Tag Archives: words

columniate


calumniate verb, to make false and malicious statements about; slander

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It has been a long while since I have written here. A year to be exact. It’s time to return to this practice of writing again.

So calumniate. A fitting word for the current politics of our time. It would be easy to write something about Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, but how boring would that be? You can just go watch the media outlet of your choice for an update on that.

I am at home again taking care of a baby and not working full time. The one thing I notice most about my days here in the house is the silence. It is often pierced by the screaming of a baby or my 4 year old, but there are times when it is deadly silent. I often find myself turning on the radio or tv just for sound. If you were to walk into my home in the middle of the day, you would hear something different in each room. It’s a mechanism I use to calm myself and actually helps me focus. Something to listen to instead of my own head, which will always get me into trouble. This being the case, I find myself listening to snippets of conversations, sometimes not knowing what came before or what they are even about. I feel like one focusses on what is being said right at that moment more then when you have been following a conversation. I also find this way of isolating conversation can cause you to judge someone more harshly or form a stronger opinion based on the small amount that was heard. Sometimes I form an opinion because I recognize the voice as someone I do not like or vice versa just because I am not concentrating on the plot line they are discussing. I’d never really thought about these things until I started avoiding silence.

This habit of listening to partial conversations is not unlike how we all go through life. In the office or out and about. I rarely listen to someone 100% when they are telling a story or explaining something. I usually zone out and concentrate on where my eyes are looking so they can’t catch onto the fact that I am not listening at all. If I had to calculate it, I’d say I probably listen 30 to 40% of what most people have to say. I probably shouldn’t admit that…I am guessing the higher percentage you listen is proportional to how much of a caring person you are. I will refrain from judging myself in this way for now.

I wonder what the impact is of the 60 to 70% I have missed. If other people are doing this the way I am, I wonder how much we are all missing. If we honestly don’t know those other pieces, it is easier for us to be mean, to calumniate others – because we honestly missed the parts that might have explained the sentences that we just heard. There might have been some vital information in there that we passed over. The few words that would have completely changed our opinion.

Case in point, arguing with my husband. When I am arguing, I probably only hear about 20% of what the other person is saying because I am listening to my head, which is behind the steering wheel and heading us straight into a long, convoluted argument about something trivial. Often times after the argument, when things are calm and we are recapping the stupidity that took up too much time, I will explain to my husband, “all that he had to say was,” to have prevented the escalation or to have made things right. He often tells me that that is exactly what he did and I wonder to myself if maybe I need to try and listen closer to 80% of what people are saying instead of catching the snippets, which are much more interesting and open ended.

“When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.”

-Socrates

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birthday


birthday, n. the annual anniversary of the day on which a person was born, typically treated as an occasion for celebration and present-giving.

???????????????????April 8th is never a good day for me. It’s my late father’s birthday and for some reason, every year, the day is tainted with sadness. No matter how hard I try to make it better, the day is just miserable for one reason or another. One would think that the anniversary of his death would be the worst day…or even the anniversary of his diagnosis…that I would remember how awful those particular days were and dwell on them. But I hardly remember those roughest of days. I think about them randomly from time to time, but they don’t haunt me the way April 8th does. I think this is because the father I remember was not the one that had a brain cancer for 2 years and slowly faded. Don’t get me wrong, there were many wonderful moments during that period despite his illness. But the father that I want to remember forever is the one that didn’t have cancer. The one that participated wholly in life and the world, was imperfect and not always the best but was always the rock I could depend on. I prefer the living version of my father instead of the dying one.

It makes sense to me that the birthday is the thing that hurts the most. It is, after all, a reminder that he is not here. Rather than a day to be celebrated, it is a marker of another year that has passed without him. Another season of holidays, weddings and births that he is absent from and there is nothing that can be done to revise the course of history to bring him back. It makes me think about the fact that my son and husband will never know him outside of my memories. That my mother is alone. That each year the memories of him fade a little and I wonder how much I have already forgotten. The forgetting is what bothers me the most. This April 8th was not the worst day. In fact, it was actually quite fine if I look at the actual day instead of my thoughts. I fear that I am already too deep into the forgetting.

Last night I was baking cookies and listening to On The Air on WNYC. It was a story about Kurt Cobain. April 8th is the anniversary of his suicide and I never realized that until last night. His death definitely had an effect on me when I was a plaid clad teen in high school. I used to spend rainy weekends at my friend’s house listening to Nirvana and writing down the lyrics, reading them like poetry and searching for meaning. My father thought Nirvana was crap and I wonder if I could have ever persuaded him to like their music if I had had more time.

One of my favorite Nirvana covers is “Jesus Don’t Want Me For a Sunbeam.” It reminds me of my father. He never considered himself extraordinary, special or worthy of any particular praise. He was pretty selfless and tenaciously stubborn. I turn 36 in a month or so and the stigma of April 8th needs to go. I’ll have to remember to listen to this song and celebrate my father’s spirit instead of mourning the memories we didn’t get to make. My father may never have been persuaded that Kurt Cobain’s music was worthy of admiration, but I think he would have agreed that Jesus probably wouldn’t want him for a sunbeam either.

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anopisthographic


anopisthographic  adj. having writing or printing on one side only

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“The only thing that makes one an artist is making art. And that requires the precise opposite of hanging out; a deeply lonely and unglamorous task of tolerating oneself long enough to push something out.”
― David Rackoff, Half Empty

I have to admit that lately I haven’t been scouring the OED as much to find words. I cheat a bit here and there and look at sites on the web that list strange or rarely used words. Anopisthographic is one such word that was found in this manner.  When I found this word, it made me recall what it was like to physically write on paper with a pen…for pages and pages…and how I rarely, if ever, do that any longer. It is in the physical “pen in hand” practice of writing that I feel I am working the hardest at creating something. Typing just doesn’t match up. If you are writing with a pen and you make a mistake, you have to work to remove it. You really have to think about what you are going to put down on the paper as it isn’t very easy to remove or rearrange it. In a way, you physically live your story. If you want to move a paragraph, you have to cut the paper and move it. If you misspell a word, you have to scratch it out or erase it. It leaves a mark as a reminder of your mistake.  If your pencil breaks or your pen runs out you have to sharpen or find a new one. I often think about the fact that I rarely physically write and if I did that it might strengthen my words that same way exercise strengthens my muscles, gives me stamina.

The act of writing on paper is also quite therapeutic. About a year ago I started “The Artist’s Way” because I was suffering from a creative block and just general malaise caused by being a stay at home suburban mom. The first thing you do when you start the Artist’s Way is wake up and write. You basically rise from a dead sleep, open a notebook and just write whatever it is that comes to mind. They are called “morning pages.”  At first it starts out as gibberish and doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you keep thinking of the same word over and over again, then you just write it. You’re not supposed to judge it.  It’s supposed to be a sort of cleansing of your “artist soul.” Sometimes it felt like a continuation of my dream and I would start in one place and end up in another. Other times, it was a struggle and made me angry. Rarely, a phrase or sentence would happen and start the creative journey. I haven’t gone back to read what I wrote in some time and I probably should. I didn’t get through the entire process of the Artists Way. I never created a masterpiece.

When I wrote my morning pages I filled up both sides of the page. Not writing on the other side felt wasteful and this has always been my feeling about writing on paper in general. I suppose it comes from a desire to fill up a page or pages the same way I do so many things in my life – my fridge, my closet, my brain. Having all of the pages embossed with lines of penmanship makes me feel accomplished, like I reached my creative quota, tangible proof that I made something.  I love pressing hard enough on the page so that the lines create a relief map on the other side and crinkle the paper, making it look worked over.

This word also makes me think about the old wooden school desks we used to write on when I was in elementary school. Every student was assigned their own, permanent desk each year and they were quite old. Each was like a time capsule from all of the other students who had sat at that desk before. Despite the constant warnings from teachers not to vandalize them, we still did. We had to leave our own mark. Random carvings on the wooden tops, crusty dried up bubble gum caked along the underside that looked like little upside down mountain ranges when you stuck your head under and looked up. Secret messages and love notes scribbled in permanent marker, sometimes in hidden places. We’d always have to write on top of workbooks or stacks of loose leaf to avoid inadvertent impressions on our vocabulary exercises. The surface of the desk was almost like the other side of the page coming through the one we were writing on. Like secret messages the desk was sending us about its history, its life story.

It makes me sad to think that my son won’t know a desk in the same way. That a white screen with buttons will be his most familiar definition of a page. It is up to me to ensure he  experiences the physical act of writing on paper despite the fact that the world we live in is making it obsolete. I want him to know and understand the meaning of “page” outside of an LCD screen. I want him to know how to create them in his own hand and have his own style of handwriting the way I have mine. I want him to have both sides to write on.

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home


home n. the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

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I am often frustrated with my surroundings…especially when it comes to the place where I live; the place that I call home. When I lived in my childhood town of Teaneck, N.J., I wanted desperately to leave to go to school in Rhode Island. Providence was the place where my dreams were waiting for me. For the most part, this was true. Independence, my husband, my dog, my first real house – all of these things began, fittingly in a place called Providence. But after many a harsh winter and a dwindling economy without career growth in site it lost it’s luster and Brooklyn was where I was bound. Brooklyn – with it’s too small apartments and hipster neighbors. The flash and fury and life outside my door was home for a time. Yet after years of being stuck in subway tunnels and walking past piles of sewage smelling garbage, I ended up full circle back in Jersey with an expansive yard and looming maples – the picture perfect version of what every person thinks they want. Now I stand in my quaint, eclectic home with my husband of 10 years, 2 year old son, 9 year old dog, piles of things I have collected and made in order to call this house, this place a “home”…and yet I am still not sure that it is. My past homes beckon and the unknown future homes tempt…often. When I think about where I am right now, I don’t want to be here 10 years from now (good thing my husband agrees.) I used to think it was the places that I lived that made me bored and tired, yearning for change, but now I think I have a different definition of the word home than the sage and wise, old OED. Home is not just a “permanent place” – it is many things…

 “Hot and heavy pumpkin pie
Chocolate candy Jesus Christ
Ain’t nothing please me more than you”

Perhaps it is my Italian heritage and upbringing, but home involves a combination of good food and people I love. One cannot exist without the other. Home is a sensory experience – the smell meatballs roasting in the over, musty old books on the shelf, the cadence of voices echoing off of the walls during a quiet night. The clanking of the heat in the winter and rain storms battling the glass of the skylights. My home is also filled with the people I love and the good and bad memories we make within the confines of our walls. It’s the times when the baby was sick and we spent the whole weekend in the family room playing with Duplos despite the beautiful Spring weather. The special occasions and family parties that bowed out the walls with people. Or just the evenings curled up on the faded leather sofa with the dog, some cheese and a few glasses (or bottles) of wine. These moments and sensory experiences don’t happen because I live in a 3 bedroom bungalow. They happen because we are home.

“I saw the streets all ripe with jewels
Balconies and the laundry lines
They tried to make me welcome there
But their streets did not feel like mine”

Just like every other 25 – 65 year old with some extra cash and living in the tri state area – I love to travel. I won’t bore you with my impressive list of cities and countries or tell you how I reminisce over the intricate ceramic tiles of Lisbon over glasses of Fonseca Tawny. That would be annoying, not about “home”, and just like every other New Yorker you know.  I love to travel because it makes me leave my home. It makes me appreciate how fortunate I am on a daily basis. In some ways, the places I travel to feel a little like home in a few days, but never fully the way it feels when I actually am home. I’ve walked down countless cobbled streets and fallen in love with too many European alleyways. During my travels, I often daydream about what it would be like to make some of these new places my home, always leaving out the actual toil and strife that would ensue if we ever did make that decision. Because the grass is always so much greener and my brain seems to leave out the memories of how much work went into where I have ended up. In the end, I always look forward to being back; returning to hugs and familiar smells, dirty floors and dog hair squalls. The good and the bad that make up the everyday that I take for granted so often.

I suppose the word “permanence” is important when defining the word home. The fact that I can count on all of the things I return to and leave from every morning and night still being there at -my will – as long as I can get there – even if only in my memories. When you speak with someone about home, they often go back to their childhood or a time in their life, a memory or feeling they had that creates their definition of home. I remember my father speaking fondly of growing up in Manhattan and my mother lovingly of her childhood home in Leonia, NJ. The stories were rich and filled with countless memories and stories. Home is permanent in that we can remember it forever. It is not the city, the edifice or the bric-a-brac that make a place a home. Home is the stage, a diorama for our minds –  set for memories to be made. Our permanent and portable journal that inspires us, challenges us, forces us to leave and come back, teaches us how to love.

It’s where I want to be.

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voulu


voulu adj. lacking in spontaneity; contrived

How many words do you know that end in a “u” like this one? I don’t think I know any others, hence the reason I chose it.   Voodoo ends in an “o” but that doesn’t count. It’s the “u” that makes this word special. For some reason this word makes me think of the Lululemon shopping bags they give out – because spending 80 dollars on something you are going to sweat in should come with a little free inspiration. So in the spirit of spontaneity, I am going to ponder some of these sayings from my shopping bag as an exercise for today’s post. Now some of these quotes are well known and wise, while others sound like they came out of the mouth of some type A, female, yoga freak psycho…so I’ll include both varieties.

Do one thing a day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Okay. I think have this covered. I wake up and deal with a screaming child that’s usually covered in urine and jumping on a crib mattress. I also face several different kinds of poop – baby, dog and if I’m not careful, some other kinds when we go to the mountain for a walk or run. Poop is very scary. I don’t know if Eleanor got the verb in her quote right though. Am I supposed to drive the wrong way down the highway or drink bleach? I suppose in the Lululemon yogaverse I’m supposed to do a head stand in class and be in the moment while fearing that my $80 tank top will flap down and expose my flabulous belly…

“Salt + High Fructose Corn Syrup + Butter = Early Death”

What if I dip a carrot in it?

“Friends are more important than money.”

Does this hold true if you go shopping with friends? I would think that the two would cancel each other out. What if you wanted to buy a special present for your friend and you have no money? What if the friend is dying and it’s the very last thing you can do for that person before they expire? What if you and your friends have no money and you can’t buy food? No, wait. What if you and your friend have no money and you need to eat but the only way to get money is to not be friends anymore? What’s more important then? Gotcha Lululemon.

“This is not your practice life. This is your actual life.”

Shit. I thought we were just practicing and I’m already sucking at this. Well, I’m going to stay in bed and eat donuts all day since I’ve already screwed this up.

“Visualize your eventual demise. It can have an amazing effect on how you live in this moment.”

So this morning while munching on half of a banana I visualized my death. Hm. Now let me go do something that scares me. Hand me the bleach and a donut because this ain’t practice. Tootles! I’m going to drive the wrong way down the highway now!

“The world moves at such a rapid rate that waiting to implement changes will leave you two steps behind. DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW, DO IT NOW!”

This is the last quote because the bag is yelling at me now. Unfortunately, I know people who live like this – many of them. I had never really met anyone who was like this until I moved to NYC and worked on 5th Avenue. They are the perfect young ladies in the Chanel boots with perfect teeth and pencil skirts. They carry their lunch in little Lululemon bags and talk about their Wall Street boyfriends and where they ate dinner last night. They can take you down with one swipe of their perfectly manicured paws in a meeting and then pop 3 Aderalls in the ladies room 30 minutes later. They are on top of their game all of the time – except they are ALL THE SAME. Like little fembots from an Austin Powers movie waiting to shoot you with their boob guns.

The thing is, if you are constantly forcing yourself to change, eventually, you will not be the same person. Change is good on a small scale. No one is perfect and I think trying to be a better person or eat less fat is a fine thing to strive for. It’s a matter of what you are changing and for whom. So DO IT NOW is a dangerous thing. If anything, Lululemon should be a little ashamed of this quote on their bag. Yoga is about being in the present, meditation and self acceptance – at least when you are doing it right. This element is important even in Bikram, which is pretty intense.

So here is a quote that would be more fitting to be on a yoga bag:

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

The world would be a better place if we spent less time on changing ourselves and more time trying to change the world around us through our deeds and actions. This is the change we should DO NOW.

Namaste:)

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diaphanous


diaphanous adj. (of fabric) light, delicate or translucent

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I don’t think of babies as being light, airy and delicate. Perhaps it is because my own son is a toddler now and destruction seems always in his wake. Sure. Babies are delicate and “diaphanous” in some ways. In the grand scheme of life, however, I believe that at birth we are our strongest…let me explain.

When we are born, we are new. All of our parts have been oiled and our bones and skin have never been used. We are taken out of our packaging and arrive into the world in a most dramatic way. Even our lungs have never breathed air before. And from that day of birth, we grow to be more and more used. When my son walks around, he seems so solid and strong – like his legs are made of steel – but each day they learn a pattern, a gait. They get worn in.

It is as if the world erodes us and makes us more light and delicate as we journey through life. “Diaphanous” makes me think of the delicate, translucent skin of an old woman’s hands…or the thinning white, wispy hair of my long deceased grandmothers. And why cannot this be as beautiful as birth and youth? The fact the the world has washed away the newness of a person the same way the ocean waters erode the land and shores? I think it is just as beautiful, if not more so.

I think it best to live life in quest of losing more and more of yourself. Life is to let the world take of you what it will until there is nothing left. Sometimes perhaps it will be pain that leaves a permanent scar, but other times it will be the joy of laughter that will force a dozen breaths from your lungs…never to return again – permanent and beautiful all the same.

We are born with the strength of steel, and if we are lucky die with the delicate lightness of lace.

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luck


luck n. success or failure apparently brought by chance

I have to confess that I chose this word on purpose because I really wanted to write about it. Over the years my husband and I have created a comfortable life for ourselves. We have a nice home, a happy baby boy and a great dog. We sit by the fire and drink wine. We have dear friends, plenty of good, healthy food, and have travelled well. We are grateful and feel blessed. However, if you say we are “lucky” I might have to punch you.

The word lucky inevitably comes up to describe my life after some piteous story about someone else’s hardship. I am forced to recall the adage “never judge a book by it’s cover” when I hear the word lucky to describe my life. I wish I could start spouting off the stories of my hardships – my brothers cancer, my father’s death from a brain tumor, how I worked in a factory out of high school because I couldn’t afford college, my first job as an accountant that I took so I could pay the rent…etc. etc. If one were to stack up all of the hardship and troubles I have had in my life, the pile would be equal to or higher than my good fortune pile. Good things come to those who work, and sometimes they don’t come at all even if you’re working really hard. Sometimes you have to keep working toward the light at the end of the tunnel however small that light may be.

I would prefer to say that we are blessed for having some of the good things in our life. We were blessed to give birth to a healthy baby, but it has taken skill and hard work to keep him healthy and growing well. I have definitely made sacrifices for it. Yes, we have a nice house in the suburbs – but you should have seen some of the shit holes (pardon my language) we have lived in – including a fourth floor attic apartment that was slanted and a duplex that had no subfloor that Stella (our dog) would pee through to the basement because she was scared of living in Brooklyn. We’ve had brand new cars that have been keyed and tires slashed. There have been firings from jobs, death and lots of debt. I have cried for whole days until my eyes were swollen shut…and I know my future has its fair share of pain and hardship waiting for me when I least expect it.

You can say I am lucky for one day or one hour, but not to describe my entire life. I am not entitled to what I have and I know it can go away tomorrow. I know what it means to have nothing at all and to have to start over from the beginning. Yet therein lies the beauty of a well worn life – there is always a beginning. When you’ve seen the bottom and looked up to the top the last thing you count on getting you there is luck.

Mother to Son 

By Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

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opine


opine v. hold and state as ones opinion

I have been bad and haven’t written in a few days as I have been interviewing for a job. My head has not been in the game of learning words recently, but I am back with the word of today.

Opinions are a wonderful thing and, just like assholes, everyone has one. To be quite honest, I am really weary of opinions and politics. I feel like my whole life I have either been talking about what I believe and what everyone else believes, etc. Opinions are complex things. They make or break friendships, they get you fired, they cause dissent. I have always been an opinionated person but lately I have been refraining from opining.

My reasoning is that life is a little more pleasant NOT standing on my soap box. My head is so full of information that I pick up that it’s hard for me to decide what to think sometimes. I also find that my opinion changes over time as I experience and live through more difficulties and good times. As I grow older, I am less likely to opine and more likely to examine my thoughts and keep my opinions personal until I am sure of how I really feel.

At this rate, I hope to have some decisions made about what I really believe by the time I am old and gray. At that time, I will dust off the soap box, get back on it and tell you what I think.

Call me wishy washy, a coward or a loner, but I am tired of being self righteous and determined to have my voice heard. I have to do some research and learning. I want to be fair. Instead of being seen as opinionated and strong I am more interested in being a decent and good person. I want to enjoy life as much as I can and absorb the world around me – for better or for worse.

I have spent my life trying to be something, trying to collect all of the things to use to build a picture of who I am or want to be. I have always had a strong opinion. I have never just let me be me. So instead of looking at things and forming opinions I am going to focus on acceptance and learning to take in all of the world around me without the pressure of having to say what I think. Maybe some meditation…perhaps a few sun salutations…hopefully a prayer or two.

Let’s see how long this lasts…

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mendacious


mendacious adj. untruthful

2 + 2 = 5 is a mendacious statement…it is also an amazing song by Radiohead.

This “untrue” statement is also found in Notes from Underground by Dostoevsky, one of my favorite books which I have not read in a very long while.

I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.

I think I must have written several college essays on this quote. We spend most of our lives striving for honesty and truth in our lives and yet when we break its confines we enter a new realm of creativity and invention. Yet in Orwell’s 1984, 2+2 = 5 is a statement used by the state to oppress its people.

Something to think on for the day…

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oik


oik n. an uncouth or obnoxious person

Wow. I can’t believe the dictionary gave me this word today. It’s Saint Patrick’s Day! In America, it means you get drunk, wear green and pretend you’re Irish. In Ireland…er…you drink Guinness and have a farm parade. We spent St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland a few years ago and it was actually quite pleasant and devoid of oiks. It was like a religious holiday for the Irish and as we were there on a weekday, it was a day off. We went to a parade in Cashel but it was mostly tractors, farm animals and children. We had ice cream and Guinness and the world was blissful. Unfortunately there was no traditional Irish music, just Black Eyed Peas and a late night dance party…which was disappointing.

The world could do with a few less oiks these days. They seem to turn up everywhere…television, Whole Foods, on trains with “F*** Me, I’m Irish” t-shirts” and on the road in cars. I think someone needs to form a Coalition Against Oiks. I encounter them everyday and have to bite my tongue.

Well anyway, today I have avoided the oiks. My husband’s birthday is today so he is in the city while my son and I avoid the crowds and drunken masses. This word reminds me of a chant from old Girl Scout Camp days. Change the oi oi oi to oik oik oik….

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