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A Year of Poetry – Day 94

Youth of France, sons of the bold,
     Your oak-leaf victor-wreaths behold!
     Our civic-laurels—honored dead!
       So bright your triumphs in life's morn,
       Your maiden-standards hacked and torn,
     On Austerlitz might lustre shed.

     All that your fathers did re-done—
     A people's rights all nobly won—
     Ye tore them living from the shroud!
       Three glorious days bright July's gift,
       The Bastiles off our hearts ye lift!
     Oh! of such deeds be ever proud!

     Of patriot sires ye lineage claim,
     Their souls shone in your eye of flame;
     Commencing the great work was theirs;
       On you the task to finish laid
       Your fruitful mother, France, who bade
     Flow in one day a hundred years.

     E'en chilly Albion admires,
     The grand example Europe fires;
     America shall clap her hands,
       When swiftly o'er the Atlantic wave,
       Fame sounds the news of how the brave,
     In three bright days, have burst their bands!

     With tyrant dead your fathers traced
     A circle wide, with battles graced;
     Victorious garland, red and vast!
       Which blooming out from home did go
       To Cadiz, Cairo, Rome, Moscow,
     From Jemappes to Montmirail passed!

     Of warlike Lyceums{1} ye are
     The favored sons; there, deeds of war
     Formed e'en your plays, while o'er you shook
       The battle-flags in air aloft!
       Passing your lines, Napoleon oft
     Electrified you with a look!

     Eagle of France! whose vivid wing
     Did in a hundred places fling
     A bloody feather, till one night
       The arrow whelmed thee 'neath the wave!
       Look up—rejoice—for now thy brave
     And worthy eaglets dare the light.

-- Victor Hugo, The Three Glorious Days

A Year of Poetry – Day 93

You are young, and I am older;
You are hopeful, I am not –
Enjoy life, ere it grow colder –
Pluck the roses ere they rot.

Teach your beau to heed the lay –
That sunshine soon is lost in shade –
That now’s as good as any day –
To take thee, Rosa, ere she fade.

— Abraham Lincoln, To Rosa


This is a chapter from a story that’s been rolling around in my head for a couple of years. I actually finished it, then realized that I’d ripped off somebody else’s premise, so it went back in the “do someday” bin.

While I’ve been working on the second Minivandian’s book, it’s been whispering in my ear to get at least a little attention.  Not sure how this is going to turn out yet, but I’ll probably do it as a short story while I’m doing research for the second Via Serica book.

Let me know what y’all think.

Warning, this one has a bit of strong language.


I took the elevator down to street level rather than take the stairs.  I knew that Sid or one of his flunkies was watching me through one of the myriad cameras he had bolted to the inside and outside of the building.  Taking the ancient elevator down would give me a moment to think without giving them anything to put on the blooper reel later.  

That much money meant that either someone really cared about these kids, or someone figured that I wouldn’t be around to collect the second half of the fee.  Hell, it might just be both.  They definitely knew that waving that kind of cash around would get someone to bite. I was feeling a tug at my bottom lip as the hook got set nice and tight.

When I walked out of the elevator and across the lobby to the front doors, the locks buzzed open for me.  Sid might be a paranoid, but he was a polite paranoid.  Of course, he owed me.  I was the one that pulled him out of the sewer after the thing that poisoned him and gave him his rictus decided that Sid wasn’t worth dying over. I never told him that I went down there because he owed me money on a handshake deal, and I wasn’t going to let him die without paying.

Hitting the sidewalk, I looked up at the sky.  The moonless night was still dark, with no hint of pink on the eastern horizon.  I’m not superstitious, but unless I can’t help it I prefer to do this kind of work in the daytime. Only a few of the bad things in the world are either afraid of the sun or downright hurt by it, but being able to see what was in front of me without the aid of a flashlight just felt better.  Since it was only a few minutes across the bridge this time of day, I had a chance to get a bite to eat and look over the case file before heading over.

The air had the consistency of frothy soup, which is pretty normal for the bottom of the Ohio valley in the middle of a summer night.  It was almost four in the morning, and the temperature and humidity were both somewhere in the 80’s.  Ah, Louisville, you never fail to make me yearn for the luxury of such garden spots as Greenland, or maybe Point Barrow.

A scan of my surroundings showed that the junkies were, for the most part, right where I had left them: stationary and nodding off.  The exception to this was up on his feet, across the street from Sid’s building, and waving his arms at a small figure wearing a hoodie.  The yellow glare of the streetlight above him threw his shadow across the sidewalk and the face of the woman he was haranguing.

“Baby, I got whatever you need!” he was saying in a loud, high voice, his hands and head punctuating his words in jerks and slashes.  “I got weed, smack, coke, meth, whatever!  All you gotta do is be a little bit friendly, and Jaquan will let you have a taste for free!”

“I don’t know, baby.  What you lookin’ for?” asked the woman in the hoodie.  Her voice had a sort of squeaky timber to it, and her accent was one hundred percent street.  As she spoke, she put her hand to the zipper of her hoodie and pulled it down a couple of inches.  The skin of her throat and upper chest glistened in the lamplight.  When I saw her radiant smile, I swore under my breath.

“Hey!” I said as I stepped from behind my truck.  He didn’t seem to notice, but the target of his attentions moved her head a little to get a look at me.  Yep, it was her.

“Hey!  Stereotype! Leave her be!” I said again, this time a little louder and a lot deeper.  Almost unconsciously, I pulled my overshirt back behind my holster as I stepped into the pool of light in the middle of the street.

Jaquan the junkie and wanna-be unlicensed pharmacist turned his head to the side when he heard me coming. “Fuck you!” he bellowed, turning around with his hands out to his sides.  A more religious man would have thought he had his hands out as if he were being crucified, and that probably wasn’t far from what was going to happen if things got out of hand.  To me, he looked like a fool that wasn’t aware of the danger he had all around him.

“Man, who the fuck you think you are?” he bellowed as he took a step at me.  When my face came completely out of the dark, he stopped dead and dropped his hands.  “Aw, shit, man, I didn’t know it was you!  I was just trying to do a little business here.  I didn’t know she was yours.” he said as he started backing away from both the woman and me.

“She isn’t mine, but she sure as shit ain’t yours, neither.  Get your skinny ass off my street before I decide to throw it in the river.  You hear me, Jaquan?” I said in a quiet, forceful voice as I stopped just inside the cone of the streetlight’s glare.

“No problem, Boogieman!  I got shit to do over on Liberty anyway.” he said, turning and starting to shamble away as quickly as his legs would take him.

“Sid tells me that he sees you around here again, I’m gonna beat your ass and then take you to your grandma’s house!  Now get the fuck out of here!” I growled.

Jaquan the Junkie turned the next corner to the rhythm of his brethren’s cackles in the doorways behind me.  I turned to the petite figure he had been ‘doing business’ with.  As she faced me, her delicate features came into focus.  She had big, soft brown eyes, an unlined brow, and full lips.  Her skin was the color of rich chocolate, and a few curls of her dark hair poked out under the hood of her jacket.  Her eyes twinkled as I approached her.

“Sarah, that’s hunting over bait.  You know Sid doesn’t like things like that happening around his place,” I said softly.  There was no need to talk any louder with Sarah, since she could have heard me whispering a block away.

“Marty Shelby, as I live and breathe.” she said in a cultured bluegrass accent, a smile coming to her face.  She’d replaced the squeaky tone she used with Jaquan with an easy purr that I’d known all my life.

I hate being called ‘Marty,’ and Sarah knew it.  Hell, there were probably only a few people alive who knew my name in the first place, and even Sid knew better than to call me ‘Marty’.  Only my grandmother and my parents had ever gotten away with calling me ‘Marty’, and they’d been in the ground for years.  Of course, Sarah had once remarked that she’d been owned by one of my great-something grandfathers, and she’d helped raise me, so I guess she was family.

“Luring in junkies so you can have a bite to eat is beneath you, lady.”

“A girl’s got to have a little fun, now doesn’t she?  I just needed something that was still warm and didn’t come out of a plastic bag,” she said, the smile transforming into a smirk.  

People like Sarah reject the title “vampire”, but they pretty much fit old Bram Stoker’s description.  They’re undying, at least not from old age, and they have a need to supplement their diet, every so often, with living, human blood.  Never seen her hypnotize anyone or turn herself into a bat, but she knew a few tricks.  She ought to.  Sarah had been at it since before the Civil War.  Matter of fact, she’s in every photograph or story about my family as far back as we can find.

Yep, there’s always been an Aunt Sarah.  

“You owe me breakfast,” she said pointedly, striding toward the passenger door of the truck.

“Come on,” I replied, opening my door, “I need a cup of coffee, anyway.”

A Year of Poetry – Day 92

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
What makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell –
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me;
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects dreaer!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

— Robert Burns, To A Mouse

A Year of Poetry – Day 91

Old John had an apple-tree, healthy and green,
Which bore the best codlins that ever were seen,
So juicy, so mellow, and red;
And when they were ripe, he disposed of his store,
To children or any who pass’d by his door,
To buy him a morsel of bread.

Little Dick, his next neighbour, one often might see,
With longing eye viewing this fine apple-tree,
And wishing a codlin might fall:
One day as he stood in the heat of the sun,
He began thinking whether he might not take one,
And then he look’d over the wall.

And as he again cast his eye on the tree,
He said to himself, ‘Oh, how nice they would be,
So cool and refreshing to-day!
The tree is so full, and one only I’ll take,
And John cannot see if I give it a shake,
And nobody is in the way.

But stop, little boy, take your hand from the bough,
Remember, though John cannot see you just now,
And no one to chide you is nigh,
There is One, who by night, just as well as by day,
Can see all you do, and can hear all you say,
From his glorious throne in the sky.

O then little boy, come away from the tree,
Lest tempted to this wicked act you should be:
‘Twere better to starve than to steal;
For the great GOD, who even through darkness can look,
Writes down every crime we commit, in His book;
Nor forgets what we try to conceal.

— Jane Taylor, The Apple Tree

A Year of Poetry – Day 90

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

— William Blake, The Tyger

Thoughts for the Day

First, let’s go back 40 years and consider Ronald Reagan’s speech at the 1976 Republican National Convention:


Thank you very much. Mr. President, Mrs. Ford, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Vice President to be — the distinguished guests here, and you ladies and gentlemen: I am going to say fellow Republicans here, but also those who are watching from a distance, all of those millions of Democrats and Independents who I know are looking for a cause around which to rally and which I believe we can give them.

Mr. President, before you arrived tonight, these wonderful people here when we came in gave Nancy and myself a welcome. That, plus this, and plus your kindness and generosity in honoring us by bringing us down here will give us a memory that will live in our hearts forever.

Watching on television these last few nights, and I have seen you also with the warmth that you greeted Nancy, and you also filled my heart with joy when you did that.

May I just say some words. There are cynics who say that a party platform is something that no one bothers to read and it doesn’t very often amount to much.

Whether it is different this time than it has ever been before, I believe the Republican Party has a platform that is a banner of bold, unmistakable colors, with no pastel shades.

We have just heard a call to arms based on that platform, and a call to us to really be successful in communicating and reveal to the American people the difference between this platform and the platform of the opposing party, which is nothing but a revamp and a reissue and a running of a late, late show of the thing that we have been hearing from them for the last 40 years.

If I could just take a moment; I had an assignment the other day. Someone asked me to write a letter for a time capsule that is going to be opened in Los Angeles a hundred years from now, on our Tricentennial.

It sounded like an easy assignment. They suggested I write something about the problems and the issues today. I set out to do so, riding down the coast in an automobile, looking at the blue Pacific out on one side and the Santa Ynez Mountains on the other, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was going to be that beautiful a hundred years from now as it was on that summer day.

Then as I tried to write — let your own minds turn to that task. You are going to write for people a hundred years from now, who know all about us. We know nothing about them. We don’t know what kind of a world they will be living in.

And suddenly I thought to myself if I write of the problems, they will be the domestic problems the President spoke of here tonight; the challenges confronting us, the erosion of freedom that has taken place under Democratic rule in this country, the invasion of private rights, the controls and restrictions on the vitality of the great free economy that we enjoy. These are our challenges that we must meet.

And then again there is that challenge of which he spoke that we live in a world in which the great powers have poised and aimed at each other horrible missiles of destruction, nuclear weapons that can in a matter of minutes arrive at each other’s country and destroy, virtually, the civilized world we live in.

And suddenly it dawned on me, those who would read this letter a hundred years from now will know whether those missiles were fired. They will know whether we met our challenge. Whether they have the freedoms that we have known up until now will depend on what we do here.

Will they look back with appreciation and say, “Thank God for those people in 1976 who headed off that loss of freedom, who kept us now 100 years later free, who kept our world from nuclear destruction”?

And if we failed, they probably won’t get to read the letter at all because it spoke of individual freedom, and they won’t be allowed to talk of that or read of it.

This is our challenge; and this is why here in this hall tonight, better than we have ever done before, we have got to quit talking to each other and about each other and go out and communicate to the world that we may be fewer in numbers than we have ever been, but we carry the message they are waiting for.

We must go forth from here united, determined that what a great general said a few years ago is true: There is no substitute for victory, Mr. President.

Next, let’s consider Ted Cruz’s speech to the 1996 Republican National Convention:

Thank you, and god bless each and every one of you.

Heidi and I are so honored to join you here in Cleveland where LeBron James just lead an incredible comeback victory, and I am convinced America is going to come back too.

I want to congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night.

And, like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November.

Conventions are times of excitement, but given the events of the last few weeks I hope you’ll allow me a moment to talk to you about what’s really at stake. Just two weeks ago a nine-year-old girl named Caroline was living a carefree Texas summer. Swimming in the pool, playing with friends, doing all the things a happy child might do. Like most children, she relied upon the love that she received from her mom, Heidi, and her dad, a police sergeant named Michael Smith.

That is until he became one of the five police officers gunned down in Dallas.

The day her father was murdered, Caroline gave him a hug and a kiss as he left for work, but as they parted her dad asked her something he hadn’t asked before. “What if this is the last time you ever kiss or hug me?”

Later, as she thought of her fallen father, and that last heart breaking hug, Caroline broke down into tears. How could anything ever be OK again? Michael Smith was a former Army Ranger who spent decades with the Dallas police department. I have no idea who he voted for in the last election, or what he thought about this once, but his life was a testament to devotion.

He protected the very protesters who mocked him because he loved his country, and his fellow man. His work gave new meaning to that line from literature, “To die of love is to live by it.”

As I thought about what I wanted to say tonight, Michael Smith’s story weighed on my heart. Maybe That’s because his daughter Caroline is about the same age as my eldest daughter, and happens to share the same name. Maybe it’s because I saw a video of that dear, sweet child choking back sobs as she remembered her Daddy’s last question to her.

Maybe it’s because we live in a world where so many others have had their lives destroyed by evil in places like Orlando, and Paris, and Nice, and Baton Rouge. Maybe it’s because of the simple question itself. What if this right now is our last time? Our last moment to do something for our families, and our country? Did we live up to the values we say we believe? Did we do all we really could?

That’s really what elections should be about. That’s why you and millions like you devoted so much time and sacrifice to this campaign. We’re fighting not for one particular candidate, or one campaign, but because each of wants to be able to tell our kids and grandkids, our own Caroline’s, that we did our best for their future and our country.

America is more than just a land mass between two oceans, America is an ideal. A simple, yet powerful ideal. Freedom matters.

For much of human history government power has been the unavoidable constant in life. Government decrees and the people obey, but not here. We have no king or queen, we have no dictator, we the people constrain government.

Our nation is exceptional because it was built on the five most beautiful and powerful words in the English language, “I want to be free.”

Never has that message been more needed than today. We stand here tonight a nation divided. Partisan rancor, anger, even hatred are tearing America apart. And citizens are furious, rightly furious, at a political establishment that cynically breaks its promises, and that ignores the will of the people.

We have to do better. We owe our fallen heroes more than that.

Now, of course, Obama and Clinton will also tell you that they care about our children’s future, and I want to believe them but there is a profound difference about our two party’s vision for the future.

There’s is the part that thinks ISIS is a J.V. team, that responds to the death of Americans in Benghazi, “What difference does it make?” And, that thinks it’s possible to make a deal with Iran that celebrates its holidays, “Death to America Day,” and, “Death to Israel Day.”

My friends, this is madness. President Obama is a man who does everything backwards. He wants to close Guantanamo Bay, and open up our borders. He exports jobs, and imports terrorists. Enough is enough.

And, I am here to tell you there is a better vision for our future. A return to freedom.

On education your freedom to choose your child’s education, even if you aren’t as rich as Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

On healthcare, your freedom to choose your own doctor without Obamacare.

On taxes, your freedom to provide for your family without the IRS beating down your door.

The Internet? Keep it free from taxes, free from regulation and don’t give it away to Russia and China.

Freedom means free speech, not politically correct safe spaces.

Freedom means religious freedom, whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, or atheist.

Whether you are gay, or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience.

Freedom means the right to keep and bear arms, and to protect your family.

Freedom means that every human life is precious and must be protected.

Freedom means Supreme Court Justices who don’t dictate policy, but instead follow the Constitution.

And, freedom means recognizing that our Constitution allows states to choose policies that reflect local values. Colorado might decide something different than Texas. New York different than Iowa. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, diversity.

If not, what’s the point of having states to begin with?

Now, Hillary Clinton believes that government should make virtually every choice in your life. Education, health care, marriage, speech, all dictated out of Washington. But, something powerful is happening, we’ve seen it in both parties, we’ve seen it in the United Kingdom’s unprecedented Brexit vote to leave the European Union.

Voters are overwhelmingly rejecting the political establishment, and overwhelmingly rejecting big government.

That is a profound victory and it is one earned by each and every one of you. People are fed up with politicians who don’t listen to them. Fed up with a corrupt system that benefits the elites instead of working men and women.

We deserve an immigration system that puts America first, and yes, builds a wall to keep America safe.

A government that stops admitting ISIS terrorists as refugees. We deserve trade policies that put the interests of American farmers over the interests that are funding the lobbyists.

And, if we stand together and choose freedom, our future will be brighter. Freedom will bring back jobs and raise wages. Freedom will lift people out of dependency to the dignity of work.

We can do this. Forty-Seven years ago to this day, America put the very first man on the moon.

That was the power of freedom. Our party, the Republican party, was founded to defeat slavery.

Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Together we passed the Civil Rights Act, and together we fought to eliminate Jim Crow Laws.

That’s our collective legacy, although the media will never share it with you. Those were fights for freedom, and so is this.

Sergeant Michael Smith stood up to protect our freedom. So do the soldiers, and sailors, and airmen, and Marines everyday fighting radical Islamic terrorism.

And, so did the family of Alton Sterling who bravely called to end the violence. So did the families of those murdered at the Charleston-Emanuel AME Church who forgave that hateful, bigoted, murder.

And, so can we. We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love. That is the standard we should expect from everybody. And, to those listening, please don’t stay home in November.

If you love our country, and love our children as much as you do, stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom, and to be faithful to the constitution.

I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation.

And I will tell you that it is love of freedom that has allowed millions to achieve their dreams. Like my mom, the first in her family to go to college, and my dad, who’s here tonight, who fled prison and torture in Cuba. Coming to Texas with just $100 dollars sewn into his underwear.

And it is over that I hope will bring comfort to a grieving nine- year-old girl in Dallas, and God willing, propel her to move forward, and dream, and soar, and make her daddy proud. We must make the most of our moments, to fight for freedom, to protect our God given rights, even if those with whom we don’t agree so that when we are old and grey, and when our work is done, and when we give those we love one final kiss goodbye we will be able to say freedom matters and I was part of something beautiful.

The case we have to make to the American people, the case each person in this room has to make to the American people is to commit to each of them that we will defend freedom, and be faithful to the Constitution.

We will unite the party; we will unite the country by standing together for shared values by standing for liberty. God bless each and every one of you, and God bless the United States of America.

My Thoughts:

  • Neither man specifically endorsed a nominee during their speech.
    • Reagan did, however, speak directly about President Ford a couple of times, and in pretty gracious terms.
    • Cruz congratulated Trump on winning the nomination, and then gave a pretty decent stump speech.
  • Neither man said anything directly bad about the man to whom they lost the nomination.
  • Reagan was speaking, ostensibly, off the cuff after being invited to speak by President Ford.
  • Cruz gave a prepared speech, which was provided to the Trump campaign earlier that day.
  • Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, although I’d attribute that more to lingering anger over Watergate and Ford’s pardon of Nixon to any speech that Reagan gave.
  • It is still unknown what impact, if any, Cruz’s non-endorsement will have on the 2016 race.


A Year of Poetry – Day 89

1 My Soul, there is a country
2 Afar beyond the stars,
3 Where stands a winged sentry
4 All skillful in the wars;
5 There, above noise and danger
6 Sweet Peace sits, crown’d with smiles,
7 And One born in a manger
8 Commands the beauteous files.
9 He is thy gracious friend
10 And (O my Soul awake!)
11 Did in pure love descend,
12 To die here for thy sake.
13 If thou canst get but thither,
14 There grows the flow’r of peace,
15 The rose that cannot wither,
16 Thy fortress, and thy ease.
17 Leave then thy foolish ranges,
18 For none can thee secure,
19 But One, who never changes,
20 Thy God, thy life, thy cure.

— Henry Vaughan, Peace

Attention to Orders

A Year of Poetry – Day 88

By ways remote and distant waters sped,
Brother, to thy sad grave-side am I come,
That I may give the last gifts to the dead,
And vainly parley with thine ashes dumb:
Since she who now bestows and now denies
Hath ta’en thee, hapless brother, from mine eyes.
But lo! these gifts, the heirlooms of past years,
Are made sad things to grace thy coffin shell;
Take them, all drenched with a brother’s tears,
And, brother, for all time, hail and farewell!

— Gaius Valerius Catullus — No. 101 (On His Brother’s Death)


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