End of year survey

Continuing my streak of posting nothing original and taking my cue from others, I once again borrow something from ice cream

LAST MOVIE YOU SAW IN A THEATER:The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW:Ziglar on Selling, Guerrilla Marketing for the Writer, The Workbench Book, Sam's Teach Yourself HTML & XHTML in 24 Hours (what? Who can only read one book at a time?)
FAVORITE BOARD GAME:Star Fleet Battles (but I haven't played in 15+ years)
FAVORITE MAGAZINE: Computer Language (defunct for about 15 years)
FAVORITE SMELLS: Soft and gentle smells of cleanliness and home: baby powder, after a thunderstorm, early morning crispness, baking, home cooking (not frying though)
COMFORT FOOD: Anything tasty
FAVORITE SOUNDS: Tania and Jason shouting "Daddy!" when I come home.
FUTURE CHILD'S NAME: Unless I start committing adultery, this isn't likely to happen, but I like the names: Cassandra, Maximillian, Alexander, Napanee, Kaladar, Joshua. Needless to say, I had little input into naming the kids.
DO YOU DRIVE FAST:only when I speed
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR:dark blue 1980 Chevy Chevette
FAVORITE ALCOHOLIC DRINK:don't drink, but I do like root beer, ginger beer, and spruce beer (all non-alcoholic)
FAVORITE PLACE TO RELAX: walking or cycling in a nature park
WHAT IS UNDER YOUR BED: some dust bunnnies
TOILET PAPER/ PAPER TOWEL--OVER OR UNDER: doesn't matter (as long as it is not empty)

For some reason, this survey does not preview correctly (at least not for me), but it seems to post correctly.



Memes of seven

As promised yesterday, shamelessly appropriated this meme from ice cream:

Seven things to do before I die:
1. produce a movie
2. visit Japan
3. have a place on a mountainside overlooking a lake
4. write a book or ten
5. be independently wealthy
6. live a good and full life
7. achieve success

Seven things I cannot do:
1. dance
2. understand people
3. finish something before moving onto something else
4. respect timelines
5. let loose
6. be interested in pop culture
7. sing

Seven things I admire about my sweetie
1. she is honest
2. she loves me
3. she is faithful
4. she is focussed
5. she is organized
6. she is patient
7. she is reliable and dependable

Seven things I say most often
1. really?
2. Tania
3. Jason
4. Amor
5. curious / interesting
6. I don’t think so
7. You are wrong / mistaken

Seven books I love
1. Master of the World (but it helps to read Robur the Conqueror first)
2. 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea (reading The Mysterious Island gives more insight on captain Nemo)
3. The Troll’s Grindstone
4. Letters from a Stoic
5. Meditations
6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
7. The Amateur Scientist

Seven movies I could watch over and over again (or at least twice)
1. Forbidden Planet
2. Aliens
3. Van Helsing
4. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
5. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
6. Rumble in the Bronx
7. Yojimbo

Image, liberated from here, is from Akira Kurosawa's fantastic movie Ran (乱) (can only be seen in the theatre - just doesn't work on the small screen, no matter how big it is).



Fourever meme

Borrowed this one from Whirled Peas and will likely borrow another one tomorrow from Icecream.

Four jobs I've had:
Lawn mower
Electronics Technician
Software Engineer
Senior Software Developer

Four movies I can watch over and over:
Forbidden Planet
Van Helsing
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Four places I've lived:
Montreal, Quebec
Toronto, Ontario
Williamstown, Ontario
Ottawa, Ontario

Four TV shows I love:
Doctor Who
SpongeBob SquarePants
Jimmy Neutron
(I assume it refers to currently in production TV shows – those are the only two I will actually go out of my way to try and watch)

Four places I've been on vacation:
Varaderro, Cuba
The Gaspe, Quebec
New York City, NY

Four websites I visit daily:
The Inquirer
Google News
Bloodshed Software Forum

Four of my favorite foods:
Bigos (Polish Hunter’s Stew)
Kluski y roladę (Dumplings and Meatrolls)

Four places I'd rather be right now:
Sitting on the veranda of a house in the mountains overlooking a snowy landscape.
Hiking through the woods.
Sitting by a fire in the fireplace of a house in the mountains.
Working in my secret laboratory in my secret hideaway.

Four people I want to tag to do this meme:
Anyone with zero or more vowels in their name, but less than 23 vowels.

[Update 01-January-2006 to add two more TV shows so I'll actually have 4 instead of 2]




Well, for Christmas I got Strep Throat. It started shortly after dinner and was pretty bad by evening. Monday was brutal and since I wasn’t anywhere near getting better by Tuesday I went to see the doctor (which cost $160 – so much for universal healthcare access in Canada – Quebec does not recognize Ontario’s healthcare cards – so I pay now, get reimbursed later).

The nurse who swabbed my throat stuck the swabs quite deeply and forcibly into my throat – advising me that if I gagged she would have to redo it. I didn’t think my throat could hurt more, but after the swabbing it did.

Now I’m on penicillin. My throat still hurts, Some of the swelling has gone down, but not much of the pain has gone away. If I’m not better tomorrow, I will go see the doctor again – I was rather expecting most of the symptoms to disappear within 48 hours.

I was also prescribed an analgesic (benzidamine) gargle to help with the pain. It has no effect. Also bought some over the counter Cepacol – it too has no effect.

Pretty much looks like the inside of my throat at the moment.

Image grabbed from here.



Merry Christmas!



A Random walk

Also know as a Drunkard’s Walk, is a concept used in problem solving. Essentially, you cover an equal distance in a series of random directions. In other words, pick a random direction, and go, let us say, 10 feet. Repeat.
Teeth and Claws

Found out from a coworker at the annual Christmas party last Saturday that my boss of 5 years apparently has a temper. Something I have never personally observed – except for 1 or 2 instances when he looked displeased with me. I’ve always thought he was a pussycat. But, people I’ve worked with always seemed skittish and afraid of him. We use emacs as the editor at work. He set up the script file to provide key bindings and syntax highlighting. There is a bug in his syntax highlighting code, which causes text to be highlighted in large swaths of pink and gray – quite annoying and unusable. So I fixed it and provided him the fix (years ago) – he has never incorporated it. When I try to encourage coworkers to take my emacs customization file. They always respond that the boss would not be happy if they deviated from his setup. So I’m a lone wolf with my computer set up my way.

Feeling old (yet again)

Went to Oil Changer’s last night to have the oil in my car changed. What a surprise from the name of the company.

Eager young lads greeted me. I think I can use the word lads – maybe even laddies. I didn’t see anyone over 18 on duty there. So here I am, 39, being waited upon by a some 16 year old kid. Spunky, enthusiastic, trying to convince me how mature and professional he is. To be honest, I felt for these guys. They’re hard working, they are enthusiastic, they’re trying hard, they are acting oh so grown up and yet, it was also comical. They could have been my kids and that made me feel old. At least nobody called me 'Pops'

All I want for Christmas …

The kids have been pretty clear about what they want for Christmas. Tania (6) wants a Girl Crush Magic Hair Beader. All the reviews I’ve read say it is really cheap and breaks after a few uses. I bought her one anyway. She also wants a Winx Club doll. Hmmm … don’t know about that. I’ve already got a bunch of stuff I bought for her last year for this year.

Jason (4) wants a Roboraptor and Power Rangers (actually, he confuses Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with Power Rangers). I don’t think he’s getting a Roboraptor. It will be an expensive gift for him to break. He likes to “make fossils” by making dinosaurs fall down – seeing Roborator sailing down the stairs does not thrill me. I already have some stuff he should enjoy.

What muppet character am I?
You are Kermit the Frog.
You are reliable, responsible and caring. And you
have a habit of waving your arms about

What Muppet are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

”She’s hot like red pepper, sweet like cherry wine”

Sometimes women and food are interestingly mixed in music. Like that title line from “Howling for my Baby”.

Of course, there is Little Richard’s, “The Girl can’t Help it” with choice lines like:
When she winks an eye, the bread slice turn to toast

If she's smiling, beefsteak become well done,

My favourite has got to be Howlin’ Wolf’s “Shake for Me”, with these charming lines:
I got a cool-shaking baby, shake like jello on a plate

Every time she stops, her flesh it shake like jello

Howlin’ Wolf does not clearly enunciate, so for the longest time, I thought he was saying “I got a cool shaped women, shaped like jello on a plate.” – which didn’t make any sense to me (not that many thing often do). This, at least, makes a bit more sense.

Animal Humour

It's a sunny morning in the Big Forest and the Bear family is just waking up. Baby Bear goes downstairs and sits in his small chair at the table. He looks into his small bowl. It is empty! "Who's been eating my porridge?" he squeaks.

Daddy Bear arrives at the table and sits in his big chair. He looks into his big bowl. It is also empty! "Who's been eating my porridge?" he roars.

Mama Bear puts her head through the serving hatch from the kitchen and yells, "For Pete's sake, how many times do we have to go through this? It was Mama Bear who got up first. It was Mama Bear who woke everybody else in the house up. It was Mama Bear who unloaded the dishwasher from last night and put everything away. It was Mama Bear who went out into the cold early morning air to fetch the newspaper. It was Mama Bear who set the table. It was Mama Bear who put the cat out, cleaned the litter box filled the cat's water & food dish. And now that you've decided to come down stairs and grace me with your presence, listen good because I'm only going to say this one more time: I haven't made the darn porridge yet!"

Lot’s more animal humour here.

Very punny

Previous job I worked at there were two clinical guys (this was medical software I was doing) and they were a team: one would start with a whiny “Oh, man!” and the other would chip in with “Geez!” I told them I liked them because I could always come over for some “whine and geez”.

Images grabbed from here, here, here, here, here and here.

[29-December-2005: fixed broken hyperlinks]



Time is money

Last night I was reading Jay Conrad Levinson's "The Way of the Guerrilla - achieving success and balance as an entrepreneur in the 21st century" and he lists this as one of the top myths that people believe in.

As he explains (I am paraphrasing reasonably accurately, because I left the book at home): Time is not money. Time is far more precious than money. If you run out of money, there are a myriad of ways you can generate more. If you run out of time, there is no way you can generate more.

I certainly agree, it was nice to read someone who put it nice and succinctly though.

Image grabbed from here.



What color should my eyes be?

For lack of anything coherent to say at the moment ...

Your Eyes Should Be Hazel

Your eyes reflect: Intellect and sensuality

What's hidden behind your eyes: Subtle manipulation
What Color Should Your Eyes Be?

I think that is my actual eye colour. I have a fairly non-descript eye colour. If I wear green they look greenish and if I wear blue they look bluish.



Love is in the air

Went to one of my favourite stores this morning and noticed that they had taken down almost all their Christmas displays and replaced them with Valentine’s Day displays.

I want to hold your little hand
If I can be so bold
And be your right hand man
'til your hands get old
- White Stripes, "Hypnotize"

(Note: I haven't even finished with my Christmas cards yet - not to mention that all the Christmas shopping is still outstanding.)

Grabbed the image from here.



Louis Pasteur doesn't live here anymore.

I often find people simultaneously fascinating and unfathomable. They act and behave in ways that leave me perplexed, as though they disengage higher thought processes from normal everyday behavior.

A good example can be found in the supermarket, where people just stop where they please seemingly without regard that (a) they are blocking the aisle, and (b) there are hundreds of other shoppers trying to get around.

Then there are the people walking in front of you who suddenly stop for no apparent reason (maybe to check their purse? suddenly look up and get their bearings?) causing me to almost crash in to them. Don’t these people realize that the sidewalks are filled with pedestrians?

The most recent example was this past weekend when Susana (Sofia’s cousin) suddenly took a swig from Tania’s bottle of water. When we met up with Susana I told her that Tania was sick. We were together for a few hours and Susana could hear Tania’s rich phlegmatic cough. But as we got out of the car and were crossing the parking lot to get to the mall, I watched her bring Tania’s bottle to her lips and take a drink. I was horrified.

When I asked her about it, she then realized it had not been a good idea. Her defense was that she was thirsty. Yesterday she came down with a cold (4 day incubation period).

Do people normally run around with their higher brain functions disengaged? My general experience leads me to say yes. The average person seems to be hardwired to “act first, think later”. On the other hand, I always gather information, analyze, then act. I cannot think of a moment where I was not aware of what I was doing. Nor can I claim that each action of decision was optimal - but, they were mine. Sometimes I wish I could simply stop “thinking” and be more carefree like most people, but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon.

Picture nabbed form here.




I would love to find something that could instantly get me to put procrastination behind me.

There are numerous reasons why I procrastinate, but I think it boils down to 3 core reasons:

(1) Bleh. Putting off doing something I don’t want to do.
(2) Mood. I’m waiting for that epiphany when everything clicks into place, the celestial spheres fall into alignment and I am supreme ruler of my domain.
(3) Urgency. Or, rather, lack of. I find it difficult to feel a great sense of urgency for most things, most deadlines and timelines seem artificially arbitrary.

I think it is waiting for the perfect time that is killing me (not literally). I can easily step back and see that I have accomplished much, but there is more I want to do. My greatest fear is not having achieved all that I was capable of achieving.

Being comfortable is one problem. Struggling to eke out an existence is another. Caught between the two is me. Comfortable, but rather unfulfilled, but afraid of stepping out for fear of losing what I have and being forced to struggle to provide the basic needs. So I keep waiting for everything to be right.

On the other hand, what I want to do with my life has little focus. I think success is easier for those who are narrowly and obsessively focussed with a single goal and objective. I am a capricious dilettante.

What are some of the things I would like to try my hand at (these are dreams / aspirations / hopes I’ve had for at least 5 years or more – no point including transitory distractions)?

(1) Selling quality Peruvian Alpaca / Vicuna sweaters (Vicuna is very soft and not at all itchy like wool)
(2) Run a children’s science / discovery museum
(3) Publish children’s books (hence the interest in learning how to draw so I can do my own illustrations)
(4) Publish a children’s science magazine
(5) Publish an amateur scientist magazine
(6) Develop ambulatory medical monitoring devices
(7) Develop virtual reality theatre / role playing concept
(8) Explore massively distributed computing (the xbox 360 makes me drool because it is a 6 core computer at a truly affordable price … and I have no interest in playing games. For those who are curious, I am currently devoting some time to investigating general purpose computing on graphics cards )
(9) Get Elizabeth Boyer’s “The Troll’s Grindstone” made into a film (I’d also like to see Robert O’Riordan’s “Cadre One” made into a film as well)
(10) Do a remake of “The Prisoner
(11) Hobnob with international people. I still recall with great fondness my days socializing with international students at university.

So what do some of my dreams tell me? That I am in the wrong field?

Where is that magical elixir, the philosopher’s stone that will spur me on to doing stuff instead of dreaming about it?

Grabbed the image from here.

[29-December-2005: fixed broken hyperlinks]



Cough, cough ...

No, I am not sick, but my son Jason is.

He's had a cough that has been getting progressively worse and a bit of nasal congestion. Since there was no fever and no other obvious signs, we figured he would get over it.

This past Monday, I took him to the see the doctor since it was clear things were getting worse and he was prescribed some antibiotics.

On Wednesday, Sofia called and told me he had a fever and his cough was much worse. So I came home to Montreal and took him to the doctor again. This time the doctor prescribed a different antibiotic (this was the one I had initially inquired about - zithromax). It seems to be helping him more than the cefprozil he was initially prescribed.

I have taken today off as well, since Sofia is quite busy at work.

Yesterday we played Spiderman (this is a very low bandwidth site, so you might get a "bandwidth exceeded" page instead) and Batman. He was Spiderman (since the costume fits him) and I was Batman (since the mask sort of fits me and the cape at least hangs off my shoulders).

We also shot some hoops (with a small kids sized basketball and net).

I cooked a Rock Cornish Hen yesterday. I boiled it in the hope of making a soup, but when I put JJ to bed for his nap, I fell asleep too, only to be awakened by a delicious aroma wafting through the house. Jumping out of bed, I noticed the broth had boiled away and what was left was starting to burn. The hen was fine (the kids had that for dinner), but the broth was beyong resurrecting. sigh.

The image was grabbed from here.

[Got to love that blogger spell checker. This time it suggested 'subterranean' for 'Spiderman' and 'abating' for 'wafting'.]




We all have expectations. Whether it is about our jobs, our friends, our families, our significant others, out kids (for those who have kids), where we’ll be at age 25, 30, 40, 55, etc …

Expectations in themselves can be quite complicated and there are different types of expectations: expectations of status, expectations of wealth, expectations of behavior.

Some expectations are disguised hopes.

So what have been some of my expectations? I expected to be independently wealthy (by most standards I am wealthy. Using this comparator I score in the top 1% of richest people in the world whether I use my full salary – or 80%, because I work a 4 day week – sorry, exact scoring is classified ;-) The hourly rate calculation seems a bit skewed – it is using a 1440 hour work year – which is much shorter than mine.

I expected to have a secluded laboratory / workshop in a forest hideaway (I am assembling a fairly nice workshop in the garage in Montreal though).

But, those can also be considered dreams and fantasies, more practical day to day concerns include the family (notably the spouse).

Sofia and I came with different expectations of what the other would bring to the marriage. My expectations were pretty simple: Sofia would be a good friend and companion, somebody I like to share my time with and she would be a great mother.

Sofia had rather more expectations :-(

Part of any problems between us actually boils down, in my opinion, to gender role issues. I had none for her (aside from bearing children – but this is more for technical reasons than anything else). She has lots for me. So while I do not expect her to cook, clean, wash, and iron because she is a woman and that is woman’s work. She has expectations that I will fix things, move heavy objects, take out the garbage, mow the lawn, and kill spiders because that is man’s work. (She will protest that I am being unfair ;-)

For example, when we bought our first house, after I renovated the bathroom, I did not install towel rods. I was happy hanging my towel over the shower curtain rod. Sofia was not. So she bugged me to install them. We even went to the store and bought some towel rods. Then she waited and fumed while I did nothing. Eventually, after 3 years, I think (maybe it was 4), she installed them.

Now, personally, I had no interest in installing them. I thought they were unnecessary, but if Sofia wanted to install them, then she was perfectly free to go ahead and do so. But she didn’t. At least not at first, because that was a man’s job. After all, what is the point of having a husband if he is not going to do husbandy things around the house. She might as well have been a single mom. Humph!

Maybe things would have been different if I had a Canadian born and bred wife, but mine is of Peruvian descent, so I think she has more societal gender stereotyping biases (in her defense, she did work as a lawyer for a feminist organization in Peru for several years, fighting for gender equality, against domestic violence, etc).

I feel no need to wait for Sofia to prepare me a sandwich or cook me some food. I can do that perfectly well on my own. I sew on my own buttons. I don’t iron though – I carefully dry my clothes so they are not too wrinkly, but definitely no crisp lines on my shirts and pants. Sofia dreads when it is my turn to do laundry precisely because I do not iron, and she has so many things that need ironing. I’m trying to encourage her to be more casual, but … so far … nada.

Note: My marriage is fine and this post is not to be interpreted as some repressed gripe against my dear wife, marriage, wives, husbands, or spiders in general.

[29-December-2005: fixed broken hyperlink]



How far to your heart?

There are a number of unique Canadianisms (you can look them up on the internet if you like), however, there are three I remember being pointed out to me by international students while I was in University:

(1) We do not measure distance in kilometers or miles, we measure in minutes or hours (which means we are likely ask what mode of transportation you will be using). For example: “How far is it to Elgin and Queen?”

“If you’re walking about an hour, if you’re taking the bus about 20 minutes, and if you’re driving about 10-15 minutes.”

Toronto is about 5 hours from Ottawa (instead of 500 Km) and Montreal is about 2 hours from Ottawa. Vancouver is about 2 to 2-1/2 hours away (by plane) or 4 days (by train).

(2) We talk about the weather a lot (only if the weather is interesting to talk about, otherwise we talk about old weather, “Remember the ice storm of ’99?” ;-)

Not only that, but we have two TV stations (one English, the other French) dedicated to bringing you the weather 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with an honest to goodness live weatherperson giving you updates every 10 minutes.

(3) You can’t buy one pizza – it’s always buy one, get one free (this is not true, many places will happily sell you a single pizza, but most pizza places are of the 2 for 1 variety)

"If you open your heart to a cat and love it forever, it will eventually love you back. - found at The Old New Thing



I am

Two simple words, totaling three characters in the English language, which are used to self disclose and to self define oneself.

I am hungry. I am honest. I am loyal. I am outgoing.

Simple as those words are, they carry within them seeds of deception.

If I say, “I am honest”, perhaps I have spoken truly. Perhaps I am expressing that “I wish I were honest”. Or, perhaps I am just lying to you.

“I am” has a more special significance for me because it used to be the way I described myself. When people would ask me who I was, I would reply “I am” or “I am me” – which would usually get me a “What is that supposed to mean?” type of response (especially from guys).

For some reason, I lost that sense of self a while back. While I now feel better, I don’t feel I have returned to the state of “I am”.

I discussed this with Sofia a few months back after registering my surname as a domain name and setting up a webpage (which to this day only says something to the effect of “future home of my website”). I told her that I had of loss of identity – I could not find a way in which to express myself, how to defien the site, what theme to go with. She did not understand, for her I am that guy who likes those weird shows, who is religious, who likes sweet stuff, who enjoys museum, etc … For me, those are not me, they are characteristics of me just as my height, weight and age are characteristics of me. I would not say that my curly hair defines me anymore than my liking The Twilight Zone defines me – they are facets of me, but they are not me.



NaNoWriMo post-mortem

Well, I didn't succeed with NaNoWriMo. I didn't progress to putting any more words to paper than the original 194.

Am I disappointed? No. I had no clear ideas, I had a cold early on, and I indulged in other activities. Take them as you want, either they are reasons or excuses (the glass is half full or half empty).

I was thinking of doing a time travelling / unrequited love story. Basically, the protagonist falls in love with someone. The girl, while pleasant and polite, already has a beau she is crazy about, so cannot accept his advances. She dies. He is consumed with the anguish of regret that circumstances had not been different. Becomes a quantum physicist specializing in quantum entanglement. Realizes that quantum imprints are left behind (a fictitious specialization of entanglement which he pioneers), uses this to build at first a time viewer which allows him to voyeuristically view his love's life - including the point at which she died. He misleads those around him, giving only drips of information on his work - so he can continue his work without revealing its true scope - a time machine or time scoop to pull things out of time. Eventually, everything starts to crumble, his work is not yet finished, but he takes the chance to go ahead. His attempt to save her life goes disastrously and he winds up a chronically severe burn victim in the hospital.

I was considering beginning with small flashbacks - one or two sentences - followed by a longer narrative. The flashbacks would be repeated, with each repetition adding more detail. Narrative would intersperse the flashbacks - until we came to the conclusion, which would be the story opening.

[September 23, 2005, 10:07] He lay on his back in this hidden grove, staring up at the sky and filling himself with the tranquil blueness.

[September 19, 1995, 14:38] Beautiful copper curls flowed from her head framing her symmetrical and finely proportioned features.

[February 3, 2010, 22:37] "MICHAEL!" Roger repeatedly screamed as he attempted to pummel down the door.

[September 19, 1995, 14:38] She stood coldly, he would say arrogantly apart from the group. Beautiful copper curls flowed from her head framing her symmetrical and finely proportioned features.

[November 27, 2002, 08:23] "Quantum imprints..."

[November 27, 2002, 08:23] "Quantum imprints..."

[November 27, 2002, 08:23] "Quantum imprints result from every interaction."

[August 1, 1980, 07:13] The familiar and reassuring smell of pancakes wafted into his room. The gentle stimulation of the olfactory senses roused him more surely from his sleep than the morning sunlight which streamed through his window, or the noisily bedlam which pervaded the house in the morning. He glided into the kitchen, a contented smile on his face chasing away the Sandman's cobwebs. "Morning Mom", he announced with a cheery voice. ...

So that is something I had been mulling about in my head. Not necessarily exactly that, since I gave it no form.

I also found picking names to be difficult, as well as descriptions of people. I did not want to appear to be basing fictional characters on real people I know (or imagine I know ;-)

I selected the appearance of the woman based on my own innate preferences (long, curly, red hair – in that order) – since I don’t know anyone who looks like that. The closest to my ideal is Sorsha (played Joanne Whalley) in the movie Willow. Maybe "ideal" is maybe a bit strong of a word. I have no real preference, but I do know that hair is what I notice about women (and definitely in the order of long, curly and red).

Image was grabbed from here.

[29-December-2005: fixed broken hyperlinks]

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