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I'm sitting on my bed with my beloved Feisty for the last time. Now at the end of her 19th year, my precious girl has shrunk down to skin and bones. Her fur is dirty. She can't stand up. It's time. I called her aunt Syd over for a visit, called Aunt Daybreak and let her know, broke the news to my mom, and [personal profile] millari  should be here soon. In the morning, we shall take our little gray tiger to the Cat Hospital one last time.

Farewell, my dear friend. If there is something beyond this mortal coil, please give my love to your uncle Dave, and to Miles and Tilda. It's OK if you ignore Stinky.
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I'm at the Hyatt in Morristown, NJ this weekend, taking part in a really fun gaming convention, as I have done several times in the past. Today is an interesting day for me, slightly melancholy but also happy and grateful, as it's ten years to the day since millari and I tied the knot. Of course, we untied it last year, but we're still very close and she had planned to come down to the con with me, until she bowed out because of work pressure. It's too bad, but I'm proud of her for recognizing that she couldn't make it work and not blowing up her life trying anyway.

I've had some unexpected downtime here, as a couple of events I offered to run didn't fire, but they were scheduled at the last minute, and I did take the opportunity to swim yesterday afternoon (430 meters in the hotel pool), at least. I've played a couple of D&D adventurer's league adventures, which have been OK but not compelling. I'm not sure if it's just the hit or miss quality of the writing (because they can't all be excellent) in comparison to the stories they had for LFR back in 4th edition, or if it's just that I don't love this paladin the way that I loved the wizard I played in those games, but I do find myself missing the chance to play Omen of Halruaa. Also, it does distract from the story when one is riding herd on three twelve year olds. :)

But I quite enjoyed the Agents of SHIELD LARP (which I had to play in as I already have the badge). It let me scratch the itch of 'doing the thing no one else is doing', because I signed up for the Networking division, which basically meant that my job was to be the fixer for everyone else. And literally no one else had opted for that, choosing mostly field ops, Intel, tech, and medical. There were about 40 other players, so the story was big enough that I did not have a clear picture of what was happening, which is the part of live action gaming that most throws me compared to table top. This was the debut session, and it looks like there will be more at future cons, so I look forward to doing this again. I wonder if they'll make anything of the fact that character-me was born in Wakanda?

I also tried out Trail of Cthulhu, which was very simple to play (though I gather not to run) and appealingly tragic and weird. I played an antiques dealer whose college student son had disappeared two years before, supposedly while somehow at a house that had burned down in the 1890s. Driving home one afternoon, I suddenly saw the old house on Hill Street, standing where it no longer was, so I stopped and went in. There, I met a PI who claimed to be hired by my long-dead wife, a young girl who claimed to be the stillborn daughter my wife had died to bring into the world, and a woman who confidently asserted that it was all fine because she was only dreaming. We slowly uncovered a twisting mystery of alternate histories in which I was dead, or a hopeless drunk, or a single father, until we finally tracked down my long lost son, only to discover that he was, indeed, long lost, and that his body was only a vessel for a consciousness that was jumping across alternate realities. Some other NPCs claimed that it was a monster, a worm that was slowly eating through all reality, but for me, it all came down to whether or not I thought that I could reclaim my son from the thing that looked out from his eyes, or if I could only avenge him. I went with option B, after the girl playing the daughter I never had convinced me that now that we knew what had happened to Francis, it was time to move on. As I said, appealingly tragic and weird. It reminded of that shortlived TV series starring Jason Isaacs, Awake.

And now, I have to run and eat before I run my 4th edition D&D adventure, the Dreadful Davenport of Dolorous Doom, in which our party of murder hobos must haul a wizard's accursed sofa across town to the dump.
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With the end of season 6 tonight, Game of Thrones continues its long tradition of killing interesting, sympathetic characters in horrible ways that heighten the painfully tragic waste of it all. RIP Margaery. Give my love to Hodor, Osha, Ray, and Wun Wun.

Good riddance, though, to the High Sparrow and his sadistic zealots, the asshole slave-owning masters Yunkai, Walder Frey and especially Ramsay Bolton. The show does dispense some horrifying poetic justice.
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
Actually several "its". Next weekend, I'm off to DexCon in NJ. This August, I'll be driving down the east coast to visit friends while I head towards DragonCon.

I've been seeing a life coach, which sounds kind of dumb to me, but it's been helpful, because she's helping to articulate what I really care about, and thus to focus on doing what I want to do, rather than what I think I should. I find that I am more relaxed and confident lately, and I'm accomplishing more things that matter to me. (Such as getting to the trainer 4 times a week, getting solar panels on the house, driving out to Kentucky for a family wedding, and spending more time with friends.)

It's ten months since my brother died. I'm still growing my hair out, two months to go, and it's such a nuisance. I don't know how people deal with it.

I started listening to a podcast on the History of Rome on my long drive, and it feels good to be learning about stuff that I didn't want to spend a ton of time reading about, but that I'm glad to know nonetheless. And so far, my favorite historical character has been Hannibal Baraka, so I'm sad he lost.

Millari is living here at the house again for the summer before she moves to Mexico. It's lovely to have her around so much, though her stuff is creating some clutter. The kitty is very happy she's here, and is every more cuddly and purring than otherwise. (She's in the crook of my arm as I type this. I think she sends her felicitations to you, dear reader.)
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I'm currently in CA, near San Francisco. My good friend Usakeh's mother has just died, so I have come out here to offer moral support. It's quite a blow for anyone, and harder when your mom is so young. [livejournal.com profile] millari is here, too, and it's been nice to spend time together. Things I like about it here: it's so sunny and mild; the gorgeous countryside of rolling hills; there aren't any mosquitos to eat me alive when I'm out exercising. What I don't like so much is that everything is more costly than back home in MA. If I were living out here, I'd really have to get a job.

Usakeh's dad is a Stanford prof, and he's been very accommodating of our presence, but I'm sure he'll be pleased to see the end of lounging on his sofas. Happily, it's a large, sunny, pleasant house so there is at least enough room. (Actually, the previous owner was apparently an AV nut, so there's a home theater room that's like a more comfortable version of the little downstairs venue at the old pleasant street theater.

We spent last weekend in Carmel, with U's grandparents (retired professors originally from Vienna), in a gorgeous villa overlooking the sea. It's probably worth millions now, but they've been there for decades and it has a pleasantly lived-in feel. It sort of reminds me of my grandmother's house, for all that it's a comfy Adobe structure on a slope with a gorgeous view of the bay, rather than a stodgy box in North Andover.

Lots of great places to go walking out there, and the most beautiful was Point Lobos state reservation. There were deer, seals, pelicans and many other birds, plus some truly gorgeous terrain and vegetation. I took a bunch of pictures, mainly thinking how Mole Underfield would love them and how he might paint them.

I'm flying back tomorrow, and then... Well, we'll see. No civil politics this week, as we're all away, which is a pity as Cruz and Kasich dropping out leave only Trump in the running for the GOP nomination is probably worth a few minutes discussion.

I have started reading the Three Musketeers, and enjoying it quite a bit. Dumas is quite the storyteller, and it's interesting to me how much I'm enjoying it despite the characters all being rather broad and archetypal. I wonder how much of that is because he created the archetypes? I have seen various movie adaptations, so I'm familiar with some of the story and general plot elements, but it's interesting to see how much of the milieu, the flavor of the story, comes from Dumas. Also, I'd forgotten that he was black. It fascinates me how much of the most popular pop culture is created by marginalized people.
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Well, that's another month of my life receding into the distance. Since my last post, I lost a week due to illness, spent the following week in New York working at our Mamaroneck store (and feeling washed out), followed by a week of... I dunno, exactly. It's reinforced for me that too much time in Andover can mess me up. Unscheduled time can mess me up, and it gets worse when I'm in Andover. For example, I have been here since Saturday. I slept late today as each previous day, and right now I'd still like a nap.

It was interesting working a job full time again, even if just for a week. I still quite enjoy the hospitality angle (talking with customers, taking orders and making recommendations) and the cleaning the store and processing deliveries elements make me feel productively busy. Man, do I hate the time pressure of being on the clock, though. And business in that store is streaky, so while it was super busy some times, it was dead for long stretches, which was boring and uncomfortable. After a year of privileged indolence, I was constantly aware of the "I am selling my time so I have to be here, even though I really want to go home now" factor of having a job, even a job doing stuff I mostly enjoy for a company that I own.

I feel like I'm drowning in privilege like it were a butt of Malmsey.
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I'm in a better mindset than my last post. It's tough to resist the old patterns of my family, but one of my friends (I think it was millari but it might have been morlock) summed it up well: don't go back to Andover to care of your mom, go back to visit your mom. And it's true that we already have a great team helping mom, with the PCAs from Home Instead, house calls from Patricia and Margaret at Elder Care Coordinator, financial coverage from the folks at US Trust, and chats with the minister. I'm going to focus on making my time in Andover about what I can do that others can't. Also, when I'm away, I call every day.

Right now, though, I'm in Tarrytown. I came down on Saturday and stayed with friends in Mount Vernon (super pleasant home for a super nice couple) (saw the Last Witchhunter movie, which was just as predictable and ersatz as a Snickers bar). Sunday we had the 'make plans for 2016' board meeting, and in the evening Lefty and I played Pathfinder (the adventure card game not the RPG, because who has time for such a baroque rules system?)* I had planned to drive back home tomorrow early in the day, but Lefty called and asked me to come take him to urgent care. He's got some sort of bladder problem that I think has been greatly exacerbated by an infection? Anyhoo, it was horrible so he needed a ride and a friend while he got treatment. I stayed the night at his place, and this morning the pills are working and he's much improved. Huzzah! (I beguiled the hours after he crashed out by watching Burn After Reading, which was as great as M told me it would be and was like watching a Fiasco game adapted to film, and the The Seven Percent Solution, which I had seen thirty years ago but I hadn't noticed that it's kind of racist and that Robert Duvall's British accent sounds terrible.)

Now I'm heading off with Lefty on a store errand, and then it's home to vote!

{BTW, while driving down, I listened to a podcast recommended by a friend I'll call Vanderbilt, the Blacklist Table Reads, which turns unproduced screen plays into audio dramas. It's a Hollywood thing, but the episode I listened to was Chrome Noir, a 30s crime story with robots that was a lot of fun.}



*I do, actually, in a game that Stoic is running. Honestly, though, if it weren't a long-running and already ongoing campaign, I don't know that I would find it worth the trouble, and I kept my character simple.
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Today it's been six months since my brother died. His cat has warmed up to me considerably, and is now flopped against me, purring. I have accomplished some important stuff in that time, mostly taking care of MU's estate. I have been coming back to Andover to stay with mom for a couple of days almost every week. This has started taking a toll on me. MU was the one who was good at taking care of routine business in an orderly manner. I was the one who handled the crises. Now that he's gone, and been gone awhile, things aren't in a crisis anymore. There's just the soggy, grey slog of normal life, with wealth and privilege smoothing over the worst problems that come with old age, Parkinson's, nerve damage, and a resultant confinement to a wheelchair. Or, if you're me, having a mother in that position, and wanting desperately to help her stay happy, active, and connected with friends. Since most of her friends have either died or moved away, this isn't easy.

I haven't handled this well. Mom has a script in her head, from long before I ever existed, that tells her that no one really values her, and she's reacting in ways that are really codependent. Or maybe it's better to say ways that make me codependent. Anyway, the more time I spend in Andover, the more I'm staying up all night and sleeping all day, like I did when I was a kid, and the less time I spend actually doing stuff I care about, and the worse my depression gets. I don't want to cut mom loose, but I can't keep this up. I want to spend my energy changing my home, getting fitter, dressing better, writing more, gaming with friends, starting another radio show, and maybe even going on a few dates. Plus, my cat now has hyper-thyroidism, so I need to make sure she's OK.
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As of January 28, it's been 14 years since I started this journal. I'm older and fatter, yet both physically and emotionally healthier. I have gone from an apartment in Northampton to a house in Easthampton. When I started this journal, Modern Myths didn't even exist, and now I'm looking back at a career there. [livejournal.com profile] millari And I were just starting to date, now we've had a whole marriage. Feisty has gone from vibrant young little tiger to sleepy old kitty who creaks with the years.

Some other moments worth noting:

This past weekend, I had a lovely supper at a tapas place near Union Square with Redacted. I haven't seen him/her since last spring, so it was good to catch up.

I tidied up in my bedroom and found a number of old cards from [livejournal.com profile] usakeh. They follow a consistent pattern of apologizing for not staying in touch more, and then thanking me for sending a gift, calling when she was in the hospital, or otherwise reaching out. It's actually rather pleasant to read so many affirmations piled up together. I hope she keeps sending them.

I also found a program from when [livejournal.com profile] mole_underfieldAnd I went to see Book Of Mormon last March 15th. We very much enjoyed the show. We stayed at my godmother's flat near Lincoln Center, and didn't go out that much. I had wanted to gad about the city more, but MU, as was his wont, preferred to stay in and chill. We tried to get into the Nightly Show, but couldn't. (We went to see American Sniper instead, which was OK.) I spent a fair amount of time reading a book which I quite enjoyed, but now I can't recall what it was.
[edit: China Mieville's Perdido Street Station. Just the kind of immersive fantasy I can't stop eating with a spoon.]

That was, in retrospect, about the peak of MU's respite from the cancer. He went off the chemo for a couple of months after that, and the cancer bore down on him until he smothered.

The weekend of October 4th, I flew to Cleveland to catch the final game of the season between the Red Sox and the Indians. I'd floated the idea to MU last winter, and he said he'd like to go if he felt up to it. I stayed with B, whom I hadn't seen much of for many years, as we'd had a falling out after my doomed romance with Grounded. I had a great visit. We reminisced, and carried on as we had done years ago when we in our 20s. I even dug up an old 2nd edition character, just in case it had worked out that I could join his D&D group for a session.

The weather was perfect, and Cleveland was lovely and friendly. The Red Sox capped a losing season by getting beaten 3-1.
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I'm getting organized to drive to New York later this afternoon for a weekend excursion. I hope to visit with friends while I'm there, but the purpose is the company board meeting on Sunday. It's a bit weird to be outside looking in at day to day operations now, and I really hope that I still have useful insight to add. I feel my lack of ther business experience more acutely these days, plus I'm mentally aging and it's harder for me to sit still and absorb new information. Too much distracting myself with Netflix and Hulu of late with excellent TV and movies means I'm not reading that much anymore. (About which, more later.)

The mild depression of last week has passed, and now I feel pretty much normal. Flashes of anger don't spark conflagrations. I think the regular exercise has been helping (and I'm getting fitter and thinner, too), not just with the trainer, but also on the walks with Stoic. We spent much of the hour yesterday with him explaining to me some of the minutiae of cattle raising, the differences between steers and oxen, and how precise the terminology of farming actually is. (Not that I had doubted it, but, for example, gelding is a different procedure from castration, albeit with similar results.)

My FB feed delivered an interesting post from Jessica Abel, a noted indie cartoonist, about the ways in which our old ideas, unrealized, can poison our current creativity. It's what inspired me to write this while I had a moment. And now the pancakes are here, so that's all for now.
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I started taking sertraline back in 2011 when I hit a serious depressive spell. I stopped last autumn quite abruptly when I ran out of pills in Andover, and didn't have any easy way to refill them. Apparently, 'cold turkey' is not the recommended way to go off mood stabilizers, as I felt really weird for about a month or two. My doctor was aghast when I told her.

Still, it was done, and I noticed some major changes: my moods were much more variable than I was accustomed to. I felt, at times, ebullient and, at others, deeply sad. All would wash over me like a wave and like a wave all would pass. My libido was more powerful and more insistent. This was all acceptable, even desirable, but I also found that I would fly into rages like I hadn't in years, and over trivial matters. I'd get frustrated with something in the kitchen at Mom's house, for example, and I'd be tossing things about, banging pot lids, and swearing up a storm. It was embarrassing for me, and upsetting for Mom. So, about two weeks ago, I started in again on the sertraline. I'm only taking 25 mg a day, but the way it has muted the emotional color in my life has been quite noticeable. Over the past week, I have been settling into a mild depression, a dysthymia, that makes it hard to take care of business–which is particularly embarrassing when I have no business but my own. Still, I'm holding my temper in the manner to which I have grown accustomed, and that's worth it.

Sportsball

Jan. 17th, 2016 01:09 am
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
I've been feeling a bit tired the past few days. Not exhausted, exactly, or sick, but just easily tuckered out so I've been napping and curling up under the blankets a lot over the past few days. I think it's a bit of low grade depression, which I hope will pass since I'm using mood stabilizers again. Feisty has enjoyed the cuddling, I'm sure. Anyway, I spent seven hours watching football on TV, which is not something I have often done in the past, especially at my own home at my own discretion. Stoic was good company and made a delicious supper with fried pork and bok choy over spaghetti squash with something called dandan sauce (hot and peanutty). We watched the Patriots win handily, and then played cribbage while Green Bay come so close to winning against Arizona. The hail mary play with no time left to send the game into overtime was truly epic.
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
Stoic has been running a pathfinder game inspired by the Sharpe's Rifles books for a couple of years now, I think, and I joined in about a year ago as a !Quaker chaplain. It's been quite fun, the sort of game that makes it worth dealing with all of Pathfinder's rules apparatus. A couple of months ago he decided that he wanted to run a session only every other weeks, so I offered to run an alternating Deadlands game. (Why Deadlands? I was familiar with the Savage World rules after playing in another one myself, the rules are fairly simple but flexible enough to allow for players to customize their characters, and the feel of the game with an initiative system using a poker deck and drawing fate chips from a bag would be a nice change of pace from what the other guys were used to.).

We're down to four of us, just now, so I invited MaMEd to join us for our first session of 2016, which was yesterday--I thought it would be a good excuse to see more of him. On the spur of the moment, after stopping by the shop and chatting with Successor at the Roost, I invited her to join. Given how busy she is, I was shocked she said yes, but I'm delighted I did so. She hit the ground running, and her shapeshifter bounty hunter is a great addition to the group. Ironically, MaMEd had to cancel at the last minute, so I'll have to work him in next time.
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
I had a dream last night, and like most dreams I recall little of it, and the context makes no sense, but one detail still resonates, and I mention it here: I was driving my car around, but sitting in the passenger seat, and thinking to myself 'I should move over, in case I need to hit the brake'. Given my increased responsibilities and autonomy, it's a surprisingly clear message from my subconscious, n'est-ce pas?

Pixar!

Jan. 11th, 2016 02:06 pm
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Met friends at the museum of science and caught the last possible showing of the Science of Pixar exhibition before it packs up and goes to Philadelphia (where it will no doubt be smashed to pieces and the bits used to pelt Santa Claus). Seeing young C get excited about placing stuff in a 3D computer generated environment (Mike's dorm room in Monsters U) was neat. There's something in watching a child get absorbed in thinking that fits in my heart like a key. Also charming: her amazement that I can multiply 12 x 44 in my head.
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Today, I got a tutorial on the basics of editing audio files with Audacity. This will be useful, I'm sure, at some point in my radio career. I also went shopping in Hadley with Stoic. Maple line Farms and Aldis are, he says, the places to get the optimal combination of fresh produce and groceries at low prices. It took longer than my usual method (go to a market, fill the cart with the stuff I want, pay for it, and leave), but who knows? It might do me good to spend less money.

I made my cannellini, artichokes, portobellos and stuff over rice dish, then M came over and we three played Dominion. It was fun. I look forward to perhaps trying it again, maybe with something other than the intro set up of cards.

Chatted online with [livejournal.com profile] usakeh and now I'm posting this. Am I really forming a new habit?

Oh, and my show went well on Friday, and mom listened in using the iPad I got her for Xmas, so that's starting to pay off.
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
I never posted the obituary I wrote for my brother. This appeared in the Boston Globe, Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, and the Andover Townsman.

David S. Dow, RIP )
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
I started 2016 off well. I spent New Year's Eve with MaMEd and his family, swapping gifts and enjoying each other's company. The Attraction game (which is like playing marbles with magnets) was a big hit with Princess C. Saturday into Sunday was a lot of games. [livejournal.com profile] millari and I had a nice supper at Mulino's Saturday evening, followed by some Chrononauts at her place. Sunday was twelve hours of gaming fun at my house. M came over, as well as Suave, and folks from my Deadlands/Transhuman gaming group (until I come up with nicknames: SS, TJ, JEL, JE). We played a cute trick-taking game called Friday the 13th, then Lords of Waterdeep (as there were only five of us yet–poor M had to wait an hour for us to finish, but was very chill about it–and it was a close game to the end), and all seven of us played Shadows Over Camelot. It turned out that none of us was a traitor (only 12.5% chance of that) and we managed to find the Grail, retrieve Excalibur and Lancelot's Armor, defeat the Black Knight, and drive off an invasion of Picts. Ironically, we won by allowing an invasion of Saxons to proceed, thus filling up the Table. After that, Suave took off, so we played Unspeakable Words (the Lovecraftian word game) and more Friday 13th. Then TJ and M departed, so the four of us remaining wrapped up with an old chestnut (for me, at least), Reiner Knizia's Lord Of The Rings coop game. I got that game back in 2001, and I have played it dozens of times (according to the scoring sheet), but not since 2007. It was a bit of a roller-coaster as I tried to recall the rules, but the hobbits managed to chuck the ring into the fire all the same. Poor Stoic, who has been my houseguest for the past month as he reboots and regroups, is also recuperating from an injury, and he felt too unwell to join us. Perhaps next time.

It was enormous fun, exactly why I keep trying to have these sorts of parties. I hope to have more luck with them in the year to come.
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
At my brother's memorial service, I lined up five other people (my uncle, an old flame of MU's, Hannah-Belle Goulet, a long-time family friend who used to be our neighbor, and [livejournal.com profile] millari) to share their memories of him before I got up to speak. I wanted to keep things moving because Mom gets tired easily, and I wanted to allow everyone else to say their piece, so I kept things simple. (Also, I wasn't sure quite what to say. It's tough for people who have lived in the valley their whole lives to properly describe the mountain to outsiders.)

...and thanks for all the fish. )

At the reception, following my brother's request, we sang Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life. About 100 people turned up, some of them quite unexpected, like the Battler, whom I hadn't seen in 20 years; or Suave and Sydneycat, who both made the drive from the valley; millari's parents; many of the people who have been providing home health care; people from MU's school days, both old & recent. Thanks especially to Millari for returning from Germany for a week.

3:42 PM

Aug. 24th, 2015 07:52 am
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
That's the time at which [livejournal.com profile] mole_underfield breathed his last, this past Monday. I was sitting there with him, chatting with an old friend about his earliest memories of my brother, and then I realized that that Dave was completely still. I can't wrap my brain around that simple fact. Is there not some other room where my brother breathes still? Perhaps in another part of the house that I've somehow lost? When I find it, won't he be in there, reading quietly, or perhaps painting flowers?

Mom tells me, and Dave would nod, that he was truly happy when I was born, and loved to just sit with me, content, even delighted, by my simple presence. Forty-five years together, and I still don't understand him. I look at pictures and I can't fathom what he's thinking, why he's smiling. Then, today, a friend and her beau looked at my profile on a dating site, and explained that I was doing it all wrong, and that I'd never find anyone like that. I need to be more assertive and confident, they say, and explain to any woman reading it why she should want to meet me. They found each other on that site, doing what they tell me to do, so they might be right, but I don't want to make all those changes. I'm so scared of promoting myself like that that I feel hollowed out with dread.

Isn't it odd that I feel so alien from my brother? We're exactly alike.

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