Archive for the ‘FUN STUFF’ Category

Hi, PALS!

Just an FYI, what follows is something I wrote yesterday; so whenever this post refers to “last night” it is in fact referring to Sunday night, the 12th of October.  Enjoy 🙂

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Walking Dead Season 5 Premiere: The Pig in the Room

Last night (10/12/2014), The Walking Dead— the most-watched drama series telecast in basic cable history, with its Season 4 premiere yielding a viewership of over 16 million viewers worldwide—aired its Season 5 premiere. I have been a serious Dead devotee since Season 1 premiered in October 2010, and awaited this premiere with baited breath. While it was ultimately among the most suspenseful, most captivating season premieres I have ever seen, it was also the saddest—and the hardest to watch.

I know I am not alone in this assessment. The public was shocked, outraged by where our Good Guys end up in this episode—from the very first scene, they are subjected to horror far beyond that of an animated corpse chasing them. They are exposed to the horrific violence that lies deep within the souls of the living.

Read no further if you haven’t seen the episode; this post contains spoilers!

Violence and bloodshed are by no means new to the show. It’s tough to watch, but we get through it; we control our mounting angst, and we celebrate the Good Guys’ inevitable victory—because at the end of the day, we can rest easy knowing that it’s all just pretend. There are no actual walkers; we don’t actually have to do these things; and independent of whether or not we had to, there aren’t people out there right now doing these things to each other, or to corpses.

What was so very horrific and depressing about last night’s episode is that what happened at Terminus IS happening. It is not pretend; it is all too real.   One detail, and one detail alone, was altered: the victims in this case were live humans.

Season 4 ends with the Good Guys trapped in a dark van by the newest Bad Guys—a group of survivors living in a place they call Terminus, and have advertised as a “sanctuary for all, community for all.” Maps promising safe harbor led the prison survivors to this location, where after noting that the Terminus survivors don apparel belonging to their missing comrades Rick and his now-diminished crew realize all is not as it seems. Rick pulls his gun on Garrett, the leader of the “Termites,” resulting in Rick’s group’s captivity.

Early in last night’s episode, some of our favorite Good Guys are dragged into a room and lined up in a row, on their knees. In front of them is a metal trough. The Good Guys watch as some other dudes in the row are slaughtered: they each receive one blow to the back of their heads with a baseball bat, then have their throats slit, pools of crimson blood running down the trough and into its drains.

Replace baseball bat with lead pipe; or, incorporate the use of a stun gun. There you have it: the fate of pigs. They were lined up, literally, “like pigs for the slaughter.”

"Like pigs for the slaughter."

“Like pigs for the slaughter.”

Two underlings set about this gruesome task. Soon Garrett, the leader of the new-Bad Guy-cannibals (to whom Conan O’Brien lovingly referred as “every uptight manager of a Starbucks you’ve ever met” on last night’s Talking Dead), interrupts them to ask for a “shot count” or some other number in relation to how much ammo is left.

He asks for a statistic, clipboard in hand.

His underlings squirm and apologize for not having the info Mr. Manager wants. They did not squirm as they swung the bat. They did not squirm as they slit each man’s throat; but they squirmed when Mr. Manager entered and asked them a question they could not answer.

I don’t normally watch Talking Dead. Frankly, when I first heard of its existence, I was insulted on behalf of the American people. A TV show about a TV show? Really?! Yet I watched last night because upon viewing the episode, from that very first scene at Terminus in which men are lined up at a trough for slaughter, I wondered: Will they say it? Would anyone address the Pig in the Room? Would anyone have the guts to state the obvious, to derail the conversation from how concepts and characters were developed and scenes choreographed to how this behavior is reflective of our own society, here and now—with no Apocalypse handy to excuse us?

No. Not one person said it; though the many allusions to it were painful to hear. The host (Chris Hardwick), the producers and Conan discussed the “trough scene,” the clipboard:

Hardwick: When Garrett comes in with that clipboard and sort of admonishes his staff…The most chilling thing about that whole scene is that this is really just another day at the office, to them.

Yes. Yes, it was. The employees had been trained to turn their empathy switches off and carry out these brutal executions as a matter of course.

Sound familiar? It should.

"Nothing personal."

“Nothing personal.”

I crossed my fingers—literally—with my eyes and ears glued to the screen in front of me, waiting for someone, anyone, to say it.

No one did.

The Walking Dead is arguably the biggest show in the world right now. Millions of people watch it religiously. If you look on any message board, any social media outlet today, you will quickly see the mortified reactions of the public from all over the globe. How cruel the Termites are! How gruesome! They should all die! Indeed, Talking Dead has a live poll component, and one of the questions posed to the public last night was: Do the Termites deserve their fate (to die)? An overwhelming 97% of viewers who responded thought that yes, they deserved to die for what they had been doing to humans.

And us? What will be our fate? Do we deserve to die, for what we do to pigs? Did any of those 97% of Talking Dead viewers who chose to respond to this question even think, for one moment, about the parallels between what they had just seen less than an hour ago and what happens on farms all over the world every day? What did those people have for dinner last night?

The episode ends on an ominous note: While the other prison survivors, having escaped the Termites thanks to Rogue Ranger Carol’s assistance from the outside, simply want to flee and forget this ever happened, Rick asserts of the Termites: “They don’t get to live.” Here we see a cycle of violence begin. Mary, a Termite, explains to Carol in an earlier scene that once upon a time, the Termites were just like Rick’s crew. Their sanctuary was captured by Bad Guys who did atrocious things, and the Termites had to fight back to reclaim what was theirs. But Mary claims that her group learned a valuable lesson from that experience: “You’re the butcher, or you’re the cattle.” Thus, she and the other former Good Guys become the human-slaughtering cannibals Rick’s group encounters.

The Butchers

The Butchers

Now, upon having reclaimed his freedom as well as that of his post-Apocalyptic family, Rick can’t let go. He can’t just leave. Something’s brewing inside of him—bloodlust, desire for vengeance; take your pick. He will not walk away peacefully; now he and his crew will, presumably, become the New Bad Guys themselves. Whether or not they will actually eat people remains to be seen; but they will commit violent atrocities such as they never imagined they would a week ago, let alone a year—let alone a decade.

What of our own vicious cycle of violence? When will that end? Ours is not rooted in vengeance; the pigs didn’t do us any harm. Neither did the cows or the chickens. Ours is not rooted in survival; this is not the Apocalypse, and there is no shortage of nonviolently attainable food. We do not need to slaughter innocent animals to survive.

What is our excuse?

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Hi, PALS!

I come to you today to talk about an issue very close to my heart: how the animal liberation movement manifests in children’s entertainment.  I’m way more into children’s entertainment–movies in particular–than anyone my age without children of his/her own ought to be. And yes, as the title suggests, How to Train Your Dragon is fundamentally speciesist; but I still loved the first one and thought it was far less speciesist than most other kids movies of late.  The hero of the story, Hiccup, has to challenge his father, Stoic–a representative of the Old Ways, maintaining the status quo, etc.–to view and treat dragons differently.  Hiccup’s Viking community has engaged in decades, if not centuries, of war with the dragons. Hiccup cannot bring himself to fight them, and ultimately befriends Toothless: a sweet, shy and extremely rare dragon (they called his species “Night Fury,” and it was suggested in both movies 1 and 2 that Toothless might be the last of his kind).

In any case, the first film is all about this father/son dynamic, with the future of the empire hanging in the balance (yawn). Ultimately, Hiccup is victorious; he succeeds in convincing, after a long series of travails, his father and the other Vikings not to wage war against dragons anymore.  Hiccup loses a leg in battle and ends up with a peg leg, which scored this movie massive bonus points in my mind.  I loved that Hiccup kept his peg-leg and they didn’t let his real leg magically heal or grow back or whatever.  In real life, limbs don’t just grow back; sometimes kids do become gravely injured or ill, and they lose a limb or other body part for life.  I loved that this movie addressed this sad reality head-on and showed a crippled Hiccup still smiling and having fun with his friends and family at the end–not to mention gettin’ smooched by his rough-and-tumble girlfriend, Astrid.

I had hoped upon hearing of the release of a sequel that the film would begin by showing us the Vikings and the dragons peacefully coexisting.  Ideally, there would be no boundary; but I’d even be willing to accept a scenario in which the dragons are relegated to one side of the land, the Vikings to another, and they cross over only with consent from the other group.  Something like that—not ideal, still conveys notions of property and segregation with which I am uncomfortable; but at least the dragons would be liberated, not under constant fear of attack and not chained or fenced in in any way.  I was disappointed that instead, How to Train Your Dragon 2 opened with the kids from the first movie, now young adults, racing their “pet” dragons.  Of course, it would be too much to ask that we just leave them alone; they have to be put to use somehow, right? If they’re not our enemies, they must be our slaves!  Either way, they must be ours. BOOOOOOOO!

Still, obviously, because this is a children’s film, the dragons looked happy and excited to be racing. The drama quickly moved to the human element: Hiccup tells Astrid about how his father spoke to him recently about handing over the keys to the kingdom, and waaaaaa, Hiccup isn’t ready for such responsibility, he doesn’t know who he is yet, unlike Astrid who always knows who she is, quarter-life crisis, waaaaaaa.  Aside from the typical “I hate/fear becoming my father” dialogue there is also a brief and significant hint that I won’t ruin for you: “I’m nothing like my father, and I’ve never met my mother, so….What does that make me?”  Astrid then adorably reminds Hiccup to stay true to himself: “What you’re looking for isn’t out there, Hiccup; it’s in here [pats his chest].” She kisses his cheek–then spits violently. In a previous scene, Toothless had licked Hiccup’s face repeatedly; presumably, Hiccup still tastes like dragon saliva.  This bit has nothing to do with speciesism; it was just a lovely scene.  So there.

"What you're searching for isn't out there, Hiccup. It's in here."

“What you’re searching for isn’t out there, Hiccup. It’s in here.”

Back to the non-human animals.  Without ruining too much for you, there’s this super-dragon called Bewilderbeast (which delighted me personally, as a nearly-lifelong devotee of Badly Drawn Boy [loved them ever since I first discovered them at age…12? 13?]), which aside from being gigantic can also control the minds of other beasts.  The Bewilderbeast is controlled–not just owned, mind you, but straight up commanded, sorcerer-style–by Drago (Really?) Bloodfist, a crazy dude from a rival clan who is raising a dragon army. At one point Mr. Bloodfist commands the Bewilderbeast to take possession of Toothless’s mind, which causes Toothless to misbehave in a manner that proves fatal.  When Toothless is once again himself, Hiccup is still angry with him over his recent behavior and lashes out at him.  A character who shall remain nameless for your own good tells him, “Good dragons under the control of bad people do bad things.”  

Bewilderbeast being controlled by the only person of color in the film.

The Bewilderbeast being controlled by the only person of color in the film.

This quote is huge; it not only speaks to the obvious issue of “If a human orders a well-trained animal to attack someone, and the animal attacks, it’s the human’s fault” but also has broader implications, such as “If a human mistreats a dog [say] and keeps it on a leash all day, the dog escapes and– in a fit of rage and/or hunger induced by inadequate care– bites someone, it’s the owner who should be punished.  The dog should not be put down.”  The putting-down of dogs–the killing of dogs–in situations like this is something I think about often and that really, truly bothers me.  A non-human animal that is well-cared for doesn’t just DECIDE to break his or her leash and chase someone.  For starters, breaking a leash is hard. It requires a certain level of commitment and determination; and if your human treats you well, why would you be so very desperate to flee in the first place? Secondly, even if you were determined enough to break your leash–or your owner cheaped out and got a leash that’s too wimpy for a non-human of your size and strength–your first impulse, assuming you were not starving and not being antagonized, would not be to attack a human!  It would be to get the Hell out of Dodge! Or get the squirrel, or whatever! Non-humans who are treated well (and don’t have rabies) don’t just attack people.

Yes, dogs are easily distracted; they may tug on a leash violently if, say, they catch the sight or scent of a squirrel.  But they will not “break free.”  At worst, they’ll just be annoying for a while.  It’s when an animal is starved and neglected that it becomes a real threat; yet whenever a human is hurt by a non-human, we immediately murder the non-human.  Immediately–like, within that same week.  As a matter of course.  Without batting an eyelash. And the owner? Depending on which state he lives in, he may or may not get a fine.  That’s it.  A financial slap on the wrist.  Awesome.

I digress, as usual.  Sorry. That quote was awesome.  The character who spoke it was equally awesome, and provided much insight into both coexisting with animals and how Hiccup came to be so very different from his father.  It even, come to think of it, explains to an extent why Stoic is so bitter about Hiccup’s “different-ness” in the first film, and pressures him so hard to stop playing at Dragon Whisperer and start slaughterin’. Unfortunately I believe that character was underutilized and, once introduced, sort of glossed-over after a couple of poignant scenes. I wish they’d shown him/her interacting with more of the Vikings; I’d be interested to see how various members of the Viking community would regard this person and speak of him/her amongst themselves.  It could have been very funny.

Now, back to how this movie tragically strayed from the reasonably high bar set by its predecessor:

***From the first scene, as I’ve mentioned, it is clear that the dragons are servants in Viking society and not equals (or even just neighbors).

***The Fate of the Bewilderbeast: In spite of that endearing quote above–“Good dragons under the control of bad people do bad things”–when the moment is ripe ::SPOILER ALERT:: all of the dragons that had been previously captured by the “bad guys” join an uprising led by Toothless against the Bewilderbeast.  This made me sad, because we’ll never know for sure–I don’t know if the people writing this stuff even decided–whether the beast was in itself evil or not.  He/she was under the control of a madman who trained him/her to enslave and kill; but would the Bewilderbeast have done so if left to his/her own devices?  Could they not have made peace after the rebellion, the Bewilderbeast and the other dragons? Might not the Viking community have adopted him/her?  Even the voice of non-human animal advocacy, the Nameless Character for Your Own Good, doesn’t show a hint of remorse over the violent attack launched against the Bewilderbeast.

I supposed I have a hard time accepting that the Bewilderbeast himself was just evil because once Mr. Bloodfist isn’t around to command him and the others rise against him, he seems all too ready to just throw in the towel.  A truly evil beast of that magnitude could have easily gobbled up the entire Viking clan and at least a few of the smaller dragons before having to flee.  It’s quite comical how little effect the dragon masses have on Bewilderbeast physically; after a pretty long fight scene by children’s attention span standards, with fire and ice and lasers and all kinds of nonsense spewing from multiple dragon mouths, the most they are able to achieve is to chip one of the Bewilderbeast’s horns.  At this point, the Bewilderbeast slinks into the sea, seeming more bored than anything else.  Bored first, irritated a close second; not enraged, furious, bloodthirsty or disturbingly amused.  Rather, his air is that of: “Okay, I’ve had enough of these children throwing pebbles at me, peace out.”

Might this be an intentional prelude to a third movie, in which the “evil” Bewilderbeast comes back?

***Whereas How to Train Your Dragon 1 earned bonus points for ending with a disabled hero, How to Train Your Dragon 2 loses massive points in my mind because the sole human villain, Mr. Bloodfist, is clearly Jamaican. Racist!!!

Drago Bloodfist, the only bad guy: black.

Drago Bloodfist, the only Bad Guy: black.

The Good Guys: all white

The Good Guys: white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please don’t waste my time with your historical accuracy bullshit.  Yes, Vikings were white; does that mean that all of their opponents were brown? Hell, no.

That’s all for now. Thank you, come again 🙂

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Logic Problem Two: Liberationist Conference

 

Six animal liberationists— Adela, Crimson, and Esperanza (female) and Beaumont, Dimitri and Francis (male)—attended an animal liberation conference together on Saturday. While they all enjoyed the conference as a whole, each had a different favorite lecture. At noon, the conference took a one-hour lunch break, during which each of the six friends ate a different meal and drank a different beverage. Using the information and clues below, determine which liberationist preferred which lecture, what each ate at lunchtime and what each had to drink. Email palsdxe@gmail.com for solutions 🙂

 

Conference Schedule

 

9am-10am: Historical Overview of Speciesism

10am-11am: Taking the Victims’ Perspective

11am-Noon: Fundamentals of Plant-Based Nutrition

—LUNCH—

1pm-2pm: Scientific Advancement and Animal Liberation

2pm-3pm: Animal Abuse as a Cultural Staple

3pm-4pm: Liberation and Economics

 

Plant-Based Lunch Menu

 

Breakfast Plates

 HANGOVER SPECIAL: Two pancakes, choice of 2 fakin’ bacon strips or two faux sausages, and a side of spicy tofu scramble

TEA TIME: Choice of white or wheat toast with vegan Nutella and/or butter and fresh fruit 

Sandwiches

FAUX-BALTS— Fakin’ Bacon, Avocado, Lettuce, Tomato, Sprouts

SOUTHERN-FRIED SEITAN with spinach and pesto

Snack Platters

HUMMUS AND VEGGIES

BRUSCHETTA with choice of zucchini sticks or fried okra

Beverages

Lemonade

Iced Tea

Arnold Palmer

Iced Coffee

Mimosa

Beer

Clues:

 1.  The six liberationists are the one who preferred the lecture about scientific advancement, the one who had hummus and veggies for lunch, Crimson, the one who preferred the economic lecture, the one who ordered a mimosa (who did not enjoy the lecture about nutrition), and Beaumont (who did not order the Hangover Special).

2.  Of Crimson and the liberationist who preferred the historical lecture, one ordered the Tea Time with iced coffee while the other drank lemonade.

3.  Francis ordered the bruschetta; Esperanza did not order the Tea Time.

4. The person who preferred the lecture on animal abuse as a cultural staple did not eat a sandwich.

5. The person who preferred the scientific lecture was female, and had alcohol with her meal. The person who preferred the lecture on animal abuse as a culture staple was male.

6. Esperanza drank an Arnold Palmer.

7. The person who preferred the lecture on nutrition ate the Faux-BALTS for lunch. Adela did not order the Southern Fried Seitan sandwich.

8. The person who ordered the hummus and veggies was male.

9. The person who preferred the historical lecture does not like coffee.

10. Beaumont ordered the iced tea.

 

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A handy, dandy chart you can use to illustrate to people how and why we are all naturally herbivores.

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HerbivoreChart

From The Vegetarian Way by Mark and Virginia Messina: An Overview of Animal Diets and Physical Traits Associated with Them

Ken and Ken! :-)

Posted: April 12, 2014 in FUN STUFF
Tags: ,

Hi, PALS!

I’ve made another Ken and Ken for you.  Stay tuned for another logic problem I’m working on; it will hopefully be up by the end of the month.  If you have any suggestions or request regarding puzzles, please don’t hesitate to let us know!  Contact palsdxe@gmail.com or comment on this blog with your ideas. You can request a puzzle type (such as Ken and Ken, crossword or logic) and/or a theme (animal liberation, a holiday, nature, love, dessert, Mexico…)

Ken and Ken

Instructions: So, you’ve probably heard of Sudoku, right? Well, this is just like that—only harder. The numbers we’re using are 1-6, not 1-9; as in Sudoku, however, there are no repeated digits in any row or column. The catch? It’s not just pattern recognition; it’s math! The numbers are blocked off into chunks, with an operation and a number in each chunk. You must fill in the digits for each chunk such that performing the given operation on them will result in the given number. Note: Digits CAN be repeated within chunks! While I cannot take credit for the concept, which I stole from AM New York, I created this puzzle myself. Email palsdxe@gmail.com for the solution, and see either a previous blog post in Fun Stuff or the first edition of PALS Quarterly: Animal Liberation News and Fun Stuff for another original Ken and Ken by yours truly. Two numbers have already been provided for you. Enjoy!

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Logic Problem: The Dawg Pound

Posted: March 7, 2014 in FUN STUFF
Tags: , ,

The following logic problem appears in the second edition of our newsletter, PALS Quarterly: Animal Liberation News and Fun Stuff.  It’s not too late to get your hands on it–just email palsdxe@gmail.com and request either an electronic or a hard copy.

Our next newsletter is tentatively scheduled for release in mid-April; don’t miss out!

Saryta is a fan of these five dog breeds: BASSET HOUND, CHOCOLATE LAB, GREAT DANE, HUSKY (all types), and IRISH WOLFHOUND. Fortunately for her, when she visits the local animal shelter, there is one of each up for adoption!

Unfortunately for her, however, there are five other girls already there, each with her eye on one of Saryta’s preferred pets: AI, CORA, ROSEMARY, SADIE and SCARLET. Using the following clues and the diagram below, determine which dog is in which pen (Positions A-E), as well as which girl wants which dog (Positions F-J). Each girl is standing in front of the dog she wants.

LP diagram_PALS

1. Cora has long hair.

2. Rosemary does not want a Basset Hound.

3. The Great Dane is to Ai’s immediate left (from YOUR perspective; see diagram).

4. It’s a good thing Scarlet and Sadie do not have to stand next to each other, because they are currently beefing. The girl in Position H is not involved in the drama.

5. The Basset Hound is to the right of at least two dogs (from YOUR perspective).

6. The Irish Wolfhound is to Cora’s immediate right (from YOUR perspective).

7. Cora has a crush on Rosemary, and is jealous that there is one girl in between them.

8. The girl who wants a Husky is involved in the drama.

9. The girl who wants a Great Dane has short hair.

10. The Chocolate Lab is not in Position A.

11. There is at least one dog between the Basset Hound and the Irish Wolfhound.

12. Rosemary is standing somewhere to the left of Sadie (from YOUR perspective).

Hi, PALS!

Here are some cool creatures that can do really incredible things:

Turritopsis nutricula jellyfish can repeatedly revert back to polyp form and begin the aging process anew, rendering them virtually immortal! The jellyfish can “cheat death” by curling into a ball during old age and re-growing as a youth. A study published in Biological Bulletin describes the process as “Escaping death and achieving potential immortality.” Ummmm…Why “potential?” Can they be killed? Hold on…Yes. Okay. So they can be eaten, fall ill, etc.—they’re not indestructible. They can simply rewind the aging process and start it over at will. That’s all.  That’s not completely insane or anything.

jellyfish

Sea cucumbers can turn themselves into liquid, and back again! AdvancedAquarist says: “…like other echinoderms, they have a compound in their skin called catch collagen. This tissue is under neurological control and is capable of changing from a ‘liquid’ to a ‘solid’ form very quickly (Brusca and Brusca 1990; Motokawa 1984a; Motokawa 1984b; Ruppert and Barnes 1994).”

How can tissue be “under neurological control?” No one knows. I promise. No one gets it. It’s just something they do.

What is catch collagen? “…in echinoderms a mutable collagenous tissue under neuronal control that can be changed from a liquid to a solid form very quickly.” That’s all (with very slight wording variations) anyone will say about it.  Why? Because it’s a crazy mystery!

Sea-Cucumber-600x350

Opossums release a protein known as Lethal Toxin-Neutralizing Factor (LTNF), which can neutralize nearly all poisons that can enter their body—including snake bites and ricine. Here we approach an interesting area of discussion: obviously this saves their butts, and it could possibly save ours, too; but should it? How would we go about such a thing?

baby-opossums-hanging-by-their-tails

Wood frogs have antifreeze-style blood that can freeze during wintertime, and then thaw back out later. So, when it gets too cold out, they can effectively “die” (their organs shutting down, including the heart!) and come back to life later without sustaining any permanent organ damage whatsoever!

It does take its toll in other ways, however. According to AllAboutFrogs.com and scientists and scholars at Penn State (among others), the first thing many of the male wood frogs do upon “thawing” is not eat, but mate! They move immediately to the nearest breeding pool. Who could blame them?

WoodFrog1

Ophiocoma Wendtii, also known as the Brittle Star (a species of starfish), is an eye! It has calcite crystals embedded in its skin that act collectively as one eye. I know this is technically a trait and not an ability; but, once I saw this, I couldn’t not share it. I had no idea. This is amazing!

brittle-star-1280

Owls have facial feathers that can be arranged to pick up miniscule sounds from up to 75 feet away!

owl-50267-1200x900

 Clownfish are born male, but can change genders at will, for mating purposes!

clownfish

Salamanders can regenerate lost limbs and even parts of internal organs, thanks to special immune cells called macrophages.

salamander

 Courtesy of Distractify.com, the Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins, Biological Bulletin, AdvancedAquarist.com, National Geographic, The Telegraph, and The Daily Beast.

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