Archive for the ‘Would I Lie?’ Category

Let Me Introduce You To My “Family”….

September 18, 2011 6 comments

No matter where we come from, regardless of what was true for us growing up, we all end up with a family living inside our heads.

At least I do…

They are not real people, though they represent archetypes that we all recognize. The baby, the bully, the mediator….. You name ’em, I got ’em. Here’s the lineup:

Trixie is my inner child. She’s about 3, just learning to talk about the things she sees but can’t quite process. She only understands simple pain and simple joy. She’s full of questions and silly observations that mostly make people laugh. Her parents are:

Warren Peece, an old hippie activist who had his name legally changed to distance himself from his family legacy. He just can’t seem to stop being offended by everything that happens and speaks up whenever he perceives an injustice being done to powerless people. He’s not very good at constructively putting his efforts where his mouth is, so he married:

Anne Chovey, a reporter he met at a demonstration against some cause he can’t quite remember due to a previous propensity for illicit substances. Anne was that stable influence, like so many women are for their husbands. She has an uncanny ability to gather the facts and prioritize them, though she doesn’t do it unless she’s asked. And you know free-spirit Warren doesn’t want his passions made constructive. He’s simply acting out against his father:

Thaddeus A. Bunchable, a conservative blowhard, a “self-made man” who can’t stop spouting about how the world is going to Hell because of these hippie, Bible-bashing deadbeats who’ve never done an honest day’s work. He doesn’t want his hard-earned money going to bail out the lazy good-for-nothing welfare cheats who are dragging down the beloved country that he fought so hard for. And since he doesn’t believe in divorce, he has been married for too many years to:

Fritzi, a compulsive, unrepentant hedonist who copes with Thad’s chronic grumpiness by seeking out a party anytime and anywhere. Heck, she doesn’t even care if nobody’s around — she’ll have a party by herself, all dressed up with nowhere to go. Her motto is, “If life hands you lemons, make mine a Stoli Lemon Drop!” But deep inside, Fritzi is sad. Really, really sad. Usually after a bout of trying to entertain away her inner despair, Fritzi turns to:

Sister Ellen, a non-denominational nun that the whole family secretly goes to when the world gets too hard to take. Sister Ellen loves to sit with Trixie on her lap listening and laughing at the stories Trixie makes up about stuff; she understands Warren like few others, knowing that his heart is pure even if his actions aren’t; she respects Anne for being objective, but wishes her heart were a little more open to feeling something; she sees the pain in Thaddeus that can only express itself by lashing out; and she secretly idolizes Fritzi for being able to let it all hang out, even though she knows the exuberance is false.

This family, the family that is me, the one that is so dysfunctional yet so passionate, so hateful and hurtful and yet so kind …. is where I come from. They blame and forgive, dishonor and repent, yell and cry, but always come back together in laughter. They care for each other deeply, even when their words and actions seem to indicate otherwise. Time has allowed them to understand each other and give one another the space to work things out. It’s not always easy to bear witness to someone else’s growing pains, but they always manage to come back together when the dust settles.

I love my family, warts and all……


Educating our Soldiers

March 9, 2011 1 comment

My “Devil’s Advocate” self is on duty today to make a point.

For a couple of weeks now I have had the opportunity to hear firsthand about the “high level of intelligence” among the members of today’s military. An all-volunteer force, I’ve been told that these people are among the best and brightest to ever have served our country. With the promise of educational benefits, a full pension, health care for life, and a housing and food allowance, there are few personal needs to be concerned about so that our fighting men and women can concentrate on defending our country. Bless their hearts for being willing to put themselves in harm’s way.

But where did these “best and brightest” come from and how did they obtain that lofty title? Were they educated at the elite private institutions revered by the doctors, lawyers, or policy-makers that graduate from such respected proving grounds? A few were but not many of them. Not yet, anyway, until the GI Bill kicks in. Nope —  most of them were educated in our public schools.

I read a statistic that for every soldier that ever sees combat there are 12 others supporting him. Our taxes go to support cooks, medics, truck drivers, administrators, etc. If they devote a certain period of their adult lives to these duties, such support people will receive benefits for the rest of their lives as our thanks for their sacrifice. Even in times of relative peace, their willingness to be ready when called qualifies them for our eternal gratitude for defending our rights. These same people are willing to be yelled at, chastised, humiliated in front of their peers, all in the name of preparing them to be strong enough to do their part for the whole and support the others around them. They understand that the pointing out of their failures means that the man or woman next to them has a better chance of survival.

Back at home in the world they came from there is another group willing to sacrifice their adult lives for the survival of those around them: TEACHERS — the very people who create the setting for these “best and brightest” to develop the character to lead others. Along with parents willing to impart a sense of duty and service to others, these young people come up through a system that teaches them to learn not just for their own sakes but for the benefit of the whole.

And yet, many of us look at these educators and condemn them for giving our children failing grades. We stay up late with our kids to help them do their homework in order to prevent their being humiliated in front of their peers. How many soldiers’ parents walk into the office of a Drill Sergeant and say, “Stop picking on my kid!”

At the ballot box we decide that teachers do not deserve the same respect as our soldiers because they are not putting themselves in harm’s way. But are these people participating any less than those cooks, medics, truck drivers, and administrators who support our soldiers in battle? Did they have any less impact on their ability to survive in the midst of chaos? Were they not the first people to teach our children to think on their feet?

There will always be those who are a drag on the system, whether militarily or educationally, and it will be equally difficult to discharge either without good reason. We will all have memories of that teacher who “damaged us for life” or the platoon leader who screwed up and got half our buddies killed. But the majority of them will be willing to give the best part of themselves to make sure that those in their charge are as prepared as they can possibly be for whatever they face on the battlefield or in life.

I gladly pay my taxes with the expectation that the best and brightest are being cultivated to be better thinkers and more adept communicators so that our soldiers become great diplomats as well as fighters. In order to achieve that end, those preparing them need to feel supported with the same kind of appreciation for their sacrifice.

Today I support our soldiers and our teachers. Where would we be without either?

Ferris Bueller Never Actually Took a Day Off

February 8, 2011 1 comment

Disclaimer: There will be college bashing in this episode….

I know, I know…. you think that just because I didn’t finish college I have an axe to grind, since that’s all some feel I am qualified to do. Well, maybe, that’s part of it, but this is more than just a rant, even though I’ve lost out on corporate promotions to peers eminently less qualified simply because I didn’t have credentials equal to their Physical Education degrees. This is actually an appeal to the gods of creativity to come out of hiding and speak up!

I learned two new things today  (despite the fact that I didn’t finish college and learning is more challenging for me :D):

1. The mystery about which Chicago Cubs game Ferris Bueller and his friends went to in the movie has finally been solved. I must admit I’m relieved to have that crossed off my list of things to wonder about.


2. James Altucher compiled a list called “8 Things Your Kids Should Do Instead of Going To College“. Having had this very conversation at lunch today, I checked it out. Here are the 8 magical things:

1. Start a business

2. Travel the world

3. Create art

4. Make people laugh

5. Write a book

6. Work in a charity

7. Master a game

8. Master a sport

Dang! I could have told you all that and made millions myself instead of him! I don’t even know the guy but I’m intrigued by his postulation. (See, even some of us drop-outs know big words too)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off ” made a modern-day hero out of a brilliant goofball kid who showed us the value of being on the ball and thinking creatively to get where we want to go. It also illustrated the profound boredom engendered by the school curricula mandated by state and federal governments. Though the movie doesn’t reveal to us his life beyond that day, we can pretty much assume that his wealthy family was able to send him to one of the best colleges in the country, which likely did little to prepare him for life any more than he was already prepared by the time he was 12.

Mr. Altucher’s list isn’t meant to discourage people from going to college at all (he’s a college grad himself), but rather, it suggests that many kids, most of them, would benefit from “trying out the world” first. At a time when their financial liabilities are at the lowest point they’ll probably ever be, he advocates experimenting with ideas that they’ve never tried or considered. When they have a better sense of who they are and what drives them, THEN they should go to college.

I couldn’t agree more.

College has become insanely expensive and these days there is little, if any, payoff for the graduate. A degree used to be assurance of a place in the job market but not anymore. Today, if you don’t have the creative wherewithal of a Ferris Bueller, you’re likely sitting “with your thumb in your bum and your brain in neutral” (as my college-educated daddy used to say) while you wait for the job market to open up and offer you a place in the system of life. If the next step isn’t flashing right in front of you and there isn’t someone giving you permission to take it, you’re likely blinded by the light. For those who have followed the aligned steps into adulthood already, worked hard, and ended up losing everything anyway, it’s even harder to reconcile that slap in the face.

With these realities in mind, why do we encourage young people to get themselves into a financial hole so early on? Why is it necessary for an 18-year-old to know what direction they’re going to take for the rest of their lives the minute they step out of their high school cap & gown? Would that $20,000 first semester tuition payment be any less fruitfully spent taking a year or two to try out those ideas they’ve had? At a point in their lives when success or failure has far fewer consequences, wouldn’t this be the time to attempt them and learn the realities so that college will afford them the direction they seek?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for knowledge, and in the age of the Internet it’s at my fingertips any time I want. Heck, I don’t even have to go to the library anymore! So why am I required to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to squander four years of my youth being filled up with largely useless (to me) knowledge in order to be considered valuable to society? Wouldn’t it be better if I understood who I am and what I have to offer before trying to stick me in a spot where I clearly don’t fit?

Today, I looked at art that I waited my lifetime to create and had the incomparable payoff of hearing people praise it.  I’d probably be laughed right out of a gallery, but someone actually paid me money to paint something that is bringing people pleasure. No college diploma would ever have offered me that sense of satisfaction.

I have yet to travel the world, write a book, or master a game. I’ll get right on that.

Or maybe I’ll just call up Ferris and James and see if they want to take in a ball game.

We Ought To Be Committed!

January 4, 2010 Leave a comment

It only takes a short week away from my usual surroundings for me to find my groove again. Do the walls of your life ever close in like they do in mine? Time to change that mindset….

Damn, it’s a new DECADE!

We made it through the first 10 years of the millenium much to the surprise of the survivalists of the Y2K era and it hasn’t been until almost the end of this year that we experienced another attempt at terrorism on our own soil with the unsuccessful effort of the dude from Nigeria trying to burn himself up on a plane on Christmas. Personally, I think when he found out his destination was Detroit, he freaked. Can’t blame him these days. Everyone else seems to be leaving the Motor City in droves…

Once we calm down from this hysteria that whips us up from time to time, we Americans are pretty resilient. We like to piss and moan about the hand life deals us sometimes, but that’s usually just the first step in reinventing ourselves. We don’t like to let go of the old, even when the new holds so much more promise. But like it or not, death and rebirth are the order of our world and much of the time the latter would not be possible without the former.

My decade has been all about my own “death and rebirth”. I set up my own “death panel” to evaluate which part of my life needed to die in order that a new part might be born. I like to think of myself as a “re-birther” rather than “born again”. Having paddled around in the proverbial primordial ooze for the first part of my life I finally just let go and allowed myself to be flung into space, shot out of the warm safety of the womb, naked and slimy and crying.

But regardless of the thrill of detachment, the desire for the coziness of the womb takes over again. It’s time for me to be re-birthed, to abandon my sense of personal security and jump out into the unknown. If I learned anything from doing that the first time it’s that the birth need not be dramatic or messy. It doesn’t require a change of place but rather, a change of s-p-a-c-e, the kind that fills the area between my ears.

But even subtle change requires The “C” Word — COMMITMENT. To me, commitment implies a loss of liberty. Yet with too much liberty, I crave commitment. Somewhere in the middle is fulfillment — and by the time I get to that place I probably will be dead!

So, I begin this decade with the appreciation of my considerable liberties but with a renewed sense that with this freedom comes a responsibility to commitment. Perhaps all of us could use that reminder as we peek out into this strange new world that is being born of a decade of chaos.

We ought to be committed to the change we know is necessary and those of us who have watched from the safety of our liberty need to step forward and put our pissing and moaning to the test. Our strength as Americans need not be measured by our desire to bear arms but instead by our willingness to offer our own strong arms to be counted and used in this rebirth.

Forceps, please — Oh, and Biceps too!

Categories: Life, Would I Lie?

Losing Control of Good Intentions

December 3, 2009 3 comments

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone… They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot….” — Joni Mitchell

Doesn’t it always seem to happen that, what seemed like a good idea at the time mutates into a monster once others catch on?

Take Tiger Woods, for example (if there’s still a piece of him left in the scrap heap that his life is rapidly becoming). I try like heck not to get caught up in media frenzies, but if I’m going to partake of any media, I have little choice. The news is everywhere….

This phenomenal young talent was thrust into the spotlight well before he was mature enough to handle it and we have the gall to chastise him for being immature. Now he’s gone and done what so many celebrities fall prey to by involving himself in “relations outside of marriage”.

And then there’s my friend Sarah Palin who has everything Janet Reno didn’t: good looks, charisma, star power. But in contrast, she lacks everything Janet Reno had: brains, education, experience. Palin is a feminist’s worst nightmare, even though she represents in some ways all the things that feminists fought for the freedom to be.

This is where the mutation happens.

In one of my previous lifetimes (I’m living them all concurrently in this one), I was a sales rep for a natural products distributor to independent natural food stores. The old hippies had found a way to create a socialistic system of acquiring whole and organic foods to share among their friends and neighbors. But as with all such good ideas, people grew weary of those late night clandestine meetings where they’d split up 100-pound bags of flour and scoop thick oily peanut butter into containers. Like most average Americans, they decided they just wanted to be able to go into a store and buy it like normal people did. So they opened retail store fronts in an effort to change the world and get people to start eating healthy food.

Still, they were on the fringe. Those so-called “normal” people wouldn’t dream of setting foot in such an establishment, often dingy, dirty, smelling of incense. They struggled to attract customers in order to sell the quantities of products necessary to be able to get the best prices. Antithetical to their mission, they ended up throwing a lot of stuff away.

But then things changed. Someone finally figured out that the only way to get people to eat healthy food was to offer it to them in a way that felt familiar — in a big grocery store format. Suddenly, people who would never have considered eating tofu or wheat germ were exploring these venues. Sales started to boom.

The dirty little stores cried foul. “Hey, this was our idea!” they complained. “WE were going to change the world!” Little did they know that they had changed the world but not in the way they’d intended. It was the existence of these big stores that helped the little ones survive by exposing the public to products they would never have known about. In turn, they created a demand that allowed suppliers to lower prices so that shoppers could more easily purchase the better quality food. People then started exploring the little stores and enjoying the personal service they couldn’t get at the big stores, as long as the little ones were able to remove the giant chips they had developed on their shoulders and take advantage of the free advertising. Not all could do it.

Back in my present life, I look at the conundrum that is Sarah Palin and wonder, Where did feminism go wrong? How did our good idea get hijacked?

The days of defiant fist-waving are over. Victoria’s Secret now has to rely on the sale of lacy undergarments to powerful, confident women who actually wear them rather than burn them. Untamed body hair no longer represents solidarity but rather, “ewwww!”…. We’ve gotten what we wanted — so why are we mad that a woman is being taken seriously as a politician despite the fact that she looks like Yukon Barbie?

Because of the mutation factor.

What started out as good intentions about changing the world has come to fruition but not the way we imagined it would. It’s not the crunchy-granola, sea-salt-of-the-earth version we envisioned. Instead, it’s an antiseptic, shiny floored, health department monitored example of everything we were working against.

If you’ve ever eaten a piece of organic fruit, if you made it past the often repulsive-looking exterior, you know the flavor, nutrients, and sense of holistic care for yourself and the planet cannot possibly be matched by a shiny, blemish-free, dye-colored specimen.

Maybe, like the big box natural food stores, Sarah Palin has hit on something we’ve been ignoring. People want packaging. They want to be surrounded by safe walls, whether they are churches, stores, or ideas. They’ve grown accustomed to a certain level of assurance that the food they eat, the politicians they elect, come with a reasonable guarantee of “good looks and cleanliness”. They are entranced by shiny objects….

But most of us will never get past this need for packaging. We won’t experience the substance and depth of character to be found in the quiet, unassuming person (or the intense flavor of an ugly-ass apple) who will not hog the spotlight, who will not erase the rough edges for the sake of popularity, who will not wear a recognizable uniform. We won’t feed ourselves with the nutrients that ensure long-term good health for ourselves or our country. Instead, we’ll continue to stuff ourselves with the empty calories found in the ostensibly beautiful.

And most of us will never know the pressure of excessive media attention, the merciless scrutiny of a pathetic public desperately wanting to think that there’s more underneath that lovely exterior, unrepentantly digging into the dark recesses of our lives and daring to be disappointed at what they find. Tiger Woods will never know what it’s like not to be there, and Sarah Palin will forever change the way we see feminism — Dammit!!


September 1, 2009 2 comments

lie1Ever wake up laughing?

I don’t usually but I did today. It wasn’t because of a dream — in fact, my dream was actually creepy and shameful — but I woke up feeling positively NUTTY!

People have been telling me lately that I’m funny. I find this funny because I’m not the funny one in my family. Actually, I kind of fear being thought of as funny because the people in my family who ARE funny are the nutty ones — certifiably nutty. Like, mental hospital nutty.

So when I say I fear that title I’m not kidding. I start having visions of a wardrobe comprised solely of strait-jackets.

Dad20I’ve heard that my real mother was funny. Vivacious, life of the party, entertaining. But she spent a good deal of her adult life in a sanitarium trying to decide which was real and which was Memorex. I’ve heard that she had some interesting conversations with people inside the television, used lipstick to draw roadmaps on her face, and even left my father at some point to marry a man she thought was Jesus Christ. She was very, very funny…  and very, very nutty.

It wasn’t until my younger sister started showing signs of this same “sense of humor” that I started to worry. Up until then, it looked like our mother had died taking the curse with her, but it came back. Thanks to modern medications, that little peccadillo is kept at bay, but always, the rest of us are on the lookout.

So when I wake up laughing and having what can only be described as a “Manic Tuesday”, I get a little anxious. I’m funny as hell, could probably do a little Fred Astaire up on the rooftop, challenge a greyhound to a race, but it’s hard to enjoy this fun fluctuation in hormones because:


MothersVoiceI don’t remember my mother. She died when I was less than three. My sister was only 11 months old. Somewhere along the way I acquired a reel-to-reel tape that was purported to have her voice on it and I have carried it with me for years, wondering what’s on it. Because of the old technology, I’m not sure I would even be able to listen to it but I still carry it with me. What if she sounds crazy? What if she sounds like ME?

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a little funny. Well, let’s just say I have an over-developed sense of irony, a sixth-sense for satire. I just find the world absurd most of the time and am always looking for a way to make fun of it. My steady diet of ill-gotten candy and MAD magazines as a kid made me wonder if there really was such a thing as a REAL world….

Maybe I am as nutty as my mother was. Maybe she was just ahead of her time and the real world wasn’t ready for her yet. After all, who’d ever heard of funny women in the 50s and 60s? And a minister’s wife, to boot! That’s enough irony to do a whole stand-up show…

IMG_8669There’s a little pool dedicated to her memory out behind our church in Michigan. Once it had some lights and a fountain in it and was neat looking. I saw it again a couple weeks ago and it was murky and full of rocks on the bottom.

I chuckled.

If I were a little kid, what better way to honor someone that nobody remembers than throw rocks in their pool and watch the ripples…

But if I’d been there to see them do it, you can bet I would have made up a story about how anybody who got splashed with the water would end up in the CRAZY HOUSE!!!!

I think that’s what my mother would’ve done… And that would have been funny….

Get this one in, STAT!

August 15, 2009 5 comments

lie1It’s somehow appropriate that I have an old military guy for a dentist.

In my case, going to him is usually like arriving at a M*A*S*H unit by helicopter. A quick triage with x-rays tells him what the problem is, and unless he knows he can’t take care of it himself, he ushers me right in and gets started. He doesn’t give me the opportunity to chicken out. I’ll bet in the Air Force he was the guy that used to push the young paratroopers out of the plane…


I am an unrepentant sugar addict from way back. In fact, of all the friends I’m still in touch with, candy is the one I have the fondest memories of — sorry, but an addiction is an addiction.
yellowIt hasn’t been until recently that I’ve come to appreciate having had dental insurance when I was growing up and a mother who revered dental health more than most do. At almost 80, she still has all her original teeth. Unfortunately, her fanaticism didn’t pass on to me….

greenWhen I go to the dentist now, it’s usually with my tail between my legs, shame in my heart, and a mouthful of trouble. Unlike most people, I actually have dental insurance, and I still put off my visits. I am the reason not everyone deserves well-care insurance. We don’t use it properly and it makes our eligibility rather pointless.

purpleAbout a year ago I started having tenderness in the gum surrounding a bicuspid root canal and crown that had been done about 4 years ago. I didn’t pay much attention, having had such things resolve themselves before. I started pushing on the area with floss, hoping to get it to release and I thought I had succeeded because the pain went away… until I felt a lump up near the top of the root and tenderness leading to my left sinus. I started fooling with that, too, but it kept getting worse.

"Capt. Tooth"

"Capt. Tooth"

With vacation coming up next week, I finally decided to try to get in to see “Captain Tooth”, a.k.a., Dr. Curtis Moore. This guy has an Alabama accent that sounds like he’s got a mouthful of novacaine. He wears the same hairdo he probably had when he was 10 and has hands that I’m sure are just under the acceptable size limit for a dentist, along with a nice soft belly to rest your head against as he’s jamming sharp spinning metal things into your teeth. He’s kind of like an old school car mechanic who actually understands the workings of the vehicle without having to rely on some hi-tech machine to tell him what’s wrong — He just knows….

redAn appointment slot opened up and I was able to get in within the hour. Thinking he might be able to just take something and poke my gum to release the infection and then send me home with antibiotics, I swaggered in, gave him a wink, and cheekily said, “Have at it, doc — just don’t make me cry”. It was when he asked if I wanted gas that I should have started worrying. He’s never offered me gas before….

“Nah, I’m much tougher than I look,” I said. I’d had a crown/root canal re-drilled by an endodontist for a similar problem before and it was a piece o’ cake. But this tooth is a single root with a porcelain crown. He’d have to work around it.

yellowOut came THE NEEDLE. I have to say, Capt. Tooth is a master with that thing. I still don’t know how he blindly navigates around all the nerves in my gums, but after nearly 50 years of dentistry, this guy’s got it down. I almost (ALMOST) look forward to getting his shots. 10 minutes later, I was numbed up and we were well on our way to “Elvis lip”.

The best part about this particular procedure (I thought to myself, pleasantly surprised) was that there wasn’t a lot of drilling, at least not the usual high-speed screeching kind that is the real reason I hate going to the dentist. I had to guess what was going on until a fellow dental worker came in to see what was happening. The tech who was assisting happily explained to her IN VERY GRAPHIC DETAIL that they were performing an “apicoectomy“.

Editor’s note: I just went online to search for a video example of the procedure and almost lost my breakfast Skittles! Watch it if you dare:
GAAHHH!! Who in the world would want to become a dentist anyway??

There was a final step in the procedure and I became aware that the novacaine was starting to wear off but I figured the worst was over. Apparently, I was…


The dentist pushed on something and my whole body stiffened until only my heels and the back of my head were touching the chair!

“I hate to have to do this”, he said as he quickly grabbed another needle and jabbed it into the roof of my mouth. Even without anesthesia, I preferred that pain to the one he’d just inspired. While we waited for the new numbness to kick in, I managed to eke out that “it’s that sort of feeling that incentivizes me to stop abusing my teeth…”

Photo 52

Me, currently known as "Princess Chubby Cheek"

A lot of emotional sweat, a few sutures, and an upper-lip filled with gauze later (I looked like the love child of Daisy Duck and Elvis), I finally stood up to leave and Capt. Tooth gave me a big bear hug on the way out… usually he just salutes me… “You’re very brave,” he said. Yeah, bull-tickies, I thought to myself. If I’d had any idea what he was about to do to me when I came in, I would have run out of there like my butt was on fire. It was just as well that he had maintained his stoic military demeanor until the job was done.

He called me later that night to see how I was doing and his first question was, “Am I still your friend?” Thanks to the pain meds, I thanked him and forgave him. I probably would have even without the drugs.

A couple days later, I still have a swollen cheek, kind of a “botox-gone-bad” look, and prescriptions for antibiotics and narcotics, but I also have the sense of relief that the stupid infection I’d allowed to progress to the point of needing minor oral surgery has been eradicated.

Therefore, I promise (fingers crossed behind my back where my wallet still contains 80% of what that procedure might have cost me without insurance) that I will never take my dental health for granted again!

And I pray that the next time I’m in this situation Capt. Tooth hasn’t retired… Bless your heart, you dear sweet man… I love you more than I hate you!


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