December 31, 2010

So This Is The New Year

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No one really knows what 2011 will bring but I hope it treats you well. Or at the very least doesnt suck. Happy New Year.
Posted by Chris at 6:42 AM | Comments (16)

December 29, 2010

Oh, Yeah...

Just in case anyone was wondering, I'm here. I'm just taking a few days off...and that extends to my blogging life as well. Talk amongst yourselves.

Posted by Chris at 9:09 AM | Comments (3)

December 27, 2010

This Christmas

It would be hard to call our Christmas anything other than magical. Unless you're considering the use of adjectives like exhausting, chaotic or manic.

We did the now-traditional Christmas eve dinner at our house. My parents and inlaws came, we decorated Christmas cookies, drank a lot of wine and got the kids totally amped up for Christmas. Unfortunately for us, a little too amped up. When 5:30 on Christmas morning rolled around, Mia was awake and raring to see what Santa had left behind. After putting her off for an hour, Beth couldn't take it any longer. Mia burst into Owen's room where she found both Owen and I sleeping (when he started shouting for me at 4:00 I figured that sleeping with him would buy us some time in the morning, under the way-incorrect assumption that Owen would be up first) and both of us popped awake. In under 5 seconds flat, Owen was scooting his little bottom down the stairs to see just how good Santa was to him.

The next four hours were nothing short of chaotic. It was all we could do avoid cracking open a bottle of wine at 11:00 AM. Instead we drank a lot of coffee. And ate chocolate. The kids ran around like crazy people playing with all their new stuff. And then, magically, it snowed. A white Christmas indeed.

At 3:30, we headed to my folks' house for more chaos. More presents, more food, more alcohol. It was all good but after being awake since the pre-dawn hours all we really cared about after a certain point was going to bed. Which we eventually did.

Owen and Mia were only slightly less crazy yesterday. And we all desperately need to get out of the house. Job one for today.

How was it perfect, you ask? At one point while opening gifts, Owen got his hands on one present and, while tearing through the paper and seeing what was inside, wore the perfect Christmas expression on his face. His cheeks were red, his eyes as wide as they could go and his mouth was formed into a perfect O. Beth and I both saw it, looked at each other immediately afterwards and broke down laughing. Owen had no idea what he'd done but he'd come up with the perfect mix of joy and surprise and sheer unadulterated innocence that will, from this point forward, forever define what Christmas is for me.

And how were your holidays?

Posted by Chris at 8:19 AM | Comments (14)

Haiku For Monday #349

I need a post-Yule
intervention for my big
Christmas overdose.

Posted by Chris at 8:07 AM

December 23, 2010

Tis The Season (To Geek Out)

I am a huge music geek. Evidence? I own 4,000 albums which are now immaculately arranged in a highly organized iTunes library complete with issue-correct artwork and when I get bored I play a little game a lot like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon only instead of Kevin Bacon I just connect any two random bands in six steps or less without ever using reference material*. But I get especially geeky around Christmas. And, oddly, the Christmas songs I like are nowhere close to the things you'd normally find me listening to.

My Christmas go-tos are varied. Given are Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby (a notorious asshole but a very Christmasy one). Burl Ives, Mel Torme and Harry Connick also make their traditional presence known. A capella makes its annual return (Straight No Chaser rocks as much as a capella can rock). So does John Denver, arguably the whitest man to ever open his mouth and sing. Denver sings solo and with the Muppets and Kermit makes his solo debut in my house as well. Simon & Garfunkle duet every holiday season with their not-at-all upbeat but incredibly powerful 7 O'clock News/Silent Night. And of course, you can't have Christmas without Brian Setzer or some of his other big band counterparts. Or Willie Nelson (I grew up in Texas).

There's a short window during with you can enjoy Christmas music, at least without people laughing at you. It would be odd, for instance, to be cruising the streets in June blasting Sinatra belting out Jingle Bells. So between Thanksgiving and Christmas I listen to Christmas tunes to the exclusion of almost all other types of music. Then the new year strikes and I return to normal. It's a lot like an old Star Trek episode I'm thinking of but I've just shown off exactly how much of a music geek I am so I'm reluctant to show off any other signs of my geekhood.

Am I alone on the Christmas music thing? What are your go-to Christmas albums?

* For example, Iron Maiden and Genesis: Janick Gers is one of Maiden's three guitarists. He played on Fish's debut solo album A Vigil In A Wilderness of Mirrors. Fish provided vocals for two tracks on Tony Banks' album Still. Tony Banks is a founding member and keyboardist for Genesis.

Or, just for grins, death metal pioneers Opeth and David Bowie. Opeth recorded two albums with producer Steve Wilson, of the awesome band Porcupine Tree. Wilson remastered several 1960's and 1970's King Crimson albums with Robert Fripp. Fripp, of course, recorded three seminal Bowie albums including Heroes.

Posted by Chris at 6:52 AM | Comments (17)

December 22, 2010

Under Pressure

Things have been a little random around here. Email isn't getting responded to in a timely fashion, posts are a little less coherent, and my focus in general ain't all that great. See, there was a Not Tiny Project I was going after at work. And we won it. The beauty about winning something is being able to stand back, point and say I did that. Then it becomes clear that after all the jubilation has died down, you actually have to do the work. And this work? Totally outside my comfort zone.

Hi pressure, it's me Chris. Did you bring vodka?

Part of the pressure is due to the fact that starting today I'm out of the office until the new year rolls around. And I desperately wanted to get all the heavy lifting done so I wouldn't have anything hanging over my head and I could enjoy the time off. After two solid days of work, I think most of the hard stuff is out of the way.

And now I can relax.

What's your best, go-to stress reliever?

Posted by Chris at 8:18 AM | Comments (14)

December 21, 2010

It's A Wrap (Or, What Brown Did For Me)

I am done with my Christmas shopping. I did some quick calculations and it turns out that I did 96.7% of my shopping online. The other 3.3% I couldn't swing, not because I couldn't find it but because I had no idea I was looking for it.

In doing all this online shopping I've learned several lessons. First, Amazon Prime is a wonderful thing. And they're not paying me to say that. Second, that little one-click purchase option? Dangerous as a blind monkey with a hand-grenade. Third, it's harder to know when to say when when you buy online (follow that?) because anticipating the delivery of boxes is just so damn fun.

So what I've ended up with after this seasons of successful Christmas shopping is a pile of gifts to wrap and a credit card bill the size of the great state of Texas. And the irony is that I love giving gifts but sincerely hate wrapping them.

How about you - did you overdo it this Christmas or take it easy on your credit cards? Do you have shopping left to do or are you done?

Posted by Chris at 6:55 AM | Comments (28)

December 20, 2010

(Less) Tiny Dancer

Around this time last year, Mia performed in her very first stage performance - a version of The Nutcracker. On Saturday she performed again. And it was wonderful. She wore a white tutu, ballet slippers and had jewels in her hair. People brought her flowers - even her brother - and everyone admired the fantastic job she had done learning the three dances she performed. And it was a lot of work - one hour three days a week, after school, for three weeks.

Afterwards we had ice cream and cake and cooked a special dinner. And then both Mia and Owen (who had amazingly behaved himself through the entire performance) crashed in spectacular fashion. And then Beth and I did the same.

Of course the weekend was also filled with other things - a poorly planned trip to the mall, a second and much better timed trip on Sunday to visit Santa, my crappy mood all because I have a big work project to kick off and don't quite know exactly how I'm going to manage go do that, a trip to an indoor pool for a family swim, and the obligatory wrapping of gifts to consume some of the available under-tree space.

So I'm starting this week exhausted. But my Christmas vacation starts on Wednesday so i really can't complain. If I do, I've got the feeling that Santa won't be leaving anything under the tree for me.

This is the most passionate I've felt about Christmas since I was a kid. It definitely has something to do with it's importance to my kids. It's a special time for them, and to me. And I hope it is for all of you.

Now, I'm going to grab another cup of coffee and try to get the mountain of work I have on my desk done in the next 48 hours.

What are your Christmas plans? Who do you spend it with? Do you travel?

Posted by Chris at 6:44 AM | Comments (19)

Haiku For Monday #348

Jingle bells. Batman
smells. Mondays can kiss my ass.
Ho Ho freaking Ho.

Posted by Chris at 6:37 AM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2010

The Weeklies #159

The Weekly Beer. Flying Dog IPA

The Weekly Television Addiction. The Sing-Off.

The Weekly Most Unnecessary Invention. The Regio Smart Toilet. It's like the Swiss Army knife of toilets, combining a self-cleaning toilet with a bidet, automatic flushing and deodorizing, automatic seats and lids, two separate flush modes and a media player. Because who doesn't want to rock out while you're dropping the kids off at the pool?

The Weekly Second Most Unnecessary Invention. The VuVutech 5000, a vuvuzela-powered burglar alarm. Check it for yourself.

The Weekly Read. The first Meg Gardiner book I read - The Dirty Secrets Club - was pretty darn good so I just gave another one a try. The Memory Collector was good but, perhaps, not as strong. Don't get me wrong - it was very compelling and entertaining but the plot veered from the truly unique to utterly ridiculous one too many times for my liking. Still, Gardiner can write a good mystery and fill it with interesting characters that make it easy to overlook some of the weak moments.

The Weekly Parenting Fail. I'll go with Owen, running around saying dammit "just like daddy."

The Weekly Time Waster. Fallen From The Moon.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Admittedly, Mark Zuckerberg is onto something. This whole Facebook thing might just catch on. But person of the year? Hardly.

The Weekly Question. When did you stop believing in Santa? And what tipped you off?

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (25)

December 16, 2010

Your Best of 2010

The end is near. Sorry. Did I scare you? I meant the end of the year. I've been looking back at all the stuff I downloaded, all the music I listened to, the books I read all in preparation to recap my personal best of 2010. But before I do that, I'm curious about your picks for the year. So open up the comments, and tell me about your picks for:

- Unputdownable book
- Watchable TV series
- Perfect movie
- Live-withoutable gadget or technology
- Compelling personality
- Ground-breaking event

Tonight or first thing in the morning, I'll randomly pick one entry and email over an Amazon or iTunes gift code worth ten bucks so you can check out some of the other recommendations folks have made. So get to it. Tell me what you liked in 2010!

Posted by Chris at 6:32 AM | Comments (44)

December 15, 2010

Who's Joe?

A while back I mentioned that I was the editor of the high school newspaper for a few years. I've got a stash of old copies but I've been missing the very last edition for as long as I can remember. My parents found a copy and dropped it by the other day. And here is my final editorial from June, 1992:

The sun's out, it's warm and we're out of here. We can all write this year off and move on, but not without a little remorse. Just a little bit.

I don't think that it really hit me that I was a senior until about two weeks ago. I don't think I have really realized how near the end is. I have been asked so much how it feels to be a senior and I can't seem to come up with a good answer for them.

It has been a long year, especially for the seniors. We've been looking forward to the end for the last four years and now we're here. We are about to move on into the world, whether it's going to school, getting a job or joining the army. We can all be proud that we have made it this far. Life ain't easy.

I must take this time however to think about myself and all I have gained from being here for the last four years. I think that every day I said that I wanted to get out of here, go home or go out to lunch. A few times (all right, more than a few times) I did. But I realized that this, high school, was my job.

This building and all the people in it generated a lot of great memories. These years are years that I will definitely never forget. We've made great friends, fallen in love, and grown up within the last few years. Now we have to leave.

I want to thank all the people who have made my high school career the success it was. I would like to thank the student body and all of our sports programs for making the year so successful. I would like to thank Students Against Global Abuse for cleaning up our environment, the yearbook staff for catching us all at our best, and the class officers for the work they have done. Thanks to the counselors, administrators and the teachers.

Thanks to the newspaper staff for putting up with me and getting some great issues out. Congratulations to all the new editors and good luck next year. Thanks to the Wild Men and all my friends for keeping me sane (or at least trying to). Above all, thank you Joe.

Most people advise to never look back, but if you don't all you've fought for for the last few years is wasted. I only hope that we can all look back on our high school years and smile. Goodbye and good luck. Keep the faith, hope, and love.


A coupla things I'd like to point out.
  • I have learned nothing about writing in the past 18 years. Parenthetical statements? Sentence fragments passed off as actual sentences? Complete disregard for commas and their proper use? Check! Apparently some things never change.
  • The bit about high school being my job? Total crap. High school was a great place to fuck around.
  • My high school career was not a success, at least from a GPA perspective. From that angle, it was a four year lesson in mediocrity.
  • My memory sucks. The Wild Men? No clue who they are. And just who in the fuck is Joe?

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (11)

December 14, 2010

Give

Beth and I love HGTV. Especially House Hunters. It's our vegging-out go-to. We flipped it on the other night. I was a little uneasy and needed the soothing house hunting routine. I'd just been on the phone with my mom. She'd told me that Max, the Haitian refugee who'd been living with my cousin for a year and had been so incredible with my children was being forced to go back home. But - good news! - his family had finally been given somewhere to live that had a roof. Score!

Anyway, I got pissed off at House Hunters. Or, really, just the douchebag who decided to complain about the yellow paint on the dining room walls. Why? Because a) paint color is pretty much the easist thing in a house to fix in a house and b) there's a roof, four walls, a place to pee and a host of tools with which to keep and store food which all presupposes the fact that you have food.

I understand that there are two different standards in the world - one for the haves and one for the have-nots. For the haves, a roof over your head, food in the fridge, access to the internet and a lifespan beyond age 35 is just assumed. None of these things can be assumed or taken for granted by the community of have-nots. I don't have the miracle cure but I do wish the two groups could come a little closer together and that the basic things we take for granted in the industrialized world weren't so hard to come by elsewhere. In a country as rich as ours, there should be no uninsured, no homeless, no children left uneducated or starving at the end of each day, and no veterans left out in the cold. It is beyond my comprehension how these things are allowed to endure.

2010 has been a very difficult year for a lot of people. Many of you, I know. But if you happen to have a couple extra pennies rattling around in your pocket, consider helping. Here are some of my favorites.

- So Others Might Eat (SOME)
- Heifer International
- American Red Cross
- Fisher House
- National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

What are your favorite charities or best ideas for giving back to those in need?

Posted by Chris at 6:48 AM | Comments (20)

December 13, 2010

Ye Of Little Faith

After I posted the mock-up for our annual Christmas card a while back, I got the definite impression a lot of you thought I was kidding. I received a lot of comments and emails saying that the picture was hilarious and that we really should do it. Well, my friends, it was always our intention to do just that. Without further ado, I give you the Official 2010 Cactus-Fish Christmas Card:

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Now, since there are a whole hell of a lot of you and cards - not to mention postage - are expensive combined with the fact that I'm not licking that many envelopes, I hope you will each consider the above your very own personal Christmas card direct from me to you. All kidding aside, I do wish all of you and your families a very merry holiday season. And a silly one too.

Do you send out cards?

Posted by Chris at 6:57 AM | Comments (30)

Haiku For Monday #347

Traffic sucks. Ho ho
ho. I want a Jetsons car
for Christmas. Would rock.

Posted by Chris at 6:55 AM | Comments (5)

December 10, 2010

The Weeklies #158

The Weekly Affliction. Sickness in the form of a cold has taken my ass out. I'm on day three of working out of my basement, wrapped in a fuzzy red blanket.

The Weekly Beverage. AlkaSeltzer Cold. And beer. Though not together.

The Weekly Cool Site. Ever wanted to know exactly how long it would take to pay off that new car or cool pair of shoes you've had your eye on? Days To Pay will tell you just that.

The Weekly Viral Video Awesomeness. Check this out and stay with it. It doesn't seem like anything spectacular at first but hang on.

The Weekly Read. This week, I tried something a little different. A self-published ebook. Free to Die by Bob McElwain wasn't half bad. It was certainly worth the price - it was free. Sure, the writing was a little weak in spots (the dialog was just unconvincing in places) but overall it was worth a read. I look forward to finding some more self-published stuff out there.

The Weekly Movie. Beth picked up some kids' DVDs from the library the other day but managed to bring home something for us - Lars and the Real Girl. About a man who falls in love with a sex doll, it looks pretty dumb. But after looking at the box sitting there beside the TV for two weeks, we finally gave it a shot. It was a quiet, understated and very quirky movie that turned out to be insanely good. Sure, it's weird and unconventional and throughout I couldn't give up my obsession with the fact that Ryan Gosling looks exactly David Arquette so much so that I'm wondering if they're not the same person. That aside, it was a charming little movie that you should watch.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. I think between my vicious cold and yesterday's terrible hair, that's enough schedfreude for one week.

The Weekly Question. What are you most hoping shows up under the Christmas tree?

Posted by Chris at 7:30 AM | Comments (18)

December 8, 2010

Taking a Leak

Mia is five and she must know everything, even the unknowable things she could not comprehend or be trusted with because she is five. The existence of Santa Claus, what I've gotten Beth for Christmas, nuclear fission. Frankly, she's five and likes to talk so we keep certain information to ourselves. It's because she hasn't completely figured out the balance you need to strike when you have certain information. Is it best to tell someone? Or is it meant to be kept secret?

That conundrum is just as relevant for many adults. We've all been in situations in which we know something that others would clearly like to know as well. We wrestle with the morality of disclosure. Is it important to someone's safety or well-being that they have a certain piece of information? Or, by disclosing it, are you just being an asshole?

Despite the fact that it sometimes acts like an impertinent five year old, the government has an even bigger balancing act. We fund it, we elect individuals to represent us and, as a result, we should expect a certain amount of transparency. But we all know that it can only be so transparent, that there are certain things the government can't or won't disclose. So when someone or some organization (yeah, I'm talking about WikiLeaks) comes along and makes that decision for the government - disclosing that information - are they heroes or assholes?

(That's not a rhetorical question. Really, is what WikiLeaks doing a public service or is it putting people and governments in jeopardy?)

Posted by Chris at 7:58 AM | Comments (19)

December 7, 2010

Highway To Hell

I live exactly 11.9 miles from work. In most places this would be a stroke of luck. I do not live in one of those places. Were I to take to the roads to work during the weekend, I'd be able to make the trip in 15 minutes, maybe 20. During the week, it's a different story. If I leave the house before 7:00 AM it takes a minimum of 35 minutes. If I'm later than that? I can count on the trip taking an hour.

Sometimes the commute just starts off bad. I pull out of my neighborhood and know instantly that I'm screwed. Other times it toys with me, letting me believe that for some reason - plague, pestilence - the roads are clearer than usual only to veer around a bend and find an unholy knot of cars all trying to head the same place. That's usually at the corner of Late Avenue and You're Fucked Drive.

I want to be green and I want to avoid the whole commuting nightmare. But for me to take public transportation between where I live and where I work would be equivalent to trying to get from New York to L.A. by way of Hong Kong. In a boat. On fire. Chased by angry midgets.

Where do you live? What's your commute like? Are you a green commuter?

Posted by Chris at 6:16 AM | Comments (49)

December 6, 2010

Thirty-Eight

I've been 38 years old for a little over 24 hours now and I have to admit that it doesn't feel all that different from 37...or 36...or even 35. Though I'll also admit that I'm not sure exactly how a 38 year old is supposed to feel since it's my first time and all.

I do know that 38 sounds kind of old, to me. Not 38 in general - as applied to other people - but 38 applied to me.

At 38 I have yet to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I haven't yet recorded my first album or written the Great American Novel or found the solution to world peace. So, if 38 were as far as I got, well, I'd leave a lot undone. By the same token, at 38 I find myself with a beautiful, caring wife, two amazingly and insanely wonderful kids, a wise circle of friends, a giant music collection and a handful of well-worn guitars. And I couldn't honestly ask for more in life than that. At least not without sounding greedy as hell.

Not that I'm stopping at 38, mind you. My hair is turning gray and I'm moving a little slower...but I'm just getting started.

Posted by Chris at 7:20 AM | Comments (40)

Haiku For Monday #346

You there, Juan Valdez*
It's me, Chris. Now get me a
tall cup of joe, stat.

*does anyone still remember who Juan Valdez is or did I just go over all of your heads?

Posted by Chris at 7:18 AM | Comments (10)

December 3, 2010

The Weeklies #157

The Weekly Beer. Flying Fish Hopfish IPA.

The Weekly Weird Random Fact. Back in WWII, metal was a hot commodity. And pretty much used to blow shit up. The Oscars given out during World War II were made of plaster.

The Weekly Read. Have you ever read Lee Child? If not, and you happen to like suspenseful tales of bad-asses, well, you should. His latest - Worth Dying For is 72 shades of awesome which is surprising since it's his 15th book to feature all-around good-guy Jack Reacher. It's well worth a read but then I haven't found one of his books that isn't.

The Weekly Music. I feel like such a tween. I've been listening to and humming songs from the Tangled soundtrack which prominently features Mandy Moore. I found myself searching iTunes for more Mandy Moore stuff but then said dude, you have a penis and clicked through to the metal category. That said, the soundtrack and the movie are both really good.

The Weekly Schadenfreude. Two of the Gosselin kids - you know, spawn of Jon and Kate - got expelled from school. I'm not as surprised by that as I am the fact that the other six haven't gotten expelled as well.

The Weekly Amazon Recommendation Fail. See what happened here?


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The Weekly Question. Is no one concerned that this whole Korea thing will lead to ALL OUT WAR?!

Posted by Chris at 7:09 AM | Comments (19)

December 2, 2010

Profane In The Membrane

This is my most recent parenting fail:
Dammit. I think I accidentally taught Owen to say dammit. He sat on the edge of his bed, naked, repeating it over and over, laughing like Beavis. After thinking holy shit, Beth is going to kill me, I tried without success to convince him I'd said slam it. Luckily for me he eventually forgot. Still, dammit is better than fuckstick.

This is the most awesome conversation I've overheard in a long time:
Guy One: Where did you park?
Guy Two: Over there. Way the hell out in buttfuck.
Guy One: Buttfuck? Do you mean bumfuck?
Guy Two: No, it's buttfuck. Like, yeah, I live way the hell out in buttfuck.
Guy One: Bumfuck.
Guy Two: Isn't bum just another word for butt? So what's the big difference?
Guy One: Yeah, no clue. But it's still bumfuck.
Guy Two: That's stupid.
Guy One: Maybe but do you really want to be that guy standing in a parking garage like you are now, with a guy like you are now who says hey, let's go to buttfuck?
Guy Two: Okay, yeah. Good call.

This will be our Christmas card this year:


christmas%20card%202010%20sm.jpg

Posted by Chris at 6:35 AM | Comments (26)

December 1, 2010

Entertain-o-plasty

The other night while channel surfing I saw what might be the most disturbing thing ever put on television and a sure sign that we are in trouble as a society. And I'm not trying to be witty or snarky, sensationalistic or sarcastic. I was truly disturbed by what I saw.

It's called Bridalplasty. It goes a little something like this. Twelve women live together in a mansion while competing not only for their dream wedding but for extensive rounds of plastic surgery to go along with it. To turn them into - their words - perfect brides. Each week, one bride gets voted out while the rest get to keep their dream of going under the knife alive.

Why do I find this so pathetic? Because it's basically a bunch of women screaming let me compete for the privilege of getting myself sliced open so I can be more physically appealing while completely glorifying and exacerbating - not condemning - the crisis of faith women and girls have everywhere, everyday. Oh and let's not forget about the husbands-to-be. If acceptance of those brides is contingent on the size of their tits, the marriage is doomed to failure before the vows are even said.

The producers are as bad - if not worse - than the contestants. They've found twelve vulnerable women (out of what I'm sure was a much larger pool of vulnerable applicants) with body-image and self-worth issues and strung them along by preying on their own fears of inadequacy while allowing them to think that skinnier thighs or new boobs are going to solve all of their problems.

There was a sequence that horrified me. Each of the women was told to complete a life-size puzzle showing a photoshopped image of the bride in her dress the way she might look if she underwent the various surgeries on their "wish list." On a table behind them were ten syringes. The faster they finished, the faster they could join the injection party going on downstairs. The final two would be at risk for going home. And, apparently, wrinkles. These ten lucky women ran around with their syringes and eventually got shot up or whatever and then crashed in their mansion with their wrinkle-free faces.

I have a daughter who, no matter how independent she is, will feel that kind of pressure. I know I can't totally shield her from it but I wish that, maybe just a little, society would stop fighting me so hard.

Are you - and your perception of yourself - at all impacted by the pressures of society? How?

Posted by Chris at 7:00 AM | Comments (27)


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