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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Threshing Bee 2007 - Day 1


Hugging The Bear
She was just finishing up a hug with the bear (from the bear book) and just being cute in general.
So we spent some time out at the threshing bee grounds today, which was a Good Time. Forgot the camera at home, though, so we'll have to bring that along tomorrow so we can maybe get a few Kirstin & Tractors pictures. That'd be cool.

I managed to sit through the antique tractor pull (always a good time), which was enjoyable this year (as usual). I wish I'd had the camera, though -- there was one shot that could've been amazing. If you've never been to an antique tractor pull (or any tractor pull for that matter), there's a point in time where the towing machine (tractor, in this case) starts to really fight and the front end comes up in the air. Well, there was this guy with a really nice and shiny Farmall M-D (a diesel model) who held that tractor's front end in what seemed to be a still position in the air as he progressed to the end of his pull. Black smoke billowed from the exhaust pipe. And it all happened right in front of where I was sitting.

Ah well, the memory will have to be the preservation in this case, I guess.

Anyway, we looked around at some of the various things (gas engines, tractors, etc.) and had a good time. We'll be back there tomorrow for the parade and I'm sure we'll also sit in on the horse pull as well. Presumably we won't forget the camera this time.

Short of that, I spent some time this evening bringing in some more of the old news posts from the old system (to this blog archive). The first night (August 20), I managed to go from September 1, 2002 through September 1, 2003. Tonight I managed to migrate posts between September 1, 2003 and September 1, 2004.

I figure I'll have one more evening's worth of migrating posts (the remainder of 2004 and all of 2005/2006 are much fewer in number than the 2002-2004 series) and that project will be done. In a random way, I also discovered tonight that I need to go through a lot of the flickr photos and do some significant tagging. I was looking for a few pictures in particular and, while they weren't difficult to find since I knew in which sets the pictures in question resided, discovered that had I done some more extensive tagging, the search would've been much quicker.

So that'll probably be a fall project for rainy days. Anyway, in the meantime I'm a bit on the tired order (and not quite sunburned but getting on that order), so I'm heading for bed.

Until next time...
"Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech."
- Martin Fraquhar Tupper

--MZ

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another Week Ends


I Like The Bear Book
She absolutely loves the puppet bear book, as you can probably tell by this picture. She gets so excited when it starts moving around and talking to her. Beth's a good puppeteer, too.
Today was one of those strangely unproductive days. I spent a lot of time in various discussions and reading. That in and of itself doesn't equal unproductive (because many things were dealt with in a sense), but it wasn't exactly what I expected to accomplish today.

One thing I've noticed is that since I uninstalled my anti-spam software, the website at WCCO.com has been working better. Namely portions of the website that didn't function correctly (the navigation sidebar, for one big example) are back in order. It's the strangest stuff. I don't know that it's related to the anti-spam bit at all, but it's strange that uninstalling said product in turn, after a restart, allows Firefox to render the page correctly. Coincidence? Perhaps. More likely -- something that was corrupt got removed.

When I got home, I fed the dogs and we went back in to town to Pizza Hut, a place where we normally don't eat. I had some gift certificates from nearly two years ago (that are set to expire at the end of 2007) burning a hole in my pocket, Beth had a hankerin' for pizza, and I didn't feel like cooking myself. So we had a little family outing. It was a good time...and the pizza wasn't bad either.

We made a brief stop at Pamida (another place I'd not been at for some time) to see if the cheap blenders had been brought back into stock (they weren't). So I did a few things today I'd not done for quite some time. Eat at Pizza Hut. Shop at Pamida.

The rest of the evening has been pretty normal. I spent a significant amount of time writing up bits for the firefox blocking update post, mostly so I wouldn't inter-mingle topics too much. It's one of my goals to start sticking to topics a little better (make a second post if necessary) rather than rambling into several areas (unless necessary). So I figure I can keep the mundane life events out of the circle of hot topic stuff. Perhaps I'm wrong in doing so -- who knows. It doesn't really matter that much to me anyway. People are going to either read my ramblings or not. I'll still write them. :)

At any rate, I'm going to head for bed soon. It's been a long week, and I think the weather has really drug me down a bit. I've been more tired than normal lately, and the only thing that's been really different is the cloudy weather patterns. So I plan on sleeping in a little bit tomorrow and going from there. It's the big Threshing Bee weekend, so I'm sure we'll spend some time in town with that (a good time) checking out all the antique tractors and whatnot.

So anyway, until next time...
"It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating."
- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

--MZ

Why Block Firefox : A Follow-Up

JackLewis.net
Irony
It's not just for fairytales anymore...
So it is Friday...and I was a little bored at work (and happened to be following up on this blocking of Firefox business since I brought it up at the afternoon coffee 'break'). Before I get too far into this, there's a point to the picture in this post -- I'll get to that toward the end of the post.

Anyway, I came across a fantastic rebuttal to the blocking of Firefox traffic and needed to share it with the world myself. If you scroll down far enough into the comments, you'll actually see stuff written in rebuttal (to the rebuttal) by the original creator (of the blocked Firefox site).

Admittedly, I have to give the guy (Firefox blocker) a little bit of credit, if for nothing else than putting up with a load of rants, flames, and rebuttals about his tactics. He's obviously quite opinionated about this topic. That doesn't mean I agree with him (quite the opposite); in fact I think he's quite an idiot. He's going about this all wrong and puts far too much value in his content, which apparently in his eyes is so enthralling that even a 'minor financial hit' (to paraphrase) in blocking the Firefox user agent is worthwhile.

I also think he's got quite a few facts and definitions wrong. I don't agree with some of the apparent flamers that have reportedly threatened him -- that is most definitely wrong -- but I also don't agree with his own implied opinion that Microsoft software (IE in particular) is inherently a superior product and everything else (Firefox in particular) is inferior (especially if its parent company supports an ad blocking software company). Does that make me ignorant or an anti-Microsoft 'nazi?' No.

I can respect Microsoft for its products and positions. I use various Microsoft applications every day. Even Internet Explorer (although admittedly only as often as absolutely necessary). But, I'm sure (just as he raises issue with Mozilla and the Ad Block people) there are corporate partnerships or associations which Microsoft has made that are equally as nasty. The point is simply thus: this dude has a problem. What that problem is seems not to be well-defined.
  • He views Mozilla and (specifically) Firefox as 'religious organizations.'
  • He views the Mozilla - AdBlock partnership as inappropriate (since AdBlock apparently comes with Firefox).
  • He views his content to be so important that any ad revenue loss by blocking a user agent is wholly worthwhile, even if the very act prevents his all-important content from reaching the end user.
  • He has a problem with following W3C standards.
  • He doesn't seem to have a solid grasp that, when using special 'non-standardized' functionality exclusive or limited to IE, things don't magically work the way he expects in a standards-compliant browser such as Firefox (because it ignores the crap).
  • He thinks ad blocking is theft, links theft to being an anti-Christian value, and implies in various ways that any thief or supporter of theft is automatically a socialist with anti-Christian tendencies.
  • He states "Wikipedia is socialist."
There is a significant amount of flip-flopping of subjects. This man is clearly on the defensive and seems to address one issue, then side-step to another. To be quite honest, I've read so many seemingly random arguments he's made that I'm not honestly sure exactly what really lit the fire under his ass in the first place. Reason I say that is simply due to the fact that when he starts to explain his standpoint, he thrusts into another topic or point about his incredible dislike of Firefox. The one thing I read today which really pisses me off:
The useragent info in the header is the normal way, but there are also other methods, since FireFox follows W3C standards and won't adopt standards based on market use, and other browser engines do.
My first thought is 'If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do the same?' Blindly following the 'leader' does not a good argument make. What the hell does market use have to do with document structure, presentation, and markup? The W3C doesn't care about 'market use' per se. Quoted from the W3C About Page:
In order for the Web to reach its full potential, the most fundamental Web technologies must be compatible with one another and allow any hardware and software used to access the Web to work together. W3C refers to this goal as “Web interoperability.” By publishing open (non-proprietary) standards for Web languages and protocols, W3C seeks to avoid market fragmentation and thus Web fragmentation.
What exactly does this mean? It means that educated people with the intention of making the Web a better place follow things called standards which, in turn, mean that the experience is as similar as possible for every visitor, no matter what. If that means your damn DHTML doesn't work in Firefox, so be it. Don't use it. Find a better way (CSS layers?) to do it instead. Follow a standard -- not a presentational hack.

I've really run out of time for this dude. If you're bored and want to read some seriously flawed and heated debate, read a blog entry from JackLewis.net. Oh yeah, you'll have to open that in IE, because (without changing the user agent) it won't open in Firefox.

But, speaking of the aforementioned site, this brings me back to the picture for this post. I happened to be viewing the site in question, examining its content. You'll note the two red arrows I placed on the screenshot. The first:
Firefox Advertisement

The second:
Firefox Advertisement

The ironic part of this is that, after all things are said and done, his all-precious advertising included TWO ads (through Google) for Firefox. One in particular (the sidebar one -- the square one) wasn't officially from Mozilla, and the top ad I'm not sure of the origin, but there was no humor lost on me with this one. I just find it incredibly ironic that a blog entry vehemently opposing Firefox usage due to the Ad Block business included two automatically-generated ads for Firefox.

Really serves him right if you ask me.

Ah well. I'd like to see him write his own browser software and see how fun it could be to implement all of the 'W3C standards' and 'market use standards.' I've never directly done it myself, but I worked with a few people in a course I took several years ago who implemented their own web browser. It's not as great as it seems. Dear sir, there is a reason for standards.

Perhaps this will be my last post about this subject (I can hope), but I will likely keep an eye out for a while yet to see if there's anything new. At this point in time it seems as though the horse has been dead for some time and nothing new is transpiring...so one can hope this brief interlude in our normal Internet activity will be nothing more than another tick mark in the timeline of 'browser wars.' Or at least I can hope for that.
"When ideas fail, words come in very handy."
- Goethe (1749-1832)

--MZ

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Write About Something "Hot"


Okay, You Can Take My Picture
Singing to her sometimes gets this sort of cute look. She likes the stuff from Monty Python's SPAMALOT! Yeah, she's being taught good stuff from the beginning.
Shortly after my last post, I checked some blog (and website) statistics, just out of sheer curiosity. Much to my surprise, my little rant about blocking Firefox must have managed to get some attention somehow, because I went from a daily visit count of under 10 on average to something close to 400. For a few days straight.

So it got some attention, which wasn't exactly my intention but kinda cool at the same time. So perhaps I need to pick a few more hot button topics and rant about them. Seems to work to some degree from the traffic perspective.

Today's coffee time talk ended up on the subject of power companies and their control programs. I'm a huge proponent of the 'load management' programs that most respectable power companies offer. The discussion really centered around people who try to conserve electricity, but really don't save themselves much (and cause more hassle) by trying to manually control their loads with the use of timers or simply killing power at the breaker.

While those sorts of measures really can save electricity, its cost in annoyance and forgetfulness can quickly outweigh the benefit. My point in the discussion was simply that most power companies encourage (generally through the use of rebates or lower electric rates) the use of load management options. For instance, by having our water heater under control of the power company (using their radio and connection/switching equipment), we have a sub-meter next to the water heater and pay a rate about half of the normal power rate. So the cost per kilowatt-hour of water heating is half of what it costs per kilowatt-hour of running the stove for supper, for instance.

You can't beat that. And I don't have to deal with switching the water heater on and off. If we're expecting a high demand, I can also temporarily remove the load control (without losing the rate adjustment) for a certain number of hours per month.

It just makes sense.

Same sort of thing with the air conditioner. I don't have that hooked up through a sub-meter (although I could and pay a half-normal rate), but I take an annual credit of $25 for allowing them to cycle it on and off (in 15 minute intervals). I did the math, and the $25 credit pays for my air conditioning costs in May and June or just the month of July. For letting them cycle it.

And unless the house is warm to begin with (if the air conditioner were recovering from an inactive period of several hours), you'd never really know it, because the fan still runs inside circulating cool air.

It surprises me how many people are either unaware or opposed to things like this because of the control factor. They can't control when something is running, and that seems to really bother some people. The electric companies don't necessarily have it in their best interests to offer load management programs that cause users to be inconvenienced. It doesn't make sense if they wish to keep adding to customers actively participating in load management.

It helps the power companies, the power grid, the power supply, and one's pocketbook to participate. It even helps the planet when you really think about it. And it's easy. And works.

So next time you think about helping the planet, think about the easy little steps you can take by doing things like participating in load management. A good reason: my electric bill for July (typically the highest electric bill for the year) was less than my bill for June. Simply due to the use of automatic control and a $25 credit for participating.

Anyway, short of that little side bit, it was a pretty normal day. I'm awfully tired right now (hence the early post tonight), but I'll leave with this note. Until next time...
"The nice thing about egotists is that they don't talk about other people."
- Lucille S. Harper

--MZ

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Once In A While Something Gets Done


Attentive Girl
Beth was holding her here; she was fairly awake and attentive, so I managed to get a picture of that activity.
I managed to squeeze out a fairly productive day, in many ways. When I got home (a little early), I started by reading the paper, an activity I normally do after 9PM. I then brought in the articulated ladder and did coat one of patching on the stairwell ceiling where I mis-drilled when running wire for our bedroom sconce lights and outlets a while ago.

I love the articulated ladder - it comes in so handy for things like working in stairwells...where it can easily be used as a scaffold. This time was no different. I have to do more work on the patch, since it wasn't quite dry enough for me to do work on a second coat and whatnot this evening. But at least it's much more difficult to see and shouldn't take a lot of work to finish up.

I also ended up uninstalling my Norton AntiSpam software today. I hadn't updated it for over a year (since I didn't renew the subscription a year ago), and I had encountered several problems with it in the last three to six months. It would randomly 'crash' (or hang, rather), and basically flood the network with traffic so nothing would work. A restart of the computer would immediately resolve the problem. But today I came home to an error message that it needed to be uninstalled and reinstalled to fix whatever was wrong with it. I got a second error when trying to diagnose the problem -- that the registration had been tampered with?

I have no idea how something like that could've happened, unless one of the recent crashes/hangs in the last two days just happened to magically corrupt the software settings. Stranger things have happened, but I was actually looking for an excuse to uninstall it. I don't have any intention of reinstalling it. It'd probably be different if I used Outlook [Express], which I loathe, since it supports much tighter integration with said application.

So I'm going without spam filtering (aside from what I do at the mailserver level with aliases) for the time being. I might have to look into other alternatives, but it shouldn't be too bad right now.

I also played with electricity this evening. I finally took the time to install and wire the boxes, switches, and outlets in our bedroom. All we need to do now is paint the bedroom and pick sconce lights. The switches and outlets are functioning (although the switches currently don't do anything due to lack of light fixture), and it's quite nice to not have to use an extension cord behind our bed for the alarm clocks, etc.

That wiring project took most of my time this evening -- about an hour and a half. I needed to cut slightly larger holes for the sconce (ceiling) boxes, and then do all the magic pulling/stripping/installing of wire. I left turning off the electricity as long as possible to make the situation easier to handle (read: keep the room illuminated without use of a flashlight). That worked out quite well, and in an hour and a half I managed to cut larger holes, get everything wired up, and put everything away.

So it was a fairly productive evening. Go me. Now if I could just get enough ambition to deal with basement cleaning... Then we'd be getting somewhere.

As a random note, I didn't have to word verify to post last night's entry. I was good to go without issue. Tonight's picture is from Kirstin's day #2 outside the womb. It's pretty crazy to see how much bigger (and cuter, if you ask me) she's gotten in the last five months.

So that said, I'm heading to bed. Until next time...
"You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."
- Yogi Berra

--MZ

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not So Gloomy Today!


Just Being Cute
She took a brief break during her evening reading to smile for the camera.
The weather finally perked up a bit today, which was a nice departure from what has been the norm as of late. There was sun. At least for part of the day. The temperature got up to around normal again (80-ish), too. It actually felt more like summer than it has for the last week.

I took time to mow the longest parts of the lawn when I got home from work. I didn't have much gas left in the mower (and I didn't really want to drive into town to fill the can), so I only did about half of the mowable lawn. But I did the parts that had been watered for a week before we got cooler temperatures and then an inch-and-a-half of rain. It was interesting. I'll have to mow the rest of the lawn at some point in time (not sure when), and re-mow what I did today, but at least I won't have to bale the portions I did.

I also need to do some mower deck work and probably blade sharpening. I've noticed it before, but it was very obvious today in the tallest grass -- I've got one blade in particular that doesn't cut well at all. I'm not exactly sure why yet, but it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to sharpen my other blade set and put them on for the remainder of the season. That'll be a project for this weekend, perhaps.

Aside from that it was a pretty quiet day. I haven't added more historical posts to the blog here; that'll come tomorrow or later this week. I just want to make a post that doesn't require word verification (a CAPTCHA) for the time being. I had to manually 'hack' together last night's post.

So, I'm going to keep this post short and will update more tomorrow. I fully expect to either work on the wiring in our bedroom or clean the cistern tomorrow (or both), so I'm sure there will be bits to update about that.

Until next time...
"I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I have ever known."
- Walt Disney (1901-1966)

--MZ

Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday, Monday


Reach Out!
She was just looking for toys when I took this series of pictures. So inquisitive, she is. And cute too.
It has been a most interesting day today, if for nothing else that I learned a few random things. First off, I learned that there are still people on the Internet that behave like children. Secondly, I learned that entering on the order of 90+ blog entries in a short period of time brings up word verification to prevent spam.

Related to childish behavior, there's a guy online that's responsible for why Firefox is blocked (dot com). Now, I won't deny it -- I'm a proud Firefox (and prior to the fox, Mozilla/Netscape) user. I believe it to be the more robust and standards-compliant browser than the magic IE. His claim is that a product included in Firefox (AdBlock) violates web site publisher's rights to advertising revenue for free content (and basically aligns the process of viewing a web site without ads to that of stealing content).

He goes on to make broad claims about Firefox users, stating that blocking the browser by User-Agent will cause minimal financial impact (for a site) since Firefox users generally don't make up a lot of the 'online spending.'

What the hell?

This fellow (and/or any aligned organization behind/with him) clearly has it wrong. If your content is so precious that losing ad revenue implies users are stealing your content, require paid registration before viewing said content. Skip ads altogether. Or do something like the SomethingAwful forums. Ads for the free views; a one-time paid registration for active users. That doesn't seem so bad. He's clearly hung up on himself or his content (or the content which he presumes to 'save' from the Firefox User-Agent). This is simply ridiculous. And [the principle] really pisses me off. If it's truly worth it, people will be willing to pay. If [the content] isn't worth it, it shouldn't be there (and ad revenue relied upon to support it).

Seriously, a user's choice of browser is personal and generally has nothing to do with ad revenue. Hell, look at the [free version of] Opera browser. It's got a damn ad right on the browser window -- all the time (at least it does in my older version). Denying contents by User-Agent is simply retarded. I hate the fact that even recent-model Ford vehicles don't have automatic daytime running lights (like superior GM vehicles and other manufacturers). But I don't go around claiming that Ford drivers can't use the same roads, streets, or parking spaces as other vehicles because of it. There may be some people who choose a non-Ford vehicle because of its lack of DRL availability, but I'm guessing most pick a Ford for the same reason everyone else selects a particular vehicle.

Similarly, I'm sure there are people that select Firefox because of its potential AdBlock feature. But not everyone. And I don't care what sort of 'demographic' data you base a claim on, but if you purposely prevent one user from accessing your content online simply based upon a personal choice (not even based on excessive bandwidth usage or something else legitimate), you have failed the Internet community.

This just angers me beyond belief. If it's that important, don't have it online. Or protect your revenue stream some other way. Petty shit like redirects based on UA are immature and should be banned. I know that I'd personally blacklist (and spread my thoghts about it) any site I legitimately tried to view if I were ever presented with the Why Firefox is Blocked landing page.

Ridiculous.

An interesting side note is that I bookmarked the landing page with del.icio.us. When I returned to it tonight (for reference when I wrote this post), I discovered the site owner had created a new landing page (index1.php) and the old one (index.php) gives out some canned response about 'wrong entry point.' I'm guessing this is because he's had a load of hits recently due to this getting out on Digg and del.icio.us amongst other places. I find it ironic that someone needing to make such an important statement to the world finds it necessary to change a landing page (presumably due to bandwidth or other related overwhelming issues). If you play with the big dogs, expect to get bit, dude.

Another thing on this subject that really gets me is the "requirement" of Internet Explorer for viewing a particular site. "Best Viewed In..." crap is so 1997. STANDARDS, people! While I was reading about this subject earlier today (on another 'referenced' site related to the Firefox blocking bit), I wanted to deck the writer of the post in question. The claim was that Firefox is an inferior browser since it doesn't support all ActiveX controls.

??!?!!

It is 2007. If you, as a designer, site owner, or other technologically adept person require an ActiveX control for your website to function correctly (given all the other well-supported technologies available), you missed the mark. Completely.

I don't care that IE holds the lion's share of the market. It doesn't matter to me. I work to ensure that what I'm involved with works consistently in as many browsers as possible. Generally I test first and foremost with Firefox. Then move to IE, then to Opera. Once they all render roughly the same, I am generally pleased (and presume that other browsers will also render roughly the way I intend). Playing the 'my browser is superior because it can render/display X when yours can't' game is stupid. And only causes legitimate users frustration when something doesn't work in their browser of choice.

Alright, I'm beating a dead horse here. So I'll move on.

In other news, I discovered that once you make about 90 posts to the blog in a short period of time (an hour and a half or so), you start being prompted for word verification.

I learned this during my activity tonight when I started migrating old news posts from my old TWiki-based system to the blog here. I will later remove that web, so to preserve the information I need to move it here. I managed to get through roughly the first year of my news system posts (from September 1, 2002 to September 1, 2003). If you use the 'OldNews' category, you'll filter down to what I've managed to bring across so far.

It will take some time to complete, but so far it's going pretty well. It's a very tedious process (lots of copy/paste), but it could be a whole lot worse.

So I might have to wait until Wednesday to do more massive re-posting. We'll see. I still need to work in the basement at some point in time (and I need to finish wiring for the sconce lights in our bedroom before we get ready to paint)...so that may be tomorrow evening's project.

We'll see how that goes. But until next time...keep your stick on the ice...
"Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater."
- Gail Godwin

--MZ

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Another Weekend Comes To A Close


Laughing At George
She was very excited to get to sit with George a bit this afternoon. I think his whiskers had been tickling her just prior to this picture.
So I was incredibly not productive this weekend, on which I blame the weather. Yeah, the weather. I did manage to get some things done that I've been meaning to do for a while (clean out the refrigerator being one such thing), but I totally lacked ambition to start cleaning in the basement again.

I need to start focusing on that so I can get that project out of the way and start on something else.

I managed to get several pictures of Kirstin today, my most favorite of which were the pictures taken while sitting and petting George. He was (as usual) doing very well next to her and allowing her to pet him with the occasional handful of fur pulling attempt. Considering he's the clawed one, there's really not much to worry about with George and Kirstin because he seems to hide if he doesn't want any interaction. :) Unlike Felix (who takes any attention including 'abuse' from children), George knows when to say no and leave the room.

I also made some more website changes and whatnot. Mostly here on the blog layout, and most of that was related to organizing the stylesheet and redesigning/re-implementing how my Flickr photoblogs are styled (particularly, the picture info). Most posts here with pictures in them have actually been written with the Flickr interface (not the Blogger one), which allows the picture to just automatically show up. There's some configuration to make that happen, but once it's set up is pretty convenient.

Previously, each post had its own style information for the picture box (and description text). I changed that to use the stylesheet (so I can change how all pictures look in one shot without editing all the posts). I believe it's working now, but I also intend to make a few changes to how it works yet (we'll see how I like it after seeing a portrait-oriented picture in the blog).

In news of complete randomness, I finally managed to re-burn the 'How To Talk Minnesotan' VHS capture onto DVD, this time with better chapter and menu functionality. Knock another project off the list. And while I was waiting for the transcoding of aforementioned title to take place, I went through all of the SuperGold CD's I've got on hand here and organized them by date. This way I can go through them and figure out what I want to rip to MP3 in a more organized fashion as time allows. But that's something for another day (or year).

And that's pretty much how my Sunday has gone. More or less normally. So until next time...
"You can pretend to be serious; you can't pretend to be witty."
- Sacha Guitry (1885-1957)

--MZ

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