Two Down, One to Go!

Friday, 31 Dec 2004 | Cooking, Family

I made my Roasted Tomato Basil Soup and the sauce for the Sweet & Sour meatballs last night. The meatballs are already made because I use the frozen ones from Costco since they just need to be thawed and heated with the sauce and quite tasty to boot.

BTW, Toni couldn't wait and had a bowl of Roasted Tomato Basil Soup last night since it's one of her favorites.

So all I have to prepare today is the Spinach Artichoke Dip, a decadently warm blend of spinach, artichoke, Parmesan and Monterey Jack cheeses, heavy cream and chicken stock served with bread and tortilla chips for dipping. Yumm! :)

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Those Dreaded Automated Checkouts!

Friday, 31 Dec 2004 | Rants

In case you haven't encountered them, the automated checkouts are computerized scanning stations that customers can use to scan and pay for their purchases supposedly without human intervention. It's like an ATM for store purchases. I find them quite annoying and impersonal. The idea is that the store can employ fewer checkout clerks and customers can easily and quickly check out. The problem is that the customers have difficulty with the machines and need assistance, slowing the process. Combine that with very few humans to check you out and it makes for a frustrating and slow retail experience.

I first saw one at Home Depot and disliked it very much. I was zipping in to get a gift card, but I couldn't activate it at the self help checkout. And of course there were no real people checkers to be found. So, I had to wait while they paged for someone to assist me.

Last night, I stopped at Albertsons to get a few groceries for Toni's party. I had one item and waited about 15 minutes to get checked out. The self check lines were long and slow because of technical difficulties and user unfamiliarity. At the same time, there were only two human checkers. I used to love shopping at Albertsons because I could count on an abundance of checkers and fast, courteous service. Well, that edge over oher markets is gone now and I don't really want to shop there anymore unless absolutely necessary. The very least they could do is have as many human checkers working as normal and decrease their number AFTER the self checkouts had been in place long enough for customers to get comfortable using them and the kinks were worked out.

Home Depot and Albertsons, for what it's worth, I don't believe these automated checkouts are good for business. I think you'll end up losing more revenue from frustrated customers shopping elsewhere than you'll save from salaries and benefits paid.

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The Party's Still On

Thursday, 30 Dec 2004 | Family

Toni woke up this morning feeling much better. So, it looks like her birthday party for tomorrow night is still on!

We decided to make it a little easier on ourselves, so I ordered lots of Hawaiian BBQ Chicken and Korean Kalbi BBQ Short Ribs from Ono Hawaiian BBQ. That will provide a lot of food that won't need to be prepared.

So, I just have to make Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup, Sweet & Sour Meatballs and Spinach Artichoke Dip.

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Toni's Got It Now

Wednesday, 29 Dec 2004 | Family

I just received a call from Toni. She said that she has my bug now. She is achy, cold and her stomach is very unsettled. I feel so bad for her. I hope she will recover quickly, seeing as her birthday party is scheduled for New Year's Eve.

There's a good deal of food preperation to be done since we expect over twenty guests. I was concerned about being well enough to cook for the occasion, but if Toni is ill, she won't be able to enjoy herself.

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mettle

Tuesday, 28 Dec 2004 | Word of the Day

met·tle n.

1 archaic : METAL
2 : quality of temperament or disposition : SPIRIT, SPIRITEDNESS, TEMPER
3 : qualities (as ardor, courage, and stamina) and abilities in relation to a given situation

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Bug Report

Tuesday, 28 Dec 2004 | Daily

I was home sick yesterday with what appeared to be the stomach flu. My stomach started acting up around 3:30 am on Monday and didn't settle down until about 8:00 pm when I braved some Campbell's Chicken & Stars soup and saltine crackers.

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Taffy's 28 Week Photo

Friday, 24 Dec 2004 | Pets

Taffy at 28 Weeks

Taffy is the dog of 1,001 poses. I have to laugh out loud each time I post her weekly picture.

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bless

Wednesday, 22 Dec 2004 | Word of the Day

bless v.

to make happy : give good fortune or satisfaction to : confer prosperity upon

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Christmas Vacation

Wednesday, 22 Dec 2004 | Family

Well, I'm off from work from Thursday, the 23rd until Sunday, the 26th.

I'm spending Christmas Eve at my dad's house with Toni and Erin. We're gathering there because that was our tradition when my mom was alive. We traditionally eat dinner and open presents, which is fine with me since I'm so impatient. Actually I'm much more impatient to see someone open a present I've given than to open one of my own.

On Christmas Day, Erin and I are going to Toni's parents' house to meet with the whole gang of over twenty relatives for dinner and more presents. We pick names for Christmas since it's too costly to buy gifts for everyone.

On New Years Eve, we're having the same group of relatives over to our house to celebrate Toni's birthday. Her actual birthday is January 2nd, but it's more fun and convenient to celebrate on New Years Eve. We'll have lots of yummy finger foods for all the guests.

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grace

Tuesday, 21 Dec 2004 | Word of the Day

grace n.

1 a : beneficence or generosity shown by God to man b : a free gift of God to man for his regeneration or sanctification c : a state of acceptance with or of being pleasing to God

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Dad Got a New Camry!

Tuesday, 21 Dec 2004 | Family

Lunar Mist Camry

I went with my dad car shopping on Saturday. The insurance company decided to declare his old car totaled and agreed to issue a check for its value.

He went to the Costco fleet representative at Toyota of Temecula Valley. They were having a sale for just that weekend, so his price was less than the usual Costco fleet price. They had just the car he was looking for, a 4 cylinder Camry XLE in Lunar Mist Metallic with Stone cloth interior. The transaction was pleasant and painless and he's very happy with his new car.

It's sure nice to buy a car without all the haggling and nonsense. We even got some yummy barbecued tri-tip and hamburgers while we there.

If you're ever in the market for a new Toyota, ask for Davy Nakagawa in fleet sales. He made my dad's car buying experience the best ever. But be sure not to talk to any of the other sales staff first because Davy makes it a point not to take customers from fellow sales associates.

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Taffy's 27 Week Photo

Sunday, 19 Dec 2004 | Pets

Taffy's 27 Week Photo

Taffy displays a cartoon Snoopy-like grin in this week's photograph. :)

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Hey La, Hey La, My iMac's Back!

Sunday, 19 Dec 2004 | Macintosh

I just got my iMac back from being repaired. I took it to the Apple Store at UTC in San Diego on Thursday. They replaced the logic board. Fortunately, it was covered under AppleCare or it would have cost me over $600. Thanks to Billy and David for their professional and caring service.

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The Hidden Beauty of Snowflakes

Thursday, 16 Dec 2004 | Photography

Snowflake

The National Geographic website has some very beautiful images of snowflakes which are very appropriate and festive for the holidays.

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Well, I Spoke Too Soon

Thursday, 16 Dec 2004 | Macintosh

Just after I posted the previous entry about my iMac, it started acting up again. I guess it's gonna be a trip to the Apple Store. It's strange how coincidentally it started working fine after the SODIMM was removed. Now, I'm thinking it's probably the logic board. It is under warranty, so that's good, but I sure don't want to be without it for long. Sigh. :O|

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iMac Freezing Problem!

Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 | Macintosh

Yesterday, my computer started freezing just after installing Nikon PictureProject. At first I thought it was the program causing problems, but it later appeared to be a hardware problem.

After a period of frustration and endless reboots, I discovered the source of my problem. It was a SODIMM installed in the computer. Fortunately, the RAM is guaranteed by Crucial Technology. I sent it off today to be replaced for free. I can still use my computer since it has two SODIMMs and one is still installed and working. I was SO rellieved that I wouldn't be without my computer for an extended period of time.

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Height of California Letters at DCA

Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 | Disneyland, Trivia

DCA Letters

Q: How tall are the iconographic C A L I F O R N I A letters at the entrance to Disney's California Adventure Park?

A: The height of the letters at the entrance to Disney's California Adventure is 11 and a half feet.

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Erin Drives My Car

Monday, 13 Dec 2004 | Family

I let Erin drive my car for the first time since she got her learner's permit a few weeks ago. The first drive was on Friday when we went about a half mile from Costco to Best Buy. She also drove home from Best Buy, about a half hour drive.

Saturday, on the way to Palm Springs for the gift bag delivery for seniors sponsored by my union at work, I let her drive again. It's about a 75 minute drive each way to my work from home. So, with the round trip, she got in about 2.5 hours of practice. I have to say, I am very proud of how careful she has been driving. Neither Toni nor I were nervous, which surprised Erin very much.

At this rate she has completed her 10 hours of night driving and needs to work on completing the 40 hours of daytime driving required. It should pose no problem, given she has until May, 2005 when she will be eligible for her provisional license.

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Taffy at 26 Weeks

Saturday, 11 Dec 2004 | Pets

Taffy at 26 Weeks

Taffy shows off her new Muttlucks dog boots.

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Disneyland Honors Fess Parker

Friday, 10 Dec 2004 | Disneyland

Fess Parker

On December 15, the 50th anniversary of his debut as "king of the wild frontier," the man known to millions of baby-boomers as legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett will receive the highest honor Disneyland bestows, when the park unveils a tribute window to beloved actor Fess Parker.

"In his role as Davy Crockett, Fess Parker helped promote and open Disneyland and through the years he has become a very special member of the Disney family," said Matt Ouimet, president of the Disneyland Resort.

The tradition of honoring individuals with a personalized decorative window was started on Main Street, U.S.A. by Walt Disney himself and has continued throughout the Disney parks worldwide.

A Disneyland window is considered the ultimate honor anyone can receive from "The Happiest Place on Earth" and unlike other Disneyland window tributes, Parker's salute will also include an entirely rethemed building facade which pays tribute to Parker's portrayal of Davy Crockett, along with his sidekick Georgie Russell, played by the late actor Buddy Ebsen. Parker and Ebsen were featured stars at the grand opening of Disneyland on July 17, 1955.

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ambivalence

Friday, 10 Dec 2004 | Word of the Day

am·biv·a·lence n.

1 : simultaneous and contradictory attitudes or feelings (as attraction and repulsion) toward an object, person, or action
2 a : continual fluctuation (as between one thing and its opposite) b : uncertainty as to which approach to follow

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What Is Disneyland's Highest Honor?

Friday, 10 Dec 2004 | Disneyland, Trivia

Q: What is considered the highest honor bestowed to an individual by Disneyland, started by Walt Disney himself and has continued throughout the Disney parks worldwide.

A: A Disneyland window is considered the ultimate honor anyone can receive from “The Happiest Place on Earth.”

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Beyond the Sea

Thursday, 9 Dec 2004 | Movies

Beyond the Sea

Toni loves the song "Beyond the Sea" by Bobby Darin. It puts her in a good mood whenever she hears it.

Kevin Spacey stars as Bobby Darin in Beyond the Sea. From the trailers, it looks like an interesting biographical film. The notable thing is Kevin Spacey performs all the songs in the movie and soundtrack. And he performs them very well with new orchestration that adds punch to the music.

Beyond the Sea opens in theaters on December 17th in Los Angeles and New York and December 29th in select cities.

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stock

Thursday, 9 Dec 2004 | Word of the Day

stock n.

: liquid in which meat, fish, or vegetables are simmered and which is used as a basis for soup, stew, gravy, or sauce

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Sun Wheel's Weight

Wednesday, 8 Dec 2004 | Disneyland, Trivia

Sun Wheel

The Sun Wheel ferris wheel at Disney's California Adventure is truly a grand structure and beautiful too. It is a giant moving wheel with the image of a smiling sun at its center. There are a total of 24 gondolas with a maximum capacity of six passengers per gondola. The wheel has a diameter of 168 feet and is 500 feet in circumference.

Q: How many pounds does the steel in the Sun Wheel weigh?

A: The weight of steel is 5.8 million pounds.

The number of pieces of structural steel is 32,000. The number of parts (including nuts and bolts) is 1.8 million. The number of Metal “rays” radiating from center is 32. The sunface diameter is 40 feet. The speed of wheel is 5 rpm.

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mirepoix

Wednesday, 8 Dec 2004 | Word of the Day

mire·poix n.

: a sautéed mixture of diced vegetables (as carrots, celery, and onions), herbs, and sometimes ham or bacon used especially as a basis for soups, stews, and sauces

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Accoona SuperTargeted Searches

Tuesday, 7 Dec 2004 | Internet

Accoona

Accoona is a new search engine that allows users to SuperTarget their searches using artificial intelligence technology by clicking on keywords that have more significance.

I have only tried out Accoona briefly and it seems nice enough.

My search engine of choice is Google.

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A Fond Memory of Erin

Tuesday, 7 Dec 2004 | Family

When I was leaving Harvest after the Christmas Dinner last night, I noticed a flyer taped to a door. It was announcing In-N-Out Burger coming to the Harvest Christian School for lunch. There was a huge picture of a Double-Double on the page. Erin used to attend school here during her elementary years and she had invited me to come have In-N-Out for lunch. This had been at least four or five years ago.

They bring the burgers and fries in a big lunch truck and serve the food on location. I had forgotten about that day eating lunch with my daughter. The flyer brought back the memory. And it was a very fond and cherished memory indeed because Erin loves In-N-Out and mostly because it was just a very special father and daughter experience. It's interesting how simple things in life can mean so much. It was just a burger, fries and a soft drink, but it meant so much to me that Erin wanted me to be there with her. We both were so happy, just sharing the time with each other.

The flyer reminded me how special each moment shared with Erin truly is and how I love her so very much.

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Christmas Dinner at Harvest

Tuesday, 7 Dec 2004 | Christian, Family

Last night, I met Toni and my dad at Harvest for a Christmas Dinner put on by The Lord Cares Bereavement Ministry (TLC). I arrived first, coming straight from work. I noticed and sat next to Toni's aunt Josie, whom I didn't know was attending. I told her that Toni and my dad would be joining us.

When my dad walked up, Josie said, "Oh, it's you Andy!" She had known my dad for some time through the bereavement ministry, but didn't realize that he was my father. Neither did my dad know that Josie was Toni's aunt.

We had a lovely time talking and the dinner was very tasty. After dessert was served, we had the pleasure to hear Jon Courson speak. He was quite engaging and really touched us with a message concerning the loss of loved ones.

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sear

Tuesday, 7 Dec 2004 | Word of the Day

sear v.

: to cook quickly the surface of (a piece of meat) usually to develop color and flavor : brown quickly as a first stage in cooking

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braise

Monday, 6 Dec 2004 | Word of the Day

braise tr. v.

: to cook (meat or vegetables) slowly in fat and little moisture in a tightly closed pot

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Muffin, Up Close and Personal

Monday, 6 Dec 2004 | Pets

Muffin Up Close

Muffin gives us a quizzical look from the top of her cat condo.

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sauté

Sunday, 5 Dec 2004 | Word of the Day

sau·té tr. v.

: to fry in very little fat -- distinguished from deep fry

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My First Osso Buco

Sunday, 5 Dec 2004 | Cooking

I made Osso Buco for the first time yesterday. Osso Buco is an Italian dish of braised veal shanks in an herbacious stock with mirepoix. Well, technically it wasn't a mirepoix because the carrots, onion and celery were sauteed in olive oil, not butter. I was only able to get beef shank instead of the veal, so the meat was not as tender, but it was still very good. Beef shank is very similar in taste and texture to oxtail.

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Taffy at 25 Weeks

Saturday, 4 Dec 2004 | Pets

Taffy at 25 Weeks

Taffy wearing the sweater Susan gave her.

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Gone Too Soon

Friday, 3 Dec 2004 | Family

Camarae, my niece Deidre's best friend lost her battle with Leukemia yesterday at the age of 16. Camie had struggled with her cancer since 2002, enjoying a brief remission, but then becoming sick again. I didn't have a chance to meet Camarai, but Toni was blessed to meet her during a beach trip in the summer. Toni said that Camarae was such a sweet, lovable girl. It's so sad to lose such a young and spirited person. My prayers go out to Camarae's family and Deidre. I'm sure many will miss her presence immensely.

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Quite a Day with Dad

Friday, 3 Dec 2004 | Family

Today was my mom's birthday. My dad was on his way to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa this morning to attend a Christmas Coffee. I was on my way to work in Palm Springs. I receive a call from my dad a little after 7 am. He tells me that he had been in a traffic collision on 91 freeway. He was rear ended by another vehicle, spun 90 degrees to his left, collided with another vehicle in carpool lane and came to a rest facing the divider. He had a small bump on his left temple, most likely resulting from bumping the driver window during the jolt. Thankfully, he was not injured seriously.

Camry Damage

I took the day off from work and met my dad at the body shop. We left the car there. They estimated about a two week repair time. Then we were off to the rental car dealer. My dad had rental car insurance on his policy. Based on his daily dollar limit, he was able to rent a snazzy Mercedes Benz 240C. It was quite a nice car.

Mercedes

Next, we went to visit my dad's doctor to make sure his head injury was not serious. I had talked to him on the phone after the accident to make sure he was lucid. He seemed to have his wits about him. He didn't have any dizziness or nausea. Thankfully, the doctor said that he seemed well. He wants my dad to visit him again next Wednesday, noting if there are any changes in condition.

Mom's Marker

Then we met up with Toni and drove to the cemetary to take flowers to my mother's grave. It was a solemn moment as we remembered my mom and dad embraced Toni.

Dad Embraces Toni

Afterwards, we went to dinner. We had a lovely time visiting with my dad. The food was delicious and we enjoyed each other's company. After a long day with hardly a break, I returned home after 8 pm this evening.

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Missing Mom

Thursday, 2 Dec 2004 | Family

Tomorrow, December 3rd, is my mother's birthday. It was one year ago on her birthday that she fell down and went into a coma for exactly 100 days. It's been less than a year since I lost her, but I was telling Toni the other day that it feels more like two or three years that she has been gone. It's still hard remembering how I never got to talk to her after her fall. Actually, I talked to her a lot at the hospital, but she never was able to answer me. They say that people in a coma can hear you when you speak to them. I don't know if that's true, but I talked to her just in case it was.

I remember last Christmas, visiting her at the hospital. My dad had bought her a tennis bracelet that she had been wanting. He brought it to the hospital and put it on her wrist while we visited. He was hopeful that she'd awaken soon to enjoy it, but it never came to pass. It was so hard on us, the way she went, but it was good for her. She wasn't aware of what was happening and didn't suffer.

I talked to her the evening of her birthday just before her fall. She was a little sick and her voice was a bit hoarse, but she was in a very good mood. I remember her telling me how happy she was because Erin had sent her flowers. She loved Erin so much. So, up to the fall, she was having a wonderful birthday. I miss her so much still, but I am so glad that she had become a Christian and is now in heaven.

Last Thanksgiving, we celebrated my mom's birthday after dinner. I gave her a sentimental card and it moved her to tears. She said she was so happy. I'm so glad that I had a chance to bring that joy into her life.

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Big N' Nasty

Thursday, 2 Dec 2004 | Family, Humor, Travel

My mother and father-in-law love going to Las Vegas whenever they get the chance because they get to relax and get away from the everyday chores while getting pampered. Most of the time they stay downtown at The Plaza.

On one of their recent trips to Vegas, they had been out for the day and returned to the The Plaza late at night. My father-in-law really likes to get coffee at the McDonald's at the hotel because it is Starbucks coffee and they give a senior discount. Well, on this evening my mother-in-law had a hankering for some food, so she tells him to buy her a hamburger to go with her coffee. He goes up to the counter and tells the lady, "Give me two coffees and two Big N' Nasties."

You may be asking yourself, "What the heck is a Big N' Nasty?" It turns out he hadn't heard of the Big N' Tasty hamburger. Tired and quickly glancing at the menu, he read Big N' 'N' asty and his mind repaced the 'N' with a "T," forming the words Big N' Nasty. LOL

The guy at the register thought it was so funny, he gave my father-in-law two orders of fries for free. Since he's one to love a great deal, he ended up a very happy camper!

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Microsoft Enters the Blogging World

Thursday, 2 Dec 2004 | Internet

Microsoft has entered the blogging arena with their beta offering of MSN Spaces. It figures that Microsoft would want to get in on the popularity of blogging. As for me, I think I'm going to stick with my Movable Type Publishing Platform. :)

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Disneyland Guests the First Year

Thursday, 2 Dec 2004 | Disneyland, Trivia

Q: At the close of its first fiscal year, how many guests had been hosted at Disneyland?

A: Disneyland hosted 3.8 million guests it's first fiscal year.

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Disneyland's First Public Guests

Wednesday, 1 Dec 2004 | Disneyland, Trivia

On the public opening July 18, 1955 of Disneyland, the first guests admitted through the turnstiles were two children, Christine Vess, 5, and Michael Schwartner, 7.

These two children were very fortunate to be the first to enter Disneyland. I would have been thrilled to have that honor. But, they were both rewarded with a gift as well.

Q: What special gift did Christine and Michael, the first public guests at Disneyland receive?

A: Christine and Michael received lifetime passes to Disneyland.

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