Thursday, 05 March 2015

Elder High Achievers: Inspiration or Reverse Ageism?

The media keep us well supplied with tales of derring-do by high achieving elders. Former President George H.W. Bush skydives every five years, most recently on his 90th birthday. An 80-year-old Japanese man becomes the oldest to climb Mt. Everest.

Other elders are hailed for bungee jumping, finishing marathons, deep sea diving, snow boarding, weight lifting and so on, all at great ages.

Occasionally, some are extolled for writing a book or earning a degree or recording a music album but nothing gets media attention like old people taking on the physical challenges usually reserved for 20- or 30-somethings.

This week's chapter comes to us from Australia, a country that is a lot like the United States except they have a much better sense of humor about themselves than Americans who actually have zero sense of humor about themselves. But that's a story for another day.

In reporting about 100-year-old dancer, choreographer and costumer, Eileen Kramer, the Australian Ageing Agenda begins by pointing out the false stereotypes of age while noting the apparent irony that one of the most common responses to Ms. Kramer's story is surprise at what she can do at her age: “Wow if that’s what growing old is about, I can look forward to it.”

”An interesting remark,” the story continues, “because so many of us are fearful about ageing and there are good reasons for this.

“In 2015 we treasure our children and venerate beauty but have scant regard for elders. Research into negative stereotypes has shown that society’s poor opinions about ageing has (sic) negative impacts, not just on elders but on society itself.

“The answer to these problems lies in shifting our attitudes and it’s so easy to do.”

Well, maybe the answer is “easy” if you promote the fantasy that being old is exactly like being 35. But the actual result is that you are simultaneously shaming the majority of old people.

Yes, shaming less accomplished elders is what is really going on with the glorification of the few high achievers of advanced age who are lucky enough to remain unusually healthy or capable. And it IS luck.

Anyone who is 70 or 80 or 90 or more and wants to jump out of airplanes, climb mountains, run marathons or, like Eileen Kramer, continue to perform at 100, go for it. Everyone should follow his or her personal bliss whatever their age.

The problem is not with those ultra-active elders, it is with stories like this one that pay lip service to the widespread disrespect of worn-out stereotypes but hold up extreme elders as supposed inspiration, implying that the rest of us are slackers for not keeping up.

When that happens, they are employing reverse ageism. Old is a wonderful time, they are telling us, as long as you can (still) dance and run and ski and pretend to be young.

This repeated trope is not doing old people any favors.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sulima Malzin: Ready or Not

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Wednesday, 04 March 2015

Looking Like Your Mother (or Your Father)

A friend – a male friend – once told me that the older he gets the stronger his physical resemblance to his mother becomes and he's not pleased with that. Their relationship was uncomfortable at best.

I had never thought I looked like anyone in my family until a short while after my mother died in 1992. Walking along 59th Street in Manhattan one day, I caught a glimpse of myself reflected in a display window of Bergdorf Goodman.

“What's my mother doing here?” I thought as I did a double take.

Almost immediately, of course, I realized my error and laughed. But it wasn't something I was able to dismiss or, over the years, ignore.

Staring into a mirror did no good; I looked like me and no one else. Even so, the image I had seen in Bergdorf's window stayed with me.

Then one day, I caught a glancing peek at myself as I passed a mirror – much more clear than the reflection in window glass had been – and saw that it was the lower half of my face, mouth, jaw and chin mostly, that I recognized as my mother's. Or close enough.

It was in motion rather than stillness that the likeness between us became apparent to me and still does. I can catch it momentarily if I face away from a mirror and then turn my head toward it. For the millisecond or two it takes for the movement to stop, I see my mother.

Like my friend above, I am not comforted. It's not that I disliked my mother but I didn't particularly like her either. I respected her for certain choices she made, admired her for some others and I suppose I loved her. But if not related, we would not have bothered with one another; we had hardly anything in common.

None of that explains why I am disturbed, although only mildly so, to bear a resemblance to her and it surely doesn't matter. Except that in some small way it does.

This is my mother on her 70th birthday and me a week ago, about a month shy of my 74th birthday. What do you think – do we look like mother and daughter?

Mom and Me

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Just Call Me Old

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Tuesday, 03 March 2015

How Often Should Elders Bathe?

In the kitchen one morning not long ago, I heard an exchange on television about how often people bathe, how often they ought to bathe, etc. I couldn't see the screen but I heard a lot “eew” responses from the women hosts when someone said he skips showering now and then.

For the entire 48 years or so I went to work every weekday morning, my routine hardly varied: shower, shampoo, dress and makeup, feed the cat, breakfast and out of the house. Weekends too – the shower, shampoo and cat parts, anyway.

The daily shower and shampoo wasn't a deliberate choice; it was just something I had done while growing up without giving it a thought. Sleep, eat, shower are requirements. Everything else is optional.

The only times I didn't shower were when I was too sick, from time to time, to get out of bed.

After I retired – I don't know how long but likely two or three or maybe four years – I decided not to shower one morning. I don't recall why but I do remember that throughout the day, a frisson of guilt wafted through my mind now and then.

More time passed - months? years? - during which I occasionally gave the need for a daily shower some thought. Most days at my age I don't do anything that makes me sweaty or dirty or smelly - or so I think. Do I really need to wash my body every day, 365 days a year?

A couple of years ago, I reported here on a study finding that people of different ages have distinctive body odors and most participants could identify the odor of old people but said it was not unpleasant.

The researcher was reassuring about it:

”'For people getting older and fearing 'old person's smell,' Lundstrom says don't worry. 'As long as one showers when one should shower and you air out your abode [where body odors can accumulate], you are good to go,' he says.”

But therein is the question: how often should one shower?

The next day I followed up with more about elders and personal hygiene noting at length the reasons some formerly fastidious old people become smelly.

Me? I kept coming back to the idea that I don't do anything much to get dirty and when I do, I shower and there is this too: aren't we (humanity) wasting a lot of water washing ourselves more frequently that is really necessary?

Some experts suggest that showering too much can damage skin:

”Anytime you take a shower -- especially a hot one -- with soap and a scrubbing device like a washcloth or a loofah, you're undermining the integrity of your skin's horny layer,” reports Josh Clark at HowStuffWorks.

“The soap and the hot water dissolve the lipids in the skin and scrubbing only hastens the process. The more showers you take, the more frequently this damage takes place and the less time your skin has to repair itself through natural oil production.”

Well, okay, but I showered every day for well over half a century and my skin is doing fine. Clark says skipping a shower now and then couldn't hurt.

A short report at the Today show website (related to the conversation I heard from the kitchen?) says showering every day is fine but that we use too much soap. You can read about that here. But I was most interested in this:

”The American Academy of Dermatology says that small children and the elderly need to shower less often (unless, of course, your child has been building the Panama Canal in the backyard, or if they’ve been swimming in a lake, pool, or ocean.) The skin of small children is more delicate and elderly skin is naturally drier.”

Here's a little video from Buzzfeed about frequency of cleaning ourselves:

Those same dermatologists tell Buzzfeed:

”While your activity level and climate will affect how often you’ll want to shower, you can probably skip the daily shower and take one every two to three days.”

There is additional information here.

All these quotes I'm giving you are, for me, after the fact. A year or more ago, I decided to follow my conservation inclinations and shower every other day. It works just fine for shampooing my hair too and I wonder how much water could be saved if we all washed less frequently.

How often do you shower? If it's every day, would you consider cutting back or is that just too "eew" to think about?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Fritzy Dean: Praying for Patience

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Monday, 02 March 2015

Stirring Up Daily Life

It is not clear that “binge watching” began when Netflix released all 13 episodes of the first season of House of Cards on the same day two years ago but it is, certainly, when it became a popular pastime.

And why not. When everyone admits to being a couch potato (but only for certain shows with a high “cool” quotient), there is no shame. Plus, it's fun to be decadently indulgent when there's no consequence; we're not talking about 13 hours of TV every day, right? Just once or twice a year.

Whether that's so or not, perhaps you recall, when I reminded you last week of the imminent release of the third season ofHouse of Cards, I said there might not be a post today because I would be too tired from binge-watching the series to write something.

Didn't happen. Not going to happen.

On Friday evening, I fell asleep partway into episode 2, woke an hour later, tried to watch it again from the top and didn't quite make it to the end. Episode 1 had dragged but I have always been willing to give old favorites some slack. This time, that was too painful.

Frank Underwood has become banal, small-time, petty. He lacks the cunning I thought he had and should be a requirement for a man who murders his way into the most powerful political office on Earth.

But he doesn't come close.

The entire production (well, 1.8 or so episodes, anyway) is colorless, lifeless, utterly ordinary, lacking the malevolent glee necessary for this kind of political parody. Even the color palette is an underlit grayish beige.

It is such a letdown, don't you think, when an old favorite doesn't live up to expectations. It's happened to me sometimes upon re-reading a beloved book after many years, and especially re-watching an old TV show I once enjoyed.

What's hard to know in these instances is whether my taste has improved over the years or if I misjudged the show (or book or TV show) the first time around.

Or, maybe I've changed in some fundamental way that prevents the connection a story requires for a reader/watcher to become absorbed.

You would not be off base to think of today's post as a follow-up to last Friday's that was about how my forced change in viewing habits led to a new, more negative view of favorite shows. I am not sorry to leave behind the cop/drama/doctor shows that are mostly rote chase and/or gory blood scenes but I am disappointed to lose House of Cards.

But it's not all bad.

One of the knocks on elders that we are stuck in our ways and don't like change. To the extent that is true, I have argued – and still do – that trial and error over many years have provided each of us with our best individual choices and since they serve us well, there is no point to redoing them.

Isn't that one of the things great age is good for? We have found solutions for issues great and small that are then put to bed so we can move on to different ones that want attention?

Now, in a period of less than a month, I have come to question the ways I have watched television for a long time and somehow that led to re-assessing the books I choose – that's changed too.

Those two apparently small things mean my personal schedule – when I work on the blog, when I read or turn on the TV or exercise or go out or cook, etc. – that I hardly gave thought to for, possibly, years is in a jumble. And that changes even more items in my daily life.

So I've been surprising myself with hardly any predicable routine lately. (This bothers Ollie the cat a lot.)

It has been my experience that even small, out of the ordinary events engender more of them that together give a new spark to living; I have had several episodes of such clusters of change throughout my life but it has been so long since the last one that I'm pretty sure I had come to believe they don't happen to old people.

I was wrong.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chuck Nyren: Have You Ever Fainted? All About Mine

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Sunday, 01 March 2015


Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

What happened in 1971?

  • Julian Assange was born
  • The pocket calculator was invented
  • The Ed Sullivan Show ended its run
  • Five Easy Pieces was released
  • Greenpeace was founded
  • Louis Armstrong died
  • Harold and Maude was released
  • Hawthorn were premiers

Question: How many times does BILL WITHERS sing "I know" in that first lot of I knowing in the song. Ain't No Sunshine?*

Bill Withers

Apparently those "I Knows" were just fillers for a verse that Bill hadn't written yet but the musicians who backed him liked them and suggested it remain as it was. The musicians being three quarters of Booker T and the MGs. Booker T arranged and conducted the strings.

♫ Bill Withers - Ain't No Sunshine

ELTON JOHN was just starting to make a name for himself in 1971.

Elton John

Your Song was the first of Elton's to hit the charts (but far from the last). It was also one of the first he wrote with Bernie Taupin, some years earlier before they were even performing.

It was supposed to be the B-side but as often happens, it became more important than the one on the other side.

♫ Elton John - Your Song

KEVIN JOHNSON wrote and recorded the song, Rock and Roll I Gave You All the Best Years of my Life.

Kevin Johnson

He said that that song bought him a home on Sydney's north shore and a BMW. I imagine it's still supplying him with goodies as people are still recording it.

I'm not using that song though; here is another from the same album which was also a hit here in Oz, Bonnie Please Don't Go.

♫ Kevin Johnson - Bonnie Please Don't Go

These "Years" columns have a whole bunch of firsts – people or bands I haven't featured previously. Here's another, AL GREEN.

Al Green

Tired of Being Alone was Al's breakthrough song. Before this one, he was recording in the mold of some of his heroes, Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett, James Brown and Sam Cooke. With this, he found his own voice and hasn't looked back.

♫ Al Green - Tired Of Being Alone

We've already had one rain song from CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL last year and here's another.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Around this time Creedence was touring with Booker T and the Mgs, John Fogerty was so impressed by the sound of Booker T's Hammond organ he decided to have it in a song (or several).

This is the first where he employed the instrument - Have You Ever Seen the Rain.

♫ Creedence Clearwater Revival - Have You Ever Seen The Rain

Now listen. Here is DADDY COOL.

Daddy Cool

Daddy Cool were at their peak around this time. Indeed, there wasn't an Australian band that could come close. There were probably few from anywhere who could match their live performance. The song Eagle Rock has been voted the second best Australian song ever. Second Best? Hunh.

♫ Daddy Cool - Eagle Rock

Speaking of cool, THE CARPENTERS were never cool.

The Carpenters

Given that though, Karen sure could sing. They chose songs well too, and even wrote a few. Their song today is Rainy Days and Mondays written by Paul Williams.

♫ The Carpenters - Rainy Days And Mondays

Looking at the songs for this year, I was struck by their quality. What a great year for music. Here's an adornment to the list by ROD STEWART.

Rod Stewart

The record company didn't want Maggie May to be on the album but they'd run out of songs or time to record any more so they grudgingly included it. Then they released it as a B-side of a single figuring no one would want to turn it over and play it.

That, of course, is exactly what happened and it's gone on to become an icon of the period.

♫ Rod Stewart - Maggie May

ISAAC HAYES agreed to write the theme for the film Shaft on the condition that he got to play the lead role.

Isaac Hayes

Well, Isaac kept his side of the bargain but the producers of the film didn't. Isaac didn't even get an audition but he not only wrote this song; he wrote the complete sound track which was released as a double album.

It won all sorts of awards and sold really well, so I guess Isaac got a revenge of sorts.

♫ Isaac Hayes - Shaft

Riders on the Storm was the last hit for THE DOORS.

The Doors

It was also the very last song that Jim Morrison recorded. What a way to go out. The tune arose as The Doors were just jamming in the studio, initially to the old song, Ghost Riders in the Sky. This is what came of all that.

♫ The Doors - Riders on the Storm

Music from 1972 will appear in two weeks' time.

* I was somewhat surprised to count 26 times. I didn't think there were that many.

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Saturday, 28 February 2015

'INTERESTING STUFF – 28 February 2015


As you know, on Monday through Friday, there is a link at the bottom of each TGB story to that day's story by readers at The Elder Storytelling Place.

Last Monday, I neglected to set up the ESP story to publish automatically and did not discover my error until late in the day so some people did not see Dan Gogerty's Orthorexia, Healthy Food and "Piecing Around". Dan is one of our best contributors so go take a look.


The sequel to the 2011 movie about a bunch of elder Brits who retire to India will arrive in U.S. theaters next Friday 6 March.

There have been a couple of reviews that object to the feel-good nature of the series but for me it is a relief to have some entertainment about elders that is not about loss and/or Alzheimer's disease, as important as they are. Plus, the roster of actors in the two “Marigolds” is spectacular.

Here are a couple trailers for you from this latest "Marigold."


Back in May when I asked you to contact the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and others in support of net neutrality, interest was high here. And it was so high when John Oliver on his HBO show Last Week Tonight made a similar appeal, responses broke the agency's system.

Now your concern and involvement has paid off. In a landmark decision on Thursday, the FCC reclassified broadband internet as a public utility.

”The new rules, approved 3 to 2 along party lines, are intended to ensure that no content is blocked and that the Internet is not divided into pay-to-play fast lanes for Internet and media companies that can afford it and slow lanes for everyone else...” reports The New York Times.

“...the F.C.C. also approved an order to pre-empt state laws that limit the build-out of municipal broadband Internet services. The order focuses on laws in two states, North Carolina and Tennessee, but it would create a policy framework for other states. About 21 states, by the F.C.C.’s count, have laws that restrict the activities of community broadband services.

“The state laws unfairly restrict competition to cable and telecommunications broadband providers from municipal initiatives, the F.C.C. said. This order, too, will surely be challenged in court.”

Now, stand up from your laptop or tablet, take a bow and cheer loudly – it's not often anyone wins against billion-dollar corporations like the ones who opposed net neutrality.


The majority of judges in the United States are elected. On the surface that sounds fair but as John Oliver pointedly points out (along with the laughs) on his HBO program last Sunday, it is an absurd and dangerous-to-democracy system.


Most of us who read this blog grew up going to the movies once a week. Today, video of all kinds is everywhere but back then, the theater was the only moving pictures we had.

"Movies were scarce and long and special and deserved our attention. TV was shorter, with commercials, but still live (now or never) and thus special,” explains Seth Godin.

“But video - video is ubiquitous and short and everywhere. You can transfer a movie or a TV show to this new medium, but it will be consumed differently.

"Everyone can publish video now, and in many ways, almost everyone is publishing video now. A video won't work because everyone watches it. It will work because the right people do, for the right reason...

"Everything that's watched has always been watched through the worldview of the watcher. And video (and before that, movies and TV) has driven the culture. That culture-driving ability now belongs to anyone who can make a video that the right people choose to watch."

It is a crucial difference from before, from when we were young, and it is crucial to understanding early 21st century culture that we understand Seth Godin's point. You can read his full blog post here. (Hat tip to Erin Read of Creating Results)


I don't recall where I found this introduction to the video but it probably helps to read it first:

”The duo’s Sabine Maier, dressed in a fussy maid’s outfit with an inextricable small purse, does one of the best deadpan acts since Buster Keaton, and she’s joined by her geeky-looking husband Joachim Mohr to perform the funniest and most surprising trapeze act within memory.”

Enjoy. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)

The Die Maiers have a website where you can find more videos.


This has been going on for years but I've never seen a graphic demonstration of it before. Joe Flint, writing in the Wall Street Journal says that the TBS network speeds up Seinfeldt 7.5 percent.

In this video comparison, the upper right screen is a feed from a Seinfeld rerun on TBS. The lower-right is a digital recording from Fox Chicago about 10 years ago played back on the same hardware. The speeded up version gains TBS almost two extra minutes for the entire episode.


For many years, an extraordinary man with a severe disability has been creating gorgeous works of art using a typewriter. You'll be amazined.


With these photos, Peter Tibbles who writes Sunday's Elder Music column here, sent a twofer this week. First, an icy car bumper. As the website explains, this

”...ghostly car fender apparition that is actually a shell of ice that formed on the front of a parked Jeep.

“The most plausible theory regarding how the shell was formed suggests that the driver separated the sheet of ice from their fender when they warmed up their engine.”


Secondly, we have penguins in sweaters. Yes. Really. According to the website, the oldest man in Australia, 109-year-old Alfred Date, knits sweaters for injured penguins.


My favorite is the penguin in the Penguin Books cover sweater but Penguinman is cute too.


Back in 2011, now eight-year-old Gabi Mann began feeding crows in her Seattle, Washington backyard. Soon, the crows were returning the favor.

”Each morning, [Gabi and her mother] fill the backyard birdbath with fresh water and cover bird-feeder platforms with peanuts. Gabi throws handfuls of dog food into the grass. As they work, crows assemble on the telephone lines, calling loudly to them.

“The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray; an earring, a hinge, a polished rock. There wasn't a pattern. Gifts showed up sporadically - anything shiny and small enough to fit in a crow's mouth.”

And Gabby treasures every one of them. Take a look:


Here's a short video of the morning feeding.

It is well known that crows are smarter than your average bird – or even some animals. But wait until you read this part of the story:

”Lisa, Gabi's mom, regularly photographs the crows and charts their behaviour and interactions. Her most amazing gift came just a few weeks ago, when she lost a lens cap in a nearby alley while photographing a bald eagle as it circled over the neighbourhood.

“She didn't even have to look for it. It was sitting on the edge of the birdbath.

“Had the crows returned it? Lisa logged on to her computer and pulled up their bird-cam. There was the crow she suspected. 'You can see it bringing it into the yard. Walks it to the birdbath and actually spends time rinsing this lens cap.'”

There are more photos and more details to the story at the BBC. Hat tip to Cathy Johnson)

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

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Friday, 27 February 2015

Crabby Old Lady on Cutting the Cable Cord

Four weeks ago, Crabby Old Lady told you about how she reduced her fixed expenses by cutting the cable TV cord after Giant Cable Company (hereinafter referred to as GCC) jacked up the monthly charge by 39 percent.

She didn't cut the cord entirely because GCC is the only broadband internet provider in Crabby's area and due to their impressively convoluted pricing schemes, the broadband service coupled with the most basic of the basic TV services is cheaper than subscribing to broadband alone.

As Crabby knew up front, without the larger GCC package she ditched, she would lose a lot of the channels she watches most frequently, and it took some ingenuity to figure out workarounds and still save enough money to be worth the effort.

She settled on Tivo so that she can record shows to time shift her viewing, kept her Netflix account, adding Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. Altogether, she is saving $60 a month.

Not bad, but that's not why Crabby has returned to the topic today.

There is no better way to shake up one's beliefs and opinions than to change old habits and for the past four weeks Crabby has been learning new ways to find the programs she had been watching on remote control (if you will) for a long time.

Before the cord cutting, Crabby could easily find recorded shows in the on-screen list GCC provided and she usually knew without checking when new episodes would show up. Now she has had to actually think about which shows are on which services, how to navigate each one and when the programs are likely to be posted.

Oddly (or maybe not so odd), that puts even long-time favorites Crabby has watched for many years into new contexts so that she sees them in a new light which in many cases is not flattering. Here is what she has learned.

With few exceptions, all detective/cop/mystery dramas involve a chase scene – in cars, trucks, on foot, etc. - in every single episode and often, two or three chases per episode.

Not all, but the majority of chases end with gunfire followed by a lot of blood.

Half or more chases also involve explosions (except at the end of the season when the production runs low on money for special effects).

Almost all detective/cop/mystery dramas and 100 percent of medical programs involve closeups of disgusting wounds and/or surgeries.

You know what? Chases are boring. They rot your brain. They never extend the plot. They never give you additional information about the story or the characters. They are dumb, stupid and useless. And the same goes for bloody surgical scenes.

Their only purpose is as filler which is weird because actual storytelling – you know, the part with plot development and character interaction – is down to 40 minutes per hour, the rest given to commercials.

So you would think writers and producers would want to fill those precious show minutes with actual dialogue and explanation.

Crabby's realization of the repetition is new enough that she is still surprised at how a relatively minor change in her TV viewing method given her such a different perspective on today's programming, and that for too long she has been watching imaginatively threadbare shows only because she likes certain actors.

So there have been some changes chez Crabby.

Among the few that remain on her viewing list are The Good Wife, Suits, the venerable, old NCIS and Elementary - no chases or excessively icky blood in that interpretation of Sherlock Holmes.

As Crabby has explained in the past, she likes television. After all, she spent 25 years producing TV shows and she still keeps a professional eye on it.

What she has discovered now is more than disappointing, it makes her angry. The shows spend millions of dollars, they are all slickly done, the production values are there - but they are empty of thought or thoughtfulness.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: Chasing Rainbows

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