community Service means Business!
4 August 2008
Learn-a-Palooza is a one-day event in which temporary classrooms are set up across Washington D.C., and regular people share their knowledge and skills with their neighbors for free. This is the second year for the knowledge bonanza, intended to bring communities together, and workshop topics ranged from everything from "Personal Finance for Young People," to "How to Be a Brazen Burlesque Dancer."
For this Idealist Community Podcast, Julia Smith attended Learn-a-Palooza, and brought her voice recorder along with her, interviewing both workshop leaders and participants. Julia shares her experiences and insight, and lets us listen in on some of the workshops. Join us for an episode of community-building, information-gathering, knowledge-sharing, and a lot of plain old fun!
Click here to download. (0:14:16)
Click here for the complete transcript.
Click here for more information on Learn-a-Palooza
31 July 2008
18 July 2008
Seoul City is conducting sanitation inspections of dog meat restaurants, leading to fears in some circles that the inspections represent a first step in the eventual legalization of dog meat.
Of course, long-time readers of this blog know my position on the matter — you can have my bowl of dog meat soup when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.
15 July 2008
Soporta la doble jornada, una como secretaria y la otra como madre y ama de casa, gracias a unas pastillas de diazepán que esconde en su cartera. Ningún médico se la ha recetado, pero ella misma encontró el camino hacia la paz probando varios fármacos. Sólo bajo el efecto producido por una dosis -cada vez más alta- de la pequeña píldora, sobrelleva las reuniones del Partido, las colas para la comida y las exigencias alimentarias de su familia.
Comenzó por comprárs....
The EPA recently reduced the value of a statistical life by 11%. Your life is now only worth $6.9M to that government agency. This number is used in cost/benefit analysis to determine how many lives would need to be saved in order to justify the cost of a regulation. So now, with the lower value, more people would need to be at risk of death in order for a change be deemed cost-effective.
What I find disturbing is the method used to calculate it:
The EPA figure is not based on people's earning capacity, or their potential contributions to society, or how much they are loved and needed by their friends and family -- some of the factors used in insurance claims and wrongful-death lawsuits.
Instead, economists calculate the value based on what people are willing to pay to avoid certain risks, and on how much extra employers pay their workers to take on additional risks. Most of the data is drawn from payroll statistics; some comes from opinion surveys.
So basically the Bush administration's anti-regulation folks are being rewarded for having made the economy go down the shitter, right? People are so desperate for jobs that they're willing to do even risky ones at low wages and, because of that, the companies providing the risky jobs at low wages get to avoid regulations?
13 July 2008
When Westerners first began to visit Japan in the mid-1500s they were struck by the refined beauty and quality of the country's arts and crafts. It was a kind of beauty and quality that they had never seen before.
This special quality of Japanese things was so commonplace that the Japanese themselves did not consider it unusual. Everything they made, including simple household utensils, had the same quality.
Quoting from my book The Elements of Japanese Design:
Yugen beauty referred to a type of attractiveness beneath the surface of the material but in delicate harmony with it that registers on the conscious as well as the subconscious of the viewer. It radiates a kind of spiritual essence.
For a definitive look at the Japanese view and creation of yugen beauty, see Elements of Japanese Design - Key Terms for Understanding & Using Japan's Classic Wabi-Sabi-Shibui Concepts.
9 July 2008
A propósito del Congreso de la UPEC
Al terminar el preuniversitario tenía el capricho de ser periodista. Entre tres amigas contratamos una profesora particular que nos repasaba para las pruebas de ingreso a la universidad. Aquella mujer insistía –hasta llegar a molestarme- que nunca iba a lograr ser una buena reportera, sino que todo en mí apuntaba a otra profesión: la filología. Su maldición se cumplió pues terminé metiéndome con las palabras, la fonética y los conceptos literarios, en lugar de correr tras las noticias.
No sólo la profecía de esta Tiresias habanera me alejó de la labor informativa, sino la convicción de que en una sociedad marcada por la censura, por el oportunismo y la doble moral, ser periodista era el origen de mil y una frustraciones. Había conocido a Reinaldo, expulsado de Juventud Rebelde porque "su línea de pensamiento no se ajustaba con la del periódico" y ver sus deseos de escribir, malgastándose en una dura jornada como mecánico de ascensor, fue el puntillazo final a mis sueños adolescentes.
La Glasnost había pasado y en Cuba un sabor a oportunidad perdida se extendía entre los reporteros y sus frustrados lectores. La tele nos repetía que las producciones aumentaban, que el país resistiría y que el "invencible líder" nos llevaría a la victoria, mientras nuestras vidas desmentían cada frase triunfalista y cada cifra engordada. Una y otra vez respiré aliviada de no haberme hecho periodista. Creí sentirme a salvo en el mundo de la metáfora.
Sin embargo, no estaban tan alejadas ambas profesiones, ya que una buena parte del periodismo que se hace en los medios oficiales cubanos tiene mucho de literatura. Pues sí, tratando de escaparme hacia la ficción, lo novelesco y lo teatral, encontré que de eso mismo estaban llenos los telediarios cubanos: de personajes que nadie se cree, de historias futuristas que nunca llegan a materializarse y de rostros sonrientes seleccionados entre miles de caras angustiadas.
Con su vaticinio, aquella profesora ilegal quería advertirme de algo que descubrí por mí misma años después: que entre la ficción de nuestra prensa y la de nuestros novelistas, la segunda me iba a proveer de más certezas.
3 July 2008
With gas prices soaring and seemingly no end in site, drivers are going to great pains to save at the pump. But it seems something obvious has been overlooked: skipping the commute and working from home. Fewer than 10 percent of Americans work from home even one day per week.
Much of the resistence of telecommuting comes from companies and bosses who don't trust their employees. New York Times best-selling author Tim Ferriss, who wrote The 4 Hour Workweek, has some tips for getting around that obstacle. You can watch the video by clicking here. It was produced by NBC's Andrew Gross and Colleen Sanvido, and edited by David Bentley. The three-dimensional graphics come courtesty of NBC's Patrick Longstreth.
You can read about Tim Ferriss' telecommuting tips by clicking here.
2 July 2008
30 June 2008
29 June 2008
La gran pregunta del sábado por la noche no es ¿qué hacer? sino ¿cómo costear una recreación mayoritariamente en pesos convertibles? Para una pareja joven, el acto de ir a una discoteca puede significar –como mínimo- la erogación de diez "chavitos". De ahí que las fiestas house o las películas del sábado resulten mejor para el bolsillo. Yo me entretengo con los amigos que vienen a la casa y de vez en cuando me voy al malecón, que sigue siendo gratis. Me sumo a veces a los jóvenes que se reúnen en la intersección de 23 y G para pasar la noche conversando, cantando en voz alta y caminando de un lado a otro.
Por eso me siento feliz cuando llega el Festival de Cine Francés y con sólo pagar un subsidiado precio, logro entretenerme algunas noches. Eso sí, nada de tomarse una cervecita a la salida del filme "99 F" o de la comedia "Usted es realmente guapo", porque eso podría significar el salario de un día de trabajo. Después de las funciones, nos quedamos mosqueando en las afueras del Chaplin o nos vamos a casa. El anuncio de la semana de cine alemán me tranquiliza: al menos durante algunos días, divertirse no significará hacerse el harakiri.
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Welcome to Kanji Curiosity | The Basics | Glossary
Welcome to summer! With the longest days upon us, it seems fitting to take a look at the character for "long":
長 (CHŌ, naga(i): long)
This kanji can also mean "chief, head, leader," but today, for the most part, I'm only interested in its length. I love how 長 elongates the following things in the most charming of ways:
| 穴 |
| 長穴 |
| 円 |
(en or maru: circle)
| 長円 |
(chōen: ellipse, oval)
| 靴 |
| 長靴 |
| 椅子 |
| 長椅子 |
The compound 椅子 (isu: chair) breaks down as chair + noun suffix relating to objects such as furniture. Wow, that breakdown was long even without 長 there to elongate it!
Here's my favorite 長 transformation:
| 芋 |
| 長芋 |
Yes, that's true! A yam is longer than a potato! I'd never thought about it before.
28 June 2008
Master taiko drummer Daihachi Oguchi has died:
Oguchi was crossing the street when he was struck by the car Thursday. He was rushed to the hospital but died of excessive bleeding early Friday, said Yuken Yagasaki of Osuwa Daiko, the group in Nagano prefecture (state) in northern Japan that Oguchi had led.
Oguchi helped found top U.S. taiko groups, including San Francisco Taiko Dojo, which has performed in Hollywood movies and on international tours since its founding 40 years ago.
A former jazz musician, Oguchi was one of the first to elevate the traditional folk sounds of taiko to modern music played in concert halls, not just festivals and shrines.
[ht to Ashe]
Hay definiciones, consignas y formas de llamar las cosas que siguen usándose por puro automatismo, aunque en la realidad poco quede que justifique esos apelativos. Se sigue hablando de una igualdad social que no logro encontrar por ninguna parte, de una soberanía que contrasta con nuestra dependencia real de los mercados extranjeros y de una ideología que no asoma sus principios en medio de este "seudo-capitalismo de Estado".
Podremos seguir con el mismo cartel sobre la puerta, pero eso no hará que la realidad se parezca a lo que en él se anuncia. Por ejemplo -en la foto de arriba- un árbol creció y tapó parte de la numantina opción "Socialismo o muerte". La vida terminó por ridiculizar la extrema elección que nos proponía ese slogan. Unas gruesas ramas con hojas verdes cubrieron la mención a "la pelona", y crearon una disyuntiva diferente a aquella que nos gritaban desde la tribuna, en los años más duros del Período Especial.
Un pequeño retoño amenaza con tapar también la palabra "socialismo". ¿No será ya el momento de cambiar el cartel?
The absence of black mommy memoirs mirrors the relative absence of black women's voices in mainstream U.S. media discourse about motherhood in general. In particular, this discourse is concerned with how women balance the demands of family and careers, and with the decision by some college-educated women to opt out of the labor force altogether and remain at home with their children...
24 June 2008
The state is investigating a series of violent incidents involving people who have received psychiatric treatment at Mayview State Hospital.
Political Redistricting Shifts Debate
After nearly losing to a political rookie in 2000, then-House Majority Leader John Perzel found a way to survive in elections to come: he had his Northeast Philadelphia...
Viral Video Tips From Queen Rania
In 4 steps, Jordan’s Queen Rania shows you how to create video clips designed break down stereotypes.
It’s fascinating to watch what Rania is doing with YouTube and how she’s using it as a platform to encourage understanding between cultures.
Does it still count as citizen media, though, when you’re the Queen of Jordan?
World Refugee Day evawhite.com
World Refugee Day started out as Africa Refugee Day. Africa has the highest numbers of refugees in the world perhaps resulting from a higher level or civic unrest, human displacement and tragedy. So what is the relevance of this day today? Well the fact is that there are some 40 million refugees world wide today.
Read the full story
The Japan Times: All Stories 6/18/08 4:37 PM
Many elderly people die alone these days. The breakup of the extended family structure amid the march of urbanization as well as, possibly, the accompanying economic decline in rural areas may be responsible for weakening human bonds. To discuss the issue of dying alone, four government bodies — the internal affairs ministry, the health and welfare ministry, the national police agency, and the infrastructure and transport ministry — set up a panel of experts. The panel calls for reviving the sense of community among people in general and helping elderly people feel that they have a role to...
Read the full story
The Japan Times: All Stories 6/18/08 4:12 PM
Acid violence makes a lot of consequences on the life of women life. When someone threats to throw acid to a woman's face the family becomes afraid and tries to give her marry as early as possible. Therefore, t...
In 4 steps, Jordan's Queen Rania shows you how to create video clips designed break down stereotypes.
It's fascinating to watch what Rania is doing with YouTube and how she's using it as a platform to encourage understanding between cultures.
Does it still count as citizen medi, though, when you're the Queen of Jordan?
World Refugee day started out as Africa Refugee Day. Africa has the highest numbers of refugees in the world perhaps resulting from a higher level or civic unrest, human displacement and tragedy. So what is the relevance of this day today? Well the fact is that there are some 40 million refugees world wide today;
23 June 2008
Most American cigarette makers including Philip Morris (PM) have used ammonia in their manufacturing processes for decades, to "puff up" tobacco to increase its volume, highlight certain flavors, help hold together reconstituted tobacco sheet and reduce the amount of nicotine in tobacco. Lesser known, though, is that tobacco companies use ammonia to "freebase" the nicotine in smoke, essentially turning naturally-occurring nicotine into "crack nicotine." Freebase nicotine is absorbed by the body more quickly and easily, resulting in a faster, harder "kick" after lighting up. Using ammonia has allowed tobacco companies to lower the tar and nicotine levels in cigarettes while still keeping smokers addicted, a chemical strategy they applied to deal with the health fears surrounding cigarettes. PM was the first to use "ammonia technology" this way, applying it to Marlboros in the 1960s. After the change, Marlboro zoomed from a minor brand to a runaway market success, causing the other cigarette makers to scramble to discover PM's "secret." After PM was accused of intentionally manipulating the nicotine deliveries of its cigarettes, the company pointed to all the other uses for ammonia to defend itself against the charge.
June 23, 2008
Los Teques Journal
Amid Despair in a Venezuelan Prison, Strains of Hope From a Music Program
By SIMON ROMERO
LOS TEQUES, Venezuela — When Nurul Asyiqin Ahmad was taken seven months ago to her cell at the National Institute of Feminine Orientation, a prison perched on a hill in this city of slums on the outskirts of Caracas, learning how to play Beethoven was one of the last things on her mind.
"The despair gripped me, like a nightmare had become my life," said Ms. Ahmad, 26, a shy law student from Malaysia who claims she is innocent of charges of trying to smuggle cocaine on a flight from Caracas to Paris. "But when the music begins, I am lifted away from this place." Ms. Ahmad plays violin and sings in the prison's orchestra.
In a project extending Venezuela's renowned system of youth orchestras to some of the country's most hardened prisons, Ms. Ahmad and hundreds of other prisoners are learning a repertory that includes Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and folk songs from the Venezuelan plains.
The budding musicians include murderers, kidnappers, thieves and, here at the women's prison, dozens of narcomulas, or drug mules, as small-scale drug smugglers are called. The project, which began a year ago, is expanding this year to five prisons from three.
"This is our attempt to achieve the humanization of prison life," said Kleiberth Lenin Mora, 32, a lawyer who helped create the prison orchestras, modeling them on the system that teaches tens of thousands of poor children in Venezuela classical music. "We start with the simple idea that performing music lifts the human being to another level."
Few nations have prison systems as much in need of humanizing as Venezuela, where 498 inmates out of a total population of 21,201 were killed in 2007, according to the Venezuelan Prison Observatory, a group that monitors prison violence.
The women's prison, the scene of gang fights and hunger strikes by inmates in recent months, is not immune to this violence. But it is not all bleak. Inmates have free access to the Internet. They can pay to use cellphones. A commissary sells soft drinks and junk food.
And now INOF (pronounced like the word "enough"), the acronym the prison is known by in Spanish, has its orchestra, which most of the more than 300 women incarcerated here opt to avoid. But the 40 or so who have joined find themselves enmeshed in an experience that was unexpected in their lives in prison and in their lives out of prison.
"Before this my music was reggaetón," said Irma González, 29, a street vendor serving a six-year sentence for robbery, referring to the fusion of reggae, hip-hop and Latin pop that is widely popular in Venezuelan slums. Now she plays the double bass. Her proudest moment, she said, was when her four children, ages 14, 13, 10 and 9, recently came here to watch her play.
"When they applauded me, I finally felt useful in this life," said Ms. González. Like other participants, she hopes to reduce her term by playing in the orchestra, which judges may consider the equivalent of hours of study.
Officials say it is too early to tell whether the project will improve overall conditions here and at the two prisons for men where it started, in the Andean states of Mérida and Táchira. No stars have emerged like Gustavo Dudamel, the 27-year-old from the youth-orchestra system named as the next music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
For now, the project, which receives $3 million in funding from President Hugo Chávez's government and the Inter-American Development Bank, takes baby steps. It staged its first public performance last month in Teresa Carreño Theater in Caracas. And it insists its participants hew to a few specific rules.
For instance, no one can threaten the professors, many of whom are drawn from the youth-orchestra system. Everyone must speak clearly during discussions in the daily practice sessions. Everyone must stand up straight and take care of his or her instrument. Smoking and chewing tobacco are not allowed.
The orchestra at INOF is one of the most cosmopolitan in Venezuela. Many of the inmates are foreigners arrested on drug-smuggling charges. Women from Colombia, Spain, Malaysia and the Netherlands play instruments or sing in the chorus alongside Venezuelans.
"I drain away my bad thoughts in the orchestra," said Joanny Aldana, 29, a viola player serving a nine-year sentence for kidnapping and auto theft. Like some of the other inmates, she is imprisoned here with her child, a 2-year-old daughter. Still, she despairs sometimes.
"There's the pain of my children, of having destroyed my life, my youth," Ms. Aldana said.
Perhaps no amount of music can make up for such loss. Perhaps that explains the fervor with which some of the women play their instruments or sing. It is not uncommon to see one of them shedding a tear when a certain note is struck.
For Yusveisy Torrealba, 18, that moment comes when the chorus sings a few words from "Caramba," the folk song by the Venezuelan composer Otilio Galíndez performed with the cuatro, a four-string guitar. Ms. Torrealba was caught in April taking cocaine on a flight to Orlando, Fla.
In her soft voice, she sang these lines for a visitor one recent afternoon:
Caramba, my love, caramba
The things we have missed
The gossip I could only hear
Between the rocks of the river.
"Caramba," she repeated quietly, as if contemplating how much time remained in an eight-year sentence that began last month. "The only thing keeping me together is this music."
Sandra La Fuente P. contributed reporting.
22 June 2008
Matt Yglesias offers a good review of this excellent movie, which chronicles the early life of Genghis Khan, or one vision thereof. There are at least two increasing returns to scale mechanisms in this movie. First, leadership is focal, which tends to bind groups together and make concentrated rule possible. Winning battles makes you focal and winning larger battles makes you focal across larger groups. Second, if you walk or ride alone in the countryside, you will be snatched or plundered. That causes people to live in settlements and also larger cities. Put those mechanisms together, solve for equilibrium, and eventually one guy rules a very large kingdom and you get some semblance of free trade. Sooner or later, that is. The movie brings you only part of the way there and I believe a sequel is in the works.
The separatists thronged the visa office of the Chinese Embassy in Nepal, chanting slog ...
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How odd it is that "She's a riot!" means someone's funny. English speakers even say that something's "riotously funny." I've never been to a riot, but from the photos I've seen, nothing amusing happens at such events.
In Japanese, too, there seems to be a fine line between riots and merrymaking. Take this word, for instance:
騒乱 (sōran: riot, disturbance) clamor + disorder
Last week we saw how 騒 (SŌ, sawa(gu): clamor, noise, disturbance; to make a fuss) plays a part in 大騒ぎ (ōsawagi), which means "shocking events." Now we see that in 騒乱, the same kanji helps to cause a riot.
If you flip 騒乱 and add a "foolish spirit" to it, your riot turns into a party:
乱痴気騒ぎ (ranchiki sawagi: boisterous merrymaking)
disorder + foolish + spirit + clamor
And if you'd like to "make merry" in a different way, here's another option:
底抜け騒ぎ (sokonuke sawagi: boisterous merrymaking)
bottom + to remove + clamor
Ah, 底抜け (sokonuke) breaks down as bottom + to remove and means "bottomless"! And no, even though there's boisterous merrymaking at hand, we're not talking about bottomless pants (a la David Lee Roth).
Boisterous merrymaking is one thing, but what about when the fun becomes disorderly? Then you have this situation:
悪騒ぎ (warusawagi: disorderly merrymaking; making a fuss without considering the annoyance it causes others) bad + clamor
Disorderly merrymaking? Not allowed! First, you need to clean off your desk and get your files in order, aligning your stapler just so and disentangling your paper clips. Only then is it OK to have fun!
The World Socialist Web Site interviewed workers and professionals in Detroit about the worsening social conditions as gas prices and food prices soar through the roof. In this clip, our reporters spoke with Jada Browning a young mother of three who recently lost her job.
21 June 2008
The main value proposition of cloud computing is better economics, that it's cheaper to rent hardware, software platforms and applications (via a per-usage or subscription model) than it is to buy, build and maintain them in the corporate data center. But if we expect that cloud computing is here to stay –- and not just a passing fad –- it must be feasible for the cloud providers themselves. So how do they do it?
They do it by leverage economies of scale. Put simply, the idea is that one very large organization can more efficiently build and operate its infrastructure than many small firms can on their own. To better understand this, let's break down some of the financial advantages leveraged in cloud computing:
Specialization: Specialization is also known as division of labor, a term coined by the father of modern economics, Adam Smith. A company for whom running a large-scale data center is a core part of its business will do so much more cost-effectively than a company for whom it's merely one aspect. The former will hire the best experts in the world, and will have the management attention required to continuously innovate, optimize and improve operations. And the overhead costs associated with doing so will spread thinly across massive usage. Case in point: Since it needed to use hundreds of thousands of servers, it was worthwhile for Google to build its own, homegrown devices to fit its exact power supply and fault-tolerance needs.
Although in software, anyone can build anything with enough people, time and money (as my old boss used to say, "It's all ones and zeros"), it makes no sense for individual companies to develop capabilities such as dynamic provisioning, linear scalability and in-memory data partitioning when they're readily available from off-the-shelf products.
Purchasing Power: Large organizations buy in bulk, which they can leverage to negotiate lower prices. So presumably the cloud provider can acquire lower-costing servers and networks, operating systems and virtualization software. Furthermore, they can negotiate better interest rates, insurance premiums and other contracts.
Utilization: This is perhaps the most important one and what I like to call the Kindergarten Principle, or "sharing is good." In computing, tremendous savings can be achieved by having multiple companies share the same IT infrastructure.
Experts estimate average data center utilization rates range from 15 percent to 20 percent. If you include the processing, memory and storage capacity available on company-owned laptops and desktops as well, utilization rates may be as low as 5 percent. That's a lot of waste. Imagine if this were the case in the hospitality industry. In most cases, a hotel with even 50 percent average occupancy rates would quickly go out of business.
So why is this happening with corporate IT?
Application loads are volatile; they experience peaks and troughs based on time of day, day of the week or month, seasons and so on. To avoid hitting the "scalability wall," companies need to overprovision. So if a company expects a certain daily peak volume (for example, the opening of the trading day for an e-trading application), it will provision enough hardware so that utilization rates at the peak reach no more than 70 percent (leaving some room for unexpected loads – hey, Steve Jobs may announce the next iPhone today). But at other times utilization rates could go as low as 10 percent, with the average somewhere in between.
So the difference between peak loads and average loads drives overprovisioning and a high rate of unused computing capacity. But if we aggregate the activities of several companies, we will not face such volatility in application loads. Let's see why.
Follow the Sun: In many cases, peaks and troughs in application volumes can largely be attributed to the time of day. Human-facing applications are active during daytime and face very low activity during the night. When New York experiences the opening bell trading spike, London is in the midday lull and Tokyo is going to bed. Same goes for e-commerce sites, social networking sites, gaming sites and others, though these types of applications might experience peaks after business hours as well.
If companies around the globe and in different industries share the same resources on the cloud, higher utilization rates will be achieved by the cloud provider, lowering its costs – savings that it can turn around and pass on to its customers. This model of shared resources even addresses the need to overprovision for unexpected peaks, as it is unlikely that all the cloud users, in all geographical regions and all industries will face peaks at the same time. This is similar to the notion of a bank not having all of the cash reserves necessary to handle the cash commitments to all customers at the same time (is there an equivalent to a bank run in cloud computing?).
Follow the Moon: And with so much focus on energy costs, data center power consumption and cooling (not to mention the environment), there's also a cloud computing approach known as Follow the Moon. It posits that a cloud provider with physical data centers in several different geographical locations can run the applications that are active from the day side of the world in centers on the night side of the world, taking advantage of lower power and cooling costs.
Cloud computing, therefore, is an economically feasible strategy. Over time, the cost savings will be too compelling for all but the very largest companies to ignore.
If this story interests you then you should definitely check out our upcoming conference, Structure 08.
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- Taiko master Daihachi Oguchi dies
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- Cheap T-shirts
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- Political Redistricting Shifts Debate
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