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Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

Currently reading

Space Battle Lunchtime Volume 1: Lights, Camera, Snacktion!
Natalie Reiss
Progress: 20/120 pages
Fluency
Jennifer Foehner Wells
Progress: 58/367 pages
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: A Novel
Becky Chambers
Progress: 148/441 pages
The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas, Bill Homewood, Naxos AudioBooks
Progress: 667/3165 minutes
A Matter of Oaths
Helen S. Wright
Progress: 101/277 pages
Report on the Selected Problems of the Technical Departments of the University of Illinois Library
Raynard C. Swank
Progress: 20/42 pages
Medical School for Everyone: Grand Rounds Cases
Professor Roy Benaroch, The Great Courses, The Great Courses
Progress: 34/725 minutes

Reread finished

Mindline (The Dreamhealers) - M.C.A. Hogarth

I finished my reread this morning. Rereads seem to be my only substantial reading, at the moment.

Anyway, I still loved Jahir and Vasiht’h. I had forgotten, however, how mad parts of this book made me when I first read it. I became really upset during the bit where Jahir essentially repeatedly courted death to prolong comatose patients’ lives a few more hours. I wish Vasiht’h had been more insistent that he stop, and I wish that Jahir had paid more attention to the pain he was causing Vasiht’h. It didn’t matter that I knew it would work out in the end – it really bothered me that the book seemed to be saying that, yes, Vasiht’h should back off more and let Jahir make his own mistakes (and not only that, join him), because in this situation Jahir’s mistakes came close to killing both him and Vasiht’h.

 

I still prefer the first book, although both books have their pros and cons.

I’d like to do another reread, preferably something light. At the moment, I’m thinking maybe Elizabeth McCoy’s Queen of Roses. I still wish she'd write a sequel for that one.

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (manga, vol. 3) by Izumi Tsubaki, translated by Leighann Harvey

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Vol. 3 - Izumi Tsubaki

Nozaki's editor has a high school class reunion to attend, Wakamatsu inexplicably starts dating Seo (sort of), Kashima tries to learn to sing for Hori (the president of the school's drama club), we get to see a bit of Miyako in college (one of her classmates mistakenly thinks she's dating Nozaki), and Nozaki continues to try really hard to find inspiration for his manga.

Is it just me, or does Nozaki seem to be kind of bad at his job? He seems to be completely lacking in creativity – he can't come up with new storylines unless the real people on which he based his characters go through those experiences first. Also, he can't draw backgrounds and sometimes has problems drawing his own characters. Well, whatever, it made for some great humor. I loved the increasingly detailed set Hori and Mikoshiba created for Nozaki, and I laughed at Nozaki's completely self-serving support of the idea of Wakamatsu dating Seo. Valentine's Day was fun too.

My absolute favorite manga-related bit of humor was the part about Wakamatsu's adventures in learning the numbers for the different screentones. Since he had problems remembering them, he came up with his own names, and Nozaki tried to humor him. The results were hilarious.

I'm definitely going to continue reading this series.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (manga, vol. 2) by Izumi Tsubaki, translated by Leighann Harvey

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Vol. 2 - Izumi Tsubaki

[Oh look, I can post a review in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea! And I'm even managing to do it from Firefox!]

 

This series doesn't really have a plot, just lots of jokes that run for varying numbers of pages. In this volume, Nozaki is his current editor's fanboy, to the point that it seems like he has a bit of a crush on him. Sadly for him, his editor has no interest in socializing with him and just wants him to do his work well and turn it in on time. Mikoshiba demonstrates his inability to keep from saying things that embarrass the heck out of him, and Kashima may have a crush on the president of the school's drama club (he, by the way, is constantly annoyed with her). At the end of the volume, everyone tries to help out a sick Nozaki by finishing his manga pages for him.

The things I most enjoyed about this volume: Nozaki's unrequited affection for his editor, and Wakamatsu and his horrifying relationship with Seo. The bit with Nozaki and his editor was kind of adorable – I suppose I should have felt bad for Nozaki, but he was as clueless about his editor's desire for a purely professional relationship as he was about Sakura's crush on him. Nearly everything his editor said and did was wonderful, as far as he was concerned.

The stuff with Wakamatsu made me both cringe and laugh. Seo became both the reason he developed insomnia and the sole cure for his insomnia. Also, the poor guy was literally incapable of driving Seo away. Everything he did just made it look more and more like he liked her.

This volume was good, although my enjoyment was a bit more subdued than it was for the first volume (not that it had any effect on my rating).

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun (manga, vol. 1) by Izumi Tsubaki, translated by Leighann Harvey

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Vol. 1 - Izumi Tsubaki

[Okay, wow, the wait to get a blank review post to open up for this one volume was so long I thought the site had actually stalled. I have reviews written up for the next two volumes. If those don't show up tonight, it means that my BL troubles continued and I've given up until the site starts functioning again. It's weird, because it actually worked okay during the day, when I was at work.]

 

A high school girl named Sakura tries to confess her love to cool-looking Nozaki, only to get roped into doing the beta (inking the solid black areas) for his manga – it turns out that he's secretly a shoujo mangaka. Sakura then meets several of Nozaki's other helpers and learns a bit about some of the more annoying aspects of shoujo manga creation, like overly controlling editors and having to make sure nothing in the story breaks Japanese laws.

This is, I think, only my second series ever that deals with the manga industry. The other one was The World's Greatest First Love. It was primarily a romance, but it did give a few peeks into the life cycle of a manga volume, mostly from the viewpoint of manga editors. Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, on the other hand, is primarily humor and looks more at the manga writing/illustrating side of things.

I have no clue how much of the manga creation stuff in this volume was true, but, regardless, it was funny. This series turned out to be one of the best I read during my vacation. I laughed at Nozaki's efforts to create romantic moments in his series that contained no illegal aspects. Sakura got to be his guinea pig for potentially romantic options, which usually weren't very romantic at all.

Then there was Mikoshiba, another one of Nozaki's helpers. He looked like a handsome playboy but was actually extremely awkward – and also unwittingly the inspiration for the heroine in Nozaki's manga. There were lots of other great characters besides him: Seo, a brash girl who made nearly everyone who met her angry; Kashima, a “princely” girl who had tons of female admirers (and who probably couldn't remember any of their names); and Maeno, Nozaki's former editor, who forced all his artists to include tanuki in their works, just because he liked them. Nearly everyone Nozaki knew and every potentially romantic situation he encountered was worked into his series in some way.

One of my favorite moments in this volume was when Nozaki played a dating sim. He was so fascinated by the player character's weirdly helpful best friend that he accidentally found himself shipping them, to the point that he pulled an all-nighter just to create a short fan comic for them in which they could actually end up together. It was both funny and kind of sweet.

Humorous manga can be hit or miss. This one turned out to be much better than I expected – a bit odd, but solidly enjoyable.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

The things you notice when you're a cataloger

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners - Laurie Keller

From the copyright page of this book:

 

"The artist used acrylic paint (which she SHARED with her friends) on Arches watercolor paper to CARINGLY create the illustrations for this book. NO TEASING took place during the making of this book. Everyone involved COOPERATED, MADE GOOD EYE CONTACT, and THANKED each other for their hard work. There was one uncomfortable hair-pulling incident that took place toward the end of this project, but everyone involved promptly APOLOGIZED and have since FORGIVEN each other."

Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 120 pages.

Space Battle Lunchtime Volume 1: Lights, Camera, Snacktion! - Natalie Reiss

Apparently BL has essentially stopped functioning for me via Firefox (and before you ask, yes, I have Adblock, but I disabled it and the site still isn't behaving). It took 4 minutes for something to happen when I clicked the "Update" button, and I've now been waiting 7 minutes and counting for the "Update and Publish" button to completely open the posting page. Looks like it's never going to happen.

 

Thankfully, Chrome is working. Still slow, but working. I really wish I had another social book site I was happy with, though, because this is ridiculous. I don't know what the BL folks are doing right now, but it doesn't actually seem to be making anything better.

 

Anyway, I originally intended to write an update for this, so here goes. It's candy-colored cuteness, recommended by someone whose taste overlaps with mine a lot. I think I originally wanted to write more, but my frustration with BL made me forget what I wanted to say. Ugh.

Currently hooked on: Yuri on Ice

[Warning, non-book post coming up.]

 

It's all about men's figure skating, and at this point I'm hoping the writer is going for a story in which Yuri not only learns to be confident in himself as a skater, but also finally realizes he's in love with famous figure skater Victor Nikiforov, his current coach. Like, love-love, not just hero worship or professional admiration. Literally all of Yuri's performances so far (7 episodes) have been great big love letters to Victor.

 

I really wish there were a manga version I could binge-read, but alas, this appears to be an original production.

 

Kobato (manga, vol. 6) by CLAMP, translated by William Flanagan

Kobato, Vol. 06 - CLAMP

Kobato meets with Okiura without telling anyone, but Fujimoto finds her anyway and overhears her telling Okiura that she believes Fujimoto hates her. That isn't true, of course, but that doesn't stop Kobato from

fulfilling Sayaka's wish, to be free of Okiura's father, in the belief that Fujimoto would be happiest if Sayaka were happy. Fulfilling the wish leads to Kobato's death, but that's okay, because she gets reincarnated. Her new incarnation remembers Fujimoto and all the people in her past life, so she heads to them, even knowing that they probably won't remember her. What she doesn't realize is that Ginsei made a wish for Fujimoto to remember her, and so the two love birds are reunited (never mind that Kobato is 16 or so and Fujimoto is maybe in his late 30s). Suishou, the angel who helped Kobato live a little longer, is still within her until at least her next life, but after that the angel will be reunited with Iorogi.

(show spoiler)


While requesting manga volumes prior to my vacation, I remembered that I was only one volume away from finishing this series. I figured I should take care of that, but I made a mistake – I should have requested volume 5, and maybe volume 4 too, to remind me of what had happened and who everyone was. I last read those volumes way back in 2014, so I had gotten out of the flow of the series' emotional content, although my volume summaries at least helped me remember some of what was going on.

So, this was more than a bit confusing to get back to. I had forgotten how many crossover characters it had, for one thing. Only 20 pages in, and I'd spotted Chitose, Chi, and her sister (not as the actual characters from Chobits, of course, but rather alternate universe versions of themselves), as well as Kohaku from Wish. It should be noted that Kohaku really is the angel from Wish, and that Kobato is apparently set in the same universe as that series, just a few decades or so later. If I had taken the time to think about the implications of that, the ending might have been less of a surprise.

I still don't know that I'd have seen the ending coming, though, because it was just so much. Like, every happy ending CLAMP could possibly cram in there, whether or not it really fit. If I remember correctly, the original setup for this series indicated that someone would have to make a sacrifice – either Suishou would need to fade away in order for Kobato to live out her life with Fujimoto, or Kobato would need to die for Suishou to be free to go back to Iorogi and for Iorogi to get his original form back. Instead, literally everybody got to be with the person they loved. I like happy endings, I do, but I also want them to feel like they were earned, and this just seemed to fall into everyone's laps. Even though

reincarnation is part of this world's rules

(show spoiler)

, it still felt kind of like CLAMP had cheated.

I wonder how I'd feel about this series if I hadn't already read Wish? To my mind, this seemed like a cardboard cutout version of that series, with some of the same issues and themes but less tightly focused and with a little less charm. Then again, it's been a while since I've read Wish, and maybe my memories of it are rosier than it deserves. I'll have to add it to my “reread sometime soon-ish” list.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto (manga, vol. 1) by Nami Sano, translated by Adrienne Beck

Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto Vol. 1 - Nami Sano

Sakamoto, a new and popular student, coolly and calmly deals with jealous bullies, a wasp, a kid who keeps getting bullied for his lunch money, a scheming girl who wants to make him her boyfriend, and a guy who uses him and other students as his slaves. There's also an extra story called “Broad Shoulders” that I think is unrelated to this series, but it's hard to tell because the main character looked an awful lot like Sakamoto. At any rate, the kid in that story was being bullied for his shoulder pads for some bizarre reason.

I found out about this series via a review somewhere, and I was really excited about it. I figured it would be humorous and weird. Instead, the humor generally fell flat, and the whole thing was weird in an uncanny valley sort of way. The characters looked just “off” enough that I was too busy being creeped out to enjoy this much. I really wasn't a fan of the artwork, which was a little too stiff for my tastes.

Some of the stories were also disturbing enough to make me question whether I have this series' genre wrong. In the story with the kid whose lunch money was being stolen, for example, Sakamoto wouldn't help him until after he'd gotten a job. After the kid tried to stand up to his bullies himself, he told Sakamoto that the lesson he'd learned was this: “I don't need to protect myself or my money, only my pride.” I sort of understand what Sano was trying to get across here, but still...fighting against his bullies could have landed him in the hospital or even gotten him killed if Sakamoto hadn't swooped in to help. In the first story, several bullies tied Sakamoto up and planned to strip him down, take pictures, and send the pictures to everyone. And I still don't know what to think about the story with the guy who was making other students his slaves.

It also bugged me that Sakamoto didn't seem to be interested in helping people so much as studying them and testing his theories about human behavior. There were indications that Sakamoto wasn't human. He refused to say his given name, the only information he gave about his past was that he'd once attended a place called “Innocence Academy,” and he had inhuman physical abilities. He might be a robot, or an alien, or something else entirely. At this point, my best guess is that he's an alien, living on Earth specifically to study human behavior.

If I do continue reading this series, it'll primarily be for the mystery of Sakamoto's origins and identity. None of the other characters were at all interesting or very memorable, Sakamoto's solutions to various situations weren't really that big of a draw, and the artwork kind of creeped me out. I really don't know what Sano was going for here. I mean, the series also included a lot of what I'd normally call fanservice, with many panels of shirtless or barely clothed Sakamoto and other characters, but it wasn't so much sexy as it was discomfiting and vaguely disturbing.

That said, there were still a few nice moments. For instance, I liked the panel in which Sakamoto demonstrated that he could easily remain in a seated position even after his chair had been stolen out from under him.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Chi's Sweet Home (manga, vol. 12) by Konami Kanata, translated by Ed Chavez

Chi's Sweet  Home, volume 12 - Kanata Konami

The Yamadas are going to France, and they have a difficult decision to make: should they notify Chi's original owner that they have her, or should they just continue on as they have been?

The decision is basically made for them when they find Chi's mom, hurt after being hit by a car (don't worry, she's fine). Although Yohei is resistant, the Yamadas eventually give Chi up to her original owner. What they didn't count on was that Chi would miss them enough to try to go find them.

(show spoiler)


I probably wouldn't have minded if this series had gone on to be as massive as Skip Beat! or Naruto, so I was a little sad to have reached this final volume. My expectations were also maybe a bit too high. In the end, I felt this volume was a little too rushed and pushed some of its emotional buttons a bit too hard.

I cried during the bit with Chi's mom. Thank goodness Kanata didn't kill her off, but

seeing her just lying there after being hit by the car broke my heart, especially since it happened because she was trying to save Chi. The Yamadas' final decision went a bit further in the tear-jerker direction than I was expecting, however, and it just felt wrong. For maybe the first time in the series, Yohei refused to listen to his parents and acted out, and I was right there with him because, darn it, Chi had been part of their family for at least a few months (I'm not sure how much time has passed between this volume and the first, but my guess is nearly a year). The relative ease with which Mr. and Mrs. Yamada gave Chi up didn't feel right.

Unsurprisingly, Kanata turned things around right before the end of the volume, but even that had aspects to it that didn't quite seem to fit. I've never had to make arrangements to get a pet to another country, but I'm pretty sure that the Yamadas wouldn't have had time to finish those preparations with only a few hours to go before their flight.

(show spoiler)


I still love Chi, I'm glad she got to meet her mother and siblings, and I'm glad

she was reunited with the Yamadas in the end

(show spoiler)

, but I prefer the earlier volumes in the series that were just about a cute kitten doing cute things while her first-time cat owners watch.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Bread!

I figured I'd join in on the food-posting fun. I actually made this a few days ago, and the loaves are now three quarters gone. I'm still not sure if they were supposed to only be 2 or 3 inches tall, but they tasted fine and that's all that really matters.

 

[Note: I am terrible at taking pictures.]

 

 

 

Attack on Titan: Junior High (manga, vol. 1) by Saki Nakagawa, based on Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama, translated by William Flanagan

Attack on Titan: Junior High 1 - Saki Nakagawa, Hajime Isayama

In this Attack on Titan parody series, all the Attack on Titan characters are junior high students – including the titans. Eren still hates the titans with his entire being, but his reasons are now ridiculous and viewed by his fellow students as racist. Annie, meanwhile, loathes Eren because his ridiculous reason for hating the titans has now made it impossible for her to openly say what her favorite food is, for fear that she will be mocked.

Eren hears about the Survey Club, a secret club that works to learn the titans' weaknesses, and instantly wants to join. However, since the Survey Club is supposed to be a secret, he still has to join an official club and ends up in the Wall Cleanup Club. On the plus side, at least the Wall Cleanup Club has cool vertical maneuvering gear.

Armin enters the picture when he's forced to attend school in order to give his class a chance of winning special ramen. Later, all the first years battle against the upperclassmen. The losers will be forced to go to the school's folk dance with the titans.

Most of my knowledge of Attack on Titan comes from the anime, since I'm still not very far into the manga. I knew enough to recognize most of the characters and notice the way Nakagawa had tweaked their defining characteristics for this skewed new world. Levi was still obsessed with cleaning (come to think of it, it's kind of odd that he wasn't in the Wall Cleanup Club), Eren was still obsessed with taking out the titans, Armin still preferred to stay out of the way, and Mikasa still propped Eren up with her skills and general scariness. I kind of wish that Nakagawa had either continued the “Eren's obsession with the titans is kind of racist” thread or not included it at all, because it was quickly dropped in favor of the titans legitimately being gross bullies (their favorite thing to do to students they disliked was pick them up and suck on them).

While I enjoyed seeing how Nakagawa had incorporated details from the original series into this parody series, most of the jokes didn't work for me. Eren's behavior towards the titans earned him a Hitler joke, Sasha went from being “Potato Girl” to “Foodstamp Girl,” the “titans suck people” thing was just gross, and Levi, arguably the best character from the original series, was barely in this volume.

I doubt I'll be continuing with this. Reading a parody series I already feel so-so about that's based on a manga series I'm having trouble working up the willpower to continue isn't really appealing. However, I did at least learn something new from this volume: I hadn't realized that Hange's gender was supposed to be a mystery. I don't think I've gotten that far into the manga, and I assumed Hange's gender based on the character's female voice actor in the anime. The translator's almost gleeful refusal to state Hange's gender or give Hange a gendered title or honorific is an ongoing joke in this parody.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Alice in the Country of Clover: Twin Lovers (manga) by QuinRose, art by Kei Shichiri, translated by Angela Liu

Alice in the Country of Clover: Twin Lovers - QuinRose, Kei Shichiri

In the Country of Hearts, Alice thought of Dee and Dum as rambunctious little brothers. In the Country of Clover, however, they spend most of their time in their adult forms, and Alice is confused and embarrassed by her budding feelings for them. She's also worried that, at some point, they'll want her to choose between them. She likes them both equally and doesn't know how she could possibly do that.

The twins are fairly low on my list of favorite lover interests for Alice, for a lot of reasons. One, I'm not a fan of relationships involving a main character and twins – it comes too close to twincest, which I also dislike. Two, the twins are gleefully violent. Yes, a lot of the Wonderland guys are violent, but they don't all revel in that violence quite as much as the twins. And three, the twins are usually very child-like, even in their adult forms. I'd argue that it's actually a little worse in their adult forms, because the disconnect between their appearance and their behavior is so jarring.

As in The March Hare's Revolution, Alice once again finds herself saddled with love interests who say threatening things that are supposed to be romantic. At one point, one of the twins says “If you leave us, big sis, we might do something bad.” Of course, they're likely to do “something bad” whether she leaves them or not, because killing random people who try to enter the Hatter Mansion is their job.

Alice's internal conflicts about being attracted to the twins apparently weren't enough, so the story included Dee and Dum competing for Alice's love. It was a little odd, since, despite Alice's worries about having to choose between them, the twins themselves had previously seemed perfectly fine with sharing Alice. Their effort to get the best gift for Alice was still amusing, however, and worked out pretty much the way I expected.

This would probably have worked better for me if it had been more about friendship/family-building than romance, since that would have significantly reduced the squick factor. Parts of the story were actually pretty sweet. The artwork was also good, although I noticed that Shichiri's interpretation of Vivaldi was a little different.

 

Rating Note:

 

Why did The March Hare's Revolution only get 2 stars while this got 3? No idea. I just like the twins more than Elliot, I guess. They can be a fun pair sometimes, whereas with Elliot it's just him and his carrots and his extreme loyalty to Blood.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Alice in the Country of Clover: The March Hare's Revolution (manga) story by QuinRose, art by Ryo Kazuki, translated by Angela Liu

Alice in the Country of Clover: The March Hare's Revolution - QuinRose, Ryo Kazuki

In this Alice in the Country of Clover one-shot, Alice finds herself torn between dreams of home, in which her sister is disappointed in her for staying in Wonderland, and her budding feelings for Elliot. On the one hand, the violence Elliot is capable of when carrying out his work for the Hatter family scares her. On the other hand, she loves the side of him that's protective, goofy, and sweet. She doesn't know if he feels the same for her or if he's like her tutor back in the real world, just humoring her.

Elliot has always been pretty low on my list of favorite love interests for Alice, and this volume didn't change my mind. Her attraction to him in the franchise seems to mostly be based on her fascination with his rabbit ears. His personality, ranging from childish and joyful when with Alice and cold-blooded when working for Blood, has never really appealed to me. For some reason, even Dee and Dum, who are the most similar in personality to Elliot, appeal to me more.

There were a few lines I didn't like. For example, at one point Elliot told Alice: “Look. I'm not telling you to fall in love with me. But if you tell me you've fallen for some other guy, I might kill him.” Um...that's not romantic. Alice also described Elliot as "Violence mixed with aching sweetness." Blergh.

Alice's dreams of her sister hint at some of the things that were better-covered in other volumes in the franchise. This volume never revealed what it was that Alice had forgotten, something that might disappoint some readers. If I remember correctly, other volumes indicated that

Alice's older sister had probably died. By retreating to Wonderland, Alice also retreated from her memories of her sister's funeral.

(show spoiler)


All in all, this was mediocre. It glorified some of the franchise's problematic elements a bit too much for my tastes, but beyond that it was more forgettable than anything, adding absolutely nothing to the mystery of Alice's past. I did at least like Ryo Kazuki's art, however.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Reading progress update: I've listened 367 out of 463 minutes.

Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity's Chief Engineer - Rob Manning, Inc. Blackstone Audio,  Inc., William L. Simon, Bronson Pinchot

Huh. I hadn't realized that NASA had a Planetary Protection Officer. Catharine Conley's job is to prevent biological contamination of other planets and Earth during interplanetary missions. This part of the book is about concerns that Curiosity's drill bits hadn't been properly re-sterilized - not a mission-ending problem, but the reason why Curiosity isn't permitted to drill rocks that may contain ice.

Reading progress update: I've listened 344 out of 463 minutes.

— feeling terminator
Mars Rover Curiosity: An Inside Account from Curiosity's Chief Engineer - Rob Manning, Inc. Blackstone Audio,  Inc., William L. Simon, Bronson Pinchot

"With fault protection running, on occasion the rover would suddenly assess that something had gone wrong. It would turn off equipment and turn on other equipment. Of course, all this would happen without the rover asking permission from the ATLO test conductors. We were regularly getting urgent midnight phone calls complaining that the rover had taken over and that the ATLO test was ruined. Telling them that they should be nicer to the rover did not seem to help."