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This year is the fifth anniversary of this blog. For the first year I was unsure about how many photos I could actually upload because of the free WordPress.com blogging account has a space limit. So I kept photo uploads limited to just my arts and crafts along with any photographs that I actually exhibited in a show. Over time I learned such things as graphic optimization so I was able to upload more photos that way than I thought I could. So for the rest of the year I’m going to devote Throwback Thursday to photos from previous blog entries (along with links to the original posts) that I should’ve uploaded five years earlier but I didn’t.

In mid-July my then-husband and I travelled to Connecticut for the wedding of his oldest nephew. Before the trip I purchased a pair of plain looking shoes, which I then embellished with sequins and I wrote all about in this post I wrote on July 13, 2010 titled Turning a New Pair of Shoes From “Blah!” to “Fab!”

Shoes-Before and After

After I posted this announcement regarding my imminent departure to Connecticut, my husband and I boarded an Amtrak from Maryland to New London, Connecticut then we rented a car for the duration of our time there. We spent part of both the first and second days at Mystic Seaport, where I took these pictures.

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During our time in Connecticut, I remembered that an earthquake actually hit Washington, DC but it was a relatively minor one. I also remember that there was talk about me photographing the wedding rehearsal the afternoon before. My husband spoke with his nephew on the phone and the nephew said that my photography services wouldn’t be needed because they had plenty of people with cameras who would be there at the rehearsal. So we had originally planned to spend the entire first day at Mystic Seaport then eat dinner on our own. While we were at Mystic Seaport, my husband’s sister (and his nephew’s mother) called us on his cell phone wondering where we were. When my husband told her about her son saying that they didn’t need us there, his sister overruled what her son said and basically told us to be there and I was to photograph the rehearsal. So I did it. After the rehearsal we were invited to this picnic dinner at a nearby park where I took some pretty decent sunset photos.

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As I recounted in this post that I uploaded after I returned from that trip, the wedding took place the following afternoon. It was held at Mohegan Sun, a casino resort that’s operated by a Native American tribe. The wedding and reception were both held at a golf club facility that was located far from the buildings where the gambling usually takes place. The wedding took place outside on this large deck overlooking a lake. It provided plenty of nature photography opportunities.

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Here is what the deck looked like on the actual wedding day itself. The bride wore white while the groom, who’s currently serving in the U.S. Navy, wore his formal dress uniform.

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The reception was held in this lodge located just a few feet away from the wedding deck.

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Inside the lodge was really lovely. I’ll end this post with a couple of shots of the wedding cake itself. This one was among the more unique wedding cakes I’ve seen because it was decorated with ladybugs made from cake frosting. (The bride likes ladybugs, which is why they were there on the cake.)

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Since that time the couple has moved to Charleston, South Carolina (when the groom was transferred by the Navy) and they are now the parents of a two-year-old son. I still keep up with them via Facebook despite the fact that I’m now divorced from the groom’s uncle.

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This blog entry is a sequel to one that I wrote last December when I learned that the wife of my ex-husband’s nephew became pregnant with their first child. Here’s an update: she gave birth to a son named Eli just a few hours ago. For the past few months I’ve been seeing ultrasound pictures of the baby that the expecting mother posted on Facebook and it was through those ultrasounds that the couple learned the baby’s gender. Today I saw the first photos of a newborn Eli on Facebook and, so far, the baby seems fine and healthy. <Knock wood!>

Like I wrote in that last entry a few months ago, the news is bittersweet to me because that pregnancy came on the heels of my husband walking out on me for a friend of ours that he is now engaged to. (I had forgotten I had ever became Facebook friends with her over a year before the whole thing happened because she rarely posted there. Three days after I got the notice that my divorce became final, I saw that she made the rare status update to announce that she and my husband were engaged on August 22, 2012. Yes, they got engaged while my husband was still legally married to me.) I’m happy for the new parents but, at the same time, I’m sad that my husband and I are now divorced and we’ll never have a chance to celebrate this happy occasion together. (Heck, my ex-husband still refuses to speak to me like in the old days.)

Eli’s birth marks a sudden shift in his extended family’s structure. My sister-in-law and her ex-husband are now grandparents. My father-in-law is now a great-grandfather. His second wife is now the child’s step-great-grandmother. My ex-husband’s step-father is now the child’s step-great-grandfather. (Had my ex-husband’s mother not passed away from a stroke in 2010, she probably would be either on the phone or going out somewhere with her second husband bragging to anyone who would listen about how she is now a great-grandmother.) My ex-husband, his younger brother, and his step-siblings are now all great-uncles and great-aunts.

Had my husband not divorced me, I would’ve been considered to be the child’s great-aunt as well (albeit by marriage). If my ex-husband marries his fiancee, she’ll be known as the new baby’s great-aunt. I’ll admit it’s not fair since I remember when I sort of saw Eli’s father, although it was in utero, when there was a family reunion of all the extended family members on my husband’s mother’s side of the family in St. Louis and my sister-in-law was pregnant at the time. I saw Eli’s future father for real the first time when my husband and I attended his baptism in Rochester just a month after he was born. I saw Eli’s father grow up over the years and I was considered to be the boy’s aunt because I was married to his biological uncle. I could spend more paragraphs reminiscing about the time I got him hooked on playing Sonic the Hedgehog with the Sega Game Gear portable system I purchased for travel or how I managed to snag one of the hot Furby toys for the regular $30 retail price back in 1998 (when they were difficult to find and many black market dealers were selling them for at least $100 and some went as high as $300) only to have the 11-year-old kid shake it so hard that he temporarily messed up the electronic critter (luckily the Furby managed to be okay in the long run) or how I attended a few of his Little League baseball games or how I saw him sing in his middle school choral concert or how I once saw him play in his high school lacrosse team or the times my husband and I accompanied the boy to regional theme parks like King’s Dominion and Dorney Park or the extended family vacations we took in places like Canadaigua, New York or Estes Park, Coloroado or Ocean City, Maryland.

In short, I saw Eli’s father grow up while my ex-husband’s fiancee, who never knew Eli’s father as a child like I did, will be officially known as Eli’s great-aunt. I know it’s not fair but I don’t really want to dwell too much on it. Sometimes life is unfair and you just have to deal with it.

In any case Eli will be joining an already full house including not only his parents but also two dogs and a cat. If that’s not enough, Eli’s father, who’s serving in the U.S. Navy, has gotten his transfer orders so while the new parents are adjusting to their new baby son they will also have to pack up the entire house by August where they will move from their current home in Connecticut to Eli’s father’s new assignment in Charleston, South Carolina. So Eli won’t have any direct memories of his birthplace of New London. On the other hand, it’s kind of fitting about the new location because it was in Charleston where Eli’s parents met each other. Eli’s father was being trained as a nuclear engineer on base so he could serve on one of the Navy’s many nuclear submarines while Eli’s mother was a college student who worked part-time in one of Charleston’s many bars and restaurants.

So that’s it. This entry will be the last one I write about baby Eli for 2013 (and maybe the next couple of years afterwards) because I think his parents should be the ones to decide how much or how little they want to post about their baby. I’ll just end this entry by playing a video clip of this classic song by Three Dog Night: “Eli’s Coming.”

Shalom Y'all

Shalom Y’all, Charleston, South Carolina, 2008
Digital photograph
Can be sized up to the maximum of 8.5 inches x 11 inches (22 cm x 28 cm).

I took this photo during a trip to Charleston, South Carolina a few years ago. My nephew was graduating from Naval nuclear training and he was going through a graduation ceremony and he invited the family to watch him graduate and meet his then-girlfriend (who is now his wife). My husband’s step-mother is an Orthodox Jew and his father had converted to this faith prior to marrying her so they pretty much said that they would make this trip only if they had access to Kosher food. They found this Kosher bed and breakfast place in downtown Charleston and they stayed there that weekend. My husband and I went there a couple of times during our stay in Charleston to meet up with his parents (we stayed at a hotel in the suburbs). What I found charming about this place was this sign that was located next to the outside intercom box that said "Shalom Y’all" and I took a photo of it.

The good news is that I’m finally getting over the injuries that I accumulated over two falls that both took place exactly one week apart. (Here’s a brief recap: I missed a step in the hotel lobby when I was in Florida and I fell down, landing directly on my ass. For the rest of the trip I would have problems with limping for a few minutes if I got up from a sitting position but it would then work itself out. That injury was enough for me to avoid large theme parks for the rest of the trip. One week later, when I was back in Maryland, I was fully recuperated from that first fall. I was walking in Annapolis when I tripped on one of the bricks in the sidewalk and I landed on my knees. That second fall not only undid the healing process I was making but the second injury was far worse and it was taking way longer for me to heal than the first time around. So I ended up seeing a doctor.) I can now walk without a cane but I still carry it with me just in case I somehow become too stiff for me to walk on my own without support. I’ll eventually stop using the cane entirely but I’m still going to carry it for another week or so.

Now for the bad news. The x-rays came in and they show that I have a bone degeneration problem and a potential cyst in the left hip area. The doctor gave me a referral to an orthopedic specialist along with physical therapy in case I need it. I’m going to do something about it next week because I have an upcoming trip to New York City this weekend and I really don’t want to squeeze in more medical stuff on top of preparations for this trip. (My primary care physician said it was okay for me to make this trip since I’m mostly healed up from that last fall.)

My situation is the latest in a line of bad things that has happened to either my family or people I know. My mother is still getting over being very weakend from those series of urinary tract infections. My nephew, who’s in the U.S. Navy, had to be airlifted from his submarine because of a sudden case of appendicitis. He successfully underwent emergency surgery and he’s currently recuperating in a hospital in Anchorage. A woman I know from my Unitarian Universalist congregation is in the middle of serving an internship in Northern Japan where she’s teaching English to middle school students when her area became inundated with an earthquake followed by a tsunami followed by the disaster at a nuclear power plant that includes leaking radiation. She has told her family that she’s fine but I learned from the news that another American who was in the same internship program wasn’t so lucky—rescue workers have found her body among the debris.

I’m just going to spend the rest of the week chilling out while I’m preparing for the upcoming New York City trip.

Since all of the Major League Baseball teams are currently in spring training as of this writing, I’d thought I’d show off this art piece I made for my husband’s birthday a few weeks ago. (On top of that, I watched the first episode of the new installment of Celebrity Apprentice on NBC last night and one of the contestants is baseball player-turned-steroids whistleblower Jose Canseco.) It’s a collage that was assembled from baseball cards. It’s also the first art piece that has ever grown out of a suggestion from my husband, whose artistic talent is confined mainly to drawing stick figures.

Baseball Cards Collage

It all started with a conversation we had sometime in early February. I somehow stumbled upon someone’s baseball blog where the blogger was showing off this year’s batch of Topps baseball cards that he recently purchased. Since my husband loves sports, especially baseball, I showed that particular blog entry full of baseball cards and we started talking about them. I learned that my husband used to collect baseball cards as a kid but he had this tendency to put them in his wallet and he admitted that they all disintegrated so he has no cards left from his childhood. I innocently mentioned that one could make an art collage out of these cards and my husband said that such a collage would work only if it included burned baseball cards. He said that these burned baseball cards would be the ones of players who have been implicated in the steroids scandals of recent years.

I was looking for a birthday gift idea and his suggestion inspired me. So I purchased a blank canvas from a local arts and crafts store. I saw that the local Target store had the latest Topps cards and these were the special 60th anniversary (which referred to when Topps first started making baseball cards, not when baseball as a sport was first established—those roots go back to the 1800’s). So I purchased one pack and when I got home, I found that these cards were a total revelation. While most of the cards in the pack were plainly printed carboard cards, there were a few that had some really cool graphic effects. One card had a glittery background. Another had a shiny background that almost provided a 3-D effect. I was amazed at how arty and eye-catching some of these cards are.

I’ll admit that I never collected baseball cards as a child. The closest I came was a few years between ages 11-13 when I collected Wacky Packages, which were the same size as baseball cards and came in similar packaging. (Sadly, I still don’t have my Wacky Packages collection from my childhood. I foolishly allowed my mother to get rid of them when she was in one of her periodic cleaning frenzies sometime after I started high school.)

During a family visit around 12 or 13 years ago, when my oldest nephew was around 10 or 11, he showed off his collection of sports trading cards (which included not only baseball cards but also cards from other sports like football and—I think but I don’t remember for sure—basketball and hockey) and his card collection were basically printed on cardboard with the occasional eye-catching photograph of an athlete in action. I don’t remember seeing anything like holograms or glitter in his card collection. (This nephew is currently serving in the Navy and he got married last year. I don’t know if he still has his card collection or, if he does have it, if he has added anything to it in recent years.)

As I thumbed through the new Topps cards, I began to kick myself for not buying at least two more packs so I would have more than enough cards to fill the canvas. So I went back to Target and found that the 60th anniversary cards were sold out. I waited a couple of weeks and I looked around Target and other stores and I still couldn’t find any new shipments of the 60th anniversary cards. I began to panic because my husband’s birthday was arriving in such a short time and I needed to finish my project. In desperation I purchased an economy baseball card pack that consisted of older cards from previous years but had way more cards in them than the new Topps card packs. There were no fancy arty cards but I found plenty of old cards from the likes of ballplayers like Don Mattingly.

Despite all these cards, I still didn’t get enough of the players that I was interested in. I also wanted to get some older baseball cards from the 1800’s starting with the Honus Wagner card, which is considered The Holy Grail of baseball cards. I had this idea of putting the Honus Wagner card in the center, then surround it with other old cards that were printed prior to 1900, then surround those cards with other cards featuring famous now-retired players (like Cal Ripken), then surround them with cards featuring current players, then surround it with the burned baseball cards. I could’ve bought a lot of these individual cards that I had in mind from individual dealers for more than what it would cost to purchase an economy baseball card pack but I didn’t have unlimited funds. So I did the next best thing: I downloaded a bunch of scans of baseball cards from the Internet and printed them out.

When it came time to decide which baseball cards to burn, I knew about some of the more notorious players who have either admitted to or have been accused of taking steroids (such as Alex Rodriguez and Jose Canseco) but I didn’t know all of the names. It wasn’t too hard to get a complete list. After doing a quick Google search, I came across this really informative site called Baseball’s Steroids Era and it is filled with tons of information. That site includes a master list of players who have been accused of or have admitted to taking either steroids, human growth hormones, or both. Thanks to that site, I was able to decide which cards to burn.

When I presented this piece to my husband, he was pleasantly surprised. He loved it so much that he has decided to take it into his office to display.

As for collecting baseball cards as a hobby, I have to admit that I really liked the shiny arty cards that contains things like glitter and holograms. They are so attractive that they could be considered tiny works of art. I really don’t know if the arty cards are Topps’ way of reaching out beyond the hardcore baseball card fandom (such as casual baseball fans who are into arty graphic design) or if they are meant to be something special as a way of celebrating the 60th anniversary and the cards will go back to being plain printed cardboard ones next year.

If I started collecting baseball cards, I would be interested only in the pretty cards. I know my husband will groan if he ever reads this and get on my case for not giving a hoot about stuff like the stats that are frequenly on the reverse side of the cards or how talented the featured ballplayer is or isn’t. (He used to be heavily involved in a Rotisserie fantasy baseball league at his workplace for many years until that league broke up a few years ago so he’s hooked on things like batting averages and stuff like that.) But I can’t help it. If given a choice between a plain cardboard Babe Ruth card or a really pretty card featuring a young ballplayer I’ve never heard of before but that card has a neat hologram background or is very glttery, I would pick the latter. 😉

Presidents' Day
White Bridge at Cypress Gardens

White Bridge, Cypress Gardens, Charleston, South Carolina, 2008
Digital photograph
Can be sized up to the maximum of 8.5 inches x 11 inches (22 cm x 28 cm).

I took this photo of a white bridge along a highly reflective swamp (which was caused by the oils that came from the nearby cypress trees) during a trip to Cypress Gardens located near Charleston, South Carolina. (I was visiting my nephew who was stationed at the naval base there at the time.)

It’s 3:17 on my laptop and I decided to type this short note becaue I woke up and I’m having a little bit of trouble getting back to sleep. All that travel is affecting me. The good news is that, unlike last night, I haven’t had any bile come up in my mouth. I did wake up thirsty though and I’m currently drinking a cup of water.

Yesterday morning I was totally exhausted from the middle of the night drama when I coughed up some bile and my throat was burning pretty badly. I maanaged to wake up though because we had to check out of our motel room and hit the road.

The night before my sister-in-law had this idea that she, one of my mother-in-law’s friends, my husband, and I meet for breakfast at this coffeehouse that’s located near Williams College. In addition, another friend, who lives in Williamstown, invited my husband and I to stop by her home for a brief visit before we leave.

So we ended up going to the coffeehouse where we ate some bagels before the four of us headed over to the other friend’s home for a bit of socializing with her and her family. Then my husband and I had to hit the road.

We took a long car trip through the Berkshires, which was glorious this time of the year since the tree leaves had begun to change color. (I’ve been told by locals that the fall foliage gets even more intense later in the fall.)

We made a stop at the Norman Rockwell Museum, which was pretty awesome. As the name suggests, it’s a museum that’s devoted to Norman Rockwell’s illustrations. The big interesting factoid is that Norman Rockwell was on his way to a long career as an illustrator while he was still a teenager. He also never stooped to the "sad tortured artist" stereotype yet churned out works that people still collect. What was really cool was being able to tour his original working studio on the museum grounds. The museum was pretty crowded partly because it was the Columbus Day holiday and partly because Norman Rockwell remains popular. At one point I saw a group of Japanese tourists at the museum so I guess he has some international appeal as well. The museum also overlooked this wonderful view of one of the Berkshire Mountains and I took lots of photos of that view.

We attempted to check out the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden in Springfield but the gates were closed by the time we arrived. We managed to see one of the statues behind the locked gates but that was about it.

We arrived at New London after dark. We had hoped to meet up with our nephew and his wife (neither of them were able to make it to my mother-in-law’s memorial service) but it was iffy since the nephew is in the U.S. Navy and he is on their work schedule and his wife is trying to juggle holding down a job while being a full-time college student. The good news was that we were able to meet up with the nephew at the local Olive Garden. The three of us ate dinner there then ordered a takeout meal for the nephew’s wife (who was still getting off from her job at the time). We drove by their recently purchased home where we met the nephew’s wife for a very brief visit before checking into the hotel room in nearby Mystic.

My husband had wanted to fulfill his wish to visit the U.S.S. Nautilus on this trip because he’s into military hardware (the Military Channel is among his favorite cable channels). We originally planned on seeing it today, which is Tuesday, before boarding the train back to Washington, DC. Except we learned from our nephew that the Nautilus is closed on Tuesdays (and an exit sign on the highway confirmed this). It’s pretty hilarious because my husband has been dying to see this sub for a long time and we won’t see it on this trip. So we’re going to find something else to do in Mystic before taking the Amtrak back.

I’ve been up for over an hour now and I’m getting sleepy. I’m going back to bed.

I’m announcing a new feature of this blog, my Twitter account, and my Facebook account. This is something that grew out of my recent trip to Connecticut.

While my husband and I were in that state attending our nephew’s wedding, we made a side trip to Mystic Seaport. On my way out of that place, we stopped at a gift shop where I found copies of Benjamin Franklin’s classic Poor Richard’s Almanack on sale for $10. I had long heard of that book and had even read brief excepts from it when I took an American Studies class during my college freshman year a long time ago.

I began to thumb through that book and I realized one major thing: the book consists of brief words of wisdom, much of which would fit in with Twitter’s 140-character limit. I began to come up with an idea, one that I hope will get increased readers to my blog/Facebook page/Twitter account.

I know that for the past few months, Keith Olbermann has been devoting the last few minutes of his MSNBC show every Friday to reading one of James Thurber’s short stories. I thought about doing something similar for Benjamin Franklin. In fact, Franklin is ideal since his writings in Poor Richard’s Almanack is way shorter than one of Thurber’s stories. Franklin mostly devoted one or two lines to a platitude or words of wisdom. Occasionally he would do a very short poem but the writings in this book are mostly very short.

On top of that, in recent months Glenn Beck has been appropriating Ben Franklin (as well as the other Founding Fathers) to misuse them to make increasingly wacky far right extremist points in his controversial Fox News show. I want to do something to rectify this by showing Benjamin Franklin’s words as he really wrote them, not how Glenn Beck has twisted them to suit his own agenda.

After reading through parts of Poor Richard’s Almanack, I realized that it contains sayings that could inspire anyone regardless of political or religious beliefs. In fact, you don’t even have to be an American to appreciate what Franklin wrote. Even though that book was published in the 18th century, much of the content is still relevant today.

Even though Benjamin Franklin is listed as the author of Poor Richard’s Almanack and he wrote some of the content himself, he didn’t originate all of the words of wisdom in that book. Much of the sayings were commonly uttered by his contemporaries in the 18th century. Franklin basically wrote down much of what he heard other people say and compiled them together into a book. What Franklin did was no different from what the Brothers Grimm did when they travelled throughout Central Europe and copied down commonly told folktales that resulted in their classic Fairy Tales book You can say that Benjamin Franklin was an editor.

Over time I’m hoping for two things: 1) increased readership of my blog/Facebook page/Twitter account and 2) people will learn more about Benjamin Franklin than as the face of the US$100 bill or the guy who once flew a kite in bad weather. Here are a few parameters of this new weekly feature. Each Friday I will provide one short quote from Poor Richard’s Almanack and I will cross-post this quote in this blog, my Facebook page, and Twitter account.

Each quote will be presented as is. I will not correct spelling or punctuation because I want to preserve Franklin’s writings as he wrote them. I also used the British spelling of certain words (such as "neighbour" instead of "neighbor") because Franklin used it. I won’t offer any interpretations of what Franklin wrote because I want each reader to come to his/her conclusion as to what he/she thinks Franklin really meant.

So, without further ado, here is the first Benjamin Franklin quote from Poor Richard’s Almanack.

Benjamin Franklin

WITH the old Almanack and the old Year, Leave thy old Vices, tho’ ever so dear.

My husband and I arrived late Saturday from Connecticut, where we attended our nephew’s wedding. Here is a brief description of what we did. We arrived in Connecticut via Amtrak late Wednesday night. We spent Thursday morning and early afternoon at Mystic Seaport, where we saw lots of historical buildings and ships along a beautiful waterfront. We went to the wedding rehearsal late Thursday afternoon because I was asked to shoot some photos of that event. After the rehearsal we went to a rehearsal picnic at a waterfront park where we saw this lovely sunset.

Friday morning my husband and I slept in late at our hotel room. We headed back to Mystic Seaport to check out a few attractions that we missed yesterday and we also took a nice horse carriage ride of the entire place. Then we went back to the hotel room where we changed into our nice clothes and headed to the wedding and reception.

Here’s something cool that I encountered. Both the wedding and reception were held in this golf clubhouse facility. When I got out of my car, a woman wearing golf clothes took one look at me and praised not only my new outfit (which I recently purchased at Nordstrom’s) but also my shoes. I was especially thrilled about the shoes comment since, if you’ve read my entry from a couple of days ago, I had customized those shoes myself.

The wedding and reception were both lovely. Both events were pulled off without any major drama or glitches. I’m happy that my nephew picked a lovely person to marry.

While my husband and I were away, we’ve learned that our hometown of Washington, DC was hit with a 3.6 earthquake. There were no reports of any deaths or even major damage so we were able to continue to enjoy our weekend in Connecticut without any major worries.

There was one minor annoyance. The hotel we were staying at had cable but the choice of channels were so limited that it didn’t even offer the Bravo channel, which sucked because I had to miss the latest episode of Work of Art. I tried looking on Bravo’s website but the people behind that website have been incredibly slow in uploading the latest episode online. (As of this writing, only the previous episodes I have already seen are available to view online.) It was the first hotel I’ve been in that had such a limited cable lineup like that.

This morning I’m sitting in a hotel room in Connecticut and I’ve heard in the news that the Washington, DC area was hit with a 3.6 earthquake. The good news is that, as of this writing, there is no major property damage reported. It figures this had to happen while I"m out of town.

In any case, today is my nephew’s wedding. He’s going to be married later this afternoon. So I’m just going to rest some more now.

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