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Wednesday, October 14th, 2009
11:02 am - I knew it!
From http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1928189,00.html?iid=digg_share

"Interestingly, women have a keener sense of smell than men, so men are sometimes oblivious to how bad they smell to women."

I knew it!!!

current mood: needs a shower

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Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
4:59 am - More on the GRE (greeeee!)
I've been reading about the math portion of the GRE. I find its summary fascinating; they explicitly explain the conventions that students brought up in the American school system take for granted. For example, they state that if a line in a picture is represented as straight, then it is assumed to be straight. Nobody thinks about it, but that really is an assumption. An even more striking example is when the test explains, "If a number of real-world objects is given, it is assumed to be the exact number. If a problem states there are fifty marbles in a bag, and twenty of them are red, then there are exactly fifty marbles, meaning thirty are not red." Of course they'd have to say it! If you say, "There are fifty marbles in this bag," the statement would still be true if there were sixty or a hundred.

It is clear that standardized tests are biased towards individuals who speak a very specific language. Of course, I think that part of what the tests are testing is the knowledge of that very language. It is not only important to know, but also important to be able to communicate to society at large!

current mood: thought bubble above my head

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1:30 am
Oh, my, gosh. I can't focus at all on this GRE stuff. It's been too long since school. I need to start practicing!

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Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
2:13 pm - Train
As I'm researching colleges to apply to, I begin to worry that I don't have very much experience in the field. Many sample student resumes to these places include important-sounding positions in city organization or social work, or perhaps they founded some sort of club or group. I've worked retail, substitute taught, and was a low-level worker at a rehab clinic. I know part of the deal is that I should "spin" these into things that sound positive or relevant, but I wasn't too hot at it while I was job-searching. Part of why I want to go to college is to pick up better spin skills. I really, really want to go to school in 2010, too, so I don't have much time to beef up the resume. Honestly, I've been trying for a while. I asked around for volunteer ideas, internships, job shadowing, anything in the public sector. The closest I got was the summer camp job, which is fun, but just reinforces everyone's incorrect assumption that I want to teach for a living, rather than giving me community organizational skills.

I know, I know. I should found a group, find a problem, tackle it head on. The problem is that I really don't know the steps in doing this. It seems that people just don't find much as serious problems, and I don't know what to do.

Hmm, there is one problem that needs solving. There's a group of homeless men in Champaign who used to live in tents on a charitable organization's property. The city charged the organization for violating no-living-in-tents ordinances. I could go to council meetings, see what's up, and work on a potential solution for these homeless men.

Nevermind "could," I'm going to try! At the very least, it might give me some insight into this field that I hope to get into. Thanks, LiveJournal, you've helped me already! But! Any of you in TV land have any other ideas? I mean, I have a feeling this will devolve into me sitting awkwardly at a council meeting and then giving up.

current mood: cautiously purposeful

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Friday, June 19th, 2009
2:16 pm - They should've called it Indianaville
I realized I never blogged about my Indianapolis trip!

I went to see Coldplay. The lead singer was pretty funny, bouncing around and running around the stage to these Coldplay songs. I'm used to seeing that with punk-style music, but it was a blast seeing it to pop music. All the people in the crowd were going Beatles-crazy, too. I was a bit astounded at the "spectacle" surrounding the music show, though. The performers all had costumes, at one song they tossed big balloons out into the crowd, at another they shot confetti, and every song had a different light show associated with it. There were even these crazy spherical things that presumably had rear-screen projectors in the center--they'd lower from the ceiling and then show different images on their faces.

My favorite part, though, was going back to the hotel and being let in the swimming area to relax in the hot tub afterward. There were too many people at that crazy concert--it took more than an hour to get from the off-ramp to the parking space and almost as long to get back to the interstate. Water was 4 dollars a bottle, which was expected.

What I really should have done was brought my camera. I would have loved sneaking around the auditorium and getting some pictures of the band and of the crowd from some different angles.


There is some discussion as to whether the place I work will have its funding cut again. I'm not sure what I'd do if I lost that job. I'm already feeling really upset about most of my life, but the job was the one thing I didn't have to worry about. It took me three months to find this job, too... there's a rally tomorrow at United Way to protest the cutting of funding.

I continue to argue that the way to fix the budget is not cutting programs, but making programs "smarter" and more cost-effective. If we're really lucky, it could mean not having to lay anybody off, but there's still a worry that making a leaner state might mean cutting some jobs. Ideally, instead of layoffs, we just wouldn't fill vacant positions as people quit--we'd just give the remaining people the tools to do both jobs without a loss of productivity or job satisfaction.

This is the sort of work I'd love to do! How can I integrate that with my love of science and art? That's the subject of my next paragraph--I've found a list of "top 10 urban planning schools." I have to buy the $39.99 book to find out how they made the list. Could anybody see me at Penn State? Berkeley? UCLA? UNC? The U of I was on the list, as well, and I'll be talking to the director of the program next week, hopefully. I really, really don't want to stay in Champaign, though. I want a fresh start!

current mood: still kinda depressedish

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Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
6:00 pm - Winter Clouds
Due to the topography of the city in which I used to live, a low-pressure zone would develop each winter, trapping clouds above the city. It meant that for two or three months out of the year, every day was overcast. I actually only lived through about a month of this, as I went back to Illinois for winter break, but it left a vivid impression.

I never got used to it. Each day, I would actively think about the sun because it wasn't there. The sun's vacancy called attention to the sun where its presence never did.

Three lessons learned. One, that I, and probably we all, take things for granted that we would never even think of being appreciative for until they are gone. Two, that I don't need anything to remind myself of something--absence is enough to remind me. Three, that no matter how long something is gone, I still may miss it every day.

current mood: cloudy

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Sunday, June 7th, 2009
2:43 pm
Indy was fun. Update soon!

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Friday, June 5th, 2009
2:47 am - Aw, rats.
After some observation, I have determined that healthy rats seem to have four moods:

1. Predatory
2. Cautious
3. Horny
4. Asleep

Humans, although conforming to the same basic structure, seem nevertheless more complicated.

current mood: cautious/asleep

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Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
10:51 am - Potporri, odds'n'ends, etc.
Took a trip to Chicago to visit a friend yesterday. Bummed that I probably won't see her again for a very long time, now, but the trip was fun. We went to the "West Town" neighborhood, where we walked through a Spanish-speaking strip, went to Humboldt Park, and went through a bit of the Wicker Park area.

I have to say, the Wicker Park area felt a little "forced hip" rather than actually funky/interesting. I think it's unfortunate that it seems as if when anything that is interesting because it is alternative gets successful, it seems to lose a lot of its interest. My friend awesomely used the term "Gentrified." We didn't have much chance to explore, though, so there might have been parts that were still attractive on streets on which we didn't go down.

We also did some geocaching, which is something I always wanted to try. I'm not sure if I liked it as much as I thought I would. The concept and the action seemed neat, but it just seemed... odd. Somehow elite, even though the people who do it totally aren't elitists. Maybe any hobby occasionally comes off as elite. I also didn't actually enjoy searching for the hidden object once I was at the coordinates. Finding the coordinates to me was the fun part--I think I'd like it more if people just found coordinates of obvious things, but you'd have no idea where they are. For example, someone drops you off randomly in Chicago and says, "Check out 45 west, 34 north." You have to walk/bus/train to that location, you turn a corner, and there's a fountain made out of aluminum cans! Something like that.

I finished Avatar recently. I think the second season was the most interesting--it had most of the reveals of the character's histories and such. The fights were also the best--the characters were powerful enough to have really cool fights, but not so powerful that they were just sending enormous waves of fire or whatnot at each other. The characters made surprising decisions in that season, as well. The first season started slowly and the third season was just tying everything together at the end.

Yeah, I know I'm in the minority for not worshiping the show.

The latest season of South Park doesn't seem as great as the one preceding it. Last season, I thought, "Great! South Park's back with a vengeance!" This season, I think, "This has turned into a show parodying the major motion picture of the week." Seriously, in order, we had a show parodying Cloverfield, Ocean's 13, High School Musical 3, and Twilight. They weren't particularly funny, either. >sigh< Perhaps next season!

I'm taking today off--I walked way too much way too quickly yesterday and sort of tore myself up. I still feel kind of upset from Margot, from having so much trouble getting motivated about the grad school thing, from missing being in a relationship, from missing Kinnerly and Chris specifically... I'm trying to get excited about summer, really!

current mood: ow muscle ache

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Friday, May 22nd, 2009
1:09 am - Be at peace, sweet princess.
Been a long day. Kids didn't listen much in school today. I'm not so great at teaching--I know that you really need to take control of a class and keep it the entire time, or you end up ineffectively yelling and pleading the entire day. Sometimes I can do the former, usually I do the latter. It didn't help that the teacher didn't leave very helpful notes. They seemed to contradict one another and lack explainataion.

Example: Thursdays grades 4-5 do dance. Fridays all other grades do dance. Wednesday through Friday, grade 4 does recorders.

Today's Thursday for grade 4. Is it dance or recorders? Oh, dance, then what do they dance to? I ask the class--oh, the teacher usually plays piano. Too bad the sub line didn't tell me I'd have to play an instrument for the class!

Anyway, after muddling through that, I got home to find my pet rat, who had been sick on and off for months, passed away while I was at school. I called a friend to help put her in a box and buried her at my parents' house, since I didn't have any dirt to put her in where I live, and I didn't want to, uh, bury her in the trash.

I guess that's all I have to say for now.

current mood: in mourning and tired

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Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
6:59 pm - Star Trek
Saw the new Trek move last night.

Well, let me start off by saying that I'm not sure what the big deal with J.J. Abrams is. I haven't been particularly attracted to his projects besides Lost. Let me also not that I'm surprised how much credit Abrams has gotten for the movie. It was clearly a work of many hands, as people with more experience of Star Trek had to have worked on it. Abrams's name isn't in the writing credits, after all.

Overall, I enjoyed the thing. I think the movie's greatest feat was making one believe that it could be the same universe as 60's Trek without being a parody. The props, the costumes, and the ships all have the same flavor and intent as TOS, but they're not comically retro. Back in the 60's, the women had some funny, retro hairstyles. The women in this movie have hairstyles that have that sensibility without being distracting. Nice.

That brings me to Kirk. Chris Pine seems undercredited, he really sold Kirk as a lovable, self-absorbed jerk. I believed he could be the same person as the person Bill Shatner played, which is a feat. The rest of the cast performed similarly. Karl Urban's McCoy performance was excellent, he really felt like a rougher-cut Bones, although he was unable to replicate the chemistry between himself, Pine, and Quinto that Shatner, Nimoy, and Deforest Kelly had.

I really liked Uhura. She didn't get much love in the original series, despite being an amazingly alluring and sexy character. She gets a genius-level intellect in the reboot, but has just as sexy a performance. I'm happy that they finally made her the female lead, instead of going outside the crew as they normally do for the female lead.

Simon Pegg stole scenes as Scotty, but that's fine, the movie was well served by him. John Cho was Sulu. I've read reviews that say the reboot added the swordfighter aspect to Sulu's character, but Sulu was a fencer as far back as the first five episodes of TOS. It was a great service to the fans to show him bust out some moves. Chekov was sort of reduced to one joke made over and over again, but with such a large cast, it's hard to give everyone a good role.

Oh, and the new Sarek is nothing compared to the old. He's Sarek gone soft or Sarek hollow. I just don't think they were able to figure out the vibe of the character, and the character was a bit less interesting as a result.

I don't know if I'm in as much love with Zachary Quinto as Spock as everyone else, however. He seemed a little too obviously conflicted. The best of Nimoy's performances as Spock showed an incredible and violent depth hidden behind layers of false calm. That's the key to Spock: He isn't an emotionless Vulcan dealing with human emotions, he's a human having to deal with amazingly violent Vulcan emotions without the full level of mental control Vulcans have evolved. The movie's script gets it right--when Spock loses emotional control, he goes friggin' bananas.

Some spoilers here.Collapse )

Finally, as I said before, I'm not a huge fan of Abrams. His camera direction really seems lacking. Sometimes things shook too much and were too blurry during battles, a la Transformers, and I had no idea what was going on. There were certainly explosions. Sometimes the direction was heavy-handed. Kirk and Spock are in an argument? Time for a close-up! A character is feeling lost? Wide shot city! I'm not saying that those aren't effective tools, but they shouldn't be silent servants, not... um... loud servants.

Finally, this has been mentioned before: Too much lens flare! Apparently, the future is filled with spotlights shining directly on-camera.

Despite all those faults, I enjoyed the movie! Although I have a hard time letting go of my favorite characters, I think they made the right decision "wiping the slate clean" with a clever plot point. They might have been a bit too obvious about it, as one character even mentions something like, "We're in a parallel universe. Anything that would have happened after the time travel incident now won't necessarily happen." Everybody is quiet to let that soak in.

What it really means is that this is canon, it happens in the same "universe," but it isn't restricted by continuity. Pretty sneaky sis! But now a classic franchise is full of surprises.

Oh, a few reviewers have mentioned that the movie is a bit less weighty and moralistic than TOS, which is to its detriment. I agree, but the movies never really had time for the thought experiments and clever conundrums that the TV series all had. If they pull off something like that in a sequel, I'll be really impressed!

current mood: typed out

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Monday, May 18th, 2009
4:10 pm
Hmm. Someone recently commented, "You need to wear shit that's gay so other fags can locate you on their gaydar," to someone on my friendslist. I wonder if there's clothing that is explicitly straight.

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3:57 pm - TA: Tremendous Action! Teriffic Ambiance! Totally Awesome!
I was a TA (teaching assistant) today.

The teacher was talking about bullying and a couple of recent suicides by picked-on kids. She asked me if I wanted to add anything. (She had warned me beforehand.) I just mentioned that it was a problem back when I was a kid, too, and that as you get older you realize that people say stupid things and you just learn to ignore them. As I was saying this, the "troublemaker" of the class coughed, "Queer."

I stared at him in disbelief. As I was saying that as you grow up, you find out that people like that are just being dumb and start ignoring them as the inconsequential twits they are, he tried it? That's like me saying, "Anyone stupid out there?" and him raising his hand. Kids, jeez, what goes through their minds?

Okay, I didn't actually use the language "inconsequential twit," but in retrospect, I think I should have.

Then I worked with a kindergarten class and had to explain to one little girl that maybe the other girls didn't want to play with her because she took all the legos and wouldn't let them have any. (The funny thing was that I was there to help a kid with muscular dystrophy who had trouble holding a pencil, picking up food, etc.)

current mood: asleep at the library

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Saturday, May 16th, 2009
3:16 am - Land of No Feelings

Okay, so I've seen or heard this story a surprising number of times. The gist is that a high school student was suspended from his Baptist school because he broke no-dancing and no-hand-holding rules by going to his girlfriend's prom. I love schools that ban dancing. I'm imagining a catchy tune popping on the radio and a student wiggling his or her shoulders or snapping his or her fingers in tune to the music.

Suddenly, a S.W.A.T. team bursts through the window and knocks the offending dancer to the floor, macing and cuffing him or her. "That will teach you to have fun in the land of no feelings!" Good times.

But, seriously, why is this hitting national (albeit silly-story-of-the-day) news? What makes this silly human interest story more interesting than any other?

current mood: trapped in land of no feelings

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Friday, May 15th, 2009
1:26 am - Thor saves the day a la Adventures in Babysitting
I have to say, the current run of Iron Man is pretty good. Captain America has just been incredible. Thor hasn't been too bad, either. Unfortunately, it seems that Marvel publishes them all in the same week--meaning there are two weeks where the best I can find is "Pet Avengers," then a good week, then another week of nothing. Although I still like this newest run of "Might Avengers." It's like the B-List squad of Avengers.

Fake Captain America: USAgent. Knock-off Iron Man: Hank Pym as Wasp. Quasi-Thor: Hercules. Token giant person: Stature. Esatz Vision: Young Avenger Vision. Plucky, young teen: Amadeous Cho.

It's awesome.

Maybe I'm just sick of Bendis doing all the Avengers stuff and like to see a different direction. Fraction and Brubaker seem to be good at doing the interpersonal stuff and giving equal weight to multiple characters; I wonder why they don't do any team comics for Marvel. Wait, I think one of them might do Uncanny X-Men.

The reason I'm writing about comics, you might ask? Ugh, it's been a sort of crud-infested week. I've been tired, disappointed, and regretful for some reason. Getting the best of me. So, I'm trying to concentrate on things I like. So far, not working quite so hot, but maybe it'll kick in at some point.

current mood: searching for distraction

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Tuesday, May 12th, 2009
3:51 pm - Chapter 3: After School
After school, I get a message from Zordon. It turns out that Rita Repulsa has sent dinosaurs to Earth to conquer the planet. I quickly used my power to morph into a power ranger and defeated a few generic, grey-suited ninja. Then the camera panned way down on a dinosaur making it look super-huge, so I and my power ranger buddies jumped into our Zords and then immediately combined them into the Mighty Megazord. We battled and defeated the dinosaur.

current mood: whimsical?

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3:42 pm - Chapter 2: Fifth Grade
Now, the fifth graders I had today are a different story than the preschoolers. It's twenty-five of them vs. one of me. I yelled the pants off myself, I sent them to the office, and generally miserably slogged through lesson after lesson. I'd say 78% of the time was spent disciplining or asking them to be quiet or having free time, and about 12% was any sort of actual learning.

One trick I learned pitifully late was that you really do need a mix of incentives and punishments. I got the class sort-of under control when I said, "If we get through these two lessons without any problems, we'll have free time at the end." Then, when they started getting rowdy, I could ask, "Are you really going to make me take your free time away?" and they'd get quiet--sometimes. That's when the punishment comes in.

Another trick I learned was randomly calling on kids for answers. During history, I'd read a section and add in my own thoughts. This was actually the most fun subject, as I could be creative. In the section about child labor, I called them out on being so fidgety when 200 years ago, kids their age would work 10-12 hours a day in a factory. There was a review question at the end of each section. The kids in this class sat in little groups, and I'd call on one kid from each group to answer--this is where the random part came in. The entire group would quiet down as the kid searched for an answer. If he or she couldn't do it, I'd let another person in the group raise their hand and volunteer an answer.

We even talked a little about why government didn't regulate business back then, and how that debate is still going on today. The kids were hung up on the violence of the strike that the Pinkertons broke up--I'm sure you remember it from your grade school history--and they kept suggesting that the senators were afraid of being killed. We ended up discussing a bit about that and about the fact that senators didn't want to mess with business because the businesses were making money for the US. Very cool. If there weren't so many behavioral problems, we could have done so much more like that.

Name on the board is something I still need to get the hang of. I think I give too many warnings, first of all. Then I need to figure out how you put a kid's name on the board and have it make them feel badly about themselves and act better without having to go through a three-minute "That's not fair, Joey was doing it, too!"

I did yell at one kid. (I yelled at the entire class a few times, but that's different.) This kid yelled out during a lesson, "Mr. Hayes! Suzy is flicking me off!" He had already been disruptive, and I yelled at him, "Which is more disruptive to the class? Suzy maybe making a gesture that was maybe at you, or you busting out in the middle of my lecture tattling on someone? You gotta rise above it, show you're mature, and ignore Suzy, because if you disrupt this class again, you're out of here!" Of course, he disrupted the class a few more times, but I had already buzzed the office so much, I used the other tactics to get him to behave. At least he honestly was trying... you could tell he was kind of an ADHD kid doing his best to fit into a non-ADHD world.

After school, I apologized about having to buzz the office so much and have them take students so many times. I felt pretty useless. The other teacher reassured me, however, that the class was pretty difficult even with their normal teacher and it's an oddly problematic year. She even said, "Really, Prairie is a good school!" There were some great kids, and even the troublemakers were trying, for the most part, so I guess kids are kids.

current mood: i survived yay

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3:25 pm - Chapter 1: Preschool
Apparently, I've been making up for last week, because I've had two full, full days of subbing. The first was the preschoolers at Washington again. There's not much to say, because these preschool days are pretty similar. You walk behind the kids in line and make sure they're keeping up, when they're playing outside you just play with them, and when they're playing inside you make sure they're being "safe, respectful, and responsible."

The way they want you to approach a problem behavior works amusingly often. You ask the kid, "Are you making safe choices?" (Or respectful or responsible, depending on the situation.) The kid invariably says, "No," in a shameful sort of way. Then you ask, "What would be a safe choice?" The kid says, "Not kicking Suzy/not hanging off of the cabinet/not jumping into a pit of spikes." And you say, "Okay."

Occasionally, you'll get a problem child who lies on the floor and moans, "I wanna go home," or something to that effect. In that case, you get another teacher to help out, because I sure don't know what to do. You aren't allowed to touch them besides holding hands/guiding with a hand at the back/anything else benign unless their immediate safety is at stake.

Of course, you often run into a few other issues, but they're usually special ed or ESL or something else kids, so what do you expect? I mean, it's not a big deal, because you have a teacher, an aide, and often another aide or social worker for every 12 or so kids.

All in all, I really like preschool and have found myself weirdly attracted to young preschool teachers. They just have so much fun! (Yes, I'm aware that if I had stated this a few years ago, things may be different, but better late than never?)

current mood: done with class

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Thursday, May 7th, 2009
12:42 pm - Because I haven't posted in a while...
...I thought I'd make a post. Ta-da.

For those following my adventures in subbing, it's slowed down somewhat. I've been mostly doing junior high and high school half-days, which kind of blend into one another. The one thing I remember is P.E. You see, it's an easy gig, usually the kids just get free time or somesuch and you have to watch them. The difficult bit is that you're supposed to make sure they aren't hard on the basketballs or volleyballs; they aren't supposed to kick them. This means you're constantly yelling at the kids not to kick the balls. I haven't figured out a solution to this one yet, as giving a detention for kicking a ball is pretty harsh, but on the other hand, they aren't supposed to kick the balls!

Despite not getting a lot of work and therefore having a lot of free time, I feel like I'm running behind. I think I need to call the professor I've been trying to contact for info about Urban and Regional Planning. An acquaintance also passed me a name of a student in that program, so maybe they can give me some inside info on how to talk to someone.

That's in for now, all you in TV-land.

Oh! I wanted to check--does anyone actually read LJ anymore? I need some motivation to keep writing in this thingy-thing! If you're there, leave a comment telling me what you want to hear. Stories from life? Movie reviews? Philosophical ramblings? Any of it can be yours, for free, through the power of the INTERNET!

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Sunday, April 26th, 2009
2:40 pm - I hate Diane!
I hate Diane!

She introduced me to this place that sells a tasty tofu sandwich. A couple of days ago, I drove across town (it's a fifteen minute drive with lunchtime traffic) to get another one because I wanted it so badly. I'm considering going across town again to get one, but I can't because I have a potluck I need to cook for and really want to get some rest, as well. Worst of all, they only take cash, so I always need to stop at an ATM when I want a sandwich.

Curse you, Diane!

current mood: curse you... curse yooooou!

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