kirk.is | archive | 2016 sep

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September 1, 2016

"Never is a shortened version of 'not ever'... i feel like I am supposed to have known this..."
--razorphone

One Second Everyday for August! A lot of band stuff as always (at a funeral on the 5th, at the hatch on the 11th, in front of a ribbon acrobat on the 21st), other highlights like underwater Melissa on the 13th and seeing my German friends on my way to Ireland on the 15th.

Diggerland, USA Wow. Plans for my next NJ trip! Who wouldn't want to operate a massive earthmover machine?

august 2016 new music playlist

September 2, 2016
A surprising amount of 4-stars (marked in red) last month...

Hiphop

Mario
  • Supermarioland (Ambassadors Of Funk) I was delighted that this song uses the rarely-covered "Super Mario Land" Gameboy theme... super nostalgic.
  • Mario Hanafuda (Nintendo) The more often covered original SMB theme, but with Japanese instruments.
"Old Stuff I Missed"
  • Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival) I forget why I thought to dig this one up.
  • End of the Line (The Traveling Wilburys) Brings up that 90s case. The song Melissa thinks of first when I'm trying to describe George Harrisons "I Got My Mind Set on You"
  • Up to Me (Bob Dylan). Penn Jillette like this one. There's surprisingly little Bob Dylan in my collection.
Misc
  • Closer (feat. Halsey) (The Chainsmokers) Found out about this via Slate's series on current #1 hits. I like the description "For the first 10 seconds, the song sounds like it’s building to something monumental: thundering piano chords, sweeping synth washes, and a swelling echo like you’re down in a vast ravine. And then, at 0:11 … click. It all switches off like a lamp—a finger-snap and a meek 'Hey' "
  • Polkarama! ("Weird Al" Yankovic) Polka parties are now my favorite type of Weird Al.
  • Give It Away and Black Or White (Dick Brave & The Backbeats) Favorite genre: Germans pretending to be American Country or Rockabilly cover bands.
  • Try to Remember (Isabelle Georges) (link is not the version I found on iTunes) - I think this song from "The Fantasticks" is getting a lot of play after being in Marvel's "Civil War"
  • Bizarre Love Triangle (2014 Remaster) (Frente!) This is a song I did a cappella at Tufts... come to think of it it may have been inspired by this version.
  • Masterpiece (Clarence Reid) Nice R+B.
  • In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (Neutral Milk Hotel) Really just love the line "Can't believe how strange it is to be anything at all"
  • Call Your Girlfriend (Erato) There was a video with Emma Stone and Maya Rudolph doing a similar "butter tubs" cover of this song, but it generally got removed. This version is a fine substitute.

Best daytime firework I've seen!

September 3, 2016

Aug 11 we had a repeat of playing with the Landmarks Orchestra at the Hatch Shell...



here I am front and center, both as we calmly played along with "Hall of the Mountain King" and then when we went into full on honkin' mode

September 4, 2016

It's disturbing how integrated this for native speakers of English, and how unconscious we are about it... do other languages have similar?? We can say "the big yellow house" but not "the yellow big house"

I'm trying to think if there's any metameaning to those categories in that order, or if it's just learned by example? It seems so detailed for people to just absorb...
Question: even in new apartments, why are power outlets universally vertically aligned? Most large wall plugs hang down - and not just the newish Apple things, but even those old black "wall warts" Ataris used. If they were side by side (but with the plugs still aligned vertically) it would be a much better use of space... is there a technical reason, like people would rather avoid a horizontal cutout in the wall or something?


Followup: posing this question on FB got some ok answers... one thought is (I think) these things are often mounted in studs, and the spacing between studs wouldn't work well in "landscape" mode, so to speak. Also, when the positives, negatives, and grounds are lined up all parallel, it's easier wiring in the box itself.
Little boys and girls (like age 6) doing human tractor pull of 440 lb John Deere tractors. #westernMAlife

"What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, For all that we love deeply becomes a part of us."
--Helen Keller


Blender of Love

September 5, 2016

Photos from my mom's friend Alyce:

This one I'm most struck by. The back says "7-23-76 From our balcony" which would be when we lived on St. Thomas. My Super Niece is now almost exactly the same I am in this photo.


Ahh, fashion. Makes me wonder when plastic cups became popular.


On Torbenson Road, where Cleveland's Booth Memorial Hospital was. And speaking of fashion! Candy stripe pants! And an amish beard. My dad was amazing.


Man. First time I glanced out the window this season and thought "dark already?" (quarter of eight)

September 6, 2016

For a city that prides itself on being "smaht", our city planning is pretty damn dumb in terms of building where it's gonna flood as oceans rise. He says, during his lunchbreak in Seaport.

September 7, 2016

I'm a little late posting some stuff from the Hatch Shell event last month... an artist named "Andrew" was sketching me and my tuba, and also some of the other band folk...



I helped identify Dominic, Lilia, Merrilyn and Sari... not sure of the others.
"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it."
--Michelangelo, allegedly

September 8, 2016

Happy 50th Birthday Star Trek!!!

September 9, 2016

Mister Rogers Plays The Tuba:

It's a clip from this video:

(Interesting, I hadn't seen a tubist do so much fiddling with their tuning valves as they play (used to make small corrections for pitch on various notes))

September 10, 2016

I've been fascinated by the left brain / right brain split lately - the weird tales of how a split-brain patient seems to have two utterly independent selves living in their skull - and in those cases how cheerily the verbal left brain will make up the oddest stories to justify what the half of the body controlled by the "other brain" is doing, in order to maintain an illusion of unity of purpose, and self. (I'm convinced everyone get tons of practice making up those stories every night as we dream, that dreaming is an exercise in the left brain making up rationalizations and interpretations of much less ordered sense impressions/illusions.)

I'm trying to read up on the topic (haven't found a really focused book yet, though I'm optimistic about one of them) because I know I'm currently tempted to make up unverified "Just So" explanations, and attribute to my right brain every impulse my rational analytic self doesn't approve of - such as my desire to snack and eat unhealthily (and the absolutely scary "junkie reasoning" my subconscious came up with once after my analytical brain said "look, I'm not really hungry, and I'm not even craving anything in this fully laden vending machine of free snacks, I should walk away" -- "well, that's just why it's OK to indulge in it - because you *don't* have that pressing desire for it!" was the conterthought, rising up unbidden from the mental depths.)

But why the desire to attribute unwanted feelings to a physically distinct part of my brain? I mean does it matter that it's physically separate? (As opposed to the model of the mind as a cacophony of "virtual" subconsciousness, subconsciousness where it doesn't matter precisely *where* each is firing neurons in the brain... this is the view I tend to hold to, and it's more nuanced than the mere 2 part split this split brain "Just So" story implies.)

I understand the temptation for my analytic brain to declare itself the "real me", even as a higher part of me (or, lower?) understands that that's not correct. "The impulse came from my right brain", then, is kind of akin to "The devil made me do it!", a kind of rhetorical distancing from things I don't like about myself, and undeniably originate from "me"

I wonder if "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" gets into this?

September 11, 2016

"What they say: "You've lost some weight, haven't you. You're looking really good!"

What you're thinking: "Did I not look good before? Just how unattractive did you think I was before my weight loss?"

Unbiased interpretation: This is almost always a sincere compliment. Don't think too much about it; it's not backhanded. When someone says they like your shirt, do you worry they don't like any of your other shirts? Hopefully not, because that'd be crazy. Accept this graciously.

What you say: "Thanks!""
--Martin Cizmar, "Chubster: A Hipster's Guide to Losing Weight While Staying Cool". Glanced back at this when Melissa was asking about recipes. The book is not good for recipes (it has five token ones), and is blatantly padded out with "Eat This Not That" reviews of frozen meals and specific restaurant offerings, but it's still the best diet book I know.

Like "The Hacker's Diet", and pretty much any plan I've found effective, the core of "Chubster" is this easily summarized plan: "find a method to hit a daily calorie count without making yourself miserable". *What* you eat only really matters within that guideline, and exercise has other health and how you look benefits, but isn't part of the formula. (In particular, tweaking your daily calorie target to "use up" calories burnt in exercise is a mug's game.)

I'm at the top of the 180s now, from 198 something in April. That's a pretty slow pace! But, unlike previous times of weight loss, I'm looking to make calorie tracking a daily part of my life indefinitely - and anything that I want to extend indefinitely definitely has to have room for days when I'm off plan (most often days with social eating and drinking). In the long run off days won't matter as long as the ratio of those days to days I'm on target stays small.

Amazing kinetic Stepping Feet illusion. (Click on the "Visual Phenomena & Optical Illusions" link at the top for many more)

Illusions have really come a long way in the last decade or so... growing up we just had that "which line is longer??" junk.
Not to break my arm patting myself on the back but shared Google Docs for upcoming big trip plans is really the way to go (Melissa and I are planning to couch surf + side trip at my cousins who are working in Malaysia - definitely on the far side of my trip "comfort zone", relative to, say, destinations in Europe or even in Japan)

September 12, 2016

The way you can't see all 12 black dots at once is some next level "Predator" shtuff...

via Gizmodo...

September 13, 2016

Britney Spears' Toxic But It Keeps Getting Faster (quoth one listener: "I think this is what anxiety sounds like")
On my dev blog, talk about a part of the iphone many USAians don't even know is there but is really popular in Asia and Brazil...

September 14, 2016

On an impulse I bought this small but dope Magnavox old-school TV with completely transparent sides...

Cool seeing Loaded4Bear on real hardware, top to bottom.
Followup: a fellow old video game nerd points out that this tv, with its cool transparent case, was probably designed for use in prisons, where it can't easily hide contraband material, rather than being a hip iMac-influenced design.
Best new iOS 10 feature: the new set of keyboard sounds. Rather than having the same click for every key, normal keys, white space/shift, and delete all have different sound effects. The result is a delightful little blurble that gives subconscious feedback about what keys you're hitting, very pleasing in an ASMR kind of way.

September 15, 2016

"Forever will not be solved with algebra but with geometry, not with ideas but with things. Even an infinity symbol can be traversed by a single line drawn right. Even the scratchiest record can't skip forever, even the moldiest peach can only decay for so long. Eventually, there is an end to discord, a return to either harmony or silence. After the end credits, there is still the clatter of film against reel, of a machine waiting to be turned off. There is still the need for agency, for someone to help bring everything to a satisfying finale before the lights can come back on."
--Matt Bell, from "Ten Scenes from a Movie Called Mercy". I worry this passage is more evocative than sensible, or internally consistent, but I kind of love it.
Cross-cultural studies of parenting along with the promise, or threat, that in kids come across fine with a bunch of different styles applied, there's no one right way to do it.

September 16, 2016

Oh Shazam, you too?

Next Draft, (which along with Quora act as the only semi-daily newslettery things I get) had this to say about watching shows together:
"New research from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland has found that watching TV series, and consuming other media like films and books with one's partner, can help to achieve the same kind of closeness as having a mutual group of friends. In relationships without many shared friends, the characters actually take on a similar role, providing a shared social world which, the researchers say, helps two individuals feel close and connected." Yes, watching Game of Thrones with your spouse is good for your marriage (other than that time when Daenerys Targaryen got all her clothes burned off and you started giggling uncontrollably).

September 17, 2016

Lately I've been thinking about forms of empathy in everyday life, of whether an assumption of competition vs cooperation is good for us: pragmatically, but especially emotionally.

The examples that come most easily to mind are traffic-related. You're stuck behind some left-turner, look for your chance to scoot around to the right lane so that you can go straight, and some putz from behind you zips on up and takes your chance. It's easy to feel frustrated and annoyed by that, and to feel that you've somehow "lost" to that person. But what if you were able to view it as a little victory, either for them, or for local car-driving humanity in general?

Stupid? Naive? Maybe. I mean, from an evolutionary standpoint, we have a lot of cooperation in our history, but also a mandate to be on watch against cheaters, people who will take advantage of us, people who carry and struggle for their own agendas that we may actively disagree with, maybe even people with enough awareness of our own Kumbaya that they can leverage it for their own purposes with a blatant disregard for reciprocity. And few of us want to feel like that kind of fool.

Still, I think it might be a useful attitude to carry. I've been finding ways to douse "road rage" with thoughts like "Waiting Is" (time stuck waiting is still time, it's not some untime that is inherently valueless, even if we are impatient to get to somewhere else, eager for some event to occur) and adding in a dose of perspective - i.e. keeping in mind Homer Simpson's reaction to a traffic jam, the utterly furious "Lousy minor setback! This world sucks!", and how that's a kind of natural but short sighted way to be... and being aware how my brain is SO damn good at coming up with "alternate realities" that remove those little inconveniences. All that helps, but that feeling of "losing" to the other driver still stings. If I can share in their victory, or see it as a general positive for driver-kind, I'll be a happier and more generous person.

I'm not there yet, but hippy and Eastern ideas like "we are all one" make more sense to me, even if I have to wade hipdeep through my flavor of Western Rationalism to get there.

September 18, 2016

I started searching Google to diagnose upper back soreness I've had for a week now (below the left shoulder blade.) But, here is the number one image result for "trap muscles"

Yikes!
"When actors can't remember their lines, it's called 'going up,' or 'taking the elevator.'"
--Gene Wilder in "Kiss Me Like A Stranger". That's a really appropriate metaphor for what it feels like...
"I am not enlightened and apart from the occasional fantasy I have no goals to become enlightened because having a goal to become enlightened is like trying to lose weight by jumping up on a scale. You may be lighter for a brief second in the air but in the end you will hit much harder than if you simply stood still and did nothing."
--Chris Niebauer, "The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment"
"My six year old once asked my two year old how much two plus two equals, to which he zenfully replied 'the water.'"
--Chris Niebauer, "The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment"
"Rid yourself of ego in order to observe the secrets of the universe, but keep the ego in order to observe its manifestations."
--Chris Niebauer paraphrasing the "Tao Te Ching" in "The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment"
"The ego has always been the verb that desperately wanted to be an eternal noun."
--Chris Niebauer paraphrasing the "Tao Te Ching" in "The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment"
"Consciousness is more like dancing than it is like digestion."
--Alva Noë
"It was-- fun. ...Oh my"
--Captain Kirk's final words

September 19, 2016

Thelonious Monk made a list for his fellow musicians 1. Monk’s Advice (1960)., transcribed by soprano sax player Steve Lacy in a spiral-bound notebook.
  • Just because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep time.
  • Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head when you play.
  • Stop playing all that bullshit, those weird notes, play the melody!
  • Make the drummer sound good.
  • Discrimination is important.
  • You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?
  • All reet!
  • Always know
  • It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.
  • Let’s lift the band stand!!
  • I want to avoid the hecklers.
  • Don’t play the piano part, I am playing that. Don’t listen to me, I am supposed to be accompanying you!
  • The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.
  • Don’t play everything (or everytime); let some things go by. Some music just imagined.
  • What you don’t play can be more important than what you do
  • A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.
  • Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig & when it comes, he’s out of shape & can’t make it.
  • When you are swinging, swing some more!
  • (What should we wear tonight?) Sharp as possible!
  • Always leave them wanting more.
  • Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.
  • Those pieces were written so as to have something to play & to get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal!
  • You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it! (to a drummer who didn’t want to solo).
  • Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along & do it. A genius is the one most like himself.
  • They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along & spoil it.

September 20, 2016

Dead Man Talking: A Dialog with Tom Parmenter. In 2013, Tom Parmenter died. But, he got better. He lived - and is still living - a rich life, with journalism and music and his lovely wife Ann. In 2016 we met over dinner and had lovely conversation. I recorded it and had it transcribed.

Two excerpts, for flavor...

On "Do you keep any kind of bucket list?"

I'm alive, I've been alive a long time. I've done a lot of things. I'm still alive, I'll still do some more but do I really need to go to New York? A bucket list ... The universe in a grain of sand has always been my motto and there's as much interesting going on between your toes - particularly if there's sand there - as anywhere else
On working on the Chicago afternoon papers:
That was the deal, you'd get street sales. It's definitely a more sensational journalistic environment. I worked there and a lot of these guys were legendary journalists. Harry Romanoff, a city editor he had been the night city editor since the 20's or something. A long time. He could talk a tan off a bathing beauty.. just so... You really had to sort of be corrupt to be employed, because poking into people's private business and so forth. I remember one night I was talking to someone who's husband had died and said something about "I'm sorry to disturb you at a time like this" and she said "I wasn't sleeping anyway..."

Andrew Sullivan on How his need to connect to the infosphere almost killed him. I don't have it nearly as bad as this guy, and I feel that the simple pleasures of this world (reading a book, taking in the moment) are still readily accessible to me. Still, I know I turn to this kind of distraction too often as stress relief when a task seems even slightly daunting or less than worthwhile.
"Death would be much more terrifying if it was actually possible to live forever"
--TimeForPoolParty

September 21, 2016

"Your name is Kirk? You are a healthy fellow?"
--My Immunizations Doc Monday. Seems either charming down to earth or asking a weird coded question, or both

September 22, 2016

"Sunspots were examined in detail by telescope in the early 1600s, after some 200 years of repeated viewing by unaided eyes in Athens, China, Japan, and Russia. It was difficult for Europeans to see sunspots at all because Aristotle had said that celestial bodies were perfect and without blemish, a fancy which became official church doctrine in the middle ages."
--Edward Tufte, from "Envisioning Information". Luckily then came Galileo. This is why doctrine is kind of terrible. Any source of information and guidance needs to have a corrective mechanism.

September 23, 2016

"Get it right or let it alone.
The conclusion you jump to may be your own. "
--James Thurber, "Further Fables for Our Time"
"When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded. With a job, it's always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward."
--Danny Izquierdo, in a WaPo piece on Why amazing video games could be causing a big problem for America:
Most of the blame for the struggle of male, less-educated workers has been attributed to lingering weakness in the economy, particularly in male-dominated industries such as manufacturing. Yet in the new research, economists from Princeton, the University of Rochester and the University of Chicago say that an additional reason many of these young men - who don't have college degrees -- are rejecting work is that they have a better alternative: living at home and enjoying video games. The decision may not even be completely conscious, but surveys suggest that young men are happier for it.
Wow, what a thought. I certainly understand that feeling of liking guaranteed effort to reward links; while my approval/attention seeking nature brings me to activities more likely to be publicly laudable, I've never been a challenge for challenge's sake, or "it's the journey" kind of guy.

(Though come to think of it, salaried jobs tend to have a bit of disconnect between effort put in on a day by day basis and reward, at least in the financial sense.)

But it feels like videogames are getting to the form of a rather concentrated drug! It's odd to be me because I'm still nostalgic for them and like them from time to time but have grown out of playing them regularly - just don't have/make the time for 'em, and many of the popular genres don't seem appealing. (The exception for me being goofy "wide open sandbox" games, ala GTA and Saints Row) In some way video games are a segment of my identity, but I'm pretty much limited to binge play of a new entry in a series once or twice a year. I still like the idea of people MAKING their own games, and I do a bit of that, but compared to these super-powered AAA titles, they're more like fun digital toys.

And man, video games are an astounding technology these days - sure, other technologies have made amazing strides - a communicator / camera / reference to giant chunks of the world's knowledge at any moment / digital map / huge music library in the palm of my hand is astounding - but if you look at the early square, colorful blobs when video games first went mainstream in the late-70s early-80s to a AAA title today; it's astounding. Too often the interaction is limited, but the look and feel and sound of these 3D worlds is nothing short of Holodeckian.

Besides the empowerment-fantasy realism, games have gotten so much smarter about online playing. My idea of multiplayer is still 3 or 4 people sitting on the same couch with a splitscreen, but between the rewarding character build grind of a World of Warcraft (or whatever MMORPG the kids are playing today) or the very smart match making of a shoot 'em up (or the physicsy fun of "Rocket League" (car soccer)) -- I would imagine finding your place in these online legions can be very appealing. (Though maybe that sense of competition goes against the grain of "guaranteed reward" of the leading quote?

September 24, 2016


Over the years as I make various improvements in my out look, philosophical and existential ways of trying to be a better and more aware person on a number of fronts, I try to think if I'm doing a lot better than my past self, or if I'm just forgetful of what that past self was up to at the time.

September 25, 2016

"Everyone spoke of an information overload, but what there was in fact was a non-information overload."
--Richard Saul Wurman

--W.J. Youden. Though I guess it's a shame it has been applied with too free a hand in stuff like "The Bell Curve"

September 26, 2016

Thoughts about Romeo and Juliet. It's a *lot* more complex than "wait, just two kids whose dumb romance gets everyone killed".
"when you push a pull door and the person behind says 'you need to pull' aye cheers lad sure next plan was to start lifting from the bottom"
--http://twitter.com/SloanPerry. Why does everything sound better written in UK English?
Pretty darn fine rebuttal to "male privilege doesn't exist" misthink.

September 27, 2016

Blast from the past... (2000)

"Just the image of Mega Man standing [...] there's a sadness to it. Even his sprite has a certain gravity and seriousness to it [...]. When I see a young child playing alone, in a park or in the middle of the street, playing by himself [...] there's something so sad about that sight, it can almost bring me to tears. And there's something similarly lonely about Mega Man [...]. In the backstory I wrote, Mega Man alone is equipped with the functionality to turn himself off. That very fact imbues him with a sadness. The other robot masters were made for some kind of specific job or work, so there's no need for them to have an "off switch" they can control. However, a robot helper like Mega Man can make his own judgments, and therefore can decide whether he's needed or not [...]. The sadness of being a robot is having this inorganic existence."
--Akira Kitamura, original creator of Mega Man, quoted in the most recent issue in "Boss Fight Books", "Mega Man 3" by Salvatore Pane

September 28, 2016

Barking Up The Wrong Tree continues to be one of the best weekly newsletters I get. Sunday's entry, with its emphasis on classical Stoicism and its emphasis on identifying what's out of our control is especially timely in this election season - there's lots of other good stuff in that entry too.

The mushy area for Stoicism has always those spaces that are neither under our control nor 100% out of our control. Say with democracy, how our vote matters, but not very much (and even less if you're in a stalwart red or blue state) or our smallish political donations, or activities like volunteering - it's a fine line staying motivated when our contributions are so limited and all you have is the "Categorical Imperative" of saying I should act in a way that I think it would be better if everyone acted that way.

I'm not saying I think Trump isn't dangerous, and that between the economy, the courts, and the military, there's a lot of peril. And I also acknowledge that I can speak from a place of economic and racial privilege, where a large chain of things would have to go wrong for me to be really hosed, and not everyone shares that shielding. But I'm thinking that many of my friends here (and it's funny how FB sometimes becomes a thousand preachers preaching to 998 choir folk, with just those 2 choir folk there keeping things heated) are in similar circumstances. Finding that balance of "this matters" with "this is out of my control and might end up in a way I think is terrible" and "I will probably muddle through anyway"... it's tough.

I'm almost as worried about the emotional health of many of my friends and loved ones than the circumstances of a negative outcome to this election. Some of that is justifiable, and I don't want to completely downplay it, but it's so easy to get wrapped up in this kind of tribalism thinking. I guess I find some cold preemptive comfort with a few friends I have who are fretting the other way, who think Hillary and/or the establishment is bad/bad/bad and that despite the known unknowns of letting a reckless populist egomaniac in the whitehouse, it'll work itself out. I think they're wrong, wrong enough that I'm fighting for Hillary, but I take comfort in how the country has survived lots of gruesome ugly political idiots before, and all of our perspective is distorted through the echo chamber media and the difficulty of know what political life was like in the last two centuries.

September 29, 2016


via
Lifehack: worried your view of time is getting too quantitative, with nothing but digital clockfaces in your life? And use a Mac? Set the clockface to Analog for a while.

September 30, 2016


--from A Quick Perspective, a really cool series of photos and videos. This is the largest oil tanker ever produced placed in the main lake in Central Park.
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