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66 and Counting



  He lay dazed in the scant shelter of a dead Battledroid. He knew his helmet got hit but couldn't remember when or how. All around him his brothers were firing at the Jedi ground carrier, with enough success that it had groaned to a halt in the middle of an intersection, practically inviting destruction.  Every few minutes the area around the carrier would explode silently, shoving dust and dead droids and even troopers back a quarter klick or more, but both the dust and troopers returned quickly while the Jedi were silently regaining strength. Every return gave the troopers a little more ground, every blast took the Jedi longer to recuperate from.

    It was hard to see and breathe with the sparkling quartzite sand and dust nearly saturating the air. He was sure at least part of his confusion was due to concussion and lack of oxygen, but that did not explain why the troopers were massacreing the Jedi. Perhaps the Jedi had turned to the Dark side? But he distinctly remembered laughing up at Fory Jenowen when the young padawan accidentally fell off the carrier. The poor girl got a laugh and a good-natured cuff on the back for her clumsiness from Jedi Master Diliwa Sanceer. But now both Fory and Master Sanceer lay dead 20 yards behind him, shot in the back by his best friend Twist.

     "... AXB239! AXB239! Hey, 239, are you alive over there?"

    It took him a moment to realize that AXB239 was his own designation. He hadn't been called that since Kamino! He raised an arm and tried to stand, then collapsed into unconsciousness again.

    "... not sure if he's worth taking to the med carrier. Waste of time, if you ask me."

    "Yeah. Orders are walking wounded only. Shoot the rest."

    If anything he felt worse than before this last blackout, but he managed to raise an arm again. He took his time standing up but the dead droid gave him some support and he only swayed a little when he reached a standing position. The two troopers waited until he took a step toward them, then the one he had known as Twist left without a word. The other trooper -- Trip? yeah, definitely Trip -- was about to leave when Jammer stopped him.

    "I've got a concussion, no radio, can't remember a thing. What are our orders, AXB237?"

    Trip turned and examined him for long enough that he wondered if he had gotten the number wrong. "You'd better hope it's temporary or you'll find yourself in the recycle vat before too long!" The short laugh that followed was so lacking in humor, so callous, that Jammer had trouble holding back from hitting him. "The med shuttle's at the landing site, better get there fast!" Another callous laugh as Trip walked away.

    What the hell is going on? Jammer wondered as he trudged down to the landing site. Every few meters brought him fresh evidence of the world turned upside down, with troopers bickering over plunder, shooting their own wounded squad mates, rounding up citizens for transport to -- well, somewhere, hopefully! If they've started murdering citizens... A wave of nausea assured him his personality hadn't changed at all, but every single clone brother had gone mad and embraced the Dark side.
    The med shuttle was nowhere near the hive of activity he was expecting. No tents for the wounded, no lines of troops for triage, not even a morgue. Inside the shuttle there was lots going on, but it looked more like decommissioning than medical treatment. He pushed his way past droids dismantling imaging machines, dumping medicines, even ripping out data storage, before he found the one doctor remaining.

    "You don't look so good, doc."

    The woman spun towards him with a snarl but before he could even get his arms up in defense she slumped into the only chair.  "What are you doing here? Troopers were told to triage in the field."

    "Is that what they're calling it now? Triage?" He shook his head, still trying to clear his fuzziness.  "I call that murder. But apparently I'm the only clone who does!"

    She looked up at him, startled. "Take your helmet off, now

    "I don't know if I can, that's where I got hit and the fastener's stuck."

    She jumped up and pushed his gloved hands out of the way. "I think you're right. We'll have to cut through the under-layer and peel away the shielding panels..."

    She continued to mutter to herself while carefully dissecting away his armor, mostly inaudibly but he grew to appreciate the breadth of her medical invectives. At a pause he turned his head to find her gazing at him with tears in her eyes.


    She frowned and shook the tears away. "You may be the last good man in the clone army." A sob nearly escaped and she bit her lip. "Or you may be just the most recent in a very large number of identical traitors! Fingers crossed!"

    She pulled his helmet open and then over his head. A gasp from her had him striding to the nearest reflective surface and he stopped in shock. The lower part of his scalp from his right ear to the nape of his neck was black with char.  Where the char had cracked from the swelling and his movements, blood and serous fluid had trickled through. One bit of skull looked dented though he couldn't figure out from what. He lifted his hand to touch it --

    "Don't!" the doctor barked at him. Years of training took over and he froze. "Once you start fiddling with it, the pain will begin. This is going to give you a LOT of pain. And of course most of the painkillers have been destroyed!"

    She pushed him down into her chair and started rummaging through the storage containers. He felt vaguely dizzy again.  It was worse when he closed his eyes so he pulled a viewer over and tried to find out more about the disaster that was today. All he could find were Separatist feeds trumpeting their victories over Jedi clone armies. Well, yeah, considering all the clones in the armies were working for the Separatists now! His disgust for the trick and sadness for the loss of his brothers combined to get him seriously hoping one of his brothers would 'triage' him.

    "Don't watch that." The doctor shook her head and pulled the screen away from him. "It's nothing more than propaganda, though with a bit more truth than usual. Ironic, that." She leaned against the bulkhead and examined him. "I've been thinking, and I've got a proposition for you.  It may not work, or even worse it may work the way the Separatists intended it to, but if it does work I may be able to get you out of here in one piece, and with a good cover for the future."

    He shrugged. "Why should I bother when all my friends are either dead or traitors?"

    "You still support the Republic ideals, don't you?"

    He twitched away from her gaze, only to be caught by the viewer again. Mass graves of Jedi and padawan and Republic defenders were shown being filled as clone trooper firing squads blasted line after line of unarmed citizens. He shuddered. She gripped his shoulder and turned him back to face her.

    "If what I'm planning works, we can work to protect some of the citizens, maybe even some of the Jedi. As I said, there is a chance it won't work, or it may backfire and work too well and you kill me, but I think it's worth the chance."

    This time he didn't hesitate. "Whatever you need, I'll be there."

Four years!

Hard to believe it's been so long, but it took me a good 20 minutes just to remember the LJ name. (Yes, dementia is setting in!)

I'm back mostly because I still don't have anyplace to post stories that are easily accessible.

I recently finished watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars and was captivated by the story of Order 66, how the clone troopers massacred the Jedi and nearly overnight turned into imperial storm troopers. The series has the contigency orders programmed in a biochip.  This chip malfunctioned in trooper Tup, leading him to murder a Jedi. Trooper Fives figured the plot out and had his biochip removed; unfortunately, this left him unstable enough that the emperor's accusations of attempted assassination were believable and he was killed. The Kamino clone specialist implied in various conversations that the biochip was used to tamp down the aggressive nature of Jango Fett that all clones inherit.

None of this, not even the Tup story, provides any evidence that the clone troopers reverted to a Jango Fett personality once the biochip was activated (or deactivated, I guess, since it was an inhibitor). However, worlds turned upside down do make for good stories, so I've decided that certain 'generations' of clones undergo wholesale personality changes upon initiation of Order 66. You may not like it, but I hope it at least makes sense to you, even if it's not even close to canon. ;)

First part:  http://cabri729.livejournal.com/53271.html

Inara's Bad Day Part 1

This is another story in the Bad Day cycle. I just posted the Jinsu story on twitter and that got me to read the Zoe story which got me interested in finishing the Inara story. So same fair warning -- unfinished, very rough, but willing to ignore your comments if you want to make them. ;)

This is the continuation of a story I began with Zoe's Bad Day. If you're really going to read this one, read the "Zoe" story first because otherwise you'll be clueless. There's also a short prequel earlier in my blog about River, more or less, not really necessary for Inara's story (I think). The story is set after Serenity so no Wash or Book. If you read "Zoe" before last week, just know that I deleted the lame one-paragraph ending. It was just a placeholder for when I figured out what the story arc was. Not needed anymore.

This is all straight first draft. I'm not doing any researching yet, not using any Chinese yet, just trying to get the story down. I haven't even reread "Zoe" yet. I'm doing this mostly because I'm very good at procrastination, and my announcing that I was writing it was kind of a push to actually starting it. ;) You're welcome to comment, critique, whatever, and it's my privilege to totally ignore you. I'm also not going to correct and re-post an entry; if I change something that has reverberations you'll see it in a later entry or the finished story.

Inara's Bad Day

The iaito balanced easily on Inara's hands as she centered herself and prepared to give respect. Distracting thoughts of Mal and the crew gradually faded into the background static of her mind. She breathed. And again. And --

Just at the most unbalanced point of her obeisance, the ship jumped sideways. She teetered for a moment, then pitched forward, the sword still held in her hands. She tried to toss it away. It slid more than flew, and when the ship twitched back, her suddenly increased momentum was too fast to catch herself. She barely had time to tilt her head away so that her forehead hit the iaito handle instead of the steel of its blunt blade. Dazed, she didn't connect her accident with the ship at large and wondered how she could have lost her balance like that. Blood dripped its way down her temple and cheek. She pushed herself back up, grabbed the cloth off her bedside table and held it to her forehead, then frowned in confusion at her tea set. It had been on that table; now, the teapot and one of the cups was shattered, the other cup having rolled across the floor to the cockpit curtain.

Read moreCollapse )

Oh, God, Not Another Podcast post!

I can't remember if I've talked about my NPR addiction here yet, though practitioners of twitter have probably seen my tweets extolling the virtues of Linda Holmes et al. So it's time to pollute you all too!

For the last five years, more or less, I have (also more or less) rejected the podcast as a medium worthy of my attention. Since I've lost what ability I once had to multitask, I now find it impossible to play on the interwebs and at the same time listen actively to anything -- TV, music, podcasts, doesn't matter, it just turns into background noise. Also, naturally I can't very well listen to a podcast while I'm watching TV that I've taped; they are mutually exclusive activities that both require active attention.

Recently, however, after reading Linda Holmes' tweets for the past 6 or so months and wondering what all the fun was about, I decided to give the Pop Culture Happy Hour a try while I was on vacation. I loaded up my mp3 player with 3 or 4 of the more recent podcasts and headed out. Lo! and behold! the #PCHH turned out to be the only thing that kept me alert while driving down to Florida with my sister. Since I only managed about 3 hours of sleep from Wednesday afternoon, through ten hours of work, from the beginning of our drive Thursday morning all the way until we picked up Gorramsister in Fort Lauderdale Friday morning, staying alert was something I needed desperately. It annoyed the heck out of my sister because I would laugh out loud for no apparent reason, but I didn't care as long as it kept us on the asphalt and not wrapped around an interstate lamp post.

I didn't listen to it much during the vacation itself , but on the trip back up I put my earbuds in the minute I took the wheel. I even started my older sister on them during the drive and in fact her birthday present was an mp3 player filled with all the #PCHH podcasts. (There aren't that many since the podcast only began last July, maybe 40-45 due to vacations and other things.)

Of course, once vacation was over there were no more opportunities to listen to #PCHH. I live only 4 miles from work and there's barely time to listen to one news cycle on the local newsradio, so that was out. I do occasionally take my mp3 player outside on my walks, but with baseball season underway I prefer to catch the Tigers then. I can't listen at work because listening is what I do at work and I can't listen to two things at once. At least, not productively.

One day as I was surveying the toxic dump that I call my apartment it occurred to me I could listen to the podcast while cleaning. It worked pretty well during the picking-up phase of the cleaning, but it really shined once I started doing the dishes. Dishes turn out to be exactly like driving -- they both require close attention but they leave your brain free to do other things. Used to be this 'leave your brain free' thing just meant tortuous and agonizing boredom but not anymore.

So what is the Pop Culture Happy Hour? Read more...Collapse )
I will always go with children's shows. At least they engage my brain!

After years of shift work and a lack of the more premium cable channels, I've learned to love children's programming. I'm not talking very young children, of course -- Sesame Street is great occasionally but there's a distinct lack of plot in most episodes. ;) My favorites (in no particular order) have been:

  • Arthur - one of the best, I still watch it every weekday, both new episodes and repeats.
  • Lilo and Stitch - I watched this every day when it was on at 5 or 6 a.m. on the Disney channel. Unfortunately it was pulled a couple of years ago. At least I don't have to mourn losing it when I lost my Cable Plus channels, it was already gone. Miss it a lot.
  • Magic School Bus - a great natural history series, every so once in a while it shows up on my Canadian channel and I pounce on it.
  • Recess - another one of the best, aimed at kids a couple years older than Arthur so a bit more knowing about pop culture and the adult world. Very funny. Good stories. Long gone. :(
  • WordGirl - One of the best on TV today, great use of sarcasm in a children's show, just enough to get the point across but not so much it takes it out of its world. If adults watch just an episode or two they won't necessarily figure out what's going on.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command - Another Disney show that disappeared. I heard Disney will only produce a certain number of episodes (Recess became a longer-lasting exception due to its extreme popularity), plus they will only repeat the show a certain number of times before it's gone forever. Miss it. Wouldn't be able to watch it anyway since I no longer get the Disney channel.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures - One of my all-time favorites, no longer on my TV and I've heard the DVDs have issues. This is one of the few kids shows that I think they could base a live version off of - not with Jackie, he's getting on in years, but I love the little girl, Jade, and think a more grown up version of the character - maybe in her teens? - would make a great series or movie.
  • Charlie and Lola - I only ran across this a year or so ago and absolutely adore it. One of these days I'll get the DVDs but as they're Brit they'll be expensiver than most.

Any one of the above series will entertain both children and grownups. If you have a kid or kids and aren't watching these with your child/ren, you're missing out!

Other series I've enjoyed through the years, though not as dedicatedly as the previous, are:

  • Cyberchase (pretty good, although to be honest I watch it mainly for the live-action interstitial at the end of each episode ;)
  • George Shrinks
  • Dragon Tales
  • The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot about That (finally, a Martin Short character I enjoy)
  • Maya and Miguel
  • Postcards from Buster
  • Doug
  • Little Mermaid
  • Captain Planet
  • Sabrina, the Animated Series
  • Clifford, the Big Red Dog
  • The Legend of Tarzan
  • The Emperor's New School
  • Martha Speaks
  • Dinosaur Train

One thing I really miss was the local stations airing syndicated animated series during the day, particularly the afterschool hours of 3-5. I'm sure they lost most of their audience to Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney channel, but the substitute shows - crappy sitcoms and wacky judges - just nauseate me. Oh, well, I'll survive as long as PBS maintains their excellent children's programming.

Netflix - The Hangover

My expectations for The Hangover were a combination of "not another wacky guy comedy", "omg I <3 Bradley Cooper!", and "this might be okay." Despite the incredible hype over this movie and despite the fact that I've never seen Zach Galifianakis in anything besides Up in the Air, his presence was probably the one thing keeping me out of the theatre. He plays a character type that simply grates on my nerves, what I think of as the Chris Farley type, the clueless manchild who plays to the cheap seats. They're the kind of comics who make me go 'ewww' much more often than 'teehee'.

On the other hand ... Bradley Cooper! And I do like Ed Helms. So I picked The Hangover to be my first Netflixed theatrical movie to see if I'm at all interested in The Hangover 2 which is coming out in May.

I didn't hate it.

Luckily there wasn't enough Zach to completely turn me off of this movie. I loved the little Stu (Ed Helms) romance with Jade (Heather Graham) and the mystery of the baby. The Mike Tyson story was surprisingly cute. Mr. Chow was even cuter. So I guess you could say I enjoyed about 75% of it. That's probably enough to get me to watch the sequel once it hits Netflix, but unless someone asks me to go see it with them I'll probably avoid buying a ticket.

Netflix - Freaks & Geeks Disc 1

I remember when Freaks & Geeks first came out. I was sure from the reviews that this was just the kind of TV show I'd like - smart and funny but not smart-assed. I watched the first 20 or so minutes and turned it off. This is a show that hits pretty close to home for me. It's set eight years after I graduated, but the people Paul Feig populated his fictional high school with are the exact same people in my high school.

I was a less-smart, less-pretty, much-more-clueless Lindsay. I thought I was too cool for the geeks or greasers (which were still quite prevalent in the early '70s), but I never quite achieved freak-hood. I could smoke with them, both cigarettes outside the school stairwell and pot inside someone's garage, but I never had that innate coolness that the real freaks had. I thought too much about it. To be cool, you had to be unthinkingly cool. You couldn't aspire to be cool.

On the other hand, my next older sister was the original Kim. Me and my two older sisters were only 3 1/2 years apart, from May of 1953 to September of 1956, but we were all as different as three sisters could be. Vivian caught the end of the folk era and the beginning of flower power. At one point she ran away to Plum Street, which was the Detroit version of the Haight-Ashbury district, and for art class she made a Donovan "Mellow Yellow" poster. Sheila was the most naturally cool of the three of us, a fan of Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin and the beginnings of acid rock. We were always at odds, we just never really got along that well, probably at least partly because I learned to read at 3 and zipped right on past her while she was still struggling with telling time and I was more than happy to remind her of that.

We had no brothers, just a couple more little sisters, but I knew a lot of kids just like the ones in Freaks & Geeks. Watching these first three episodes of the series, my stomach tied up in knots and there were times where I had to look away. I made it through the disc and can acknowledge it's very well done, but I was in doubt whether I'd be able to make it through another disc.

Many of my friends were at my house, visiting for some event. The One True b!X as usual was grumpy and I could tell he was getting restless (waiting for the event?) and could leave at any moment, thus triggering a mass exodus. I was trying to figure out what we could do to keep everyone's interest. Then we were in a tenement area getting ice cream from an outside ice cream stand: a video was showing how a famous Early American artist from Michigan named Oliver or Oscar something didn't paint in the usual 'folk art' manner of the 18th century but more in the style of the Impressionists. The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) had digitized one of his paintings and had 'adjusted' it so at first it looked kind of folkish then gradually it unscrambled and it turned out to be a gorgeous impressionistic view of the marshy flats where one of the rivers met its lake (either St. Clair River to Lake St. Clair or Detroit River to Lake Erie). Apparently Oliver or Oscar had also invented a marsh 'reaper', a cylindrical toothed iron device that usually just lay at the bottom of shallow marsh canals. When a flat-bottomed boat passed over, the reaper was close enough to the surface that it would scrape the bottom of the boat, causing the reaper to either drag along the bottom of the canal or rotate and bring up jetsam from the bottom.

Next thing I knew we were in a wharf district located in one of the flats regions. There were tremendously long low warehouses on the wharves but we ignored them and took a boat down one of the canals and observed Oliver/Oscar's invention firsthand.

Then we were up on the wharf gawking at one of the warehouses which turned out to be a storage unit for the DIA. At first there were few windows - that was the office/special storage section. Then a world of wonder opened through the windows before us: racks upon racks of clothes, paintings leaning against walls, statues placed randomly throughout. And it wasn't organized as all clothes, then all paintings, then all this and all that -- everything was jumbled together higgledy-piggledy. The first thing we saw was a statue or mannequin of Allison Janney dressed in her most iconic costume from The History of Soul: a filet crochet sweater in contrasting colors and a matching cap. Weirdly the cap had been cut in two so only half her head was covered.

Everyone was moving down the windows, oohing and aahing at the wonderful artifacts. Then b!X pointed at a dress hanging high that was billowing in a breeze and he asked the tour guide how they could set up a fan so that dress and no other was in the fan's air flow. As the tour guide shrugged, the dress billowed violently and a bear pulled its head out of the skirt and dropped back down to its paws. Everybody in our group jumped, a few screams were cut off, but the bear just shook his head and ambled down the aisles between the clothing racks. We rushed to see where he went but the next section was paintings in racks and on the floor -- including many by Oscar/Oliver -- and the bear was nowhere to be found.

The Deep Blue Good-By, Ch. 1-3

The Deep Blue Good-By by James D. MacDonald

Note: Whoa. It's amazing how hard it is to write a serious critique of a book when you haven't even done a book report in 40 years. And when I did book reports, I copied the blurb on the inside jacket. Wish me luck!

Some things you don't notice right away. It took until my nth rereading of The Deep Blue Good-By to notice that the chapter numbers are in Spanish. That tickles me.

What a great opening line: "It was to have been a quiet evening at home." Already the reader is wondering how this will change, what will ruin a quiet evening. Or maybe what will improve a quiet evening. But first, where the hell are we? Why, slip F-18 of course.

Who is Travis? "...that big brown loose-jointed boat bum, that pale-eyed, wire-haired girl-seeker, that slayer of small savage fish, that beach-walker, gin-drinker, quip-maker, peace-seeker, iconoclast, disbeliever, argufier, that knuckly, scar-tissued reject from a structured society." When I read that, I wonder if that doesn't describe MacDonald too.

What happens in these chaptersCollapse )

QuoterGal's Quotes

The Deep Blue Good-By (1964)
1995 Fawcett Crest Edition

"I have no stomach for surprises. I have endured too many of them. They upset me. The elimination of all removable risk is the most plausible way of staying alive."


"...And I do not function too well on emotional motivations. I am wary of them. And I am wary of a lot of other things, such as plastic credit cards, payroll deductions, insurance programs, retirement benefits, savings accounts, Green stamps, time clocks, newspapers, mortgages, sermons, miracle fabrics, deodorants, check lists, time payments, political parties, lending libraries, television, actresses, junior chambers of commerce, pageants, progress, and manifest destiny.

"I am wary of the whole dreary deadening structured mess we have built into such a glittering top-heavy structure that there is nothing left to see but the glitter, and the brute routines of maintaining it."


"I listened for the roar of applause, fanfare of trumpets, for the speech and the medal. I heard the lisping flap of water against the hull, the soft mutter of the traffic on the smooth asphalt that divides the big marina from the public beach, bits of music blending into nonsense, boat laughter, the slurred harmony of alcohol, and a mosquito song vectoring in on my neck."


"These are the playmate years, and they are demonstrably fraudulent. The scene is reputed to be acrawl with adorably amoral bunnies to whom sex is a pleasant social favor. The new culture. And they are indeed present and available, in exhausting quantity, but there is a curious tastelessness about them. A woman who does not guard and treasure herself cannot be of very much value to anyone else. They become a pretty little convenience, like a guest towel. And the cute things they say, and their dainty squeals of pleasure and release are as contrived as the embroidered initials on the guest towels. Only a woman of pride, complexity and emotional tension is genuinely worth the act of love, and there are only two ways to get yourself one of them. Either you lie, and stain the relationship with your own sense of guile, or you accept the involvement, the emotional responsibility, the permanence she must by nature crave. I love you can only be said two ways."


"Molly Bea, she of the hard white breasts lightly dusted with golden freckles, would never be so humiliated by life because she could never become as deeply involved in the meaty toughness of life. She would never be victimized by her own illusions because they were not essential to her. She could always find new ones when the old ones wore out. But Cathy was stuck with hers. The illusion of love, magically changed to a memory of shame."


"People who build a transient life around a forty-foot cruiser are presumed innocent. I’d found the Busted Flush to be a most agreeable headquarters for the basically rebellious. You escape most of the crud, answer fewer questions, and you can leave on the next tide."

Travis McGee, 3 chapters (or so) at a time

Why 3 chapters? That's about as much as I can read during my dinner break at work if I stretch my break out a bit -- John D. MacDonald's chapters are fairly long for an action-thriller these days. I hope it's also short enough that I'll take the time to read it on my weekends. I have a hard time settling down to read these days (as I've said in previous posts) because I read so much online.

Why Travis McGee? Trav is one of the heroes of my late childhood/early womanhood. The mid 60's to mid 80's was a tumultuous period in American society and he was an anachronism even then. He didn't idolize women but he appreciated the women who knew where they were going and what they wanted when they got there. He also appreciated the less-smart women who were only there for the fun parties or the sex or the dirty old men who they could con into marrying them, but thought of them more as disposable companions. No sense in looking for a long-term relationship with someone who had no intention of being there tomorrow. He was not at all chauvinistic in a time when most men were just starting to learn how to pretend not to be.

He was also one of the most violent heroes in a violent era. Riots, The Wild Bunch, sky-high murder rates - and he still managed to shock his readers.

He was very very smart, an attribute many of his opponents weren't prepared for. And amiably blunt in a way that relaxed the regular people he talked to and allowed him to wheedle that one last iffy piece of information out of them.

So from start to finish, The Deep Blue Good-By to The Lonely Silver Rain, I plan on rereading the entire Travis McGee series over the next few months. I'm not a critic, never took any kind of criticism classes in school, never even took any kind of literature classes past high school level, so these will just be my incoherent thoughts strung together into something resembling a review.

By the way, I'm still doing the 30 in 2010, just incorporating Trav into it. I'm behind a few reviews but I'll get to them as soon as I have Travis McGee writer's block. Maybe tomorrow. ;)



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