Mind helping drugs

Brain on Ritalin

Most people have already heard about Ritalin. For those who haven’t, here’s a recap from Wikipedia:

Methylphenidate (trade names Concerta, Methylin, Ritalin, Equasym XL, Quillivant XR) is a substituted phenethylamine and psychostimulant drug used for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and narcolepsy. Methylphenidate has been studied and researched for over 50 years and has a very good efficacy and safety record for the treatment of ADHD.[3] The original patent was owned by CIBA, now Novartis Corporation. It was first licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1955 for treating what was then known as hyperactivity. Prescribed to patients beginning in 1960, the drug became heavily prescribed in the 1990s, when the diagnosis of ADHD itself became more widely accepted.

The noise surrounding Ritalin, which has been around since the 1957, mostly pertains to the use of it as a sort of “magic-cure” for children who are diagnosed as being hyperactive. The effects are mostly undeniable and allow those kids to be able to sit down, experience better concentration and perform better socially and academically.

However, the possible side effects as well as behavioral changes detected in some of these kids worry many parents. The usage of a powerful psychiatric drug on undeveloped brains is sometimes worrisome.

Personally, as an adult who had experience in using this medicine for my own ADD (attention deficit disorder), I can say for myself that the benefits vastly outweigh the issues. Those mostly manifest themselves as side-effects – in my case dehydration, reduced appetite and sometimes headaches.

I only use the medicine selectively and when I feel it is needed – not too frequently. It may be that the daily usage with ADHD kids makes a significant difference that may do more harm than good.

However, for adults I believe that this is a powerful tool that should be used. I sometimes think back and wish I had the knowledge and access to it back in my school day. My life may have turned out quite differently.

What is your take on Ritalin? Do you support its use, or see it as the “Big Bad Wolf” in children medication?

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[Updated] Review: Minix Neo X8-H 4K Media streamer/TV Box

Minix Neo X8-H

[Update at end of article]

Tech Specs:

  • Minix Neo X8-H Android TV Box
  • CPU: Amlogic S802-H Quad Core 2.0Ghz (Cortex-A9)
  • GPU: Mali-450
  • RAM: 2 GigaByte DDR3
  • Storage: 16 GigaByte Nand Flash
  • Expansion: SD Card Slot, support max 64 GigaByte (reported to support up to 128 GigaByte)
  • Wireless Communication: 802.11n Dual Band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz/5.8GHz), Bluetooth 4.0
  • Dimensions: 135*125*25mm
  • Weight: 292 Grams

Packaging & Content

  • 1 x TV Box
  • 1 x OTG Cable
  • 1 x Power Adapter
  • 1 x USB Cable
  • 1 x HDMI Cable
  • 1 x IR-Remote Control
  • 1 x User Manual
  • 1 x Antenna
  • M1 Air Mouse
  • 1 x USB Receiver
  • 1 x User Manual for M1 Gyromouse Remote

Package contents

Setup and impressions

The Minix X8-H comes pre-loaded with Android 4.4 and a few apps, including XBMC media center ver. 13.2 (codename “Gotham”).

At first use, you boot in like any android phone or tablet, and go through the google sign-in/sign-on process, with one main difference – you are required to set-up the minix-specific configuration. It mostly pertains to Audio, Video and network settings – as the device supports wired LAN connections where tablets and smartphones do not.

The main screen can be either the basic google launcher, or a metro (tiles based) launcher. I found that it’s a matter of preference rather than one over the other.

After setting up the device, and adding any wanted apps via the google play store or manually, it’s time to set up XBMC which is the main attraction of the Minix.

The version included is specifically made for Minix devices, and that’s the main reason why the newer “Kodi” (version 14 alpha) is not included, though it is expected to arrive in a future update. It’s a powerful free media player that can handle multimedia of many types including Photos, Music, Video (both film and TV) and also provide access to specific resources via the web, and even Live TV channels through DVB adapters (not a possibility in Minix products as confirmed by Minix support) or IPTV access.

However.. It requires quite a bit of work to set it all up. If you like to access NAS or simply your PC/Mac hard drive via the home network, you’ll need to set up the path to it, and define what kind of content is available and where. Afterwards, the content may be updated on regular intervals automatically, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be mistakes.

The Minix allows for either wireless Wifi connection (2.4GHz or 5GHz) or 100Mbit LAN wired connection and both works very well.

It’s size is quite small and comparable to two average smartphones side by side. The bulky antenna adds some height but it’s still a relatively small device.

The package I got included a Gyromouse remote, which contains a gyroscope and allows to use the said remote as a pointer to control the screen in a similar fashion to that of a touch screen. It’s not quite there as the response time is not as fast or as accurate as that of a touch screen, but it’s a step-up from a standard remote for the same purpose.

Performance

I found that XBMC is less accurate with the identification of films and TV series than the older generation NMTs (popcorn hour devices are a good example in conjunction with a jukebox plugin). If the name of the show or film is not clear enough it might give an incorrect title, poster and description,  or even skip it all together.

Overall however, the device played locally and over the network any content I threw at it, and aside for some hiccups with live channels content (which is to be expected as the sources are unreliable to say the least) it performs admirably.

I still find that file/directory copying and moving between the Minix and my PC is cumbersome to say the least. I cannot access the device via SMB (windows network access) the same way I could with my old NMT streamer, even after performing ROOT on the device. I need to use ftp server program, or the internal file manager program to achieve the same goal. But that might be simply lack of knowledge of the Minix possibilities on my part.

All in all, the device is a very capable media streamer which is future proof for the next 2-3 years.

I recommend it.

[Update]

Just 5 days ago, a new updated version of the player named “Minix NEO X8-H Plus” was released. The changes are significant as the CPU is replaced from S802 to S812 which allows for HEVC (or x265) encoding in hardware – allowing for highly compressed 4K content to be played properly. In the model reviewed it can only be played in software mode up to 720p due to the heavy processing required for the codec. The new CPU also includes a more advanced WiFi communications supporting the AC protocol, and a 1000Mbit instead of the 100Mbit LAN connection.

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Why do games still fail to show realistic graphics?

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s Kevin Spacey. Courtesy of Forbes.com

It may seem like a strange statement, accompanied by a screenshot from one of the latest and greatest hits on PC and consoles – “Call of duty: Advanced warfare” which features the digitized image of Kevin Spacey in quite a massive amount of detail.

But that comes to show the point: graphics in video games can achieve photo-realism these days, but they don’t. The people in them still seem like moving wax figures, even with perfect hair, dirt, and 12 o’clock shadow. Of course you’ll need a monster gaming PC to see the graphics in the top form they appear in this game’s cut-scenes (or you’ll get a very watered down version that doesn’t come close to the fidelity you see in this or other PR shots from the game).

But it is possible to make people look more… like people with today’s technology. I believe that the answer to why it’s mostly not done lies in the fear of the production companies from the possible connection between real-life violence and violent video games.

I’ll give a clear example: The known 2K’s NBA franchise, with it’s latest reiteration – NBA2K15, as well as Electronic Arts competitor NBA Live (15 being the current version) depicts quite realistic human graphics, as can be seen in the following two videos:

Seeing that these are sport simulation games, without gore blood or violence, they are “allowed” to push the the limits more than the gory games.

The gaming companies line of defense remains that video games are make-believe, exaggerated and comic-book-like creations and as such do not pose a threat to society. But advancing technology as well as demand from gamers does not make life easier for them as they are expected to show a rise in the level of graphics as well as game experience with every passing year.

So they use the technology to their advantage, and I suspect they actually over-do themselves in order to keep the characters just a bit unrealistic. Keeping the skin a bit too glossy, the eyes somewhat deem/overly sparkly or the movement a bit less or a little overly fluid.

They walk a fine line, and I’m sure others notice it as well. But how long can they keep walking between the rain drops? Consumers want what they pay for, and plonking a few thousands of dollars on a monster gaming machine makes no sense when the resulting experience is lackluster.

The possible solution? enforcing a more strict age policy, or adding a specific warning to realistic looking gory games that states “May contain photo-realistic violence, Beware!”. It may seems silly, but technology cannot be stopped, and if they big companies won’t catch up to the level that already exists today, the indie game developers will as soon as the technology becomes cheap enough for them to exploit.

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The Long Dark – PC Game (p)Review

The Long Dark

This game is in alpha stage and was released as a part of the “early access” section of Valve’s Steam service. That means it’s an ongoing game development in its early stages, and may contain bugs and missing features.

To start, and as a clarification, this game is NOT a black porn/adult film – as much as the name may suggest.

What it is, is a survival/exploration first person adventure which is set in a cold/frozen world.

It's cold out there

And when I say “frozen” I mean FROZEN. It is cold out there, and it’s not much warmer, or safe indoors either.

You start off somewhere on the map (random location each time), with nothing much more than the clothes on your back, and a bit of equipment – I.E. matches, flare, and not much more. No knife (good for skinning deer), no good warm clothes, and no food. And you need all these and much more to survive.

This game is unforgiving. The developer tried to make it as realistic as possible, so forget about health packs, health restoring food or sleep, and so on. You can get bandages, antiseptic, antibiotics, painkillers and so on, but they won’t do you much good once your health meter starts dropping to dangerous levels, and if you encounter one of the many wolves roaming around this frozen tundra, well, you are liable to end up as a bloodless popsicle in no time.

The game comes with two game modes: Story, which is not available as yet in this alpha version, and Sandbox – which allows you to choose your avatar sex (meaning the narration of your whining will be husky male or pleasant female), and the map – so far only the first one is included, but another one is in the works.

This is NOT any kind of shooter (first person, or third). This is a “do-your-best-to-stay-alive”. And the “winner” is the one who gets to survive the longest. In steam you get achievement if you manage to stay alive 15, 20 or even 40 days.

Surviving even 12 hours is a big challenge. Sure, you can try and find a hut, and bunk indoors for a while, but unless you have a serious supply of food and kindling (to keep warm) – you’ll end up dead – indoors.

The graphics are nothing to write home about – as can be seen from the screenshots I included. But this game is not about graphics. It’s about exploration, survival, and sound. The sound play a big part in this, because it builds up the atmosphere of despair. You hear the wind blowing, birds above, a wolf howling, and the soft steps of a deer. Your steps on a frozen lake make you worry that you might just crack the ice and fall in, but that doesn’t happen – at least not in this alpha version.

So, did I like it? YES. It’s a very difficult game, there are no saves (at least none yet) and you end up dying surprised every time, but you learn something new every time, and the map is never exactly the same. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys survival games!

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Liquid metal battery, HOT solar cells, and a Space Elevator!

 

Hot Solar CellsHot Solar Cells

Associate professor of electrical engineering Minjoo Larry Lee

Associate professor of electrical engineering Minjoo Larry Lee just got 2.5 Million dollars to develop dual-junction solar cells that can operate efficiently at extreme temperatures above 398.889 Celsius (or 750 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s about as hot as it gets in a brick oven. The idea is that in addition to converting a portion of the sunlight directly into electricity, the solar cells will use the remainder of the light to heat high-temperature fluids that can drive a steam turbine or be stored for later use. This dual approach may raise the efficiency factor from 20-30% of today’s photovoltaic solar cells to new, higher levels as well as allow for energy storage in high-temperature fluids, which will be more efficient than today battery technology.

Liquid Metal Battery

Liquid Metal Battery

Researchers at MIT have improved a proposed liquid battery system that could enable renewable energy sources to compete with conventional power plants.
Donald Sadoway and colleagues have already started a company to produce electrical-grid-scale liquid batteries, The battery uses two layers of molten metal, separated by a layer of molten salt that acts as the battery’s electrolyte (the layer that charged particles pass through as the battery is charged or discharged). Because each of the three materials has a different density, they naturally separate into layers, like oil floating on water. But the new formula—published in the journal Nature by Sadoway, former postdocs Kangli Wang and Kai Jiang, and seven others—substitutes different metals for the molten layers used in a battery previously developed by the team. Extensive testing has shown that even after 10 years of daily charging and discharging, the system should retain about 85 percent of its initial efficiency—a key factor in making such a technology an attractive investment for electric utilities.

Space Elevator

Space elevator by 2050Japanese construction company Obayashi, revealed today its plans to have a fully functional space elevator by the year 2050. As Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports, Obayashi says it is working to build a space elevator that can reach 96,000 kilometers (roughly 60,000 miles) into space, capable of transporting people and cargo at a much lower cost than the rockets traditionally launched from Earth. The trip on Obayashi’s space elevator is said to take a total of seven days one-way, with the destination being a space station that would be built specifically for this scenario. 7 days in a space elevator? and what if it gets stuck? any parachutes onboard? Brrr….

Cool stuff is happening every day! and here at Drops of Wisdom, we’ll keep you in the loop!

 

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Meditation can cure you through altering genes

meditationYeah, it sounds like New Age crap, but there is a actual scientific publication by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France that reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation.

So what does it mean? Well, it’s been a long known fact that experienced yogis (people who practiced Yoga) can control several parameters of their bodies including temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. The leap from that to being able to alter genes in a positive way is not as far as one may think.

After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

Mind over body takes a whole new meaning when you think about this. But committing to the amount of meditation required for a meaningful effect may be more than most people would deem reasonable – the research group did approximately 6 hours of meditation per day for a period of 3 months. That’s A LOT. Never mind the time constraints of most working people, getting the resolve and self discipline to repeat this day in and day out (without visible gain for a while) is more than most people will agree to do.

Will technology be able to help us achieve the same effects but in a shorter time span? Only time will tell.

 

 

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Apple vs. Bitcoin & Android

applevsandroid-bitcoinApple announced yesterday three new devices: Iphone 6, Iphone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch.

iphone6b

The new phones offer thinner bodies, bigger screens (4.7″ and 5.5″), and snappier (though only dual core) 64 bit processors, but other than that they don’t offer anything new. They include the standard myriad of sensors, and come in 3 different RAM flavours: 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB.

applewatch1

The new-ish comer to the party is the Apple Watch, which is Apple’s new offering to the busy smart watch market.

It offers several colors and a good new form of control via the knob/dial on the side of the watch which allows different actions according to the running app (map zoom-in and out in the map app, and so on).

The watch makes use of a specialized operating system created for it specifically (still unknown if it’s a variation of iOS or an altogether new OS), and include sensors that monitor the user’s health parameters such as Heart rate, caloric expenditure and so on.

It will sport a sapphire display , which is expected to make it quite resistant to cracks and scratches, and a large selection of straps as well as a selection of faces to choose from.

The watch offers a form of wireless charging, but there is still no word as yet as to its battery capacity.

These are nice bells and whistles, but they come at a steep price of 350$, and only towards the beginning of 2015.

Does the apple logo justify this price tag? Will this pretty gadget offer enough of an attraction for people to shell out that much cash for a smart watch in an already crowded market where most of its competitors offer the same or more for a lower price tag? (and still don’t really fly off the shelf..)

The big issue with smart watches, or as the manufacturers like to call them “wearable tech” is it’s battery life, and price point.

They come as an appendage to the always there smartphone and unlike their good old predecessors, the (not-so-smart) regular watches, they requires recharging almost at the same rate as smartphones.

To top that big issue, they carry hefty price tags, and people who got used to simply using their smartphones to tell time think twice and more before buying any kind of watch – let alone an expensive and cumbersome so-called smart watch.

This issue pertains both to the new Apple watch and to the slew of android based smart watches from the likes of LG, Samsung and Motorola. The concept of “standby” doesn’t work that well when it comes to a watch.

We make do with charging our smartphones almost nightly because we actually use them all the time, but a watch is just an accessory – no matter how much they try to upsell it – and one that we’re used to carry without the need to charge or replace the battery more than once every 1-3 years.

The android based watches got the big android developers community behind them, and that gives them some edge over the talented developers at Apple, but it doesn’t change the inherent issues that come with today’s smart watches.

Apple also introduced Apple Pay, a system for using the phone to make credit card payments at retail stores. It’s an elegant method of making use of NFC technology with the fingerprint scanner built into iphone (from iphone 5 and up) to make secure credit/debit card payments on the go.

It shows that Apple is eyeing the potentially gigantic market of electronic payments, using ever present smartphones. So far, many have tried to get consumers to use their phones for this purpose – Visa did a valiant effort with its “Paywave” initiative – but consumers don’t trust their little electronic helpers to keep their credit card information, for fear it will get lost somewhere on its way to the cloud.

Apple tries to calm those fears but insisting the information will not be kept on the phone, and furthermore – even on the cloud servers it will be kept anonymously so even if stolen cannot be used. Not very re-assuring I’d say.

What does it remind us? oh yes… Bitcoin! the digital currency/wallet that allows us to transfer funds within minutes to any point on the globe with little or no fees at all! But that won’t do for a conglomerate such as Apple, or Visa, or Mastercard – since they cannot cut their fat fees from those transactions. By the way, it’s only recently that apple allowed a bitcoin wallet to be entered into its app store, after the bigheads over there finally understood that the Bitcoin revolution is advancing with, or without them.

So, what do you think? want to buy what Apple’s selling these days?

 

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My first (published) short story, or shameless self promotion

Dog short story cover

Yep.. simply click on the photo, or here, and you’ll be taken to my spanking shiny new page at Miss Literati website for young girls.. oops, I mean short stories.

Regarding the story itself, it describes the meeting of a part time young journalist and one very special dog, and how deep that rabbit hole may go..

This short story is based on a full length book I’m in the process of writing, and it would definitely help me to get feedback regarding the short story so I can improve on my book and generally write better.

Thanks for visiting, and especially thanks for reading!

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Samsung puts out a note with an edge

Samsung just released two new smart phone models, where one is the 4th generation of the Samsung Galaxy Note, and the other is a very similar model with a cool new feature – a curved side screen that can be used for notifications.

The new Note 4 is the same size as its predecessor, and a bit heavier (176 Grams) than the 168 Grams of the Note 3. These extra grams are used for a sharper screen and a snappy new quad/octa CPU, as well as several microphones and new sensors that makes it excellent for high quality recording purposes.

There is one downgrade though: the new Note only got USB 2.0 – unlike the USB 3.0 that was a part of the Note 3.

Pricing is expect to be around 700 USD, and availability is expected around October.

  Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Galaxy-Note-4-19-1280x1706[1]

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Galaxy-Note-Edge-110-1280x1706[1]

DISPLAY SIZE 5.7-inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel display (515 ppi) 5.6-inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel display (525 ppi)
DISPLAY TYPE Quad HD Super AMOLED Quad HD+ Super AMOLED
OPERATING SYSTEM Android 4.4 (at launch) Android 4.4 (at launch)
PROCESSOR 2.7 GHz Quad-Core Processor or 1.9 GHz Octa-Core (1.9GHz Quad + 1.3GHz Quad-Core) Processor (varies by country/carrier) 2.7 GHz Quad-Core Processor
RAM
  • 3GB
  • 3GB
STORAGE
  • 32GB
  • 32GB
  • 64GB
EXTERNAL STORAGE
  • Yes
  • Yes
EXTERNAL STORAGE SPECS
  • Micro SD up to 64GB
  • Micro SD up to 64GB
MAIN CAMERA (BACK)
  • 16MP
  • 16MP
SECONDARY CAMERA (FRONT)
  • 3.7MP
  • 3.7MP
NETWORKS
  • GSM/ GPRS/ EDGE : 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
  • HSPA+ 42Mbps: 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
  • 4G (LTE Cat 4 150/50Mbps) or 4G (LTE Cat 6 300/50Mbps)
  • GSM/ GPRS/ EDGE : 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
  • HSPA+ 42Mbps: 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
  • 4G (LTE Cat 4 150/50Mbps) or 4G (LTE Cat 6 300/50Mbps)
WI-FI
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
BLUETOOTH
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Bluetooth 4.1
BATTERY
  • 3220 mAh
  • 3000 mAh
NFC
  • Yes
  • Yes
CONNECTIVITY
  • 3.5mm Headphone jack
  • Micro USB
  • 3.5mm Headphone jack
  • Micro USB
SENSORS
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient light
  • Barometer
  • Geo-magnetic
  • Gesture
  • Gyroscope
  • Hall
  • Heart rate
  • UV
  •  Accelerometer
  • Ambient light
  • Barometer
  • Geo-Magnetic
  • Gyroscope
  • Heart rate
  • Proximity
  • Hall
  • UV
GPS
  • GLONASS
  • GPS
  • GLONASS
  • GPS
HEIGHT 153.5 mm (6.04 inches) 151.3 mm (5.96 inches)
WIDTH 78.6 mm (3.09 inches) 82.4 mm (3.24 inches)
DEPTH 8.5 mm (0.33 inches) 8.3 mm (0.33 inches)
WEIGHT 176 g (6.21 oz) 174 g (6.14 oz)
COLORS Black, Gold, Pink, White Black, White
SUPPORTED AUDIO FORMATS MP3, AAC/AAC+/eAAC+, WMA, AMR-NB/WB, Vorbis, FLAC MP3, AAC/AAC+/eAAC+, WMA, AMR-NB/WB, Vorbis, FLAC
SUPPORTED VIDEO FORMATS H.264, MPEG-4, H.263, VC-1, WMV7, WMV8, Sorenson Spark, MP43, VP8 H.264, MPEG-4, H.263, VC-1, WMV7, WMV8, Sorenson Spark, MP43, VP8
OTHER FEATURES
IR Blaster
IR Blaster
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The Sims 4 Release – Is it what we wanted?

The Sims 4The fourth installment in the people management game, “The Sims”, Is bound to hit the shelves of physical stores over the next few days. But Is it really any improvement over the previous version?

We learned to expect new features, new possibilities and new reasons to get excited about the Sims franchise with each new reiteration of the game.

But is the fourth version any more than a new layer of spit and polish on an old idea?

Well the mechanics have improved. Your sim now have the ability to multi-task – for instance, watch TV while playing a game on his cell phone, or talking to multiple people at once.

Create-a-Sim

 

The “Create-a-Sim” screen offers more customization options to allow you to mold your character in a more refined way – including new facial features, more clothes and more accessories than before.

The Build mode adds the possibility of adding whole rooms (from scratch or pre-made with furniture) to an existing house with ease, as well as customizing them.

The Sims 4 Build Mode

For the really lazy sim fans, or maybe those who just not interested in doing any building, there’s the new option of choosing already-built lots which come complete with rooms, furniture and even shrubs and gardens pre-attached!

The Sims 4 Building

But there are some already-known issues with this new fangled Sims game.. the pools and toddlers issue. That is, it’s not possible to add pools to the game, nor is the toddler’s phase of a sim growth included. The fans got mad at this as it’s an obvious downgrade from Sims 3 (or even previous versions of Sims), as well as a possible grab by the producers to use this opportunity to make more money in the future by adding these options in an expansion pack (or two).

So, is it worth buying? For devoted Sims fans, the answer is definitely yes. The graphics are polished, the new features are awesome, and the shortcomings will be addressed in the future – quite surely. For the rest of us, it’s a question of if we played any game in this series before, and if we liked it or not. If you did, this new version might appeal to you.

But if you didn’t, this version won’t make enough of a difference as to change your mind.

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