Daily Archives: September 28, 2007

Finding The Way To A Man’s Heart

It is often said that “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” but I think I have discovered a new way today to at least one man’s heart, one that doesn’t require any time in the kitchen, though in his case one can use the kitchen, albeit in a novel way.

The man’s heart I sought was that of a newspaperman who happens to own a dog. And I did find a way to his heart, though I stumbled into it.

For example, if you can’t stand the heat and you know he has a dog, then you can stay out of the kitchen. You just need to say nice things about his dog, or write about his dog.

Or you can just go into the kitchen to get a bone that you then give to the man’s dog, as it really is true that “the way to a dog’s heart is through his stomach.”

I could have found the way sooner had I recalled that newspapermen know all there is to know about “man bites dog” stories, so you just need to write a post in which “man writes of dog.”

I learned all this earlier today when, after completing my last few posts, I sent the following note to Peter Applebome of the NY Times:


I’ve just published a few related blog posts that may be interest. Look for the mention of Atlanta in the first.




I’ve mentioned the work of your colleague David Brooks in the recent post


as well as the older


My mentions of Tom Friedman are voluminous. I’m but one member of cult Tom Friedman.

Your latest column is very good, as are all the rest.

Keep up the good work.


Though I didn’t check my email for some time, when I did I noted he had responded within seven minutes, as follows:

dave: thanks for this. enjoyed reading it and completely thrilled to see the mention of walter.

how long have you been doing this?

By the way, I knew he was talking about his dog, and not his brother-in-law.

I once asked Peter why he called his dog Walter and he responded the dog was named after his brother-in-law. That’s when I first appreciated he had a droll sense of humor. For example, here are some of the things Peter can say to his dog, or to his brother-in-law:

Walter, time do do your business.
Heel, Walter.
Bad dog, Walter.
Oops, sorry I kicked you, Walter.
Chew on this old bone, Walter.
Walter, if you pee on the rug one more time then out to the porch you go for the night.

I then realized I had unconciously used an approach I first read about many years ago in A.J. Liebling’s wonderful book, “The Earl of Louisiana,” where he relates how he introduced himself to Earl Long, who was running for re-election as Governor of Louisiana; by way of background, one of his opponents was Jimmie Davis, a well-known singer who went on to win the election: [1]

“Governor,” a reporter queried, “what is your personal opinion of who’s going to win this election?”

“I am,” the seated orator replied without hesitation. “Uncle Ear. It’s going to be a case of Katy bar the door. Little old Dellasoups Morrison will be second.”

“And third,” pursued the questioner.

“Jimmie Davis, if he stays in the race,” the man who picked himself said. “And little Willie Rainach and Big Bad Bill Dogg a dogfall for fourth.” In country wrestling, a dogfall means that the men lose their footing simultaneously and both go down, which makes that fall a draw.

“We are going to have a party tomorrow, a homecoming party for the press,” he said. “and you all are invited. Going to have something for everybody — religious music over here on one side of the room and honky-tonk on the other. But no Bedbug Blues — that’s Jimmie Davis’ tune.

There was a good deal of the discourse that I have not recorded. Carried away by the stream of idiom like a drunk on a subway train, I missed a lot of stations. [2]

Somebody asked the Governor what he thought of the Luce publications’ having asked for a change of venue to a Federal court in his libel suit for six million dollars. He said he didn’t care what kind of court the case came up in.

“They going to find themselves lighter and wiser when it’s over,” he said. “The Luce people have been going on too long picking on people too poor to sue them, and now they’re going to get it in the nect. Mr. Luce is like a man that owns a shoestore and buys all the shoes to fit himself. Then he expects other people to buy them.” [3]

This was the best thing said about publishers, I felt, since I myself wrote thirteen years ago: “To the foundation of a school of journalism for publishers, without whichno school of journalism can have meaning.”

I put all my admiration in my glance and edged my chair up to the end of the Governor’s sofa. When I try, I can exude sincerity as a lama can spit, and the Governor’s gaze, swinging about the room, stopped when it lit on me. My eyes clamped on it in an iron grip of approval.

I inched forwarder, trying not to startle him into putting a cop on me, and said, “Governor, I am not a newspaperman. I am with you all the way about publishers. Nor am I primarily interested in politics. I came all the way down here to find out your system for beating the horses.”

An expression of modest disclaimer dropped like a curtain in front of the cocky old face.

“I got no particular system,” he said. “I think I’m doing good to break even. I think horse-betting should be dissected — into them that can afford it and them that can’t. I think if you can afford it it’s a good thing to take your mind off your troubles and keep you out of the air.”

“Do you play speed ratings?” I asked. The Governor, is his eagerness to talk simultaneously about all phases of handicapping, choked up — it was the bronchieactis– and began to cough.

Quickly I offered him a lemon drop and he accepted it. Once it was in his mouth, I knew, from my experience among the Arabs in the opposite end of the interrupted sea, that I had won. He had accepted my salt, now he would reciprocate. The bronchieactasis struggled with the lemon drop for a moment and then yielded.

Liebling had come to the news conference knowing his man. And knowing that man, he had found a way to the man’s heart.

Knowing my man I inadvertently discovered the way to his heart.

In any event, I did find my way, for if you read his reply you will find that Peter Applebome, an experienced reporter and columnist of the New York Times, said he enjoyed reading several of my recent blog posts.

This is the second such approval of my writing, the first being that of Ari Goldman, himself a former reporter for the NY Times and now a professor at Columbia’s school of journalism (has any publisher yet attended it?), as reported in my post On the escape velocity from obscurity. [3]

Though I am not as big a fan of racing as A.J. himself, I have been to the races myself in years past: at the State Fair in New Mexico, at Santa Anita racetrack in California, and at Belmont racetrack on Long Island.

So long-time readers of this blog can appreciate that I see a trifecta in sight.

Yes, it’s taken a year, but my biggest long-shot to date may soon pay off. It can only come if the New York Times prints a certain phrase, or if a certain comment is posted to one of my posts. Only a fellow colleague of Mr. Applebome can make this happen.

Will he? Won’t he? We shall see, as it will be easy for all the world to confirm if my long-shot crosses the finish line.

We shall also see if Mr. Applebome can identify the colleague and suggest to him what he must do. All the answers can be found in previous posts in this blog.

To answer Peter’s question, I’ve been writing this blog for just over a year now. You can find a list of all my posts at Posts. You can learn the date of each post just by holding your mouse over it. This will also cause a small snapshot to appear, as described in my post WordPress August Wrap-up: Game, Set, Match.

Peter, I warn you there are a lot of posts. By my accounting this will be the 339th post in this blog. So I am going to give you and other curious readers a hint. That man’s name can be found in my note to you.

Let’s see if you can become my way to his heart. If you correctly identify your colleague I will send you instructions to forward to him on how he can complete this important task.

I would prefer that he do so in printed form, so I can read it in one of the daily copies of the Times that are delivered to my driveway each day. I say this because one of the most impressive pieces of technology I have ever personally observed was a Linotype. Though no longer in use, it converted bricks of lead into type that was used to print newspapers. To see ore turned into prose by the Linotype operator was magic indeed, much less romantic than today’s use of a word processor to send a story on its way.

If my mention of hot lead doesn’t give you and your colleague a rush of affection for me then I fear I will not get my trifecta. However, I remain optimistic.

By the way, I make no secret of the way to my heart. You just need to compliment me on my handwriting. I will know you are lying but I will accept the compliment with grace. To see why, just search this blog for the word “sheldon.”

Also, Peter, if I find any poop near the bottom of the driveway in the near future, I’ll know the name of the dog — or brother-in-law — who will be held accountable.

My wife and I saw Walter looking out a window a few nights back while on an evening stroll. We saw Walter wag his tail, at us or, more likely, a squirrel.

We all know by his writing that Peter is a great writer, so I wouldn’t be surprised that he is so smart that he has taught his dog Walter how to read. I do hope so, as Peter would then have a path right to the heart of the Pulitzer Prize Committee.

I can write the citation now:

This year, for the first time in its history, a special Pulitzer Prize for Outstanding Innovation In Journalism is awared to a man and dog. Both are named Walter, and both come from the same family, yet the dog is not the man’s dog but the dog of the man’s brother-in-law.

While some may see this as a belated apology for our allowing a Yellow Dog Journalist to serve as chairman of the prize committee, no one can question the award is well-deserved, as the Walters are the joint authors of the first Op-Ed piece piece published by the New York Times to be written by a man and a dog, “The Inside Poop On Why We Pooped On Dave Shields’s Driveway.”

This year’s award for Best Columnist goes to Peter Applebome and The New York Times, for his accumlated body of work, and especially for Mr. Applebome’s columns inspired by his dog Walter, “Dog Flogs Blog” as well as what is without question the finest single column ever published, the work of Thomas Friedman notwithstanding, “Dog Writes Times.” [5]


1. Long is an interesting figure. He was the son of the Artful Demagogue Sen. Huey Long, and on the surface seemed to have been cut from the same cloth, yet Liebling found Earl to be ahead of his time in matters of race. Long died shortly after the election that he lost.

The book is one of Liebling’s best. They all are. Usually I can copy a few words from a column, or a section of a Wikipedia article, directly into a blog post by using cut-and-paste with my mouse, yet I had to type in this quotation word by word. I haven’t read Liebling much in recent years, and doing this reminded me just how great a writer he was.

2. I am one of those people who consider themselves a native New Yorker because of their great love for it. Yet not all natives have the same emotional attachment. One of Liebling’s first books, “Back Where I Came From,” published in 1938 (I have a complete collection of his works; my copy of this book is a first edition.) begins as follows:

People I know in New York are incessantly on the point of going back where they came from to write a book, or of staying on and writing a book about back where they came from. Back where they came from, I gather, is the American scene (New York, of course, just isn’t America). It is all pretty hard on me because I have no place to go back to. I was born in an apartment house at Ninety-third Street and Lexington Avenue, about three miles where I now live. Friends often tell me of their excitement when the train on which they are riding passes from Indiana to Illinois, or back again. I am ashamed to admit that when the Jerome Avenue express rolls into Eighty-sixth Streeet station I have absolutely no reaction.

I had a similar encounter with a native. Once, when in need of a cab on Park Avenue on a rainy night in the height of rush hour, I saw daughter Jennifer, then about fifteen, step into the street and raise her hand. I admonished her by saying, “Let me do it. Only real New Yorkers know how to hail a cab.” She replied, “Dad. I am the real New Yorker. I was born here. You weren’t.” A cab stopped for us moments later.

3. This is one of Liebling’s more memorable aphorisms, as is, “”Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” He wrote an occasional New Yorker column about the press for many years. Called, “The Wayward Press,” its name was the inspiration for the name of this blog. Liebling is not too well-known these days, but I’ve never met a reporter who wasn’t familiar with his work. For example, Ari Goldman smiled as soon as I mentioned the name of my blog.

4. — deleted —

5. Many, including myself, would argue that the Time’s has already published Op-Ed works that had a dog as their author, as demonstrated by the doggerel prose found therein, but that is a matter of opinion.

6. It is interesting to speculate on what might result if Peter actually could teach, with dogged determination, Walter (the dog, not his brother-in-law, whom I assume is already literate) how to read. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Peter summoned before a Grand Jury convened to investigate why he had not first shared this innovation with the Department of Defense, as was done many decades ago by B. F. Skinner in his experiments that attempted to train pigeons to aim weapons.

I can see it now:

Mr. Peter Applebome of the NY Times, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, was called to testify early today before a Grand Jury.

Mr. Applebome valiantly defended The Freedom Of The Press by responding to every question with the same response, “It’s the dog’s life. Ask him.”

Followed by:

Walter Applebome today became the first dog ever called to testify before a Grand Jury. He replied to every question with a dogged stare, sometimes in silence and other times barking. It is surmised that his owner, Mr. Peter Applebome, while able to teach Walter how to read and how to take paw to keyboard, was unable to give Walter the gift of speech.

And the best one possible, with the immortal headline:

Dog Bites Congressman

During today’s appearance before a Special Investigative Session of the U.S. House of Representatives, Walter The Dog became the first dog ever to be summoned to testify under oath before Congress.

Walter was accompanied by his attorney and fellow dog, Clifford, who required a special seat to accommodate his large body.

Walter’s family was present. The family is unique in that it is the first family ever to have received three Pulitzer Prizes, including what is believed to be the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded to a dog, though this remains the subject of heated debate.

Walter responded to repeated and dogged questioning by becoming the first dog in history to bite a U.S. Congressman while Congress was in session.

Walter than ran out of the chamber, wagging his tail. The Congressman was later heard to say, “Doggone it. It’s a good thing the dog is gone.”

What Will Become of Journalism, And Journalists, In the Internet Age?

The internet is perhaps the greatest disruptor of established businesses in modern times. For example, twenty years ago when I needed to plan a plane trip I would go to the office of the nearest secretary, to borrow a copy of a massive paperbound publication that I would use to plan my itinerary, the Official Airline Travel Guide (OAG).

OAG was a great business. They published a large book, knowing that it had to be updated frequently as the airlines changed their schedules, and so must have raked in piles of money from all the people who had to subscribe to it so they could run their business.

OAG lives on as a website, though I am sure they are much less profitable than before; itness Expedia, ITA Software and Kayak. [1]

Moreover, many people who used to be travel agents no longer work in that industry, driven out of it by sites such as these.

The daily newspaper industry is especially threatened by the internet. Though I subscribe to the NY Times and read its printed edition daily, I visit Google News several times a day to get the latest. Daughter Jen reads the NY Times via its website; she never buys a printed copy.

The Times is not alone in being challenged. For example, I gave a keynote talk at a workshop on Open Source in St. Louis in October, 2004. [2] One of the presenters was from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a great newspaper, yet he related how the computer technology in the newsroom was hopelessly out of date as the paper didn’t have the money to invest in new technology.

The NY Times has sought ways to live in the internet age, first in the form of requiring payment for access to its web site, more recently by providing such access for free, as discussed in my post The Gray Lady has a new spring in her step: Times to Stop Charging for Parts of Its Web Site.

Many newspapers have survived only by making drastic cuts in their staff; the Los Angeles Times is a good example of this.

Many journalists have moved to the web. For example, the editor-in-chief of Politico.com is John Harris. He began his career as an intern with the Washington Post and went on to become one our best political analysts, yet he has moved to web, as have many others. Mr. Harris is a frequent guest on my favorite news show, Washington Week, hosted by Gwen Ifill. [3] Many of the other regular guests, who used to be associated only with print or broadcast media, now have a presence on the web, in some cases it is their only presence, as is the case with Mr. Harris.

Yes, as they say on Wall Street, “It is what it is. Deal with it.”

Yet, I wonder what will become of journalism, journalists, reporters, and us as we move forward.

Mr. Harris began his career in journalism as an intern, as did Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post. [4] Bob Woodward took a job as a young reporter at the Post after applying to several law schools. I expect Peter Applebome, the NY Times columnist and author of a recent column that was the subject of my post Peter Applebome: Soldiers’ Portraits Make the Costs of War More Visible.

These men all began their careers as young reporters, as did the late David Halberstam, one of my favorite authors.

It took them decades to learn their craft. That they mastered it is shown in their writing.

Yet, where will we find the next generation of journalists and reporters? There will be far fewer jobs available. Though some will choose journalism as a career, their numbers will inevitably decline, as will the number of professors in schools of journalism, such as Ari Goldman of Columbia’s school of journalism, the subject of my post Kaddish.

Some will find homes on the web.

But those homes will be on the web. Those journalists won’t be working on a local paper and writing about the town in which they live, the town that is their home.

We are going to pay a price for all the stories that will thus go unwritten. We don’t know what it will be, we just know we will have pay it, in the currency of ignorance.

Corruption will flourish when the lights of journalism are dimmed, or extinguished, as will plain, ordinary incompetence.

So we should pay careful attention to those who continue to work as journalists, and the few who will carry on their work, deciding it is more important to tell us about the world as it is, and not to seek to make oodles of boodle working for hedge funds.

We should honor them, too.


1. Our family has used Expedia to plan many trips. However, I find ITA is the best for exploring airline flight schedules. Their matrix displaying flights is a thing of beauty and a great piece of technology. A friend recommended Kayak, though I haven’t yet used it. It is an uber-travel site in that it just searches all the others such as Expedia and ITA, harvesting the best deals.

2. I flew out of LaGuardia Airport late on a Monday afternoon, only to note that well over half my fellow passengers were wearing Red Sox caps, a sign that they were true fans on their way to see the World Series in St. Louis. I spent Tuesday going over my talk, only to learn late that night that I would be facing a tough crowd indeed the next morning at 9AM, as the Sox ended the series by sweeping the Cards Tuesday night.

3. Ms. Ifill was the NY Times reporter assigned to cover the campaign of Bill Clinton in 1992, at a time when has a definite underdog. His success, and her skill in writing about it, launched her career. She later moved to NBC and for the last several years has been the moderator of Washington Week.

She is very good at her job, second only to the matchless Paul Duke, who moderated the show during the Watergate Era. Then called Washington Week in Review (WWIR), it was our best source of information during those troubling and very confusing times. We watched it religiously. The regular guests then included Peter Lisagor of the Chicago Daily News, Neil Harris of Time Magazine, and Charles McDowell. They were all great journalists; Lisagor the first among equals.

Ms. Ifill was also the subject of a scurrilous attack the radio personality Don Imus some years back. Unsurprisingly he was thrown off the air after making a racist remark about the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball team earlier this year.

4. Mr. Bernstein was once married to the writer and film director Nora Ephron. His peradventures resulted in divorce, followed by her revenge in her hilarious, devastating, book, Heatburn. Her son Max was a classmate of my son Mike at Rodeph Sholom nursery school in NYC in the 80’s, and I recall attending one of Max’s birthday parties with Mike.

A couple of years later Mike had as a classmate one of the sons of the violinist Itzhak Perlman. When the class did a project in which each child had to build a model of a building in New York City, Perlman’s son did one of Carnegie Hall, as it was the building he knew best.

Peter Applebome: Soldiers’ Portraits Make the Costs of War More Visible

This week’s NY Times Metro Section has a piece Soldiers’ Portraits Make the Costs of War More Visible by the columnist Peter Applebome.

It is about Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, a photographer who lives in Putnam Valley, NY, and begins as follows:

On a windless fall day that feels like summer, the boats still as statues outside Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s window on Lake Oscawana, Iraq seems a million miles away. But then, unless it’s your kid or your spouse, unless you’re directly involved with training soldiers to go to war or patching up the ones who come home with broken pieces, where isn’t that true?

And that seems precisely the point of the black portfolio case with its 13 16-by-20-inch photos sitting on Mr. Greenfield-Sanders’s living-room table in this Putnam County town just over the line from Westchester.

There’s Dawn Halfaker, a West Point graduate, holding the prosthesis for her missing right arm like a part of herself that’s become temporarily disconnected.

There’s Mike Jernigan, one eye socket empty, the other with a plastic eye studded with diamonds from the wedding ring his wife returned to him when they divorced after his return from Iraq. There’s John Jones, all business in his Marine uniform above the waist, two robotic legs naked below.

The subjects in the photos were featured in the HBO film “Alive Day Memories,” the widely praised documentary that tells the stories of 10 grievously wounded Iraq veterans.

Mr. Greenfield-Sanders, a well-known portrait photographer, was brought in to do portraits of the soldiers in the film, six from the Army, four from the Marines, who range in age from 21 to 41 and whose injuries include devastating brain damage, triple amputation and blindness. (Three others who were photographed did not end up in the hourlong documentary.)

And it would appear that after 30 years of capturing people’s personalities in his antique eight-by-ten camera, he’s still trying to come to grips with the process of producing images that have helped give a visual identity to a war that, it seems, is everywhere, but somehow invisible.

The column includes some of Mr. Greenfield-Sanders’s photgraphs, haunting reminders of the terrible price we have paid for our misadventure in Iraq.

Peter’s article ends as follows:

The film, which features the actor James Gandolfini, who was also its executive producer, is resolutely apolitical, its focus on the stories of the soldiers, not on the war they fought. The soldiers themselves, more often than not, don’t express regrets, say they would do it again. But Mr. Greenfield-Sanders, who says he opposed the war before it began, said that at the very least, the show and the portraits play an important role in bringing the invisible into the light, showing the faces, the scars, the missing limbs, the diamond and plastic eye, making the costs — or some of them — seem less than a million miles away

“I think we need to see this,” he said. “We don’t see the dead coming back in coffins. We’re sheltered from the injured. We just don’t see it. It’s all been brilliantly hidden from view. So this documentary is very important in letting us see these people, let us know who they are, and make us ask if this war is worth it.”

I saw it. You should, too.


1. Peter is both a neighbor and a friend; his house is just a few hundred feet from mine. I often pass him in the morning on my way to the gym and say hello as he walks his dog, Walter. He usually has a cell-phone to his ear, working I am sure on his next story.

He is a wonderful writer and a skilled reporter. He was the Atlanta Bureau Chief for the NY Times, and you find an example of his writing in his obituary for Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King, a Civil Rights Icon, Dies at 78.

I read the obituaries in the Times regularly, not out of a morbid interest, but to see the stories of how people lived their lives. Many are also examples of good writing.

The Times is not alone in having good writing in the Obituary section. Shortly after I moved to New York I had dinner with my roommate’s family in New Jersey. When I mentioned my fondness for A. J. Liebling (after whom this blog is named) one of the guest, Harold Rosenberg, spoke out. I learned he was a well-known sportswriter of that era who had worked at the New York Herald Tribute. He mentioned that the obituary of A. J. Liebling in the Trib was written by Tom Wolfe, then a young reporter who went on to become the well-known novelist. Though the Trib had died a few years earlier, he kindly went through the archives and later sent me a copy of Wolfe’s obituary, which I kept for many years but seem to have lost along the way.

Peter is also a fellow former Boy Scout leader and the author of the book Scout’s Honor: A Father’s Unlikely Foray into the Woods. Peter and I view with equal distase the Boy Scouts’ homophobia, as does my son Michael, who became Eagle Scout before he turned fifteen. (By the way, several of his fellow rabbi’s-in-training at the Hebrew Union College are also Eagle Scouts.)

Tikkun Olam: Give Where Giving Is Due

The ethos of open-source can be expressed in a single sentence:

Give credit where credit is due.

As a user of open-source you must honor the intentions of the author(s) of that open-source by meeting the terms and conditions of the license under which they distribute it.

As a developer of open-source you must also give credit where credit is due to those who submit bug fixes, modifications, and extensions. You must recognize their work and so help them increase their reputation. To not do so will lessen your reputation.

The same ethos applies in many other ways. For example,

Give help where help is due.

You have an obligation to help those in need of help, especially children, by providing for their education and welfare.

Give responsibility where responsibility is due.

As a leader you have a responsibility to delegate that responsibility wisely, giving those so delegated the authority to meet that responsibility. You also have a responsibility to take someone to task when they fail to meet their responsibilities.

Give burden where burden is due.

You should not undertake something of great gravity, nor ask others to be engaged in that activity, unless there is good reason to do so, carefully weighing the risks and rewards beforehand. For example, as noted in the The Declaration of Independence:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes

The present disaster of Iraq, which has cost so many good people their lives, demonstrates the tragic results that can result from ignoring these basic principles.

President Bush took us to war without good reason, chose poor leaders to manage that mission, never asked the American people to assume the burden that was their due but instead laid a great part of the burden on the members of our voluntary armed forces, and has yet to accept responsbility for his failure of leadership.

A recent column by David Brooks of the New York Times, The Entitlements People, provides a vivid demonstration of how well-intentioned leaders can do us harm by failing to accept and meet their responsibilities.

All of the above are instances of a more general principle:

Give Where Giving Is Due.

Giving is about choice, your choice.

To strive to be a giver is to seek the best in yourself, and those who do so should be honored. For example, I have had the great good fortune for almost two years now to work some of the members of IBM’s Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs team. They have the best, most noble, web address within IBM, http://ibm.com/ibm/ibmgives. For example, my volunteer efforts, including the writing of this blog, are done as a voluntary member of IBM’s On Demand Community.

This is also a fundamental ethos of Judaism, and all other religions as well:

Tikkun Olam: Repair The World.

God created a perfect world and then created imperfect Man to dwell within it, perhaps as an experiment to see which men and women would realize they could only make themselves more nearly perfect by repairing the damage to the world done my themselves and others.

The choice is mine, yours, and ours.

Tikkun Olam. Repair The World. Give Where Giving Is Due.

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