writing

Sarcasm Font

When I graduated high school (20 years ago this year), the world was relatively simple.  Almost nobody had heard of email or the internet.  Google was just a really big number, not a really big company.  Apple was around, but this was long before they started putting a lowercase “i” in front of all of their products.

Technology has come so far in that time.

It is simply amazing to look back and think of how much has been created, developed, and built into what we know today.

So much of what has been developed (email, social media, text messaging, etc.) was created with the idea and goal of helping us communicate in new and more effective ways.

This is mostly true.  I can communicate with text, tweet, Facebook status, blog post, email, or electronic document.  I can create these messages with a keyboard, touch screen, or the sound of my own voice.  But there is one notable absence.

There is no sarcasm font.

My PC has over 150 different fonts, and none of them are universally known – or even widely used – to convey sarcasm.

If I need to inject emotion or a sarcasm disclaimer into my writing my options are limited.  I could use emoticons*, but I’m not a 12-year-old or that person in the office who uses Comic Sans. 

*And if one were to use an emoticon, which one conveys sarcasm?  The basic smiley?  The winking smiley?  That one where it looks like a tongue sticking out?  All of these stupid emoticons make me 😦

I use hashtags on Twitter, but they really look out of place in an email or text message.  The more technically savvy among us use a bracketed faux-html tag like , but I think that is lost on the majority of readers.

We need something better.*

*Oh really?  You think we can improve upon the current system of nothing?  You’re a dadgum genius, Gump.  

There have been a few attempts to get something going.  I found an online movement to have left-leaning italics imply sarcasm and snark.  But seeing as how the last post was over two years ago, you can guess how well that worked*.

*  #Sarcasm

Where do we go from here?  I’m hopeful that once we get that healthcare thing resolved, bring peace to the Middle East, and cure cancer we can turn our national attention to the real issue facing our country:  trying to figure out if that email or comment on our Facebook status is passive aggressive or sarcastic.

How Original is Original?

The blogging platform I use (WordPress) has a number of very cool analytics, including the ability to see the search strings people are typing into Google that leads them to this site.

As I’ve noted before, some of these are rather…um…unique.  But I’ve noticed that there is one search query that shows up quite often:

“Write an original 40-60 word poem about your current or most recent job.”

A little back story:  In 2011, I was applying for different jobs, which meant I was filling out a lot of online applications.  One of those applications requested an original 40-60 word poem.  I found that request odd – especially for a non-creative, technical position – so I did a quick post about it.

Ever since then, that post gets multiple views every single week, and is probably my most searched post.

I find it ironic (and rather sad) that when asked for an original poem, many people turn to Google to (presumably) find something they can copy and paste, otherwise using some custom writing service.

Roses are red Ctrl + C is blue. Writing poems is easy When Ctrl + V is through

Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.  After all, the internet likely contains millions of term papers, book reports, and job application poems.

To those who would borrow my job poem, please know two things:

1.  If you can find a poem online using Google, your future employer can (and will) to.

2.  Feit Can Write is a freelance writing service, ready and willing to assist with all of your writing needs – including employment poetry.  Contact me – I’ll work cheap.

RIP Martin

Today I saw a random tweet that said “NBA Efficiency Rating Inventor Kills Self, Explains Via Website”.  I was intrigued (and bored) enough to click the URL and I got a shock.  Martin Manley committed suicide.

I realize that 99.99% of my audience has no idea who Martin Manley was, or why I would care about his passing.  At the time I became familiar with him, Martin was writing the Upon Further Review blog on the Kansas City Star website.  The blog tried to be different from most of the sports blogs out there, which is not easy to do.  Most sports blogs are typically comprised of the same types of posts:  (“Athlete/Team is the greatest or doing something nobody has done before”, “Team/Conference A is better than Team/Conference B”, “Why does Athlete/Team suck so much?”, along with miscellaneous rants about the BCS and other sporting injustices).

In that sense, UFR was a typical sports blog, because those were the types of things Martin Manley wrote about.  But there was one key difference, which his tagline (“analytical commentary and insight”) proudly proclaimed.  If Martin said Alex Gordon is doing something nobody has done before, the Big XII was better than the Big 10, the Chiefs suck, or the “BcS” was an injustice – you knew he was going to back it up with fact, raw numbers that he collected and analyzed himself, and a table that showed his work.  You may not like his opinions or how he used the data, but the numbers rarely lied.

I read UFR rather faithfully for a couple of years, and I’m proud to say that I’ve incorporated some of his traits here.  In my Husker writings, I try to incorporate statistical information to beef up a point – it’s one thing to say NU’s punt return game sucked in 2012, it’s another to show that in almost eight full games they return yardage was less than that of one return immediately prior to that slump.  Most of the numbers and stats I use are things that I collect.  It can be a laborious pain in the ass sometimes, but it is worth it to know that you’re not just another keyboard pumping hyperbole into cyberspace.

Martin Manley gave me one of my first breaks as a writer.  In 2012, he was gracious enough to use my piece on Blowing Up the College Football conferences as a guest post on UFR.  It was damn cool to be able go to the website of the Kansas City Star – known for having some great writing talent – and see a link to content I created.  I’ll always be grateful for that.

A few months later, Martin left the Star and they shut down Upon Further Review.  Martin then started his own blog, Sports in Review, where he did a lot of the same things he did on UFR.  I’m sad to say that Sports in Review slipped out of the rotation of sites I regularly read, and I hadn’t visited in months.  Upon learning of Martin’s death, I went to his blog, and found the following in a post dated August 15:

“The reason for my departure is 100% within my ability to control. You see, earlier today, I committed suicide. I created a web-site to deal with the many questions a person would rightfully have. It’s called martinmanleylifeanddeath.com. It went live today. In my opinion, there is no question which you could conceivably ask that I have left unanswered on that site. My goal with this post is closure for SIR.”

As of this writing, the new website is offline (I receive a 503 – Service Unavailable error when I click on it).  From what I have read, Martin pre-paid the site fees for five years, so I am hopeful that it returns at some point in the future.  As macabre as it may sound, I am intrigued to read his rationale for his suicide – which took place on his 60th birthday, outside of a police station in a Kansas City suburb.  From what I have read, the site is has a ton of content – some rationale, some not*, and almost all of it in past tense.

*Apparently, within his website, he referenced having buried a small fortune of gold coins in an arboretum near his home – complete with GPS coordinates.  This was proven to be a hoax, and police had to ask people to refrain from digging up the park.

I’m curious to understand the why, when, and how he came to this decision.  Depending on how one interprets this excerpt from an October 2012 post on closing the comment section, he had been planning this for a while:

“As to not having time, I’ll get into that in more detail at a later date, but for now, all I can say is I appreciate the contributions which have been made in the past and I hope the blog continues to provide a source of information and/or entertainment.”

Mainly, I want to see how Martin Manley, a man who defended every controversial opinion with numbers and fact, defends this.  I don’t expect to agree with him, but I expect his rationale to be well thought out.

And that, will be vintage Martin.

May he rest in peace.

Back to School

August already?

Boy, how the summer flew by.  Clearly, many of those well-intended plans would have to be scrapped – or significantly reduced.

Diet?  Er…that didn’t happen.

Finish that class for her Master’s?  Good intentions, but sleep and afternoons at the pool won out.

Having a garden full of vegetables and herbs?  Is crabgrass edible?

Janie hated the pressure she put on herself – the big expectations only led to big disappointment.

Kindergarteners – a whole new class of ’em would be starting their scholastic journey in a few short weeks.  Little faces full of fear, hope, and potential.

(Maybe there was still time for another weekend getaway before the reality of another school year set in….)

Nope, her principal kept nagging her for the list of required school supplies.  Only seems to get earlier every year.  Probably they’ll start back to school shopping for the 2014-15 school year in October….

Quit bitching, there were plenty of chances to do the things she wanted to do.  Really, Janie knew she had chosen to put off her responsibilities.  Stupid, selfish, and shortsighted?  True, but deep down Janie knew she was okay with it.  Understood that being a teacher is hard, underappreciated work for paltry wages.

Very soon she would be back in that classroom, teaching 26 letters to 26 kids.  Worrying that her failures could impact the rest of their lives.

(Xmas break was just over 100 days away, Janie reminded herself…)

Yet, as Janie hung the oversized letters above the pristine whiteboard, she knew it would all work out fine.

Z…where the hell was the Z?

*   *   *

Author’s note – The preceding was in response to a WordPress Daily Prompt entitled “Orderly”.  On the off chance you didn’t catch it, the goal was to start each sentence with a different letter of the alphabet.  I’d like to apologize to any teachers reading this for all of the grammatical and punctuation rules I broke.

Weaving Old Hickory

Author’s note:  This post is part of a WordPress Daily Writing Prompt, about weaving an object or symbol through three unrelated stories.

Don’t worry if this isn’t your cup of tea – there is another snarky Rejects list coming soon!

*   *   *

“Happy birthday, Andrew!”

Andy opened up the blue envelope and pulled out the birthday card his Grandpa had purchased.  He suppressed the urge to roll his eyes when he saw Snoopy staring at him from the front of the card.  Snoopy was for kids.  Andy was 13 now.  Practically grown up, in his mind.  Besides, Grandpa meant well.

Andy opened the card and found the jackpot:  a twenty.  “I’d much rather stare at President Jackson than Snoopy,” Andy thought to himself.  Andy lifted up the twenty for the room to see and thanked Grandpa for the gift.

As he held the twenty dollar bill, he was struck by the crispness, the rigidity of it.  This was a brand new bill.  Andy pictured Grandpa waiting in line at the bank, his gold Buick parked right next to the drive-thru lanes, asking for the newest twenty they had.

The bill was so new and perfect it almost felt fake.  Andy grinned slightly as he pictured Grandpa puttering around the back room of his apartment, counterfeiting twenties.  The perfect crime.  Who would suspect an 84-year-old man?

“What are you going to buy, Andrew my boy?” Grandpa asked.  “Something good, I hope.”

Andy thought about it.  He was going to meet his buddies at the mall later today, and there was a good chance President Jackson would not be coming home.

“Beats me, Grandpa.  But I’ll put it to good use.  Thanks again!”

*   *   *

Rachel wriggled free of the cramped dance floor and into the relatively peaceful bathroom.  You could still hear the house electronica, although it was muffled; the raw, thumping bass was the primary noise.

Rachel let out a relaxing sigh and sat down in an empty stall.  As she peed, she had the sort of epiphanies that seem to only come while on the toilet.

Her life was like this club – chaotic, packed, almost unbearably noisy, and far too expensive, but at same time fun, exciting, and full of people she knew – or would like to know.  She knew that there would be a time where she could no longer stand to go this club and wondered if there would be a time where she could longer stand her life.

Oy, that was depressing.  Rachel shook her head violently to clear out the dark thoughts and opened her small clutch purse.  No new messages on her iPhone.  “I’m like this club,” she thought, “No one will miss us when we’re gone.”

She laid the iPhone on her thigh and pulled the baggie from her purse.  She placed a small line of coke on the phone’s glass face and moved it around with her credit card.  She grabbed a twenty from her purse, rolled it into a tight tube and snorted the coke deep into her body.

As she left the bathroom, the wall of noise, bodies, and sweat hitting her like a ton of bricks, she spied her friends at a table in the corner.  Rachel headed to the bar, twenty in her hand, to buy some shots.  Before they drank the cheap vodka, they toasted with their favorite expression:  “YOLO, bitches!”

*   *   *

As far as class projects went, this one was at least somewhat interesting.  They were to use five pieces of paper money and enter their serial numbers on the Where’s George? website.

Jack was game for this.  Their Economics teacher had told them that you could track the movements of money – dollar bills mostly – as they were used to buy and sell goods, bouncing across the country through businesses, banks, and consumers.  Jack was hopeful that his bills had some good history – or at least some funny comments.

He opened his brown leather wallet.  He only found four one dollar bills.  He plugged their serial numbers into the site and clicked Continue.

Each time, his pulse quickened a little bit, he wanted something interesting, something unique, to feel more connected to the world outside of Waxhas County.

Jack still remembered the times in elementary school when released balloons, always with a note to call or write when they were found.  Jack dreamt of his balloons soaring across the sky, flying farther than everybody else’s, and being found by a famous celebrity who would not only write a letter, but would come of Jack’s town and shake hands with him in front of the whole school.

But Jack’s balloons did not have that destiny.  Only one was ever returned, and it was fished off of an electric line three blocks from school.  The power company raised a big stink and they stopped letting balloons go after that.

Four times Jack entered the serial number, hoping for excitement.  Four times he got next to nothing – a couple of random trips through the local Fed Reserve.  Jack was bummed.  What a stupid assignment.

Jack asked his dad if he could get the serial number of a dollar bill for a project.  Dad only had a wrinkled and worn twenty, and suggested he use that instead.

Jack entered the numbers and clicked Continue.  Out of habit, his adrenaline shot up, even as he mentally prepared himself for another letdown.

As the screen refreshed, Jack’s eyes lit up…

One Thousand Words (A DP Challenge)

Author’s note:  This piece is a bit of a departure from what I usually post.  For those of you who are expecting to read about the Huskers or get a snarky list, feel free to check back soon – there is much more where that came from.

I saw the “Weekly Writing Challenge” on the WordPress Daily Post blog, and was inspired to try something new.  The challenge (“1,000 Words, Take Two”), was to write a post based upon a picture.  While not a specific part of the challenge, I also wanted to make this exactly 1,000 words, which it is (minus these ramblings).

I’ve included the picture at the end of this post so you can see the genesis for this.  I’m curious to know if your mental image of the scene matches the picture that inspired it. 

*   *   *

Marco was upset.

He groaned and drug his feet slowly as he sulked around the kitchen of his family’s tiny apartment.

“You can pout all you want,” Mama said, “but you’re going to get your ass out there and clean up that mess you made”.

“Mm-hmm.”  Marco knew he had no choice.  He gathered up a brush, some rags, and a variety of cleaners from under the sink, dropping them into the old blue mop bucket.

As he walked out the door, Mama called after him “Don’t you dare half-ass this Marco.  I will walk by there tonight, and if it is not done to my satisfaction, I’ll drag your ass out there at midnight to do it again.  You got yourself into this….”

The slam of the door cut Mama off mid-lecture.  Of all the humiliation he’d received, this was probably the worst.

*   *   *

Marco trudged out onto the bright street, blinking away the early morning sun.  As he approached the scene of the crime, his home for the next few hours, he cursed under his breath, “Goddamnit.  The fucking tourists are out already.”  He plopped his bucket down and set up shop.

Why did he do it?  This was the question he could not answer.  Yes, he wanted to fit in.  Marco was tired of the teasing, the taunting, hearing “Polo!” called out behind his back as he walked the halls of his new school.  Maybe if he could show that he was tough enough and cool enough and bad-ass enough to be one of the New Market Eagles, he could transform himself from an invisible face to somebody who is known.  Somebody whose presence – in this school, in this city, in this world – MATTERED.

But was that really the reason?  Marco’s mind wandered like the meandering tourists behind him as he set about his work, rhythmically moving back and forth, up and down, side to side.  He thought about his old friends back home, about living in that tiny apartment above the Vietnamese restaurant that smelled like fish and feet, about seeing Lila again.  Picturing Lila always made the pain go away.  He missed her.

*   *   *

The clanging bell from the street car snapped Marco back into reality.  He had been at this for almost an hour, but it looked like he had barely begun.  Marco poured a bright purple liquid into the mop bucket.

Why did he have to do this?  What difference did it make?  Does Mama really think that if he served this punishment – “right my wrongs” as she always said – he’d suddenly be a better person?  He’d leave a bad path for the straight and narrow?  Did Mama think that he would fondly recount this story when he was elected President of the United States, became a judge, or one of the men in their fancy suits who never made eye contact with people who looked like Marco?  The thought made him snicker with disgust.

On and on he worked.  Knees aching, arms burning, a faint pool of sweat collecting in the small of his back.  Hunger was definitely setting in.  Marco could smell the street vendors setting up their carts.  The aromas from the hotdogs, empanadas, and other treats filled the narrow street and bounced off the walls into his nose.  Marco knew none of these delicious foods were waiting for him at home.  Today was the 28th, and Mama did not get paid again until the 31st.  Besides, Marco knew better than to take a lunch break before his work was done.

*   *   *

What was the worst?  The absolute, rock bottom lowest point?  Marco had been wrestling with this question too.  Was it having to face Mama?  Watching those stupid cops smirk as she lit into him, calling him “stupid” and an “embarrassment”?  Serving this punishment?  He still didn’t know.

Progress.

Marco knew it wasn’t just the shadows from the tall buildings blocking the light, the yellow was definitely fading.  His optimism slightly renewed, Marco attacked anew.  But the blue…That blue was being a stubborn little bitch.  He continued on.

*   *   *

More laughter.

Marco’s face flushed and his ears burned red.  The people and the goddamn tourists continued to file past, suppressing their bemused looks and giggles at his expense.  The one time Marco didn’t blend into the background was now, as he performed this humiliating and exhausting task.

And then he knew:  the worst was the realization that his so-called friends bailed and left him holding the bag – literally and figuratively.

The worst was that he hadn’t actually done anything wrong.  He had not helped to shoplift the paint.  He had not defaced any public property.  Hell, he had not even touched any of the goddamn cans.  Marco was just standing there watching the other New Market Eagles tag that wall when the patrol car crept past the entrance to the street.

That is when the chaos began.  Luis yelling “Cerdo!” – the Spanish word for pig – and running faster than he’d ever seen that fat bastard run.  Hector thrusting the backpack full of cans at Marco – why did he take it?  Sam, who was actually holding the paint, hissing “N.M.E.’s don’t turn on their own” as he bolted.  The forceful shock as somebody – was it Tiny? – shoved him in the back.

Marco tripped on one of the steps, the backpack and cans flying everywhere, giving that damn cop enough time to pin him to the ground.

*   *   *

And so Marco kept scrubbing the wall.  Kept cleaning up a mess he did not make.  Made by people who were not his friends.  On a building in a town where he didn’t belong.  Just so the one person in the world who loved and respected him – Mama – would continue to do so.

The blue was still being a stubborn little bitch, not wanting to come off.  Marco did not know it, but that blue would be there until the day he died, forever taunting him.

(photo by Cheri Lucas, via WordPress.com)

 

Should I Quit (hand) Writing?

I’ve never had good handwriting.

In elementary school, the worst grades I received were in handwriting.  I never mastered the proper pencil grip – even with those rubber triangle wedge thingys – so I hold a pen like it’s trying to run away.

I ditched cursive sometime in high school.  In college, I switched to an all caps style of penmanship.  Not the cool-looking architect writing that my sister and brother-in-law have mastered, something far less beautiful.  The main reason for the switch was that I couldn’t read the notes I was taking in class.  And in the years since college, my handwriting has not improved.  It is actually regressing.

This really hit home for me as I was writing out a personal note on a birthday card to my lovely wife (Happy birthday, sweetie!).  It looked like a drunken seven-year old wrote it out.  With a vibrating pen.  While riding in a car.  On a bumpy country road.  At night.  Poor Mrs. FeitCanWrite is probably going to need a translator just to get through it – assuming there is anybody alive who can read my handwriting.  I’m like a doctor, but without the nice white coat and fat paycheck.

How did I get here?

The semi-ironic part is that for somebody who goes by FeitCanWrite, I do very little pen on paper writing:  random notes here and there, a grocery list or quick to-do checklist.  My 8 – 5 jobs have been largely computer-centric, so I type much, much more than I hand write.  I’ve almost completely switched over from taking notes with pen and paper to using OneNote* on my work laptop or smart phone.  I type emails, compose drafts of documentation, and do all of my Feit Can Write writing electronically.

*OneNote is a wonderful program for chronic list makers, note takers, and those who are prone to saying “I need to write that down or I’ll never remember” and “Now what was that thing so-and-so mentioned?”.  I’ve been using the program for a little over six months, and it is becoming indispensable in my professional life.  Meeting notes, to-do lists, cheat sheets of user accounts, URLs, and other things I need when I’m out and about.  Plus, many blog posts start as an idea while I’m driving and get jotted down in OneNote (from a parking lot) before I forget.  Okay…enough with the commercial.  Back to regular programming.

And let’s face it:  typing is a complete no-brainer for me.  It is legible, spellcheck makes sure that I spell legible correctly (I didn’t the first time around), cut and paste allows me to move sentences and paragraphs around to where they fit better, I can easily delete a part that sucks, and so much more.  Typing is just a tremendous time saver for me – and my intended audience can actually read it, which is fairly important in written communication.

So why should I ever hand write anything again?  About the only thing that is important enough for me to hand write are the little notes I put inside cards to my wife, but other than that?  I can’t think of much other than “milk, bread, eggs, cereal, fruit…”

This is where I should bemoan the pending loss of the (hand) written word, but when your handwriting looks like mine, it’s pretty low in the grand scheme of things – somewhere between the loss of landline telephones and driving to a store to rent a VHS movie – quaint things folks did in the 20th century that seem so ridiculous now.  Or am I wrong?

Life Lessons from a Football Shoe

Yesterday, I posted about a viral video teasing the football cleats Nebraska will wear against Wisconsin.  I wrote about it because the topic had a number of things that appealed to me – Husker football, uniforms, a timely topic, marketing, and the opportunity to be creative and sarcastic.

I figured it would be one of those things that would primarily appeal to me, and a handful of others.  I acknowledged this with an asterisked aside in the post:

The video does a decent job of generating interest – at least for those of us who are moderately obsessive about Nebraska, uniforms, or fancy shoes*

*Writing about such broad and popular topics, it is a wonder that my readership isn’t in the millions.

So obviously this post racked up the views yesterday.  Thanks to this piece, FeitCanWrite had its best readership day yet – a 50% jump over my previous best day*.

*I won’t bore you with the numbers (or make you sad with my pedestrian stats), but my readership still has not reached the millions….Yet….

It just goes to show two important life lessons:

1) In life, whenever you are sure of something, you should prepare yourself for the opposite to happen.

2) Never underestimate the passion of Nebraska football fans.

Year in Review

Today marks the 1 Year Anniversary of Feit Can Write.  What started as a (in part) a vehicle for me to further a freelance writing lifestyle has turned into a major creative outlet and a platform for me to share my views and opinions with the world*.

*Or at least the microscopic corner of the world that is friends with me on Facebook.  Also – I am definitely available for any freelance writing needs that you may have.

 

Random Feit Can Write facts and stats from the past year:

  • Over 8,000 page views, at least 40 of which came from people outside of my family and Facebook friends.
  • Readers (or at least accidental clicks) from over 60 different countries, including Sri Lanka, Luxembourg, and Northern Mariana Islands.
  • 138 posts (not including this one)
  • The most read post was about my plan to blow up college football.
  • The Thought of the Day from Nov. 30 has drawn four measly views (which is sad, because I think this one is pretty good).
  • 139 reader comments.  Let’s pick it up a little bit here people.  Most of these comments are either me responding to somebody or the…um…interesting dude who berated/threatened me pretty for my thoughts on Penn State.  This year, I’d like to see some more interaction from my dozens of faithful readers.  Tell me what you like, what you hate, or feel free to be like our pal Marty and threaten karma on my ___ for no good reason.
  • My work has been co-posted on huskermax.com and the Kansas City Star’s website.
  • The two Google search phrases that have driven the most viewers to this site?  “Meaning of Feit” and “Zuri Garibovi“.
  • Other Google search phrases that led people here include:  “normal looking guy”, “mizzou trough urinal”, and “gays per capita city lincoln, ne”.  I hope you found what you were looking for.

Without turning this into a weird mix of the clip show episode of a sitcom and an awkward awards ceremony thank you speech, I’d like to thank you all for reading, commenting, Liking, sharing, and any other feedback you give me.  While I’d probably still be doing this if I was the only one reading it, it definitely makes it more special for me to know that others are drawing enjoyment from what I’m doing.

Thanks again!

dave

Posts (Not) Coming Soon

I’m getting a little more space between my posts than I’d like, but it is not for a lack of content.  I’ve got a handful of things that I’m working on*, tinkering with, and planning to write about.

*And by “working on”, I mean that 30 minute window after the 3 year old goes to bed, the house is picked up, the baby is fed, my wife is done with the laptop, and we catch up on our DVR; but before I get too tired or lose the motivation to write. 

But fear not…there are many great pieces in the works.  So to tease you a little bit, here is a quick list of posts I’m (not) working on:

  • Do the Kansas City Royals Have the Best Pitching in the AL?
  • Double the Kids, Double the Productivity!
  • How Allowing Gay Marriage Has Ruined My Marriage.
  • The Musical Genius of AC/DC
  • My Summer Without Air Conditioning
  • How A Small Blog Has Made Me A Millionaire!
  • How to Win At “Scramble With Friends”
  • Why The Bachelorette is the Best Show on TV

And…to make it more fun:  Leave a comment with the post you’d like to read, and I’ll (truly) make it happen.

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