July 1st: The True North, strong and free…


Thank you Susan for hanging my Flag.

Lightly Child, Lightly (Take 2)

Thomas A. Edison was born in 1847, and on October 21, 1879, he invented the incandescent light bulb. I was born on October 21, 1947, one hundred years after Edison’s birth and on the sixty-eighth anniversary of his famous invention. By the time I discovered these facts, I was in my forties, but I had already developed a lifelong fascination with light.

Indeed, my first memory is of light dancing in the leaves of a tall tree in my grandmother’s front yard in Sparta, Missouri. Aunt Grace had placed me on my back on a blanket under this tree. I remember the sunlight sparkling through the changing colors of the fluttering leaves and the occasional patch of cloud shadow that affected everything. I didn’t have language, but I knew what I was watching was beautiful.

I remember nothing else about the first two years of my life, but I recall this as clearly as if it happened this morning. Light sticks in my memory that way. And ever since that seminal moment, dappled light has held the power to induce wonder in me.

I take note of shadows and sunspots and if a cloud crosses the sun. I stop to admire the sparkling dew on grass and flowers, the rainbows in lawn sprinklers, and the way certain kinds of light shine on birds’ wings or breasts. I notice my cat glistening in the sunbeams and the way light sparkles on nearby Holmes Lake. These minute alterations in light affect me emotionally and even spiritually.

When I swim, the parabolas of light dancing on the bottom of the pool make me happy. So does the way sunlight splashing through rain can paint my porch with light. When I see shafts of sunlight breaking through storm clouds, I pay attention. When we travel, it is light that most astonishes me. Light in the Sandhills of Nebraska, in Alaska, in San Francisco, and in all the mountain towns along the front range of the Rockies…

I am solar-powered. As a child, I spent every waking moment outdoors in the summer. I spent my mornings mixing mud pies, cookies, and cakes on wooden slabs under an elm tree. And I spent long afternoons and evenings in our municipal pool. That’s when I began reminding the other children to look at how sunlight twinkled on water. [Read more…]

Lightly Child, Lightly

In the morning, I sit with a cup of coffee and organize myself for the day. I watch the sunrise over the lake by my home, and I listen to the sounds of the sparrows and wrens. Orioles come and go from our grape jelly feeder, and each one makes me smile. I breathe deeply for 10 breaths to ground myself in my body. I remind myself of my many blessings and set my attitude to positive. My old calico, Glessie, sits by my side. Even though I am ragged with grief at the news of the world, I am ready to face whatever happens next.

Over the decades, I’ve acquired skills for building a good day. Especially in the summer, when I can swim, work in my garden, attend outdoor concerts and read in my hammock, life is fun. I have work I enjoy — sponsoring an Afghan family, participating in an environmental group and writing.

Of course, I am leading a double life. Underneath my ordinary good life, I am in despair for the world. Some days, the news is such that I need all my inner strength to avoid exhaustion, anxiety and depression. I rarely discuss this despair. My friends don’t, either. We all feel the same. We don’t know what to say that is positive. So we keep our conversations to our gardens, our families, books and movies and our work on local projects. We don’t want to make one another feel hopeless and helpless.

Many of us feel we are walking through sludge. This strange inertia comes from the continuing pandemic, a world at war and the mass shootings of shoppers, worshipers and schoolchildren. In addition, our country and our planet are rapidly changing in ways that are profoundly disturbing. We live in a time of groundlessness when we can reasonably predict no further than dinnertime. The pandemic was a crash course in that lesson.

As we are pummeled with daily traumatic information, more and more of us shut down emotionally. I can hear the flatness in the newscasters’ voices, see the stress in my friends’ faces and sense it in the tension of the workers at my sister’s nursing home. We are not apathetic; we are overwhelmed. Our symptoms resemble those of combat fatigue.

The most informed and compassionate among us are the most vulnerable to despair. We understand the brokenness and the sorrow in our own and faraway communities. We are also fully aware of all the things we cannot change. Staying focused on the light in the world is hard work.

Of course, America isn’t eastern Ukraine, Afghanistan or Yemen, but nonetheless, we are a lonely, frightened people who have lost hope in the future. Any psychologist knows that is a dangerous place to be. We risk losing our ability to think clearly or experience life completely. We lose our vitality and sense of direction. We cannot help others. We cannot fix anything. [Read more…]

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

  • Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again.

Walking. Bring out your Dead!

It all started with an article Susan sent me. This one or something like it: 10-second balance test could predict longevity. “The inability to stand on one leg for 10 seconds in mid to later life is linked to a near doubling in the risk of death from any cause within the next 10 years, according to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.”

I try to ignore it. Put it out of mind. Impossible.

So, it’s 4 am, yesterday morning, and I’m standing in the bathroom, trying to balance on my left foot. Counting down 10-9-8-7-6… I reach for the counter.  You have got to be kidding.

I go at it again.  Whispering the count down, 10-9-8-7… I reach for the counter again. OMG. I can’t do it.

I pause, inhale, and while balancing on my right foot, I reach down for my sock and put it on my left foot. No problem. I got this.

I’m brushing my teeth, and my attention is drawn back to the sock on my left foot.  OMG, I put the right sock on the left foot. 

I rush back to review the article, to see if the study found any connection to Alheizmer’s. Wow, thank God for that.

Later that day, I tell Susan the story of the balance-thing and the right sock on the left foot.

She knows that I have sh*t for balance, unable to stand on one foot for any length of time before toppling. Barely able to navigate on two feet. Can touch my toes, but no more. Not bendy. Nothing there. Not going to happen.

And after 38+ years of marriage, you know, you just know with certainty what comes next.

And you think that an adult, a defined term for what I am supposed to be at this stage of my life, I can stand quietly, watch the performance, listen, smile, and say something polite: “Wow, that’s so good.” “Or that’s nice.”

She starts her demonstration. She’s standing on one foot. Think Karate Kid.  You know the Crane Kick.  Then she moves to Yoga. The Tree Pose.  Warrior Three Pose.  Then she moves to the floor. Downward facing dog. Up dog. Before you know it, she’s gone through her entire Vinegar Flow or Vin-Damn-Something.

OMG. Sorry. I can’t take it. I’ve seen this performance hundreds, maybe thousands of times, or 300 iterations of it.  She’s a retired high school and collegiate gymnast. Now amateur yoga enthusiastic. I just can’t take it.

She’s on the floor, rolling around doing her Dog Sh*t —  I turn my back and start walking away.  I know it’s rude, but I- just-can’t-take-it-anymore.  She’s mumbling something about Hare Krishna, my back to her, her voice fading as I make my way up the stairs. My God, JUST STOP. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

…What isn’t healthy? Being bombarded with such a relentless onslaught of tragic events that the condition of simply living in today’s world makes these feelings chronic. So chronic, our brains’ ability to process uncertainty and anxiety might be diminishing – as we speak.

First, some stress stats: according to a March poll released by the American Psychological Association, inflation, supply chain problems, global uncertainty and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on top of a two-year pandemic, have pushed America’s stress to “alarming” and “unprecedented levels” that will “challenge our ability to cope”, APA’s CEO said. And unhealthy behaviors that began in Covid’s first year – more drinking, less exercise – “became entrenched” in the second, suggesting that the path towards a collective recalibration may be a far way off…

One way I was able to turn these stats into something more vivid – beyond tallying up my glass-of-wine-and-fistful-of-gummy-bear-consumption-per-week – was to speak to a neurologist who has found herself particularly concerned about what all this might be doing to our neural functions.

“The whole world – but certainly we see it very vividly in America – has had brain changes due to chronic stress, which makes us less capable of making decisions that can give us a healthy future, both at an individual and cultural level,” Dr Amy Arnsten, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Yale medical school, told me…

When we get stressed or feel out of control, we shift down to our primitive coping mechanisms, ramping up our fear responses and shutting off the prefrontal cortex. The higher the levels of arousal or stress, the stronger those primitive circuits get, the less affected you feel by things that might normally give you pleasure, and the more things feel threatening or sad…

As Arnsten explained to me, your brain is wired to activate its fear system if it sees someone else afraid. So when horrifying news blows up our phones, we instinctively empathize. Combine that with the new normal of living in a constant state of Covid-related uncertainty, and a political environment that can feel hopeless and intransigent, and you get a perfect neurological storm that has her worried.

“You are losing the very circuits that enable you to self-regulate, to be rational,” Arnsten told me, “and in a small-grained way not to be irritable, which is really important for family health.”

Can we get those circuits back? Research suggests yes, if we spend time in calm environments in which we feel in control. There are active ways to combat our new reality, many of which we know but don’t pursue: exercise can strengthen the prefrontal cortex, deep breathing can calm one’s arousal systems. Seeking out joy and humor, in the forms of books or music, can help. Another simple suggestion: “Do something that helps you feel more efficacious,” Arnsten said, “even if it’s very small. Often times, helping someone else can help jumpstart that.

Before we hung up, Arnsten mentioned one large caveat. In 2011, Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers put three cohorts of rats – young, middle-aged and aged – through stressful situations (which, for a rat, means being restrained by wire mesh), and determined that “aging modulates the capacity for experience-dependent spine plasticity in PFC neurons”. Spines, in this case, refer to “dendritic spines”, which protrude from a neuron’s dendrite, and receive input. You lose them during chronic stress exposure. In layperson’s terms, the study concluded that the older you are, the harder it is to weather the negative effects of chronic stress exposure and respond rationally – if you’re a rat.

“Now that I’m an oldish rat,” Arnsten told me with a chuckle, “I’m hoping they didn’t wait enough in the study; that connectivity did, in fact, return with time.”

For the older rats among us, here’s to hoping.

— Sophie Brickman, from “When stressed, we ‘catastrophize’ – but we can learn to calm our irrational fears” (The Guardian, June 21, 2022)


Photo: Kat Smith (via Pexels)

12:00 o’clock Bell! Peanut Butter? … Peanut Butter?


Sully background

Sunday Morning (Images that stick)


Notes:

  • Backstory on Human Sleeping on Bench: “Walking. With Moment that Sticks“.
  • Geese swimming in a row. (“Ducks in a Row“)
  • Last Photo Inspiration: “I want to believe that if humans really leaned into this impulse to mother one another, it would be stronger than the impulse to tear one another apart.” —  Mary Laura Philpott, Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives (Atria Books, April 12, 2022)
  • Photos: DK @ Daybreak. 4:40 to 5:07 am, June 26, 2022. 67° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT.

Saturday Morning

Thank you Rob @ The Hammock Papers (via Treadwells Bookshop)

 

Walking. T.G.I.F.

Good morning.

4:23 am. Day 780 at Cove Island Park. 780 consecutive (mostly) days on my morning walk. Like in a row.

Beautiful morning. 60° F. Soft, gentle breeze.

I walk.

Images in front of me at the Park are repeats. I’m tired. This view is tired. All of it, uninspiring.

And that’s all that this Mind needs, just a sliver of darkness, and it’s match-to-gasoline.  Supreme Court strikes down New York Gun law, expanding concealed carry rights. Jan. 6 panel. Flood of pardon requests. Ukraine. Uvalde. Putin. Afghanistan earthquake kills 1000. New Mexico wildfire. Abortion rights. Gas Prices. Climate Change.

And then, a hardening, the shoulders tensing up, the thighs tight and stiffening, anger rolls up the torso like an incoming storm. Come DK. Snap out of it.

I walk.

I’m on the shoreline. And there they are. He’s embracing her.  They sit quietly and stare out over Long Island Sound.

This image prompts a softening.

Where I see Repeats, they see beauty.  The world awakening.

The image gives me hope.

They give me hope.

We need hope.

Halldór Laxness: “All the same…she was not too old once more to view the future in a dream; in a new dream. To be able to look forward is to live.

Photos from this morning walk here.

 

Late Bloomer…

Bill Pullman was 32 years old when he starred in his first film, 1986’s Ruthless People. This is, he notes, at least a decade later than most movie stars get their big break. “The term ‘late bloomer’ sounds awfully like loser, but I guess it’s what I am,” he says. “It sounds to me like a politically correct term for: ‘You’re stupid. Why did you take so long?’” …

Pullman talks in a low, laconic drawl but his eyes are bright and full of mischief. He has the air of a man quietly enjoying a joke that he’s not sharing with the class. When he’s not travelling for work, Pullman and his wife, the dancer Tamara Hurwitz, divide their time between Beachwood Canyon, Los Angeles, and a cattle ranch in Montana that he has co-owned with his brother for 30 years. Nowadays he is mostly in charge of infrastructure – fence mending, irrigation and so on – although when his three children were young they spent long summers there, during which Pullman would roll up his sleeves and muck in. “If you’re having to plug meds up the butt of some beast, a lot of other things seem very manageable,” he says…

The last few years have been mostly taken up with The Sinner, the detective series in which he plays a grizzled cop grappling with past trauma. After the success of the first season, it was recommissioned as an anthology series, with Pullman’s character as the only constant. “I was really scared signing up for it,” he admits. “I admire actors who find joy in doing eight or nine seasons of the same thing, but my mind is too crazy. I thought I’d wither on the vine. But the showrunner Derek Simonds was great and we would talk before every season about where the story would go. So I never did get bored.” …As an actor, he says, “you want it to be lively, you want to hear ideas that you haven’t heard spoken communally in a while. You want to feel that charged energy of simple entrances and exits.”

Pullman adds that he has always enjoyed the fact that when strangers approach him to say “I really like you in … ”, he can never predict what film they will say. “I have no idea whether they’re going to say Casper or Spaceballs or The Sinner. To have that variety in my work makes me feel lucky. I always wanted to be the vessel, where I could get possessed by something.”

—  Louis Wise, from “Interview with Bill Pullman: ‘In acting, you can order the world’” (The Guardian, June 21, 2022)

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

Instead of trying to clear the decks, reach inbox zero or check every errand off your to-do list, acknowledge that you lack time for even a fraction of the things you want or need to do. Learn to tolerate the feeling—sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes anxiety-provoking—of having a lot clamoring for your attention, he says. And then: “Do the most important things.”

What those important things actually are has grown clearer, one silver lining of the turbulence of the past two years—war, gun violence, the virus. Joe Holt, a business professor at the University of Notre Dame and former Jesuit priest who splits his time between South Bend, Ind., and the Chicago suburbs, spent parts of 2020 and 2021 volunteering in an intensive-care unit as a nurse’s aide.

“They make me relish time,” he says of his days assisting patients suffering from Covid. He delights in tiny things: the ability to get out of bed, to walk in the sunshine. Never a big planner, he’s started setting goals, like completing an Ironman triathlon.

“Part of it is, my body is working right now and who knows if it will be in a year or two,” he says. “I’m more deliberate and determined when it comes to things like that.”

It can still be hard to know what to say no to and what to prioritize. Procrastination and decision fatigue kick in. Try to imagine what choice you’d approve of in a year or decade, recommends Alan Burdick, the author of a book about the biology and psychology of time.

Time is weird, amorphous and elastic, he says, with the ability to speed up or slow down depending on everything from how much we like something to how busy we are. At its core, he says, time is really about memory and what you’ll take with you after the seconds have passed…

“It was in the quiet…that I figured out how to reprioritize my time.”

—  Rachel Feintzeig, You Have Only So Much Time. Are You Using It Right ‘When you do the math, it really hits.’ After two life-changing years, decisions about how we spend our hours feel even weightier (The Wall Street Journal June 13, 2022)

Monumental Reckoning

Hey folks, Peter here from Peak Design.

Today is June 19th, 2022. Juneteenth. What is now a national holiday was not so long ago an unknown day of celebration to me, and to many other Americans—a day that helps us remember and learn about our past in the hopes that it’ll help us all make a better future.

In the two years since George Floyd’s murder, I would like to think that the United States has taken significant steps in the right direction to constructively talk about race. At Peak, we are particularly aware of the role private companies can (and should) take in that work. Businesses have to be part of the solution in creating a sector that is more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Peak has certainly made strong strides in becoming a more just and socially responsible company, and in acknowledging the path laid out ahead of us to do even better.

Our vocal support of environmental and social responsibility has led to our reputation of being a bunch of “tree-hugging, latte-sipping snowflakes,” as one of our customers colorfully called us a few years ago (he was also extremely complimentary of our products, fwiw). That’s a bit of an unfair characterization, though, and one that I’d like to clear up.

It is true that this company has often signaled virtues that are more left-leaning. I fully cop to that. But I would like those who support Peak to know that this is not from a unilateral stance deaf to opposing arguments. We have a ferocious spirit of respectful debate at Peak Design, and that extends to our discussion of social issues.

My personal opinion is that the greatest threat to our society is not climate change…it’s division. It’s polarization. It is being closed off to those whose opinions are different from your own. Too many people assume that those with different opinions are either crazy, or stupid. When you see someone as crazy or stupid, it is very easy to foment hate. Hate is the emotion that fuels the worst of what humanity can be.

The fact is, name an issue…and the folks on the other side, I can assure you, are neither crazy nor stupid. Guns. Abortion. Vaccines. Wars. I know where I come down on all of these issues, and it probably looks like I’m a card-carrying lefty. But while I come down on one side of these issues, I’d like to think I do the work required to truly empathize with those who come down on the other side. I seek out opinions different than my own from friends, colleagues, and even strangers. It is a remarkably liberating feeling, but it is hard-earned through tough conversations. I think that if more people earnestly tried it though, we might have a happier world.

I’m just one person with one set of values at Peak. I don’t speak for everyone. You’ll find a wide range of opinions in our ranks. And while our stances might appear to be one-sided, it’s important to me that we show respect for the variety of upbringings, cultures, and values that exist in this world.

On this day, Juneteenth, I encourage you to listen to…really listen to…and put yourself in the shoes of those who don’t have the same beliefs as you. I also encourage you to keep learning, like this holiday has helped me do.

Another recent learning opportunity for me came from a temporary sculpture in San Francisco called Monumental Reckoning. It is a reminder of, and commentary on, the roots of slavery so intertwined with our country’s history. This piece of art communicated a positive message about how we must all put in the work to heal the wounds of our past for groups that have been enslaved, marginalized, and held down by the systems of the world.

I enjoyed learning the story behind this monument, and would love to share it with you here, in our Field Notes Journal.

The Peak team and I are incredibly grateful for the customer feedback and encouragement we get from our community. Thank you for supporting the work we do.

Be well,

PETER DERING
PEAK DESIGN FOUNDER & CEO


Photo of Monumental Reckoning: This is the purpose of Monumental Reckoning, a sculpture in Golden Gate park that was unveiled on Juneteenth, 2021. The sculpture is the work of San Francisco artist Dana King, and consists of 350 bronze figures—symbolizing the enslaved Africans aboard the San Juan Bautista—encircling an ornate 19th century monument of Francis Scott Key, a historical figure best known for writing the American National Anthem. See/Read more here.

Sunday Morning

And the boy went into the elves’ church. He had never seen such people before, so noble and happy. Such is life when it is lived in peace and in song. When the hymn was over, the priest mounted the pulpit and preached a sermon. Never had the boy heard a sermon so beautiful or so touching. And never afterwards did he hear a sermon like it. All his life through he remembered it, meditating upon it in secret and trying always to live up to it; but the theme of the sermon he told to no one. Some people think that it must have been about how in the end good will be triumphant in the life of man. Then the priest went to the altar and intoned in a warm, gentle voice; quite differently from our priests here on earth. It was as if a good hand was laid over his heart Then when the last hymn had been sung, all the people stood up and went out… He kept the memory of this Sunday ever afterwards in his mind and it consoled him when he had to do without the happiness that others enjoy in life; and he grew up into a man pleased with what he had and contented with his lot.

Halldór Laxness, “Independent People


Photo: Photo by Tabitha Mort, Portland, Oregon

Walking. With Frost’s Road Not Taken.

4:16 a.m. Day #774, consecutive (almost) daybreak walks at Cove Island Park. Like in a row.

I’m on I-95 heading North, mixing it up this morning and heading to Calf Pasture Beach.  It’s a big deal for this Plow Horse to shift one step to the left, or shift one step to the right, the plow cutting the same furrow deeper. No chance of surprises when one is going straight, and straight down.

Back to I-95. It’s me, the Truckers, and hopefully not the drunks.  I’m in the speed lane, a giant tandem tractor-trailer to my right, driver has his window open taking in the cool morning breeze.  I glance over. I do everything in my power not to pump my fist in the air with the trucker salute to prompt a blast of his air horn.  Apparently it’s a dying tradition. Jesus, how old are you. And for all I know, it could be mistaken for a proposition. Keep your bloody hands down.

I approach the parking lot, it’s full, and cars line the shoulder.  And this being 4:29 a.m.  Irritated. WTH is this?

I pull up on the sidewalk, shut down the ignition, and watch. High School. Graduation parties. Sunrise. God, how long ago was that for me? OK. This wasn’t meant to be.  Just go home. No, you came this far. Come on. Just take a few shots and then you can go.

I watch kids pour out of their cars. Boomboxes blaring Rap. Peaceful easy feeling. (Not.)

I walk down the street and around the crowd that’s building on the shoreline.  I take one shot. That one above, and head back to the car. Not interested in tangling with some drunk, testosterone raging teen. Just like the smart-a** idiot you were then.

I’m in the car and back on the road, and the mood sinks. Road less taken, turns to be a bust. Let’s go home. Eat half a dozen glazed donuts. That’ll bring some joy for a moment. Palahniuk: “A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection. You wake up, and that’s enough.And then the mountain of regret torpedos you for the rest of the day. [Read more…]

TGIF: Come Collect Me

I think the trees are firework taxidermy.
A steady reminder of celebration and light.
How quiet. I’m a collaps-
ing house. Come collect me.

—  Dalton Day, from “Stepping Out of Sorrow,” published in Souvenir: a Journal. Fall 2015


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. 4:43 a.m. 68° F. June 17, 2022. Other pictures from this morning’s walk here.
  • Poem via The Vale of Soul-Making)

Walking. In Strawberries.

4:23 a.m., or so.  Yesterday morning.

It’s been 772 consecutive (almost) days on my daybreak walk at Cove Island Park. Like in a row.

And, I’m walking.

This is after moon shots at 1:43 am, 3:35 am, and now – – all posted yesterday in Let us taste the Strawberry MoonWhy, am I still up? Because Christie told me about the Strawberry Moon. And when my WordPress friends tell me to do something, I do it. So I chased her.

Who’s Christie? Mimi from her post last night: “There are people who I have followed (or who have followed me) on WordPress for years. Never met them, never spoke to them, and would likely not recognize them if we passed on the street. And yet, they are my friends…We commiserate in comment sections, check in with each other on email, rail at times, commiserate other times and occasionally marvel at our common ground. Ground that we walk in figurative step, covering invisible miles through the ether, yet as firm under my feet as the street. There is wonder in this.”

There is wonder in this. I’m nodding my head in agreement. Yet another awesome Human who can put into words, what I can’t, and so beautifully.

I walk. Bleary-eyed. Bone tired. Exhaustion fully set in.

I can see her out of the corner of my eye. She’s Giant, my Strawberry Moon, hovering, and whisper quiet as she hangs overhead, illuminating the earth in her warm glow.  All, I’m sure, to protect me from taking a header as I make my way to the North point of the park.

I walk.

I twist my Air Pod snugly into my right ear, and then my left.  I cue up a Chill playlist, randomly selected by another giant fruit, Apple.

I walk. My feet are moving under their own propulsion, on the same track that I have now passed hundreds of times.  “Siri, turn up the volume.”  Henry Green in “Shift” …I feel movements under my skin…” [Read more…]

Lightly Child, Lightly

The classical elements are earth, water, air and fire, and this old idea feels right at a sensory level. I start to think that a combination of two is primal and powerful: rain on soil, fire in the wind, sunlight on stone. A combination of three is poetry: the sea washing the moonlight into the cliff, a rainbow.

— Amy Liptrot, The Instant (Canongate Books, March 3, 2022)


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. ~5:00 am, June 12, 2022. 60° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. Other pictures from Sunday morning here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

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