Nov 25

What I am thankful for

Or “For what I am thankful” for you grammar nazis out there.

Oddly enough today I am thankful that my website was down this morning. Here is why:

This morning I was not thankful. I was grumpy and unhappy and I had nothing positive to say. I had little sleep for reason I was not thankful about, my dad was working so my mom and I had no plans, and I was just not looking forward to anything. I was thankful for my coffee and my waffles and that was about it. Now at 5 p.m, I feel much more positive about my world.

Sometimes I just need an attitude adjustment. I started out by logging onto the world of warcraft and talking to my bff and doing some funny quests. Sounds silly but these two things started to lever me out of my cranky butt mood. My boyfriend called me and he made me laugh. I played with my wienie dogs and they made me laugh.  I went to the website that I am going to work for and it announced that they were thankful for their writers and for the writers they are going to unveil Monday. It was pretty amazing that I am one of those writers. I surfed some more and found other things that made me laugh. Attitude adjustments are sometimes great things.

My mom and I went out on an adventure looking for somewhere open for Thanksgiving and found McDonald’s and Braum’s. Instead we went to the super wal-mart and adventured down the frozen food aisle. I can’t really explain why, but it was fun picking out some pre-packaged frozen food and baked goods with her.  It is perfectly odd like me and my mom.

I am a lucky person. I have many beautiful, complicated, and rewarding relationships in my life. I have amazing families since I can claim my family and Tina’s family. I have amazing friends. For the first time since beginning college I feel like I am doing what I am meant to be doing. I feel like a writer and it fits. For a little bit this morning I had given up hope.  I don’t like me without hope. I know life can be dark, scary, and painful but I always have hope that through everything there is something better when you come out the other side if you allow yourself to see it.  I haven’t been wrong yet; I just forget it every once in awhile.

I guess today I am thankful for hope and wienie dogs.

A cute video that made me smile

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Nov 23

Why I would fail at Thanksgiving.

I know I am almost 30. I get that. I know it means that I should have more of an idea of what a grown up woman does, but I am single and childless and I do zero entertaining. I go to other people’s houses for gatherings. Now, in my defense, when I go over to other people’s houses I help. Sometimes I even help a lot. I like feeling useful and I feel like everyone has a better chance at having a good time if we all split up the work.  I naively thought that this meant I had some clue what people put into a big Thanksgiving meal. I was wrong.

I went looking around on the interwebs looking for inspiration for this morning’s blog. I was looking at recipes again since looking up turkey recipes lead to so much I did not know. I learned something today too. People are flipping crazy! First there is Marny. http://awkwardfamilyphotos.com/2009/11/26/awkward-family-story-the-thanksgiving-letter/ Trust me, you want to read Marny. It will make anything you have to put up with when dealing with your family seem less terrifying.

Lists, apparently Thanksgiving is all about lists. I found lists for shopping, for prep work in the week before the meal, detailed day of schedules, and things to do for Thanksgiving disasters.  I am simply not anal retentive enough for a proper Thanksgiving.

I find the post on Thanksgiving disasters kinda funny because I can tell these things really flip people out.  I can see someone crying and throwing dishes because the turkey is dry. My definition of a Thanksgiving involves hospital trips or emergency vehicles.  A lesser disaster is a huge family blow up ending in tears and life long grudges. Anything short of fires, stabbings, burns, or huge drama fits are just a minor inconvenience.

“Shit, I burned the rolls!”

“Lets go to Taco Bell”

I had to look up cranberry chutney because it kept coming up on Thanksgiving menus. I gathered from context it was like cranberry sauce but I was not sure. The description I got has me picturing a cranberry salsa, sans the normal salsa stuff like tomatoes, peppers, or spices. Its kind of strange and awkward.  My idea of classing up cranberry sauce is putting it in a pretty bowl and squishing it down to get rid of all the can lines.  Marney would have a fit. READ MARNEY.

In theory I can get behind pie. I mean it is pie. I guess if you were one of those psycho skinny people who fear that if they eat anything that is not celery they will explode into orca proportions you would not support pie, but all in all most normal humans support pie atleast every once in awhile. I learned that I am a pie amateur. Pie is srs bsns. God forbid your crust is soggy too. Shit, that is the end of the world. As far as I am concerned, the crust is just extra calories that I might or might not eat. This is blasphemy to the Thanksgiving Nazis out there. I also never brine my turkey so I guess I am just Thanksgiving fail all around.

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Nov 21

Counting Down

Three countdowns going on right now:

4 more posts left in November and I have officially made it through my first month with my experiment.  I feel like it was a success. My thirteen November posts will not bring me fame and fortune but, if I get those last four posts out, I made it through the first month in spite of being completely clueless of what I was doing when I started the experiment and having a terrible topic.

15 more days until World of Warcraft Cataclysm comes out. I am so freaking stoked! I hope I can still manage to entertain my non- wowhead readers with my epic rambles about the new Azeroth. Seriously a dragon name Deathwing is busting through the world and breaking stuff all kinds of apart. How can that not be cool?

19 more days until my one year anniversary with my boyfriend. It is four days after the release of Cataclysm. I am not expecting we will be doing much but leveling. I am even considering not reminding him or trying to plan something. I love the man dearly but I am a pragmatist and it is Cataclysm.

I love that I have so much to be excited about between my countdowns and my website. I have a new e-mail selina@templeofthegeekgoddess.com. How freaking cool is that? My own e-mail address from my own personal domain name. Yes I am a total nerd. I bought technical manuals that have taught me some cool stuff like code is some scary shit.

Anyone else want a templeofthegeekgoddess.com e-mail address? Its just so freaking cool. Now to go to learn code!

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Nov 20

Woah Turkey is Srs Bsns (Serious Business)

So last night I was lacking inspiration for today’s blog when I decided to google “turkey recipes” (yes, I did just use the proper noun Google as a verb; Dr. Logan taught me that it is called verbing and it is ruining our language but I like it) and clicked on www.allrecipes.com. I had no idea making a Thanksgiving turkey could be so complicated.

First, the thing I remember most about making turkey as a little girl is removing the neck and the gut sack out of the body cavity. It grosses me out just thinking about. I know domestic turkeys are  dumb; they can drown themselves in rain, but it bugs me that we chop their heads off and basically shove it up their behinds after they are dead. All I can say about the gizzards is eeew its a sack of guts. EWww. I know smart talented women can do amazing things with the neck and guts. I also know I will never be one of these women.

You need to brine your turkey. (whhaaa?) When I saw this all I could think is “like those stinky little shrimp?” Anyway, people who know this stuff say you need to soak your turkey in salt water and other stuff before you season and cook said turkey. Apparently, this makes your all succulent and juicy and stuff. Whaa?  I get the mental image of pickled turkey bobbing around in a jar on a gas station counter. There  are even like elventy billion brine mixture recipes from simple water, salt, and sugar to adding the ground up wings of a rare Amazonian butterfly that can only be caught by one reclusive tribe of natives on a full moon. This is before you even season the damnable thing.

Seasoning is another thing all together. There is another elventy billion recipes and techniques for seasoning your bird. Some are as simple as butter, salt, and pepper while other recipes call for a page and a half of  herbs and spices combined with a chant and a few dance steps. Some recipes say rub the seasoning inside the body cavity and others swear by layering it all on the outer layers of the bird. You also can put pats of butter under the skin of the breast to make sure the turkey is juicy. If you want to get really fancy you can use an injector and inject your seasoning of choice directly into the meat.  This just gives me a really awesome mental image of a heroin turkey with a needle stuck in its wing with a dazed look on its face. Its probably because I am a seriously twisted individual.

Most of the recipes agree on how to cook the turkey. Cover it in foil and bake it at blah blah temperature for blah hours and then uncover it and cook it for some more time to make it brown and crap. My favorite is that the Cajuns did something totally different: deep-fry that sucker!

My brother in law deep friend a turkey for us one year. It was AWESOME. I mean the turkey was tasty and everything because Matt is an excellent cook but the process was the really epic part. So you set a propane fire thingy on your back porch and put a big pot filled with peanut oil and turn on the fire and let the fun begin. After the oil is the approximate temperature of molten lava you lower the basket with the huge mother flipping turkey and an onion into the oil and let the sucker fry.  It is like a modern take on medieval torture.

Because the frying takes place outside and it involves fire men consider this an acceptable activity for them to partake in.  So basically you get a ring of men standing around this vat of roiling oil with massive wind-blown flames licking up the sides drinking beer and bullshitting about whatever it is that men bullshit about. Sounds totally safe to me.

Turkeys are serious business.

It makes me a bit curious what will happen when I look up pies and side dishes.

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Nov 18

You Learn Something New Everyday

Once again I did some research for today’s blog and learned some interesting stuff. I get the feeling I am the only person who did not know this stuff.  I got my information for today’s blog from two sites: http://www.mayflowerhistory.com/History/BiographyTisquantum.php, a short and concise entry on “Squanto,” and http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/squanto.html?c=y&page=1, a fascinating article by Charles C. Mann about the native politics and culture at the time of the Pilgrims.  If I were writing a research paper, I would have looked at more than two sources and cited them extensively, but I am writing a blog that I want posted by noon, so I am synthesizing the information from two sites and going from there.

Even though I have taken quite a few American history classes, I knew very little about the Pilgrims. Most of my higher level classes focused more on either the revolutionary period or on the Civil War, so I have the stuff we learned in elementary school and some brief gloss-overs in my head. I know a little more about the Pilgrims because of European history and learning about the Protestant Reformation (really cool stuff actually, thank you Dr. Hayden and Ms. Endicott) but I know almost nothing about the native people of the area.

So apparently Squanto’s real name was Tisquantum and he was kind of a douche but he was a douche for a reason. He was raised in his tribe in the area of Patuxet, which white people called Plymouth. The Europeans who were exposed to the Wampanoag confederation of tribes (to which his tribe belonged) generally were impressed by how well these tribes lived. (Who would have thought living in an area for generations would mean you would adapt a good lifestyle?) Charles C. Mann writes in his article that Tisquantum (it takes longer to write his real name but it annoys me far less) was training to be one of the tribal leader’s body guards and advisers until he was captured by Thomas Hunt and brought back to Europe.

Thomas Hunt had orders from the famous John Smith to hang out in the new world and not touch anything while Smith made a quick run to England.  He did not listen, of course, (everyone knows you have to be careful who you leave at your house while you go on a beer run) and he lured a delegation of the Wampanoags on to his ship and killed most of them and kidnapped 17 others including Tisquantum. Hunt sails to Spain to try and sell his stuff. He has to go to Spain because the English were pissed that he stole their stuff and pissed off the Wampanoags who were being helpful. Anyway, the Catholic Church took the ship and made Hunt release the captives because the Pope had said being mean to the Native Americans was no okay.

Tisquantum goes to England and learns English and stuff  and gets back to his home area. There are details here but if you want to know them read the articles.  His tribe is gone because they captured some dirty Frenchmen who gave them diseases and they died out. He found what was left of his tribe and went to the leader of the Wampanoags to try and find a home.  Massasoit (the leader of the Wampanoags) immediately but him in captivity because he felt Tisquantum is untrustworthy.

Enter the Pilgrims.

Massasoit watches the Pilgrims struggle for a winter. The Pilgrims were completely ill suited for living there and I personally think the natives got a kick at watching these self superior white folks try to survive. After they survive a winter and seem okay Massasoit sends in Tisquantum to translate. This is where we get the legend of they kindly savage Squanto teaching our brave forefathers how to plant and build to survive in this new unoccupied land.

Tisquantum did teach the Pilgrims how to survive and he did translate for the two factions. He did this to save his own ass since he was not really well liked back with the Wampanoags. Anyway, the Pilgrims survive, YaY, there is a feast, YaY, and then Tisquantum does something stupid.

He gathers what is left of his tribe and plots to turn the Pilgrims against the other tribes. He sets up it up for one of his tribe to tell the white folks that the other tribe is planning an ambush. He thought the Pilgrims would race off and shoot up the other tribe. Instead the English leader sent one of the other native’s wife off to check it out and they find out that Tisquantum was trying some trickery. The Wampanoags want him dead. The English need him to translate. The Wampanoags threaten the settlers for breech of contract and the English think about turning him over since they screwed up their harvest and needed food to make it through the winter. A ship arrives in the nick of time to resupply the settlers and they keep Tisquantum and thumb their noses at Wampanoag.

Apparently, these Pilgrims felt like you had to be honest and faithful when it was convenient to self interest.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Nov 17

The Pilgrims

I was doing a little bit of research to augment my knowledge of our favorite residents of Plymouth Rock and I found out something that I found fascinating. They thought the Puritans were too liberal.  What kind of person looks at a Puritan and thinks  they are not taking the whole holy thing far enough.  Anyway let me break down a little bit on these intrepid settlers.

So they came from England by way of Holland. They did not like Church of England and England did not like them back. They believed that all religious belief should be based purely on scripture and both Anglicans and Catholics relied too heavily on church traditions not based on anything in the Bible. This was not an odd belief at the time; Calvin had stirred up the religious folk and this particular idea was fairly common.  Anyway, as you can imagine, English authorities were not very fond of these strange people in weird hats telling them how to do their church thing and the Pilgrims had to move. They went to Holland because that area of the world was ripe with the new Protestant sects. At that time, if you pissed off a state church you went to the land of tulips and windmills.  Anyway, even here the Pilgrims had persecution issues so they decided to become really really separatist and loaded up a boat for the new world.(A tiny bit of irony here is that they were backed by an English Company. They disliked them enough to want to get away from them but not enough not to take their money.)

We know a lot about the ideas of the pilgrims from the writings of William Bradshaw, one of the leaders of their merry band. The pilgrims saw themselves as a holy experiment. Elementary school teaches us to believe all they wanted was a home to practice their faith in peace and find religious freedom. They were looking for a place to practice their faith but mostly because they felt like the rest of the known world was too heathen-y for them and wanted nothing to do with them.  As far as religious freedom, they wanted freedom to be a Pilgrim but did not want anyone else to be anything else but a Pilgrim.  In essence, the Pilgrims were jerk faces.

Anyway, they get to the New World and set up their little settlement and begin to be holy. They promptly begin to judge the natives who are there and try to live like they did in Europe. They fail miserably. It is not that they struggle, they damn near cease to exist. Shockingly enough, things don’t work in America like they do in Europe.  The Native Americans take pity on these ignorant people and teach them how to live. During the harvest, they have a feast together and then play football and that is where we get Thanksgiving.

I believe firmly in the holiday. I believe we should take time to stop and appreciate what we have. Life gets too hectic to be appreciative all the time. I just like the Pilgrims better the way they really were not how we are taught when we make turkey crafts using cut-outs of our traced hands.

One thing that we did learn in elementary school that holds true is that they did bring a form of democracy with them. The Mayflower Compact did indeed outline a semi-democratic government and that ideal still stays with us today. For that, I am thankful.

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Nov 17

Crappy Blog Post because I wanted to go play Star Wars tabletop rpg

elcome back to another adventure into Thanksgiving past. Next week I am going to write something other than my family memories, well maybe. I am going to share one of the more interesting memories for me personally.

It was my first Thanksgiving in college and my family decided to stay in Oklahoma for the holiday. It was just my parents and I so we felt no need to cook a big meal and opted to go out to eat instead. We finally got out of the house around one in the afternoon and headed to larger cities than our own in hopes of finding some decent restaurant open.

We drove around in Norman, Oklahoma for about an hour looking for somewhere open that wasn’t fast food and that my mom approved. We finally found an open Furr’s, (I know the very definition of class and holiday style) and got in line.  It took us about twenty minutes to get our food and get seated and we are all grumpy and starving by the time we get seated and I took little notice of our waitress the first time she came by because normally you see your waitperson once.

As our meal progressed, we became less engrossed with putting food in our face and more aware of our surroundings and notice our waitress is coming around more than normal. She seemed really friendly and like she enjoyed our table. A lot of waitstaff feels that way about our family since we are big laughing people so I didn’t think much about it until we were almost ready to leave. She comes up to our table and asks us if we are about to leave. When we respond affirmatively she looks at me and tells me I am very beautiful and my brain promptly shuts down. I do know she said something else that was a very overt come on. I also know I blushed and thanked her.

I wasn’t offended that she hit on me. I was just floored that she did it and in front of my parents.

When we got back out to the car I asked my mom if the waitress really did hit on me. Mom confirmed it so I knew I hadn’t imagined it. After that my parents got into a discussion about going to the movies and saved me any further conversation about it.

I still don’t know how you respond if a woman hits on you while you are with your parents.

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Nov 17

Unsalted Butter

A tale of a Thanksgiving roughly eight years ago:

My sister got married in 2000 and with that my mom and I stopped going down to Louisiana for some strange reason. It does not actually make much sense but not much in my family does. Two years later, my parents and I went to Dallas to spend Thanksgiving with my Aunt Kea and her crew. This provided me with three distinct Thanksgiving memories.

First let me explain something about my Aunt Kea: she is a modern saint. She is beautiful, kind, giving, and a terrific mother. She is the aunt that never judged me. She would question my choices but never with criticism and always made me feel good about being a little weirdo. None of this is actually important to the Thanksgiving story, I just wanted to talk about how awesome Aunt Kea is. Though if it helps the story, she has two sons, Glen Roy and Foster, who were both pretty young at this time. Foster had the cutest pumpkin head and smile I have ever seen. So, during the rest of the story picture a small child with a beaming smile and huge round head running around or sitting at the table, as appropriate.

Back to the three memories:

The first thing happened while Mom and I were out in the back yard smoking and the kids were running around. (Imagine a little pumpkin headed child running in circles squealing in delight, the thought makes me smile.) My Aunt stepped outside and handed my mom the phone because my sister was on the phone and wanted to talk to her. After a few minutes, my mom makes a happy squeaky sound and she walks inside to announce to everyone that Ellana is pregnant.  Ellana was worried because she did not get to tell us in person but Mom was just so happy she didn’t care.  (The thing we would find out later is that Ellana was pregnant with her own round-headed little boy. Apparently,  pumpkin heads run in my mom’s family along with fiery spirited little girls.)

Now for the second memory. We were all sitting around the table after saying grace and my mom announced she would like it if we would go around and tell what we are thankful for.  She starts out with being thankful for the impending grandchild. My aunt and uncle go next and say something about family and health, the standard stuff.  My two adorable cousins said something cute and precious. Next comes my dad and he is the one that stops the table.

He says he is thankful to be alive because he had been set to die the day after Thanksgiving but he was rescued on Thanksgiving. This is why until this particular post I haven’t talked about my father on Thanksgiving because it has always been a strange holiday for him. This is the only time in my memory that he ever went us on a Thanksgiving trip. We always knew to expect him to be a bit recalcitrant and strange around the holiday and it was only when I was older did I truly understand why. Imagine watching everyone go about the normal business of a holiday when all you can think about is that on that day many years before you were a dead man and were suddenly saved. I wouldn’t think it would be conducive to normal human interactions.

Anyway, everyone at the table got quiet and looked at each other. It wasn’t embarrassment really, just an astounding lack of anything to say. Somehow “well we certainly are glad that firing squad didn’t get ya” doesn’t seem appropriate. The thing I love about it, though, was that my dad didn’t care that everyone was flummoxed, he was just stating a fact. I think it was brave. My mom refers to it as “the Thanksgiving that your dad embarrassed everyone” but I really think everyone was just surprised by his honesty and were made to think. I don’t even remember what I said. I mean how do you follow a new baby, two adorable kids, and a rescue from the jaws of death? You don’t you mumble something and look at the food.

Third memory is a life lesson:

Unsalted butter does not make as good of mashed potatoes as salted butter.

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Nov 17

Thanksgiving at the State Pen

For several years of my early teenage years my aunt and her family and my grandparents worked at Louisiana State Penitentiary and lived on the grounds. The girls in my family would drive down and spend Thanksgiving at the state pen. It was more awesome than you would ever guess.

As you could imagine the first appeal to me was that I got to tell everyone that I was going to spend Thanksgiving with my family at Angola. Even after explaining they were not inmates, it was still pretty fun for me. I mean who gets to say that they get their car searched before they can visit their cousins! I was strange. Well, I AM strange.  My Aunt Lynn gave great tours of Angola. I her driving us around pointing out the different cell blocks and explain what level of security was housed there.  Cell block J was were they kept the really bad people. She also told us about the prison riot and how that changed everything. The year they went to see the electric chair I was in the middle of full throttle teenage drama so I stayed home to be petulant. I was heart broken when I found out that I missed that and it added fire to the teenage angst.

In reality it was an idealistic setting for family gatherings. They say nowhere is safer than the living area of the state pen because any escaping prisoners just want off the grounds. Also, there was all that free labor for things like lawn care and house upkeep. The housing was just like normal little neighborhoods with houses that were exactly the same and then a little area for people to place trailers. It was beautiful, safe, and full of children, and, honestly, you could forget that you were anywhere but a Louisiana small town neighborhood until a chain gang came by.

It also meant we got really interesting gifts. We would arrive and my aunt and cousins would give all sorts of strange handicrafts made by the prisoners. They bought us things like leather purses or carved wooden stuff. Somehow I felt strange owning something that someone made with their hands  trying to pass time and make a little extra money for whatever inmates buy. I got this one red leather purse that was fascinating in how fine the work was while managing to have almost garish patterns in it. We would also get fun things like t-shirts with “Three Hots and a Cot” printed on them. I loved that shirt!

Another Angola specific memory I have is listening to everyone talk about the prison rodeo. We would sit around our smoked turkey and billion other delicious things the womenfolk made and they would talk about how we needed to come down for the prison rodeo. Apparently if you have nothing but jail time ahead of you, you are far less afraid of getting hurt by a bull. They have a game unique to Angola where a few inmates volunteer to sit at a poker table in the center of the ring and they let a bull out. I don’t know how an inmate won, I just know it sounds pretty messed up.

These were some of my fondest Thanksgivings in memory. What does this say about me?

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Nov 17

The Role of the Kid in the Middle

My mom, sister, and I used to go to visit my mom’s sister and her mother in Louisiana for Thanksgiving. (We even spent a few on Louisiana State Penitentiary, but that is for a later blog.)  My sister is two years older than me and my cousin Bobby is nine months older than me and the next closest cousin is Shelley, who is six years younger than me then followed by her brother Ross who is eight years younger. (I think, if I am wrong Ross can hate me forever for being a terrible person.) My Aunt Kea had her first boy when I was thirteen so I truly am the kid in the middle.  I was also my generation’s little weirdo. Anyway, the kid in the middle has a strange role in Thanksgiving preparations.

The older kids always got jobs like cutting and peeling or sometimes keeping an eye on the younger ones. I was too young to be trusted with a knife so I got to grate cheese. Apparently it was considered safer to ask a small clumsy child to rake cheese across a field of raised sharp blades. No way I could get hurt right? So every year I would end up with a few band-aids and a terrible hate of grating cheese. I would ask to get a different job and I was informed that I was the youngest and the youngest got to grate cheese. When Shelley came along I realized that my freedom from that awful job had come. When she was about six I decided it was time to pass on the cheese grater to the newest of the Thanksgiving recruits. I was PISSED when I was informed that her job was to put away dishes and I was still to grate cheese. I was pretty sure I was somehow getting screwed in this deal.

When I was about fifteen I was particularly unruly because my teenage hormonal balance was beyond messed up and for punishment I got to grate cheese and make the mashed potatoes. This is when I stumbled upon my true Thanksgiving talent, I am the queen of the mashed potato. All those years my talents were wasted at the cheese grater when I should have been standing at that huge pot of boiled potatoes. It was the first time in my life that Aunt Lynn seemed impressed with anything I had ever done. This started my new role as the mashed potato girl and my many years of mashed potato snobbery. We all have to have talents and mine is making horrifying fattening and artery clogging side dishes. I am actually proud of this and I have to resist the urge to put it on a resume.

By the way, I refuse to grate cheese to this day and spend the extra money to buy the bags of pre-grated cheese. If I ever do decided to get that much-needed therapy I will discuss my trauma with the therapist, until then I will just be content with paying a little extra for convenience.

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