Posts filed under ‘travel’

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Protected: The Road To Happiness

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Continue Reading August 24, 2012 at 3:58 am Enter your password to view comments.

Greetings from Thailand!

I am going to be banned from every goth club in the universe! I am so sunburned right now I can barely move. Some of the burns are turning into tans. I’m losing my corpselike pallor!

In this process I’ve learned that I’m not much of a beach bum. Some people can lie on beaches for hours and be content to just, well, lie there. I don’t like sun. I particularly dislike sun when it’s coming at you fro 8 degrees above the equator and no amount of sun block or shade or other things that deflects the light in New England do anything for you.

I’m not complaining, I’m having an awesome time here! Yesterday Mikala and I went kayaking on the ocean around these gorgeous limestone cliffs. We went into little caves and found hidden coves with tiny deserted beaches. Fish swarmed around our feet as we swam and cranes swooped overhead. It was unreal it was so beautiful. However, the sun sucks. Being a cranky New Englander, I’m also not used to these temperatures (at night it goes down to a balmy 87 on lucky cool nights)!

Thailand is like a postcard with its emerald green clear ocean and towering jagged cliffs. The people are ridiculously friendly, even to clueless bumbling tourists, and stuff is generally safe. Thailand rules! But OMG the weather. It’s hot. As budget travelers, we’ve only stayed in one place with AC. I think if I had to do it again, I’d be a little less bugety and more into comfort!

March 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm Leave a comment

Extreme Sports = been there, done that.

Here I am in Thailand, so far it’s been awesome! I’m here with my mother and 17-year-old niece Mikala. Moth insisted Mikala and I do something “fun” today without her. I was all about whitewater rafting, but apparently it’s the dry season, so you can’t really do that. So, instead, we decided to go jungle ziplining. I have always liked the idea of doing stuff like bungee jumping and skydiving, so why not? Ziplining is somewhat educational; you get to see the jungle and stuff. Cool, right?

Holy crap.

When I was little, I would always stand at the top of cliffs and buildings and things look over the edge. I liked the sensation of being up high. However, I started getting vertigo in my old age like 7 or 8 years ago. It was weird– I’d stand at the top of the spiral staircase that went to the basement of the Newbury Comics warehouse and my entire body would be dizzy and screaming “YOU’RE ABOUT TO DIE! ABORT MISSION!” while my brain would be intellectually saying “you’re at the top of a staircase. Big deal.” The disconnect between the two things was so weird and such a novel sensation that I used to make excuses to go to the basement all the time just to experience it.

Since then I’ve largely ignored it, so I figured I’d be fine on the ziplining course. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s where you go from platform to platform on trees high up by a pully on a harness that rolls on a cable.

Here’s the link to what I did

It was fun, but truthfully, I’m glad I never have to do it again. The thought of bungee jumping makes me want to die right now. Skydiving? ::shudder::

So, my story and I’m sticking to it is that I’ve done extreme sports and now I’m done with that scene.

The actual going from tree platform to tree platform was fun! It was just the attempts to make it more extreme, like shaking the lines, making us go “like superman or superwoman” (usually you go sitting down, and you hang onto the harness, one time they clipped the pulley to your back so you’re going hands free) and the worst– the abeille. I didn’t know what that meant. It listed in the brochure that there were 3 abeilles. Ok. Whatever. Yeah, that’s when you go STRAIGHT DOWN. Seriously. The platform is directly below you and they just drop you down. HO LEE SHIT. Down. The length of a 4-storey building. It was weirdly exhilarating I guess, but really. I could have done without that. It was weird, because I knew it was totally safe. It wasn’t the fear of death or injury; just the vertigo! I screamed like a little bitch; I haven’t screamed like that in years!

So, if you ever want to go bungee jumping, don’t call me, OK?

March 16, 2012 at 11:16 am Leave a comment


I never put much stock into the Myers-Briggs personality test. It always seemed like a convenient way for nerds to avoid having to have contact with people they don’t like (i.e., “I can’t talk about that  to my boss, she’s clearly an ESTJ”). However, the older I get, the more it seems to make sense. Or, the older I get, the less patience I have and the less time I want to spend contemplating the subtle nuances of peoples’ individual miraculous snowflake-like personalities and the more I want to just lump them into categories. This is where Myers-Briggs comes in handy.

Today, like most of the time, I am here to talk about my mother. I’m not going to bring up past events; I’m just going to talk about aspects of her INFuriating Personality that are currently DRIVING ME BATSHIT CRAZY. I never use the term “batshit crazy” because I don’t exactly know what it means. How crazy is bat shit anyway? People spend a lot of money for it to put on their prize orchids or pot plants or whatever, so it can’t be that crazy, right? When I think of bat shit, I picture the scene from <i>Planet Earth</i> that BBC documentary series where the bat is flying around in his little cave full of 6 feet of bat poop and he falls into it and smothers to death. That’s what my mother’s crazy does. It will smother you to a smelly death.

We’re supposed to go to Thailand. OK, we’re going. MIkala was a little wishy-washy at first (see previous post), but she really wants us to come visit. So… I’m TRYING TO GET SOME FREAKING TICKETS! Now, I understand that Moth doesn’t have a lot of money and that she’s naturally thrifty. Of course I’d like to save money if I can; I’m by no stretch of the imagination wealthy either. However, this does not mean I want to travel in the hold of a hamster wheel-propelled cargo ship smuggling leaky nuclear waste barrels and underage Polish hookers to Uzbekistan in order to save $25 on the ticket price. She totally would.

I found some tickets out of Boston for about $1400. I know that’s not cheap, but I can afford it. I was fine with that. I found some good days to travel and I was ready to book tickets.

BUT WAIT! She says. She has to talk to “some guy.”

The guy she talked to organizes trips to Thailand for people who don’t have health insurance to get surgery. (“Do you need any procedures done? You should get them done while we’re here!” she said. “Hmmm. I’ve been thinking about that sex change,” I answered. “… … what sex would you become?” “Definitely a hermaphrodite.” I said. “You’re not supposed to say that anymore. I think it’s transsexxed or intrasexed or something?” –for the record, it’s “intersexed” but anyway…)

Moth sees This Dude as some kind of peoples’ hero– getting the Common Man his triple bypasses and Common Woman her mastectomies by sticking it to The Man. OK, I can see the point. There have been many decades in my life when I didn’t have health insurance, and a cheap operation would have been a good option had I had to have had one (is that even a real verb tense?). Anyway, apparently This Dude went off on how all the airlines listed on and Travelocity and those places are fascist tools of the patriarchy or whatever and that we should fly these other airlines. Truthfully, I had never heard of Cathay Pacific Airlines, but apparently they are the third largest airline on the planet. Qatar Airlines was the other one Moth remembered him mentioning. I don’t know anything about that one. What I do know is, while I don’t expect free martinis and a hot tub on my flight, since I’m going to be in the air for, like 29 hours, I would like to know that there will be a bathroom and snacks.

Moth can’t commit to a date. I had several dates picked out that were awesome. Unfortunately in this circumstance, Cathay Pacific airlines has a chart that they show you when you put in your travel times that shows what the fares are if you go on different days. Some of the days (like Saturdays, for example) are way more expensive to fly on. Other days differ by as little as $15. Moth has been trying to find the cheapest combination of days, and every time I find some days that work, she can’t commit to them because there may be a cheaper time somewhere.

I have a real job. I can’t just go flitting off at a moment’s notice for however long I want to. It’s not like I’m AN ARTIST or anything! She wants to go for longer than 2 weeks now. I really don’t want to be away that long. I already have used a couple of sick days when I had the Arisia Plague this year, and I only get 3(?) weeks to begin with. I tried the tactic of  “The more time I spend in Thailand, that means the less time I get to spend with you on Christmas,” but Moth’s fruit-fly-esque attention span didn’t catch that remark.

She keeps demanding to know what days I can go. I CAN GO PRETTY MUCH ANY DAY, I JUST CAN’T TAKE OFF THE ENTIRE MONTH OF MARCH! She doesn’t understand this concept. I can take off any two weeks I want whenever. I just can’t take more than 2 weeks. In Moth’s mind, if I am free any time, why can’t I just so to Thailand for, like the next 3 months? Now I have an event. I finally gave her some kind of parameters (she was desperate for some since she has none herself)– Doug is going to see Swervedriver on the 29th of March and has another ticket. I am totally psyched to go. However, when I told Moth about the show, she was all like “oh, you have  BOYFRIEND. Don’t let me stand in your WAY! Are you sure you even want to come to Thailand? I mean, if you’d rather just STAY HOME WITH HIM…” It was all dripping with sarcasm. Note: many things my mother says that would be said sarcastically by most of the populace are NOT said with sarcasm. This was.

WTF?!?! I can’t win. I just want to get some freaking tickets and get the hell off this continent for 2 weeks! If it were up to me I would have booked a flight weeks ago. ARRRRGGHHHHHH!!!!!

OK, I am calm now. I’m just frustrated beyond belief right now.

CALM BLUE OCEAN CALM BLUE OCEAN I am picturing myself lying peacefully on a beach… getting sand in my eyes and stepping on a portuguese Man o’war… argh. This isn’t working. Poop.

What does this have to do with Myers Briggs again? I don’t remember. All I know is I am one annoyed INTP (with INTJ tendencies apparently). Funny what a difference one little letter can make.

February 11, 2012 at 5:30 am Leave a comment

Travel or… ?

At the beginning of the year I decided that I was going to go to England or Scotland in February to see Big Country live. December 16th was the 10th anniversary of Stuart Adamson’s death and I’d been thinking a lot about BC lately. Well, it turns out that the remaining members, plus Bruce Watson’s son & the guy from The Alarm singing are doing a bunch of shows where they play The Crossing in its entirety. HOLY CRAP AWESOME, right? England and/or Scotland in early-mid February doesn’t sound like the most relaxing, romantic vacation ever, but so what– Big Country!

Then Little Bitch told me about this trip to Cuba that he and his friends are taking in May. CUBA! You have to get there by flying from Canada first! Cool! I could put to use the Spanish I speak like a 5 year old!

Then Mikala decided to do a couple of months volunteering teaching English in Thailand and wanted to spend the last 3 weeks travelling, going to Ankor Wat and stuff like that. She wanted a travelling companion and Allie doesn’t want her to go alone. COOL, THAILAND!

So, which do I pick? It was a tough decision, but I decided on Thailand. Then Lil Bitch’s friends all bailed on the Cuba trip, that’s OK, whatever. Now Mikala has heard from another place in Thailand where she wanted to volunteer to clean up beaches or something. Now she wants to spend the last 3 weeks volunteering, and isn’t sure if she wants to travel anymore.

The Big Country thing I wanted to go to in England is Feb 11th, although it doesn’t look like there are still tickets available for that show. I’d like to go to the one in Dunfermline (hometown of Stuart Adamson & Bruce Watson as well as the Skids), but that one’s even closer, on Feb 7th. Of course, when I was planning this, back in November, the round trip tickets to London were about $250. Now they’re in the $700 range.

So, it looks like I’m not going anywhere this year, unless I can think of somewhere else and get off my butt to plan it. I’d really like to go to Peru. Will this be the year? I’ve been wanting to go there for decades! Hmmm. I’ve been looking at field schools around the world, too…

January 27, 2012 at 3:06 am Leave a comment

World Travels, Part Two

The past 2 weeks have been a blur of traveling! I’ll start with the most recent episode first. Jesse (Tanya’s Cousin) and Didi got married this past weekend in Maine. I rode up with Laura & Jack and the Kid. It’s a 5 hour car trip since this was near Bangor. Since Jesse and Didi are big fans of pie, they decided to have lots of pies at the reception in lieu of a traditional cake. Thus Laura spent all day Friday making pies while I occupied the Tiny Terror’s attention. We set off with the car full of pie for the Great Not-Yet-White North around 7:00 and got to the site sometime after midnight. I was in heaven– I was in a car surrounded by pie! Then I realized, wait, I can’t actually eat the pie. Perhaps this was the other place; not heaven!

The festivities took place at a boy scout camp (J & D met there or something, I forget the story), so most of us stayed in the rather rustic cabins there. Now northern Maine has a slightly different climate from Boston’s, something that I must have taken into consideration at some point because I checked the weather there 5 times before I left. For some reason, though, I only looked at the daytime high temperature. I didn’t think about checking the low temperatures, not remembering that they would definitely affect people staying in cabins that are normally used just in the summer.

I stumbled through the pitch black woods to the cabin with Rob after we unloaded the pies, completely disoriented. Jack, Laura & The Kid were staying in a hotel because they really didn’t want to deal with a still jet-lagged baby in these provincial conditions and who could blame them? I, still dressed in my light cotton capri pants and a t-shirt because it had been 70 degrees and sunny in Boston, huddled around the campfire, frequently rotating to expose all sides of my body to the heat, much like one would roast a marshmallow. I finally put on all my 21st century clothes at once (this was a Victorian themed wedding and I had made a dress, more on that later) and climbed into my trusty sleeping bag. Once inside I realized that I had no idea what the temperature rating on the bag was. I inherited it from a former housemate years ago and had only field tested it in summer months, or whilst crashing in buildings featuring heating systems. I discovered fairly rapidly that it is definitely not rated for mid-October nights in northern Maine. I was OK if I scrunched my body into a fetal position with my head inside the bag and then didn’t do things like move, twitch, or breathe lest I expose a piece of body to the frigid pockets of air that were lurking in every fold and crease of the bag. Plus, as I always camped with Pad, and he is a purist, I didn’t bring a pillow. Pillows are for wimps. You stuff clothing into your sleeping bag sack and use that if your dainty little head needs anything at all. Well, it worked fine for my 12-year-old self, but my 37-year-old self woke up shivering at 4:00 a.m. with a major stiff neck from being oddly wedged against the rail of the top bunk and the lumpy zipper of my cotton pants which were the only article of clothing I wasn’t wearing and therefore had stuffed into the sack.

I woke up at 4 a.m. with pains in my neck and specks of cold around my body that threatened to expand should I accidentally sneeze or if the earth rotated or anything. Below me and across the narrow aisle from me my cabin mates were snoring like twin buzzsaws, often in unison, occasionally in harmony. The sounds coming from the lower bunk across the almost person-width aisle were lighter, gentler snores, kind of like my cat’s, only more manic. As I lay there contemplating the chilly absolute blackness, I thought to myself, “THIS FUCKING SUCKS!”

I then came to another realization. I had never been this miserable with sleeping conditions before. Now I have slept in some pretty unfavorable conditions. Always a traveler on a budget, I’ve caught Z’s in my share of doorways, train station floors, airport benches, decks of ferry boats, buses and pretty much any other transportation vehicle out there. I slept on the road in the scrubby, dusty desert when my truck broke down in northern Kenya. I’ve camped all over and crashed on the floors of friends with all manner of crappy, dirty, cramped and loud apartments (my favorite being when I slept on a pile of dirty clothes at a place Squeals lived for a time). I’ve stayed in sketchy hotels, motels, B & Bs, pensiones, hostels and YMCAs all over the world. If your B&B doesn’t have a surly bearded woman grunting while shoving indescribable bread products at you in the morning, you’re not really traveling! –that’s my motto. However, no matter the circumstances, I never really minded because I don’t care about accommodations. I can sleep anywhere. If you get a crappy night’s sleep, you get up the next morning, have a cup of tea and try to find a way to not repeat it that night.

So the fact that I woke up thinking THIS SUCKS was kind of significant. I feel like I’ve reached another one of life’s milestones, like finding a grey hair, paying taxes, or losing a tooth. I have become Old and Wimpy. Maybe this means I’ve grown up? Maybe it means I’m wealthy and used to living the Good Life? At any rate, staying in a bunkbed in a drafty cabin when the temperature is predicted to be in the 20’s is no longer a goal in my book! Needless to say, I crashed the next night on Laura’s and Jack’s hotel room floor.

The wedding itself was really nice! I am notorious for hating weddings. For a spell, when many of my friends and acquaintances were becoming espoused, I made a hobby of avoiding weddings. I am generally not a fan of things involving hordes of people engaging in mass outpourings of trite, sentimental platitudes. However, this wedding was a mixture of traditional and funky hippiness– there was humor in it, and I dig humor. I think I just get twitchy when I am surrounded by people who are taking something really really seriously when I’m not. I mean, weddings in my mind should be fun! They shouldn’t just be exercises in spewing hackneyed statements to people whom you purposely haven’t seen in decades as some tend to be. This wedding was outdoors in the sunshine (it warmed up to the low 50s by then), and the scenery was beautiful. Though rather frosty, Maine is beautiful at this time of year– it was by a small lake and all the trees were turning colors. It was a postcard perfect day (if you disregarded the breeze which seemed to come from all directions at once).

The reception was in the camp dining hall. Being a token single person, I always get put at the Random Leftover People table. Usually this table includes that great-uncle you had to invite to keep family harmony, some co-workers and maybe an old family friend or two. At this wedding, the random folks were actually pretty cool. One chick made her own Victorian-oid garb and she was funny and interesting. Her husband was wearing a vintage military uniform from the 1880s with a kilt. He bought me drinks all night, too. They were pretty cool. Of course I can’t remember their names for the life of me, but they were pretty chill.

The wedding was sort of Victorian themed, so I spent forever making an outfit for it. It turned out that Laura and I were the only ones in full Victorian garb– a few people (like the chick at my table) had made efforts– a blouse here, a skirt there– but I felt like I stood out like a sore thumb. Plus, I have not made an article of clothing since I was a teenager, so it wasn’t holding together that well in places. I do feel like I accomplished something in making it, though. It makes me look like a school marm, but a lot of the fashion of that era has that look.

Anyway… I’m back home now after 2 weeks of travelling. Though I love The Kid to pieces, I’m happy to have a day away from him!

October 12, 2010 at 1:34 am Leave a comment

Back to the cold north…

I got back from Mexico yesterday. It was AWESOME!!!! I even was understanding a lot of Spanish and able to say words and phrases here and there towards the end. I can read pretty well it turns out (I read the first 3 pages of “Twilight” (“Crepúsculo”) in a bookstore), but I can’t understand much and I can’t speak for shit! Contrary to what every one says, “everyone speaks English there” really doesn’t apply. Sure, most people know about as much English as I know Spanish, but at times the Spanglish interchanges got a little confusing. For example, I went to eat dinner at this cafe near the hotel– the menu was hand written on the door. Locals were gathered around a small tv watching lucha libre with poor reception (the tv, not the audience!). The owner started listing things to me. I just said “yes” to one. I didn’t know what it was, but I figure there is very little out there that I don’t like, and the likelihood of a small local cafe with 3 tables in it serving durian, parsnips or blue popsicles is very low. It turned out to be some nice chicken thing with frijoles negros (black beans). When the guy said some conjugation of “beber” (to drink), I said “jugo de naranja?” (orange juice). It turned out they were out of orange juice, so he held up two different juices, one purple and one a milky white. I pointed to the purple one. It was delicious! I have absolutely no idea what it was, and I even asked, but I didn’t write it down, and when I asked again, the guy thought he hadn’t understood me and said something else. Oh well. When I sat down they changed the tv to “Remember the Titans.” it’s kind of surreal watching Denzel Washington give stirring speeches dubbed in Spanish. All in all the trip was super awesome!!!

We went to Chichén Itza and Uzmal which are two Mayan ruin sites. Thus, most of my pictures are of piles of rocks. I took 400 pictures and, well, probably 3/4 of them are of ruins. Look! It’s a crumbling archway! Look! It’s half a doorway! Look! It’s 5 pictures of a tumbled down wall! Anyway, I have some of them here. My new camera is awesome, but I don’t know how to set it to take smaller pictures. Thus every one is like humongous and takes forever to upload and I am way too lazy to go into Photoshop and make them all smaller. Here are the ones of Mérida and Chichén Itza:

February 16, 2010 at 3:28 am 1 comment

Dear U.S. State Department, Please Bite me.


Why is it that institutions with the most complex rules have the lamest websites? I lost my passport and need to get another one before February 6th when I GO TO MEXICO!!!! So, I looked on the U>S. State Department’s website to see what to do in case of a lost passport. It said fill out a DS64 form and a DS11 form and that I’d need to appear in person to submit them. So, I printed out forms, filled them out and took the train downtown to the Passport building where I took off my belt, went through the metal detector and everything exciting like that. I get to the hall where the office is (it’s in the Tip O’Neill building, which is super modern and awesome despite the big round cement things they put up in front after 9/11 to keep car bombers out) and I am greeted by the security dude saying “what time is your appointment?”

Now on the website, it says the only reason you need to make an appointment is if you are leaving the country within 14 days, and if you are not leaving within that timeframe, don’t waste their time making one. So I explained, and he let me into the office where the dude behind bulletproof glass told me I had to make an appointment if I wanted a passport ASAP but otherwise I didn’t have to go there, I had to phone in that I lost my passport and mail the rest.

He gave me a number to call.

I called the number.

The number has a recording that told me to call another number.

So I called that number. It was the main passport hotline which I had already called that morning.

i finally got a lady who told me that I yes, I needed to appear in person to apply for a new passport, but I needed copies of my drivers’ licence, proof of citizenship (i.e. birth certificate) and to make a copy of the DS64 form to give to the passport issuing people and to mail the original to another section of the State Department.

I took the train to Staples and bought some giant envelopes to send stuff out in and made copies of every piece of ID I had with me, including my SS card. I figured it wouldn’t hurt.

Then I read the DS-11 form and there was a part where I had to swear to the truthfulness of the statement to some authority person before I could sign it.

Confused, I headed to Kinko’s to use the innernets to see if it would clarify things. Of course, Kinko’s had gone out of business and the only other place I could think of to use the innernets was this shady internet cafe/souvenir store/pool hall at the other end of downtown which may or may not still exist. So I called the passport hotline again. I got through about 15 menus, none of them helping when I gave up because my cellphone battery was dying.

I took the train back to the Top O’Neill building, took off my belt and coat and emptied my pockets for the metal detector and went back up to the stairs to the Passport office. There was a different security guy there. This one looked very military, in that hardcore clean-cut kind of way. “When is your appointment?” he asked predictably. I explained my situation and said, “so I need to show up in person right?” “correct,” said the security guy. “But I need an appointment, and the hotline says you can only make appointments if you need a passport within 141 days.” “Correct,” said the guy. “So how do I appear in person if I can’t make an appointment and you can’t see anyone without an appointment?” “Oh,” said the security guy. “You need to appear in person, but not HERE. you need to show up at the post office.”

WTF?!? Why didn’t someone say that in the first place? I had no idea the post office does these kinds of things!

So i got back on the train and went downtown to the post office. When I got there, I started assembling all the stuff I needed (luckily I had taken passport pictures a while ago and then lost them and then found the previous set I had thought i lost and used those instead before I then found the ones I had taken to replace the 1st lost set. Confused yet? I am.). i discovered that I didn’t have the original copy of the ds-64; I had probably left it in the copy machine at Staples. So, I walked over to Staples (luckily it was in the neighborhood). The form wasn’t there on the machine. I rifled through the trash and there it was!

The first time i went to the post office, it was deserted. This is a very strange state for the Downtown Crossing post office to be in; usually there is a huge line at all hours of the day. Of course when I got back there was the usual line. I waited forever and when I got to the counter I handed all my stuff to the lady. She took one look at my forms and said, “these are filled out in blue ink. You have to fill them out with black.” So I had to go over to another table and fill out more forms.

When I got back to the counter, a different lady looked over all my stuff and freaked out because I had photocopied my Social Security card. Apparently not only do they not need it, the mere sight of it gives them hives.

Finally, 4 hours after I had begun my odyssey, I got my passport application on its merry way. It also turned out I didn’t need any of the envelopes I had bought.


On the way home, though, I finally got a Cambridge library card. The day wasn’t a complete bust!

January 13, 2010 at 10:59 pm Leave a comment

Experiments in Mex-Italian fusion cuisine

Yesterday I bought one of those Old El Paso Taco dinner kits. I’m not sure what had me in the mood for tacos, but they were AWESOME!!!! Those really hit the spot. Today I didn’t have any taco shells left, but I had everyting that goes into tacos + some cooked spaghetti noodles leftover from the night before, so I decided to make tacghetti. It was surprisingly tasty!

I have a week off in February when Laura, Jack & the Little Dude are going away. I told this to Moth and she decided we should use her frequent flyer miles to go to Mexico. See? Maybe if I had made General Gao’s spaghetti she would have wanted to go to China?

Anyway, we’re going to Mexico and I AM PSYCHED!!! I’ve never been to Mexico before, and I’m all about the Mayan ruins. We just have to figure out where we want to go now in Mexico. Oh yeah, I should brush up on my crappy Spanish…

January 4, 2010 at 2:07 am Leave a comment


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