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Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
12:49 am - Went to Oregon, came back again
Some fella was tailgating us on 101S pretty fiercely.  I instructed The Blond to open the sun roof and toss M&Ms out the opening.  I don't know if they struck the fella's car, but we were laughing pretty hard when he finally passed us, shaking his cell phone in his fist.  I wish we'd had ice cubes instead. 

Stayed the night with a cousin in San Jose-- awesome to see the family, they had a great room and we ate a pizza.  Not too bad for a whim "we're driving by, can we stay at your house" phone call.  

The stay in Oregon was interesting.  Our tent flooded due to capillary attraction during the 2 days of rain.  And our huge queen sized air mattress is terrible, it deflated, so we bought another mattress to replace it.  Must remember to complain  to Coleman. 

We didn't do all that much in Oregon, must reconsider how to spend future vacations up there. 

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Wednesday, January 14th, 2009
12:02 pm - Soil sifting ideas
A box.  A couple of sifter ideas.  Some are heavy duty.  I like the water tank one.  Cat litter sifters.  More heavy duty, but some good advice: Don't sift wet soil.  An article with instructions on how to make a soil sifting box.    Sid the soil sifter.  (Clever.)



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Monday, January 12th, 2009
11:41 am - First 4 x 4 plot planted!

So, in a surfeit of work, I shifted 16 cubic feet of soil on Saturday night while everyone was partying.  I dug a 4’ by 4’ hole, and then I sifted it all back in.  The result was a nice, soft, loosely packed soil.  That took about 3 hours.  On Sunday at twilight, I laid out the grid and used a small 1 1/2” bowl to make indentations in the right places, and planted a row of marigolds, lobelia, 2 rows of black-seeded simpson lettuce, 18 bloomingdale spinach, some Bibb lettuce (8 of those), 16 carrots, and 8 more of another lettuce plant.

 

I watered them and took pictures of the final plot, thinking it looked neat and nice.

 

Within minutes after I left the plot, vandals struck, and destroyed 3 (potential) carrots, 4 lettuce, 6 spinach, and 2 flowers.  Yes, the cats decided that plot of soil was the best possible place to leave nitrogen deposits.  Both cats used the area as their personal privy.

 

I’m sad, but I’ll replant those sections.  I need netting now, to keep out varmints, which apparently the cats are now reclassified into that category.  I also know that I may get a few seedlings in the wrong places due to the cats’ digging.  I will win. 

 

Also, someone said 20% vinegar solution works to kill weeds.  Yes?

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Friday, January 9th, 2009
1:52 pm - Steven King loves his corn fields... why should I give evil another place to live?
It's the first week of January, and the garden is doing great.  Those few nights of frost we had at the end of December? I thumb my nose at you.  I have frost resistant Bloomsdale spinach! I have about 20 spinach plants, and I'd say 5 of them are doing pretty well.  The remaining 15 are still sort of shrubbing along with a few leaves and staying close to the ground, probably due to the amount of sunlight they're (not) getting. 

I'm growing this red leaf lettuce which has a beautiful red-green leaf, and have about 4 of those that are good sized (about 12").  I churned some of those rows when nothing else grew, and thus have about 4 more of that variety that showed up after the last rain, in surprising spots.  We harvested a few leaves of it, and of course, it had a few things going for it: fresh (cut about 4 minutes before eating), organic (because I don't use pesticides or chemical fertalizers), and it was tasty and sweet.  We had some of the spinach, too, which isn't the flat leaved variety, but grows these crisp, bubbly leaves in a lovely dark green.  That was the best spinach I've ever tasted.  

All of this is growing in rows, since I didn't know how else to do it when I started planting back on October 23rd.

I've also got a few broccoli plants, though I started those in containers, and they got really leggy at first, so they have this kind of weak stem thing going on. 

I planted some It. parsley from seeds I had on a parsley plant that went to seed.  Some of it came up, so I have about 5 plants growing.  I don't think they're cold weather, so they're pretty slow growing. 

And I'm planing the bottoms of onions that I use for cooking.  Query: When those grow, will they create new onions, or do I have to let them go to seed and plant those and then I'll get onions?  I'm unclear on the lifecycle thing.  

So, the plan is that I'm going to run the remaining soil through a screen to remove rocks and other things.  If I dig down about a foot, and then sift and shift the soil back into place, it makes the soil very loose and friable.  Using Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening system  www.amazon.com/All-New-Square-Foot-Gardening/dp/1591862027/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1 -- I have the 1980 version of the book-- I'm going to lay out a few grids on Saturday and then plant a few things.  The agenda includes: Beans, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes.  I'll need to put in some vertical grids (which we have) for the beans to grow on, and the tomatoes.  It'll be sweet.  The Blonde wants corn, but it's too early to grow the stuff, and it scares me.  All the Steven King stories have corn fields, have you noticed?  

Maybe I'll grow a squash and a cucumber... and a pumpkin.  But those are summer crops and take up extraordinary amounts of room (though our good author says you can grown them on a vertical grid, again, and save enormous amounts of space).  One cucumber takes up a 4' x 4' section, which is outrageously wasteful, especially since I don't particularly LIKE cucumbers.  And they warn against growing too many of any of the squash / cucumber family because you'll be up to your eyebrows in them.  Just one plant.  If that one isn't enough, then try two plants. Etc.

Anyway, I can grow about 5-6 4'x4' sections, and the book says that one section will feed one person for a year as long as you keep replanting it, and adding vermiculite and compost and such. 

Oh, my artichoke, it's now planted in the ground.  It's about 4' across now, which is twice as large as it ever was when it was living in the plastic container.  It seems to be two plants very close together, a sort of Siamese artichoke, and I may get two artichoke stems out of it.  So far, no sign of the main stem which will bear the new choke(s).  I'm going to eat them, this time around, rather than just letting them bloom.  I may get a few harvests off it, too, as it'll give off side chokes to the main one, and that's why you get some in the initial season that are huge, and then later in the season, they dwindle down in size but rise in price. 

Because the Blonde loves blue and burgundy (so much that when she reflagged the guard ladies' livery, she had it done in those colors... and also our wedding was blue and burgundy. Surprise), I bought some flowers.  I've never tried growing flowers before, so this'll be a first. I plan to plant them around the stepping stones.

One difficulty in growing new things is that I only know what the seedlings look like for a few plants.  I think I can identify spinach pretty well, and I can also spot peppers.  Broccoli, maybe.  Lettuce is very iffy, though one variety I have has these very light green leaves, and so those stood out against the darker green weeds.  Spinach puts out these enormous false leaves, very long and slender (cotyledons), then sprouts two fat real leaves at a 90 degree angle from the initial leaves.  Tomatoes, those I know.  They look like nightshade, actually (which I seem to have in huge amounts). 

The Blonde seems to have discovered a love for those big fat peppers that are red or yellow which are very sweet in taste.  I snagged some seeds from one and planted in four black plastic containers, and put clear lids on the tops.  I think it may take about 3 weeks for them to germinate, but I plan to get some good peppers out of them, unless they were some sort of sterile hybrid, in which case, the joke's on me.  I've never planted peppers in the ground, always done them in pots, and have 3 plants that are about 5 years old and still produce.  I didn't think they were supposed to be perennials with an extended lifespan, but there ya are.  

Of all my tomato plants, I have 4-5 still living.  One of them had just produced a large red tomato, which was killed by the frost, but there's still maybe 3 green tomatoes slowly (and I mean really slowly) ripening.  The dead tomato, I'm going to strip for seeds and plant those in the ground, with a trellis.  

War on Weeds

I believe that the last year, this garden space was not weeded or used for gardening.  I say this, because in looking at what keeps happening every time there's a rain, is I get about 2000 mallow plants growing.  I am not exaggerating.  Oh, and the odd several dozen fox tails, and crab grass (nasty stuff) and nightshade, and something that has curly leaves that looks like carrots initially but isn't as vertical.  There's something else that might be dandelion (which is edible, I know).  And nightshade. I get a lot of nightshade, and it grows quietly but quickly, and it seems to thrive where tomatoes and peppers don't do as well.

However, the good news is, when I'm not turning the topsoil with a shovel to kill weeds, there is one section of the garden that I sifted for rocks, and that one has been very quiet in the weeds.  Suspiciously so!  I believe the topsoil got restacked so it's about a foot under, and there were few seeds in what is now the new topsoil.  There's still a few foxtails that have popped up, but it doesn't look a bit like the mallow infested remainder of the garden.  Supposedly, with square foot gardening, there's less weeding, and the space is better used, but since I'm using the native soil, I'm still going to be weeding quite a bit.  That's okay, because eventually it'll settle down to a dull few weeds, especially since I can be focused in my watering with the SFG that I can't be with a row garden. 

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Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
10:03 am - Garden
So I planted a couple rows of spinach and lettuce in the new garden.  So far, after 4 days, I have two varieties of weeds growing, which is thrilling. 

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Friday, October 3rd, 2008
11:21 am - 11-99 license plate frame = get out of ticket
So, in a news report last night, they broke a story on something which is interesting but kind of silly.  See, the 11-99 Foundation is a charitable group that takes donations for the families of slain police officers in the California Highway Patrol.  Worthy cause? Sure.   And if you donate  money, you get a license plate frame that says you're a 11-99 Foundation member.  If you donate a lot of money, you get one that says something to the effect ("Founders circle" or whatever).  

And why would you put this on your car? To show that you're a good citizen and you're donating to the police?  Well, apparently, some people believe that if you have the license plate frame, it'll get you out of a ticket.   Now, I know from police friends that they do in fact look for little symbols on cars which might suggest an association, such as a Baker to Vegas relay run license plate frame, or a sticker for the 11-99 foundation, etc., and that they would be more inclined to let  you go with a warning than with a ticket.

But shouldn't people associating themselves with the police be better drivers, paragons of our community?  If you're claiming that you're a relative of a cop or fireman, you really ought to be more polite, and obey the law, not cut people off and speed. 

Now, interestingly, there's some ebay sales of these frames, which in the news program, they said the 11-99 foundation was trying to get removed from e-bay.  I don't think they'll succeed, since the license plate frames are personal property and there is no contract regarding their use, nor should there be, though at $800 for a frame, you may as well chip in the extra $1000 and get the badge and ID card holder to put your license in that you can hand to the officer when they pull you over--and you'd be helping the charity.

I suppose the thing here that comes to mind is that police officers should not pay attention to the license plate frames to influence their decisions in issuing a ticket; and perhaps the 11-99 foundation ought to look for a better way to reward their donors than a get-out-of-ticket-free device that looks hypocritical at the very least.  Stuff has a nice discussion of the topic from 2006.



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Wednesday, September 17th, 2008
2:06 pm - Another
(Picture of Obama to one side)

"Drive like a jerk and cut me off?

Of course I'll vote for the candidate on your bumper sticker."


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2:06 pm - Bumper sticker
"Vote bumper sticker.
Don't disenfranchise my car."

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Thursday, July 24th, 2008
12:13 am - Batman
Not too shabby.  That was one long flick, though.  

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Friday, July 18th, 2008
12:06 pm - Global warming
http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/religion.htm

So, prove this isn't a religion.

And, since people are being used as dupes, who benefits?  Clearly, someone is gaining a great deal of money in this.  (It's just as bad as the oil companies.)

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Thursday, July 17th, 2008
4:42 pm
Buy worms:
http://www.wormman.com/

Worm composter?
http://www.cleanairgardening.com/worcomverbin.html

Expensive. Smaller?

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Wednesday, July 16th, 2008
10:51 pm - No memes here
Our French student decided we were boring and so the program shifted her to another family. (They're probably as boring, but that's not my problem.)  She was always polite, but a little distant. 

Anyway, they shipped us a new student, a Russian named Alexander, who needed a new place.  See, he and another boy were staying with a couple in North Hills, where the couple was in their 70s.  On Saturday, the boys and their host  went for a drive on PCH to Malibu, where their host promptly had a stroke while driving.

The boys were able to get the car over to the side of the road, and then promptly did an American thing: They called 911.

How did they know to call 911?  Not movies.  No, they learned it from Grand Theft Auto VI.

We're going to Disneyland on Saturday.  And I somehow procured, in less than 3 days notice, Club 33 passes for the family. Heh. Pity we're so boring... it could have been the French student, but she would have been bored.

Blah.  I'm taking a break, back to motions in limine.  Total hours worked today: 13, with no end in sight.  This'll easily pay for Disneyland.

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Thursday, July 10th, 2008
10:41 am - "EuroDisney? I spit on your EuroDisney" was all the French I knew
Dear Rosetta Stone:
 
I want to complain about French. You see, it doesn’t make sense. For example, “he runs” is Il court. (Pronounced eel couer.) Then we have “They (male) run.” It’s Ils courent. No big deal, the verb conjugates and everything. Pronounced, as far as I can tell, eels couer. Do you see a problem here? The verb spelling changes, the pronounced deal does not.
 
Immersion learning is fine, I’m pretty hands-on so this words with pictures thing is far easier than the words with words on a page thing, or the I’ll say it you repeat it thing. 
 
I’ll ask the French girl tonight. What’s the difference? IS there a difference? Also, what’s the deal with completely ignoring the end consonants on just about all the words?  Is there a rule??! Argh. Immersion learning. Be calm. Move forward. It’s a big puzzle, you keep getting pieces, maybe someday you figure out there’s a pattern and it makes sense.
 
And Garçon? That funny ç thing is my biggest hangup. The rest of the stuff, I’m getting it right, or close enough. Maybe RS is just forgiving in the first lessons and tightens up later. Maybe it’ll call me fat. I don’t know.

And doir.  Pronounced Dwa.  Very short. The example speaker spits it out. Me, I'm like a Texan French, I drawl it out Dwoooaaa.  It doesn't like my pronounciation, so it gigs me.  Sends  me to the remedial pronounciation screen.  There's a tight green blob representing the example speaker: "Dwa."  Me: "Dwa"  My green blob is twice as long.  The program is not satisfied with it.  I try again.  "Dwa."  Shorter, this time, but I can't seem to say doir short enough.  I don't remember what the picture for doir is, but I'm going to pronounce it right, dammit!  Did I mention they're completely ignoring the "R"? Just throw it out the window, Pierre, we don't need it.  The English, they have their stupid "e" on the end of words, we have, well, all our consonents!  "Dwa."  Finally, it accepts my doir, though the green blob looks nothing like the example blob.  Stupid program.  Stupid speaker.  I blame the microphone.

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Tuesday, July 8th, 2008
1:49 pm - France is only 2.5 hours away... it must be the metric measurements

 French exchange student arrives tomorrow.

Bedroom is mostly packed.  Bathroom is packed.  Baby's room is half packed.  Kitchen, dining, living room not packed.  Must figure out how to dismantle drier to remove it, it's too wide for the door.  Need figure out when to move plants.  Plus, I want to move some plants from containers to ground, so must get that done soon.  Movers for big furniture hired.  The Blonde is awesome packer.  There's dozens of boxes labelled and packed, so they're easy to move. 

Ordered "Rosetta Stone" French v. 1.  It arrives Thursday. 

Ordered Maggie's Compendium (in book form).  It arrives... ?

Cancelled SLO appearance-- must pack for moving, plus trial next week and boss will certainly want overtime.
Finished Rainbow-Las Vegas.  Stupid helicopter.  I didn't pay much attention to the story line, there were all these silly conversations in between levels, but the purpose was to shoot bad guys.  (You can't negotiate with them, say, "I'll get you an Iced Latte if you just put down the weapon.")

Volunteered as parking crew for 4th of July at church.  We had awesome seats.  Nice 15 minute show.  People pulling up: "How much is parking?" "Free."  Then they'd go to the concession booth, "how much is the popcorn?" "Free."  No, really, it is community service.  (Okay, we're trying to lure people in.  I think it's a nice gesture, but hardly a good way to get religious conversion.  "They gave me free popcorn, so I knew this was where I wanted my soul saved.") 

Migraine today.

Went to court for jury duty this morning, put it off for 3 weeks.  Someone please explain why the two people running the office for the jury room open it at 8:15 a.m. (they were even later) when the notice tells you to be there by 8:00 a.m.? Thanks, I could have used an extra 45 minutes of sleep, guys.  Then the two people ignore us until after 9:00 a.m.   Were they doing anything? I was sitting near them, and it sounded like they were just gossiping.  Argh.  I was first in line for the postponement, so I got out of there about 9:10 a.m. 


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Tuesday, July 1st, 2008
4:13 pm - Tis a pity she's a whore
I have a program that uses the F2 key for shortcuts. So if you type in, say, tcw and hit F2, it'll change that to "telephone conference with."  Cool.  When I'm in a hurry, I sometimes mash the F2 button, and since the program is web-based, and we're using internet explorer, I get the F1 button by mistake. That brings up the dreaded HELP screen.

I do not need the help screen. I do not want the help screen.  I don't want the F1 key to do anything.  But I can't disable it without complex software, so I have to just not hit the F1 key.  This isn't a good solution.

Yesterday, I saw a suggestion to pry off the offending key with a letter opener. 

So this, I did.  Pried the sucker off and left it on my desk.  In case someone needs the F1 key, it's right here. Like I'm going to use it for something?   Yeah right.

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3:35 pm - Sometimes, at night, the ice on the privy would ice up to that perfect crispness
I spoke too soon.  It seems my able wife, helpmate, and mother of my child went out and signed us up already for that exchange student.

I was going to say, "We'll take anything but a French person.  No French."  But I swallowed my silly "let's make fun of the French" and said nothing about that, figuring that we'd probably end up with a Russian, Austrian, or Spaniard, and a guy, because everyone always wants girls.

So, of course, that means we get a French gal... with a Hebrew name.  (The Blonde had trouble with it, but I recognized the Ben-____ format and said, "aaaah, that is a Hebrew name."  See, Charleton Heston movies have some use.)  There's scads of scheduling, but it's all good.  I hope she likes horses.  We might also see if she wants to work SLO fair with us, which would be amusing.  "No, that's her real accent." 

I'm looking forward to it all, though it's also in the middle of a trial at work -and- jury duty for me.

Yeesh.

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12:49 pm - That'll teach ya to volunteer
We got pitched on Sunday to take in and feed a high school exchange student for a couple weeks, starting in mid-July.

So Mrs. Skeeter says, "we could do it... though we're moving in the middle."

I say, "hey, we can be one of those awful host families like in Bart Simpson where they force him to do hard labor the whole time he's in France... `get to work, you lazy furrner, move that furniture!'"

She laughed.   I won't actually make them do anything. 

But the food thing might be a pain.  We have our pick of French, Spanish, Austrian, or Russian.  I said, "whatever, give us someone who doesn't have a place."  We feed em in the morning, drop them off at church in Pasadena, and pick em up in the evening and feed them dinner.  Oh, and provide a bedroom. 

Did I mention we're moving in the middle of this? 

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12:31 pm - What do I know about horses? Not much
This was sent on a horse list I’m on:

>>PLEASE GO TO THIS LINK AND SEE WHAT THE BLM HAS PLANNED FOR OUR WILD HORSES!!! WRITE LETTERS, DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO HELP!!!! THANK YOU, ______<<

>>Here is a link to the BLM statement about their plans with the horses.
http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/wild_horse_and_burro/Statement_06_30_2008.html<<

Help me understand this:

 From the link on the BLM website, "It is clear the agency cannot continue current removal and holding practices under existing and projected budgets. Neither can the BLM allow horses to multiply unchecked on the range without causing an environmental disaster. That's why the BLM is exploring options to exercise its legal authority to (1) sell older and certain other unadopted animals “without limitation” to any willing buyers and (2) euthanize those wild horses and burros for which no adoption demand exists."

 Okay, so the BLM (taxpayer funded) is saying they cannot afford to feed and care for the 30,000 animals they have been caring for.  They also say, without any backup, "Neither can the BLM allow horses to multiply unchecked on the range without causing an environmental disaster."  I query what environmental disaster we're talking about?  Do the horses overgraze and all die as a result?  Do they destroy the habitat?  As with any species introduced into an environment which they are not native to (horses are relatively recent in Americas-- 1500s saw the conquistadores bringing over horses of which some escaped and became the first "wild" herds), I can see how the ecology of a system might not be set up to have the checks and balances necessary to keep the herds small and healthy.  Yet, there isn't any regulatory way to keep the herds down. 

We know this works for elk, and deer, and moose, all similar quadruped omnivores who can overpopulate and overgraze an area if they have no natural predators and you cannot hunt them.  Thus, when you re-introduce a native specie like wolves back into a system, they act as a balance to the herds, because the only way to control the population of these herds is to either open up more land for them (something which appears not possible) or to remove them through killing them or domesticating them.

Have I missed something so far? 

Since there aren't enough people to domesticate them in this free-market economy, we "euthanize" them which is a really sterile term for "kill." 

So what should our letters say?  Which Peter do we suggest they rob to pay Paul?  The budget is a closed system, there are $x available, and $y of that is given to the BLM to manage the land, and $z is given to programs where they house and feed wild horses.  That's our nickel [and to what benefit for the public?  You remove animals from the free range and feed them with food from the non-free range].  I'll bet most of our households are also closed systems-- we receive a regulated amount of money in pay from our jobs, or regulated amounts from investments and retirement income.  Of that system, only a percentage is available to feed and house horses.  The rest buys gas. :p   So what solution should we hand the politicians, other than "please don't kill the beautiful horses"?  Unless you're willing to release the wolves, you're going to need a human solution, one that costs money, else the horses overgraze the areas they're in, soil erosion occurs, rainfall isn't soaked up into aquifers, and instead takes valuable topsoil downstream, resulting in a rangeland that is then grazed bare by the rapidly dwindling herds.  The system is self-regulating, but I think this is the environmental disaster that the BLM is thinking of, where the animals die of starvation and the range they use is destroyed for many years.  I'm sure that the deleterious effects of overgrazing have probably been well studied by scientists in the 20th century.

Does the phrase ". . . (1) sell older and certain other unadopted animals “without limitation” to any willing buyers. . ." mean selling to the Canadian horse meat industry?   What are the other options?  Go out and geld all the stallions?  As with the dog and cat problem, you cannot give a good home to every animal because you have a substantial overpopulation of the animals.  (Thus the campaigns for cheap spay and neuter.)   [The gelding of the stallions would probably not be successful, other than weakening the existing herds because the program would probably tend to geld the most visible stallions, which are those with family groups, and would probably miss the stallions which are loners because they haven't been able to successfully fight other stallions to gain mares and yearlings.]

So, what is the solution?  What do we write our congressmen to do? 

current mood: contemplative

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Monday, June 30th, 2008
12:33 pm - Anti meme filter!
Awesome.  So I miss a few posts.  No loss.

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Thursday, June 26th, 2008
10:57 am - Great Big Sea
House of Blues Sunset Strip, Hollywood
Fri, 10/03/08  8:00pm

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