The Flag in Front of My House

The flag in front of my houseToday is the 4th of July, and in honor of this, I have posted the flag of the United States on my porch.  And why would I do this?  Because of my love for the country which has done so much good for the world.  Yes, I know that the country isn’t perfect, and at all times in its history, it has needed and still needs improvement.  But can you name a country of which this couldn’t be said?  The fact is, this country has become the greatest country upon the face of the earth, and not because it has sought to conquer other lands, but because it has defended the freedom of all men.  Its efforts have not always been successful, and sometimes it has acted incorrectly, but what would the world be like if there had never been a United States?  The answer to this is that the world would have been a much worse place.

In his inauguration speech in 1961, President John F. Kennedy admonished the citizens of this great country, to “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country!” For over 150 years my family has been following the principle behind this admonition.

My great-great grandfather Christian Frederick Stoltzman (1839-1901) immigrated to this country from Germany around about 1864, settling in Richview, Illinois.  This was during the US Civil War, and since he had expressed his intent to become a US citizen this made him subject to call-up for military service.  He was subsequently called up for service in the Union Army, as a member of the 8th Illinois Infantry Regiment.  He fought in several battles while his regiment was a part of the XVI Corps of the Army of West Mississippi (commanded at the time by Major General Edward Canby), and participated in the last major battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Fort Blakely, Alabama.

My great grandfather John Adams Clark (1868-1947) was born in a United States which treated its aboriginal inhabitants, the “Indians”, quite poorly.  As a half-white, half-Konkow Indian man, he faced prejudice and some disadvantages as a result.  He nevertheless recognized that he was better off here than anywhere else.  In 1898, he was working in his occupation as a mineral prospector in California, when he heard that the United States had declared war on Spain (the Spanish-American War).  He immediately dropped what he was doing, hiked out of the hills to the nearest place of military enlistment, and signed up.  As a private in the 8th California Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Company G), he never faced hostile fire, but he freely put his life into the hands of his country, not for personal advantage but because he loved it.

John named his only son, Canby Adams Clark (1901-1942), after U.S. Army General Edward Canby, who was the only US general officer killed during the Indian Wars.  When a young man, Canby joined the US Navy and served as a Pharmacist’s Mate for six years during the period between the World Wars, serving aboard numerous ships, including the repair ship USS Vestal.  Years after he was honorably discharged from the US Navy, he was working as a well-paid steamfitter when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, an attack which seriously damaged his old ship, the Vestal, which was moored next to the battleship USS Arizona at the time.  In the days after Pearl Harbor, the now 40-year old Canby tried to re-enlist in the Navy but was refused due to his age.  Being thus unable to serve his country directly, like his father before him he left his occupation and took a lesser paying job as a welder at Todd Shipyards in Long Beach, California, helping to build ships for the US Navy.  In May 1942, while engaged in the construction of the USS Ajax, another repair ship, he suffered a heart attack and died.  The Ajax went on to serve the United States in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, once even serving alongside Canby’s old ship, the Vestal, during the Marianas campaign.

Canby’s only child, Donald Lee Clark (1930-1976), was only 12 when his father died, but his father’s and grandfather’s examples led him to seek to serve his country also – and as soon as he could possibly do so, when he finally convinced his mother to give permission for him to join the US Marine Corps at the tender age of 17.  He spent three years of his life as a “Leatherneck”, and his service as a high-speed radio operator (Morse code) saw him sailing with the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.  A few years after his honorable discharge in 1950, Donald again served the country in the US Air Force Reserve, again as a radio operator.

Donald’s two sons, my brother Mark and I, also followed the flag, myself in the US Army for eight years, and Mark in the US Air Force for ten.

The flag in front of my house symbolizes for me the great love which my family has had for this country, and the great blessing which living under its government has been to us.  Long may that flag wave over this great land, and long may the freedoms, which that flag symbolizes, endure upon the earth.

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A Devonshire Trip

Wendy and I visited Devonshire over the past weekend, both for me to meet her sister and brother-in-law for the first time, and to have a look at the outstanding natural beauty of that region.  It was quite a trip!

England is a wonder in and of itself, of course.  We spent some of the time driving on highways, of course, but also traveled through the countryside on less-frequented roads.  I do have to say that there are picturesque little villages everywhere one turns.  And every single one of them are hundreds, if not thousands of years old!

We stayed in a nice hotel in Kingsteignton, Devonshire, the Best Western Passage House Hotel.  It is a very comfy facility with an excellent breakfast!  From there we visited Wendy’s sister and brother-in-law, Sally and Ken, and also Dartmoor!  But both the trip to Devon as well as the trip back home were full of adventure!

The Jurassic Coast

On the way to Kingsteignton we stopped in a few picturesque towns on the Jurassic Coast, namely Lyme Regis, Seaton, and Sidmouth.  Sidmouth was particularly impressive due to the red cliffs to its northeast!

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The Teign Estuary

The name of the city of Kingsteignton is a compound name (commonly-seen in England) that consists of the words King, Teign and the word-ending -ton, meaning “town”.  Teign is the name of the river the runs through the town, making this place Teign Town or Teignton, and apparently the town was a regional King’s vill, which would be visited by the King and his court back in the days of the Saxons in the kingdom of Wessex — thus King’s-Teign-ton.

Our hotel-room overlooked the Teign estuary (near the mouth of the Teign), which fills with water periodically as the tide comes in and recedes.  It was really quite lovely having this in our backyard, so to speak.  During the day we could see swans, ducks, and other waterfowl swimming in it.  And from time to time in the hotel’s actual backyard we could see a number of wild rabbits enjoying themselves!

TeignEstuary.JPG

Dartmoor and Hound Tor!

On the second day we drove out to the edge of Dartmoor and visited Hound Tor.  In aid of understanding, a “tor” is a is a large, free-standing rock outcrop that rises abruptly from the surrounding smooth and gentle slopes of a rounded hill summit or ridge crest.  Dartmoor has a lot of them.

Wendy’s favorite tor out on Dartmoor is Hound Tor.  Apparently, Hound Tor helped inspire Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Wendy has visited this tor a number of times, and it is her favorite.  So we climbed it of course!

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On the way to this tor, we passed by a larger, somewhat more famous tor, Hay Tor:

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Hay Tor has its own visitor center, which was closed by the time we arrived there, since it was nearing dusk.

Wareham and Corfe Castle

We returned home on the third day of the trip, and on the way we passed through the Isle of Purbeck, visiting the ancient Saxon city of Wareham and Corfe Castle.  I should point out that the Isle of Purbeck is not a true island but a peninsula. It is bordered by the English Channel to the south and east, where steep cliffs fall to the sea; and by the marshy lands of the River Frome and Poole Harbour to the north.

Wareham

Wareham is of course still inhabited, and has been for well over a thousand years.  It was a walled town in ancient Saxon times, and a large part of its old protective wall still exists.  It isn’t a stone wall, but is an earthen barrow-type wall that probably sprouted either a stone or wooden palisade on its top.  Wendy and I mounted the wall at the point where the main road enters the city:

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The wall actually still goes all the way around central old Wareham.  On the only side of Wareham not surrounded by the wall, there is the River Frome protecting the eastern side of the town from its enemies!

Another point of interest in Wareham is an old cinema which dates from the 1920’s, and is still in operation!  It has retained some old features in its décor, and Wendy says that the old interior gas lighting is still working!  It’s the Rex Cinema:

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Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle is an old ruined castle standing above a village, likewise named Corfe Castle.  It was the scene of a dastardly murder back in 978 AD, when the English King Edward the Martyr was murdered, possibly at the behest of his step-mother, who wanted to see her own son, Æthelred, take the throne.

The castle itself was built many years after the events of 978, and later destroyed by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War.  It’s quite a sight!  Unfortunately, the hour was late and we didn’t have time to explore it.  We briefly visited the city of Swanage, but our intention to cross the bar of Poole Harbour on the ferry was frustrated by the ferry being out of service due to refitting.  Maybe next time!

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A Worthwhile Trip

This was a very pleasurable trip, and I got to see a lot of Olde England!

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Trump is Triumphant

I am so very glad this is over.  I am so very glad that Hillary Clinton’s political career is over.  On the other hand, I am so very disappointed that a more reasonable candidate did not make the cut to be the Republican front-runner and ultimate victor.  But give Trump his due!  Despite all the naysayers he persevered, and is now the 45th President of the United States.  Congratulations, Mr. Trump!

Looking for the positive in this outcome, among the things that I find quite delicious are the dismayed outcries from the Hollywood elites (may those who promised to leave the USA if Trump won soon fulfill their vows!), and the mainstream media.  I am so happy that George Soros, even with all his money given to leftist political causes, failed to buy the election for Hillary. The Washington Post’s headline particularly gives me a jolt of schadenfreude:

The Impossible Has Happened

“Well, water is flowing uphill, pigs are flying and snowballs are accumulating in hell. In other words, it looks like Donald J. Trump is going to be president of the United States.”

…and…

“The left clearly needs to rethink the death of the Republican Party. “

Actually, they were whistling past the graveyard on the subject of the GOP’s death.  And didn’t notice the gravestone labelled RIP Dems.

What is the election doing internationally?

The Economic Times of India lays out a mostly positive outlook on what Trump’s election will mean for that country.  Significantly, they write:

Although Trump wants to put stricter immigration rules, he also says he wants to woo Indian entrepreneurs and students to the US.
Trump criticised China throughout his campaign, described it as one of the US’s top adversaries. That could make for an advantage to India.
He said he would label China a currency manipulator and impose heavy tariffs if China didn’t agree to rewrite trade agreements.
He labelled Pakistan as semi-stable and a safe haven f ..

Reuter’s has posted the article, “World in shock as Trump surges to victory in the US“.  Germany’s Defense Minister is dismayed and thinks that the Pax Americana is over.  Many international leaders are apparently completely flummoxed over what Trump might do.  I will confess, I have no clue, either.

Suffice it to say, we definitely live in interesting times!
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A Time for Remembrance

It was one year ago today that the life of my beloved Waltraut (known to most of her U.S. friends as “Val”) was celebrated and commemorated at her funeral.  The anniversary of her passing was just a few days prior, on 21 September, and I would have written about that, too, except for the fact that I was feverishly preparing for my trip to England to be with Wendy, who became my wife on 3 March 2016.

One of the significant facts in my new wife’s family history was that this day marks the second anniversary of her late husband Roger’s passing in 2014.

A Time For Love

These two events in our lives have turned into formative events, and connect us in ways that I would have been amazed at, had I looked at it from a mere outsider’s point of view.  One thing that has proven to be of great comfort to me (and I believe to her as well) is the openness with which we talk to each other about our late spouses.  Through this I have grown to appreciate her Roger and to love him as a brother, as I believe she appreciates and loves my Waltraut as a sister.

As Latter-day Saints (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or “Mormons”), we believe in the possibility of being sealed for time and all eternity to our spouses.  And although I have grown to love Wendy deeply, I know that her eternal companion is her beloved Roger Edmund Knight, as she knows that my eternal companion remains Waltraut Clark.  Together we recognize that we are each earthly caretakers for each other’s departed spouse.

Yesterday, because it occurred to me that Roger’s headstone had probably been finally installed, I asked Wendy to take me to the little graveyard which has become her family’s place of last rest.  And there it was: Roger’s monument – with a space reserved for Wendy when her time comes!  The parallelism gives me great comfort, since my place with Waltraut is already prepared at the Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Washington.  Now, not to dwell too much upon death, I make it clear that we have decided to avoid arriving at that state for as long as possible!  But it is good know that if we should indeed suffer the fate of all humanity, a resting place awaits — one that will serve us until we rise again in the Resurrection – and that it will be a place shared with our beloveds.

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I am so very grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ for the promise of that Resurrection, a promise which He wrested for us by His own hand from the clutches of Death itself!

Wendy and I like to imagine that Roger and Waltraut have become great friends in the Spirit World, as they wait for us to join them, and although there is no religious doctrine to support the notion, we like to imagine also that together they arranged for us to meet and marry.  Whether or not this is true (why shouldn’t it be?), before she died my Waltraut gave me to understand that she expected me to remarry (and as a good husband I tried to accede to her desire, albeit reluctantly at first).  In parallel to this, Wendy and Roger each agreed that should one precede the other in death, that the other should seek to find comfort in a second companion.

Promises to Keep

Standing in front of Roger’s grave yesterday, I gave a promise to him that I would take care of his Wendy to the best of my ability as long as I live – something that I have promised the Lord already.  It’s a promise I look forward to keeping.

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Nerd Reviews: Star Trek I & II

I’m going to start reviewing the movies I see, just for the fun of it.  I’m calling these my “Nerd Reviews”, and I’m going to start out critiquing based on two characteristics:
  • Plot Holes
  • Suspension of Disbelief Killers – these are the elements in a science fiction film (or, for that matter, any film) that jar the viewer out of the “willing suspension of disbelief” you need to enjoy a film.
To start with, although I saw Star Trek Beyond a couple of days ago, it is still in theaters, so I shan’t Nerd Review it at this time, but shall back-review its two predecessors.
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So, here my picks for the biggest plot holes and suspension of disbelief killers in the previous two films:

Star Trek I (the Reboot)

    • Overall Impression
      • I totally loved this film!  I loved that Spock Prime was a big character in it, the writing was excellent, and the backstory elements were much appreciated — specifically, Kirk and Spock’s backstories.
    • Plot Holes
      • So, the Romulan mining ship (the Narada) just floated around for 25 years after George Kirk damaged it while covering the escape of his crew? Where was it hiding?  What were they doing the entire time?
      • They were apparently waiting for Spock to show up for those 25 years, but
        • how did they know that Spock had even gone into the black hole?  They apparently went first
        • even knowing that he went into it, how did they know to the day the exact time he would show up in their time line, or even that he would show up at all?
      • Nero tortures Captain Pike to obtain codes to bypass Earth’s defensive energy shields, but he apparently had no need to bypass Vulcan’s shields, and just started drilling.  What?  One of the most advanced and important planets in the Federation doesn’t have defenses?  Of any kind?
      • The Vulcan Science Institute created Red Matter, which only requires a drop in order to create a black hole.  And so the VSI sends Spock out to Romulus with the entire supply of Red Matter on board?  There was enough Red Matter aboard that ship to create several hundred black holes.
    • Suspension of Disbelief
      • Falling into a black hole
        • The process of falling into a black hole includes being torn into tiny pieces by tidal forces.  Time travel might occur (who knows?), but it would only be little pieces that made the trip.
      • Red Matter
        • What the heck is it?  In the film, one drop of the stuff is enough to turn a planet into a black hole.  This is so ridiculously hard to believe that it almost ruins the entire film. The plot turns on this piece of idiocy, which means that Red Matter is a Deus ex Machina.
        • Even assuming a drop of Red Matter could create a black hole in the first place, the resulting black hole would be of such low mass that:
          • it would evaporate within nanoseconds through Hawking radiation, leaving nothing at all behind
          • or, even disregarding Hawking radiation, it’s event horizon would be mere nanometers in size and it would take literally years and probably centuries to grow large enough to destroy the planet.
      • Spock tries to use Red Matter to stop a supernova from engulfing Romulus. 
        • If there were a star near Romulus that was large enough to explode into a supernova that would endanger Romulus immediately upon its exploding, then it would have made Romulus uninhabitable long before it ever exploded. Supernova candidates are incredibly active and violent stars, and they emit enormous quantities of radiation and superheated gas for millions of years.
        • Dropping a black hole of about a milliliter in size into a supernova would have all the effect of farting into a hurricane.  If that.
        • If the star that turns into a supernova is large enough, its explosion will create a black hole whose mass is many times greater than our sun’s.  But even such a black hole could not stop the radiation and gases emitted by the supernova from moving outward at light-speed or near light-speed and destroying Romulus.
      • Nero leaves Spock on the ice planet so he can watch Vulcan implode
        • What kind of solar system is Vulcan part of, anyway?  Major planets in any reasonable solar system are not close enough to each other to allow an observer on one to see in detail what is happening to a neighboring one without artificial aid, such as a telescope, which Spock is not shown to have, and in fact it is strongly implied that he sees it with his naked eyes.
        • Enterprise has departed Vulcan (now a black hole) and is under way under warp for long enough for it to have arrived back at Earth — yet when Spock ejects Kirk for mutiny, he ejects him onto the planet where Spock Prime is marooned, which is in the Vulcan system!  Did Spock swing back to do the ejection, or did that little lifeboat have warp capability?
      • Half the Federation fleet has just been destroyed in Vulcan space
        • The Enterprise does not check for survivors, of which there ought to be at least a few, including those who were able reach a lifeboat, and those surviving in the wreckage of all those starships.
      • Giant predators on an ice planet
        • Kirk has to run to escape two huge predators, neither of which are covered in insulating blubber or fur on an ice planet.  These huge animals would have frozen.
        • The larger predator continues to run after Kirk, a tiny morsel, when it has just killed another predator that represents a substantial meal. With instincts this poorly developed, the larger predator would have starved to death.
      • The Narada’s drill platform and the operation of its drill
        • The drill appears to be able to burn a cylindrical hole a hundred meters across, through solid rock, to the planetary core.  Assuming Vulcan to be earth-sized, this means that the drill must vaporize 64 cubic kilometers of rock in a shaft that, as it grows deeper, would be subject to enormous pressures trying to close it.  The amount of energy required to do this vaporization is so large, that even if the mass of the Narada itself were to be converted to energy at 100% efficiency it still would be insufficient for the task.
        • Even if the Narada were capable of drawing enough energy for the task of vaporizing the rock (from where?), the heat emitted by the drill platform would be so large that mere spillover would have instantly vaporized anyone coming anywhere near it.
      • Saturn’s rings
        • In order to explain why the Narada doesn’t detect the Enterprise’s arrival in the Sol system, it is explained that Saturn’s rings provide electromagnetic interference that masks the Enterprise’s presence
        • In reality, Saturn’s rings generate no such thing.  This is glaring.  At least to someone who knows something about astronomy.
      • Nero tortures Captain Pike in order to obtain the codes that will permit him to bypass Earth’s planetary shields.
        • If his drill platform can vaporize 64 cubic kilometers of rock, a mere energy shield is no protection. He has already demonstrated that he can tear through Federation energy shields like they were made of wet tissue paper; torturing Pike is completely pointless. But it does give an excuse for sending an away team to try to rescue Pike.

Star Trek II – Into Darkness

    • Overall Impression
      • Enjoyable, yet problematic.  Not as many annoying plot holes and suspension of belief problems, but what holes I found were rather egregious. Benedict Cumberbatch was an excellent Khan, and the reversal of roles between Spock and Kirk with respect to the Original Series “The Wrath of Khan” was intriguing.
    • Plot Holes
      • Khan can activate a wearable transporter device that can instantly send him all the way from Earth to Chronos, the Klingon home world, but Kirk and crew have to ride the starship Enterprise all the way there?
      • Khan’s blood can even cure death, but knowing this, Bones still has a job in the new film Star Trek Beyond?
      • The Enterprise is under water on the primitive planet while Spock is setting up to activate the cold fusion device.  If they’re trying to avoid being seen (Prime Directive), why is there an away team where the primitive people can discover them?  If the away team wasn’t screwing around near the natives, they wouldn’t have been chased, and no native would have been able to see the rising of the Enterprise from the sea.
    • Suspension of Disbelief
      • Spock uses a “Cold Fusion” device to freeze a supervolcano’s eruption in order to save an intelligent species from extinction.
        • In the real world, cold fusion is a theoretical energy source, not a freezer capable of instantly turning several cubic kilometers of magma into cool, solid rock.
        • Even allowing that the writers just misnamed a technology able to suck trillions of kilocalories of heat out of a huge volume of molten rock and superheated gas, where did the heat go?
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Miracles

I haven’t posted anything here for quite a while! At first, I was still in mourning after the passing of my dear wife, and then three months later things started happening in my life that I hadn’t expected. I found new love and a renewed desire to live! I got quite busy making it real!

Waltraut had told me that she expected me to re-marry after she was gone, that she was worried about me remaining single. I had kind of thought I would just stay single for the rest of my life — and I really hoped that the rest of my life would be a rather short time. For those first few months, every little twinge my body gave me made me momentarily hopeful that maybe I was going to get my “call home”, as it were. But no such luck!

Rather hesitantly I had signed up on a dating website that I felt comfortable with, one specifically for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormons), and did a little desultory looking around at the possibilities. Of course there were some interesting women to be found, but I didn’t really want anything more than friendship or penpalship! I did initiate a few correspondances with some nice ladies, but I made sure that they lived a longish way away so that there would be little chance of actually getting to meet them in person. Smart plan, right?

Well, it didn’t work out like I thought it would. Around Christmas time I got a “Smile” from a nice lady who lives in England, and since I had lived there once myself many many years ago, I jumped at the chance to email someone from a country that I had grown to love.

To make a long story short, we fell in love with each other over the Internet, and when she came to visit me in March we got married! Quick work, but I believe I made the biggest score of my life in convincing her to marry me! I consider it a miracle to have found such a woman.

Love is grand, especially after living through such sadness.

Oh, yes, and her name is Wendy, and she has a great package: beauty and brains!

WendyTheFascinator

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After the Funeral

I did not post the passing of my sweetheart here on my blog, but I did so on Facebook.  It has since been a very, very busy week and I didn’t have time to post anything, anywhere.  But her funeral was yesterday, and now things have calmed.  In the evening it was time to sleep, but I could not do so immediately.

In the deep of night after my sweetie’s funeral, I needed to express my feelings, and Twitter was the medium. Since not so many follow my Twitter feed, here’s that series of tweets.

  • Today I said a sad au revoir to my sweetheart of 35 years. Her funeral was beautiful and reminds me that the love doesn’t die, but lives on.  (11:39 PM – 26 Sep 2015)
  • Time and disease will no longer touch her! My beloved is free. I follow when my own is time is up, but not soon I hope. So much yet to do… (11:51 PM – 26 Sep 2015)
  • Do you appreciate your beloved? What will you be when he or she is gone? Better love more and complain less! Leave the bickering behind. (12:02 AM – 27 Sep 2015)
  • I’ve lost the light of my life, yet there is no darkness. Her light is now in my heart, where it illuminates my soul! Shine on, my Queen.  (12:19 AM – 27 Sep 2015)
  • Sad to realize that I will miss her more over time, but now she lives in me every day, so I am content.  (12:28 AM – 27 Sep 2015)
  • Poetry? Can’t do it. Song? My throat hurts. Love? I’m swimming in it! My beloved has set sail yet the water is still warm.  (12:43 AM – 27 Sep 2015)
  • 890 Waltraut is an asteroid named for a character in a Wagner opera. I pretend it’s named for my beloved. Contact the IAU!  (12:56 AM – 27 Sep 2015)
  • I thought I watched her breathe her last. I realize now I witnessed the first flight of an angel. Soar high, my love!  (1:03 AM – 27 Sep 2015)
  • I’m tweeting about my beloved. Meet her here: http://www.mikeclark.co/index.php?title=Waltraut_Clark … (1:17 AM – 27 Sep 2015)
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