Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
Everyone is welcome here.
(Some links or topics may not be completely kid-appropriate.)

Fri, Sep 29 2006

Technology, cell phones and multi-tasking

I have a tac pin that is a road runner, because I tend to move quickly and always have several things going on at once. So when Techdirt pointed to a bit from Computerworld, I put aside the 3 other things I was doing to go check it out.

I'm always one of the first people to appreciate the idea of multi-tasking. I would still say, without knowing all the details of the study, this article sounds as though family behaviors, rather than individual behaviors, were the focus of the study. This probably involved a lot of different technologies, but the article seemed to mention cell phone use, in particular.

I do see a lot of people exchange cell phone calls with their children and spouses, but I also see and hear people talking on their cell phones while they're in a drive-through restaurant line, in a medical waiting room, or in some other place where one would typcially be interacting with the people who are actually physically present at that moment. A lot of individuals grab their ringing phone as though they had no choice but to answer it, which makes me wonder if this particular technological advance has become somewhat of a compulsion for certain users.

I also see a lot of people pick up their cell phone, call someone, and ask what they're doing. This isn't the same (to me) as asking someone how they're doing. It's a little nosy-sounding and intrusive, which might be find if you're checking up on the thirteen-year-old at home. But I hear this same phrasing in calls people make to other people who are not their children.

This whole notion of being able to reach out and touch someone who isn't there with you seems to be encouraging at least some callers to behave in ways that would be taboo in a face-to-face conversation.

All that having been said, I love being able to simmer stew, dry a load of laundry, listen to music and do research on the internet all at the same time. But if you call me on your cell phone in the midst of all that and I do happen to answer, you need to ask if I have some time to talk instead of asking me what I'm doing. The former will be considered thoughtful and polite. The latter could get you pegged as presumptuous.

posted at: 12:40 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Thu, Sep 28 2006

Wed, Sep 27 2006

The Lord's Prayer is a powerful thing

I was blog browsing this morning, going from one blog's links to another and finding blogs that were new to me. I only got to read one post from Euphoric Reality, but it was an extended post. If you scroll down on the page I've linked to here you'll find a set of videos that include children telling an adult she is going to hell. It's particularly sad when you see the younger little boy say something and then turn to look up at the adult male in the video—who I'm guessing to be his father. The little boy seems to me to be seeking the older man's approval, or validation, for his words.

I can't say I agree with the writer of the post that the kids need a beating (though I think she was being facetious). Their young minds are being filled with whatever agenda the adults in control wish to push on them. But it's going to be pretty tough for these boys to learn to study and reason for themselves as they grow into manhood, which makes me more than a little anxious about their future place in society. I hope they do at least begin to read a few more Bible verses for themselves, including the set of verses we call The Lord's Prayer—and the verses that repeat what we generally refer to as The Golden Rule.

These little guys shown in the video are apparently being taught to judge their fellow human beings. It really reminds me that each of us, in praying The Lord's Prayer for Our Father to treat and forgive us as we treat and forgive others, had better really think about exactly what it is that we're saying. Whether our concept of hell is a place of fire and brimstone or total separation from God, we could be asking for our own misery if we pray The Lord's Prayer and then choose to condemn others instead of leaving judgment up to The One we're praying that prayer to.

posted at: 09:22 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Tue, Sep 26 2006

Gale Storm and company

I had a fun with some nostalgia this morning. Things certainly have changed since I was a little kid. Bikinis were still a novelty, and it was not yet considered politically incorrect to refer to women as girls. Go amuse yourself with this vintage TV video of The Gale Storm Show. Take note of the cast doing a little musical theatre during commercials.

It's nice to know some things are still around, including show sponsor Listerine and director Robert Altman, who holds a long list of work accomplishments in the entertainment industry.

posted at: 09:39 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Mon, Sep 25 2006

Winter in Florida

Humans sometimes injure our own environment in particularly sad ways, so it's great to know there are people working to repair at least some of the damage. The story of Winter, the baby bottlenose dolphin who lost her tail after it was caught in a fishing line, is really an encouraging one. You can view online photos of Winter swimming in her aquarium home in Clearwater, Florida.

posted at: 08:15 | category: /Science | link to this entry

Fri, Sep 22 2006

And could we affectionately call him Deputy Dog then?

The case in Mexico against Duane "Dog" Chapman is taking on a life of its own. It's been ironic from the beginning that an American bounty hunter would be charged with jumping bail, even if it did happen in another country. A message forum has been lively at FreeTheDog.org. People are posting links to news stories, letters written by officials and expressing their opinions on the matter. Chapman Justice has also begun a forum. Dog Legal Defense Fund set up a donation link for those who want to put their money where their Dog is, and the site is sponsored by one of the women who was part of the case against Andrew Luster, the bail jumper Dog went to Mexico and captured. A&E's Dog The Bounty Hunter site has its own online coverage of the TV show and the strange twist of Duane Chapman's own arrest, along with the arrest of his son and co-worker, Leland, and another co-worker, Tim Chapman. Duane Chapman's official site is Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Since I'm biased toward Duane Chapman's present work in the criminal justice system, and since I'm not privy to all that goes on with his own current case, I won't make too many personal comments at this time. But I do have a particular question that is nagging me. Why did it take 3 years for Dog to be picked up? It isn't as though he's been hiding out. His work life is very public. I also wonder why our U.S. tax money is being used on this case when there are so many other pressing U.S./Mexico border issues. The timing and the technique both seem very odd to me.

I've forgotten where I heard it, but one loyal Dog fan, who was not at all pleased with Dog's arrest, said that it was a waste of U.S. tax money and resources to have Duane Chapman and his co-workers under detention while there were many other people actively engaged in criminal behavior loose on the streets. The person thought that Dog's time might be better utilized if the U.S. government deputized Dog to go get Osama bin Laden.

posted at: 08:36 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Thu, Sep 21 2006

Fire Ant Gazette poll for new tagline is ready

I was graciously asked to be part of the judging panel in the selection of top choices for new tagline for The Fire Ant Gazette. Now that the entries have been narrowed down you can click on that link and find out how to cast your vote for your favorite new tagline. If you already know the background on the poll and want to skip right to the poll you can simply go vote. Have fun!

posted at: 14:22 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Wed, Sep 20 2006

Hands-on learning today

I'm busy with a (Sequoia) voting machine class today, which should be an interesting experience, particularly since I've expressed a certain distrust of such machines in the past. Meanwhile, you can check out some of the great blogs I've linked to on the right side of this page.

posted at: 06:32 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Sep 19 2006

Butts on the run

Cigarettes have been prominent in news stories lately, but not in the way one might think of them at first. We're used to hearing about cigarettes causing lung cancer, heart disease and other conditions that develop over a longer period of time. But a couple of police officers in San Francisco got a sudden jolt and had to be checked for injuries after a suspect rear-ended them while attempting to light his cigarette. One suspect in Colorado accidentally fell and cut his own throat with a box cutter while fleeing police officers after they told him to put out his cigarette. Another story told of one hapless smoker who suffered various burns when he dropped his cigarette while filling a gas lawnmower in a basement.

It's not all bad news. Crime scene investigators in Connecticut used DNA from a cigarette butt to help link a suspect to unsolved robberies. Police detective Denise Armstrong in Wisconsin used the DNA from a discarded cigarette butt as evidence in an attempted sexual assault case.

Virtually all current warnings on cigarette packages focus on long-term risk. Maybe future warnings should zero in on elements that address the more short-term risks—like lighting one up around tanks of flammable liquid— or while running from, or following behind, law enforcement personnel. Of course, it could backfire. There's probably nothing like the added element of surprise to inject a little excitement into the dangers of using something young smokers think might not kill them until they're too tired and wrinkled to care.

posted at: 12:49 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Mon, Sep 18 2006

Free lunch and other medical misnomers

Stanford Medical Center is going to ban gifts from pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Greenberg made sense to me when he spoke of the ability to get drug information online. Patients can choose to educate themselves with this information or they can take a chance on using a prescription drug that was chosen based on which salesperson gave their doctor the best toy or talked up a storm and paid for some tired doctor's rushed little lunch.

And now it's a double whammy when drug companies advertise. We're seeing more and more ads on TV and in magazines aimed directly at the consumer. The ads often feature a phrase that encourages us to ask our doctors about this or that medication. Many times the commercial or ad doesn't even mention exactly what condition(s) the drug is used to treat. That's not encouraging responsible choices on the part of physicians. It's making salespeople out of patients. I'm surprised the companies haven't lobbied for the right to send free samples to the public. At the very least, it's likely to be only a matter of time before the pharmaceutical salespeople give their mugs and notepads directly to consumers. And all this comes when health care costs have risen to such heights that fewer employers are able to pay full coverage for employees and their dependents. Some TV commercials lately show a line at the end of the commercial that tells patients they may be able to get help directly from the drug company if they are unable to afford their prescriptions.

There's become very little logic to the current method of dispensing medications. And have we now gotten to a point where a physician has no time to stay well-informed about the medications he or she prescribes? If that's the case, a quick sales pitch in the hall or at lunch could end up in a fatal mistake for someone. Do we really want a physician who is that pressured and that out of touch with reality to be prescribing anything at all for any of us?

posted at: 08:14 | category: /Health and Fitness | link to this entry

Fri, Sep 15 2006

Think pink

This has been a catch-up week on several fronts, but I did manage to enjoy several blog posts from other writers. One in particular was fun. Have you ever seen a Pink Pearl apple?

posted at: 12:59 | category: /Food | link to this entry

Thu, Sep 14 2006


The story that reports on a coming requirement for automakers to include stability control on cars made me wonder. Once we get to a point where this type of control becomes a standard feature in a few years will it mean the end of those spectacular vehicle stunt scenes in new movies and on new TV shows?

Of course, things could go another direction. There could be a whole new set of stunt drivers coming who will simply have the stability controls taken out of cars so they can do multiple rollovers to entertain crowds at live stunt shows, complete with a disclaimer that tells car owners with plain old stability-controlled cars not to attempt such things themselves. There's nothing like one human telling another human not to do something that makes an activity seem more attractive and enticing.

And don't you know that it will be only a matter of time until someone sues a car manufacturer because a loved one was injured or killed in a car crash in which it was determined that they would have been unhurt if the car had simply rolled out of the way of another moving hazard.

Some humans spend a great deal of time creating problems. Some fix problems. Some think up ways to get around the fixes for the problems. Yes, there is much need for stability control. Oh, and on cars, too, I suppose.

posted at: 08:55 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Sep 13 2006

Students from Japan enjoy a bite of the Central California Coast

I enjoyed hearing about the students visiting from Watsonville's sister city, Kawakami, Japan. I had to smile at the mention of a Mexican potluck lunch at the Buddhist Temple. What a great way to exchange cultural nuances and enjoy home-cooked local dishes at the same time.

The story also mentions K-9 officer, Justus. I'm fairly certain I saw Justus on duty once at a local drive-through restaurant. He was vigilant, focused and ready to move in if he got the order. If you have such a local K-9 officer at your police department you're a very fortunate citizen.

posted at: 08:16 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Sep 12 2006

Fair time

The Santa Cruz County Fair officially begins todayand runs through next Sunday. My spouse and I have been recruited to assist in the Harvest Building, though we aren't yet certain exactly when that will be. Volunteers have been hard at work for weeks with cleaning, painting, sorting, decorating and taking in entries. If you're going to be in the area you'll have a great time at the fair. If you can't be here, make a note of the whole thing anyway, because if you ever get to the Watsonville area you really must see the Ag History Project exhibits at the fairgrounds. Gas engines, farm implements, classic motor cars and even vintage, farmhouse kitchen items are on display, along with historical exhibits that are specific to the Central Coast area. During the fair they'll be running some of the old engines and demonstrating a lot of the tools and techniques farmers have used in the past.

posted at: 11:15 | category: /Arts and Entertainment | link to this entry

Mon, Sep 11 2006

Five years later, it's only five years later

ABC News' Gretchen Peters talks about us not knowing much more about Osama bin Laden now than we did five years ago. But there are some things that are obvious. He is older now. The few photos I've seen of him show lines of aging in his face. The stress of being a hunted man has to have taken its toll. Time never seems to be kind to extremists that way. The man is portrayed in the Western media as everything from an Islamic student gone insane to a cold, calculating mobster with more money than brains. That has to be a real fall for a man who once thought he was on the way to something more refined and admirable. The truth is that he's made it almost impossible for Westerners to identify with his brand of thinking, even though I'm rather sure what he'd hoped for was more converts to Islam. Even the Islamic people who have come to the United States denounce his mindset and are disgusted with the way his actions have caused prejudice against them in a country where we usually encourage people to follow their religion freely. Islamic people who came to the U.S. and just want to earn an honest living, raise their children in good schools and live in safe neighborhoods are probably more angry at Osama bin Laden than those of us who grew up here and have enjoyed our freedoms all our lives. I suppose that's the saddest thing of all for Osama bin Laden. The very people he once might have influenced to a greater good have found that they don't need him for that. The truly great contributions that are made to the world come slowly in everyday individual choices and are not driven by some sudden terror like that of a September day five years ago.

If Osama bin Laden had held onto his young ideals for just a bit longer he might have been able to mature into a great leader. But his peak of insight seems to have passed with no positive mark on the world. Where are the universities and hospitals he might have erected with his wealth? Where are the young scientists he might have inspired to find a cure for diseases? Where are his great architectural students and the builders he could have mentored? Where are the leaders he might have sparked to bring spiritual wealth that would make the world a better place?

Instead, Osama bin Laden has become, to us Westerners, a disgruntled, middle-aged man who carries around a rifle and is hiding from virtually every law enforcement agency on the planet. He spends his hours with a few cronies and uses other young men's religious fervor to encourage them to go out to commit suicide (and to kill other people at the same time). And it's all for some cause that most of us here still don't even understand and probably never will, now that we've been exposed to his version of how to persuade people.

It's five years after September 11, 2001. Sadly, the things that most need to change haven't changed very much at all. But I have hope. There's a lot of violent talk in the Old Testament of the Bible that would be frightening to anyone who stopped there and did not also read the New Testament and find that Christ came to help people understand the true power of God in love and in caring for one another. Maybe the servants of Allah will take that same higher path. Otherwise, as someone very wise once noted, an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind.

posted at: 07:39 | category: /Religious and Spiritual | link to this entry

Fri, Sep 08 2006


Everyone speaks and writes with some sort of style. The place(s) where we began our life, the people who we listened to, our place in the pecking order of society—all these things and more combine to give us our voice as we communicate. I pay a lot of conscious attention to communication styles than most people, because a lot of what I do daily depends on words and their delivery.

Sometimes the very sound of someone's voice can make or break a speech. The way someone looks can influence our perception of their speech and their ability to communicate. Body language that doesn't match what someone is saying verbally can shut down an otherwise powerful delivery of the spoken word. Seeing (as well as hearing) someone speak can give an edge to speech or writing that would be otherwise left up to a reader's own interpretation and imagination. But the written word can fire can also fire the imagination for a reader who has no picture of an author to influence their thoughts.

I've enjoyed watching people argue over the work of Ann Coulter, whose words and self-portrayal elicit strong responses in almost everyone I know who has heard her speak or has read her words. I can't think of one person I've met who gave a lukewarm response to her. She either strikes a chord with someone's own strong opinions or she sets their teeth on edge. It's quite an ability and though I've never met her, she does seem keenly very aware that she has a strong effect on people. What I'm not certain of is that she persuades anyone to really take another look at things or to consider changing their opinions. If she speaks, or writes, to any issue she gets a loud hiss from the opposing side and a hearty "Atta girl!" from the side in agreement. Is this success? I don't know. Only Ms. Coulter can answer that question. It wouldn't be success for me, but we all have our own goals when it comes to communicating with others. And whether we admit it or now, we all have our own set of "baggage" that influences us to express ourselves in one way or another.

Florence King makes some interesting observations about Ann Coulter in Watch Ann Go Whoosh, including the danger of big media using her, and treating her, as some sort of cattle prod until "the next big thing" comes along. The argument is introduced as she is introduced and viewers get an adrenalin rush from the arguing and then mistakenly feel that something good just happened to change the world—and that they had some part in it because their emotions are aroused by the fight.

There's nothing wrong with arguing for argument's sake, if that's what you choose to do and if your audience knows that's all you're intending to do. But sometimes I wish that Ms. Coulter would take things just a step further for us, and let us see who she really is. We haven't really seen that yet, because she still seems, at least to me, to keep her real self walled-off behind the clever lawyer facade. I'm not imposing judgment on her style. It's her choice. But I'm hoping that someday she'll decide to use the spiritual vulnerablity she has in common with all humans to show us who she really is. If she does, I think we could be in for quite a treat.

posted at: 10:50 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

Thu, Sep 07 2006

Homeowners may be feeling uncomfortably wealthy

The best explanation I've found for the reasons lenders have been so willing to let marginally-qualified homebuyers squeak into ARMs was in a recent article from BusinessWeek Online. What was particularly distressing was to read that a lot of people who already had fixed rate mortages opted to go for an ARM instead of the more stable payments they already had.

I have to wonder if one of the reasons we've had such a dramatic rise in home prices, specifically in California, was because banks and other lenders were so eager to qualify potential homebuyers for ARMs. People are so desperate to hear that they qualify for a home that they may have been willing to look past the fine print or avoid reading it altogether, thinking that once they got into the process they would have greater assets or a higher income and could find a way to make those higher payments down the road.

There may be another sign of trouble. More people may not be able to make their home equity loan payments. A lot of homeowners in California used the escalating home appraisals to take out large home equity loans. Some used the money to improve the home itself, but some put the money into other risky investments or took that world cruise and bought new cars, forgetting that the house might decline in value a bit and that they'd still have equity payments to make whether those other risky investments panned out or not. Some people even took out home equity loans and used the money for down payments on even more properties.

The news this morning is that mortgage rates took a bit of a trend upward after several weeks of decline. Those homeowners who were hoping to sell their home to pay off the mortgage they can no longer afford may have missed their chance to move the property quickly. And they may not be able to move those extra properties some bought with home equity loans. A lot of people may soon be finding themselves fat on real estate holdings and staring bankruptcy in the face, all at the same time.

posted at: 11:10 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Wed, Sep 06 2006

World Land Trust is waiting for your text message

Did you know you could use a text message to offset your CO2 emissions? I suppose it was only a matter of time until nonprofit organizations found a way to make use of the cell phones out there. A tip of the Stetson goes to studio 501c for the link.

posted at: 13:53 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Will Fred Goldman get O.J. Simpson's autograph money?

If Fred Goldman is granted right of publicity from O.J. Simpson it could pave the way for some interesting cases in the future. I have no knowledge of Mr. Simpson's personal affairs, but the idea that a ruling in favor of Mr. Goldman might remove a right of publicity that Mr. Simpson could have signed over, or bequeathed to, his children could set a precedent that would affect other families who experience similar tragedies. I suppose it will take time, money, lawyers and judges to assess the situation properly, but if Mr. Goldman wins it would certainly be a landmark case for Sommer Barnard, who issued a press release this week on the petition.

posted at: 09:08 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Tue, Sep 05 2006

Mussolini is long gone—so what's all this new talk about Fascism?

It's been reported that Benito Mussolini's grandson wants an inquest in order to find out who actually killed his grandfather. Graphic photos record Mussolini (and several others) having been killed and their bodies dangling, upside-down, at a gas station.

Mussolini may be gone, but his fascist regime and his strange alliance with Adolph Hitler have kept him very much alive as a world history topic. The very word "Fascism" still evokes high emotions, as was recently evidenced when the word was used in separate settings by both U.S. Senator Rick Santorum and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Most of the words that evoke the most intense emotions in us all are words that have been used in some type of prior incident that also incited emotion. Think of "liberty", "freedom", and "justice", all of which have fairly good associations and have been used in stories throughout our American history. They probably give most of us some strong patriotic feelings. But now thicken the mix with "war", "poverty" and "oppression". Did you feel that little negative tug that began in the mid-section of your torso? Try these on for size; "terrorist", "torture", "bigotry". Throw in "treason", "murder", and "genocide". It's enough to make even a well-centered person head for some antacid. And the more specific the terms become, the more dangerous they begin to sound.

There's a reason why terms like "witch hunt", "McCarthyism" and others like them get a rise out of people. We associate these terms with actual events in the past that threatened individuals and destroyed lives. When we hear them we're on guard against a returning threat. We may not be afraid of Mussolini because he's dead. We can't help but cringe at the idea of his fascist controls being applied to new groups of people and producing new atrocities. The use of the word is very effective as an attention-getting device, particularly when used in combination with other groups of people now living. The word that was a threat to our ancestors leaps into our own lives and calls for adrenalin and defenses against those who might be a threat to us.

My concern is that the overuse of the term desensitizes people to real Fascism that could creep into society while we're all busy patting each other on the back for having overcome what somebody else manages to convince us is Fascism.

posted at: 14:51 | category: /Politics | link to this entry

Mon, Sep 04 2006

Vague, but firm

My spouse (and hence, the whole house) has had a bit of a problem lately with some trademark issues regarding FOREX material that was posted on one of our computer servers. But things are not always as they seem at first glance. You can read a bit more about it on the main domain home page.

I hear a lot of gossip about the people involved in these particular kinds of cease-and-desist letters and that gossip ranges from peer disdain and name-calling by teenagers to outright accusations of wrongdoing by adults. I've had no personal dealings with the people involved so I can't yet say with certainty that they have behaved foolishly. The fact remains that their electronic correspondence is full of incorrect, or at least outdated, information. And the delivery of their correspondence was possible only because of a piece of software whose ownership is in question.

Since this writer wishes to remain professional in position and tone, I will keep this brief and somewhat vague. I will simply invite all, particularly law enforcement personnel in California, to read the material and then to contact us, as you wish, regarding the particular details of the email and its unfortunate attachment—in case there are any pending investigations regarding the people in question.

posted at: 15:36 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Fri, Sep 01 2006

Photo of missing boy brought to mom 24 years later

Someone put photos of Johnny Gosch at the front door of his mother's home in Iowa. Johnny was one of the original missing kids pictured on a milk carton. Material on Johnny Gosch at Wikipedia contains references to several possibilities that could help explain his disappearance, including MK-Ultra and Project Monarch.

I did a small bit of research on MK-Ultra and Project Monarch a few years ago after encountering several individuals with certain social problems. Sadly, the bizarre stories about these projects make it difficult for anyone to confirm their existence. If people were given drugs and subjected to brainwashing techniques it would be tough for them to separate things that happened from things they were brainwashed to believe happened. In either case, it's not something pleasant to think about at all.

If Johnny's disappearance was for some other motive, it's still horrific to know that a young boy was taken from his family. If the people who took him are still living, maybe they've realized that their actions hurt many people. The recent appearance of the photographs may lead to at least some peace of mind for Noreen Gosch someday. I hope so. Just in case anyone may have seen a man who looks like him lately, I'm linking to a computer-generated image that shows what John Gosch might look like now, at age 35.

posted at: 15:13 | category: /Miscellaneous | link to this entry

Nice site—except for the pop-up skirmishes

I enjoyed finding the Third Party Watch blog, which covers topics related to political campaigns of folks who are not from one of the two major parties. What was not much fun was watching my pop-up stopping software take manic steps to keep some pop-up window from taking over the monitor screen. It was working so hard to prevent the pop-up that I was almost unable to read the blog at all.

I was also switching between browser windows quite a bit. (It's nothing for me to have half a dozen instances or more of a browser running at the same time and I occasionally run more than one kind of browser at a time.) I found that whenever I clicked back on Third Party Watch's window to make it active that my pop-up software had to go into action all over again, so someone had apparently never figured out how to log the fact that I had already visited the page once. Since I refused to disable the function that stops pop-ups I will probably never know what the pop-up window was intended to do.

I've been tempted to link to otherwise excellent sites many times, but have been dissuaded by this one irritating bit of web design. Is there even one legitimate use for a pop-up window that could not be implemented just as well with properly placed information on the original web page?

posted at: 08:49 | category: /Writing Life | link to this entry

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Stealin' copy is as bad as horse-thievin'
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