the circular runner

Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

a guide to getting along with in-laws over the holidays

In humor, life, observations, Uncategorized on January 1, 2013 at 9:37 am

The-Taunting-mother-in-law

One of the many disappointing things about getting older is that you can’t just be an ass and blame other people for your shortcomings.  BOO, old age. BOO!!  Case in point: I’m in Florida for the holidays with my wife’s family.  I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t keen on coming.  I don’t really love traveling over the holidays; I’ve had run-ins with my brother-in-law in the past (though I will say he’s been a real great guy on this visit); and really, Flo. freaks my shit out.

Still, it’s the awkwardness I feel around some of my in-laws that freaks me out most.  When we all sit down for a meal, it feels as if I’m on a bad date–a bad date in which I have to sit across from like a dozen people who don’t want to be there with me.  This is where my progress shines through.  Are you blinded yet?

The other night I was at dinner with the clan.  My father-in-law always likes to go out to some restaurant with everyone at least once.  Odd thing is that almost always, he sits and stares off into space when we get there.  He works hard, to be fair.  And he always works.  He’s also not the only one who seems distant.  My sister-in-law’s boys can sometimes have meltdowns, which only add to the strange feeling because as a whole, I think the family feels some shame for the boys’ behavior, and many of us kind of drift off as the boys are being reprimanded.

Anyway, no one is really talking, or maybe they are.  I am bored out of my mind.  This year, I have The Boy as a shield, and as a friendly face to focus on, SO I’m getting by.  But it hits me.  Part of the reason I feel awkward around my in-laws is that I am always wishing it were different.  Basically, you have a room full of strangers who only come together because of their spouses.  There’s little chance that I would hang out with many of these individuals and the same is true on their end.  And this is where the age thing comes in.  In the past, I would sit back and assume the problem was elsewhere, i.e., with my in-laws.  Occasionally, I would shift the blame to myself.  I know I’m no saint.  But what I think I realized this time out was that I am wrong to assume it’s a matter of blame because the truth is no one is to blame.

It’s no one’s fault.  It’s just what it is.  And I do better when I accept it as such, because if I’m honest, I think that’s where my awkwardness comes in–it’s a masked disappointment that I just can’t seem to find a way in with these people who are so close to the woman I married.  Maybe that’s sad.  Maybe it isn’t.  What do you guys think?  Do you get along with your in-laws?

I hope so.

I also hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season.  See you in 2013.

what’s so scary about writing?

In humor, life, observations on December 8, 2012 at 5:55 am

Heck if I know.

That’s all I got, folks.  An abstract question and a really silly answer.  There’s nothing scary about writing, but you wouldn’t know that from the way I put off writing today.  I had a solid hour and a half–a veritable bonanza of time nowadays with The Boy and work X 2 and the other crazy things I keep trying in order to make the dinero.  But what do I do with this gift of seconds and minutes?  I squander it.

I wanted to write.  I have a 52nd story to finish.  (For those new to my blog, I made a goal in 2011 that I would produce for better or for worse, 52 original stories.  I got to 47 and The Boy was born.  Then, I wrote what I will call the Crappy 4, which brought to story 52.)  OK, now that we’re all up to speed, I have the new goal that I will write my final story before the end of the year.   I can do that.  I should be able to do that.  I should have gotten a start today.  But no dice, Rollo.

It would be one thing if I were just being a lazy-ass, preferring to play Bike Barron or Temple Run instead of doing the work.  That’s be kind of lame considering I’m a 41-year old man, but at least, I’d get some joy.  Today, I felt no joy, only fear.  But what was I scared of?

Heck if I know.

If I dig down, I guess I fear the effort involved, but I don’t mean the effort required in writing.  What I fear is the cut-off, by which I mean, when I write fiction, I cut ties with this world in order to make up another.  Problem is, I’m not part of that world.  I’m making it, but I’m not part of it.  I almost always get a kick out of writing once I start, but those first few minutes as I’m starting to disengage from my concerns, from my daily self, I feel the difficulty, and the difficulty is caused by…. in a word, loneliness, a loneliness I don’t seem able to get myself accustomed to.

Does anyone else suffer from this?  I’d love to know I’m not the only crazy person out there.  Come on, folks, share your craziness.  I needs me somes crazy.  Give it over.

what Walt Disney taught me about getting the job done

In career, humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on December 5, 2012 at 5:01 am

It’s no secret that the secret to better writing is to put words on a page often and frequently.  (Yes, I now there’s some irony to what I just wrote.)  What’s also ironic is the fact that I seem to come to this conclusion every few months as if it were the first time.

Case in point: this past weekend, I applied for a Disney Living Worlds fellowship.  Or is it a grant?  Is there a difference?  Whatever it is, I applied for one.  I actually applied with two different projects.  It didn’t cost anything to apply, and there was no mention made as to a limit applications you could submit.  The really interesting thing for me is that I wrote both applications over the weekend.  These weren’t the most in-depth applications, I’ll admit. There were tight word limits, and basically, you had to explain what your project entailed and how you would incorporate multi-media into it.  Tight word limits can sometimes be more difficult because you really have to choose your words wisely.  You have to get to the point.

I’m not really sure I did a great job on these apps.  But what’s worth pointing out is that I just forced myself to get them done and turn them in.  In the end, I think that’s a lesson I’ve come late to.  There’s a quote, I think it’s Emerson.  I’m paraphrasing, but it’s something like,

“perfection is the enemy of progress.”

I’ve never done anything perfectly, but I know I’ve tried to make things so good that I’ve become paralyzed or overwhelmed or so frustrated that I have given up.  You need not look further than the hard drive of this computer, which has on it 3 versions of 2/3 of a novel, which I referenced in an earlier post. The novel was never going to be perfect.  Maybe it was never going to be good, for that matter.  But if I would have finished it, I could at least say I had a novel done and be free to move on to the next.

I know there are some who are going to argue that this is facile.

    • How do you know something is done?
    • There’s real value to sitting on something until it is as good as it can be.

To the question, I’d say that it’s done when you can’t think of anything else to do with it and when a trusted reader can’t come up with something that you think is valid.

And to the other point, DUH.

But at the same time, I’m reminded of a podcast interview I heard recently with Mark Duplass.  He’s a filmmaker, supposedly some hero of the mumblecore aesthetic.  That’s not that important. What was really cool about this podcast is that when asked about his process, Mr. Duplass basically said it’s all about being good enough.  It’s not about being perfect.  It’s about giving it your best and then moving on.  Mr. Duplass, where was your wisdom when I was struggling that beast, AKA, my novel?

So, my application this weekend.  Hey, I’m not saying it was genius.  But I had a goal of getting that thing in, and I did it.  And I’m feeling good about that.  I’m not going to let myself think I could have done better if I’d taken more time.  I’m not gonna.  And neither should you.  Go out there and get shit done.  Done, being the much more important word than shit, by the way.

 

an early new year’s resolution: SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY

In career, humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writers & books, writing on November 28, 2012 at 4:45 am

Who’s kidding who?  I’m not going to do that.  I’m genetically programmed for complex.  I like hard.  I am unsuited for calmness.

Some of this is hyperbolic, of course.  I am not a complete nutjob.  But I do have a habit of choosing difficult things.  As a kid, I decided to be a violinist–yes, a professional violinist.  More specifically, I had this idea that I’d be a soloist.  If you can’t quite imagine what that means, I would liken my chosen career path to wanting to be a professional athlete, but not just any professional.  Being a soloist is like being the top player in your sport, the Michael Jordan, the Pele, the Lance Armstrong without the doping.

You might be thinking this is impressive on my part.  Please don’t make that mistake.  I started seriously practicing at about the age of 16–soloists usually start when they are 4.  I didn’t have a great ear, either.  I practiced like the dickens, it’s true. I can say this without exaggeration: from the age of 16 to about 23, I might have missed 5 days total in the practice room.  But the truth is that I was not smart about practicing.  I was a grunter.  I was all about effort.  I took pride in how hard I worked and not in how good I sounded.

True, I got decent eventually.  By the time I stopped playing, I was good enough to gig for a living in LA.  My last year in LA, I played more Korean weddings, Jewish high holiday parties–more pick-up gigs for more local orchestras than I can tell you.  Basically, by the time I stopped playing, I was…ok.

Did I mention I had gnarly stage fright?

My need to strive beyond my talents did not stop with the violin. As a writer, I felt the same kind of calling.  I let my need for complexity cloud my judgment.  For four years, I put in hour after hour on the computer working on a novel that I didn’t have the chops to write.  I was reading The Corrections at the time and Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, was rattling around my cranium.  In fact, I was trying to channel these big books as I wrote my own “big” book about a group of caretakers looking after an autistic man the year his elderly mother was dying.

Did I mention that I had some Salman Rushdie magical realism mixed in with some elements of Sound and the Fury.

I am no Faulkner…I know, you are surprised!

YES, dear reader.  WTF?  This “masterpiece” was my first attempt at a novel.  I probably could have written three novels in that amount of time if I’d just kept it simple.  I’m not saying they would have been great novels, but by just getting through a whole thing, I would have learned a lot more than writing and re-writing and tri- and quad-writing the same 2/3 of that thing.  I mean I got into writing after reading Raymond Carver and Richard Yates and Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene.  I still think they are great writers, but they are not extremely sophisticated, uber clever writers like Rushdie and Faulkner.

Did I mention that I am neither clever nor sophisticated?

an author with the skills to be complicated.

Did I mention that I have come to the conclusion in middle age that I am not exceptional?  Oh, you know that already, don’t you?

I tell you all this because I am doing it again–at least, I fear I am.  In January, I’m moving away from this site, packing up the verbal luggage and moving over to a wordpress.org self-hosted thingamajig.  Why, you ask?

I have decided I want to try and focus on something in my blog-writing.  More details will come over the next few weeks.  It’s enough to say that I have been learning the HTML and reading up about traffic and blog structure and some other tech-craziness.  I’m enjoying it, but I’m nervous I’m being complicated to keep myself from really doing the hard work of digging in.

And yet, and yet, I feel alive.  The great Joe Ponepinto, whose blog is very cool and worth a look, recently mentioned in a comment that I should just follow my bliss.  And maybe that’s the thing: I bliss out doing shit the hard way.  I don’t know if it will be good for the writing career, but I think there’s something to this strategy.  Let’s see.  I’m just hoping some of you will come over with me to the new site.  Come on!  It’ll be different, but I promise I will fill those posts with the same kind of neurotic-complex-loving love I show here.

That’s a promise.

1 scary idea writers should avoid, though I can’t…

In career, humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on November 21, 2012 at 4:21 am

Recently, I have spent hours figuring out how to put columns into my posts.  I like the magazine look of…uh, magazines.  But I am a bit of a dunderhead, and so instead of learning to do it the proper way, I hack my way through some short code plug-ins and spend a lot of time–not sure why–struggling to make my posts not look like shite.

Now, from the last sentence, you might have noticed that I am spending a little too much time reading web-shite.  I never before this post have used the word, “hack,” at least not in verb-form.  I have used the word in it’s more writerly sense–as in, I don’t want to be a hack-writer who uses jargon unnecessarily because that would be…uh, hack-writing, which is very different from the idea of hacking my way through this blog, which could either refer to my sawing through something, like your patience, dear reader, or finding a workable solution.

Jesus.  I need to get out more often.  I say this, though I do not think I will get out more often because I am working my butt off trying to figure out how I can make money–more money.  And this is what the problem is.  Why am I not writing more?

Lately, I’ve come to this scary idea: what if I am not writing more because I don’t really want to be a writer?  What if, in fact, I’d rather spend my time figuring out how to make blogs look cool?  Or what if I’d rather figure out how to connect all the strangds of social media for clients, like what I am doing, or trying to do, for my writing career?

Don’t I want to write books? You know, I’m not sure I do.  I don’t obsess about books or writing.  In all honesty, if you asked me what I am obsessed about, I’d say there are two things: 1. design and 2. making more money.

Weird things to admit considering I am a writer.

So what’s going on?  Am I finding myself?  Have I just drunk some strange brew of Bay Area tech-coolaid?  Or, something else?

just cause I’m poor doesn’t mean you need to treat me poorly…

In career, humor, life, observations, writing on October 15, 2012 at 4:55 am

OK, I’m trying to change things up.  I’m trying to reinvent the wheel–yes, I am the wheel in question.  I am getting old for this, though–not turning as well as I once did.  But I’m trying.

I will be going to a conference for multi media storytelling later in the month, and I will be writing about the experiences, which I am sure will be full of me fretting about asking dumb questions of smart people.  But talking to strangers about what they do is still not as daunting as talking to people about trying to get work.  Recently, I put in an application with a local non-profit that has a program for career changing folks like myself who want to work in media-related fields.  It seemed like a great fit.  The application process was a bit daunting.  I had to fill out a number questionnaires, write an essay, research potential ad agencies/film production companies I’d like to hit up for a job during the course of my training.  I had to come up with a social media plan for myself, which included setting up a portfolio site.  I ended up making two: one for writing and a second for visual/film stuff that I am still building.

The application took a bit of time, but I thought it was worth the trouble since the program would give me training and the opportunity to talk to people working in the field.  Little did I know that the guy who runs the program is a bit of a flake.  He never confirmed receiving the application and all the materials I sent–FINE. He didn’t get back to me about a couple questions after the fact.  FINE.  And then last week, we were supposed to have a telephone interview, and he flaked.  NOT FINE.  An hour after the appointed time, I get a form email–addressed to Hi ____.  (Yes, the blank was included, which is so NOT FINE).  In the email, he apologized for not getting back to me and the other people he must have flaked on.  He was behind on interviews but wanted to know if we were available any other time on Friday or Monday.  I wrote him back, forcing myself to be polite, though I wanted to tell him off, honestly.  I moved things around to be available, and the only thing I got for my trouble was a damn email that wasn’t even addressed to me.  By the way, I never heard back from him.  (Need I say how UNFINE that is?)

SO what to do?  I still think the program is worthwhile.  I think it would be good for me.  But I also feel like I should complain to the guy’s boss.  I mean, I know what it’s like to work for a non-profit.  I’m sure the guy is super busy.  But I also know that this program is geared toward people who don’t have work and are looking for training.  I’m fortunate.  I have a decent job with benefits, which is nothing  to sneeze at in this economy.  That’s why there’s this part of me that feels like the guy is not being sensitive to the people he is trying to serve.  Just because you are poor, doesn’t mean you should get poor service.  And that’s why I feel like complaining.

I probably won’t in the end.  I want to see if I can get into this program, and I doubt I would if I started bad mouthing the guy who decides who gets in.  But then again, I’m an old wheel trying to be new and squeaky.  And you know what they say about squeaky wheels.

9 Months and Out, Lesson 2: DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR AGE….

In career, humor, life, media, observations, Uncategorized on September 1, 2012 at 6:15 am

I’m middle-aged, and I’m not happy about it.

The other day, I went some place for coffee.  It’s right across from a Starbucks, which I don’t pooh-pooh as a rule.  Starbucks is fine.  It’s good.  It’s ok.  I just felt like changing things up.  This other place is more hipster.  The lines are longer.  The people better looking–no tired looking middle-managers in khakis sitting around with their PC’s in this here place.  This was a Mac crowd, which if nothing else means the coffee is fair traded, cold-brewed with spices from the Himalayas and infused with Madagascar fairy dust–ingredients you pay for through the nose–pierced nose, naturally.

So, surrounded by all the new hipsters and the new shiny Apples, I ordered my Madagascar fairy-infused brew on ice and noticed that the barrista (hate that word) was wearing an LA Kings t-shirt.  In San Francisco, you don’t do this unless you’re looking for abuse.  For Angelinos, San Francisco is a quaint town up north.  In San Fran, LA is all pollution and water-theft and Satan.  Anyway, sensing a fellow Angelino, I asked the man where he was from.  He said Venice.  I grew up in next-door Santa Monica.  We smiled.  We were both Angelinos and Westsiders, to boot.  Cool.  Then he tells me he went to my high school.  Holy ducklesworth!  A fellow Viking!  I almost broke into our school song, which I, as a choir member back in the day, sang many many times at all kinds of events.

I decide against the singing, but still we’re all smiles at this point.  We’re on the same wavelength.  That is until the guy asks what year I graduated.  I feel a tightening around my smile.  I say, “I think I might be a little older,” and then, I tell him the year.  And that’s when he does the same.  He’s 16 years younger.  16.  Oh, fuck you, Mr. Coffee.  Go choke on your Madagascar BS coffee that gives me the runs.  He probably doesn’t even know the school song now that Prop 13 has removed music from the school.

Now, I wasn’t really pissed.  I just felt a little awkward especially because it seemed like he got awkward.  Of course, he probably got awkward because he sensed that I got awkward. Oh, who knows?  It doesn’t matter.  Why do I care?

I probably wouldn’t except that when you’re looking to build a new career as I am, you’re surrounded by young people by definition.  Usually, these young’ns don’t care about me.  I’m just another guy.  But in my head, I assume that they must be thinking  I’m some middle-aged loser.  My issues.  Not theirs.  Which is the moral of this little lesson: go and reinvent yourself if you need to and don’t let yourself be limited by the number of candles on your cake.

I’m 40. So take that, Mr. Coffee?  I can appreciate cool music and non-exploitative coffee like you.  But I have also lived long enough to know Starbucks is ok in a pinch.  I’m older.  Life has made me flexible and ready to drink any cup of coffee life’s barrista throws my way.

9 months and out–LESSON #1

In career, humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writers & books, writing on August 29, 2012 at 5:30 am

 

If you want to succeed at something, stick to it.  OK, obvious, I know.  But let me start with a story that will show you how I have not followed this very obvious truth.  I call this little ditty, Curse of the Dumb-Dumb Who Keeps Wondering What Other People Think of Him.  Here it goes.  I hope you like it–really, I do.

(See what I mean?)

When I was 15, I discovered tennis.  This was before the Williams sisters, mind you.  On paper, I had no real business with the sport.  Tennis is not quite golf and it’s a good bit under polo in the rich-person pantheon of athletics.  And yet, it certainly has a little bit of the country club vibe to it even to this day.  My father at the time, classic immigrant that he is, was happy about my discovery, telling me that tennis was a good sport for making connections with rich people.  (My father’s strange views of American society are another story.)  Anyway, I loved tennis.  I spent a summer going from one public court to the next all over Santa Monica, looking for people to play.  I was what I am not usually: without fear or apprehension.  I just wanted to play.

I say all of this, but this month was the first time I picked up a racket in 25 years.  I stopped when I was a sophomore because even though I loved tennis, the sport was not going to get me cred with the girls–at least I didn’t think I would.  So, what did I do?  I switched to basketball, which was a joke.  I’m 6′ 3″, and I liked playing pick-up games.  But my heart wasn’t into it.  And I didn’t have a head for the game in a more organized setting of league play.  So, basically I sucked it.  And after getting through Hell Week, I quit the team.  By that time, I’d gotten rusty at my tennis game, and then I hurt my shoulder trying to serve and it was over.

Now, do you get the point?  I left what I loved out of some concern of what others would think.  And I’ve been repeating the same mistake for years. You’d think I’d learn by now, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to see that you’re repeating the same mistake.  Every situation seems new.  Even now, I feel the pressure to give up on writing. I’m not going to, mind you.  This is it for me, I know that.  But sometimes, I have an idea, and I work through it, and as I sit with the project, I start to have doubts.  I start thinking no one will like what I’m doing or that I will fail (which also comes from a concern for others) and I want to run away.

I tend to think that most ideas, if you stick with them, can bear fruit.  Part of success is telling that inner-critic that tells you to quit because you might fail or because no one will like it or because you will end up penniless and friendless (and probably toothless as well) to shut the f&*& up.  There is success to be had if you just stick to what you’re doing and not listen to others.  I think that’s clear enough.  Right?  You agree, right?  Come on.  Agree already.

Damn it!  I’m doing it again.

nine months and out…a manifesto for switching careers

In career, humor, observations, parenting, Uncategorized on August 25, 2012 at 5:40 am

 

 

I read somewhere that you have to name to claim it. Or something like that.  I’m terrible about memorizing quotes.  I’m a paraphraser by nature and by limited intellect.  But you get the gist.  I’ve known for a while that I couldn’t keep on as I’ve been–a teacher of poor young people who also tutors the wealthiest among us on the side.  It’s not the work itself, though I don’t love the tutoring as much.  The truth is that it boils down to economics.  WOW, that’s really unique, isn’t it?  But let me tell you a story, which might make a my point a bit more personal if not more interesting.

My family comes from Uruguay, a small country in South America, in case you don’t know and you would not be alone if you didn’t.  The last time I went, I was walking around the downtown of the capital, and I realized that the beaches, which the country is known for, were all being bought up by wealthy Argentines and Brazilians, and a few Americans as well, which meant that something as public as the land one walks on could be bought out by foreigners.  Public beaches in one country were becoming privately owned extensions of another country–colonies by pocketbook.  I naturally thought that this was unheard of in the US of A.  We buy things.  We don’t get bought out, which is still basically true though changing.  And yet, I live in a city, a major American city, where the not-rich are being forced out by the newly-minted techie-rich.

I am not from here, originally.  So in a way, I don’t have the same stake in the game as many of my friends who are native to the City by the Bay.  But I’m a proud, probably to a fault, and I’m an urban-dweller, which means suburbia is not an option, which means I’m locked into a fight here.  I am, for the first time in my life, thinking about money and my need to get a bit more of it.  It’s not just the San Fran, of course.  I saw the same stuff happening in NYC where I used to live before moving here, but I was single then.  There’s something about having a family that’s changed me and how I think of work and career and getting paid.

There’s some personal stuff, too, which you can read more about in a guest post I recently made for Le Clown’s Black Box Warning.  If you’re interested in the inner-pains of my being, check out the post.  For the purposes of this blog, as I’ve said before, I am trying to lay down some plans for getting to a new place with writing and social media campaigns.  I’ll get into the social media discusion in the next post, but for now, I gotsta to get paid regardless of what I do.

It’s possible, I think.  When I first got to SF, I knew I didn’t want to work in an office anymore.  I knew I needed a job that gave me time to write and I knew I was a teacher.  Well, I found that.  Now, I need to get that and just a few more dolars so I won’t be muscled out by all the hipsters and their beards and beamers and benjamins.  This is will be a fight for the proletariat.  Either that, or I’m just plain sick of running in circles.  It’s time to go some place.

middle-aged and seeking a new line of work…AGAIN? REALLY?

In humor, life, observations on August 15, 2012 at 5:30 am

let’s see how long i can keep the smiles going

It’s late summer, and though I’m on “vacation” from teaching, I’m still at it.  My usual job is teaching GED classes out of community centers in the projects.  But I got hired to spend these same two weeks teaching academic workshops out of two of the hoitiest and toitiest prep schools in the Bay Area.  Since the money was good, I couldn’t turn down the work.

I don’t really feel like speaking about the obvious right now: the disconnect between the worlds I teach in.  In my usual world, I have kids who have seen more than anyone should, in this other strange one that I am visiting, I have kids who I think might benefit from seeing a bit more than just manicured lawns.  Ah, I know.  This is life and life can be unjust.  I won’t start preaching now because I’m tired and don’t want to come off as what I am: a west coast liberal.  (That said, next week, I’m going to be guest-blogging on one of Le Clown’s blogs, and since he’s Canadian, I will let out my lefty-ire there.  I’ll link here when that happens.)

For now, I will remark on the fact that it’s been almost two weeks since I started my vacation, and I’m not missing the old job–not one bit.  I’ve felt that before–when I worked a dumb office job.  People, I know, often don’t miss their jobs when they are on vacation.  But as a teacher, it’s not a good sign.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like I want to teach elsewhere.  I’m sure that someone who really wanted to teach would be ecstatic to work with the high-powered kids I have these two weeks.  They actually are motivated and don’t complain.  But I’ve never liked easy things, and as a teacher, even though my GED kids are hard and complain, I feel like I’m actually teaching when I’m working with them whereas I’m just tweaking when I work with the prep school crowd.  And still, I’m not looking forward to going back to GED next week.

Sadly, I think it’s time to shift paths.

To what?  I have some ideas.  I know it’s going to have a story-telling component.  Over the next few weeks/months, this blog will record this fool’s errand I will be putting myself on.  The economy is for shit.  I have a baby boy.  My wife is a baker (read happy but not well paid).  I have a job and should be glad for it.  But I’m not.  I need a different challenge.  Fool? Yes.  Probably.  No, definitely.  But then again, remember, I said I like challenges. Eeh gad!  I did say that, didn’t I?

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