Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Andis Kaulins in China Weekly: August 26 to September 1, 2013

Gratitude:  With the Summer coming to an end and public school starting up for another year, there are many things I can be thankful for this week like the fact that I won't be seeing twerps so often and that Tony is in his first year of Primary School.
Acknowledgment: I have avoided dealing with a lot of issues of which some you can read about below.
Requests: Please visit Views of China from Casa Kaulins! Lots of interesting things to be seen if you spend a little time exploring it. Also be sure to visit the page dedicated to my father.

The AKIC Week in Brief: The last week of Summer for Tony & I. Tony and Jenny went to Shanghai early in the week so I had the apartment to myself. I worked at school where our busy period was winding down. Tony sat in his primary school class for the first time on Sunday. I was happy to wish off our summer students to their regular schools.

About AKIC: If you want to learn what Andis & AKIC are all about, you can visit here.

If there are things you don't know about, like places and people I mention in the entries below, you can go here to find out what they are all about.

AKIC Weekly Features:

I in in China!  星期六,我儿子开始去小学。星期六晚上,我和我儿子去了万大广商。这个星期,我工作了星期二到星期六。星期一和星期天,我没有工作。

I am Canadian! How I miss Tim Horton's! How I miss Hockey Night in Canada!

I am Latvian (sort of)! To be honest, I don't give the fact much thought, and don't have much to say about it. It is a fact that plays little in my life.

Politically I am Conservative/Reactionary! I didn't start out that way, all those years ago. In my early twenties, I was boasting that I was a socialist. Rush Limbaugh and common sense changed that.

I teach English! At my school, September means the end of being busy as the twerpish students return to their Monday to Friday 7:00 to 5:00 school.
I am not a freak! I like to think of myself as something of an eccentric.
I like to Read! Here is what I had been working my way through the past week:
Don Colacho's Aphorisms.  There are 2,988 of them in this book that I compiled for myself.  I read ten aphorisms at a time.  I cut and paste the better ones -- they are all profound actually -- and I put them in my weekly blog entry. (See below)
Ulysses by James Joyce.  I am following along with Frank Delaney as he slowly guides podcast listeners through Joyce's hard-to-read novel.  Delaney figures he will have the whole novel covered in about 22 years.  Delaney completed episode #169 this week and is working his way through the chapter that introduces Leopold Bloom. I am getting ahead of Delaney as far as reading the book.  I will be finished my reading of it, I figure, in a year. I read the novel despite its many blasphemies. It is best to be aware of this stuff because the world is full of it, and the world will always find a way of slapping you in the face with it

The Holy Bible King James Version.   I am reading a chapter, or more, a day of the greatest book of all-time. I have finished the First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy and the Second Epistle of Paul to Timothy as well. I am now reading The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Titus.

Columns by Father Schall. I have been able to take all his archived writings and place them on the Dotdotdot app.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Like Father Schall's writings, I have been able to place them on the Dotdotdot app.

Diary of a Nobody by Weedon Goldsmith. I don't know if I got this book because I liked the title or because I found a recommendation for it on the Web. Either way, I like it. It is funny! Mister Gowing is coming, and Mister Cummings is going! What fun! And I now know of a manner in which to write my diary...

The New Republic by WH Mallock. Finished. I read it because mention of it was made in the comment sections of one of the recent entries in David Warren's blog. Half way through it, I wondered why it was that I hadn't heard of this book till last week. It is well-written, a real page-turner, and it deals with all the issues I like to reflect on.

The Limits of Pure Democracy by WH Mallock. I am reading this book on the recommendation of David Warren who says it is essential reading for students of political science.

Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard. Finished. I now have about thirty Elmore Leonard novels and whatnot on my Ipad. At random, I picked this one to read. I almost blanched at the fact that it was a story about Nazi skinheads and anti-government types, but it was a short story so I decided to forgive the fact that it was almost left-wing porn.

I like to take photos

I like to make videos

I like to cut and paste quotations:
Blaise Pascal:
All of man’s misfortune comes from one thing, which is not knowing how to sit quietly in a room. [LECTOR: Why do you stay in your office and rarely go out of it to talk to anyone? ANDIS: I don't want trouble.]

Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1435 Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one's brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one's cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance. [This is all good, but there is one thing I wonder about. Who are my brethren? I am going to have to search the Internet to find any.]

Below is my usual batch of Don Colacho quotes. The first four are aphorisms added along with essays at the end of my 2,988 Colacho Aphorisms compilation:

He who speaks of his “generation” admits that he’s part of a herd.

The supreme aristocrat is not the feudal lord in his castle but the contemplative monk in his cell.

Confused ideas and muddy ponds appear deep.

Poetry is the fingerprint of God in human clay.

I will read the Colacho Compilation again:

#4 Those who lament the narrowness of the environment in which they live long for events, neighbors, landscapes to give them the sensibility and intelligence which nature denied them.[That so accurately describes why I came to China. But it also does for a lot of other Wuxi Expats as well.
#17 Every end other than God dishonors us.
#26 Love of the people is the aristocrat's vision. The democrat does not love the people except during election season.
#27 By the same measure that the state grows, the individual shrinks.
#28 Technology does not fulfill man's perennial dreams, but craftily mimics them.
#36 Thinking is often reduced to inventing reasons to doubt the obvious. [If this is the case then Paul Krugman is the greatest thinker of all time.]
#38 The man who renounces appears impotent to a man incapable of renouncing.
#46 To be right is just one more reason not to achieve any success. [Being mediocre, I can take solace in this. Not complete solace however because I have confessed to my mediocrity.]
#48 Religion did not arise out of the need to assure social solidarity, nor were cathedrals built to encourage tourism. [Amen. Those religious types who want to give in to the times should read this and think long and hard about it.]

David Warren:
As a journalist I had often to make judgements in the course of an interview; to decide on whom I could or could not rely. I was actually taught, young, the sort of ticks to look out for. In particular, the inability to return one’s gaze unselfconsciously; for shifty eyes are the very flag of devious low cunning. The ability to distinguish upright from dishonest was once taught, generally, as a survival skill. Today we are taught instead “not to be judgemental,” & to overlook what “isn’t important.” But to the wise, the large is revealed in the small. The skill of reading character is not in itself a cultural property, though it may take cultural modes; it is rather one of the universal properties of man. It is a human skill, in the acquirement of which we are constantly reminded that nobility is simple & direct; that the ignoble are complex & crooked.

The leaders in our public life today — our “politicians” — are more or less invariably ignoble, self-serving, crooked men & women; “complicated people,” who cannot coherently explain themselves; “passive-aggressive” as the current saying goes. They boast, they are coarse, they are shifty in behaviour. This has much to do with the way they are selected. [So much wisdom in here that I can think of nothing to add to it. I can only wonder if I could ever coherently explain myself. I suspect I can't for two reasons: 1) I have lived in China for nine years. 2) I have many passive-aggressive personality traits. These two reasons have so re-enforced each other in the time I have been in China that I have retreated to my office at work, only coming out for classes, meals, and bathroom breaks.]

I fashion myself to be a 21st Century Pepys

Monday [August 26]
[Home Laptop]
I made the following notes (in bold) when riding on the bus this afternoon.
Cat away! Jenny & Tony took at 14:57 train to Shanghai. They will be gone for three days.T&J take train to Shanghai I accompanied them to the station. Amazingly, to me, Jenny didn't buy tickets till when we got to the station, and she didn't have to wait long for the train once she had bought them. Tony was excited to be at the train station which wasn't a surprise.601 bus To get to the train station, we took the 601 bus. It was the first time I was on that bus, and it was a sensation to ride an elevated road that hitherto I had ridden underneath with the other buses. I had a new perspective on the area being renovated for the metro line. It seemed small from above and it had parks and neighborhoods that I hadn't suspected existed.Leonid Brezhnev look alike.  Grey  wool pants.  25 bus. After seeing off Jenny & Tony at the train station, I took the 25 bus home. I didn't have a seat right away but after three minutes, a seat, seemingly magically, became available for me. As I sat, I was startled to see a ugly man with a Leonid Brezhnev scowl on his face. Seeing that he was wearing this rather comfortable looking gray and wool trousers, I imagined that I would have scowled too if I was wearing those pants.Moment of eternity  Dad's last memory. I was listening to a audiobook podcast of GK Chesterton's Heretics as I made my way back to Casa Kaulins. In the particular chapter I listened to, Chesterton wrote of the proper way to drink. To think of wine as medicine was not a reason to drink said Chesterton, but to drink for enjoyment and eternity, that was the way to drink. I wondered if my Dad, who liked his drink, drank that way. Chesterton then said that the moments we spend with others are meant for eternity. He cared not for those whose motto was
“Carpe Diem!” Before my father passed away, he told me of a time when I was a toddler and he had me on his shoulders, carrying me down some stairs leading to a beach, and hadn't realized that I had become stuck in a tree overhead. It took him too long, he said, to realize what my distress was. That was the last recollection I ever got from my Dad, and there isn't a week that goes by that I don't think of it. Moments like that, moments spent with a dying person, are moments when Carpe Diem becomes a big load of Leftism.... That moment was a moment for eternity.
Try to put subtitle on film. There is a Japanese film I would like to watch on my Ipad. The film which I got via a torrent is in Japanese. I was able to find a subtitles file on the Internet so I can watch the film on my laptop; however I still couldn't watch it on my Ipad. But I found a program today, and I put the subtitles on a MP4 file of the film. I will have to see whether the subtitles appear when I watch the film sometime this week.What to do? When the wife is away, this cat will play? Nada chance! I am going to spend the evening at home reading and watching movies.

Tuesday [August 27]
[Home Laptop]
I work 13:00 to 21:00. I will try to leave the house by 9:30.

It's a busy morning. With J&T away, I have extra things I have to do like the dishes and some sweeping.

I can hear a piano being played. Many Chinese have pianos or have their children take piano lessons and so there is one somewhere in my apartment.

I watched Le Quattro Volte last night. An Italian film, without dialogue, was a meditation on four aspects of life. I figured out what three of the Quattros were: man, animal, and plant. Is mineral close to earth? If is is then I figured out the fourth as well. The film had a shepherd and goats. Funny, I saw some goats but one day before.

[School Laptop]
I took the 602and 79 buses to get to school. I sat in the very back of the 602. On the 79 bus, I stood since I didn't have far to go and my right leg wasn't acting up. I did feel uncomfortable however because this young boy who I stood beside was obviously starring at me the foreigner. I tried to ignore him by concentrating on the podcast of Mother Angelica I was listening to.

Mother Angelica was talking about tolerance. What I got out of her talk was that I should be more tolerant. With her Catholic eye, she did point out many examples of modern intolerance. The intolerance of what is normal and ordinary. This got me to thinking of how today's culture is tolerant of weirdness but not tolerant of eccentricity. The weirdness we see today is deliberate and is intolerant of what is normal and ordinary. Eccentricity is natural, completely self-possessed, and not slave to fashion – thus it couldn't be tolerated in today's society.

I also listened to the Three Martinis podcast and the Coffee & Markets podcast. Libertarian Populism is the buzzword of the moment on the right I learned. I became a Libertarian Populist twenty years ago. I have since modified my views to become more reactionary.

A thought that just occurred to me: Yesterday, at the train station, after Jenny had purchased her tickets, and we had done through the security, Tony was able to see about three trains roll into or through the station – it was a perfect sight, well coordinated, though it was coincidental, for Tony to espy, and of course he was very enthused by the sight.

I just had a class about hobbies. There are creative hobbies, I told the students, where you can make things. I then asked the students what creative things they did, and I had a boy who almost put me off balance when he said he liked growing flowers. As it was, I guffawed.

Wednesday [August 28]
[School Laptop]
I work 13:00 to 21:00 today.

Jenny & Tony are in Shanghai so last night I talked to Tony on the phone. He told me he saw a fire station and fire truck. I was pleased to hear him sounding so enthusiastic. Then, Jenny told me she had some bad news for me. It turned out that Tony had seen the fire station when Jenny was taking him to the hospital – Tony had been bitten by a dog that was hanging around the apartment of Jenny's friend. Presumably, Tony had been teasing the dog. Tony got two shots at the hospital yesterday and will have to get another in a week. Little Boys will be little boys and they will have accidents all the time...

I decided to put the Ibooks app back on my Ipod so that I will have something to read when Tony is playing with my Ipad. I vow, now, that I will only put a few select volumes on the Ipod. So far, I have only put on two: the Psalms and Don Colacho's Aphorisms.

I did another thing different, or at least something I haven't done in a long time: I had coffee and pie at McDonald's. Funny, I arrived at the Restaurant just as they were changing over from their breakfast menu. I didn't pull a Michael Douglas and demand to be served breakfast.

Now that I think of it, when I saw that Douglas film Falling Down in the cinema, I wasn't impressed with that film's famous fast food restaurant scene. I thought it was so cliché and manipulative on the part of the movie makers, and no big deal. Yet, a few years after the film came out, I overheard some driver at Loomis talking about the scene like it was a classic, and I felt resentful that people could be so manipulated by movies.

I had a good idea for a Speaker's Corner [SPC]. [LECTOR: You had a good idea eh? That's a first!] The topic for the SPC was Interviews during which I had interviews conducted involving me, the class, or another students. I had some of the interviewees pretend to be other people like Obama, a famous football player, or patients from the #7 People's Hospital (the crazy hospital in Wuxi). I came up with the #7 hospital idea just before the class, and it worked rather well. The students had lots of questions to ask the would-be mental patients. After the class, I realized that I could have spent an hour having students pretend to be mental patients.... [LECTOR: Are you pretending to be a mental patient when you are at school?]

Thursday [August 29]
[School Laptop]
I work 10:00 to 21:00 today.

J&T return to Wuxi this morning, or at least that is what Jenny told me last night. Last night, they were apparently on the Bund looking at the Huangpu River boat traffic, the lights, and the tall buildings. While this impressed Tony, he was more interested to report to me that he saw ambulances.

Tony got a new train for his Plarail train set. A shop he went to had a better selection of our favorite toy brand than was on offer at the Wuxi Ba Bai Ban. [ANDIS: I saw him with a train in one of the photos Jenny had sent me of Tony in Shanghai. LECTOR: Is that so?]

7:30 AM, I was standing at the bus stop and I got this notion that I may not have turned off the air-conditioner in the small bedroom before I had left. Trying to recall, I could not visualize a recollection of my actually having turned off that a/c, so I walked back to the apartment to see that I had in fact turned off the a/c. What I got for giving myself peace of mind was sweat that will linger with me the rest of the day and that will probably result in a rank body odor till I get home at 10:15 tonight. For as I got to the bus stop for the second time, I was soaked with wet patches on my shirt and pants.

I bought the big breakfast at McDonald's and was intending to eat it in the restaurant. But the staff person gave it to me in a bag so instead of telling her not to bother, I took my breakfast to school because I figured it was too late to correct her since I hadn't specified that I wanted to eat in the restaurant and I didn't want them to change their default assumption that I wanted my food take-away.

中国话 and 中国画. Both these sets of characters are pronounced zhongguohua. The hua must surely have a different tone. Now, I should be able to figure out the difference between the two not by hearing the tone, but in context of a conversation. Still, how often have I said zhongguohua and pronounced it like I was talking about painting? Further proof that the more I learn about Chinese, the less I should bother trying to speak it.

I am so skinny that I can avoid getting wet when it rains by standing between the rain drops.

That attempt at a joke came to me as I was walking to McDonald's to get my supper. It was cloudy and the air was moist, and so I wondered it if might start raining while I was at the restaurant. Not having brought my umbrella, I imagined myself having to stay at the restaurant till the rain subsided. But this was only a speculation for, when the I heard cracks of thunder, my instinct was to get my order as quickly as possible and run back to school. I did get the order quickly and felt some big drops as I crossed the one intersection between the School and McDonald's. Closer to the school, I had to sprint.

Back at school, I have noticed that the one packet of ketchup McDonald's supplies one with an order of fries is not enough. Now, usually I never bother using the ketchup when I eat my fries because I am too lazy and impatient but recently, maybe because I am old or the menu at McDonald's in China lacks variety, I have been using the ketchup. So I wonder now how long has it been that McDonald's has been cheap with the ketchup? Or should I just ask for more when they fill my order in the first place?

Jenny & Tony are back in Wuxi but haven't gotten back to Casa Kaulins yet. I hope they are on the bus or under some shelter. I don't want to hear that they got caught in the rain.

Should the Americans be getting involved in Syria? Not in the manner I have heard that they are planning to get involved which seems, from what I have heard, to be more for show than for any real purpose. Obama, vowing to do something if Syria crossed a red line, had talked himself into doing it. Dreading the charge of being weak and indecisive, he seems to be approving a bombing campaign that won't destroy anything military, including possible chemical weapon depots, and will target only empty buildings or buildings that will have lots of time to be emptied before they are bombed.

Friday [August 30]
[School Laptop]
I work 11:00 to 21:00 today.

It rained heavily last evening. As I wrote yesterday, I was outside just as the rain started to come down and I was fortunate to get back to school with only a few drops of rain having hit me. When the rain started to come down, it came down in buckets and was accompanied by loud cracks of thunder that seemed to burst just outside the building. Because of this, I was hoping to have some no-shows but alas, my students all came. As it was, the thunder and the humidity made it hard for me to concentrate in class, as it did for one student who apologized to me for not being able to concentrate because of the stuffiness of the air in the school.

What is happening to Wall Street English? I heard news that the School has been punished by the authorities for employing part-time foreign teachers this Summer. Punishment for the school is that it has to shut down for three months; Punishment for the part-time teachers was deportation. Some of these part-timers were working other jobs in Wuxi like at Jiangnan University. The full-time teachers had been given an option: take a three month unpaid leave or work at a Wall Street School in another city in China for the three months.

Last night, I asked my 635 bus companion, who works at a school competing with both my school and Wall Street, if she had heard about what had happened at Wall Street. I was surprised and disappointed to hear from her that, other than from me, she hadn't heard anything about it. She told me her school had been employing part-timers and was still employing part-time foreigners because of the increased demand for summer-time classes. As has become my habit in China, because I can never be sure if my questions have been understood, I asked the same questions of her again, and she told me, while complaining that I had asked her ten times, she hadn't heard anything about Wall Street and her school was still doing what Wall Street had been punished for.

I will have to find another source of information about what is happening at this school. If what she says is true, then one must conclude that Wall Street doesn't have much guanxi in Wuxi.

I did learn from my 635 bus companion that the school's Speaker's Corner room's roof was leaking so badly during last evening's rain that some classes had to be canceled.

Sights seen on the way to work this morning:
  1. Walking along Zhongshan road, I could see a torrent of water, surely a residue of yesterday's heavy rain or the result of a broken pipe, falling from the front of the building onto the street. As I approached I could that see that the waterfall wasn't coming down through a proper drainage path but was instead coming through a gap in the overhang of the building that shelters a small area between the store entrance and the sidewalk. Passing in front of the waterfall, I saw that the water was blocking a cosmetic's store entrance. Thanks to the bright commercial lighting in the store, I could see a stricken-looking worker, or perhaps owner, of the store talking on her mobile phone as she looked at the waterfall ruining her business.
  2. Just a minute later, at the corner of Zhongshan and Xueqian Roads and in front of Wang's dumpling, I saw a motor-cycle taxi, the kind that I like to take photos of for my Casa Kaulins blog, being pulled up onto a tow truck. The taxi was being confiscated by the authorities because they are illegal in the downtown area of Wuxi. Near the tow truck, an old woman stood, with tears in her eyes, seeing her livelihood being taken away.
  3. Crossing the intersection, I see a man taking a photo of his daughter sitting next to the Ronald McDonald figure. He seemed to have a nice camera – one of those SLR types.

Tony is going to be in Grade One, Class Seven at his primary school.

Things that drive an English Teacher crazy. The 85 Degree Bakery puts the word toast on the bags they use to package their loaves of bread. This causes me much pain when I try to explain what toast is to the students. So often, they tell me they have bread and milk tea for breakfast. Hearing them say bread, I try to ask for clarification. Did they eat toast or a slice of bread? Trying to explain toast and toaster to them doesn't work. As soon as I think they understand what I mean by toast, one of the students blares out that he bought a bag of toast at 85!!!

Our younger students go back to school! Hooray! I won't have to see the little twerps hanging around the school on weekdays. However, the poor buggers start school on Sunday! Foreigners, who are new to Wuxi, find that hard to believe. I never went to school on Sunday. Never!

My son Tony, the poor little fellow, starts Primary School on Sunday, as well.

Saturday [August 31]
I work 10:00 to 18:00.

Jenny & Tony were up early this morning because Jenny had to go to his primary school to pay four months of tuition.

Jenny took Tony there via e-bike. There is a problem with getting Tony to the school which is near the kindergarten. The primary school, unlike the kindergarten, doesn't have a van to pick up students so Jenny has be looking for parents living in our area to carpool with. She has found someone but the drives won't be happening till the middle of September which means she will be taking Tony to school via e-bike. She tells me that she will be taking Tony herself to school because she won't be able to accompany him in the car. She wants to be there with for Tony until he gets used to going to school.

I read David Warren's latest blog entry this morning. It was superb and worthy of linking because it touched on two things I am interested in: Chinese history, and dealing with other people. Warren rightly pointed out that the fact of the Communists still being in power in China has made most modern histories of China suspect; and he had some interesting observations to make on how by looking at people and their physical mannerisms, you can see their level of trustworthiness. Thinking about the latter point, I can't think of anyone that I can trust here in China, be they Chinese or foreigner. Chinese society is corrupt to the core, and anyone who has spent as much time as I have here cannot help but be corrupted as well. Knowing this has resulted in my going into a shell: I kept silent and look at all with suspicion, knowing full well that I should be looked upon with suspicion as well.

Warren also wrote that you can't trust people who boast, people who are coarse, and people who are shifty-eyed and never look anyone in the eye. I am probably guilty on two of those three accounts. I can say that I don't boast because I don't have anything to boast about, and that if I did have something to boast about, I wouldn't because I have seen too many who do boast, whether they have a reason or not to, whose boasting has the opposite effect on me that they may have intended. That is, boasting is truly inelegant, and the quiet confident type is the person I most admire and most worthy of admiration. On the other two counts, I can say that I often don't resist the urge to say the coarse thing, and I am scared of confrontation. For instance, I kept my budding Christianity and my reactionary political views to myself.

I see that Tony had actually sat in his Primary School Class for the first time today. A lady at work who is a contact of Jenny on a popular social networking app showed me photos of Tony in his classroom. Tony seemed happy. I suspect that he was because he had his own desk to sit at. [This detail: having a desk of one's own for the first time when one goes to primary school is something that I hadn't thought about till now.]

Sunday [September 1]
[Home Laptop]
I don't work today. It turns out that Tony doesn't have to go to school till tomorrow.

I will do something with Tony today.

Tony has to be at school at 7:20 in the morning!! Jenny doesn't like this one bit. I don't care for it either because it means that there will be days when Tony is asleep and I won't being interacting with him.

To please him I put some pdf files of Siku Toy catalogues and fire truck photos on my Ipad.

Last night, I took Tony to the Wanda Plaza where he brought his push-bike and was happily darting among the shoppers. We had chips and ice cream at the McDonald's, and were heading home when Jenny, being bored at home, joined us.

Back at home, before Tony confiscated the Ipad from me, I finished watching the Western film Hombre starring Paul Newman. Newman's character Russell is a white man raised by Apaches. Getting an inheritance, Russell sells a house and puts its head matron out of work. He accompanies the woman on a stage coach ride that is held up by bandits seeking to get cash carried by one of the wealthy passengers.... It was a good movie that held me in suspense in the very end, and Newman's taciturn portrayal of the Russell character was inspiring.

I also started watching Shall We Dance! As I mentioned earlier this week, it is a Japanese movie so I had to put subtitles on it before I could watch it on my Ipad.

And the subtitles, I am pleased to report, are fine, and so I am enjoying the movie. It is fun and cute at the same time!

It looks like we will be going to Pizza Hut, the one at the Wanda Plaza, for Lunch.

Monday [September 2]
[Home Laptop]
I didn't have a chance to get finish off the blog entry yesterday so I will do it this morning.

We didn't go to Pizza Hut yesterday. We went to the Xinjiang Restaurant instead.

After lunch yesterday, I took Tony out on the e-bike. We went into Jiangyin where we saw trains, a canal, geese, goats, duck, and chickens.

In the evening, we went to bed early. Tony had to be up at school at 7:20 AM!

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