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Archive for the ‘computers & technology’ Category

Oh, we love our computers but sometimes they do things that are absolutely frustrating, annoying and extremely puzzling.

We have a Macintosh.  Yesterday the computer was fine.   This evening it is fine except for one thing.

It has decided that it can no longer recognize photo files.   It can recognize photos that it already has on iPhoto.   But it can’t import them from anywhere any more.   It cannot read a file off a CD even though the CD was made on the computer using photos that were on iPhoto.   It cannot download pictures from my cameras even though we have reloaded the software for the cameras.   You can look at pictures from your cd on preview, and you can move them to the desktop.  But you can’t take them into iPhoto.  We haven’t tried the scanner yet, but I suspect that the answer would be the same.

We have not actually contacted Apple tech support yet, because just to talk to an actual person of that description would cost us $49.95.  I think you should support your products when there are problems, especially when they are so dear to acquire in the first place, and it shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg either.

Jim suspects that this may be Apple’s way to force us to purchase iLife 09, which is the updated version of  the software bundle we already have.  Personally, I don’t see why we should have to buy new software when the old stuff works just fine, especially since our budget is really tight right now.

Anybody have any ideas about what may be going on??

We had quite a line of storms race through here last night.   They spawned a couple of smallish tornadoes, none in our immediate area.  But we had some amazing straight line winds, with gusts in excess of 30 knots (60 kph).   For a while the rain was coming down sideways.  Literally.    We got 2 inches of rain in about an hour.   The front that went through left us with a grand cool day today, and tonight we are enjoying a cool, calm. very starry night.

The dog walk was extremely pleasant.   Ruby found a turkey wing feather and brought it to me proudly, presenting it to me as the prize it was.   I figure that during the storm last night, the turkeys were disturbed by the severe weather and perhaps somebody whacked their wing against a branch.   It is also molting season.

Last night when we came home from our walk we saw the great horned owl make a hunting pass over the back yard.   We have a very fat and sassy looking wood chuck investigating the place.   I think he may be considering moving into the den I created a couple of summers ago when I found an amazing hollow piece of driftwood on the river.   I hauled it home and laid it next to a big pile of dirt we had already put out on the back line.  Then I piled a whole bunch of rocks over and around the log, and covered the whole mess with about a foot of dirt.   Last winter we had a skunk living there, and I think Sir Woodchuck is thinking about moving into that little piece of habitat.

The grapes we picked are busy becoming wine.   The yeast really kicked in this morning, and all day the vapor lock on the primary fermenter has been ticking away like a cartoon bomb ready to go off.   When you walk into the house, you get a whiff of yeasty wine, which becomes almost overwhelmingly strong when you walk into the dining/family room.    I keep looking for the dripping faucet because of the ticking noise.    This level of fermentation activity should slow down in a few days.   It is so cool to know that wine is making right here in front of our very eyes and ears and noses.   Meanwhile, I’m sipping on some pretty nice Chardonnay that Jim made from a kit earlier this summer.  I like drinking wine and beer of which I know the exact ingredients.   Haven’t had a sulfite headache in months.

I spent over an hour yesterday morning doing something I have never done before in my life.   We are going out to dinner at a fancy restaurant tomorrow night while we are in St. Louis, and I awoke musing on the large changes that have been going on weight-wise.  The thought “I should see how that dress I’m thinking of wearing hangs.   I might need to do something about the waist,”  crossing my consciousness.  I arose from my bed and immediately tried on the dress.   It looked fantastic, better than it did when I made it or any time since.   This was so nifty that I was moved to try on a skirt that has been hanging in the back of the closet for a while, and it fit like a dream.   Somehow, I spent over an hour trying on dress after formal dress after skirt, swanning about in front of the full length mirrors.   Jim found this rather diverting as I was not particularly careful about completing each ensemble, quite often modeling only a skirt sans any other garment.   Suddenly it was 15 minutes before my first client was supposed to arrive and I hadn’t even finished my first cup of coffee much less had breakfast.   I never do this sort of thing, must be getting light headed or something.

This is the dress.  In this photo I was wearing it at the Sail Away party when we were on our way to Lisbon and Sevilla, March 2008:

Sail-away party

Well.  I am going to wear that dress tomorrow for sure, and it doesn’t need anything done to it at all.   It looks fabulous, quite different from the photo above.    It is becoming obvious that I need to invest in some smaller slacks.   I just bought some smaller slacks a month ago, and they are already hanging on my hips; if I put keys in the pockets I’m in danger of them falling off.  I think I’m going to install a smaller piece of elastic or a drawstring in those, and just wait to buy any more clothing until I am done with this process.      Meanwhile, I need to take in the elastic on the skirts I made for the cruise, but I’ll wait for that too.   I have plenty of others with drawstrings so I don’t really need them for now.

I went to my hairdresser/friend Anita today and had my hair cut off.   I think it looks pretty darn cute, and it feels all light and cool and airy. We did manage to figure out a way to get pictures to a place where I can put them on the blog, without iPhoto.  It’s cumbersome, but at least I can share my new do.

DSCF4219

Well, I’ll catch up with you later.   Jim wants to check the Mac forum to see if somebody has a clue what the heck is going on with our machine.

Ta ta for now.

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Right before the computer died I was working on a blog post about our vacation last April when we visited Sevilla after our cruise to Lisbon by way of Funchal, Madeira.  One of the things that caused Jim to buy the new Mac so precipitously was the fact that the computer ate the post I was writing about our visit to the Alcázar during the middle of our week in Seville

Since then we have gotten a new computer and Jim has laboriously transferred files over to the new computer, so I actually have the pictures of the Alcázar that I edited in preparation for that post. Unfortunately, the photo files that I had not edited were corrupted during the big meltdown.   Fortunately, not all the pictures of our vacation were corrupted, and most of the corrupted files I had gone through and edited for blog posts already.  It remains to be seen whether or not we will be able to recover the corrupted files at a later date.   Meanwhile, I am busy taking pictures of other stuff and life is moving on.

I could tell you all about what I have been doing, but that would be getting in the way of the pictures I selected from our visit to the amazing Alcázar Palace.  I can assure you that while I have not been doing a whole lot of housekeeping, I have not been neglecting my garden, my massage clients or my own entertainment.  

By the time we visited the Alcázar, I confess that I was starting to suffer from sensory overload.  We had already walked around the old town of Sevilla, learned where the local supermarket was and visited it, toured the Cathedral, driven to Ronda (one of the famous “White Cities” of Andalucia), and walked through the Gardens of Marie Louise.  

We were lucky to arrive at the gate of the Alcázar fairly early in the day and we did not have to wait to get in.  It was moderately crowded, but not distractingly so.   I suppose I should go into some historical perspective here, if only to prove that I was more or less paying attention to the history of this quite amazing palace while we were visiting it.   The site has been in more or less continuous occupation since the Roman times.   The Romans had a military outpost on the banks of the River Guadalquivir, and the garrison barracks was the original settlement at the site of what is now the Alcázar.  When the Moors invaded Spain, they kicked the Romans out of this rather excellent site and a wealthy Moorish prince built his palace there.   He established huge market gardens, which eventually became the site of the gardens of the Spanish Royal family once the Spaniards kicked the Moors out.   If you want clearer information and actual dates, I’d suggest Google .

Now, the Alcázar.  Once you are inside, you start to feel like you have entered another world that is entirely separate from the rest of the world, a little oasis in the center of the metropolis that is Sevilla.   This is no doubt due to the very tall solid stone wall that surrounds the palace and gardens.   You walk around, you feel like it is so private, then you catch a glimpse over the wall and realize there is a world outside.

After you walk through the courtyard, you have a choice.  You can enter the Moorish part of the palace or you can go off and visit the addition that the Spanish royals made when they took the place over.  We first walked around the older part of the place, found a lovely garden with fountains off to the side.  

From there we entered the main part of the Moorish wing of the palace.   I was stunned by the incredible detail in this place.  There was no spot that was not encrusted with carvings.  The following pictures were taken in the entry area where apparently you could cool your heels before being allowed access to the audience chambers.  As I wandered around, I began to wonder what it would be like to have an acid flashback while touring it.   It seemed there was no surface that was not covered with carvings.

Even at the ends of walls there were decorated panels.

If there weren’t carvings, there was tile.   Amazing tile, with patterns within patterns. There are people who have devoted years to studying the tile of the Alcázar and the Alhambra and other places in Spain.  M. C. Escher visited both places named above and the tiles he found there inspired some of his mosaic tiling etchings in later years.  You can see some of the patterns that inspired him in the following picture.

The next view was taken across a courtyard of a tiled wall.   The small patterns that you notice when you are close up meld together to make a larger pattern that only jump out at you from a distance.

Once we had seen about as much gingerbread encrusted walls as we could take in, we moved on to the wing of the palace that the Spanish royal family built after they took over the place.   Again, there was tile, but this time instead of mosaic patterns, we were greeted by fantasmagoric images painted on tile rather than the patterns the Moors favored.   Once again, as I gazed at the mythologically inspired tiles, I began to wonder how it would be to experience an acid flashback.   This painted image, among others, was one that made me ponder that question.

Very soon we moved on and left the buildings to enjoy the wonderful gardens.   There the Spanish penchant for decorating everything struck us once again, as we looked at the tiles that surfaced the patios.  We had already seen tilings like this one in the gardens of Marie Louise.   All the tiny little painted tiles amazed me, there were few duplicates.  

Notice the small lion rampant on the right.   That is found on the Spanish royal crest, and believe me that image was found all over the palace; in tiles, in stained glass, carved into wood etc.   Either they needed reminding of who they were or they wanted everyone else to be reminded frequently of who owned the place they were visiting.  

The gardens were beautiful and extensive.   We were visiting in the early spring, and everywhere we went we were surrounded by the breathtaking scent of the orange blossoms that were blooming everywhere in Sevilla at that time.   In the gardens of the Alcázar, this intoxicating scent mingled with roses and verbena.   At the edge of the gardens we came across the boundary wall, every bit of 20 feet tall and who knows how thick at the bottom.  

Jim opined that he wanted to go home and enclose our two acres in a wall like that. Guess we’d need a zoning variance, a lot more money and some minions to accomplish that!  

Anyway, there was a topiary garden which included a maze, which had people trying to find their way through it.  We decided to forego that pleasure, not wanting to become lost in it when we had an appointment for tapas with azahar later in the day.

I noticed a small maze worked into the floor of a garden house nearby.  I’m not sure whether this was the plan of the large maze or not, but it intrigued me.

Everywhere there were rhythms repeated in the images and forms, both in the gardens and in the buildings.   I can see why Ravel and Debussy were inspired by visiting these gardens.

My favorite place in the whole palace was actually the most utilitarian part.   We went into the basements, which you entered from the gardens.  There we discovered the cisterns, which were designed as both a water storage system and as a primitive air conditioner.   The palace, built over the cisterns, has very intricate air channels designed to pull air in over the stored water.  As the heated air from outside passes over the pools and rises into the palace, the evaporation from the pools cools it.   

I’m sure that these cisterns are possibly the most photographed spot in the whole place.   I know the way the light shines in and illuminates the pools and the reflections of the domed ceilings of the basements makes the place absolutely magical.   Along the side of the pools is a gallery which is almost as amazing even though it does not have the reflections.   And there were side passages, blocked off from visitors, that you could look down and see storage and work rooms in serried, rhythmic lines.   

Hope you enjoyed this short visit to one of the jewels of Sevilla, the Alcázar Palace and gardens.

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There is likely to be a certain amount of irregularity in posting for a little while.  

The reason is we made the plunge yesterday and Jim went out and purchased a brand new iMac Apple OS X with a 20″ flat screen monitor.   I’d post a picture but I haven’t figured out how to operate iPhoto just yet.

Ironically, the slowness, balkiness and constant crashing of the old computer was what precipitated this purchase.  We hoped to get a new computer into the house before the old one died completely.  It was still functional, barely, when the new computer arrived on the premises.

Jim also bought an external hard drive, the idea being that you could hook that up to the old computer, download the thousands of picture files onto it and thus easily transfer them to the new machine.   Ha ha ha, what a little joke on us.  

Our old computer refused to communicate with the new external hard drive.   “What hard drive are you talking about?”  it whined.   “I sense no external hard drive, and even if I did I couldn’t possibly talk to it.”

Not only that, but when Jim decided that he would simply load discs into the disc drive and copy data to them, the hard drive in the old computer just ceased to function at all.  We sadly arrived at the conclusion that we might have to invest in data recovery services.

Fortunately, this morning Jim moved the old computer into the back room where it was not in a face to face confrontation with the new sexy beast (as azahar is wont to refer to electronics).  It grudgingly has accommodated his requests for data transfer to discs, although it still maintains it cannot do anything that has to do with an external hard drive.

I believe that when faced with the big box containing its replacement, the old computer’s feelings were hurt and it threw a tantrum.  This morning I heard Jim telling it that if it cooperated and decided to function, it had a new home waiting for it at his brother’s place where there is a kid who needs a computer that can be dedicated to his favorite computer game, or some such.

Just a new life of nothing hard, no crunching numbers, no manipulating photos, just fun and games and long periods of rest while the kid is at school.  Now what computer wouldn’t love that? 

Meanwhile, I have a new system to become acquainted with — this is our first MacIntosh.  Right now I am wondering why the little photo icon is bouncing at me.  It reminds me of Ruby when she things I should be throwing the ball rather than stupidly and boringly pulling weeds.

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Jim left for New Hampshire on Wednesday morning.  He’s off to another chair class.

For the last week, the grapes in the vineyard were busy ripening in the scorching August heat.  These are the chambourcin variety.

 14aug-2007-ripe-chambourcin-grapes.jpg

Every day Jim would go out the vineyard, open up the bird net and pick a few grapes, bring them into the kitchen to test their sugar content with the portable refractometer and then test  their pH.  

A week ago he was saying he thought they could wait to be picked until he got back from the chair class.   On Tuesday morning, he came into my massage room as I was changing the linens and cleansing the room after my first customer of the day, and said, “I have some good news and I have some bad news.”

I knew he had been testing the grapes, so I had an inkling of what his news was, but I bit anyway.   “So, what is the good news?”

“Well, the good news is that the grapes are ready to be picked.”

“Ah,” I replied.   “And the bad news is that the grapes are ready to be picked and we had better do it today.”

“Boy, you’re quick!   I’m going to get started.”

“As soon as I get the linens on the table I will come and help.  I can help pick grapes until Debbie gets here for her massage, I’ve got an hour before she’s scheduled.  Then after her massage I will get back out here and help you.   There is a three hour time slot between her and my next massage, we ought to be able to get them crushed by then, right?”

“That should be no problem.  We’d better be able to get it done, because by then I’ll have to get ready for work.”   And so that is exactly what we did.  This year we picked 120 pounds of grapes off our four rows.   We only got 5 pounds off the Marechal foch variety, which was the row which had sprouts 16 inches long and was fully budded out when we had the big freeze last April.  the vines did not die, they even put out secondary growth, but the production was severely curtailed.   In contrast, the Chambourcin grapes, which had not broken dormancy when the frost came, produced 56 pounds of fruit.   And we are still not experiencing full production yet, the vines are very young. 

So, here are a couple of pictures for contrast.   The first one is the picture of our tiny harvest last year, after we severely pruned back the blossoms to limit berry production, and the birds ate all the grapes on two of the rows.

harvest-2006.jpg

Now, have a look at what we got this year!  Each container has a different variety in it.   Boca noir is on the left, Beta in the middle, the Chambourcin on the right.   The Marechal foch were in the kitchen in a stainless steel bowl  when this picture was taken.  Notice that the harvest container in the middle is the same as the one we used last year.  I’m thinking that we may need more containers next year.  

14aug-2007-harvest-2007.jpg

We ran them all through the stemmer-crusher, and put them into their fermentation container.   Jim sterilized the berries and juice, installed the fermentaion lock, and then went off to work at the salt mines (I mean liquor store).   He packed for his trip Wednesday morning instead of Tuesday, since we picked grapes during the time he was planning to pack.  I pitched the yeast Wednesday evening.  

All day yesterday, the dining room and kitchen smelled like a winery, all yeasty, as the fermentation progressed.   The must is resting now, waiting for Jim to come home.  When he does, we will press it and the must will be transformed to young wine.

The plumber finished cleaning up today.   The yard looks as well as can be expected after hosting a trackhoe and a bobcat,  and receiving about a hundred feet of trench.  There are definite scars and still lots of rocks for me to move.   I plan to work on that tomorrow and maybe Sunday.    Anyway, the plumber and I parted on cordial terms.  I don’t think he lost any money by being forced to do a proper job of filling in the trenches.   He is still receiving commentary from the local plumbing supply stores, though, and has yet to come face to face with Mr. C.  (He told me he’s been avoiding him.  Hard to do in a town this size, especially since they are both working on the same project over at a local factory.)  I’ll bet he doesn’t make this particular mistake again!

 One of my clients was looking at the shambles in the front yard today.   After I explained about having to replace the water line, she mentioned that it is always something when you have a house.

“Yeah,” I replied, laughing wryly.   “I had to pay those guys $1900 to destroy my front lawn!”

“It will look a lot better when we have had some rain and the grass recovers from the heat.”

“Yes it will.  I’ll have to do some reseeding, and spread straw mulch.   It’ll be okay.  Every one needs rain BAD!”   No disagreement there, the whole area has been sweltering in over 100+ degree heat for a week and a half, there has been no rain for the whole entire month of August.  One of my clients is a cattle farmer, she has been worried about her pasture.   Yesterday she fretted, “If we don’t get some rain real quick, we’ll have to start feeding hay.”   No farmer likes to start using their winter’s supply of hay in August, I can tell you.  

That is almost as bad as having your tenant come across the street to ask if the air conditioner over there is under warrantee, since it quit working the other day and the repairman is there to fix it.  After paying for the water line, I was not really excited about the idea of replacing an air conditioner in the same week.  Fortunately, all it needed was a new condenser.  Whew.  It felt almost like a miracle.

At 5 p.m. today, a real miracle occurred.   The clouds gathered, grew heavy, the lightning flashed and thunder rolled, and rain pounded down onto the parched earth.   It rained for an hour; we got .53 inches (1.3cm).   As I sit here to write, I hear the thunder rumbling again.   The radar showed another band of rain coming from the south, the remnants of tropical depression Erin.   I think I hear drops hitting the ground.

I’d better post before Embarq turns off their servers.   They hate having open lines during big thunderstorms.   Makes me wonder about how good surge protectors are.  If a major internet and phone service provider doesn’t trust them, should I?

Oh, and while I was wandering around the yard today praying for rain and moving the sprinkler, I noticed that one of my clematises decided to have a resurgence, and was covered with blossoms.  

I take it as a sign that things are returning to their normal positive state at The Havens. 

Well, except for the fact that I’m still stuck cooking for myself  for two weeks while Jim learns to make a Continuous Arm Windsor chair.  Oh well.  This too shall pass.

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Look.  I am just sick of spam.  It is so completely pointless.  I mean, I just got one that was advertising apparel for Whippets.  Whippets????

If these people knew anything about me they would know that I have no need of cialis, and I am pretty sure that my husband doesn’t need it either.  Neither am I in need of any other of those nostrums they are peddling.  What on EARTH makes them think that receiving their spam comments will cause me to click on their URL and go visit their site?  Ever in a million years?

And what about those pharmaceuticals they are trying to persuade us to purchase?   I know, I know.  My cholesterol could be above the number they feel optimal.  But my High Density Lipids are very high.  I am very active.  I have very little stress.  My blood pressure is around 118/62.  I eat virtually no trans fats.  My diet is high in fiber.  So I’d rather risk a not very likely heart attack than screw around with my liver function.  But “they” have studies, and you should ask your doctor if Xzyxox is right for you!

Actually, as soon as I get distracted, which I do with some regularity, and start to read the news paper headlines, I make a liar out of myself because I immediately feel some stress.  Today in the San Francisco Chronicle they were reporting about the demonstrations against the war.  I wondered if Bloglily was there, and if she was,  I am proud of her.  If I could afford a plane ticket, I’d be there.

The monstrosity of the war in Iraq hits me very close to home.  I have a boy who is in the Army and he very likely is one of the 21,000 troops the Shrub has decided must be sent to Bagdad PDQ.  This pisses me off.  I feel that we should get out of there and have felt that way for over a year.   Well, actually, I was one of the ones who thought we should never have gone to war and attacked a sovereign nation in the first place.  I know, I know, I am a lousy cowardly traitor.

I have never been in favor of this war.  I could not believe that we were suckered into a fight when it was patently obvious that it was all a pack of lies.  There were UN inspectors over there and they weren’t finding anything.  We were told by the nations of the world to wait and see what they turned up, and then discuss a rational course of action in the international tribunal. 

We chose to ignore that.  Worse.   Our leaders went running around screaming, “He’s going to hit me, so I need to go hit him first.” Shameful. 

 And now our precious sons and daughters are over there, killing and being killed.  Bombs are falling, rockets are launched, things explode around them.  Both sides paint themselves as God’s servants, talk about the other side as if they were the personification of The Great Evil. 

Meanwhile, all this is distracting us from the biggest peril we have ever faced:  the Global Climate Change.  Things are going to get warmer.  There will be flooding.  There will be storms.  There will be crop failures.  Forest fires.  Droughts.  I’ll be able to grow roses more easily, and the grapes will thrive.  Maybe.

I desperately want a cistern.  I want to be able to water my vegetables and fruit trees and favorite flowers without having to use a well for the source.  We have two acres.  If we could set up a collection system like they have in the Outback of Australia on those sheep stations, we would probably no longer have to buy water for irrigation from the city at all.  This would save some electricity and lower our carbon footprint on the planet.

I also desperately want to win the lottery or get about 5 million dollars granted to me so I could buy certain tracts of acreage in this town and make them into beautiful green strips, drought tolerant and full of wildlife habitat.  I have no idea how to get Bill Gates’ foundation to give me that money or I’d be haranguing them about it, but I figure I have a better chance with something like that than I do with the lottery.  I do buy tickets, though.  Every once in a while somebody wins.  Why not me? 

But then I think, what good will it do?  We are embroiled in Operation Iraqi Liberation for the sole purpose of making sure we have a good steady supply of OIL, the burning of which is what is causing the climate change to begin with. 

I have not written to the President during all of this.  I have not been able to figure out what to say to him that would not immediately elicit a visit from my local Homeland Security representative.  Every time I start to think about what to say, I get so profane that I know that if I wrote it and sent it, it would immediately get my letter tossed into the basket marked “Whacko”.

One of my friends sent me an email that has been circulating around the Web, the one about what sort of speech we’d like to hear from the President for the State of the Union.”  It is very US-centric, isolationist and rather insulting to the rest of the world.  This is supposed to be funny, and elicit a bit “Yeah!  Amen brother!”  This was my reaction to the speech, which I emailed to my friend:

“Actually, I would not be the slightest bit happy to hear this speech.  I would rather hear something like an apology for turning the US into a rogue nation that attacked a sovereign nation competely against the policy of the United Nations, a group of people to which we belong and which was designed to prevent such atrocities.  Then I would appreciate an abject apology for his complete arrogance, and an admission that he is a complete moron followed by his resignation effective immediately.

I am particularly offended by the portion of this speech which refers to drilling for oil in Alaska, which would IN REALITY supply the nation’s need for petroleum for about six months while completely destroying the small amount of wilderness we have left.”

The person who sent me the original email responded by telling me that she knew that the speech would get a rise out of me.  So I sent her back a further statement:

“I was in a particularly foul mood this morning.  I performed a stupid drunk trick last weekend and have been paying for it in pain ever since.  I am finally started feeling better.  As I was driving to my massage I was reflecting on the whole political situation and contemplating writing a letter to our Head Politician, and I realized that it would go something like this: 

Dear Mr. President, 

I haven’t written to you so far because I have been afraid that my name would be placed on your list of traitors and terrorists.  But I am sick of you.  Your existence in the world has made me question my faith and belief in God, because I can’t help but think that if there was a God, he would have pinched your tiny arrogant head off your body by now.”

I haven’t written or sent this yet.  I’m afraid that sending a letter like that might earn me my very own folder in the FBI and get all my email and telephone conversations monitored.  They can do that, you know.  It’s all in the name of security. We should be grateful. 

Then I suddenly remember Ben Franklin’s statement in the Historical Review of Pennsylvania , which for the record, is not quoted often enough: 

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

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