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Category: Just Sayin’ (Page 3 of 3)

Coming Together

The historic marker for Brashear’s Station shows the names Crist and Collings as early settlers.

This is an unfocused week…returning to work after the holidays, getting ready for Spring semester classes at the college where I work, returning the house to some semblance of organized comfort.

This week I finally got my Christmas tree put away. In the interest of honesty, you need to know that my Christmas tree is 1 foot tall with tiny little ornaments and has been sitting on my coffee table for about two weeks. “Putting it away” involves carrying it to the spare bedroom and sitting it on a top shelf of the bookcase.

So, it’s been difficult to get back into blog writing and I have struggled all week (in addition to the above chores) to come up with a subject I can settle into.

You can see how scattered my mind is when you notice I ended the above sentence with a preposition…a very bad thing to do, but a habit I struggle with. There, I did it again. I’m reminded of a letter E.B. White, one of my writing heroes, wrote that went like this:

Dear Jack:

The next grammar book I bring out I want to tell how to end a sentence with five prepositions. A father of a little boy goes upstairs after supper to read to his son, but he brings the wrong book. The boy says, ‘What did you bring that book that I don’t want to be read to out of up for?’

If E.B. White can find a way to end a sentence with 5 prepositions, I guess I can get away with one or two!

Now, to focus…

I believe it is time to pull my family story together, tie up the loose threads that led to the Crist stories I’ve been sharing and show how they lead to my own story.

I was born a Nicholas. I come to that name from the Collings line, who married into the Richey line, who eventually married into the Phegley family, who married into the Nicholas line.

So, you see, I am a Collings, a Richey, a Phegley, and a Nicholas, which brings up the question, as the television show asks…who do you think you are?

And that’s just on my dad’s side of the story. We all profess to want to be our own person, but how can that be? Like it or not, we are a product of our ancestors.

My ancestors fought Indians, started pioneer businesses, petitioned the young American government for land, hacked a life out of the wilderness. Don’t tell anyone, but there are criminals in my background and people who might not have treated the Indians so well when we moved into their hunting grounds.

The Crist family and the Collings family have traveled together, lived alongside each other, and supported each other through many adventures. Every time I told you a story about a man named Crist, there was a man named Collings standing nearby. And how that all was set into motion is still a mystery to me.

Nicolaus Heinrich Crist, in the account book given to him by his father, related that William Edward Collings, a boyhood friend, traveled the high seas with the Crist brothers when they came to America from Germany.

I can’t document that. As a matter of fact, all my research proves quite the opposite.

Every reference I have found in my family tree tells me that the Collings family (my Collings family) originated in England and that my ancestor named William Edward Collings was born in the Colonies in what was then called Pennsylvania, son of Zebulon Collings who was also recorded as being born in Pennsylvania.

While it would seem that the account book is wrong about William Edward Collings and therefore not to be trusted or used as reference, later entries in the journal have this Crist friend, William Edward Collings, producing a son named William Elston Collings and a daughter (among other offspring) named Elizabeth. That I can document as part of my family history. I am descended from William Elston Collings who had a sister named Elizabeth, both children of William Edward Collings.

There is some speculation that the entire journal of the Crist family is a fabrication, but I’m not buying that. There is enough fact in the journal that I can corroborate, so I choose to take it as a story based on mostly facts.

Family stories are like that. They take on a life of their own. They contain kernels of truth that help us know who we are and where we come from, even though they might also contain dramatic flourishes that keep us engaged in the story. And be honest with me and with yourself…you’ve enjoyed the stories, right?

Maybe the Collings and the Crists did not travel to America together, but they did travel through America and through history together, and that I can prove, so the journal has served as a lasting story of a life we can only imagine.

Nicolaus Crist’s son George married William Edward Collings’ daughter Elizabeth, sister to William Elston Collings. That fact I can document. It happened and it became very important to my future story line.

William Elston Collings, son of William Edward, was the patriarch of the group who traveled in 1809 from Kentucky into the territory that later became Indiana.

To be more precise they moved into southern Indiana near what is today Vienna, Indiana. This group, consisting of many Collings family members, settled in an area they called Pigeon Roost. There they built cabins, laid claim to land and planted crops. And there, many of their stories ended, but thankfully my story continued, so you see, it is my duty to tell this.

This is my family and now, over the next few weeks, I will begin to tell you their story.

Odds and Ends

Writing a journal may seem a boring thing to do, but it can tell the story of a life lived.

This past week has had an air of the terrible,-horrible,-no-good,-very-bad-day story. Without going into details, it’s enough to say that, in case anyone noticed, I did not get my usual Thursday blog posted.

Please don’t worry, there is no physical or even long-lasting mental damage…just the frustration of huge projects that did not get completed and co-workers who moved on to greener pastures and the looming holiday that I cannot seem to get under control.

So, today, a few days late, you are getting a bag of odd sand ends of facts and thoughts. This may not be too satisfying for you the reader but will clear my plate for a continuation of family stories after the holidays! There are more adventures to come.

Some readers (well, one reader) wanted a little more information about Henry Crist, survivor of the attack and long journey home on hands and knees.

During and after a long recovery from his injuries, Henry became a salt-maker and acquired several parcels of land in the Bullitt County and Shepherdsville area of future Kentucky. As a land owner and respected businessman he participated in the act of creating the state of Kentucky, became a justice of the peace, was duly elected to serve in the state legislature representing Nelson County and later, Bullitt County. He went on to serve in the 11th Congress of the United States (1809-1811) and was commissioned a general in the Kentucky state militia.

Henry died in Shepherdsville, KY in 1844 and was buried there, but in 1869, the Kentucky Legislature elected to recognize his service to the young state by having his remains moved to Frankfort, Kentucky, the state capitol, where a monument stands in his honor.

I want to explain once again that Henry Crist is not a direct relative of mine, but the Crist family is related to mine by marriage and by long time association. I came upon the Crist story while doing research into my family, the Collings. At one point, I became very frustrated trying to account for one of the women of the family at a certain point in our history.

Family research is interesting and frustrating at the same time, but it is further complicated because the records of females mostly depends on the records of their fathers and their husbands.

I was delighted to finally answer an important question about my fifth great grandmother with the help of the Crist family journal or account book. For this reason, I have become a strong advocate for journaling.

A group of us talked about this in a writing workshop recently. Journaling is one of those activities which seems mundane and kind of useless at the time, but which records for all times the details of a life lived. I’m sure that Nicolaus Heinrich Crist had no idea when he started his journal, that one day over 200 years later, I would find one line written in that journal that would answer a burning question for my family (or at least for me).

Today, more than ever before, we have a problem with recording the details of ordinary lives. Living on into eternity we will have official records of the politics of the day, the wars we fight, the major disasters we experience. But where will future generations read about how we as individuals feel about those events?

I read in the Crist journal about how families suffered during the Revolutionary War and how it felt to have sons fighting, knowing that any news of their fate could take months to reach them. I read about the concerns of traveling into unexplored wilderness and setting off for a land only heard of in other travelers’ tales.

Nicolaus Heinrich Crist wrote early on in his journal these words: “I am going to write in my account book about me so if we die they will know who we are.”

I can’t think of a better reason to start a journal and would only change the word “if” to “when” to make it the motto of my own writings.

Thankful Thursday

The best way to know something is to look it up!

The writer Philip Gulley cracks me up. Gulley has written several books and he also writes a monthly column in the city magazine, Indianapolis. His take on life is a wry, dry, take-life-as-it-comes sort of wide-eyed optimism that I can fully identify with. He can see the humor in every situation…even if that humor is ironic and off kilter.

I recently read an article Gulley wrote about being without the internet for three days. The article featured a litany of things he never had in his childhood and early life, but now cannot live without. (Spoiler alert, the internet was not one of them.) It might help you to understand Gulley to know that bungee cords were prominent on this list.

Anyway, the article (and this being November, the month of thankfulness (in spite of elections)) got me thinking about things I use in my life and for which I am not sufficiently thankful.

Google came to mind. I doubt that there are any of my readers who don’t know what Google is, but I try to use my mom as my target audience and she would require a bit of explanation if I started any conversation with the word Google, so let me briefly explain the noun/verb Google.

To do that, I’ll have to use Google. According to Wikipedia (that’s a definition for another day), in technical terms, Google is a search algorithm developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Development began sometime around 1996, and at the time it was being developed, Google was tentatively named “BackRub.” I do not know why. No one ever should try to guess where these technical types come up with names for their projects. Anyway, the company that became Google was actually launched in 1998.

I can imagine a sort of blank look as I make this very unhelpful explanation to my mom…what’s a search algorithm? Let’s see. My aunt was a librarian for all the years of my childhood. If I ever had to know anything, I could catch a ride downtown and climb the stone steps of the Carnegie library in my town. At the top of the steps, I entered a very special world with its own special smell and a quiet, peaceful authority. My aunt’s office was behind an official looking wooden checkout desk and I had the special dispensation to walk up to that desk and ask if Aunt Kathryn was available. She always was. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was in for everyone…I had no special “in” with her.

I could ask Aunt Kathryn anything. She didn’t know everything, but here’s the thing…she knew how to find out anything. And she didn’t just give me an answer to my question, she pointed me to the card catalogue or the reference section which gave me, not an answer, but several answers, from which I could draw my own choice answer, right or wrong.

That’s Google.

You ask Google a question, any question, and Google will go out on the internet and search for an answer. It will usually return hundreds of thousands of possible answers, but based on that algorithm we don’t really understand, the best answer to your question can usually be found in the first 5 or 6 possible answers.

This service does not cost a penny, but there are some pretty significant costs for using it. Just so you know, Google keeps track of your searches and of you, and you are likely to see an ad for whatever you last searched for pop up on the next internet page that loads. Lately, I’ve notice that when I go to a brick and mortar store and look at a particular item, that item also pops up in future ads on my internet. I’m not sure how that happens, but I think that’s Google, too.

The lesson is that, sort of like I wouldn’t ask Aunt Kathryn for certain bits of knowledge I did not want shared with my Mom, I don’t ask Google everything I want to know.

Thanks, Mr. Gulley, for making me think about this. Google is great and it’s one of the things I am thankful for this November.

Even if it does scare me just a little.

Things I found out from Google when researching this blog:

A Carnegie library is a library built with money donated by Scottish businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. At one point there were over 3,500 Carnegie libraries in the US. I was disappointed to find that Google couldn’t tell me how many are actually still in operation today. The one in my hometown, Aunt Kathryn’s library is.

Philip Gulley lives in Danville, Indiana. He’s a Quaker pastor who is the son of a Catholic mother and a Baptist father. That right there is grist for a lot of stories! He’s a writer and a front porch philosopher with a very Hoosier outlook on life. There’s a lot more about him online, you can Google him if you want to know!

The name Google is a variant of googol, a word that sort of means very large numbers.

There are at least 14 other search engines you can use besides Google. I also like Dogpile and Duck Duck Go (as I said, don’t ask me to explain where tech people come up with these names…but you could Google that, too).

Some Days

The kids have the right idea.

Some days I find it harder to write than others. My mind is wrestling with many things and won’t settle on any one topic that I can think through.

I’m thinking about work, not my job so much as work. My job required a lot of physical labor this week and though I was able to get all my tasks done in a timely manner, I’m thinking about how much longer I will be able to physically accomplish simple tasks like moving, unboxing, placing 21 computers in a classroom and removing, moving and stacking the 21 computers that are being replaced. I had good help, but I’m a little weary after a satisfyingly successful transition.

I’m thinking about friends. This has been an autumn of loss for me. Last night I visited with the family of a friend I had known all my life, grown up with, gone to school with, laughed and cried with. There have been too many of those “visitations” for me this fall.

And I’m thinking about the election coming up, concerned not that my candidate won’t win, but that whoever wins will not do so in a caring, responsible, adult way. I don’t like the mood of my country and I’m not sure any candidate, or party, or governmental body is going to be able to pull us back out of this mood any time soon.

So I thought I would tell you a feel good story. Maybe it will help lift my mood, center my mind, make you smile. Simple goals are sometimes the best, right?

My religion is pretty simple. I believe there is a God, one God, who created us and expects us to act like rational and caring human beings for as long as we are on this earth, so that’s what I try to do. The most compelling and universal religious commandment given us is to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting a friend and we decided to visit her church on Sunday morning. It’s a small, country church very much like the church I grew up attending…my favorite kind of church. Small enough that you know the people who sit next to you and if you don’t, they shake your hand and welcome you. Where they sing songs off key and enthusiastically, sometimes faster, sometimes slower than the accompanying piano. And after church, when you stop someplace for lunch, you see most of the people you were with for the past hour.

As part of the service the children are invited to come up to the front of the church for a special story and sometimes some treats.

This church is such a small one, only two little girls came up for the special children’s story. I don’t even remember what the children’s story was, it was unremarkable, but when the leader was done, she asked if one of the children would like to say prayer.

That’s exactly what she said, “Would one of you like to say prayer?”

One of the little girls raised her hand eagerly and the leader asked everyone to bow their heads. The crowd bowed their heads.

The little girl said loudly and proudly, “PRAYER!”

I think God laughed out loud with the rest of us and I think that was His favorite prayer that Sunday.

Maybe the children are on to something. It might really be that simple.

I Just Don’t Know

First of all, it’s not true as has been stated on Facebook that Rose Mallinger, 97 year old victim of Saturday’s synagogue shooting was a survivor of the Holocaust.

That would have been really tragic, but here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter.

The average age of the victims was 74, and that’s what matters.

They were all average. That’s what matters.

As far as anyone knows, there wasn’t a famous or infamous person among them, but they were important to their friends and families. That matters.

They were brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. They were physicians, housewives, dentists, scientists. They were described by friends and neighbors as kind and caring, good people, devout in their faith. And that matters.

Here’s what matters: they are you and me.

We’re being picked off one by one or in groups of 10 or 11 or 20 or 50, but never doubt, we’re being targeted. We’re not people to the shooters, we are reasons or statements or enemies or targets. The places we gather, our schools, our churches, our supermarkets are shooting galleries, places to make some sort of sick statement or right some twisted wrong that has been planted in the heads of those who listen to the hate that is being spewed forth by people who see us as an audience.

Hate. That’s what matters.

Is the media to blame? Partly. Are the politicians to blame? Partly. Are we to blame? Partly.

What can we do? I’ve been waiting for an answer. I’m one person, so surely there is someone more powerful, more knowledgeable, wiser, someone with more authority than me who has an answer and will just wave a wand and fix this mess, but that hasn’t happened.

Maybe there’s a group, a political party, a commission, a board of directors, a university that has an answer. Some organization or some group we can look towards to solve this problem.

Here’s what matters. It’s you and me. We’re the answer.

This is going to be hard.

The answer isn’t in laws. The answer isn’t on TV. The answer isn’t in political correctness or some candidate’s speech. We don’t even like most politicians–how can we expect them to solve this problem? It’s not a problem a doctor or psychiatrist can solve with a diagnosis of whatever mental illness we think might be the root.

The answer doesn’t start outside of us. It starts inside of us, radiates out in the way we live and teach our children, and hopefully is seen by all around us. We can’t hate our neighbor or our co-worker or the people who go to a different church or the people who vote differently than us.

We just can’t.

I don’t know if we can turn this around. At my age I’ve come to think that what I think doesn’t really make a difference. But maybe we all feel that way and that may be a little of what’s going wrong. Maybe what we think does make a difference. Maybe the way we live can make a difference. Maybe we can stop hating. Maybe.

I just don’t know.

This is Serious

Your vote was bought by every person who could not vote and fought for the right. Don’t waste it.

This is a public service announcement, but please bear with me because it is a subject I am passionate about.

I want you to vote in the 2018 Midterm Election on November 6.

I don’t care who you vote for, I don’t care if you are voting against someone rather than for them. I don’t care if you only go to the polls because of one candidate or one issue. I don’t even care if you vote against my candidate, the person that I strongly want to win in the election. I don’t care about any of that.

I just want you to vote.

It’s probable that most of you reading this are planning to vote, and that I am preaching to the choir, but if that’s the case, I urge you to look around at your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. If you see someone who seems unlikely to vote or even actively bragging that they aren’t planning to vote…please feel free to share this post or these facts with them.

I can’t tell you how annoyed I get with the number one reason given for not voting…“my vote doesn’t count.”

In the first place, that’s just stupid, of course it counts.

In the second place, what you are totally ignoring is that by NOT voting, your vote counts double. Do the math. By not voting, you have not advanced a candidate that you could surely have been “okay” with, and by not voting against a candidate you don’t agree with, you have given that candidate free rein to possibly win the election and be your representative in government for 2 or 4 or even more years.

And in the third place, here are some examples of elections where one person’s vote (or one person who did NOT vote) made a huge difference:

  • One vote kept Aaron Burr from becoming President in 1800
  • One vote made Texas a part of United States of America in 1845
  • One vote saved Andrew Johnson from impeachment in 1868
  • One vote elected Rutherford B. Hayes to the Presidency in 1876
  • One vote per precinct would have elected Richard Nixon rather than John F. Kennedy in 1960

So, don’t tell me your vote doesn’t count or won’t make a difference.

One more argument I hear is: “well, elected officials only listen to big money.” That one is certainly true. According to the website HuffingtonPost.com:

Nearly 80 percent of people with yearly incomes of $75,000 or higher voted in the 2012 election, compared to just 60 percent of those earning less than $50,000 a year. By age, voter participation of older Americans eclipses that of those under 30.

So you see, it absolutely makes sense that the elected politicians will make decisions that benefit the people who voted for them, the wealthier, older citizens that took the time to study the issues and made their way to the voting booth on election day. Once again, making the excuse “my vote won’t count” into a huge lie!

And finally, it wasn’t so long ago that most of us even won the right to vote. Women fought hard for that privilege before winning it in 1920. The voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1971. For years only property owners were allowed to vote and after the Civil War, many voters were required to pass literacy tests.

The right and privilege to vote has been a hard-won battle by our ancestors, and we owe it to them to not take this duty for granted.

It is so important for our young people, our senior citizens living on fixed incomes, our lower and middle class income earners, our working poor, our ethnic brothers and sisters, our women…so important for all people to vote, because rather than “my vote doesn’t count” your one vote most definitely counts…whether you perform that duty or whether you don’t.

So, I end as I began: I want you to vote in the 2018 Midterm Election on November 6. I promise, your vote WILL count.



No Warning

It happens with no warning.

It’s the clap of thunder and the bolt of lightning that knocks you flat on the golf course after your third birdie in a row. You never saw it coming.

It’s the driver that ignores the stop sign and T-bones you in the intersection on the sunny day with the blue, blue sky and your favorite song on the radio. You never saw it coming.

It’s the snake that you walk past never knowing it’s there that reaches out and buries its fangs in the soft part of the calf of your bare leg above your leather boots. You never saw it coming.

It’s the phone call at 5:30 on Friday evening from a distraught doctor who says: “I hate to do this by phone but I didn’t want to leave you hanging all weekend. The biopsy results are back. It’s cancer.” You never saw it coming.

We’re pretty good at guarding against the things we expect to happen. Door locks keep our possessions safe, turn signals protect our back bumpers, coats, hats and boots help us avoid colds and we never, never, never pet an unfamiliar dog.

We tell our kids to look both ways before crossing the street, eat the vegetables, fasten the seatbelts and never, never, never talk to strangers.

And yet…the unexpected event happens, the thing we never saw coming, never prepared for and suddenly we are reminded how fragile we are, how easily we can be broken.

September 11, Never Forget

This week we once again remembered how lives and the very heart of a nation can be stopped in an instant. Seventeen years later, the words “Let’s roll,” and the iconic date numbers 9/11 still ring loud in our ears and wrap around our hearts and minds.

There is a new generation now, children who have not known the parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents that they never had because of that sunny, September day that will now be known forever as 9/11. I sometimes wonder if that particular day was chosen because of the irony of the numbers, the three numbers we are to call when tragedy erupts, “911 – please help.”

Those of us who watched from a distance as that day unfolded will, indeed, never forget. We will remember how fragile we felt and yet how strong we were and how we knew beyond a doubt that we were one nation who did not crumble, but stood up.

That day we felt like individuals who had been knocked down, but collectively we rose to the occasion. From the fire and police personnel who pounded up those hundreds of stairs, to the passengers who did what they knew they must and fought back, to the nation who came together to wrap the victims in their arms, we stood back up…together.

We should never forget what we can do together…I just wish it hadn’t taken 9/11 to be a marker to remind us of that every year. Since it did, I wish we could keep remembering not just on that day, but every day, what a country can do if it works together.

That’s Better, Right?

Not my family, but pretty typical.

We live in a pretty amazing world. The changes I’ve seen in my lifetime are…well, I’ve seen a lot of changes.


Our first TV had a very small screen and a big cabinet that also included a radio and a record player. Every time Mom went through the room on Saturday morning she said “Scoot back away from the TV, you’re too close.” Every year, screens got bigger and brighter. Every year we still sat too close. Every year she still told us to scoot back.

The other day I walked through the Commons at the school where I work and noticed a student sitting at one of the tables, hunched over the table with both hands wrapped around his cellphone, watching some video on a screen no bigger than a 3” x 5” index card.

Better, right?


Speaking of phones, we had one phone in the house. When it rang, everyone yelled “Got it!” and ran. First one there got the honors of announcing the caller.

Eventually, we figured out how to run phone wire to other rooms in the house and put phones within reach in the bedroom, kitchen, even the bathroom.

Today, we’re all getting rid of “land line” phones for cell phones. No more phones in every room. Now we have one phone again—that we have to carry with us at all times. Or else it’s laying in the car cup holder when we’re in the kitchen. Or in our sweatshirt pocket by the back door when we’re in the bathroom. And when it rings we have to yell “Got it!” as we scramble to keep one of the youngsters from grabbing it and announcing to our boss where we are and what we are doing.

Better, right?

Gas Stations

Years ago, when I stopped for gas on the way to my after-school job, one of the Mundy twins would pump it and also wash my windshield and check my oil. At least until I jokingly tooted the horn while he was under the hood. After that he thoughtfully unplugged the horn every time he checked the oil. That never got old!

When he the oil was topped off and the gas pumped, he would take my money and make change. I drove away happy. (I didn’t mind the horn bit, he was kinda cute.)

Today, when I get gas I have to sit in a line glaring at the guy who needs to approach the pump from a different way because his gas door is on the other side from mine. Once I get to the pump, I have to get out and do the pumping. If I don’t pay with a debit card that may or may not be “skimmed” when I use it, I have to go into the convenience store where I also buy two candy bars, a bag of chips, a hot dog and a huge cup of pop. The price I pay at the cash register reflects not only the gas I pumped, but the gas I’ll develop on the way home as I consume the junk I bought.

Better, right?


Speaking of cars, can you remember when we could call the neighbor’s nephew and tell him the car was making a funny noise and he’d tell us to bring it on over. He’d raise the hood and fiddle around for a few minutes. When he emerged with a smear of grease on his cheek, the car would start up and purr like a kitten. “What do I owe you?” you’d ask and he’d grin and say “How about a 6 pack of Bud?”

Today, you make an appointment two weeks out to leave the car with a mechanic all day so he can plug your car into a computer. He’ll present you with a list of several repairs that will cost you from $300 to $500 each to complete. “Which one of those repairs will quiet the noise I hear?” The mechanic shrugs. “I didn’t hear anything when I pulled it around to the bay.”

You drive away and turn the radio up real loud, problem solved.

Better, right?


Every year before school started, Mom took us to Ritter’s Shoe Store. One by one, we’d sit beside her as Mr. or Mrs. Ritter would gently take our ankle and guide our foot into the metal device that measured not only the length, but the width of our feet. From the back room they would fetch 4 or 5 boxes of shoes that would suit Mom as being cheap enough, yet tough enough to get us through the school year. Final approval went like this: Mr. or Mrs. Ritter approved the fit; Mom, the appearance and price; me—well, my opinion didn’t matter too much after that.

Today, kids get dragged into the nearest Big Box Store, plopped down in the floor and subjected to much tugging on and off of every conceivable style of shoe with strewing of boxes everywhere. There’s crying and wailing and whining on the part of the children, grumbling and ultimatums on the part of the parents until finally shoes and kids are loaded into a cart along with $70 worth of soda pop and corn chips.

Better, right?

I know, I know. All this makes me sound like an old fogey, but you know what? I love most of the improvements we’ve made over the years but I wouldn’t take a million dollars for those good times I had growing up.

Of course, if I could have a million dollars AND those good times…that would be better, right?

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