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The Lottery. It’s a Persian thing.

February 25th, 2010 by stephanie

Have you ever heard the story about Queen Esther? Well if you haven’t, there was this king in ancient Iran who got mad at his Queen. His staff suggested he throw her off the throne so as not to be shamed, since she had publically disobeyed. It had been a humiliating event for the King to say the least. So, off she went.

In time, the King grew very sad, and the royal staff grew worried. It was time to find a new lady for the lonely monarch. And so they did. With that, a nationwide beauty pageant-type search was put underway. All the lovely virgins from regions around were brought to the harem and prepared for their “audition”.

One exceptional creature won the heart of the King. Her name was Esther. Unfortunately for our new heroine, she was Jewish. Now, that’s not a problem in itself, except that a particularly powerful person, who had the King’s ear, hated those members of Jewish race. It wasn’t looking good for Esther or her people. And it wasn’t long before this evil man, Haman, figured out a way to get rid of them. But the plot was foiled, and the Hebrew people were, in the end, saved. Hooray! But only by the bravery of our lovely new Queen who put her life on the line when it came down to the wire.

That said, in case you didn’t know, this very story is commemorated and celebrated by the Jewish people, annually, to this day. So what about that Lottery thing? Oh, yes…

Lots were cast to pick the day that Haman and his cronies would kill the Jews. The Hebrew word for Lots is Pûrîm. And so, this coming weekend, Jewish folks the world over will celebrate the holiday simply known as: Purim.

Their children will dress up as characters from the story, and they will read the Megilla (The Book of Esther) out loud. They will have graggers (noise makers) on hand. And each time the name of the evil Haman is read aloud they will Boo and hiss and wave their graggers. It’s quite a scene to be sure.
There will be food and festivities the entire weekend. So everyone can be sure to get in on the fun.

So there you have it. If you thought the Lottery was relatively new, think again. The ancient Persians (Iranians) beat us to it. And, the tradition even ended up with its own holiday! Who knew.

Just my thoughts.

PS: If you like movies, check out One Night with the King. Good stuff.
Purim’s Passion seen in today’s world. Click here

If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

February 23rd, 2010 by stephanie

Most of us will admit, we grew up hearing the statement: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
If it didn’t come from our mothers it came from some other well meaning soul that wanted to help us along our way.
As we munched on our nachos, I spent the entire time debriefing my Friday. She sat across from me quietly listening, nodding, encouraging. It wasn’t until we decided to walk a bit of the mall and found a resting place that the hurt began to show in her day. In time, it was her turn to spill. As she shared a particular incident, all I could think of was, “Why do people have a need to be ‘mean’?”

Sometimes, it’s not even the saying of anything that hurts–it can simply be the actions. More times than not, I can remember where someone didn’t have to say a word. They were just “rude” or cruel in their behavior. I think you follow me on this one.

I was assisting a friend with a project awhile back. There were some other folks involved and for some reason, they just didn’t seem to like my presence. Rather than explain what the problem was, they decided to just, well, be rude. It wasn’t the words they chose necessarily as it was the tone, or their body language when they said it.

It’s amazing how people can say something like “Pass the stapler,” and make it sound like you just cut them off in traffic. It’s that vibe that gives off the-I have to be at my destination in five minutes-and you are in my way! It never ceases to amaze me when people in that frame of mind take out their anger on the person in their space and make them feel it is their fault. Strange.

And too, some people seem to have a need to let you know that the color or style of the shirt you’re wearing, “Just isn’t workin’ for ya today.” Or, perhaps you might want to rethink that “idea” you had. For whatever reason, they need to let you know, in some way, that you are a bit less, or inferior to them. Even more so, that they simply don’t like you. The thrill of the “jab”, I call it.

I don’t know how their treatment of you and me in those situations makes them feel better, but alas, I guess it does. Someone hurt them at some point in their life, they are still wincing from the pain, and they will make someone pay. And today, that someone will be you-or me.

With that, regardless of the odd-bird whoozits or whatzits in our lives today, let’s plan to remember this old saying too: misery loves company.

So, let’s not keep company with the miserables. Leave them alone. Let them go their way. And as for you and me, my friend, if we can’t say something nice back, let’s just not say anything at all.

Just my thoughts.


Prov. 15:1

Washington’s B-day. Do you recall…?

February 22nd, 2010 by stephanie

Today is George Washington‘s birthday. He’s pretty big deal in the ole U S of A. Some of you may remember, that we used to celebrate both Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays as separate days. But not these days. The holiday is now called PRESIDENTS DAY. It’s a Federal Holiday, to be sure, but its purpose nowadays is set to honor the office of the Presidency and all Presidents.

But, today, I prefer to recall Washingon’s birthday. There’s another thing I also recall. Do you remember tracing George Washington’s profile (and Lincoln’s) in elementary school? Remember the projector on the wall? We’d trace the faces of both of those men and proudly tote them home to share with all. Well, I guess I am dating myself. But I truly thought that was cool. Many, many homes in America displayed the profiles of those two Presidents on their walls (usually over or near the fireplace). But these days, that’s a pretty rare sight.

If you don’t know much about the man, he was the General of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and then became our nation’s very first President. He was easily re-elected, serving two terms, before returning to his beloved Mount Vernon residence.

I had the privilege of visiting his home some years back. Somewhere along the way, I’d forgotten that both he and his wife Martha had owned slaves. But Washington freed those that belonged to him upon his death. (I was surprised when I later learned that another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, never did.) As I stepped into the dining room through an outside door, the guide crossed the room to another door exactly opposite our entry. He opened it slowly only to reveal the most stunning view of the river below. It was breathtaking. Talk about a room with a view! Moving out onto the wooden porch, we admired the sweeping panorama.

Apparently, folks from miles around would just appear on The Washingtons’ doorstep and stay for days. As if their home was a Bed and Breakfast with a neon sign that said, “Welcome. Eat, stay for free.” I can’t believe people would do that, but, oddly enough, they did. What a gracious pair!

When we entered his office, it was his personal luggage, or trunk, that he carried with him wherever he went during his war days, that struck me. We can’t imagine hauling all over creation a carved wooden box that holds our necessities and dearest posessions. These days, everything has wheels and can be pulled handily behind us. Or, we just Fed Ex it on ahead.

Upon entering his bedroom, where he took his last breath, I inadvertently held mine. It was truly an experience I value to this day.

With that, here’s to remembering a great man who helped to get it all started. Thank you, Mr. President. And a very Happy Birthday.

Just my thoughts,

The Best Laid Plans of Ice and Men.

February 18th, 2010 by stephanie

The Olympic flame hadn’t even been lit. As the news poured across the wires, the world sat stunned. A 19-year old athlete, whose father had been a medal-winning olympian for the old Soviet Union, was gone. A horrible crash during a practice run on the Luge track had taken his young life. Shock ensued. Was it an eerie omen?

That same night, one of the four caldrons, that were set to light the Olympic flame during the Opening Ceremonies, malfuntioned. Wayne Gretsky, the great one, waited, wondering what move to make next.

The Outdoor Olympic Flame had issues too. At a press conference, a Canadian TV reporter inquired as to why the flame had been placed behind “a ratty-looking prison-camp fence.” Apparently, the Globe and Mail newspapers chimed in and referred to the new Olympic city as old Berlin.

If you aren’t aware, the flame is a pretty big deal. People come from all over the world to experience it. A spokeswoman for the organizing committee responded to the public fury and outcry, ” Perhaps we did underestimate the degree to which people would want to get close to it.”

The local paper addressed the head of the Vancouver Games: “Mr. Furlong, tear down this fence!”

But there was more.

20,000 standing-room only tickets for the snowboarding venue had to be voided. Fans had fallen between the bales of hay under the melting layers of “trucked-in” snow. They were assured refunds. But those who made the trek up the mountain anyway to see events, were met with blinding snow.

The Winter venue was taking quite a ribbing: “Welcome to the Vancouver Summer Olympics”.

Timing issues hit the biathlon events. A Swedish woman was held up at her start gate for 14 seconds, while two of the men started too early.

The word “incompetence” began echoing throughout the valleys below.

The competition schedule wasn’t fairing any better:
– The Men’s Super-Combined, in the mountains at Whistler, was postponed due to an overnight snowstorm.
– The Snowboardcross Finals were rescheduled as well.
– Women’s Downhill training, which had been postponed repeatedly earlier in the Olympics due to wet weather that ruined the snow–was canceled. Each day of delayed training gave multimedal favorite Lindsey Vonn, who had badly bruised her right shin on 2/5/10, time enough to heal. But for everyone else, the delays wore thin.

It didn’t stop there.

At the Luge Track, a spigot went off, spraying a section near the finish. The German racer waited two minutes before she was finally able to take her run.

At the speedskating venue, the resurfacing machine malfunctioned and left the ice in piles of slush and full of dips with water. A replacement Zamboni, specifically designed for the size of a speedskating oval, had to be hauled in from an entire province over in Calgary.

Then, during a free concert, a barricade collapsed sending nine people to the hospital. The concert was called off as well as the fireworks display.

All this, and it was only Day 5!!!

Vancouver landed the honor of becoming an Olympics venue years ago. Planning and preparation had been in the works for many, many months. But try as they might, things happen. Sometimes, the very people and places we count on just don’t come through as we hoped for or planned.

In fairness, it’s not just these ill-fated Winter Olympics of 2010 that experience trials and tribulation. You and I too, may have the best of intentions. We work earnestly for months, if not years, only to, at times, have the best laid plans fall at our feet like a shattered crystal goblet.

Should we plan? Yes. Work? You bet. Sometimes, however, our own personal efforts just aren’t enough. Outside factors intrude and we’re left holding the bag. We need to realize that life happens. And when it does, all will be watching to see what we do with the pieces. No matter who is at fault. Who we truly are will be known to all as they watch us either rise from the proverbial ashes or crawl under the pile of glass and cry.

It reminds me of a verse from the book of James: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit’. You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow…”

Just my thoughts.

What’s That on Your Forehead?

February 17th, 2010 by stephanie

I will never forget one particular day while routinely tuning in to catch the evening news, I caught a glimpse of a U.S. Senator who was being interviewed. What wasn’t routine was the black smudge on his forehead that I kept inadvertently trying to wipe off the TV screen. Then it hit me: Today is Ash Wednesday.

In case today catches you a bit by surprise, perhaps this bit of information will spare you an awkward moment with that colleague or person on the street that you might encounter. Tip: Today is Ash Wednedsay. People go to church, and the priest makes the sign of the cross on their forehead–with ashes.

For those of you still feeling a little left out, here are some talking points for you on the significance and traditions of this day:

– The Ashes are made from burned palm fronds (leftovers from last year’s Palm Sunday).

– Today is the first day of Lent.

– It is also known as Day of Ashes: dies cinerum (day of ashes) in the Roman Missal.

– It is the Wednesday after Quinquagesima Sunday (say that three times out loud as fast as you can). What does it mean? Basically, 50 days before Easter!

– Ash Wednesday is 40 days before Good Friday.

– Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation.

– It is the day after Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras).

There. Feeling smarter already? Now, just think of the conversations this information can get you into. Some of you are saying, “Hmmmm, I might pass on that offer, but thanks.”

For you braver types, here’s the deal. In the Bible, Ashes signify mourning. And too, when in angst, people would tear their clothes and put ashes on their head (i.e.:1 Samuel 4:12, Esther 4:1).

Ashes also symbolize how the sinner feels when he stands before and acknowledges the all-just God.

And too, there is a verse in the book of Genesis that reminds us of the shortness of our lives, ”Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.” (you know, the old “ashes to ashes dust to dust” thing.)

So there you have it. Ash Wednesday brings to remembrance these things:
1. You and I are sinners (but saved by the action of Christ on the cross).
2. God is all powerful, just, and holy (we are not).
3. Life is short. Make the most of it (not just physically, and mentally, but spiritually, too).

So just think. You now have the next 40 days of Lent to ponder these very things and other points of life. But most importantly than that, if you see folks today with a dark smudge on their foreheads (in the shape of a cross), you will at least now hopefully not walk up to them and say, “Hey, you have something on your forehead.”

Just my thoughts,

Last Big Shindig…

February 16th, 2010 by stephanie

Well, today is Mardi Gras. French for “Fat Tuesday”. This day, before Ash Wednesday, is known for the huge celebration that occurs before the 40-day period known to many faithful followers of the church as LENT. If you aren’t familiar with Lent, it is the period of perparation and remembrance before Easter (Resurrection day). And, is the supposed season of abstinence. Some people love it. Some people fear it.

But for today, the focus is on a big, happy Last Hurrah: Carnival. I dated a guy who repeatedly told me how much he loved Marid Gras. I remember him holding up and pointing out to me a box full of celebratory photos. Ironically, he refused to show me the pictures of his precious trips to the Big Easy. Hmmmmm. Our dating season didn’t last long.

Carnival period, as it is known, begins around Epiphany (or Twelfth Night/January 6) and ends on Ash Wednesday (tomorrow). The two most famous cities that take part in this long held tradition?
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and New Orleans, Louisiana–of course.

But did you know that Venice, Italy is actually home to one of the most famous Carnival celebrations in the world? Carnival of Venice ring a bell? Yep. They can actually find record of festivities dating back to the year 1268!

In 1294 A.D., a chap named Comte de Provence Charles II, Duc d’Anjou attended the festivities in Nice, France. And, apparently Carnival even back then included balls, masquerades, bonfires, jugglers, mimes, and more. There was a catch however, if you wanted to take part you had to show up in costume with a mask.

Today, to me, like any festival, it’s all about the food.
If you’re from Ireland or the United Kingdom, the festival for you is called “Shrovetide” (and today for you is Shrove Tuesday). And in your neck of the woods it’s all about the pancakes. You even refer to this day as Pancake Day!

But for those of us in the Deep Southern states, who do the Mardi Gras thing, it’s all about the King Cake (Twelfth Night Cake). For our readers that might not quite be up to speed on this particular tasty treat, the cake is symbolic of the journey the Three Wisemen took to visit baby Jesus. Supposedly, their journey lasted 12 days and found them arriving on January 6-Epiphany. Coming together for you a bit?

This cake is similar to the All-American cinnamon roll, topped with icing or sugar, usually baked in a ring shape, and, frosted or iced with the three colors of Mardi Gras: gold, green, and purple (symbolic of power, faith, and justice). And of course, in honor of our three kings.

The baker of the King Cake hides a surprise in the cake, usually a dried red bean or a figurine of a baby representing the Christ child. When the cake is cut whoever gets the piece with the hidden treasure is said to enjoy good luck for the coming year. Or, you have to bake the King Cake or throw the Mardi Gras party next year.

Whatever the case, I am always amazed, that if you look deep enough into most holidays or festivals (at least those created prior to the 1900s) you will find a religious connection or symbolism.

So there you have it. Today is the feast day (Mardi Gras) before the famine (Lent). So, have your King Cake and eat it too. Come back tomorrow, and we’ll fill you in on Ash Wednesday and the days ahead. As always, for today…

Just my thoughts.


Happy Birthday, Mr. Presidents.

February 15th, 2010 by stephanie

As the brand new Congress (originally meeting in the city of New York) argued vehemently over what exactly to call their nation’s new leader, tempers flared.

Having just suffered to a great extent, life and limb, for freedom from Imperial government, the thought of a Royal title made some men in the room physically ill.

Others, having been reared in a history steeped in protocol and tradition found it difficult to shake what they had known all their lives: “titles”.

After more than a month of debate, a decision was finally reached. The man that would lead the new world would simply be referred to as: Mr. President.

It wouldn’t be until about 100 years later that Congress would create a Federal holiday to honor the birthday of the man who received that first honor: General George Washington. And even then, it started out as merely a Federal holiday for the D.C. area. Giving those in the nation’s Capitol a well deserved day off.

But Americans loved then, and still do, their famous George. And the idea caught on. In time, President’s Day came to be celebrated on that 3rd Monday of February by the masses as well.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Holiday Inn, with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, you will recall the shows they performed on those special days. One thing most folks may not remember is that, like The Holiday Inn, our nations citizens used to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday and George Washington’s separately and on different days. Not combined into one, as we do today.

Washington’s actual date of birth was February 22. And Lincoln’s birthday is the 12th. Interestingly, in the 1950’s there was a President’s Day Committee (that came out of California) whose goal was to turn the day into a celebration of merely the office of the Presidency.

We went from celebrating Lincoln’s Day and Washington’s Day to President’s Day. Then we went to Presidents-plural-in general-day. Clear as mud?

And there you have it. So, whether you are off celebrating today, or if you are at the workplace or office, you now have a bit of trivia behind all the Federal fuss. From what I hear, there are some great sales going on, too. But as we have snow and ice, and some roads are closed, I think I’ll hunker down, do a bit of remembering, and simply enjoy the day at home.

Just my thoughts. Yours?

Let the Games Begin!

February 11th, 2010 by stephanie

Ok. So, word is now out. I am a huge Olympics fan. And it started early. I remember sitting glued to the television as a young girl mesmerized by those Eastern European gymnasts who wowed the crowd with their every move – and win!

But I will never forget watching the evil, all-powerful Red team (the Soviets) taking on that scrappy White team (Team USA) on the ice during the 1980 Winter Games. A triumph that will live in the hearts and minds of many a viewer forever.

Everyone knew that the amatuer American kids were going to get creamed by the hardened, full-time Russian professionals, but for us die-hard, underdog-rooting Patriots, we couldn’t resist cheering on our rabble rousers…and holding out eternal hope.

Never in a million years could we have imagined our boys getting close in score, let alone catching up – then winning!. It was truly one of those moments that give you goosebumps whenever you recall it. The story was even made into a movie, or two….

“Eleven seconds, you’ve got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

I still get chills.

And, I can still see the faces of the dazed Russians standing on the Silver platform waiting to receive their 2nd place medals. These men only knew one color: Gold. We all watched with wide eyes as they stood stunned and horrified.

Back then, stories often leaked about the very bad things that happened to athletes in communist countries who “lost” at the olympics. Many times, athletes would “defect” to our country once they finally got to the Olympic games. The Iron Curtain and the villainy of its tyranny was very real in those times. America and Russia were enemies. Their people were not “free” and we despised them for holding their citizens as hostages in their own homeland. I had the opportunity to see that manner of governing first hand when I stayed a few days with a family in East Germany. I stood at the Berlin Wall in 1989 – right before the wall fell! But that’s for another blog…

It’s hard to imagine now, but in those days, the olympics were more than a contest of sports. We citizens of the world played out our international politics on the fields and on the slopes. Whoever took home the Gold, truly “ruled” so to speak. So the race was ALWAYS “on”. And it was usually the “free” countries vs. those that we believed were not.
Vancouver 2010
These days, it’s back to more of a sportsman, who’s the best athlete, ain’t that cool, kinda thing. And, if you’re like me, the tissue box is at hand as we watch those amazing segments that follow the athletes back to their homes and villages where we are allowed an intimate look into their personal lives and their journey to that coveted spot at the revered Olympic Games.

There is something so powerful about watching our fellow humanity as they face amazing odds, rising repeatedly at the crack of dawn, and pushing their minds and bodies to limits few of us will ever experience let alone comprehend.

So, at my house, the television set will, as usual, be on from Opening to Closing ceremonies. My faithful Labrador Mix will probably be able to howl to the Olympic Network Theme (or hopefully the Star Spangled Banner!) by the end of February. No matter what is going on, the constant stream of athletes, their remarkable stories, and the fabulous events will flow throughout my home and mind. Kind of like at your house — I would imagine.

Be sure to tune in with me and watch as you are able. The Opening Ceremonies begin Friday evening, 2/12/10 at 6:30 pm CST. And with that…

PS: My 91 year-old grandmother just emailed me to remind me it’s on NBC!

Valentines. The Day of Hearts/Expectations is upon Us.

February 9th, 2010 by stephanie

Well, ’tis the season. This is the week that all good people are encouraged, no, let’s face it, expected, to focus on the following:
-Perhaps Dinner Out
-Perhaps a Gift
It all depends on who is in our lives as we approach this holiday of the heart.
If there is a special lady in your life, may I suggest that you have something planned. Even if it’s recession-friendly. So you can’t do the 5-Star restaurant this year. Not to worry. A nice cozy, in-expensive place will do. Just make sure it’s a good place where you can “chat”. SHE will want to “talk” even if you feel you have nothing to say. Brush up on a bit of celebrity gossip. (Some gal at work can provide you a few talking points.) Maybe check out a few hit songs of late. And anything else your “girl” is interested in. See if you can’t get a bit of scoop in advance. Or, default to what you did this week. Yes. What you did.

I know this may be a tough one, but for the good of the order: Don’t expect too much. It just isn’t necessary and it doesn’t make love, well…love. Love is about who the two of you are when you’re together. A good match. Hopefully. So, let him have his night and do as best he can and then have the grace to praise him for it.

Ok, this is where we don’t cry over spilt milk. Statistics show that unfortunately, most couples this coming Sunday just might not have that great of a time. Some will squabble. Others’ expectations will not be met and they may end up a bit dismayed. And, well, things happen.
Now, we all know some will have a fab time, and you know GOOD for them. Let’s all be adults and cheer them on.

But for you dear savvy, single friend, this is your night to enjoy those in your life that truly are there for you when the chips are down. Speaking of chips, grab a few of your favorite bags and a couple of movies you’ve been wanting to see and call those extra special friends over for some good ‘ol “friend” time.
Or, if you’re like me, hitting that favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican place with your favorite pals is a must-do.

Whatever the case this year, here are my highly overrated tips for you:
1. Make plans now. They don’t have to be grand. Just make them.
2. Pick your absolute favorite person or pals plural.
3. Do something you really love to do and ask them, today, to join you.

Pretty simple. And with that, we should all have a very happy Valentine’s Day.
PS: Guys, Valentines Day is this Sunday.

Just my thoughts.

Lord of the Board.

February 5th, 2010 by stephanie

What’s red, flies, and has its own private half pipe in an undisclosed location — compliments of Red Bulll?
The answer: Shaun White.
When “The Flying Tomato” burst onto the worldwide scene during the Torino Winter Olympics, the average television viewer was receiving their first introduction to what the avid “X” games fan had known for quite some time.

A pale-skinned kid from Southern California with flowing red hair (that any woman, or man for that matter, would die for) was about to take the global athletic community by storm. In time, this 20-something that had spent most of his life “messing around” on skateboards and snowboards would rack up a gorgeous home in San Diego, a Lamborghini and much, much more. Awards flowed as freely as his famous mane. Some even being stored in his unused fireplace.

But his path to golden success didn’t come paved via a yellowbrick road. From a humble middle-class beginning, his family of five traveled in a van that they all slept in when attending Shaun’s performances and events. Before even that, baby Shaun’s heart wasn’t functioning properly and his place here are earth was at the least tentative.

A horrid crash into a fellow skateboarder at the age of 11 left Shaun with a fractured skull and broken bones. And a fearful, post-impact attitude. But his mother placed her son repeatedly back on the proverbial horse. A questionable decision that would in the end result in giving the world the current Lord of the Board.

As amiable and well-loved as Shaun is these days, those around him find themselves at a bit of a distance. I mean really; how many of his peers in competition can claim their own luxury import? Or, their own personal, secret training area for that matter? Shaun gets it: “After we’ve competed, do I really want to hang out with you while you polish your medal?” he admits. I think not.

Success is something we all strive for and dream about. It’s what drives us to get up in the morning and keeps us moving forward. But how many folks truly fail to miss or understand what lies on the other side. Fame and fortune require sacrifice to obtain. And, in truth, for those who win the prize, it also comes with a price. Friends along the way that never quite reached their hopes and dreams are left in the dust so to speak. While you may be ready to hop a private jet to that tropical get-a-way, they still may be just trying to make the rent this month.

Getting to the top, can be awkward. A reality we tend to forget. Perhaps there’s something to be said for that line in the Country song that says, “…sometimes that mountain you’ve been climbing is just a grain of sand.”

And too, maybe it’s just one of those moments when the phrase, “Be careful what you wish for” makes a little more sense. At least, for those that have been fortunate enough to catch the brass ring.

Just my thoughts.
Click here for Shaun’s interview on 60 Minutes

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