jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
It turns out that writing a novel from scratch is hard. Who knew? I mean, other than everyone who's ever tried.

process babble )
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
What a week, and it's not even over yet.

Mon thru Wed )

Today I finished reading Samuel Delany's Babel-17, which is brilliant and everyone should read it. The most recent edition (from Vintage) also includes Delany's story "Empire Star," which is written by a character in Babel-17, and is either brilliant or stupid and I cannot decide which.

Also today there was ziplining, which wants its own rant. But I'm tired and this is quite long enough already. Tomorrow.
jazzfish: an open bottle of ether, and George conked out (Ether George)
The temp broke thirty ("ninety") on Friday, and looks to do the same all this week. Thank gord we bought a portable air conditioner a few years back. That's enough to keep the living room bearable, mostly. It's also enough to make the lights flicker.

The real problem -- one of the real problems -- AMONG the real problems with this apartment are that its wall of windows faces southeast, so it gets all the morning sun. It's large enough that if there's a breeze we can open all the windows and get some airflow and it's not too bad... but it turns out that's a big If.


Turns out I don't function well, or at all, in the heat. Since sometime last week I've spent most of my time at home sitting/lying on the couch, reading or poking at the internet, despite there being things I would really like to do: write, viola, email, planning, applying for jobs, all that stuff. I consistently sit down for five minutes, and then end up not quite dozing off but unable to get up the energy to do anything else. And then eventually the sun goes down and I think "oh, wow, i was actually way too warm, i should do something about that for tomorrow." I can't tell when I'm getting too warm, is the thing. It creeps up on me and I'm vaguely uncomfortable and sluggish but that's about it, and it slows my brain down enough that making that connection becomes difficult.

jazzfish: Malcolm Tucker with a cell phone, in a HOPE-style poster, caption NO YOU F****** CAN'T (Malcolm says No You F'ing Can't)
On the one hand, yay for widespread recognition that the Confederate flag is a horribly racist emblem, even if it took a tragedy to get to that point.

On the other, I didn't really need confirmation that some number (greater than zero) of my relatives and in-laws are racist crackers.

Facebook: where you learn how much you can't stand your family.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
What are you reading?

Ignition! by John D. Clark, a history of the development of rocket fuel. I first heard of this book in Sand Won't Save You This Time, an article on why the author refuses to work with chlorine trifluoride ("a stronger oxidizing agent than oxygen itself ... it'll start roaring reactions with things like bricks and asbestos tile"). Indeed, chlorine trifluoride is only one of the many many overly dangerous substances (red fuming nitric acid, high-concentration hydrogen peroxide) that Clark takes a relatively cavalier attitude towards while describing their specific hazards in detail.

The book itself is a delightful combination of chemistry, history, and "and then they tried this mixture and it sat inert / froze too soon / corroded everything / blew up" (mostly the last), interspersed with color commentary and anecdotes. It's a great read, and I remember either just enough or not quite enough chemistry to make it more or less comprehensible. Not that that matters much: Clark does a good job of explaining the chemistry in layman's terms: mostly "this stabilized it so it wouldn't blow up when we jostled it" or, more commonly, "but that still had a disconcerting tendency to explode."

Ignition! is long out of print and used copies command ridiculous prices. Thankfully it can be found in PDF form at this link.

What did you just finish reading?

NK Jemisin's Dreamblood duology, set in a fantasy Egypt-inspired culture with dream magic. I read The Killing Moon several years ago, and started The Shadowed Sun and just could not get into it. So it sat on the shelf until I decided to try again... and the same thing happened. I have no idea why, either. This time I pushed through, and it picked up again for me around the 20% mark.

They're good political fantasies with culture clashes, and they do a fine job of making the cultures different not only from each other, but from what you, the reader, expect. The second book is also unexpectedly rapey: one highly nonconsensual kiss, two attempted rapes and a third threatened, and two actual rape scenes. This is not at all what I had expected. Still pondering whether I want to keep them around.

Also read eBear's steampunk western Karen Memory. It feels... minor, by which I guess I mean "not my thing." Karen's got a great voice and the characters are well-developed, it just felt... light. I dunno.

Also, some time ago (including for [personal profile] okrablossom) John M. Ford's Scholars of Night is an only-okay spy novel and a decent Mike Ford novel. Fun and worth reading but not something whose praises I'll be singing to the heavens. It's no Dragon Waiting, is I guess what I'm saying.

What do you think you'll read next?

Jo Walton's The Just City, because [personal profile] uilos has been bugging me to do so so she can rant at me about it.
jazzfish: a whole bunch of the aliens from Toy Story (Aliens)
An oldie but goodie: Deep Time Made Simple: "A Biblically Correct 6,000-year geological column drawing on the work of the Rt. Hon Archbishop Ussher." Too many choices for a pull-quote; I'll settle for "48 B.C.: All of Gaul is divided into three parts as Corsica collides with the European Plate." Although AD 1654 and 1754 are exceedingly hilarious as well.

Trash Food: "[T]he wealthy elite in this country are not starving. When they changed their eating habits, they didn't change their view of people. They just upgraded crawfish and catfish."

What Part of 'No, Totally' Don't You Understand?: "Until the end of the sixteenth century or thereabouts, English had a tidier solution to this problem: we had two words for 'no,' which we used in distinct ways." Linguistics is fascinating stuff.

Happy 100th Birthday, Orson Welles, in which a teenaged Welles walks into a theatre in Dublin and, with no professional experience whatsoever, gets cast in several plays.

Shut Up And Dance (movie dance compilation): a fantastic eighties song from 2014, set against the greatest film dance scenes of the last, what, thirty? years, plus some classics. I don't dance and this still gets me bopping in my seat.
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
Words: 729
Total words: 2011
Neat things: A talking rock. A hidden door. A nick-of-time escape.

Two thousand words in (and revising will likely add half again that many to these scenes) and things are still getting started. I think that means I am on the verge of committing novel. I... am not sure how I feel about that. I'd rather be writing and finishing shorter pieces. I suppose this will at least be interesting.

Soon I'm going to have to sit down and sketch out a bit of worldbuilding: place names, history, laws of magic, tech level, that sort of thing. I've been reluctant to do that so far because I worry that it'll sap all my narrative momentum. I don't want to be one of those writers who spends all their time fiddling with their secondary world. Some amount of that really is useful / necessary, though.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Sometime between 1983 and 1986 (aka "while we were in DC the first time") my parents bought a sleeper sofa, armchair, and ottoman from Cargo. Or possibly This End Up. They're made out of nicely finished pine lumber, mostly 2x4s and 1x6s, sanded and stained and with the corners rounded. Within a few years of the turn of the millennium they had the Least Comfortable Sofabed Ever taken out and replaced with a flat panel, and they got the cushions replaced (twice) as well.

When I moved into my own place in mid-2006, I took a bunch of furniture that had been in Pop Shackelford's house until November 2005, and also the Cargo set. I've been hauling them around ever since. I like them a lot: they're reasonably comfortable, they're sturdy, and they look rather nice.

They're also literally the only examples of this style of Cargo furniture I've seen in the wild.

Most Cargo furniture has solid slat sides and narrow armrests, as currently sold by This End Up as the 'Classic' collection. A somewhat less common variant is available as the 'Artisan' collection, with vertical rails and proper armrests. What we've got aren't either of those. Our furniture has the flat 2x4 armrests of the Artisans, but with a single 1x6 as a horizontal side rail. This old craigslist-esque ad is the only photo of the chair and ottoman I've found online. Note that the couch in that photo is wrong; only the chair matches our set.

When [personal profile] uilos moved into her own place in 2005 she acquired a gigantic blue two-piece Ikea sofa, and we've been hauling that around as well. It's a really nice sofa, perfect for stretching out on... but apartment living does not really call for three sofas, two of which are Large. And we both like the Cargo set better than the giant blue thing. So we've been halfheartedly looking in thrift stores and used furniture stores, hoping to come up with a chair or couch that matches the ones we've already got.

There are a couple of places in Vancouver (well, Burnaby. same difference. unless you're in Vancouver. or Burnaby, I guess) that will make custom furniture. We're at the point where calling one of those places and saying "Make us a chair and/or sofa like the one we've got" is beginning to seem like a reasonable plan.

But before we do that, I figure I may as well toss this out to the wider internet and see if anyone else is any better at tracking down obscure and possibly nonexistent 1980s furniture.

jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
Words: 658
Total words: 658
Neat things: "Fish and fishfolk circled below her." Questionable, unstable, and possibly-explosive technology.

New project, from a scrap of an idea I wrote down years ago (thanks to Vesper for being a note-taking app that's a delight to use, even though I'm only using the barest minimum of its functionality).

I have a setting, a Spunky Young Protagonist, and a general sense of brightly-colored fast-paced action. I know the next couple of scenes, and beyond that I have no idea whatsoever where this thing is going, or even how long it wants to be. To paraphrase Vincent "Apocalpyse World" Baker, Write to find out.

Eventually I'm going to need a title, but that can come with the plot.

"Weren't you writing something else?" Yep. New project is a result of stalling out on "Blood On Her Hands And A Stone At Her Throat," partly because I am unsure of the proper capitalisation for the honking long title but mostly because I can't come up with a plot climax to fit the emotional climax I want. This may be a case of being kneedeep in a story and thinking it's terrible (step 3, or possibly 4, of Marcus Romer's six steps of the creative process) but I'm pretty sure it's more than just that. It Does Not Work on a fundamental level and I just can't get it to work.

My options include "write it anyway," which I am not thrilled by, "rip the middle of the story apart again and rewrite it," which I am not thrilled by, and "set it aside for awhile and come back to it later," which I am not thrilled by but which at least doesn't make me want to tear my hair out. Hence, new project.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
I am home, after literally twelve hours travelling. It would have been less but Delta's checkin system is incapable of understanding the concept of "permanent resident," and wouldn't check me in for a flight to Canada unless I could tell them when I'd be leaving Canada. I figured I'd better get there early in case their desk staff were as incompetent as their computer system. They weren't, so yay, except for the part where I sat around BWI for two and a half hours to go with the three-hour layover at JFK.

It's rainy and grey and just a bit chilly here. Feels like home. We got the obligatory couple of nice weeks in early May to lull us into complacency, and now Vancouver has said "FOOLED YOU!" and gone back to being miserable until the first of July.

I'm finding it easier to read printed books than ebooks. Not sure what's going on there; the physical item is just more attractive to me somehow. I may be objecting to the bright white "page" background? I dunno. But I blasted through a reread of Kavalier & Clay on the trip out, and am halfway through Jane Jacobs's Death & Life of Great American Cities after starting it in BWI around noon.

I'm finally getting around to reading the Jacobs because if I'm going to keep ranting about Robert Fucking Moses and the terrible things urban planning has done, I should at least know a little of what I'm talking about. (At dinner with Megan I went on a bit of a tirade. Apparently I have Opinions about cities, and automobiles, and urban development in general. Who knew?) The book is really interesting, by which I mostly mean "confirms many of my prejudices and preferences," but also feels very dated in parts. Like the bit where she's horrified, and expects the reader to be horrified, by the woman who won't let her kids, between the ages of eight and fourteen, go down and play "in the street" (on the sidewalk) outside their New York apartment.

Reading the book makes me think that the living environment I want is "New York, specifically Greenwich Village, in the late fifties." Which is going to be difficult. I am pretty sure there are neighborhoods in Vancouver that can sort of replicate that feeling: Commercial, Mt Pleasant. They'll just take some effort to find.

Meanwhile I need to unpack and sort and generally fall back into a normal yet useful rhythm. Today, I think, is a wash as far as scheduling and Doing Things (other than viola practice, which Must Happen) go. Tomorrow will be better.


May. 23rd, 2015 11:03 pm
jazzfish: an open bottle of ether, and George conked out (Ether George)
Coming back from the beach we hit traffic on 95 north at about four o'clock, and I was just completely Done. I'd been planning on meeting up with Megan J-- and getting a lift to either the metro station or BWI, picking up a rental car at BWI, driving to Hunt Valley wherever that is, being wildly sociable for about four hours possibly more, then falling over on an air mattress in a hotel only to wake up the next morning and drive back to BWI to fly home. But I was exhausted, and headachey, and the prospect of fighting through DC traffic, even light DC traffic, seemed suddenly just too much to take.

So I hung out with Megan for a while and got dinner at a decent Mexican place near Springfield Mall Towne Centre, and now I'm at my parents' place for the night.

I have had a good-but-lonely time at the beach, playing games and seeing people I don't see nearly often enough. On Friday I went out and dozed in the sand for half an hour or so, because if you aren't sunburnt then no one will believe you were really at the beach. And talking with Megan was pleasant as always, and my folks and my niephlings are decent company, and I am very tired.

I am also very far behind on my internet reading. Anticipated catchup: mid next week, or possibly never.

(But probably mid next week.)
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
At the beach with boardgamers, like I do. It's been good for the most part: good games, decent company, sunshine, conditioned air. Feeling a bit more disconnected than usual this year. Partly this is because [personal profile] uilos isn't here, because "end of the school year" is a terrible time for an assistant instructor to try and take a week-long vacation. Other likely culprits include a sharp lack of time to introvert (the wifi downstairs is sketchy at best), and the fact that vacations feel less like vacations when they're a vacation from an unstructured life.

(The lack of structure is starting to seriously get to me, I think. When I get back I will have to a) restructure my life a bit more cleanly and, well, usefully, and b) start looking for work. These things are at least more or less complementary.)

For the first time in six years I'm not going to Wiscon. This is weird. I'm gonna miss the smart panels and conversations and the company, and downtown Madison. I am almost certainly going to stick my head in at Balticon, where I can at least get some of the smart conversations and good (if different) company.

Having writing thoughts, which is not at all the same as actually writing. Those ... may gel into a post later this week.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
(xposting here from elseweb, with expansions / clarifications)

I'll be in Seattle tomorrow (Friday) from roughly noon (train arrives in Chinatown) 'til nine (need to be at Seatac to catch a flight east). My current plan involves wandering Pike Place Market and environs while dragging a suitcase, and maybe finding a place to sit and write.

From there I fly to Norfolk for a week in the Outer Banks with the Arlington Board Gamers.

After that I'm in the DC area from about two pm Saturday (that's the 23rd) until oneish on Sunday, since I need to catch a flight from BWI at two. I have no real plans for that twenty-three-hour period.

However! I'd thought Balticon was the weekend after that but it turns out it's that weekend. So I may go up to Hunt Valley and hang out there for awhile? I dunno.
jazzfish: Pig from "Pearls Before Swine" standing next to a Ball O'Splendid Isolation (Ball O'Splendid Isolation)
I'm not writing much here these days. This... is probably not a good sign.

Weekend before last my parents were in town. We had quite a good visit: hit the Maritime Museum and Granville Island, wandered arond Queen Elizabeth Park (a large hill in the middle of the city that used to be a quarry, so it's got some very neat planned-gardens and waterfalls and such, and also a domed conservatory with lots of birds), and ate much tasty food. Dad and I got our "portraits" done in magic marker on cardboard, by an itinerant artiste while we were loitering in Gastown.

They left very early on Tuesday morning, and I was thinking "it would have been nice if they'd stayed another day or so." I think this means that the visit was exactly as long as it should have been.

My viola finally arrived yesterday. Stupid Long & McQuade. It is in fact black and not green, as I'd requested, and the electric pickup seems to work, and in general it looks quite nice. And maybe sounds as well, at least when someone who knows what they're doing is playing it.

That is clearly not me. I feel like between the Gathering and my parents' visit I have lost most of whatever skill I'd developed and have been fumbling worse than usual trying to get it back.

It'll come. I keep telling myself that. I think I'm now past the point where any jumpstart I had from cello is doing me any good, and am having to learn the hard way like anyone else. Frustrating. Practice, practice, practice.

That may be part of my problem, honestly. I'm not really doing much of anything that I'm *good* at. Rather, the things I'm good at are either not things that I want to be doing (tech writing) or of very little use (boardgames). I'm a beginning violist with all that that implies, and a fiction writer with limited experience. And doing those things is how one gets better at them, but it's really annoying to spend my days feeling like I'm terrible at everything I try.

Which may be part of why I've been hiding. I don't know.
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
Words: 429
Total words: 5,043
Neat things: A standoff that won't end the way the guy with the wand expects it will. And Everywhere the light fell I saw more forgotten sculptures and paintings, tax write-off donations from rich heirs who wanted the stuff even less than the museum did.

Been tapping away at this off and on. I think I may be at the point where there's more plot in my head than on the page. Which means I need to write the scenes that I know will be in there, and then figure out how to stitch it all together.

One of these days I will remember that this is how my process works and that when I know what a scene is I ought to go ahead and write it. Especially if I'm stuck on how the plot hangs together in the middle.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
I went out for dinner with a couple of writer-type friends yesterday. There was a huge brown cloud hanging over downtown, soaking up all the light. It looked decidedly thunderstorm-y, which is not a look we get often out here. I picked up the pace and got indoors before any precipitation actually started.

Steph and Kat showed up about ten minutes later, with umbrellas out.

"It's decided to precipitate, then?"

"It is *hailing*," Kat said.

Today about an hour ago we had an actual thunderclap (just the one). Right now there's pinging off the window behind me which is most likely just rain, but could be tiny hail pellets. Chaos, who's sitting next to me, is a little perturbed by all the Weird Noises.

Stupid weather. Bad timing for my parents coming to visit this weekend, too.
jazzfish: five different colors of Icehouse pyramids (iCehouse)
I'm at the Gathering again this year, spending a week-plus playing games and hanging out with people. Financially it was likely an unwise decision to go... but I found a roommate, and a cheapish flight to/from the vicinity, and darnit, it just seemed like fun.

It feels different this year. I went last year and had a blast, but it was all sort of overwhelming. It's a lot calmer-seeming now. I'm used to it, I guess, or maybe I'm just in a better place myself. [personal profile] uilos didn't make it due to some work shenanigans plus the general hazard of being on an academic schedule, that's a pretty big shift as well.

I'm rooming with Christine who I met once when we first moved out to Vancouver. She's an excellent roommate and a fine person, but she's very much an extrovert. I have not had this much conversation in the mornings in a very very long time.

Been getting up pretty much every morning to play 18xx games. I have consistently come in last or next-to-last in every one so far. No great surprise considering that a lot of these guys have been playing since well before I started doing any serious gaming at all. It's been really excellent regardless: I've learned a bit, and I've had a lot of fun.

Hard to believe it's nearly over. Not sure if I'm coming back next year; it's not easy to justify the expense when I'm not making a stupid amount of money. But it *is* a very very good trip. Eh. I don't know.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Ice Balls: "That Saturday morning I saw our CEO glowing with ego and it occurred to me that maybe testosterone wasn’t that cute of a look. Maybe the estrogen my body makes naturally was what kept me from doing dumb shit like paying 50 people for 3 hours of San Francisco minimum wage so that someone would look at my wedding album."

David Bowie Writing New Musical Based on The Man Who Fell to Earth: "Inspired by the novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, Lazarus features a host of new Bowie songs, as well as new arrangements of previously recorded tunes."

The curious case of the disappearing Polish S: "This is a story of how four incidental ingredients spanning decades (if not centuries) came together to cause the most curious of bugs."

The Mystery of Lê From Hop Sing Laundromat: "Later, I would reach out and talk to Lê's friends, his regulars, some of his former employees. I'd ask each of them the same question: What do you know about this guy? And, invariably, the answer would be the same: Nothing."

Making Sense Of Maple Syrup: notable for a) a change in the syrup grading system, which makes me sad because now the uninformed will no longer buy "grade A"/"#1" thinking it's superior to grade B/#2 and leave the good stuff for me, and b) "Grade B is part of a popular cleanse with cayenne pepper and now we ship all of our Grade B to California because of that." *sigh*

Do not mess with the animal kingdom:

Angry badger shuts down luxury Stockholm hotel, forces police to intervene: "It remains unclear why the badger was angry."

Rogue owl caught after year-long reign of terror in Dutch town: "In one of the many assaults, two members of a local athletics clubs were attacked last month, with one runner requiring stitches for six head wounds caused by the nocturnal bird of prey's talons."

Squirrel blamed for car engine stuffed with nuts: "Evans says the driver recognized the nuts."
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
This A Softer World comic hits uncomfortably close to home, and would have reduced me to tears and speechlessness about five years ago.

Let's see.

Foot: still sore, still a little swollen. Going back to icing it today.

Viola: Went to pick it up on Monday. I am much less of a fan of the colour than I'd hoped: it's a lot flatter than anticipated, and it makes it look... cheap. More importantly, there was an inch-long crack next to the tailpiece. Looked like someone had dropped the package on its end and hit the tailpiece just right. So it's going back to the factory. I'll call the store today and see if I can talk to a human being and cancel the dye job, just get a glossy-black hybrid.

On the bright side, they loaned me the standard carbon-fibre viola they had in stock, and it sounds roughly a zillion times better than the $200 rental I had before. So there's that.

Writing: Been plinking away at this %&$ story. It looks like I'm going to have to do something I've never done before: write a scene or three from a different character's perspective so I can figure out what happens, even though I know for a fact I'm not going to use those scenes. Oh well. Going out to sit in a coffeeshop & write with Steph this evening, which will be pleasant.

Role-playing: reached a stopping point in the Lords of Gossamer & Shadow game last week. I made a rookie-GM mistake in the Big Fight Scene and had an NPC doing a lot of the actual fighting but apart from that it went reasonably well. We're now taking a break to play 13th Age, which appears to be "D&D with fewer rules and more cool storytelling tools."

There's also been some friction with the perennially difficult player, which might warrant its own post later. Or maybe not.

Boardgames: Forgot to mention that I spent much of last weekend at another boardgame convention thing. This one's run by a local wargame club, but they have a small contingent of 18xx players. It was decent: got in three games, and enjoyed the company alright. They have regular meetings one Friday a month, to which I may go.

I leave for the Gathering (ten-day gaming convention in Niagara) in eight and a half days. Based on the cost breakdown and the general state of finances this is probably a mild error in judgement, but it'll be fun.

Speaking of money, I'm also sorting through taxes, which are slightly complicated this year. That's why we pay Chris-the-accountant the small-to-medium bucks. On the "bright" side we're likely to get a small-to-medium refund depending on how some things get classified.

Cats: Are adorable. Chaos is a lot more mobile, and also a lot less steady on his feet than he wants to be, especially when jumping. But he *is* jumping, so that's a good sign. Mostly they both do a lot of sleeping, as is appropriate for elder kittens.

Overall things are good, I think.
jazzfish: Two guys with signs: THE END IS NIGH. . . time for tea. (time for tea)
At eight it seemed like a good idea to have a cup of the tea that Ed gave us for xmas. (It's a flavored tea whose name escapes me but is on the tin, and is rather tasty; so saith the person who normally dislikes flavored teas, so.) At half past midnight it's seeming like a less good idea.

E & I watched Ronin again this evening. I remember going to see it in the Lyric when it came out, probably on a 75cent Tuesday, with Mandy and Vond and whoever else, and thinking, "They made a movie of a Cyberpunk game session." It's also namechecked in Night's Black Agents (the role-playing game of spies versus vampires) as a direct inspiration for the kind of gameplay Ken Hite was going for. It holds up very very well: great car chases, fun but not overdone dialogue, Sean Bean getting ambushed by a cup of coffee. Recommended. (Do not ever watch the "alternate ending" on the DVD. It is terrible and will make you think less of the movie by its very existence.)

My foot seems to be healing up from last weekend; it's just tight and a little sore across the front of the ankle. And my viola has come in at last, and I'll go and get it tomorrow. That will be good.


jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
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Adventures in Mamboland

"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

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