Barbarella
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The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. — Dorothy Parker

‘Huh. I never thought about it like that.” The others paused in a conversation they were having about cocktails and looked my way. I pointed to the giant book on the table before me. “Nit-picking is actually picking nits. And nits are lice eggs. Ew.”

“Did I call it or did I call it?!” said Kimberly. She rose from her seat, sashayed to my side, and turned to show me her back. “Go on, pat it,” she said. “I totally called it. I knew you’d dig this book.”

“You were right,” I said, patting away. Satisfied, Kimberly went back to her seat. My eyes returned to the glossy pages of Disease: The Extraordinary Stories Behind History’s Deadliest Killers, the book she’d set before me earlier in the evening. “American lice — rife but nice?” I read aloud. “I like that they’re getting all poetic with it. But anything described as ‘feeds on human blood’ gives me the willies.”

David glared at Kimberly in the most playful way a glare can be and said, “Thanks a lot.” He turned to me and said, “Now are you just going to regale us with tales of disease and pestilence?”

“You don’t find any of this interesting?” I asked. David said no with a shake of his head. “Haven’t you ever looked at horrific photos of medical maladies online? Skin diseases? Deformities?”

“Not intentionally,” said David.

“Then there’s something wrong with you,” I said, despite my awareness that my curiosity for things that make me go ew was definitely more wrong than David’s disinterest in disturbing imagery. Still. Inquisitiveness is human — we’re seekers by nature. How else can I explain why I’m so fascinated by the bizarre?

The internet makes it so easy to satisfy my morbid curiosity. Once, during a routine morning surf through bookmarked news sites, I came across an article about a little girl with “mermaid syndrome” (she was born with her legs fused together). The article did not answer all the questions it raised, so I set about searching for more information. First, I looked at images — diagrams, X-rays, and photos of other babies with the rare congenital defect. Then I searched for specifics. What causes it? Decreased blood flow from the lower aorta in utero. How does the plumbing work for a “mermaid”? One hole for digestive tract and genitals. After uncovering each new detail, I took a moment to ponder the tribulations of the impaired.

As I continued to gawk at photos, I contemplated the word “defect” and all of its implications. Flawed, inadequate...a glitch in the system. The result of something gone wrong. My search eventually led me to images of a young Indian girl who was born with eight limbs. I shuddered as I read about the “headless conjoined twin” growing from between the girl’s legs. I was horrified and mesmerized at this anomaly and found myself thinking about the other person that almost was and the potential consciousness that had been “absorbed” by the stronger sibling.

In the little girl’s culture, she is viewed as holy. Hindus apparently see human oddities as reincarnations of various gods, whose many limbs and eyes are regarded as assets. This girl was seen as the four-armed Vishnu. More recently, a child born with two faces and four eyes was considered to be a reincarnated Ganesha. I went through pages and pages of Google images to see every possible angle of those faces, wondering if all eyes blink at the same time, if both mouths eat, and if that weird dimple between the two faces was the absorbed one’s belly button.

When I gaze at pictures of mutants, I can’t help but appreciate my own normalcy and the reality that I am a by-product of a bazillion serendipitous flukes. The fact that I came into this world with the right number of limbs, that everything’s in working order (give or take a few glitches...such as impaired vision), is sheer luck.

With mutations or descriptions and photos of death and disease, it’s not that I want to look — it’s that I can’t not look. Even more intriguing than the symptoms of murderous epidemics is how small are their causes — it’s the flea that carried the bubonic plague, the mosquito that carries malaria, the louse that carries typhus. And the real killers — the viruses and bacteria being carried — are even smaller.

“It’s terrifying but also cool, you know?” I said, closing the book and returning my attention to the table, or, more specifically, my drink that was on the table.

“No, I don’t know,” said David.

“I think you do,” I said before uttering the one word I knew would silence David and prove my point: “Cirque.”

We’d just gone to see Kooza, the Cirque du Soleil show currently set up in Del Mar — David had delighted in the terrifying-but-cool aerialists. “That’s not the same kind of ‘terrifying’ you’re talking about,” David said.

“Oh, yeah? What about the contortionists?” I was referring to the act that had enchanted us both, in which three spandex-clad women flowed over and around each other like golden liquid. “They had to be born with some kind of abnormal flexibility or double-jointedness or something,” I said. “I guess they weren’t terrifying so much as cool, but still — they classify as human oddity, right? And you enjoyed watching them. And those guys in that wheel-of-death thingy? That was totally scary. Your palms got wet, but you couldn’t look away, could you? Face it,” I said, “weird shit is fun to watch. It’s different than our day-to-day. Anything that makes us go ‘wow’ is entertaining.”

David grabbed the book and opened it randomly. “The feet were monstrous, covered with thick, yellowish crusts disposed in scales separated at intervals by deep ulcerated furrows from which oozed fetid, aqueous pus.” When he’d finished reading the passage aloud, he looked up and settled his eyes on Kimberly. “See, I could have gone without knowing that,” he said.

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Comments

Robert Hagen March 11, 2010 @ 2 p.m.

Well, this is just a very, very disturbing piece:|

But it does apply to us, after all. Speaking of elephantiasis, I think the dream sequence in 'The Elephant Man' is very realistic and evocative.. Yet I was saddened that Robert Downey Jr. was snubbed again by the Academy, after his deft, captivating portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Pistol Pete's Foghorn Leghorn was a shoe in.

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antigeekess March 11, 2010 @ 10:50 p.m.

sigh Timing is everything. Can't believe I just wasted this link on another, far less appropriate blog.

http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/100-year-old-chinese-woman-grows-horn-in-her-forehead.html

GOD (inhaling & holding): "Let's see...I haven't done anything really effed up lately..."

waps horn on old woman's head and passes out laughing

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Barbarella Fokos March 12, 2010 @ 9:20 a.m.

Yup, anti, been there, seen that horn. ;) And too many others to count, all in the name of "research," I swear.

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a2zresource March 12, 2010 @ 10:36 a.m.

"The internet makes it so easy to satisfy my morbid curiosity."

It's amazing how much student research in college gets done at times when the campus library has been closed for hours.

Favorite site for planning runs to the nearest academic library: http://worldcat.org

For decompression after seeing images that evoke declarations of deific re-birth (recommended finals prep for all physiology/pre-nursing students): http://www.worldcat.org/title/review-of-medical-physiology/oclc/57638577

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Joe Poutous March 12, 2010 @ 10:58 a.m.

Barb... Your story reminded me of the Tom Wait's song "Table Top Joe"

  • Joe
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karmiclife March 12, 2010 @ 4:23 p.m.

Hey barbarella This was the book of choice for my last road trip to the Grand Canyon. I read it out load to all of my pals to keep us all awake and engaged for the drive. Good times. http://www.amazon.com/Over-Edge-Death-Grand-Canyon/dp/097009731X

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SDaniels March 12, 2010 @ 7:35 p.m.

re:#4: Totally agree about Worldcat--it's the best. The physiology textbook? Uh, not so much. I'd rather read medical histories by Roy Porter than a textbook on physiology.

I do NOT believe in that horn!

Joe's book looks fun. Is it all stories of just people falling or jumping, though?

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MsGrant March 14, 2010 @ 12:41 p.m.

I just saw an ad for a more palatable oddity - an unlikely food pairing that made me think of you and also want to RUN to this place as quickly as possible and get one myself - it was for a cupcake place, and, get this - for an organic, dark-chocolate, Cabernet cupcake with a sweet and savory brie cheese frosting topped with caramelized walnuts. Doesn't that sound divine?

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antigeekess March 14, 2010 @ 12:48 p.m.

Holy smack! That sounds like crack!

Seems folks are always trying to get that chocolate and red wine thingy going together. I have this in my fridge right now:

http://www.vineyardfs.com/files/u1/Chocovine.jpg

Bought it at Cost Plus, if you'd like to pick some up.

:)

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MsGrant March 14, 2010 @ 5:02 p.m.

Doesn't it? I must have one and soon.

When I clicked on the link I literally gasped. Yes, I will get some of that delicious-sounding bev to serve with dessert. Thanks for the tip, Anti!

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antigeekess March 14, 2010 @ 5:14 p.m.

Heehee. It's a bit like a Mudslide. Depending on how your palate is set, it can come off a bit mediciney, or rather nice. Serve it chilled, for sure.

:)

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MsGrant March 14, 2010 @ 5:39 p.m.

My palate loves everything. Right now I am munching on wasabi peas and drinking a nice Shiraz - two great tastes that go great together!

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antigeekess March 14, 2010 @ 5:51 p.m.

Icky-poo. Wasabi is foul, no matter how it's ingested.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z91Tj6yiblQ

(Um, stop this before about :45.)

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MsGrant March 14, 2010 @ 6 p.m.

Gnarly!! I didn't stop at :45 (how could I with that disclaimer) and laughed my ass off!! Not only a strong palate, but a strong stomach to boot.

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antigeekess March 14, 2010 @ 6:09 p.m.

At least we're back to something on-topic for the title of this blog. :)

Okay, try this on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68Wc5-...

MmmmMMMMM!!!!!

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MsGrant March 14, 2010 @ 6:17 p.m.

Almost got a gag at the end there!! Here's one for you:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/186500/the_worlds_grossest_foods.html?cat=22

Don't worry - nothing to do with cats.

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antigeekess March 14, 2010 @ 6:27 p.m.

Oh, yeah. I heard about that Balut (fertilized duck egg) before. I think Zimmern ate one. In fact...

http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Bizarre_Foods/Episodes_Travel_Guides/Episode_Philippines

Yup, he ate it in the Philippines. This episode re-airs this Wednesday, the 17th. Happy St. Paddy's Day! Have some BALUT!

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MsGrant March 14, 2010 @ 6:37 p.m.

Corned Balut and cabbage, anyone? Mmm, mmm!!

Coincidentally, we are watching Man vs Food on the Food Network. I really want Adam's job. Why do these guys always get the BEST gigs??! Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives? Please!! Hire me!!

Disclaimer: I could not do the job based on my vegetarianism. But, damn, I could do I a vegetarian junk-food show!!

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MsGrant March 14, 2010 @ 6:39 p.m.

"I could do I a vegetarian"?!? Better lay off the Shiraz. Sorry about the sloppy posting.

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antigeekess March 14, 2010 @ 6:49 p.m.

Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives? Oh, My!!!

Great title for a column, Grant. Get to it. :)

Oh, and I'm sure your Shiraz isn't kicking your butt any more than this vodka's kicking mine. I'm on my third "Pink Cloud."

:D

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MsGrant March 14, 2010 @ 7:30 p.m.

It's already been done, Anti!! Guy Fieri is the host -

http://www.foodnetwork.com/diners-drive-ins-and-dives/index.html

It's a television show - a paying gig!! Lucky dawg.

What's a "Pink Cloud"? Sounds good.

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David Dodd March 14, 2010 @ 9:23 p.m.

I looked it up and got this:

http://www.mimoa.eu/blog/wp-content/wolk.jpg

Then I decided to add the fact that it's a drink and got an interesting combination of vodka, piña colada mix, creme de almond, and 7-up. I prefer my liquor straight and unmixed, but that pink cloud is an interesting looking concoction.

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antigeekess March 14, 2010 @ 9:48 p.m.

Re #24 & 25: Oooooooohh! That Guy's got TWO shows right now?

http://www.nbc.com/minute-to-win-it/ Premiered tonight. Why is HE the It Boy of the moment?

For me, a Pink Cloud (which as far as I knew, I made up) is considerably less elaborate. Just vodka and pink lemonade. Your version sounds pretty darn good too, refried, as does this one:

http://www.drinkswap.com/texas-pink-cloud.htm

The TEXAS Pink Cloud. How appropriate.

:)

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SDaniels March 14, 2010 @ 10:47 p.m.

re: #15: AG, wasabi is like crack to a lot of peeps, incl. me. When you dab it on your second-rate sushi (for first rate sushi CANNOT be eaten with wasabi), it sends a rush starting with your nostrils, right through the top of your head, and all through your body.

I imagine it is a bit like salvia :)

re:#21: I would watch that show, Grant! I would also die for that cupcake in #10. SWOON

re:#26: AG, I will make you that Texas Pink Cloud when you come, if you like. Hey, I'll make 'em for you and Grant--and refried, if he can make it to the 'party.'

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SDaniels March 14, 2010 @ 10:56 p.m.

re:#26: Guy Fieri is a blowhard. I have it on reliable word from someone who met him personally, though it only confirms what I already suspected of him. He has this "Kool dude, oh that's so money, blah blah blah" attitude on camera, but off camera he is a joik.

And seriously, what demographic wants to see a cooking show guy with contrast-dyed roots and tips and a santa jelly belly, and preteen shorts & socks combos?

I cried when he won the contest over the gay African-American pastry guy with the sweet Southern accent...

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David Dodd March 14, 2010 @ 11:24 p.m.

I'll take the liquor straight-up, thanks, I don't mix that stuff, but accept the invitation. AG needs to bring along the latest from "The Mighty Throbbing Pillars of Gospel Joy", because that's my favorite group now. And I dig wasabi more than sushi.

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MsGrant March 15, 2010 @ 8:30 a.m.

Mmmm. Juiced lemonade. My kinda drink. Although I am with refried - I like my vodka either straight or mixed with plain soda water with a squeeze.

Well, Guy Fieri is in danger of a common show-business pitfall - the dreaded over-exposure. His new show looks dumb. Remember when Emeril Lagasse tried to have a prime-time show on one of the big three? KA-BOMB.

Sorry to hear he is a douche-bag in real life. "That's so money" is like, so 1995. Swingers, anyone?

Anti, you don't like wasabi? I love it, but I stop at snorting it.

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Robert Hagen March 15, 2010 @ 6:53 p.m.

Yeah, wasabi is good for you. I think.

I love spicy food and capsiacin (whats in hot chili peppers) is supposed to be good for you.

You know, back in the day, we used to mix tequila with Squirt soda.

The thing about tequila is to eat before you drink or it'll burn a hole in your gut.

I stick to beer because I'm an addictive personality. Its my drug of choice. And before I drink a mixer, I'll smoke some bud, and swig some beer. Refried knows what I'm talking about. tommy Chong baby, earth medicine. This is my life...........

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MsGrant March 15, 2010 @ 7:26 p.m.

It is good for you. It makes you release endorphins to ease the pain. That's why after you eat something really hot, you at first gasp and your eyes water and then....ahhhh.

Tequila is poison to me. I cannot drink it straight. It affects me entirely different than any other alcohol. I do not know what it is. I can drink three martinis and still be fine. Three shots of tequila and I am sloppy.

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antigeekess March 15, 2010 @ 8:02 p.m.

Re #27: I'll look forward to that Texas Pink Cloud, Daniels.

Re #29: The only thing I like straight is Maker's Mark. :)

Re #33: Tequila = TaKillYa, Grant. Anything with a worm in it belongs on Fear Factor.

Refried, ever tried Mescal? I always thought it had mescaline in it, but I guess not...

Bummer. Life is so annoyingly full of these little disappointments. :(

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David Dodd March 15, 2010 @ 9:42 p.m.

Oh, yeah, I've had my share of Mescal, AG. I've had plenty of Pulque, too, nasty stuff that'll introduce you to the Aztec Gods of old. I'd never heard of either before I came here. Scotch is my drink of choice, but Tequila is inexpensive and plentiful here.

And Ms. Grant, I used to be a tequila intolerant BASTARD when I was between wives. I'll write about that in depth some time. I can drink it fine now that I've become accustomed to it. And I think I've related my perfect martini before. Introduce the gin to the Vermouth from a safe distance of three feet. Pour the gin over cracked ice.

Diego, some here like tequila with Fresca (another Toranja soft drink). I'm one of them but I don't mix them together. I slowly sip on the tequila and drink the Fresca when I get thirsty ;) But like youself, beer is my only staple. I don't even smoke the loco weed anymore (although I completely support its legality), I lost too much time when I was stoned. But it was (and is) a great, self-medicating device.

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MsGrant March 16, 2010 @ 7:43 a.m.

That's priceless! I too utilize a similar recipe, only with vodka. I'll bet you have some great stories to tell about your hard-drinkin' days, refried. I love drinking tales. Brings the honesty out in those who've come to terms with alcohol and our relationships with it. Once you accept it as your friend and not your doctor, you can have a beautiful life together.

I'm ashamed to admit that in the past my relationship with tequila was through a shot-glass, hence the spinning head after an hour or two. It was alway "hey, let's do some shots!!". Famous last words. I have since been introduced to some fine sipping tequilas, grown-up style, but I still don't trust the stuff!

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antigeekess March 16, 2010 @ 9:41 a.m.

Vodka makes everything better.

Kinda like bacon.

:)

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Robert Hagen March 16, 2010 @ 11:38 a.m.

Refried, we used 'Quitased'which tastes exactly like Squirt. Fresca toronja tastes different.

Some people just can't drink Tequila because the taste makes them gack.

When I drank liquor, I liked Jack Daniels, but in my future I see wine as a drink of choice.

Ms Grant is spot on when it comes to alcohol loosening the tongue and dropping inhibitions. It also helps for coping. Think of the Russians in the old USSR. I'd definitely want to do shots of vodka.

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David Dodd March 16, 2010 @ 12:48 p.m.

"Quitased", awesome name! (Verb, quitar: to remove - object, sed: thirst! Anatomy of product in Spanish!)

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MsGrant March 16, 2010 @ 6:21 p.m.

Vodka. It's what's for breakfast.

I'm afraid to click on that link.

Refried, tell us a story about when you where a tequila intolerant between wives BASTARD. You have my curiosity more than piqued.

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David Dodd March 16, 2010 @ 7:04 p.m.

If you knew me now, we met someday in person, I can't imagine being described any other way than non-aggressive. I handle my liquor resonably well these days and don't go out looking for fights or confrontations. If I'm confronted, I'll fight back, but I'd rather sit and talk about it, even argue about it, but physical confrontation has never been high on my list of a good way to settle a disagreement.

I'll presume that S.D. and Magics picked up on that when we met, maybe they'll vouch. I'm about 6' 2" and roughly 170 pounds. Not overly intimidating. I'm sure that I've avoided being a random target simply because of my height.

But it wasn't always that way. When I split from my ex, I was a wreck. I weighed 126 pounds. That marriage would've destroyed me, eventually. And I didn't drink the entire time I was married to her, no drugs, just worked my butt off, literally, supporting my family and my cheating wife.

The next day after I left, I decided to change myself. I joined a gym and worked out every day, nothing but free-weights, and to put weight on I drank a gallon a day of that weight-gain stuff. I had quit smoking. In three months I was up to 190 lbs, and it was solid muscle. I didn't look too bad back then, either, no facial hair. But I rather enjoyed wearing tank tops around, the women noticed and it felt pretty good for a change.

So, my brother can be a prick. But he's my brother (he's pretty well reformed now, and living back East). My brother is 5' 8" and 130 lbs., and he has a mouth. He loved to drink, loved to talk crap, that type. Since I was now seperated with a divorce that was certain, he decided to talk me into going out with him once in a while. And I could keep him in line if he ran his mouth.

Except he got into this habit. He would go drinking almost every night, and since I only went with him once every week or two, I had no idea what he was up to in those places. He'd suggest some 'really great place' he knew. With me accompanying him, everyone he'd made enemies with ignored him, I wouldn't know any different.

Until he began buying me tequila shots. And once I'd had more than a few, he would do one of two things: Either pick a fight with one of them or tell me that one of them threatened to kick my butt. It was over, I wasn't rational enough to figure out that he was playing me. One particular night I got tossed out of three different bars with the little bastard. Another time I cleared a pool table waiting list, took a cue out of someone's hand, and busted it over my knee. It took about five or six shots, and I was ready to fight anyone for any stupid reason.

It took me a few months to figure out that tequila made me an idiot. It wasn't long after that I got into a car wreck (sober) and couldn't lift a weight for months. By that time, I lost interest in weights for a variety of reasons and the muscle went away. And, I didn't drink tequila for a long time.

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MsGrant March 16, 2010 @ 7:27 p.m.

Whew!! Though not sure who the bastard is in this story. 126 pounds?!?! I don't weigh 126!! Why did you stay with someone who reduced you to such wreckage?

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David Dodd March 16, 2010 @ 7:37 p.m.

I didn't know any better. There were kids. I'd work for 16 hours a day and come home and put in a couple of more, in denial I suppose. And she's a piece of work, but I'm the dummy that originally knocked her up, so I take responsibility for that.

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MsGrant March 16, 2010 @ 7:45 p.m.

You must have been young. Something about our generation and age group took a lot of responsibility when it came to family. Many of my high-school friends had kids right out of school. They stayed together for much longer than I would have ever given them credit for. Today? All divorced. But not before giving it everything they had. And it always seemed like there was one person who was giving it all and one who was taking it.

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