Bloody Diary

bloody-diary1I’m just a jealous guy, and I just can’t help it.  Despite having been very happily married for 13 years now, with thousands of fantastic memories, I can still get overly jealous.  I love the fact that I have a gorgeous wife, and love that other men smile at her, but they need to keep their distance :-)

Throughout all we’ve been through, there are still some boundaries that I have not crossed. I respect her privacy when it comes to her diary, but not when she’s sitting on the toilet or taking a shower.  There’s something magical about seeing my wife half-naked that makes me smile like a little boy – proud to have this awesome woman by my side.

Unfortunately I overstepped a magical boundary by mistake the other day, as I was packing books into moving boxes.  An old dusty book, hidden behind boring college books, dropped down and landed on my foot, and some pages fell out.  I initially cursed like a sailor, then picked up the fallen book and glanced at the handwritten text.  It was my wife’s old diary and I had just read a paragraph about her past … well, it was about an old boyfriend.

If Cecelia Ahern had written a gore version of PS I Love You, I think it would’ve been called Diary of a Serial Killer, and I would happily take the lead role.  Listen, if my wife was taken away from me, and had left me her diary to retrace her life, then I would’ve taken the opportunity to erase any past boyfriend she might have had.

Of course, this is not an official threat, but I don’t want to hear or know about her past admirers.  It’s totally in the past and should be buried.  Again, not literally, in case any past boyfriend reads this post.

There’s only me me me and me.  And before me she attended a convent and sang in the hills of Southern Wales, among Stonehenge and sheep.  I’m not possessive, am I?

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Big White House

bearhouseOMG!  Buying a house is so time-consuming, stressful and there are so many things we need to consider.  And, it has not become easier despite the economy has improved over the past 4 years – on the contrary.  We receive daily mortgage offers by email and snail-mail, not to mention phone calls from eager sales people selling mortgages.

The majority of real estate agents are willing to sell anything, work long hours to sell you the next family homestead, and most likely sell themselves too.  They have automated email listings based on our wishes, but most of the houses we’ve seen on these lists are nowhere near what we are looking for.

We must’ve visited 20-30 houses in the past few months, just to see what’s available on the market, and then prepare ourselves for the giant leap forward and become house owners again.  It beats paying high rent and paying off someone else’s mortgage.

Realtor US term - Real Estate Agent EU term

Trulia and Zillow have played a huge role in our house hunting adventures.  And no, we are not getting money for the house, or some other prizes, but it’s a fact.  Those two sites are great at showing you houses that you need, and then share the list with your realtor.  Your realtor hates when you do this, as they don’t have to do much work and you know more about the house you are interested in than they do.  And because it’s a huge investment, at least for 99% of us, the potential buyer’s read up on their prospects.

Once you finally find the house, you have to go through some “basic” paper signing exercises with your realtor.  This is just the beginning our your autographing skills.

Anyway, we have started this journey now, since our landlord has decided to sell the house we are renting, leaving us few options to continue to rent.  I guess it’s fate that has kicked off this process; we want to own and he wants to sell.  Unfortunately our budget is nowhere near his asking price, so we have to shop around.

Our youngest daughter has stated that we will be living in a big white house soon.  Not sure how that will work out, since non-nationals cannot vote or run for presidency … one day that might change and our kids will end up having top jobs, perhaps even president.

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Zombie Killer

zombie-slayerAs taking out of the awesome TV series “Walking Dead” my 4-year-old daughter walks around in the house with her Nerf bow over her back, ready to fight off intruders and other evil things that might appear in her sight.  She is just as skill full with her bow as the Walking Dead character Daryl.

She does have a motor cycle (battery driven) a flower-power vest, a cool bow and overconfident attitude as she strolls through the house aiming her bow at anything considers moving.

The other day I decided to ask her what she was fighting, to which she calmly answered “Zombies, dad!”.  I’m not a doom days prepare, but it is an important skill to know how to take down zombies, as with all the recent World epidemics and flu vaccine side effects, we (humans) will soon be responsible for a real zombie infection.  You can easily say I’m a loony, but I’m proud that my daughter is taking up this admirable trade.

I continued exploring my daughters hobby, and asked her where she played this zombie hunter game.  I should’ve known the answer, as it was pretty obvious.  She rolled her eyes and uttered “in school dad! With my hunter friends!”.  Not too sure how to react to that.

She continued “and some of the guys are vampire hunters, but I don’t really like vampires. They have bad teeth and hiss”.  Well, now I know what games they play in school, in pre-K, so I’m expecting a call from her teacher and principal any day now.

My only concern at the moment is that she aims her bow at people, which is a safety concern.  I’ve decided to teach her how to properly hold her weapon and how to aim … and not to aim at people only zombies.

zom,bie killerWhile sitting on my son’s bed, getting the kids ready for bed, my daughter suddenly aimed her bow at me and shouted “duck!”.  I was terrified and crashed to the floor in foetal position, while she let out a war scream and killed a zombie that apparently was right be hind me.  I was “saved” by 4-year-old daughter.

Perhaps we need to look at increasing her arsenal of weapons, just like “Supernatural” boys, with a large trunk of weird weapons for any occasion?

Happy (and safe) hunting my dear!
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Flight of Gordita

It was the time of the year where I had to be mindful of my lovely wife, as she turns another leaf in her yearbook and one step closer to the menopauses.  You never know when it hits, so better be prepared, and I decided to take my lovely gordita out on another date night, celebrating her past year as a mother and awesome wife.

What better way than a romantic dinner and a concert with a band she loves?

I secretively bought tickets some months ago to see ‘The Black Keys‘ at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and judging by their recent album it would be a great night of high hitting notes, rough guitar games and retro piano solos.

Due to the fact that I dislike public transportation, especially as I own a car, we jumped into the family wagon and headed towards Brooklyn.  It was a Wednesday evening, so how busy could it be?

There’s a reason New York is branded the city that never sleeps, because it really doesn’t.  No mater what time you attempt to cross one of the many bridges or tunnels into NYC, from New Jersey, you can be sure to hit some weird gridlock.  Access roads go from 4-5 lanes into 2 narrow tunnel lanes, a delivery truck blocks half the road on Broadway, yellow cabs pick up or drop off passengers in intersections and huge luxury cars change lanes as if they were at the local race track.

Despite leaving 2 hours before the gig started, or rather doors opened, we ended up spending 1hr 45min in the car.  I love spending time with the missus, but not stuck in traffic trying to impress her with a lovely dinner at a little Mexican place in Brooklyn.

We skipped mamasita’s joint and walked towards the amazing Barclays Center, where I invited her on “awesome” chicken fingers ‘n fries, while sharing a diluted coke.  Another romantic dinner on date night – just like when I saw Idina’s butt!

I don’t want to be labelled cheap, but the tickets for the gig were in the upper levels.  We are not young any more, we don’t dance publicly and we like to enjoy music while sitting down, so why not sit on the balcony.  Unfortunately age has introduced my wife with a phobia … fear of heights.

Our seats were by the edge of the balcony, perfect view of the stage, but also perfect view of the 40ft drop.  And, the stairs down to our row made my wife gasp for air, while letting out small peeps – much to the amusement of our fellow music lovers.  As we planted our small butts in the seats, she gripped my arm and neck tightly, and closed her eyes tightly.  She remained in that position for the first 20 minutes of the concert!

She slowly built up her courage and started to open her eyes.  I actually thought she had fallen asleep so got a little fright as she was suddenly sitting up starring at the band, and tapping along to the cool rhythms of ‘The Black Keys‘.

It was an awesome concert and the band filled the arena with their awesome rhythms, all while the audience clapped and sang.

We left as the band finished up, or at least started our ascend of the stairs.  I had to consider that I might had to carry her up the stairs or her moving up one step at a time on her butt – which would take some time.

blackkeys

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Three Years

danishamericanirishIt’s not exactly a tale like Brad Pitt’s ‘Seven Years in Tibet”, but I can’t believe it has been three years since we arrived to the US and were greeted by the gorgeous Lady of Liberty.  Greeted by 36 degrees celsius (95+ F) as we disembarked the plane.  Not too sure why we had to get off the plane a mile from the terminal, but I suppose Aer Lingus was either late on arrival or hadn’t paid its fees.  I’m sure it was just due to the delay, and we had enjoyed our first flight ever on business class.  It makes travelling so much more comfortable :-)

The first 18 months had many ups and a few downs.  I suppose that’s what to be expected when you rip up your life as you know it and move lock stock and barrels to another country.  You don’t realise how comfortable you were until you start over.  And, the US has so much to offer, but sweet lord, it has so many interesting challenges for a new family.

It’s amazing how quickly our kids settled into their new life, gained new friends and improved confidence in the speed of light.

My oldest girl amazed us by quickly adopting the American life style and accent.  She no longer has her Irish twang, other than when she says bollocks, Dublin, Tayto, deadly and a few other expressions.  But, as soon as we meet up with our new friends (from Ireland) in the US, she reverts back to her cute Irish words.

My son has jumped leaps since arriving here.  Born with Down Syndrome was not ideal in Ireland.  Although the Irish health system tried to do as much as possible, resources are fairly limited, and what he received in services in a year in Ireland, he receives in a few days in the US.  For that alone the move was well worth it.

My youngest adventurer is American.  She was born in Ireland, but learned how to talk and walk here, so for her Ireland is just a distant memory.  I doubt she would even recognise the homeland if we went home to visit.

We love it here!

The home of the free, the brave and other amazing folks have truly made our life better and helped us along this journey.  We have met so many wonderful people in this country, and they have mostly been welcoming us with open arms.

We have our green cards, which are actually green, and look forward to when we can apply for citizenship.  This is absolutely our home and country.  We are prod being residents in this wonderful land of opportunities.

I still haven’t adopted NFL, MBL and MSL – I still support my might Chelsea and love the fact that I can see most games … KTBFFH (keep the blue flag flying high).

Thank you America, for taking us in and making our move feel easy – we love you!

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The curse of my mother-in-law

MotherInLawThis is not a post about my mother-in-law per say.  To be fully transparent, I actually like my mother-in-law.  This might sound surprising to other husbands out there, but the myth that mother-in-laws are evil is not entirely true.  Well, we do have our differences when it comes to who can mind the kids and how to raise kids, as she claims she’s the only person in the universe capable of minding her grand-kids and that kids should be allowed to do whatever they want.  And, most things that I attempt to cook for the kids, how to approach homework, getting clothes and selecting after-school activities are not approved by her!

No, this post is the curse that has been placed on our family whenever she visits from the homeland, and stays in our house for 3-5 weeks at a time.  I wonder if she actually placed the curse on the family as she was clearly unhappy that we moved far away and that her ability to be with her grandkids have been severely curtailed.  During every visit, something has broken, and she not-so-secretly rolls her eyes at her failing son-in-law aka me.

In no particular order, here’s a list of some of the major things that have caused her eyes to each for the heavens, doing the “hail Mary” and throw a few Spanish curse words at me.  I’m sure she does it to show her appreciation for me and has no ill intend.

  • Heater stopped working; shortly after the visit of one of the major North-Eastern storms that hit the area, the furnace decided to give up its spirit.  It would kick in, but not heat the house, which unfortunately resulted in me handing out fleeces and sweaters + extra blankets to all family members.  I would’ve offered to place most family members in the same beds, but felt it might have been slightly inappropriate :-)  To make matter worse, our lovely landlord wasn’t overly concerned fixing it, and made me shop around.  This also meant that we had no heat for almost 2 weeks!  Talk about being out in the cold.
  • Fridge stopped working; during the recent summer months, I noticed the overused fridge refusing to cool the much-needed water, drinks and foods, resulting in some food being spoiled and the kids drinking lukewarm water/drinks.  It turned out the motor had decided to go on summer holidays, left me (the-not-so-great-DIY-guy) in charge of getting the darn thing repaired.  Thankfully it only took 6 days for the engineer to assess and repair the unit.
  • Oven caught fire; my dear 4 year-old daughter wanted to make a special dog food with Gold Fish pie for her imaginary friends, and decided to fill up the gas oven with said ingredients.  The ovens wasn’t overly pleased and took the opportunity to char these ingredients and this created unnecessary heat, flames and smoke.  So, we couldn’t rely on the oven for food, but thankfully the BBQ unit was more than happy to accommodate our cooking requests.  Read more here.
  • Shower leaking; one morning, while taking my mandatory morning shower, I noticed the shower was dripping – even while turned off.  I called in plumping reinforcement who were not comfortable with tightening the valves – even if it was obvious that was all it would take to fix it.  Instead they wanted to charge us $1200 for a new shower, which I kindly rejected and tightened the valve myself.
  • Washing machine floods; lastly, and by no means less important, the washing machine was sick and got sick all over the floor.  This meant we couldn’t wash clothes and my mother-in-law had to show us how she washed clothes when she was growing up.  No, we didn’t go to the local river or lake to wash, but filled a bucket with water and worked through the piles of clothes left by the kids.  It’s amazing how many blisters one gets when washing clothes.  In the end, the landlord agreed to replace the washer and we were saved.

showerAs you can see, we’ve had our fair share of unfortunate events, all while my lovely mother-in-law were staying with us.  Is it just me, or does it not seem as if a curse is placed upon our residence?

I know my wife’s family can trace their roots back to Mayan indians, but something tells me my mother-in-law has retained highly powerful shaman skills, casting curses at her awesome son-in-law.

Thankfully each of the events were resolved without too much pain, but I could’ve been without these challenges while she was visiting!

In case she’s ready this, this post is written full of love and appreciation :-)

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Ice Bucket Madness

I have for the past month been watching the viral explosion of the ice bucket challenges, initially wondering what the hell ALS is and why people would even contemplate pouring cold (ice) water over themselves.  Surely there are better ways for using water, especially as California is preparing themselves for Mad Max revival and water wars.

ice_bucketIt was amusing to watch, and yet with awe, people supporting such a valid cause.  But, it was even more wonderful to see how quickly this ice storm spread across the inter web.

Suddenly friends of old and new started to join the ice wagon.  Deep inside I feared that some innocent friend would nominate me for this challenge.  But given we had recently immigrated to the US, and were out of sight by most friends, I hoped that I would be overlooked.

Then very recently, a good friend and his family did the challenge, and my name was mentioned.  The echoed in my ears as I heard my name, and my supportive wife screamed of laughter.

Would I do it?  Would I support ALS given our son has Down Syndrome?

Well, I’m a person that keep his promises and I’m not yellow / chicken for those not familiar with the ‘yellow’ term.  However, I decided to change the game slightly and supported both causes, but my donation went to Down Syndrome instead.

Here’s the evidence :-)

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Jump in My Time Machine

deep purpleA few days ago I had the gnarly opportunity to go see some serious old rockers – and I do mean old, but yet legends and ancient rock heroes.  It was none other than Deep Purple playing at a local venue, or rather small theatre with room for about 500 people.  It was nothing compared to the arenas they were able to fill in the past, but nevertheless, the place was packed full of an equally aging rock following, with me one of the younger fans.

Well, fan is probably slightly overstated as I actually only know one track, which I’ve listened to many times while a young kid and it was also the first tune I managed to learn rather quick on my electric guitar back in the days.  I was even able to play this awesome tune at a college event, much to the amusement of my inner-child … my first rock concert.

The tune is of course “Smoke on the water“, which is a classic by all standards and many boys have played air-guitar, raised their hands in the heavy metal tribute and headbanged quietly along to the rhythms.  Steve Morse has mastered it well, but Ritchie Blackmore is the true artist behind this track.

Anyway, back to the time machine.

I knew that this legendary concert would be well attended, primarily by middle-aged men around the same ago as the band members.  So, the average age of the audience was around mid 50′s, leaving me to drag down the average.  The village was funnily packed with all types of middle aged rockers, all wearing their ageing metal t-shirts supporting Tesla, Motorhead, Toto, Black Sabbath and I might have spotted a single Poison shirt too, much to the amusement of the gathering crowds.

dio metal saluteIt was amazing to witness how all these people have transformed back into what they were back in the 70s and 80′s, wearing their tough gear, bandanas and several women were trying to fit into their Hooters tops and tight worn jeans shorts – with bits hanging out from various spots.  They all must have fuelled their DeLorean, raced back in time, stolen some of their old gear from their younger self, and then rushed back to the future pretending they were young again.  I’m sure they even forgot they had kids and jobs, and would have to return to civilisation from planet rock the next morning.

The concert was kicked off when advertised, and there was no messing with warm-up bands, as Deep Purple headed to stage with a big bang.  The first seven tracks were one after another – no break and no prisoners – full on heavy metal tunes vibrating through the theatre.  Men in their mid 50s stood up, saluted the ageing Deep Purple guys with the sign of awesomeness (some might say devil worship), head-banging and mumbling along to the iconic voice of Ian Gillan.

A few mature rock ladies started dancing in the isles, much to the amusement of the equally mature rock dudes – who still managed to shout encouraging words to their dancing skills.  Some of their skills would in a normal world include a dancing pole, but these totally cool women pulled off such moves with ease.

weeman metal salute

Borrowed from Rick Kosick’s web site

Suddenly the theatre was filled with the awesome cords of Smoke on the Water, and I will admit the hairs on my arms stood up in anticipation of the upcoming track.  It something else hearing this decade old tune.  The reaction from the crowd was immense.  I swear some of the rockers were silently weeping and were enforcing their admiration with a double heavy metal salute.

2 hours later, the concert was over and the audience dispersed heading back to the future to attend their normal life, secretly waiting for the next gig to port them back.  Perhaps Toto or Iron Maiden?

I had a blast and it was great (and very impressive) that these guys can still rock hard!

Rock hard my fellow headbangers!
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Firestarter

firestarterAs we were preparing dinner, oven roasted salmon with new potatoes, I turned on the amazing gas oven.  Cooking with gas somehow makes food much nicer, or perhaps it’s just us thinking it’s a nicer flavour than more conventional electric ovens.

The LED display on the oven shows the temperature and how it slowly climbs to the destination altitude, but for some reason the oven went from cold to warm very fast.  Much faster than usual, and  some smoke started to develop from the vent.

I opened the door, which most backdraft experienced people would warn you against, only to be greeted with a ginormeous ball of thick smoke, quickly covering the kitchen ceiling.  It was a nasty smell and clearly something was burning and I wondered if we had left an old pizza box in the oven or if food had dripped on oven floor.  Either way, I decided to quickly turn off the oven and cool it off so I could examine it.

To my utter surprise, the flames did not die.  On the contrary.  They kept going, but from below the oven floor, where the gas flames live!

I had to act quickly now and jumped to get the fire extinguisher, pointed it at the flames and let the dust/foam kill the flames.  Thankfully this killed the flames of Udun, and put the fire breather back in its cage.

BackdraftI can calmly say that our smoke detectors work.  They were screaming / beeping while I was frantically trying to get the smoke out of the house, using all the fans in the house and all windows/doors wide open.

After the oven had cooled off significantly, I decided to put on my daddy DIY hat and see if I could somehow fix the oven.  First step was clearly washing down the entire unit inside as the foam / powder had left a thin layer all over.

Please note, I'm not a natural born DIY genius!

As I had removed the worst of the dust, I gently unscrewed the vent fan cover and removed the oven floor tray to expose the gas pipes, trying to use my best fire investigator skills.  Low and behold, I found the cause of the unnatural fire.

Someone, who shall remain nameless, had carefully inserted ‘gold fish‘ crackers and dog food into the little vents in the oven floor tray, which in turn created small piles of perfectly stacked fire sources, and once they got hot enough they simply kept burning.

When I asked the potential fire starter, she blankly refuted the accusations and instead blamed her stuffed rabbit in a pink tutu dress.  She even rolled her eyes and seriously questioned my motive for asking her if she had done such a heinous crime.  Btw, she’s four years old!

I removed a large bowl full of burned ‘gold fresh’ and charcoal dog food, and spent the next two hours scrubbing down the oven.  To make it worse, the ben was still warm and it was probably early 80′s outside, so the sweat was starting to drip off my forehead and masculine chest.

The oven was shinning as if new.  I was actually proud of my cleaning skills, but it was time to see if the oven would even work.

I selected the oven temperature, clicked start and stepped back a few steps – just in case.

To my surprise, the oven seemed to work fine, although it was steaming a fair bit, but that was to be expected as I had just cleaned it with water.

Step 6 in my cleaning process was to do what I had never done before.  Use the self-clean function on the oven.   I had no idea what to expect or how long it would take, but it had to be done.

As I kicked off the automated process, the oven door locked and timer started.  Four hours!

What I didn’t know or expect was that the cleaning process actually involves extreme temperatures in the oven to convert old food into ashes, which in turn causes increased smoke … again!  And again my smoke detectors passed the test.

Now I just have to wait another 3 hours until the process is cleaning, so might as well put on Lord of the Rings.

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House hunting games

If you have ever gone Christmas shopping with your kids, or just normal grocery shopping, you will easily agree that it can be a most trying challenge, testing the boundaries of your sanity and many times the sanity of your fellow shoppers.

The most common scenario is when your kid drops to the ground screaming, just because you refuse to get another brand of cereal or ice creams.  All nearby shoppers are instantly froze, all staring at you to determine what your decisive super parent skill is to calm this bundle of horror down.  Many probably wishing you would just leave the shopping area, and you wishing you could hide in a box of Mac ‘n Cheese.

Now, imagine going shopping with three kids!  AND shopping for a house.

Well, that’s exactly what we did recently.

Like so many families, we want to make sure our kids participate in major family changing events, and choosing your future family homestead certainly qualifies for such an event.  So, we found a few tempting places on Trulia and Zillow, engaged a realtor and planned to meet the following weekend.

Trulia and Zillow are excellent property search engines

We had to inspect six potential houses that warm summer afternoon, and packed the car with snacks and plenty to drink, and set off on yet another family adventure in the trusty old family tank.

I had carefully planned the route with the realtor, preventing a zig zag tour de New York experience, as that would be absolutely killer on the kids’ mood.  The last thing we need in a confined space is a revolution.

HouseHuntingWe pulled in at the first house, and the kids were in shock – positive shock.  They thought it was absolutely stunning and immediately jumped out of the truck to explore (in their opinion) the new stomping ground.  They ran up/down the stairs.  I could hear voices in the attic and the basement.  Then suddenly all three kids had to use the bathroom.  All while the realtor stood silently with an awkward smile and not too what she had witnessed.

My wife and I had very little time to explore the houses as we were too busy running after the kids, making sure they didn’t jump into the pool, started to play with the house owner’s pet or picked up toys.

On to house two – a beautiful house that the kids fell in love with.  And, same strange wild behaviour from the kids; running around like if possessed, and insisting on using the bathroom.  We hadn’t even driven for more than 10 minutes, and no beverages, so how could their tiny bladder be full already?

Toilet Stories; shitter and in the wild

On to house three.  Again, this was the new dream house according to the gang of three.  They ran riots in the garden.  Up/down the stairs.  Suddenly I heard voices from the hallway closet, only to discover the two youngest laughing as I opened the closet.  They had been playing in the darkness.  And, the mandatory toilet visit.

House four and five were pretty much the same as the previous three houses, expect house five had no running water, so couldn’t visit the toilet.  I fully appreciate that a working toilet is essential for any household, but there’s no need to test every single toilet until we actually move in.

House six was a wash out – none of really liked it, so we didn’t even bother testing the toilet.  That said, the garden was phenomenal; massive potential for a personal maze, with  wilderness trails we could practice our survival skills.  Plenty to offer for the outdoor family and even more for the adventurous DIY dude … not us then!

All in all we saw six houses, but I have still very little recollection of what each house looked at, and have to visit Trulia or Zillow to see pictures.  Perhaps bringing the kids weren’t the best of ideas.  We do love exploring with the kids, but this is one of those adventures were kids might just make you buy something, just because it had an awesome pee experience.

The poor realtor never knew what actually happened.  She was completely bewildered as we left her standing at the last house, probably looking for a bottle of Jack D while downing a few Prozac’s and crying softly and yet anxiously.  Funnily enough, she hasn’t returned my calls or emails!

It’s safe to say that we’ll inspect the next future family homestead without kids :-)

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