also been pursuing restitution. Her lawyer, Carol Hepburn, did her own research and got in touch with Marsh when she learned about the claims he was bringing for Amy. The two lawyers now collaborate on ideas and strategy, though they represent their clients separately. Since receiving her first check for $10,000, Nicole has collected more than $550,000, mostly in small amounts from 204 different men. So far only a few other child-pornography victims have gone to court for restitution. Many may not know there is a legal remedy; others don't know their images have circulated.
The restitution checks gave Nicole a lift when they started to trickle in, but, like Amy, she had trouble with the transition into adulthood. In the fall of 2008, Nicole was attending a one-year bible college and working at an ice-cream shop. At work she felt increasingly self-conscious around male customers. Had they seen her pictures? Were they like the man who stalked her on Myspace—were any of them coming to the store because they knew? That spring, Nicole testified at her father's sentencing. She asked the judge to give him a long punishment, and her father was sent to prison for 50 years. Her roommates, one of whom was a friend from her childhood church, supported her. "But I didn't have a counselor there, and that was tough," she said. "I called my parents and said: 'I have to quit my job, and I need to come home. I feel like I'm going crazy.'"
During her first few weeks at home, Nicole slept all day in her childhood bedroom and stayed up late watching sitcoms like Sabrina and The Nanny. Finally, she started counseling and was able to get a job doing administrative work at a nuclear-waste site. That June, she testified at the sentencing hearing of four child-pornography defendants caught with her images, hoping to gather strength from speaking out. Instead, the experience made her feel exposed.
More than a year later, in the fall of 2010, she left for a four-year college away from home. She was worried about being on her own, but she wanted to try. "I push myself," she told me. "I don't like to say something is too much for me." Like Amy, however, she took a psychology course, about child development, that brought up unbearable memories. During lectures, she began going blank. "All of a sudden class would be over, and I would be like, 'What happened?'" she said. She started skipping class for fear of continuing to disassociate.
Nicole, who wasn't in counseling at the time, failed all but two of her courses that spring. "I just totally broke down," she said. "I'd come home and sit in the same position and stare into space, and then I'd look at the clock, and it was six hours later." Nicole talked about this period of her life with Hepburn and me over dinner one night last summer. She showed us a tattoo on her right wrist: a heart sheltered by wings that she got after her father's sentencing. She also learned to make tattoos, and she took out her phone to show us a picture of the first one she created, an anchor with a rope curled around it. "My cousin is a tattoo artist, and he taught me," she said. "We grew up together, and he was a very easy person to hang out with during that bad time. I'd go over to his place, and he'd be drawing, and he said, 'You're into design, you could do this.' When I tried I felt this release of emotions. We started drawing for hours to music—Tom Petty, Cake, everything. You have to learn how to go smoothly and keep the same pressure on the line the whole time. I drew anchors over and over again on grapefruit. I'd been numb for months, and now I could feel again. I actually felt joy."
In the fall of 2011, Nicole transferred to a campus closer to her family. She made her way through her course work by avoiding subject matter that upset her and by allowing for her own limitations. "I had to accept that, because I have this extra stressor, I get overwhelmed by things that other people can do," she said.
Nicole decided to spare herself going to court, so she wasn't in El Paso, in September 2011, for the sentencing of Luis Enriquez-Alonso, a student at the University of Texas. He agreed to plead guilty after being caught with thousands of illegal videos and images, including Nicole's, on his computer. At the hearing, Enriquez-Alonso and his parents listened while the prosecutor read into the record a statement Nicole wrote about what it is like to know men are looking at her pictures: "After all these years and going to different counselors, I still haven't learned the trick to let my mind rest," Nicole wrote. "When I do sleep, my dreams are vivid and I remember them for weeks. A common theme is finding myself naked in front of a crowd of people or in an enclosed space and I can't escape or run away fast enough."
That day, without a court order, Enriquez-Alonso's family handed over a check for $150,000, along with an expression of remorse. "That really touched me," Nicole said, "that his family wanted to make sure that I was taken care of, that I could get all the counseling I need. Most of the time when I get restitution, there's no story behind it. I feel like they're forced to give the money. In this case, they wanted to do it, and there were words behind it, kind words." Enriquez-Alonso, who faced a maximum of 10 years in prison, is serving 5.
Study after study links child sexual abuse to psychological trauma, addiction and violent relationships in adulthood. There is almost no research, however, that deals with the specifics of Amy and Nicole's experiences: What additional harm comes from knowing that pictures of your childhood exploitation are circulating widely?
The Supreme Court actually addressed this question in its 1982 decision upholding child-pornography bans. "Pornography poses an even greater threat to the child victim than does sexual abuse or prostitution," Justice Byron White wrote, quoting from a book about abused children. "Because the child's actions are reduced to a recording, the pornography may haunt him in future years, long after the original misdeed took place."
David Finkelhor, a sociologist who directs the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, sees the moral weight of the Supreme Court's proclamation, but not the empirical proof. "The evidence doesn't yet tell us to what extent the experience of being a pornography victim aggravates the experience of the sexual abuse itself," he told me. "How do you separate it out?"
Courts have disagreed on this question. In at least a dozen cases, defendants have appealed restitution decisions and mostly won. In five of those cases, federal appeals courts have expressed skepticism that Amy and Nicole should receive more than nominal restitution. Two other appeals courts have allowed the young women to recover from individual defendants as members of the group of viewers but, so far, only for amounts of $10,000 or less. (Amy collected a far greater sum from Arthur Staples because he waived his right to appeal.)
Last spring, the legal battle was focused on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. One panel of three judges upheld full restitution to Amy of millions of dollars from a Texas man. Based on that decision, a second three-judge panel affirmed a separate $529,000 restitution order for Amy against a New Orleans defendant, but voiced its fundamental disagreement with the original ruling. To address the dispute, 15 Fifth Circuit judges gathered last May for a hearing in New Orleans. James Marsh and Carol Hepburn were there along with Amy; Nicole chose not to go. Amy knew this was the most significant hearing to date, and she wanted to show the judges that she was real, just as she had shown Alan Hesketh.
At the lectern to argue her side was Paul G. Cassell, a former federal judge who teaches law at the University of Utah. Cassell is a staunch conservative (he challenged the right to a Miranda warning before the Supreme Court), and Marsh and Hepburn, both Democrats, were surprised at first to be allied with him. But as a leading advocate for victims' rights, Cassell sees in Amy's claims a chance to lay the groundwork for broader change.
For 30 years, the victims'-rights movement has fought for a larger role for victims in criminal prosecutions. Victims have gained the right to make statements in court about the impact a crime has had on them, which judges can take into account in determining punishment. Restitution remains an ambitious next step. The standard context is crime involving financial loss—a bank robber ordered to return stolen money to the bank or an embezzler who must repay the employer he defrauded. Cassell sees Amy and Nicole's cases as a route to expand the idea. "I'd like to pursue the concept of total restitution for all victims, for whatever crimes and losses a defendant has caused," Cassell told me. "This is a good opportunity to show how it can work."
In the courtroom, Cassell linked the defendants to the network for child-pornography distribution. "What the defendants have done is collect images of an 8-year-old girl being bound, raped and sodomized," he said. "If you participate in a market, you become responsible for that market." The lawyer for the New Orleans defendant disagreed. She argued that there was no proof that her client, in particular, had harmed Amy—no way to show that his viewing of her images caused damage. She also called the restitution order for $529,000 "grossly disproportionate to his culpability relative to other people who have abused Amy."
Michael Rotker, the lawyer for the department, told the court that the problem with the restitution awards was that there was no statutory authority for joint and several liability—nothing in the law, as Congress wrote it, which allowed a victim to recover a large award from one defendant who could then seek to recoup those losses by suing other defendants. Instead, Rotker argued, each defendant could be held responsible only for a small and roughly equal fraction of the whole. He offered this hypothetical example: if 200 men were convicted of possessing Amy's images, and her claim for damages totaled $3 million, then a judge would have discretion to order a defendant to pay restitution of $15,000 to $30,000.
As the lawyers spoke, Amy's eyes filled with tears. "Some of it was hard to listen to," she told me later. "But my therapist said to think of it as a store, with different compartments you can take out and put back. She said, 'When you were a little girl, you had to compartmentalize to deal with everything you went through.' So I can still do that now, and sometimes it's good, I guess."
At one point in the proceedings, Judge Emilio Garza stopped Cassell, not to challenge him, but to pick up on his theme. "It seems to me that we're in this brave new world, where not only was there an actual rape, but I'm going to suggest to you there is a continuing digitized rape," the judge said. "Possession of the digitized recording of the rape contributes to the system, contributes to the economic benefit of those who produced this thing."
The judges would not announce their decision for several months, but at the end of the hearing, Amy focused on what Garza said that day. "To hear that from a judge—I couldn't believe it," she told me. "It was so relieving. It was like he really got it. He understood."
Just six weeks after Amy got home from New Orleans, her uncle was released from prison after completing his concurrent 12-year sentences. Amy says she was greatly relieved when her aunt told her that she wouldn't allow him in the house. Instead, he was paroled nearby. When Marsh texted to give her the address, Amy happened to be only a few blocks from it. "I almost dropped the phone," she said. "Oh, my God, it was just so weird. I thought, He's got binoculars, he's looking for me. I thought the worst." Marsh reminded her that if her uncle contacted her, he would go back to prison. And also that she was an adult now and safe from her uncle's [abusiveness toward children].
Last month, while standing in line at Wal-Mart with her brother and a friend, Amy saw a man who she thought was her uncle looking at her. "I wasn't positive because I haven't seen him for so long," she said. "But as soon as I made eye contact, I didn't breathe." Was she being paranoid? She couldn't tell. The man seemed to follow them out of the store. As they got into her car, the man stopped to light a cigarette, and she thought he was staring at them. "It was very, very scary," she said.
Today, a sentence like the one Amy's uncle received—with no additional prison time for a federal conviction for pornography production and distribution—is extremely rare. The penalties for distributing or receiving pornography have become harsher. Receiving one illegal photo carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years. The number of images a defendant downloads increases the punishment, as does his use of a computer. Now that large volumes of data stream with a click, the average recommended prison term for possession has jumped to 10 years, even if a defendant has no criminal record and there is no evidence that he produced or distributed porn. Because some child sexual abuse cases still end in relatively low penalties in state court, there's a paradox: defendants who look at sexual pictures of children can spend more years in prison than people who abuse children but don't have pornography of them.
The United States Sentencing Commission held hearings last February to discuss whether the punishment for child-pornography offenders has become both disproportionate and unfair—with people who committed similar crimes receiving vastly different penalties, based on the subjective decisions of judges. Restitution was discussed even though the prevailing view is that technically it isn't considered part of punishment. Its purpose is to "make the victim whole," as the legal phrase goes. "Simply put, an innocent victim should not suffer financial losses from a crime—the defendant should make good on those losses," Cassell said.
But Douglas Berman, an Ohio State University law professor who writes a frequently cited blog about sentencing, argues that the commission could rethink the role of restitution. In some cases, restitution could be considered commensurate to prison time—and courts could recommend shorter sentences for child-pornography collectors who agree to compensate victims based on their ability to pay. Berman thinks the key to making this leap is adopting the point of view of the victim. "Victims are shrewder than most prosecutors about the diminishing returns of long incarceration," he said. "They want perpetrators to serve some time. They want these men's lives disrupted, and they want the deterrence that helps protect other people. But they're often wise enough to realize that there's not much gain in deterrence from a 5 or 10 year sentence to 15 years. If victims are saying that restitution is as, or more, important to them than five extra years, I very much think the sentencing commission and Congress should listen."
When I asked Amy about such a trade-off, she supported it. Nicole had mixed feelings: she liked the idea of greater incentives for restitution, but she wasn't sure about giving up longer punishments, given how easy it would be for someone to leave prison and go back to downloading child pornography. Cassell says that using restitution in this way could have value. "If it makes the perpetrators internalize how they've hurt the victims—if it makes them see there are real victims—then you deter them from doing this again when they get out," he said.
Berman also favors a proposal that has been discussed at the Justice Department: a general compensation fund that would systematically collect restitution from child-pornography offenders and pay it out to victims like Amy and Nicole based on the harm they suffered and the costs they've incurred because of it. A compensation fund could give more victims the financial means to put their lives back together. And it could force more defendants to reckon with the children in the pictures and with their own role in supporting a market that depends on abuse.
Restitution has allowed Amy and Nicole to get the counseling they need, but receiving large sums can be complicated. When Amy received her $130,000 check from Alan Hesketh, she went on shopping sprees at the mall, splurging at stores like Abercrombie & Fitch. She had never been able to earn a steady paycheck, and the money was a sudden windfall. By the time the $1.2 million check came last spring, she was more considered. She didn't want to stand out in her small town. Last summer, she bought a modest three-bedroom house a few miles from her childhood home, where her mother and brothers still live.
Amy has also discovered that she likes giving money away—to her mother for a new deck, to a close friend who wanted kitchen cabinets she couldn't otherwise afford. It's her way of dealing with the discomfort of having resources that people around her don't and repaying those who helped her along the way.
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2023.03.26 18:43 Jaxon279 [Online] [Other] [CST] Future Foundation: Homebrew superhero campaign searching for players

Hello and welcome to the world of Heroes, you have been accepted to the prestigious International Institue of Future Heroes. Are you a vigilante that was scouted by a famous superhero and accepted through a recommendation? are you an aspiring Superhero that was accepted after submitting an application? Or are you a former villain who was caught for their crimes and accepted into a strict reform program to atone for you crimes? No matter what or who you are, you have a future as a superhero as long as you complete IIFH's curriculum.
The world is a superhero society filled with Heroes and villains trying to gain as many followers and sponsors as possible, Government sanctioned Heroes and Spies, and honest to heart Good Heroes and Bad to the bone Villains. The world of heroes is a goldmine for companies to exploit the social standing of heroes, they sponsor, hire, and turn heroes into brands to earn a profit. Governments use and exploit the powers of loyal super powered citizens to further their goals. And when the world is under threat humankind turn to the Peacekeepers, a Group of heroes who are solely in it to save lives. Its 2054, technological advancements have accelerated quickly and brought technologies once thought to be science fiction to reality. Medical technologies have increased the life spans of humans, now living to the average age of 135. Androids have been invented and it quickly spiraled out of control, they fought for their own rights and when they failed to be seen as equals to organic beings, they chose to make their own piece of haven in a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean.
The International Institute of Future Heroes is one of the many academies whose sole purpose is to train the next generation of Superheroes. This Academy accepts students from all around the world and all kinds of people. The student body consists mostly of college age students, and the staff are retired heroes who wish to mold the next generation. As a student you will be tested and molded into the best Hero you can be. You will participate in scholarly duties, tournaments, patrols, and eventually get you superhero license. There are 3 branches of the student bodies, Regular students that were accepted from the applications who are referred to as Squared. Vigilantes that were seen by superheroes and chosen by them to attend the academy, they're called Stars. And finally former villains who were caught and chosen for a reform program. this reform program has strict requirements to be even considered for it. these villains need to be young and show signs of wanting to become a good person and an equally good hero, they go through many tests and interviews before being accepted into the I.I.F.H. These students are called Skulls. There are around 250 students in the academy and are broken into 25 classes. every class is assigned a homeroom teacher.
Themes of the campaign include those you would see in media like My hero Academia, The boys, Marvel, and Invincible. there will be no overtly sexual scenarios and will adhere to any limits set by the players. Lgbtq+ friendly
I am looking for 4-6 18+ friendly and creative players for a game involving a homebrewed system that is still much a work in progress and will calculations with large numbers at mid to high level play. However, the game will be pretty low level for a while, so it'll be a bit till you have to worry about that. A calculator will be useful to have at hand, I will be going through character creation with you personally and assist as much as possible to explain the system to you. I am new to being a GM with this system and this will be a learning experience for the both of us. In addition, most of the game will be played through theater of mind and roleplay will play a big part.
if all that interests you then DM me with:
Short description of the type of person you are
Your general philosophy when it comes to playing TTRPGS
Discord tag (include the numbers)
if I'm interested I will reach out on discord and we will then do 1 on 1 interviews. Time and day will be chosen when party is complete, but I will say I'm in the cst time zone. The campaign will probably start around late April as I really want to make sure I find the right people and would like to adjust plot and campaign details with input of the players. Also, I would highly recommend you send me a direct message instead of a chat, my reddit chat seems to have broken and I don't know if ill be able to read your chats.
submitted by Jaxon279 to lfg [link] [comments]

2023.03.26 15:34 hallach_halil Halil's top 10 cornerbacks of the 2023 NFL Draft:

Halil's top 10 cornerbacks of the 2023 NFL Draft:


Switching back over to the defensive side of the ball here in week two of our positional draft rankings, we go from the wide receivers to the guys that will be lining up across from them on Sundays – the cornerbacks. I project most of these names to play outside primarily, but some of them may end up moving inside for their future team. However, I did not include names like Alabama’s Brian Branch or Illinois’ Jartavius Martin, who did line up in the slot for the most part in college and may also do so in the NFL, but project better as safeties, if they did side into another role.
Similar to the wide receivers, this is an incredibly deep group and I had to study more than 30 guys, in order to feel comfortable about my ultimate rankings. However, the difference is that we have two legit top-ten overall prospects and there are at least four other names worthy of being discussed in the first round. Beyond that, I think the rest of my top-ten and even the two names in the “just missed” category should be off the board after round two. And once again, we are far from done, in terms of guys I believe will find their way onto an NFL field.
I don’t want to waste any more time now and discuss this group:


1. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

6’0”, 180 pounds; SR

Not having started playing football until junior year of high school, despite having 11 interceptions his final year there, Witherspoon started his career at a junior college originally as a zero-star recruit, but after some trouble with his grades in high school, he got his SAT scores in order to make himself eligible and join Illinois. There he was a special teams ace early on before earning his way into the starting defensive lineup. He already had some very impressive tape in 2021 (nine PBUs and eight TFLs), but last year he picked off three passes and broke up another 14, en route to being named first-team All-Big and All-American.

+ Clearly has a chip on his shoulder and brings an attitude to the table
+ Plays with a ton of pride and confidence, taking on different assignments and moving around the field
+ The explosiveness from his track background and the high jump show up all over his game
+ Drives forward out of his backpedal with great conviction and is ready to make a play on the ball or deliver a big hit, unlike very few corners I’ve ever watched
+ On spot/hitch routes with deep responsibility, if he’s allowed to attack upfield, you see him arrive basically simultaneously with the ball a lot of times
+ Yet, while he likes to aggressively break on routes, you don’t typically see him for fall double-moves, where the receiver just tries to give a little head-fake or stutters his feet on fades
+ Even on deep curls and comebacks, where you’re trying to make Witherspoon completely open up his hips, quarterbacks aren’t really comfortable with throwing his way, because he may cover that distance in the time the ball travels through the air
+ When isolated on the perimeter, once receivers have committed to their release, Witherspoon lands some effective stabs to widen their path and reduce space to work with, whilst having his eyes locked on the hips of his man
+ If they go across his face on inside breakers, he does not concede the middle of the field and forces them to play through his punch, sometimes completely throwing them off balance
+ Not somebody who you’re going to pick on by hitting receivers off full-sprint motion across the field, because he’ll trail his guy with the speed to shut those plays down for minimal yardage

+ Understands where his leverage is, where to expect breaks and when to turn vertically in match-zone coverage
+ Plus, he funnels receivers towards his safeties when there’s a secondary threat working towards his area
+ Lined up in the slot for 107 snaps last season and showed the ability to turn with slot fades, as well as mirror stems towards the middle, while being alert for breaks out to the sideline
+ As he sees the receiver turn his head down the sideline and adjust his speed or tries to create a little bit of extra separation, Witherspoon looks back for the ball and tries to actively play it in the air
+ Yet he can also put a hand right in-between the receiver’s paws to knock it up for grabs, timing up when he swipe-throughs very well
+ Had a great pick against Wyoming matched up with a slot fade, turning his head and picking it off at the sideline
+ Allowed only 22 receptions for 200 yards and no touchdowns on 425 coverage snaps and 63 targets (one reception in press-man), while forcing 18 incompletions and picking off three passes, leading to a 92.5 PFF coverage grade

+ Doesn’t stay blocked in place, but regularly bench-presses receivers inside and gets involved on tackles, at times up the C-gap
+ If he’s the unblocked force defender, he will shoot into the backfield and chop down bigger ball-carriers, which resulted in a crazy eight TFLs in 2021
+ You actively see him work around blockers, regularly eluding them altogether, trying to get to the ball, when he could easily just stay out on the perimeter and hold his ground
+ Absolutely destroyed Indiana’s running back on a little swing screen in 2022, immediately shooting downhill once he saw that guy go in motion and he knew what was coming based on studying tape
+ Was used as a blitzer off the corner a few times, where he times up the snap well and plays with ferocious pursuit

– Has a tendency of playing a little bit tall in his pedal and isn’t as comfortable in true off-man
– Because he has more of that lanky build, guys are able to create some separation on deep comebacks and stuff like that, since it takes him a little bit of time to pivot and redirect
– Does get pretty handsy when receivers are able to attack the edges of his frame and needs to fully turn his back to the quarterback, And some of the ways he “catches” receivers down the field when playing off will draw flags at the next level for illegal contact (six penalties in ’22)
– NFL athletes may lead him to more missed tackles with how regularly he doesn’t break down from sprinting pursuit, And he has moments of just going head-first and not using his arms as a tackler, which also may be a health concern long-term

If you’re looking for a corner that plays with an extreme level of confidence and has “that dog in him”, Witherspoon is your guy. He can both stick to receivers off the line in press-man or read patterns in zone and disrupt the catch point consistently. My only legit concern with him is how easily he’ll be able to adjust his playing style in order to avoid penalties at the next level, and I don’t know if an off-man heavy system is the greatest fit for him, because of the way he initiated contact past the five-yard mark. Yet, the way he can match great athletes as a true boundary corner and how aggressively he supports against the run are a defensive coordinator’s dream. He’s one of the rare guys at the position, who I believe have the mentality to be a number one right away.


2. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

6’1”, 200 pounds; JR

A four-star recruit for Colorado in 2020, Gonzalez started all six games of his COVID-shortened true freshman campaign and finished second on the team with five passes broken up. The following season, he was out with the one’s for all 12 games and once again recorded five PBUs, along with another 5.5 tackles for loss. He decided to transfer to the Ducks ahead of 2022 and it paid off in a major way. He became a first-team All-Pac-12 performer, with four passes intercepted and seven more broken up.

+ Has those prototype press-man corner measurements and was regularly asked to challenge the opposing team’s number one receiver at the line whilst at Colorado
+ Oregon ran a lot more cover-three, where we saw him fall off his guy on the outside, but there were still several impressive reps in isolated coverage
+ Uses a very patient approach at the release point and lands those one-handed stabs at the pec of receivers consistently, to push them towards and then guide them along the sideline, where any space to fit the pass into is taken away
+ Along with that, he incorporates some fake jams to keep receivers off balance trying to come off the ball
+ Routinely is on top of his man down the sideline and is looking back at the quarterback, to not allows guys to detach, but also being right there in position to defend throws to the back-shoulder
+ For a tall corner, Gonzalez is loose enough to swivel his hips and attack against targets breaking towards the middle of the field, He has some highly impressive reps, where he opens to the outside and gets right back into the hip-pocket of receivers to cut off dig routes
+ I think in general, you can see that he is frustrating receivers with not allowing them to get to the edges of his frame, and because he can keep his body in their way to some degree, he feels comfortable tracking the ball in the air whilst being engaged with those guys
+ Had a couple of great reps against Stanford WR Michael Wilson, negating vertical releases on go routes and playing the ball in the air, as well as wrap around them on shorter breaks

+ Even in zone-coverage, Gonzalez doesn’t typically allow the guy across from him to stem routes in uncontested fashion
+ Has the speed to run with guys down the sideline, as well as carry them down the post and stay in phase, despite having outside leverage in cover-three/-four
+ Displays high football IQ in the what he presents to quarterbacks, sometimes that he’s gain ground in a quarter-turn, but then squaring his hips and contesting throws underneath, when they’re in cover-two and there’s a safety over the top
+ Allowed 39 catches on 64 yards last season, with those four INTs and nine more forced incompletions (81.4 PFF coverage grade), compared to three touchdowns
+ Even on a lot of those catches he did allow, he was right there in positive and tried to not get called for interference
+ Will only turn 21 years old at the end of July, with room to still fine-tune his spacing due to limited experience in zone coverage
+ Had an excellent all-around showing at the combine, with a 4.38 in the 40, a 41.5-inch vert (tied for second among CBs) and 11’1” broad jump (tied for fourth)

+ When runs come out to the edge and he becomes the force defender, he’s pretty effective at chopping down ball-carriers at their feet
+ Uses those long arms to keep receivers from getting into his frame as blockers
+ And I thought he became a bigger hitter and more physical player altogether in 2022
+ Missed only three of 53 tackling attempts last year, where his long arms to wrap up and hold onto guys is a benefit

– Lacks a certain physicality to hold his ground and win in contested-catch situations, as well as being vulnerable to push-offs
– His success rate at raking the ball out of the hands of receivers is pretty low, once they get their finger-tips on it
– Has to be a little bit quicker to recognize crack toss plays and screens coming towards him
– Not overly interested in coming off blocks and chasing hard to get involved on tackles in the run game or when the ball goes away from him

While Gonzo may not be the type of junkyard dog Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon is, everything just comes so easy to this guy. The fluidity, the acceleration and long-speed to run with guys effortlessly, his length and vertical prowess to compete at the catch point – there’s just not much you can throw at him that really creates problems. Now, for as much athletic confidence as he radiates and I’d feel very confident leaving him one-on-one with the X-receiver for the majority of four quarters, he doesn’t really make his presence felt physically. He’s not a plus in run-support for what you expect from that spot, you don’t see him squeezing down route patterns as a zone-defender and there’s definitely guys who are feistier at attacking the ball. If his future coaches can get that “alpha mentality” out of him, he has legit All-Pro potential.


3. Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

6’3”, 195 pounds; RS SO

The son of long-time Steelers linebacker Joey Porter Sr., this 2019 four-star recruit barely saw the field as a freshman, but then in eight games of 2020, Joey Jr. recorded four PBUs and two TFLs. He got his first pick, along with four more PBUs the following season. This past year, he really made a name for himself breaking up 11 passes in just ten games, which he was named first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-American for.

+ Probably the longest corners I’ve ever watched, at 6’2” and ½ with a full 34-inch arms
+ Very patient off the line, along with the reach to land one-handed stabs without having to compromise his base
+ Does well to forcefully stab with the inside hand and sustaining contact with receivers in press-man coverage (from inside shade) – You regularly see him ride receivers into the white on fade routes
+ Stays sticky against crossers and dig routes typically and has the hip fluidity to make those 180-degree turns when routes break away from the initial stem
+ Does not seem worried about getting run by and sticking in trail technique and he’s way lighter on his feet than you’d think and he stops his weight without an issue to match receivers, ready to stop once he feels the break coming
+ Not looking out of place matching up with tight-ends as the single receiver in three-by-one sets, being ready to greet them with those tentacles of his
+ On 30 targets last season, only 15 were completed for 143 yards and no touchdowns, while he actively forced 12 incompletions
+ And only 68 yards came across 106 snaps in press-man

+ For a tall corner, Porter’s ability to redirect and drive on quick-breaking routes from off-alignment is pretty impressive
+ His length and ability to cover ground make him a very tough guy to stretch with high-low concepts when he’s the flat defender in cover-two
+ You see him re-route the outside receiver and guide him towards the safety on fade routes, while still being able to make plays on the ball on the out route of the slot, where offenses try to put him in conflict like that – Nearly had a pick-six on one of those in the ’22 season opener vs. Purdue
+ Very competitive and strong at defending the catch point in box-out situations – Trying to throw goal-line fades against this guy isn’t a good idea, because he has the physicality, length and competitive spirit to rake the ball out at any moment, even if he doesn’t bat it away initially
+ Has the extra gear to re-enter the picture after receivers seem to have a step on him breaking to the post with him in deep responsibility
+ Porter had six(!) PBUs in the ’22 opener against Purdue, where the QB clearly didn’t judge right what kind of range and reach he has

+ His long arms make it nearly impossible for receivers to get into his frame as blockers in the run game
+ Yet, he can dip the near-shoulder as guys work out towards him, to funnel the ball back inside
+ And if there’s a crease between blockers in the screen game, he can rapidly shoot through and throw those off
+ Those burners also show up when he runs down ball-carriers at full stride

– Does get turned around more regularly than you’d like to see and he could draw more flags when he grabs because of it at the next level (three penalties vs. ten in 2021)
– Can be a little undisciplined at times in zone coverage and not continue to gain depth, if he feels like the deep route to his side is off the table
– Not dying to get involved in tackles, even though he’d have the size to crash through blockers and shows that at times – earned a PFF grade of just 53.2 against the run this past season
– When blitzing off the edge or replacing one of his teammates as the unblocked defender, way too often you see him clutching for air, as he’s trying to set the tackle – missed six of 33 attempts last year (17.6%)

When you draft Porter Jr., you know what you want him to be – a physical press-corner with historic length and plus all-around athletic traits. You can ask him to play straight bump-and-run, he can play press-bail or throw off the timing of concepts along with adding range in a more cover-two heavy system. I don’t think he’ll have quite the same success like a similarly long corner in Tariq Woolen from last year’s class if you also stick him in a quarters-based scheme, but this is still an ascending talent, with just one season, where he seems to have gotten “it”. There’s certainly room to become more disciplined with avoiding penalties and becoming a more reliable tackler in the run game, but considering his bloodlines and the natural gifts he has, I think you feel comfortable maybe giving him a year to acclimate himself to the pro game, because of what the pay-off can be. I don’t see him making it out of the top-20.


4. Cam Smith, South Carolina

6’1”, 185 pounds; RS JR

A four-star recruit in 2019, Smith barely saw the field as a true freshman, before logging two interceptions and PBUs each the following season in eight games. In his first full season as a starter in 2021, intercepted three passes and broke up another 11, along with 2.5 TFLs and a forced fumble. This past year, he only defensed six passes (one pick), but still was regarded as one of the top corners in the SEC, where he made second-team all-conference as a junior.

+ Picked up right where Jaycee Horn left off for the Gamecocks in 2021, as he picked off three passes, broke up 11 more and finished with an 89.7 coverage grade
+ Last year those numbers dipped a little bit, but he still only allowed 47.4% of throws his way to be completed and was responsible for a passer rating of 71.3, whilst spending almost exactly a third of snaps in a tough slot role
+ Plays a lot of soft press for the Gamecocks, where his fluidity and balance is highly impressive for a lanky corner, but then he also provides that length and physicality to deny receiving easy access to the edges of his frame
+ You regularly see him force the X into the boundary, with no space to fit the ball into him or just to make them kind of quit on their route
+ Even if he misses the jam, Smith is loose enough to cross over with that inside leg and not really get out of phase
+ Plus, then he can stop his momentum exceptionally well against curls and comebacks with efficient footwork
+ Against guys releasing inside, Smith typically makes sure to attach to the near-shoulder of the receiver and feels the break coming, to stick in the hip-pocket
+ You see Smith back-pedal ten yards and not look uncomfortable doing so, unlike many other tall corners

+ When sinking in cover-three, Smith’s eyes are on the slot receiver and he’s ready to fall off for inside fades/seam routes
+ As a flat defender, his length and ability to mid-point routes makes it very dangerous to hit deep outs and corner routes against him
+ With his ball-tracking skills, he can be leveraged outside in deep zone responsibility and still get back underneath the wideout on post routes, to catch the ball over his shoulder himself – Had a great pick that way against Clemson in 2021, working out of the slot
+ Shows the comfort when tangled up with receivers down the field, to bring his head around and attack the ball in the air, However, when he needs to play through the hands of the target, he can typically do so without prematurely interfering
+ Going back to the 2021 East Carolina game, he had an incredible play, arm-barring the receiver on a fade route and getting a hand on the ball to the back-shoulder, the opponent nearly bringing it in off the rebound, only for Smith to punch it out anyway
+ Across his two seasons as a starter with the Gamecocks, Smith has allowed just 33 of 70 targets for 395 yards and three TDs vs. four INTs
+ Tested better than expected at the combine, with a 4.43 in the 40, a 38-inch vert and an 11’2” broad jump (96th percentile)

+ Does a good job of maintaining vision on the ball-carrier as he’s engaged with blockers and sliding to the right side, to at least hold that guy up
+ Accelerates up into the flats and shoots through the legs of guys in the screen game for some splash plays
+ Smith shuffles his feet and shoots his hips through opponents to be a pretty effective space tackler one-on-one
+ Delivers knockback on ball-carriers who are already wrapped up and Smith finishes off the play – He iterally jumps on top of piles at the end of plays
+ Was blitzed off the corner later in games, when opponents were trying to close out wins with the run game

– Lacks the elite athletic traits (explosion, top gear) that you usually see from the very best at the position – he was just petrified by the speed of Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt and while shadowing him, he consistently played 10+ yards off on him
– His tendency of initiating contact with receivers further than five yards down the field when he doesn’t actually press will lead to a transition phase with NFL rules
– And overall, I thought when guys released against his leverage, he tends to tug their jersey for a moment, which rarely got called
– While he’s been much more effectively recently, he does have a 16.3% career missed tackle rate, too often relying on being able sling or drag guys to the ground
– Dealt with several minor injuries, that put him on the sideline for stretches of games

I don’t believe Smith is quite at the same level of an athlete as the top-three names on consensus boards, but when you look at the last two years, arguably nobody has a better resume in coverage than him. South Carolina trusted him to lock up the opposing team’s number one receiver – similar to some of the other great corners they’ve had there – and he consistently got the job done. I think his future team will need to protect him a little more, in terms of not leaving him isolated against rue speedsters, but if he can tone down his aggressiveness a little bit in terms of grabbing cloth and wrapping up accordingly as a tackler, he can continue to frustrate opponents with his length, physicality and competitive mindset.


5. Deonte Banks, Maryland

6’2”, 205 pounds; RS JR

A top-1000 overall recruit in 2019, until this past season, Banks actually played the most games as a true freshman (11 games, 8 starts), when he had one interception and a couple of PBUs, since Maryland only played five games in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign and he then was lost for the following season two games in. Last year he made a name for himself, with another pick and eight PBUs, while drawing the eye of the scouting community.

+ Was a true press-man corner for the Terps – Spent all but 13 snaps on the perimeter last season
+ Shows advanced understanding for receiver splits, which routes to expect and to protect against those with the technique he uses
+ Utilizes independent hand jams and re-routing tools, to keep guys across from him off their game
+ Stays patient against delayed releases and packs a mean jam to throw guys off balance when they do ultimately commit
+ Has the speed to frequently blanket go routes in man and not allow receivers to detach vertically down the post, even when he plays with outside leverage in cover-three/-four
+ Can gather and re-accelerate very well, to not allow guys to create separation on double-moves
+ For a long corner, Banks can roll his hips and get underneath deep in-breakers very well, after flipping with the outside release initially

+ Plays to his leverage and doesn’t overreact to route stems, intended to pull him off his land-marks in zone coverage
+ Communicative player with passing off assignments in that regard and the explosiveness to attach to secondary targets approaching his general space
+ Recognizes when he can fall off onto seam routes in cover-three and has the length to disrupt the catch point, as he arrives there late
+ Does not panic with his back to the football and consistently punches through the hands of his man
+ That competitiveness at the catch-point is apparent when the catch seems to be secured and he keeps trying to rip it out
+ Received a 73.1 PFF coverage grade in 2022, with 13 forced incompletions and that one INT, allowing only 26 completions on 60 targets, although four of those ended in touchdowns

+ Actively condenses the edge when unblocked in the rum game and has no issues making stops on-on-one as ball-carriers try to get around the edge
+ Willing, effective tackler, with just one total miss this past season on 39 attempts
+ There are several moments watching Banks’ tape, where his joy for the game and energy is apparent
+ Had a tremendous combine showing, where he ran a 4.35 in the 40, led all corners with a 42-inch vertical & was second in the broad jump at 11’4″, He also had an excellent on-field workout, where he stayed low in his pedal, was able to drive out of it with explosion and flip his hips without issues, despite that longer build, And he caught the ball with confidence throughout

– Probably not the best fit for a quarters or off-man heavy scheme, because there is a bit of a delay at times when trying to click-and-close on routes in front of him, if he has to gain depth initially
– Still has room to improve his ability to maintain contact through the release in press-technique, rather than shooting his hands and then turning with guys
– Consistently plays the man and rarely tracks the ball in the air to attack it, while getting flagged a few times for raking through the receiver’s hands a split-second early
– There are too many plays, where he’s in phase, but receivers are able to adjust to the pass in the air and Banks doesn’t contest the catch enough or even tries to find the ball
– Allows receivers to get into his frame too much as blockers and then has a tough time disengaging from those

This is a name that has just continued to rise throughout this pre-draft process and moved up my rankings, the more I watched of him. Banks is a prototype outside corner, with the aggressive mindset to throw off the timing off routes, but also being springy enough to not allow guys to separate if they have the edge off the line, along with the burst and length to close any distance late. There’s certainly room for improvement in his press-technique and you’d like to see him want to make plays on the ball more regularly, but if you put him in a system, where he can dictate routes early on and not have make to transitions from off-alignments regularly, I think he be an excellent starter at boundary corner for a long time. With the way he tested in Indy, I don’t see a way he makes it out of the first round at this point.


6. Kelee Ringo, Georgia

6’2”, 205 pounds; RS SO

The number one overall cornerback recruit in 2020, Ringo took an initial redshirt with the loaded DB room of the Bulldogs. In his first season as a starter, he broke up eight passes and intercepted another two, including the game-sealing pick-six in the national title game versus Alabama. In 2022 he was a fixture in the lineup and was named second-team All-SEC, with two more INTs, seven PBUs, two sacks and a forced fumble.

+ One of the most massive college corners you will ever find and plays up to that size
+ Can maul some smaller receivers off the line and not allow them to get into their release at all
+ Has the physicality and length to negate slant routes and ride guys along trying to access the inside in general
+ If he can attach to the hype of receivers on vertical routes, with those 4.36 wheels, you don’t see guys gain a step on him
+ His speed allows Ringo to stay glued to his man on quick crossing routes, where he should be at a disadvantage bases on alignment alone
+ When put in the slot, he showed the ability to stick with those inside fade routes despite all the space to work with
+ The recovery burst for a guy that almost like a linebacker esthetically is pretty insane
+ Bends off the near-foot to the WR very well for how big he is, to not overrun the break-point too far
+ Allowed just a 40.7% completion percentage in coverage in 2021
+ While his junior campaign didn’t quite live up to the hype, Ringo had a tremendous showing against TCU’s Quentin Johnston in the national title game, where his only catch (for three yards) came on a little slip screen and Ringo was glued to him for the most part

+ Does well to mid-point routes in two-high shells and rarely allows easy completions in front of him
+ Well-coordinated at gaining plenty of ground without crossing over his legs in those three-quarter turns
+ Showcases exceptional ball-skills for any defensive player, with the ability to track over either shoulder and attack passes at their highest point
+ Made an impressive interception in what proved to be a dominant performance for the defense against Tennessee’s then-number one scoring offense (in a matchup of two top-three ranked teams), where he basically ran the fade route for Cedric Tillman and made an over-the-shoulder grab look easy
+ Even if it appears receivers have the catch secured, when he initiates contact and punches at the ball, he knocks it loose quite regularly

+ Incredibly physical tackler for the position, who often times becomes the one setting the tone at contact with running backs
+ You see several tackles, where he actually drives guys backwards and puts them on their backside, which is rare for a corner
+ If offenses motion the wideout in tight and pull him into the box, he’s not a negative there, being able to set the edge against tight-ends
+ Was blitzed off the corner a few times, where he showed the ability to beat tight-ends with a strong rip-through trying to fan out to him, or slip inside, if they overset
+ Will only turn 21 years old at the end of June, with just two years of collegiate experience

– Even though you want Ringo to take advantage of his crazy physicality in a press-man role, in 2022 he didn’t show the anticipation for how receivers want to release, land his stabs accordingly and shuffle in front of guys, so he can match them, which led to him being in catch-up mode and relying on his athletic tools to recover too often
– Simply has to become better with mirroring releases and cutting off angles for receivers, to not allow opponents to be a step ahead of him
– Gets way too aggressive with jersey tugs at the top of routes and will regularly draw flags because of it
– Well-schooled receivers can deceive him peak-techniques and more intricate routes, where he gets lost for a moment
– Can be a little undisciplined with falling off his landmarks in zone coverage and surrender easy completions towards his area later on in plays

Ringo emerged as one of the top-two corner prospects for the 2023 draft during last year’s summer. Considering he’s stronger and faster than basically anybody he’s faced over these past two seasons, that’s understandable and I’m sure many coaches are still very intrigued by the skill-set he brings to the table. With that being said, he threw up legitimate question marks in some matchups over the course of the season. His ability to anticipate and mirror receivers off the line was sub-par and it felt like he was consistently a step behind the guy across from him. Now, for some of the big plays he gave up and flags he drew, he did make up with a couple of tremendous interceptions and balls he was able to dislodge late. We can’t forget that he is still a very young player, who faced some tremendous competition and still has plenty of room to grow in terms of the details of the position. The tools are certainly there to be a starter on the outside, but I think his future team may end up making him a big nickel, to counter the league’s trend towards power slot profiles. I still believe it’s more likely he gets picked in the first round than not.


7. Julius Brents, Kansas State

6’4”, 205 pounds; RS SR

A top-500 overall recruit for Iowa in 2018, Brents played in 11 games as a true freshman, including five starts. Over the next two seasons, he was limited to eight games, including a redshirt in 2019. After having recorded five pass break-ups and an interception with the Hawkeyes, he transferred to K-State. There he was a full-time starter both years, with limited ball-production initially, but then intercepting and breaking up four passes respectively in 2022.

+ Legit 6’3” corner with an insane 82 and 5/8-inch wingspan (99th percentile)
+ Yet his feet are pretty darn quick as he mirrors guys off the line, with balanced footwork
+ Has some very impressive reps against guys trying to release down the sideline, where he rides them into the white by that near-shoulder and takes away any space to complete the ball into
+ Against receivers who have more room to the outside by alignment, who takes those wide releases against him, Brents has his eyes locked onto the hips of those guys without needing to totally commit his hips and be ready for any potential breaks
+ His long arms enable him to land jams as receivers stick their foot in the ground for quick breaks and slow them down significantly
+ Attacks the near-shoulder and pins the inside arm of guys trying to stack him vertically
+ Shows excellent balance between making sure he’s in phase, turning his head at the appropriate time, yet understanding when the secondary play starts and his eyes need to shift back towards the quarterback
+ Had awesome back-and-forth battles with TCU stud receiver Quentin Johnson in their two 2022 matchups and to a large degree also the year prior, even though Brents didn’t actually travel

+ When he plays with his butt to the sideline, Brents covers ground well whilst having his eyes locked on the quarterback and being ready to break on stuff in front of him
+ Springy and rapidly closes the distance to receivers matching routes from off-alignment in quarters
+ His long branches give him room for error when there is a little bit of breathing room created by the receiver, to still affect the catch-point
+ As we saw this past season, if you under- or overthrow this guy, you better do so by a significant margin, or he will come up with the ball
+ Has some beautiful high-point picks on his resume
+ Held opposing quarterbacks to 24-of-51 for 374 yards and three TDs, but also four INTs himself last season, for a passer rating of just 57.7 (and that includes a 55-yard TD, where he stumbled and against a go route, when coming onto the field for one play gutting it out through an injury)
+ Absolutely jumped out of the gym with a 41.5-inch vert and an 11’6” broad jump, And while not all corners did participate, his agility numbers were also both significantly better than the next-closest guy at the position despite his crazy long build

+ Actively condenses the edge and doesn’t mind sticking his face in the fan in run defense, at times throwing a shoulder into the chest of pulling guards even
+ Doesn’t waste any time racing upfield when the ball is completed underneat and he lands some wicked hits on guys before they can even turn upfield
+ You see some plays where he’s 15 yards down the field and then stops check-downs on like swing routes for two- or three-yard gains
+ Has the slipperiness of elude receivers trying to block him as his man works towards the quarterback on slip/tunnel screens
+ Displays a large tackling radius and effectively chops or twists ball-carriers to the ground – only missed four of 49 tackling attempts this past season

– With how long Brents is, he lacks some bulk that physical wideouts can take advantage of when they pro-active attack his chest and put him into recovery-mode
– Tends to gets his feet stuck as he tries to throw his jam and gets beat on quick slant routes sometimes, because he lacks that high-level twitch
– Has his issues sticking with guys on double-releases or who can just get his hips tilted towards the sideline before breaking inside of him, since it takes him longer to bring his base back around and getting back into the picture with those long legs
– Crafty route-runner can fool him with head-fakes at times
– While he certainly improved in 2022, too often he would leave his feet before he arrives at his target when racing down for tackles

It’s rare to see any corner with 34-inch arms. So having two in one draft class is unheard of. However, for some reason Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. – deservedly discussed as a top-20 pick – is getting all the attention and Brents is rarely mentioned as one of the top names in this class. Maybe it’s the fact people look at him being playing in the Big-12, where defense is optional at times seemingly, but that is not considering the fact he was in a role that should translate very well to the next level and the brutal slate of receivers he faced last season, which he more than held his own against. His crazy length and light feet to play sticky coverage from the get-go makes him a very attractive option for a man-heavy scheme, but unlike some of these other long CBs, I think he has also shown the skills to click-and-close on routes in more off-zone centric systems. There is some downside with that lanky build, in terms of being able to snap his hips and stand his ground against physical wideouts at times, but the positives far outweigh those. I think he’s a top-50 player in this draft.


8. Eli Ricks, Alabama

6’2”, 195 pounds; JR

The rest of the analysis can be found here!


9. Tyrique Stevenson, Miami

6’0”, 205 pounds; SR


10. Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State

6’1”, 170 pounds; JR

Just missed the cut:


D.J. Turner II, Michigan

5’11”, 180 pounds; SR

Kyu Blu Kelly, Stanford

6’0”, 190 pounds; SR

The next names up:

Garrett Williams (Syracuse), Clark Phillips III (Utah), Darius Rush (South Carolina), Riley Moss (Iowa), Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (TCU), Jakorian Bennett (Maryland), Terell Smith (Minnesota), Alex Austin & Rejzohn Wright (Oregon State)

If you enjoyed this breakdown, please consider checking out the original piece and feel free to check out all my other video content here!
Twitter: @ halilsfbtalk Instagram: @ halilsrealfootballtalk
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