January 31, 2004
Daytime BBC Radio

You can’t turn the TV on the last few days without being bombarded with news of how the BBC is somehow imploding as a result of some journalist allegedly using journalistic licence to sex-up a news story about an allegedly sexed-up government dossier.

So - instead of watching my usual late-evening BBC News 24 slot the other night - I decided to go online and check out the Digital Audio Broadcast of the BBC Asian Network being streamed over the web. I have never listened to this radio station before - but I had seen it advertised quite heavily a few months ago. So I picked randomly on the audio-stream of a weekday daytime show being presented by a lady called Sonia Deol. And what a bizarre radio show. It made me wonder whether all daytime radio is like this - or whether the banality was characteristic of this specific radio station, or perhaps this particular presenter.

The show was a phone-in show - where members of the public are invited to phone in to discuss a particular topic - where the topic of this particular show on this particular day was “religious education” within the Asian community. The presenter has three people on the phone: Shana from Birmingham, Kam from Birmingham, and Saleem from Leicester. The presenter Sonia has a cold - and is being accompanied in the studio by some guest called Alan I think. The conversation starts with the colour of cars and whether people talk to their cars. I couldn’t help but laugh at Kam’s strong Birmingham accent as he describes hilariously how he talks to his car. It’s fascinating how the people phoning in interact with each other. Kam is really boisterous and assertive, Shana is really quiet and kind of disapproves of Kam’s assertiveness. Saleem seems to not really be paying attention - and at one point doesn’t really know which radio station he’s calling into. Kam offers an interesting cure to Sonia’s cold - and then the conversation eventually moves on to religious education. Click here to listen to these hilarious few minutes of the show.

Riveting stuff.

ps - if you’re reading this Annie Mole (seriously big Eastenders fan): as it happens - the same Sonia Deol will apparently be joined by Eastenders star Pooja Shah on Monday at 11am. If you’re at work at that time you can always catch up with later - the audio streams are kept for each show for one day: click on “Listen Live” and then select previous shows.

Posted by jag at 12:35 PM | Comments (2)
January 30, 2004
Overground & underground

Having snowed on Wednesday evening - I didn’t even bother trying to get the bus to work on Thursday morning. I took the tube to Baker Street and changed onto the Hammersmith & City line. Luckily - there were no delays or problems at all.

The view out of a bedroom window on Wednesday night.

The Circle/Ham&City platforms at Baker Street tube.
One of my favourite platforms: The decor and lighting is excellent.

Posted by jag at 11:47 PM | Comments (0)
January 28, 2004
Let it snow

We had “proper” snow this evening in London:

Snow blizzard in Hammersmith West London - about 6pm. Very pretty.

Posted by jag at 11:19 PM | Comments (8)
January 27, 2004
Queensbury panorama

There is a neigbourhood called Queensbury on the path of the Route 79 bus in North West London - just a couple of hundred metres away from where I live. There’s nothing really very special about Queensbury. Like most suburbs in London - all the action in Queensbury seems to centre around the High Street/Tube station combo - although life in Queensbury is a little slow at the best of times - because there is no “High Street” as such - just a tube station and a parade of shops on either side. Queensbury is situated right next to a neighbourhood called Kingsbury - which is positivley bustling with life compared to Queensbury. You might find it funny how two neigbourhoods right next to each other are called Kingsbury and Queensbury. The history of it is like this: First there was Kingsbury (thousands of years old) - and then sometime in the early/middle of the 20th century an estate agent oganised a competition to name the area of mostly new housing betwen Kingsbury and Stanmore - and some bright spark nominated “Queensbury”. And that was that.

Anyway - here is a panorama image of Queensbury that I created today. I roughly took a series of around 20 frames on my digital camera (from the London Underground “needle” sculpture in the middle of the Queensbury Circle roundabout) - making sure they overlapped a little. Then I used Photoshop Elements to stitch them altogether, added some annotations to the picture - and then used a shareware app to display the resultant image in a shockwave-flash applet. It’s not quite 360 degrees - more like 270.

Click on the picture to make it stop. Move your mouse to the left or right over the image to make the picture move. Enjoy!

Panorama of Queensbury - NW London - 27th Jan 2004

Posted by jag at 06:39 PM | Comments (31)
January 25, 2004
Aloo mutter & mushrooms

Ever wondered what to do with those mushrooms in your fridge that have passed the “use by” date by a couple of days or so? Potatoes in your cupboard sprouting a few shoots perhaps? A couple of handfulls of frozen peas lurking in a bag in the depths of your freezer compartment? Wishing you could do something about those onions you haven’t used yet?

Time for another Route79 cooking lesson:

Get the following items together:

  • 1 bag of mushrooms chopped into quarters
  • 2 large onions chopped finely
  • 1 tin of peeled plum-tomatoes
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
  • Frozen, pre-pulped garlic, ginger and green-chillie (Read this recipe for for more info on this.)
  • Spices: Turmeric (Haldi), Garam Masala, Ground Coriander, Salt, Jeera (cumin) seeds
  • A large-ish pot in which to pour 3 or 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • Optional: some fresh (or frozen) chopped coriander leaf to garnish at the end

Don’t worry about precision in the amounts - just use “the force” that comes to you - that’s all part of the fun of Indian cooking. I’m sure Delia Smith wouldn’t approve at such lack of detail - but I’m certain that Jamie Oliver would say “Lovely jalebi!”


Heat the oil in the pot until hot. Add the cumin seeds and watch them pop and fizzle for around 20 seconds. Then add the finely chopped onions and fry until they are brownish.

Fry the cumin seeds until they pop - and then fry the onions until browned

Then add the pre-pulped, frozen garlic, ginger and chillie chunks and stir-fry for a few minutes before adding the spices: 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons haldi (tumeric), 3 teaspoons garam masala, 2 teaspoons ground coriander. Stir it all up until the aroma starts to take over your kitchen.

Adding the spices - and stir-frying until the aroma starts to get the better of you

After a few minutes - add the tinned peeled-plum tomato - and chop them up coarsely with your wooden spoon in the pot:

Adding the tinned tomato - and chopping it inside the pan using wooden spoon

Fry on medium heat for a few minutes - stirring occasionally - until you can see the oil separating from the mixture when you stir it. Then add the chopped potato.

Stir-frying the mixture - then adding the potatoes

Stir it all up thoroughly - and then add around 500ml of boiling water.

Adding the potatoes and some boiling water to the mixture

Then put the lid half-on and let it simmer semi-vigorously for around 10 mins before adding the chopped mushrooms.

Simmering - and then adding the mushrooms

Simmer for around 10 more minutes - stirring occasionally - and then add the bowl-full of frozen peas - and once again, stir thoroughly.

Adding the peas - and simmering for a little bit more

After the pot has reached the consistency that you prefer - switch off the flame and let it sit for around 10 minutes whilst you prepare the fresh basmati rice (or instead: pour into a deep bowl and prepare some warmed pitta bread or toast) with side-salad and/or chillie/mango pickle. Then serve up (and sprinkle with some fresh/frozen coriander leaf/stalks) and enjoy whilst it’s hot!

Aloo mutter & mushrooms - simply delicious!

Any leftovers can be kept in a cling-filmed bowl or plastic container for up to two days in the fridge. But be sure to not keep leftover rice like that though. Throw any leftover rice away - always make it fresh the next day. (According to my Mum - “old” rice is not good for your brain.)

If you missed any of my previous home-made, London-style, Indian recipes (with some hints and tips) - then you clickety-click them here:

Posted by jag at 10:22 PM | Comments (13)
January 24, 2004
Town & Back

Westminster. Jubilee Line Westbound. About 9pm.

Wembley Park. Northbound Metropolitan/Jubilee platform. Wet.

Posted by jag at 11:33 AM | Comments (7)
January 23, 2004
Inside Outside

There are large parts of the London tube network where the trains travel overground instead of underground. This is the case on the Western stretches of the Piccadilly Line - including the tube journey that forms a part of my daily trek home: Hammersmith to Alperton. It’s only a few stops, so doesn’t normally take very long - around 15 minutes on most days. Most of the time I don’t bother taking a seat - I just stand near the doorway. And I am always in the last carriage of the train - as this is the most convenient for getting off at Alperton. It seems that the whole world gets off at Alperton - which I find rather strange - because the only thing in Alperton are industrial estates and some bus stops. So - I am always ready to jump off first and be the first person through the barriers and sprint for the Route 79 bus if necessary - all without having to dodge the crowds.

Whilst I’m standing there - on the tube - near the doorway - I have a habit of sticking my head out the door when the doors open - and gazing down the length of the train - trying to predict when the doors are going to close again. The more savvy tube rider will know that there are coloured signal lights near the front of the train. Orange means the train is going nowhere. Green means that the doors about to close! I love to watch the orange turn green. I always stick my head back inside the train at this point - for obvious reasons.

One thing that really fascinates me is the contrast in light and atmosphere between the outside and the inside of the tube train - especially at this time of the year - what with it being dark outside when travelling home. The overground station platforms are bathed in a yellowish light that although should be slightly warming - is instead cold, imposing a sort of murky ambience whilst casting sinister black shadows onto the floor of the platform. The inside, however, is warm and bright - and more like daylight. People who don’t get off at the station - carry on doing what they do, completely oblivious to the contrasts in the lights and moods of the outside. Standing near the doorway - I get to dream in both worlds.

The contrast in mood and ambience between the inside and the outside.
(Ealing Common, Piccadilly Line Westbound, last carriage.)

Posted by jag at 04:34 PM | Comments (4)
January 21, 2004
Wembley Stadium

I feel somewhat obliged to post an entry in this journal on this topic. Wembley Stadium is just around the corner from where I live - and was once described by the legendary soccer superstar Pele as “the curch of football”. The famous Wembley Stadium as we used to know it is an inspiration and place of pilgrimage for many a die-hard fan of football.

When it first opened it was known as the Empire Stadium - the centre-piece of the British Empire Exhibition of 1924. It played host to its first ever event a year earlier in 1923: The FA Cup final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United - to an unimaginable, packed crowd of around 200,000 spectators! The Olympics were centred there in 1948 - and of, course, Bobby Moore of the England football team in its undoubtedly greatest moment, proudly held the World Cup aloft here on 30th July 1966. Since then - many legendary rock bands and pop artists have played here - including Michael Jackson, Madonna, Guns N’ Roses, Elton John, U2, Rolling Stones, The Eagles, the Three Tenors (Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti), Tina Turner, Amitabh Bacchan and Bryan Adams - not to mention the world famous and historical “Live Aid”, “free Nelson Mandela” and Freddie Mercury tribute concerts - all of which have graced this most historical of entertainment venues in recent years.

The original stadium (which was once surrounded by glorious lakes) evolved over the years to form the heart of a decrepid industrial and retail-park estate, incorporating exhibition centres and the Wembley Arena conference facility as well as the Sunday Market alongside MFI, CarpetWorld and other home furniture stores.

Click here for a Shockwave historical timeline of the legendary, old Wembley Stadium.

And so the story continues: In 2002 the famous stadium was demolished to make way for a brand new 21st century stadium. And ever since, practically every day, I have observed the skyline from the top-deck of the Route 79 bus on my way to work in the mornings. The new stadium is being hailed as being “the best in the world” - and will form a dazzlingly impressive addition to the skyline of North West London - which will apparently be visible from miles around - even Central London!

Well - to record some history in the making right here in blogdom: here is the view of the stadium site under construction as taken at the weekend by moi using my digital camera:

The new Wembley National Stadium - under construction.

This cluster of cranes have become a permanent feature of the NW London skyline - and I have also noticed that they are clearly visible from the top floor of my office in Hammersmith too! I am intrigued by the sheer enormity of the concrete towers that appear to define the shape of the future stadium - and I am really looking forward to seeing the structure taking shape over the coming months. I am also kind of glad in a way that the new stadium will play a part in the proposed London Olympic 2012 bid - as I simply cannot imagine East London taking 100% of the glory of this most prestigious of events. (Sorry Diamond Geezer - but Wembley is the true home of the Olympics - Stratford is simply a politically-correct excuse for urban regeneration! :-) )

Here is a closer view of those massive concrete structures forming the outline of the new stadium:

Concrete structures forming the outline of the new Wembley National Stadium.

Posted by jag at 11:21 PM | Comments (6)
January 20, 2004
Office artefacts

During a bio-break at a long workshop at the office on Friday I spotted an overhead acetate projector on the floor in the corner of the meeting room. This got me thinking: why is it that practically every office meeting room (well large ones anyway) have an overhead acetate projector on the floor in the corner? Does anybody actually still use those things? Are they there just in case someone might suddenly develop the urge to use one? The last time I actually recall someone using one was, I think, sometime in 1990. That’s over 14 years ago! (At this point in the workshop I decided to compose an arty photo of the swanky new laptop projector we were using. And here it is - without any Photoshop manipulation.)

Swanky, hi-tech, laptop projector.

And this got me thinking even further - does anybody remember what office life was like in 1990? Here are some things that I certainly recall:

  • The most common method of storing and transporting computer files - as well as installing new software on the PC was floppy disk. CDROMs didn’t exist then.
  • I remember that the computer on my desk was really chunky - and the monitor was too. There were no windows.
  • The word processor was WordStar - everyone in the office aspired to be a WordStar wizard. There was one chap in particular who memorised every conceivable keystroke combination in WordStar.
  • The spreadsheet program was called Lotus 1-2-3 - and that was an upgrade from something that had been in use for years: VisiCalc.
  • You were considered a privileged employee if you had a copy of Dbase2 on your PC. Must have been important to have that.
  • There was no Powerpoint! Can you believe that - NO POWERPOINT ! What on earth did people do to keep themselves busy?
  • In fact - there was no email either. Well - there was - but it was based on some really-hard-to-get-access-to mainframe system - and it wouldn’t get better for at least 3 more years when Windows started appearing in the office.
  • Sending a message to somebody involved firing up WordStar - and choosing the “Memo” template - composing a memo - and then printing it to a shared printer at which there would invariably be a queue of people. Once printed - the memo was inserted into a specially-designed and re-usable “memo envelope” - upon which you would write the name, building and floor of the recipient - and then drop it into the nearest “mail out” tray to your desk. There was an entire division of the company dedicated to shifting memos like this around the company, right across the country. Incredible when you think about it now.
  • I remember being amazed by the photocopier. I was a student fresh out of college at the time - so my experience of photocopying prior had always been the SINGLE photocopier in the University library - which you had a queue for - and was 5p a sheet! Here in the office - the photocopier was HUGE - and had loads of buttons and resize options - was fast - and best of all was FREE! I used to use the office photocopier a lot when I started work - kind of like making up for years of photocopier poverty.
  • I remember that the more senior a manager you were - the larger - or better positioned - or more private - or better furnished your office-space was.
  • Smoking was permitted in the office.
  • The fax machine used to print on special, shiny-ish paper that used to curl up - and you had to tear off the sheet at the end of the copy - and cut up the pages. Also - that paper used to turn yellow after several months.
  • There were no mobile phones. I repeat no mobile phones. So no distractions from people trying to be funny with their ringtones. No conference calls, no headsets, no electronic organisers, no PDAs etc. The Filofax (or Time Manager) was the trendy thing to have in those days. But it’s still very hard to get over the fact that there were no mobile phones.
  • The office stationery cupboard was, to me, like an Alladin’s Cave of treasures. In those days people used to take their selection of writing pen very seriously - I remember my personal favourite was a Black Pentel fine point professional or something like that. These days nobody uses pens any more - so the office stationery cupboard only stocks cheap and nasty biros.

In 1990 the “pulse” of the business was monthly - we had monthly briefings, monthly team meetings, monthly reports etc. Nowadays, the pulse of the business is weekly - or even more frequent. Besides the obvious office artefacts - I remember that I used to wear a suit to the office - every day. There was no concept of “dress-down”. Also - I used to take a one hour lunch-break every day. I cannot quite believe that - but it’s true. Also - there were a few friends I had in the office who all socialised together too. I fondly remember the days (practically every day) that we used to hit the West End - Covent Garden etc. Our most popular format for an evening out was starting at the Long Island Iced Tea Shop - this is where we would have some cocktails as we waited for everyone to turn up - and then we’d move on to the Roundhouse - and then on to The WAG in Wardour Street. I am amazed at the energy we used to have in those days. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised - our minds and bodies have been dulled as well as stressed by the technological advancements of things like email, Powerpoint, massive hard drives and even bigger H: drives and colour printers along with weekly this, and daily that, and no time for lunch and all that.

1990 was a different world altogether.

He gave the reason, the reasons he should go
And he said so many things he never said before
And he was oh oh so mad
And I don’t think he’s comin’, comin’ back

From a song called “All Around The World” by Lisa Stansfield - I remember liking this song in 1990. I also remember having a long debate with someone in the office who said that Lisa Stansfield was a white lass from South Yorkshire - and I was in denial - saying that Lisa Stansfield was a black American soul diva.

Posted by jag at 06:40 PM | Comments (15)
January 19, 2004
You, just you

Sorry it’s been a while since my last update - but you won’t believe what trouble I’ve had with my new laptop. That coupled with the fact that work has involved me “burning the midnight oil” as they say, has meant that it’s been real hard getting back into the routine of posting here in a timely fashion. Hopefully things will be back to banal normality! :-)

Anyway - some discussion (kicked off by Sathish) in the comments to my last posting stimulated me to go out and capture some images with my new camera: funnily enough - images of the CCTV camera culture that seems to dominate our daily lives here in London. Click on the green button in the Shockwave Flash image below to load up some great pics of CCTV situations along my beloved Route79 - with a musical accompaniment of a track called “Tum Bas Tum” by Shibani Kashyap from the soundtrack to the film Waisa Bhi Hota Hai: Part II . What a fabulous, sultry, sassy voice this singer has! (Thanks to Shobha for pointing me in the direction of this interesting selection of filmi music.)

Route 79 CCTV Culture - Turn up volume and enjoy the audio/video photo montage!

Posted by jag at 10:31 PM | Comments (5)
January 12, 2004
Life and condiments

Messing around with my new camera - trying to get familar with the controls and settings - I opened one of the eye-level cupboard doors in our kitchen and wondered what would life would be like without condiments?

Shelf of condiments

Can you imagine hot-dogs without generous lashings of Colman’s English Mustard? (Not that thick orangey gloop that American people call mustard!) And can you imagine freshly-fried Punjabi-style samosas without Maggi Masala Sauce? Or maybe Italian-style pasta without liberal splashings of Tabasco? Or perhaps aloo parathas (served freshly-flipped off the tawa) without chillie, lime or mango achaar (pickle)? Or even a freshly prepared side-salad of coarsely chopped cucumber, tomato, carrot and onion without a few liberal dashes of Sarson’s Malt Vinegar to add a bit of twist?

I can’t.

I cannot imagine what life would be like without the pleasure of being able to open the cupboard and relishing in the choice of condiment to accompany my dinner! :-)

Posted by jag at 11:16 PM | Comments (24)
January 11, 2004
Web for a week

I came into work on Tuesday morning and switched on my laptop as per usual. During the startup sequence it “blue-screened” - and then automatically proceeded to go back to the beginning of the startup seqence. I watched it do this several times in the hope of being able to catch what was written on the blue-screen - but it appeared and disappeared so quickly the only words I could make out were the words “corrupt”, “physical”, and “registry”. I switched the thing off and took it over to the “Office Infrastructure” (OI) team. A very helpful chap took a look at it and immediately proclaimed that it was likely a physical corruption of the hard disk (he called it a “bad block”) and that what he was going to do was to take the disk out and put it into a special machine in the lab: a machine in which he could perform some hi-tech “surgery” on the disk. He was going to recover all the uncorrupted data - and would use special reconstruction tools to uncorrupt the corrupted data - and then reformat the disk (around the bad blocks) - and then put my recovered data back on. He was supremely confident that all my data would be restored and that I would be back up and running by about lunchtime.

At lunchtime I went to visit him again and he said that the data backup and reconstruction was taking a bit longer than he thought - and that it would be ready by the end of the day. At the end of the day - he said that he’d done it all - but when he put the disk back into the laptop - the same problem occured. (Flash-appearing blue-screen during never-ending cycle of startup sequences.) He said that he was going to have to image all my data onto a new hard disk and that would be done by lunchtime the next day.

It was lucky that our team support lady was still on holiday this week - as she is one of the few poeple in the office with a desktop PC that I could use whilst my laptop was being repaired. It felt a bit weird sitting in a different part of the office - a totally different perspective on office life. The thing I noticed most of all was that her desk is right underneath an air-vent in the ceiling - so I could feel a very cold draft of air most of the time. It was also quite amusing examining all the little cuddly toys on top of her monitor - and it was quite liberating using her telephone’s hand-free headset for conference calls. I must get one of those for my desk.

Apart from the different office perspective - I found it very unproductive using another person’s computer to do my work. I cannot emphasise this enough. Using someone else’s computer sucks BIG time. I have come to the conclusion that we all personalise our computers so much that it becomes extremely unproductive using someone else’s. For a start - I have got so many different “convenience” apps on my laptop that simply didn’t exist on this computer I was using. Even the browser - the only browser on this computer was Internet Explorer - which I have pretty much forgotten how to use since I use a different browser on mine. I also had to check all my email through the browser - as I simply didn’t want to re-configure Outlook on someone else’s PC.

The following lunchtime - the Office Infrastructure support chap informed me that it would actually be ready by the end of the day. At the end of the day he put the brand new imaged disk into my laptop - and booted it up. I watched over his shoulder as it proceeded to do exactly what it was doing before - blue-screening in a never-ending startup cycle. He scratched his head and then suggested that it was something wrong with the laptop - and that the laptop was somehow electrically corrupting the hard disk. So he said he would have to image a new disk again - and this time he would put it into a new laptop as well. He told me that the old laptop would be sent off to Toshiba for repair or replacement given that it was still under warranty. He apologised and told me that I would be back up and running again by the end of the next day. He also informed me that I was only going to be able to recover my “personal profile data” - and that any other programs that I had installed on it were going to have to be reinstalled. Ouch!

Anyway - I now have a new laptop - it’s bigger, better and faster than my last one! And I now also have Microsoft XP Professional - whereas my last one was Windows 2000 Professsional. It seems to be a lot faster and a lot slicker. I spent all of Saturday downloading and re-installing all my apps - which was not as easy as it sounds as some of them involved serial numbers, activation codes and licence keys which I had to search for in old emails or by going onto websites “lost keys” pages.

I also found a little time to play with my new camera - which is going to take me at least a year to figure out how to use all the various features! But here is a test picture of the freshly graffitid Route 79 bus stop across the road from my house.

Fresh graffiti on Route79 bus stop across the road.
(It says “MUGA BEWARE” in the middle there.)

Posted by jag at 02:53 PM | Comments (7)
January 02, 2004
Literally out of tune

Have you ever heard an Indian cinema (Hindi) male/female duet love-song and wondered what they are singing to each other? Well - if you are lucky to own the DVD of the film in which the song features - then you could always switch on the subtitles into the language of your choice and hope that the DVD production house included the song lyrics in the subtitling.

To give the western audience here a flavour of the sort of lyrical content of Bollywood love songs (and to also give Indian readers here a little entertainment) I have taken a famous, recent-ish love song (from the film “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham”) and recorded myself singing the English lyrics, literally translated, over the original song.

Bollywood Love Song - sung by me - in English

Click on the red button in the shockwave object above - it will download approx 1.5Mbytes of audio recording and play it back. And please don’t laugh at my singing - I KNOW I‘m no pop idol.

If you are unable to make out what I’m saying in my singing voice - you could always follow the lyrics below whilst you’re listening to the recording:

The sun has dimmed
the moon has begun to burn
Oh, why has the sky …
… begun to melt?

The sun has dimmed
The moon has begun to burn
Oh, why has the sky …
… begun to melt?
I am standing still
The earth has begun to move
My heart has beat
My breath has begun to stop
Oh, is this my first …
… my first love?
Darling …
Is this my first .…
… my first love?

The sun has dimmed
the moon has begun to burn
Oh, why has the sky …
… begun to melt?
I am standing still
The earth has begun to move
My heart has beat
My breath has begun to stop
Yes, is this my first …
… my first love?
Darling …
Is this my first .…
… my first love?

This moment is beautiful
Everything is changing
Dreams are falling …
… into real life
Is this bond of ours …
… centuries old?
For in such a way …
… I am meeting you

Love’s season will remain …
… like this always
Meet me like this …
.… birth after birth

I am standing still
The earth has begun to move
My heart has beat
My breath has begun to stop

Yes, is this my first …
… my first love?
Darling …
Is this my first .…
… my first love?

Posted by jag at 04:55 PM | Comments (19)

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