October 19, 2017
"Wait 'til Last Year"
The Cubs have gone to the NL Championship Series three years in a row, and won the World Series once in that time. There is no way anybody can convince me this season, which came to an end at the hands of the LA Dodgers a few minutes ago, was anything other than a success.
And in a few months... spring training!
October 15, 2017
...Just For One Day, We Are All Grape. If you're the type of person who reads The Pond regularly, then there's no doubt in my mind that you've heard the story of Grape-kun. If you are new here, or read The Pond only for the F1 ("I only read it for the articles!" Kids, get your parents to explain), let me give you a quick version of this tale of devotion and love.
Earlier this year, the Tobu Zoo in Miyashiro, Saitama Prefecture, held a promotion that saw standups of characters from the anime series Kemono Friends placed in various animal enclosures. This actually makes more sense than many such ideas in Japan, as Kemono Friends is about animals in a large zoo that, due to exposure to unobtanium, have become anthropomorphized. The show was a popular one, and attendance had increased in other zoos that had done the same promotion, so why not? In Ep08, we are introduced to an idol group called "PPP", which is made up of anthropomorphized penguins. At least one of the members of PPP had their promotional standup put in the penguin enclosure at Tobu Zoo. Where it was encountered by a Humboldt Penguin named "Grape-kun".
A little bit of backstory here. Grape-kun was over 20 years old, and ten years ago he had been dumped by his mate. He had been single ever since. However, park keepers quickly realized that Grape-kun was enamored of the standup of Hululu that had been put in the penguin enclosure. He would spend the entire day by the rock she was on, would go into a known courtship pose, and would have to be separated from Hululu so he would remember to eat. When the promotion ended, all of the standups were removed... except for Hululu's, as zookeepers were afraid of what would happen to Grape-kun if they did. The story hit the twitters in May and quickly went worldwide. Grape-kun had a waifu, and anime fans around the globe found they were relating to a Japanese penguin. Hululu's voice actress met Grape-kun, Tobu Zoo's attendance went through the roof, fans made pilgrimages to see the pair, and there were (and are) calls for Grape-kun to become a character in the next season of Kemono Friends.
On Friday, Grape-kun passed away at the age of 21. According to the zoo, he had suffered a short illness. He had been removed from the enclosure, but Hululu's standup had been with him until the end.
October 14, 2017
That's A Thing I've got nothing for ya. Braindead after a long, fruitless week, I'm having problems even thinking about being clever.
"So, pretty much like the last 12 years then, huh?"
That's not fair. I was clever once. Go back and reread the Ben-To! writeups, those were pretty good. I really liked Ep08's... that's the one with the Claude Rains joke. I should really try doing something like that again. Oh, did you know that the OST for Ben-To! is flippin' amazing?
I've got this on my playlist at work, and every time it comes on, I wonder if the folks on Sirius/XM's "smooth jazz" channel know about it.
GD, you should like this track in particular. This one came on the mp3 player Friday night, around 9pm at work, I'm the only person in the entire building, and most of the lights were off... I near to wet myself when the whispering started. Good times, good times.
"Why is there a puddle on the floor?" "I don't think I'm hungry now. Ew."
Ah, the clever Wonderduck witticisms. Pee humor, everybody loves that! Anyway, that's all I got, eat some oreos!
September 28, 2017
"You Have Chosen... Poorly." I have been driving for maybe 34 years altogether, and I know that I'm good at it. My last ticket was back in 1987, given to me by a cop in a bad mood that pulled me over for turning left in an intersection when the light turned red. So, yeah, I didn't even deserve the ticket I got, and it's long past showing up on my record. I am safe, controlled, and well-behaved. I turn my brights off before an oncoming car can see them, for heaven's sake. But this morning, I had to make that most terrible of decisions every vehicular operator must make at least once in their motoring lives.
I was driving to work, a beautiful fall day in the offing. The blue skies were lightly dotted with fluffy white clouds, the sun shone warmly (but not too warmly) upon the land, and there was even a pleasant breeze to enjoy. My trip to work takes about 10 minutes or so from parking lot to parking lot, and as I drove I took a moment to admire the scenery along my route. It's a kind of semi-rural street, if that makes sense. There are homes, but spaced much further apart than they'd be in a city or town, and many of them border cornfields or very large lawns. Trees line the road on either side, set back a bit but still looming over the drive. Deer are a not-uncommon sight, particularly at night as they do deer-like things. I've even seen notadogs, canine-shaped animals that I'm sure are not the friendly family pets we've come to know and love, peering out of the overgrowth. It's also very hilly, almost rollercoastery... there are times during the winter that I avoid that route out of fear.
So there I am, driving along at a brisk pace, when up ahead of me I spot a dark shape in the middle of my lane... clearly a dead animal. Raccoon, possum, biggest damn squirrel ever, something like that, too far away for me to tell right then. And it was then that I had to make The Choice. I had three options in front of me. First, I could drive right over it. Or, I could go off the road to the right... this was a bad idea, for there was a drainage ditch just a couple of feet off the roadway, the bottom about eight feet below street level (though only a few feet below the level of the yard attached to it). There was no run-off area otherwise. Or third, I could swerve into the oncoming lane of traffic. So really, no choice at all. I positioned the Duckmobile just slightly off-center right to the deceased animal, as that particular model year had a weird mounting for the exhaust system/muffler that makes it visibly hang lower than the bottom of the car. There wouldn't be any problem clearing the recently-departed furry thing. And then, just as it passed below the front of my car, I realized that I had just made a terrible, terrible mistake. It was bigger than I expected... and it had a white stripe on black fur.
The sound the skunk's body made as it hit the underside of my car was... not pleasant. But the smell... oh god, the smell. Even worse? It wasn't going away! The smell clung to my car like the skunk was... still...
I looked in the rear view mirror. The skunkcorpse wasn't there. And then, suddenly, it was, bouncing down the road as it scrubbed off all the momentum it had gained by being stuck underneath my car. The sudden urge I felt to... um... "review inputs"... was not entirely due to the stench that followed my vehicle.
I have never been so glad to leave my car and head into work. And I have never felt more trepidation than I felt this evening as I left the pleasant, airconditioned, mostly smell-free, office. There was only the faintest whiff of skunk's revenge.
I took a different route home.
September 23, 2017
It's Saturday... Whoopsie I had a thought towards actually doing something this evening. Instead, I wound up taking a six hour nap. Six freakin' hours!
That wasn't the plan. That wasn't the plan at all.
September 20, 2017
I was actually doing...well, pretty okay, really! Sure, I went to bed early last night, but that was only because I had a lot of overtime to do at work. Right. Then I woke up this morning, was in a horrible mood, went into work, and got into an even more horrible mood. I'm home now, as "a little birdy" told my boss why I was so down.
Some days are harder than others. Today will always be one of the hard ones. You guys, the readers of The Pond, make it easier. Thank you.
September 12, 2017
There is an ick burning its way through the office. Last week I began to feel not well... over the weekend, I felt even more not well, to the point I had to cancel brunch with the folks twice. I'm doing better, though "better" isn't "healthy".
And I nearly threw up all over my desk today, too. Oh, not because I was ill, but because the Evil Light that pops up on my timeclock when an auditor has discovered an error in one of my claims... um... popped up on my timeclock. As it turned out, it wasn't really an error, I just used the not-as-right-as-the-right-denial-code on a claim. The auditor just wanted me to go back into it and use the correct code. Don't get me wrong, the code I used was perfectly okay... it just wasn't the SOP's preferred denial code. So the sudden urge to vomit was because of a false alarm. Usually when that thing pops up, it may as well just be a notifier that it's time to bend over.
Terrifying. Sad-making. Bleargh.
September 07, 2017
Booking Ticket To Japan Right Now I was wandering the reddits this evening when something popped up in /r/rubberducks... something so important that I actually froze in astonishment for a moment. And, if you're a rubber duck fan, you will do the same. Here it is:
They're in a vending machine, ¥200 a shot. I want them. I want them all. I want them more than I've ever wanted a rubber duck in my life. This is amazing. This is game-changing. This is a triumph. I weep with amazed glee.
September 06, 2017
Foul and Evil and Mean and Nasty That... interesting... title is a decent representation of what my mood has been of late. In fact, it reminds me a lot of when I was going through nicotine withdrawal... same irritability, same bad mood, not sleeping well, so on and so forth. It's taken quite a bit of willpower to not go full berserker on some of my coworkers, and why doesn't Chrome recognize "berserker" as a valid word? That's just weird. For what it's worth, however, there should be a surprise for all y'all this weekend here at The Pond. I hope.
Given what I've said about my mood, it's up to you to figure out if "a surprise" is going to be something good, or the blogging equivalent of a horse's head under your sheets. Look forward to it. Heh. Heh heh.
September 01, 2017
My Sides Hurt And I Can't Breathe That's not usually what you want to read, I'll admit, but don't worry! It's entirely self-inflicted. To begin with, I need to explain a little of what's going on here. I dunno if any of you play Rainbow Six: Siege? I don't, but I've seen a ton of gameplay footage thanks to the good folks over at Bo Time! Gaming. I've mentioned them before... they're the geniuses behind the War Thunder Fail Montages. Anyway, they have like fifty RS:S vids, and after watching them I know that I'll never play the game. Not my cuppa, y'know? Doesn't mean that I don't enjoy watching them play, though. Bo & Co. seem to be quite good... except when they're doing very weird things. "I am pushing little cart" leaps to mind. Anyway, from there it was a short distance to finding various RS:S Fail Vids. Again, I don't play, but funny is funny. Along the way, I discovered a youtube channel named GameSprout... for reasons, I guess. Their stuff has been uniformly entertaining, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. So what does all this have to do with me suffocating? One of the best things about GameSprout is their tendency to put sound clips over their fail vids. It might be a simple spoken "tah-dah", a record scratch, or something complex... all for the sake of a gag. Now, if you've ever played a multiplayer FPS game, you've undoubtedly come across the sight of someone rapidly crouching, then standing up, then crouching again, ad infinitum. This is teabagging, and it's usually quite a rude gesture. In games such as these, however, there's often no way to "make contact" with players on the other team, so if you're into opening lines of communication, you have to make do with what's available. Crouching, swaying from side to side, turning rapidly as a head-shake "no", that sort of thing. GameSprout loves working this activity into their videos, usually accompanied by a "yep" sound. For whatever reason, I've always chuckled when I've seen/heard it. And then this video was released a couple of weeks ago:
The money bit is from 7:57 to 8:17 (with another short clip breaking it up). Go ahead and watch, I'll wait.
Done? Okay, cool. For whatever reason, that little stretch of video makes me laugh so hard I have problems breathing, tears roll down my face, so on and so forth. I mean, first the contact with the opposing team in the airplane, then they join in, and all of them get their own "yep"s... then in the second part, the "yep"s get more and more frantic. That's what usually gets me, the frantic yepping all over the place. Laughter like I haven't had in a long time, that's what that is.
And now you know.
August 21, 2017
Failclipse Duckford had a little problem today. It was overcast and cloudy... at least, it was overcast and cloudy when it wasn't overcast, cloudy and raining. In fact, when I took my camera and tripod outside, it was dripping a bit. I wouldn't go so far as to call it "rain", but there was water coming from the sky. The upshot of all of this is that instead of the sun being a visible disk, it was instead a diffused blob of light. Still, I gave it my best shot... but most of the pictures turned out like this:
Don't fool yourself into thinking there's a bit of moon arc visible there at the bottom; this picture was taken around 130pm, less than 15 minutes past the most occluded time. We were supposed to get about 86% coverage. At 116pm, the sun was still casting clear shadows. Feh. Still, the shots weren't all bad.
I call this one "Accidental Hubble." Particularly in its larger form, it reminded me of dozens of Hubble shots with dust clouds occluding something bright in the center, y'know? Just not as pretty. So I have that going for me. Which was nice. And then, scrolling through the pictures I came across this one:
By whatever quirk of optics you may care to name, I somehow managed to catch what I assume is a reflection of the eclipse as seen inside the camera lens. Maybe it's a trick of the mirrorless camera I use. Maybe it's bouncing off the sun filter. Maybe it's Maybelline. All I know is that it's upside down from what we were supposed to be seeing here in Duckford. And blue. I have no idea what that's all about. So there you have it... the best picture of the Great American Eclipse I was able to take.
August 20, 2017
Just Where Have You Been, Wonderduck? It was a long week, so I've been relaxing. Next week, miracle of miracles, we're only on five hours of mandatory OT. Which is like a gift from the gods as far as I'm concerned... five hours is practically nothing!
"You weren't planning on using the pocket watch as a metaphor for time, were you? Yeah, I didn't think so."
I've also been working on a huge project for The Pond, the culmination of which will come tomorrow, weather permitting. Yep, that's right, I'm going to try some eclipse photography on Monday! Even have the blessing of my employers, who have encouraged everybody to go outside and experience the "once in a lifetime" event (which will happen again in seven years)... with proper precautions, of course. I've acquired the filters needed, permission to bring my camera onto the production floor (have to leave it in a supervisor's office until I need it), and hopefully I'll get something good out of it. Sadly, the forecast is for overcast, clouds, and thunderstorms tomorrow, so all my preparations may be for naught. But, weather permitting, I'll be out there.
It's... unlikely that any Akus will be created. I hope.
On the "more" page, I've put some music that I've misplaced a couple of times before... this time, they won't get away again! Enjoy, or not. Whichever. I'm not picky.
August 17, 2017
GrrrrrrrrRARRRRRGH First I slept like... um... something that sleeps really badly... last night. Then I got to work, looked at the claims rotation, and realized I was staring at nine hours or more of the worst type of claim possible. Not only has the client gone out of their way to make them more difficult, and thus slower, but they've also instituted new automation software that's supposed to take the easy claims out of the queue and do them automagically. This has been tried before. It didn't work then, and it's not working now. Which means we have to fix the problems they caused. AGAIN.
Then the lady who sits immediately to my left debuted a new perfume today. By the bucketful. And she was using her scented hand lotion nigh on constantly... like, every 20 minutes or so. Neither smell alone was overly offensive, though it's kinda rude to inflict that upon others in close proximity. Combined, however... combined, it was like an olfactory sledgehammer right between the eyes. Worse, the smell lingered. A blanket nastygram from the boss (at my request-slash-plea) got her to at least cut out the lotion, but the damage had already been done. It wasn't a migraine, but dear merciful heavens it does hurt a lot.
Then, as if all that wasn't enough, during the last two hours of the day, I was stuck there with three other people doing their overtime. They were spread out across the room, and decided that they just had to talk to each other. Without leaving their desks. By yelling. Loudly enough that it got through the music playing loudly in my headphones. Loudly.
With a bad headache. Friggin' shoot me. Tomorrow will be more of the same, only Friday. I'm so looking forward to it.
August 15, 2017
Why A Duck: The Story Of An Obsession In Five Acts, Act II Gesundheit.
As you may remember, in Act I of this tale Our Hero gained the first member of what would eventually become known as The Flock. One would think that would be the beginning of a beautiful tale. One would be incorrect.
Act II: The Duck Dark Ages
Things were not good. Our Hero, yours truly, was in truly dire straits. Two reasons for this. The first was simple: he had been kicked out of grad school and his dream of being a professional lighting designer had just shattered. The second reason was more existential: he had just failed at something important for the first time in his life. Along the way, he'd managed to screw up just about everything you could think of, and a few more besides. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Our Hero was mostly a seething ball of hate. He had moved back to the Old Home Pond, with Momzerduck and Ph.Duck, and we should all feel a moment's pity for them at this time. Our Hero was only barely human at this point, bitter and resentful of the world at large. It's fortunate that he mostly stayed in his bedroom for the first few months, exiting only to go shopping for more cigarettes and alcohol.
And Scooter the Wonderduck was in a box in the closet, along with other things that didn't really fit in the bedroom. Plus, unhappy bundles of evil didn't do rubber ducks. They just don't. Eventually, Our Hero got a job in the music department of BigBlueBoxRetailer, and got his radio gig back to boot. After a year or so, he'd leave BBBR for the greener pastures of an independent comic book store that he'd been shopping at since he was young. Another year passed and he'd quit that to become a telemarketer, then came a stint with RadioShanty. It was around this time that Our Hero met The Librarian, which coincidentally led to a job with a mall-based bookstore chain that rhymed with Maldenrooks as a store manager. This was 1999, and the future had begun to look somewhat exciting to Our Hero, but Scooter stayed in the box in the closet, forgotten. In 2001, Our Hero moved out of the Old Home Pond to Pond Central. One day that first week as unpacking occurred, Scooter saw the light of day again. He immediately got a spot on the computer desk, alone but important.
Then things went right to hell again. 9/11 happened, the Maldenrooks home office announced that Our Hero's store was to be closed at the end of the year, and that all of the employees would be offered positions at the Boredoors on the other end of town. As it turned out, all the employees but the manager. During the worst economic downturn in 20 years. For the next 18 months, Our Hero looked for work... and failed miserably. While he didn't become a hermit, his life was spent applying for jobs and not getting one.
Then, one day, while he was out shopping for foodstuffs, he noticed something. There, in the toy section of the children's aisle (right across from the shampoo and q-tips), was a rubber duckie... cute one, too. A moment later, the duckie had been added to the shopping cart... Scooter the Wonderduck probably was lonely after all. And thus did Scooter II: The Wrath of Khan become the second member of what would become known as The Flock.
There was no way for anybody to realize just how important that chance encounter was, nor what it would eventually lead to.
Next time: A New Hope and more.
August 08, 2017
Speech-like Substance Back in the days of enforced vacation, it was common for me to not leave my apartment for days at a time. Indeed, at one point it reached 10 days, but that was because it was very very cold, and ducks hate cold.
However! During those times, even in the worst of the periodic depressions I would go through, I would still talk. Maybe an Amazon delivery would be delivered by the postal worker, or I'd get a phone call from Ph.Duck, or maybe, just maybe, a phone interview for a job. In any case, words were a definite thing I'd do.
Which makes it entirely strange that I've literally not spoken a word since approximately 630pm Monday evening. I went to work at my normal time, left ten hours later, and not one word was said. Not because I was being unfriendly or anything like that... there just wasn't any reason to say anything. Nobody directed conversation my direction, nor vice-versa, my next-door neighbor is sick so she hasn't been in this week, my boss who's always up for Cubs talk is on vacation a business trip, and during my lunch I went into the breakroom and promptly fell asleep for the whole thing.
People used to find it amusing, but nowadays nary an eye is blinked. But anyway, as I write this it's going on 30 hours without speaking, and the earliest I'll be in to work tomorrow will be 9am... well. I dunno about you, but when I go a while without vocalizing, my voice comes out like a bag of gravel being dumped down an HVAC vent. Should be interesting tomorrow.
August 06, 2017
On The 'L' So a few nights ago I get a steam message from friend Ben from the mysteriously named Midnite Tease, who really needs to blog some more. "I'm working on a modeling project," the aforementioned Ben says, "do you know anything interesting about Chicago's El?" After sending him a few links that I knew of, I did a little bit of digging myself... just for the 'L' of it.
Yes, I'm sorry. And yes, 'L' is the correct abbreviation, including the little quote marks. Leastwise, that's how the CTA does it, and if anybody knows, it's them. Anyway, since "anything interesting" covers a lot of ground, here's some cool pictures I've found along the way.
Diamonds Are Forever
Down in the Loop, Tower 18 is the control point for the confluence of five different routes, or "lines" as they're called in Chicago: the North-South running Brown and Purple lines, the East-West Pink and Green, and the Orange line, which runs to Midway Airport. Railroad diamonds scare me... they seem like magic. Solid tracks crossing each other without the trains derailing? I don't see it.
We Can Build It!
1908, and what would eventually be called the 'L' has been in use in one form or another for nearly 20 years. Mostly it was ground-level rail then, and it pretty much didn't go downtown at all due to obtuse trackage rights problems, but once those got figured out (i.e., enough bribes were passed around) some bright spark had the idea to not clog the streets. So they called out the heavy machinery, which I really hope was called "The Spider", because c'mon look at it, and began building. Chicago can really build things, y'know that?
February 4th, 1977. Due to a routing problem and an engineer smoking weed on the job, one 'L' train bumped into the back of another at low speed. The engineer, sitting at the other end of the train, continued to apply power until, inevitably, some of the cars jackknifed and derailed. One of the special problems you get with elevated tracks is that when you get a derailment, it's generally a Very Bad Thing. Two cars ended up on the ground, a third stopped only by a support, and a fourth (in the upper left-hand corner) dangling from the station at Randolph and Washington. Two died, something like 177 were injured. I vaguely remember this happening, as Momzerduck and I had only just moved from the Chicago area to Duckford. It scared me as a young waterfowl... "trains that I rode on crashed! It could have been me!" I was a simple duck back then. A different angle of the aftermath can be found here.
Art Or Something Like It
Sometimes utilitarian objects can be beautiful with the right lighting. Adams and Wabash Station, butting right up against buildings on either side, looking north to one of Chicago's ubiquitous skyscrapers. I'm sure it's ugly most of the time, but the photographer got it right here.
That's it. Nothing special, just some cool photos. Carry on.
August 03, 2017
Announcing: Operation RTPTIFG! I miss The Pond. I miss the way it was around here. A vibrant group of readers that I collectively called "The Pond Scum." Mildly clever writing about occasionally interesting subjects. A laugh or two along the way. Times were good, things were fun, and I had a blast.
...and then a series of things happened to derail the happytrain. I got promoted at the Bookstore, which took up more of my time. Then I got fired from the Bookstore which, while it gave me back all that time (and more!), sent me into a slide that ended up in a deep depression. Then I was hired by a job where I spend all my time in front of a computer. Then SDB passed away, something that hit me harder than I expected or realized. The good times were gone.
Well, no more.
Today, I'm putting into motion Operation RTPTIFG (Restore The Pond To Its Former Glory). Beginning this weekend, I am going to create time to write here at The Pond. The plan is at least five days a week, there will be a new post. Now, it may very well be a short thing, a Random Anime Picture or something of that sort, but there will be something. I may not be able to regain all that has been lost... blogs in general appear to have faded, eatenby the twittermonster... but I'm sure as hell gonna try.
Together we can make The Pond great again!
July 31, 2017
Not The Best Start To The Day... So my morning began the way it usually does, with me desperately attempting to claw a few minutes of sleep more out of my alarm. Failing that, I began the day properly, with the usual shower, shave, you know the drill. I was dragging, however: Mondays, y'know? Eventually I did leave for work, though I was running a little later than normal.
As I walked down the stairs to the parking lot, I noticed that a black SUV was parked perpendicular to the DuckMobile and directly behind it... nope, no driver visible. Swell. A few more steps down, and I realized there were two more parked in the lot... and all three were marked "County Sheriff". There were also two sheriff cars, and a white van labeled, and I kid you not, Crime Scene Investigations.
I had to find an officer and ask politely to move their ominous black SUV so I could go to work. He asked if I had heard anything strange last night, and I explained that I have five different fans running in Pond Central... I can barely hear myself think, let alone the outside world (...and that's how I like it!).
Off to work I went, walked in, sat down at my desk, started up all the various programs and pdfs and text files I use every day, opened my e-mail to see what the assignment was...
...nothing but the worst type of claim possible. All day. All stinkin' day.
I've had better mornings.
Edit: Before anybody asks, I didn't find out what was going on. It wasn't in Pond Central's part of the building, so I wasn't overly concerned. Also, once I returned home I didn't bump into any of my neighbors, one of whom I'm sure would have known. It is a puzzlement.
July 24, 2017
Wonderduck - Similar To An Octopus Remember back when I was employment-bereft (...and would you look at that? It's been three years since I announced my status to The Pond! Time flies...) I would sometimes spend entire weeks without leaving Pond Central? Hermitdom suited me in many ways, mostly the "lazy bum" way. Shortly before I was plucked from the ranks of the jobless, I found a cartoon that described my state of mind perfectly:
I mention this because some vestige of those days still remains within me. That is, when I return to Pond Central after work on Fridays, it's quite common for me to not leave again until I have to go back to work on Monday. Sometimes I don't even open the door to the outside world for the entire weekend.
As I briefly mentioned in my last so-called "post", I had myself a little three-day weekend, but something interesting occurred today. I went out. I went out! In public and everything! I went out to lunch with the folks, then came right back to Pond Central, elapsed time less than two hours, but I was outside.
Yes, very much like that, including all the controllers and the band... and I'd like to thank Pond Scum member Mauser for mentioning Public Service Broadcasting over at Brickmuppet's place. Instant fan here.
When your life appears to not have much in the way of big triumphs, you take the little ones with enthusiasm, y'know?
July 23, 2017
Long Weekend I have Monday off, taking a PTO day. I've gotta admit, this has been a lazy weekend, even for me. I've done a little bit more than nothing, but not by much. And y'know what?
I don't care. I'll have to be back at work soon enough, but until then t'hell with it. I deserve this extra day off.
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