Archive for December, 2014

Dec 31 2014


Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

The darkness that shadowed the end of 2013 carried into 2014, with losses all around me, including the shocking murder of a beloved Sheriff’s Deputy, which horrified the entire county; the sudden loss of my friend Joel; and the loss of my job.

Trips to San Francisco: A mere three, versus last year’s nine times.

Rainfall for 2014 to date: 32.75 inches. At this time last year, we had about 5 inches. Still a long way to go to get out of the drought, though: 11 trillion gallons, to be precise.

Power outages: 7. One in February, one in April, three in May and June, including one on my birthday, and one in July. Go figure. The final one was on Christmas Eve.

I read 100 books this year, a marked improvement over last year’s 83, though to be fair, some were kid lit and some were YA. I will never be too old for YA. Favorites this year were:

  • Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders and the Crime That Changed America, by Kevin Cook
    The Genovese murder was a cause célèbre that we all grew up hearing about – the girl murdered while many people stood by and watched but didn’t help. This legend is far from the actual, though horrible, truth and Cook’s meticulous research debunks the myths while revealing the truth about Kitty and her killer. I really felt like I got to know Kitty and the place and time she lived (and died) in. A fascinating read.
  • The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld
    Perhaps a strange choice for someone trying to escape the gloom of real life, this novel is set in an unnamed prison and is narrated by a killer on Death Row. The author is a former death row penalty investigator, and her knowledge is reflected in this remarkable book. Despite the darkness of the subject, the writing is, at once, moving, poetic, and beautiful, both reflecting and transcending its subject.
  • The Short, Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
    Although the title is something of a spoiler, I couldn’t put down this memoir of the author’s roommate at Yale, who overcame so much to be there but was not, in the end, able to escape his demons. Beautifully written and unforgettable, this is a haunting, complex, and fascinating read.

  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
    I was originally attracted to this because its setting – kids spending summers together on an island in New England – reminded me of my youth, but it revealed itself to be so much more. I did not guess the shocking twist at the end at all, and both the surprise and the lyrical writing stayed with me for several days.

In my quest for escapism, I re-read several childhood favorites, such as From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (I still think the character I most closely resemble in fiction is Claudia Kincaid) and Harriet the Spy. I found “Harriet” to be much darker than I remembered, with the bleakness of Harrison Withers’ life, the disturbingly carnivalesque Mrs. Golly, and the protracted revenge Harriet’s schoolmates take against her, apparently sanctioned by their parents – bullying long before the internet. But I did enjoy the glimpses of long-ago New York in both of them.

And the TV shows that I enjoyed the most were also on the dark side: the half season of Mad Men, Orange Is the New Black, True Detective, and Rectify. Escapist fun was provided by House of Cards and Nashville, along with the ever-enjoyable and ultra stylish Sherlock, House of Lies, Suits (which is set in New York, but clearly filmed in Toronto – I have fun spotting locations and remembering my Bay Street days) and White Collar.

On the bright side, I managed to stay out of the courtroom and remained subpoena free for the first time in two years. Score!

I did a little blog improvement, adding a peek back at the previous year’s posts to this year’s blog posts, and a page with my end of day reports for the jobette. Here’s a look back at what happened this year:

January: Happy New Year! A beautiful party. Curses! The flu foils and spoils my plans. Stella the foster dog decides to meet the neighbors. A beautiful oceanside walk. Is there any other kind? A visit from dear friend (and professional cook) Paul. Driving adventures.

February: Shopping with Stella. My sister’s misadventures in the City. manicures and a movie. Visiting Erica and Jessica – and the rarely open Museum. A look around the garden. First power outage of the winter.

March: Refreshing my hair and my spirit at the little salon in the big woods. My intrepid brother once again takes the Polar Plunge. An earthquake, a cat burglary, and my jobette boss meets the President! Clyde’s antics. Stella wins her Canine Good Citizenship award on Dad’s birthday. He would have been proud of Megan and Stella. A tragic loss shocks our little community. Farewell to a hero. A delightful play.

April: The ludicrous bureaucracy of healthcare begins (not that it ever ends). Another lovely evening at the theater. An afternoon at the beach. Another power outage, this one driven by someone driving into a power pole at midnight. My blog turns thirteen! A conference in the City. A memorable visit to the de Young Museum. Jessica’s 11th birthday. An early heat wave.

May: More healthcare madness. Home improvements. A field trip. The beginning of the bathroom fix up. It can be useful having an outdoor shower, especially during a heat wave. Too many losses. Megan’s birthday. Car repairs.

June: A bright and beautiful birthday to me! Silly me! Progress on the bathroom front. A sunny Sunday. Adventures in transportation. I would prefer transportation to be a little less adventurous. Farewell to a friend. A reading at the bookstore, and some unexpected art.

July: Anniversaries all around! The pleasures of my commute Renovations continue apace in the bathroom. Goodbye, electric lime green plywood floor! A birthday celebration for a beautiful girl. Fantastic, faux pho.

August: A snow day, California style. Meetings and modernism. More modern art, a visit to the inimitable Swan Oyster Depot, and a diamond as big as the Ritz. The bathroom is better and brighter. Working on the new and improved door. The anniversary of Dad’s death arrives for the thirteenth time. A brand new (to me) tree! My back gets back at me.

September: Happiness is a new puppy! And new iThings. Dinner and a play with two of my favorite girls. The always delightful County Fair. Welcome rain. And other news. Dramatic Before and After pictures.

October: I suddenly lose my job. Why not? Loss is the theme of the year. A little jaunt to the south coast lifts my spirits. Living in limbo: I don’t recommend it. But dinner and a movie with people you love always helps. Celebrating my fifth Hooterville anniversary with tacos! Early morning job testing.

November: A happy Halloween, both in San Francisco and in Hooterville. Clyde gives me a Stephen King style scare. No news is not particularly good news. A lovely evening out with friends. A not very productive trip to San Francisco. A rainy trip home. A happy Thanksgiving.

December: Walking the dogs with my sister between storms. Getting ready for Christmas. After the storm. A grueling job interview. A merry Christmas after a Christmas Eve power outage. Lichen’s new and unusual house. A sparkling soirée.

I kept my new year’s resolution for 2013 of staying out of the courtroom, and am encouraged to set one for this year, too: spend more time with friends (especially Erica and Jessica) and family (especially Jonathan). May the new year be bright and beautiful for all of us!

A YEAR AGO: Recapping 2013.

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Dec 29 2014


Bright and beautiful

Jarrett’s birthday is located a couple of weeks before Christmas, inevitably leading to the dreaded combo gift suffered by so many December babies. Not everyone is clever enough to have their birthday and Christmas evenly spaced six months apart, like I did. But his desk looked like this when he arrived at work on his birthday:


It’s nice to be loved by your office family.

Jarrett’s birthday was also celebrated by the Festival of Lights at the Botanical Gardens in the Big Town, so he and the wonderful Kalli came by to check it out.

We were greeted by someone handing out miniature candy canes, and plunged into a magical world of glittering sea monsters, shooting stars, peacocks, and flying sea urchins. A volcano spewed lava and smoke:


while a ship sailed rough seas in a nod to our maritime history and the whale watching season:


We came across a fire pit, where we were equipped with long bamboo poles and a marshmallow to toast:


Outside the fire pit area, mysterious globes glowed in the bushes:

Floating orbs and shooting stars.

There’s something magical about lights sparkling in the wintry darkness when the days are so short. It gives me hope and reminds me of the Christmas lights I loved as a child and still do. Especially when I’m with people I love.

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Dec 27 2014

Merry Happy

Audrey was not my favorite cat the morning after Christmas, when she mercilessly woke me up at 5:45 am by pounding on the sliding glass doors. They don’t fit very well, so they create quite a racket when played by Audrey, especially with the added bonus of screeching claws on glass. You’d think I’d be used to being bossed around by a very small and very determined cat, but you’d be wrong.

It was 32 (0C) degrees outside and 44 (6C) inside as I grumpily made coffee. Hello, winter!

Despite the Audrometer going off too early and too insistently, it was a great Christmas. It dawned bright and beautiful after the power outage storms of Christmas Eve, and for the first time in years, we could celebrate it on Christmas Day itself.

After the cheese biscuits were made, the pears for salad roasted, the salad dressing whisked together and the table set:


I settled down to watch the Queen’s message and read the last chapter of “The Box of Delights” by the tree, where the stockings were, if not hung, at least placed with care:


Surprisingly, especially since two of the stockings have feathers on them, the cats have more or less left the tree alone. Roscoe tried to climb it and removed about 6 ornaments when I first put it up, but other than that, they have pretty much ignored it.

Erica and Jessica arrived bearing the Bûche de Noël of bliss:


It was made of a sort of flourless sponge cake using almond meal, brushed with tangerine syrup, filled with a mocha ganache, covered with chocolate buttercream, and adorned with meringue mushrooms dusted with cocoa. I was charmed to note that the mushrooms had dark “gills”, just like real ones. Erica is a genius.

Jessica was swathed in a plush Totoro onesie, as soft inside as it was outside:


We watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas” together, and she remarked on the “blatant Christianity” in the show, though she considered Snoopy “hilarious”. I find it interesting that she considers Christianity to be the same as Greek, Roman, or ancient Egyptian mythology.

Jonathan arrived with the ham he smoked all day over apple wood, glazed with Jack Daniel’s, honey from our bees, onion marmalade from our onions, cardamom, and other secret spices:


It was as delicious as it looked.

After dinner, Jessica and Jonathan took turns at the annual reading of Red Ranger Came Calling to an appreciative audience:


I filmed Jessica reading, but the limitations of WordPress don’t allow me to post it (at 38 seconds, it’s twice as big as allowable). You’ll have to take my word for it that Jessica’s performance had real showmanship this year, and she gave Jonathan a run for his money. I love it that Dad’s tradition of reading out loud to us lives on.

A YEAR AGO: A merry Christmas, even though it was a day late.

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Dec 24 2014

Making Christmas

It’s a wild and stormy Christmas Eve. Reports are that the power is out at home, and a call to my friends at the PG&E Outage Line gave me the sad information that it may be “extended” due to many outages. So far this seems to be worse than the storm that wasn’t, though it’s supposed to pass through quickly. Maybe it was speeding.

Fortunately, my oven is gas, and my brother is smoking the ham over the BBQ all day tomorrow, so we can still have Christmas dinner. On my way to the jobette yesterday, I stopped at the grocery store in the Village and bought two pieces of Gruyere. Nothing more, nothing less. The clerk looked at me quizzically and asked “Having a craving?” I explained that I needed it for cheese biscuits and that there was no substitute, and there isn’t.

Last night, I put all the Christmas stockings together, an undertaking that required a glass or two of wine, a realization I came to after completing the first one. Stockings always have a quarter and a tangerine in the toe and a candy cane at the top, and contain a couple of little gifts – like the guitar pick made from a quarter and a gift card for the coffee shop in the Village for Rob* – and this year I had the bright idea of wrapping these, which made the process longer. The rest is candy and silly things like cap guns. We exchange Christmas stockings instead of gifts, and I love that tradition.

Tomorrow, even if the power is out, I will roast the pears for the salad and make the dressing for the salad, and make my world famous cheese biscuits. At some point before noon, I will bring the ham, a bottle of cider and one of Jack Daniel’s to my brother’s place, where he will make his fabulous glaze for the ham and smoke it all day over apple wood.

Erica and Jessica were planning to come over early in the day to watch Christmas movies and the Rockettes, but it may be board games and sparkling conversation instead. Stay tuned!

Update: Power is back on, the sun is shining, and all systems are go! Merry Christmas to all of you!

*I have no concerns about him reading this, since he has never had an email address or belonged to Facebook or done anything on line other than look for tools.

A YEAR AGO: Working hard? Or hardly working?

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Dec 21 2014

At Home

Published by under Country Life,Friends,Jessica

It turns out that Lichen’s new house not only looks like a wine cask, it is – or at least it was – a wine cask. A plaque on the wall says “Storage tank no. 82, capacity 26,424”:

As you would expect, it is a deep wine color on the inside. The former cask now houses Lichen’s living room and a sleeping loft accessed by a spiral staircase. I didn’t take any interior pictures, since he had just moved in and there were boxes everywhere, but here’s the exterior:

The rectangular part on the left houses the bathroom and hallway to the wine cask, as well as where the kitchen will be. Yes, there is no kitchen, though Lichen is designing an Ikea kitchen which his landlord will then pay for and have installed. How’s that for a division of labor? For now, he has a refrigerator and a propane burner on the back deck, where it took forever to boil a kettle to make tea for Erica, Jessica, Megan and me:

As you can see, there is no roof over the deck, which is inconvenient, especially in the rainiest December in ten years. Despite this fact, Lichen wants to refinish the kitchen floor and beams before having the kitchen installed. The women were universally appalled by the idea of continuing to use the rainy propane burner and wash dishes in the bathroom sink for the duration, which Lichen found a totally reasonable proposition. As Erica observed, there’s the parting of the ways between estrogen and testosterone.

We took a little tour of the outside of the house, where there is a lovely view of the ocean:

There used to be access to a private beach, but over the years, the path has become overgrown and the suspension bridge leading to it has decayed in an alarming fashion. Erica opined that it could be fixed, and we jokingly tried to convince Jessica to explore it, but like me, she was uninterested in risking life and limb. Even if the bridge was repaired, the Calamity Suzy potential was too high for me.

I poked around in the woods, finding a purple mushroom – it really was that color – which wouldn’t look out of place in “Alice in Wonderland”:

and a mystery stone beside a tree:

Across the road from Lichen’s house is a steep hill, dotted with cows:

One drawback to the new locality is that the house is right on legendary Highway One, so traffic and its sounds are a problem. Lichen’s beautiful black cat is now an indoor cat, and they both are occasionally awakened by thunderous logging trucks and the squealing tires of unwary drivers who underestimate the curves. It makes me realize (and appreciate) how quiet my place, Megan and Rob’s, and Erica’s are.

Jessica and I caught up while everyone else worked on kitchen designs. She was wearing a vintage 1970s dress which a friend brought from London:

I was slightly alarmed to discover that we now wear the same shoe size (!), and our hands are the same size, though Jessica’s fingers are much more willowy. We have started following each other on Pinterest, so we had a great time talking about the various gowns and shoes we had pinned. Jessica remarked that she was more into circlets than tiaras these days, since they are more practical. I told Erica that it was really nice of her to have my daughter for me. 🙂

It was so fun to see Lichen’s new setting and spend some time together. I think my new year’s resolution is to spend more time with my friends.

A YEAR AGO: Meeting Wednesday.

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Dec 18 2014

Q and A

Published by under Country Life,Work

So yesterday was Interview Day.

The cats woke me up earlier than I would have liked, especially since I needed all the beauty sleep I could get, but I somehow still ended up rushing to get out the door on time. It was gloomy but not (yet) raining, and I was amazed by how deep and rushy the river was. A finger of fog lay dramatically over the dark woods as I turned onto the twisty, mountainous road to the county seat. How anyone ever thought of building a road there is beyond me, though it’s been in use at least since the 1890s, when it was the location of a stagecoach robbery.

I had no trouble finding the county offices, and I was early, which I figured was better than late. I didn’t have long to wait before being ushered into a room where a panel of three people were seated.

This threw me for a loop, I can tell you. I was expecting to interview one on one with the woman who had set it up and sent me the paperwork. We had a nice chat on the phone, and I felt pretty confident about meeting with her. My confidence vanished as quickly as my horror grew.

They told me that they asked everyone the same standardized questions and that we had half an hour for the interview. They took turns asking me questions like “What is your definition of professionalism?” Though they at least avoided asking me where I saw myself in five years, or what my strengths and weaknesses were, they led with the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” and ended with “Tell us anything else you think we should know about you”, which stymied me completely. I could not come up with a damn thing, my brainlet being completely occupied with competing thoughts of “Well, you just blew it” and “Haven’t you read my resume and all the forms I filled out?”

I was able to engage them with my own questions, however, which led to an animated discussion as well as compliments on my choice of questions. To wrap it up, they explained that the process would take another four to six weeks, as they checked references and filled out paperwork, etc. I thanked them, wished them happy holidays, and made my way back to Wednesday, where I tried to gather what little remained of my wits before heading home. En route, I discovered that Libby’s is closed for a month, so there went that plan of getting delicious take out for dinner.

Arriving home, I emailed my friend and co-worker Erin, who was my jobette reference, to ask her if we could meet up today. She responded that her schedule was crazy with her kid out of school, so could we chat on the phone? I said yes, and when she called, I explained that I had applied for this county job and she might be hearing from them in the next four to six weeks. They had already called her. We both started laughing because it was so ridiculous. I apologized for blindsiding her – I know how much I enjoyed being blindsided earlier that day – and she said no problem. She knows that my paychecks end in February, I don’t qualify for unemployment, and that the jobette can’t pay me enough to support my fabulous lifestyle. I know she just wants what’s best for me, but I still feel bad about it.

I’m guessing that if they called my references the minute I left their office, I didn’t do as badly as I thought. We’ll see what happens…

A YEAR AGO: Jarrett’s birthday surprise.

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Dec 13 2014


Published by under Cats,Country Life,Weather

Looks like we have weathered the storm! Power stayed on at my house – undoubtedly because Mark lent me his generator before taking his family to Mexico for a month – no trees crushed anything or anyone and nothing leaked. Apparently the rest of the country is mocking us for freaking out about the storm, since they have real weather. Sometimes I think the best thing about winter is watching it on TV from California, so maybe we deserve the teasing. Much was made about our rushing to make sure our various electronic devices were charged (true in my case) and debating over what to call the storm (less so). Rainpocalypse? Stormageddon? Hellastorm?

Tweets included:

“Is that the sound of a light sprinkle or is it just the east coast laughing at us?”

“Portland is laughing at you.”

“#BayAreaStorm warning: you may see small droplets of water falling from the sky. They are dangerous. Do NOT approach.”

You can see more here.

Meanwhile, back in Hooterville, it was a wild and windy night. I was awake during the worst of it, from 2 to 5 am (the worst part of any night, really), listening to the torrential rain and howling winds. I kept expecting the power to go out, but it didn’t, even as lightning flashed across the skylight. Clyde was sleeping happily against my legs, Audrey on my bedside table (her latest and most inconvenient spot yet, tending to scatter library books and alarm clock with abandon), and Roscoe was curled against me, trying to keep me calm. Storms make me nervous.

In the morning, the rain gauge was filled to capacity, which is 5 inches, so there may have been even more rain than that. The purple honeysuckle on the side of the house had blown over as usual, but nothing else in the garden seemed to be damaged.

The river flooded and closed the highway to the city, as you can see in the picture above. Even after the waters had receded, it remained closed as crews removed river slime and downed trees. There were a few mud or rock slides and power did go out in some places in the area, but on the whole, it wasn’t as bad as predicted, and I’m fine with that.

A YEAR AGO: ‘Tis the season.

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Dec 10 2014


Gloomy morning to you! It’s the calm before the storm.

The weather seers are calling for the worst storm in a decade, with high winds and torrential amounts of rain (6 to 8 inches in a 24 hour period). It even has its own hashtag on Facebook. The National Weather Service is predicting that the highway will flood this afternoon and cause the powers that be to close it. Speaking of power, we may not have any a few hours from now, which is why I have the Christmas tree on and sparkling while I can:

Also it’s cheery in the gloom.

I wasn’t intending to put the tree up this year. It’s 65 years old or more (time to retire?), very sheddy, and a little on the Charlie Brown side, as you can see. I was going to get some branches of greenery, put the ornaments on them, and put it on the table, but I realized that table space is at a premium, and I need somewhere to put the stockings.

So I hauled the tree down from the storage loft and put it up, then wound lights along the banister:

I went with non twinkling white lights this year, and I really like the look and the glow. The colored lights went out on the balcony:

Christmas lights look better with a palm tree:

And finally, the wreath that matches the tree went on the door:

So the house is as ready for the holidays and the storm as I can get.

When I was driving to and from the jobette yesterday, it was hard not to be both mesmerized and terrified by the ocean, which was spectacular with crashing waves and high surf, but that terrible beauty usually heralds a storm and a half. Stay tuned!

A YEAR AGO: It was a lot colder, with frozen pipes and water buckets.

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Dec 06 2014

Between Storms

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family,Weather

Of the many delights of finally getting some real rain (not having to water the garden; not feeling guilty about either watering or not watering the garden; frogs singing; making a dent in the drought), driving and walking dogs are not among them.

As you all know, I’m not one of Nature’s drivers, even in the best of circumstances, and I think we can all agree that pouring rain on rough and curvy roads are not the best of circumstances. Visibility was poor enough and the rain was pouring enough the other day that my back was aching from tension by the time I got home from the jobette. On the bright side, though: no power outages yet.

At Megan’s house, the dogs were bored out of their minds, while yet not wanting to go outside into the suboptimal weather. Megan had to drag them outside for necessary business, and they tried to get back inside as soon as possible. Once inside, they immediately expressed their boredom by sighing, getting in the way as much as caninely possible, and generally making a nuisance of themselves until Megan gave them bones to chew, which is the dog equivalent of sitting your kid in front of the TV.

We took advantage of a break between storms to get the dogs out of the house and hopefully get some of the naughtiness out of the dogs. We headed for the Headlands, overlooked by the village:

Ravens wheeled lazily over the ocean:

I love to watch them waft lightly in the air currents, like they’re surfing on the air.

Stella watched them with me. One of the surprising things about Stella, who does everything 150%, 150% of the time, is that she likes to watch birds, butterflies, and the ocean:

We enjoyed watching the waves together, and I enjoyed watching Stella gaze at the scenery with her golden eyes. We caught up with Megan and Star, and watched a little girl fly a kite with her father before heading back to the car.

At Megan’s house, we attacked the carcass of Turkzilla together, removing the remaining meat and breaking it up to make broth. While the broth was brothing, we made a turkey pot pie, Megan making the roux and sauce while I cut things it up. It was nice to be cooking together in her little kitchen with the fire roaring, the rain falling outside, and the dogs napping on the couch. It was a great day, full of simple pleasures.


A long day heading home from San Francisco.

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Dec 02 2014

I Totally Paused

Published by under Country Life,Work

Weather’s coming

On my way to the jobette yesterday morning, I passed Michael on the Ridge. Michael is the older gentleman who used to live on the same property as Lichen until the place was sold and everyone was kicked out summarily. Michael is a Hooterville institution, riding his bike or hitch-hiking everywhere, and was a big help to us in the Schatzi search last year, since he could cover a lot of ground while not being in a car. Today, he was walking Groward on the other side of the road, which was the way I was driving, so I turned around and asked him if he needed a ride. He said no, he was almost home, since he had found a new place. He thanked me for turning around and waved at me and blew a kiss as I headed off again. I’m so glad that he and Lichen have both found good places to live.

While at the jobette, I got a call from the County asking me to come in for an interview on December 17. They suggested 8:30 am, but remembering that epic early morning drive with Megan, I asked for something later, and we settled on 11:15 am. Things definitely move slowly here in fairyland. I applied for this potential job more than two months ago, and they’re holding interviews a week before Christmas. I hope it’s not pouring that day, the way it is today. Though thankful for rain, I will never enjoy driving in a downpour.

On my way home, I was driving down the straightaway leading to Van Damme State Beach*, just as a young deer thought it was the perfect time to stroll nervously across the highway. I slowed down and watched the deer’s progress. Mindful of the “never just one” rule, I waited, and sure enough, the deer’s friend decided to join her on the other side of the road. Like her friend, she was both skittish and not in a hurry, qualities that may not help them in later life. It gave me time to admire my favorite view on the coast, though, and the deer were unharmed, so everyone was happy.

You never know what you’ll find or who you’ll meet around here!

*I love it that there are state beaches. And national seashores.


Suzylocks and the Three Cars.

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