A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thank you 300,000 times over

Sometime tonight the Statcounter rolled over 300,000 visits to my little ol' piece of the Edusphere! And an adorable and precious friend has nominated this blog for a 2007 Best of Blogs award.

Thankyew! Thankyewverymuch!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The TMI Chronicles: bodily alteration edition

Thank you ever so much for showing me your fabulous new tattoo. Really. There's nothing I like better than seeing a crusty, scabbed-over picture of a tribal design wrapped all the way around an adolescent arm. Original. And right before lunch! How special!

And then young man, remind me some day to ask you why, in the name of all that is good and beautiful in the world, you decided to sharpen your two canine teeth so that you would remind one of some sort of feral animal. Now, THAT is something I have never seen before. Really. I can actually say that it is something I never thought I WOULD see. That's gotta be worth something.


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Monday, March 24, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 108: two left feet edition

Spring break means watching lots of movies, and so let's launch ourselves on another edition of Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. Just put your quotes in the comments section!

"She looks like a cocktail waitress on an oil rig."

"We are SO lucky. We are SO lucky to have been raised amongst catalogs."

"I didn't ask for your opinion. I asked for a toy that you don't have!"

"Look at Scott! He is prancing along with the dog! Man, I tell you something, if you live in my neighborhood and you're dressed like that, you'd better be a hotel doorman."

"We have you down for a queen."
"What are you suggesting... my dear man?"

"We met at Starbucks. Not at the same Starbucks, but we saw each other at different Starbucks across the street from each other."

"Go to the hotel and get Busy Bee! Run! Run!!!"

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

What would you do?

The class was talking about the beginning of the Cold War. We were describing the basic tenets of Communism, and on the topic of personal freedom ( or actually the lack of personal freedom), it was mentioned that Karl Marx famously stated: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

We discussed the official espousal of atheism by the Communist party, and defined the word. We then were talking about how the freedom of religion was one of the most important freedoms to have, and when one of my students remembered it was one of the Four Freedoms listed by FDR against Fascism, I will tell you I almost burst into tears from joy.

But then one of my students suddenly burst out with this: "What if you don't believe in the devil? What does that mean? Am I an atheist?"

Be assured that I went back over the definition of atheism as the lack of belief in God, and explained that the refusal to believe in Satan did not make one an atheist. The kids then chimed in about how I wouldn't tell him what to believe nor what I believe because this is a public school (this is from my opening day speech). I suggested that he talk to his parents or a clergyperson, if he had one, and we moved on.

Because I am a religious person and try to be a faithful person, I am very careful not to inject my religious beliefs into my classroom. General ethical behavior, absolutely, but theology, no. Anywhere where students are taught, values are being transmitted, regardless of whether the students think they are picking up the signals or not.

I had a teacher in junior high who actively shoved her beliefs down our throats, including persecuting the Jewish kid in our class, and I ended up getting in trouble when I finally lost it and politely contradicted her. Of course, in one of my classes, one of my students attends my church, so it's not like it's a secret that I go to church. I consider the work I do with kids to be part of my ministry, but in a general improving- the-minds-and-upholding-the-spirits-of-my-students kind of way.

But this incident haunts me. He was obviously still thinking about it. What would you have done?

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five year anniversary.

3,983 American dead.

At least 29,385 American wounded, which does not count thousands of serious cases of brain injuries.

Half a trillion dollars (Only World War II has cost more in constant dollars). The original projection was of a cost of 50 to 60 billion dollars. Cost to provide health insurance to 4 million American children: 35 billion over a five year time span.

Backlog of veterans awaiting VA approval of disability payments as of August, 2007: 400,000-600,000.

Estimates of approximately 35,000 to 1 million Iraqi deaths, although no numbers are kept or sought.

"Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn
but the sword of righteousness,
no strength known but the strength of love:
So mightily spread abroad your Spirit,
that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace,
as children of one Father;
to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen."
BCP, p. 815.

(Cross-posted at Tradition, Faith, and Reason.)


Monday, March 17, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 107: cockroaches edition

I feel completely out of this world, so what's better than a Movie Madness Monday?

So put your quotes from this movie in the comments section!

"Series IV De-Atomizer."
"That's what I'M talkin' 'bout!"
"Noisy Cricket."

"Kay! It's the bug guy in the Edgar suit!"

"You chose me... so you recognized the skills, so I don't want nobody calling me son or kid or sport or nothing like that, cool?"

"Congratulations, Reg. It's a... squid."

"Then I saw little Tiffany. I'm thinking, y'know, eight-year-old white girl, middle of the ghetto, bunch of monsters, this time of night with quantum physics books? She about to start some shit, Zed."

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Great Singer/Songwriters of whom you have probably never heard - and note the refusal to end the title with a preposition, no matter how odd it sounds

Tonight I played guitar at our Saturday evening church service, even though there is really no such thing as Palm Sunday eve. We closed the service with "O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded," which to those of you who follow such things is the same tune used by Paul Simon to such wonderful effect in his song "American Tune."

Verses one and two of the song from the Episcopal Hymnal goes like this:
O sacred head, sore wounded,
defiled and put to scorn;
O kingly head surrounded
with mocking crown of thorn:
What sorrow mars thy grandeur?
Can death thy bloom deflower?
O countenance whose splendor
the hosts of heaven adore!

Thy beauty, long-desirèd,
hath vanished from our sight;
thy power is all expirèd,
and quenched the light of light.
Ah me! for whom thou diest,
hide not so far thy grace:
show me, O Love most highest,
the brightness of thy face.

The melody, of course, was arranged from a secular love song by J. S. Bach. And though I may have done this before, here's Paul using a variation of the melody to perform his paean to the uncertainty and weariness we have all felt at one time. This song... I can't help but wonder at the timelessness of the message of this song in light of the situation in America right now. I will be honest: this version coexists with the hymn in the jukebox of my mind.

Then I started thinking about all the wonderful singer-songwriters whom I am enjoying right now. Here's a short list of what I am listening to right now, and I commend them to you:

Suzzy and Maggie Roche: Zero Church. Religious Music for those who do not like religious music. Then there's Why the Long Face-- especially "A Day in the Life of the Tree." I got to see Suzzy Roche with The Four Bitchin' Babes in concert. She is a treasure. With her sister Maggie, the harmonies are more than a New York state of mind.

Jonatha Brooke: Careful What You Wish For and Back in the Circus. "No Net Below" is the story of life. I probably own every solo album and with the Story.

Iron & Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days and The Shepherd's Dog. "The Boy With the Coin" is a personal favorite.

Joni Mitchell: has there ever been a bad Joni Mitchell album? But Blue is probably my favorite, or perhaps Song to a Seagull. What? You were expecting Court and Spark? She has had so much influence on so many other artists, God bless her.

Deb Talan: A Bird Flies Out. Her work with the Weepies is even better.

Ray La Montagne: Till the Sun Turns Black. What heartbreak is in his voice!

Rachel Yamagata: Happenstance. Why hasn't she put out more wonderful work? Her cover of the Hollies' "Jesus Was a Crossmaker" is amazing.

Patty Griffin: Flaming Red. Take out "Wiggly Fingers," and this was perfect. Then there's her cover of "Moon River."

Tony Lucca: Canyon Songs. A guitar and a voice- it's that simple as that.

Beth Orton: Central Reservation. Try "Stolen Car."

Elliott Smith: Either/Or. "Between the Bars" is probably my favorite, although "Alameda" is also fine. How sad that he is gone. And that he couldn't conquer his demons.

If you are not familiar with these amazing artists, please give them a listen.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why, yes, it IS my job.

Darling PreTeenDaughter:

Since you asked, yes, I AM the "meanest" mother of all your friends' mothers. As you can see, this doesn't bother me. Not because I am mean. Because I love you. That doesn't mean that you have to be thrilled about every decision I make.

Yes, that embarrasses you. But not as much as if I walked around in public with my finger up my nose to the first knuckle, or wearing a muumuu with sandals and hairy legs, or with dirty hair and a cigarette hanging from my lip.

You will NOT wear the word "Juicy" across your behind-- temporarily or permanently.
You WILL ingest protein of some kind each day.
You will NOT raise your voice to your parents in public-- and even when you do it in private, there will be consequences.
You WILL read before you get to watch TV.

But even after your litany of complaints, my darling, and of snapping your head back and expelling disgusted gusts of air heavenward until you have affected global warming, and flouncing and stamping hard enough to register on a seismograph, even after you've ruined my favorite mukluks* because you now can wear my shoes(!), you may still drape your lissome little arms around my neck in public and put your weight on my aching back and purr "Mommmmmmy!"

And I will smile my secret smile and not tweak you for your mood swings.

Because loving you is my job. When you like it, and even when you don't.

* From Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Carnival Me Good!

The 162nd Carnival of Education is up at Mr. Teacher's pad, Learn Me Good, where he's doing a scary Dick Vitale impersonation.

I'm scared that I remember who Dick Vitale is, given that March Madness is my second LEAST favorite sports season (first goes to the Unending Stanley Cup Snoozefest, but that's neither here nor there).

So go check out Mr. Teacher, baby!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Home Schoolers in California suffer a legal setback

I imagine that this court decision shocked thousands of people in California. I'll put the whole thing below:
A court ruling that California parents "do not have a constitutional right" to home-school their children has touched off anger and bewilderment throughout America's home-schooling community and prompted a denunciation from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For a movement that has gained greater accommodation in recent years, a state appellate court decision last month is a setback that, if not overturned on appeal, could force some 166,000 home-schooled students in California to enroll in conventional schools. It may also prod California and other states with vague or nonexistent laws on home schooling to be more specific about what is allowed and what is required of home-schoolers.

California's education statutes, for instance, do not mention "home schooling," but officials have allowed the practice for decades. The appellate court, however, found that the state's laws have not been changed to allow home schooling since a case back in 1953 erected a major roadblock to the practice.

Governor Schwarzenegger said Friday he would go to the legislature if the ruling is not overturned.

"I could see this [ruling] being a real strong impetus for home-schoolers in California to get the legislature to change their laws.... Or I could see it being perhaps the beginning of other states wanting to look more closely both at their laws and current enforcement," says Kimberly Yuracko, a professor at Northwestern University's Law School in Chicago.

The number of students nationwide who are home-schooled is not known because 10 states are so hands-off they require no reporting at all, nor do parents always comply with reporting requirements. Estimates range from 1.1 million to 2.5 million home-schooled students, and the numbers are rising.

About half the states require more than simple notification from parents or guardians, such as testing, curriculum approval, or home visits. But such rules are dwindling – either explicitly or by lax enforcement, say experts. Home-school advocates worry the California case could bring more regulation or enforcement, or both.

"The overwhelming trend [among states] has been, home schooling works, OK, we'll release the reins a little bit," says Darren Jones, an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). "California is a bellwether. Other states might look at this [case] and say this is something we might want to consider."

The case grew out of a home-schooled child's complaint of physical and emotional mistreatment by a parent. A lower court refused to remove the child to a school outside the home, arguing that parents had a right to home-school. The three appellate judges rejected this reasoning unanimously.

California law stipulates two main exemptions to compulsory public school: enrollment in a full-time private school or instruction from a credentialed tutor. Some home-schoolers enroll their children in independent study programs at private or public charter schools that allow students to work mostly from home. Officials have also allowed parents to declare their home a private school, a process requiring once-a-year filing of a short form.

In this case, the parents had enrolled their children in a private school under an arrangement that kept the kids at home except to take year-end tests. School officials said they visited the home about four times a year.

Writing for the appellate court, Justice H. Walter Croskey derided this arrangement as a "ruse" and also rejected the notion of home private schools by citing a 1953 California case.

"That case is older than dirt," says J. Michael Smith, head of the HSLDA. Subsequent California laws have tacitly acknowledged home private schools, as do 11 other states – three of which have fended off legal challenges on the issue, he says.

The bottom line for him is that California has no laws specifically mentioning home schooling and has in practice treated it as a form of private schooling.

"If you are not prohibited from doing something and you can fit it within a statute, that makes you a legal operator. We've operated this way for 20 some odd years," says Mr. Smith.

Many lawmakers – and home-schooling advocates – would prefer to keep home schooling out of the education code.

"If this goes to the [state] supreme court and it upholds it, this opens up this big Pandora's box. The state is going to have to define family rights, and to define to what extent [lawmakers] have to regulate," says Luis Huerta, a professor at the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University in New York.

The prospect of Sacramento sorting out family rights won't warm many homeschoolers' hearts.

"Many of those people believe – usually based on a philosophical worldview, and often Christian – that the state has no authority over their children's education and upbringing," says Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, a nonprofit group in Oregon.

Already, California home-schoolers are suggesting resistance would be widespread to any sort of enforcement by local school districts.

"We'd have to open Alcatraz [state prision] to hold all of us," says Loren Mavromati, a homeschooler and spokesperson for the California Homeschool Network. "Even if we all rolled over and complied and enrolled in public schools – how? They are laying off teachers during this budget crisis left and right."

As the movement has grown, its autonomy has become worrisome to some. Concerns center mostly on the need for state accountability in ensuring that children are educated to a certain standard. But, as in the California case, the potential for child abuse is also becoming an issue.

In a January report on a mother's murder of her four children in the District of Columbia, The New York Times framed the case around the isolation of homeschooled kids and the limited opportunity for checking on their well-being. Cases in New Jersey and North Carolina have produced similar coverage.

"If I were a state legislator, I would be worried about having legislation overseeing home schooling that is not being enforced at all, and the potential for bad child-abuse cases happening and the state being sued for, in part, not taking care of its obligations," says Ms. Yuracko.

Lawmakers in California and elsewhere are already tightening oversight of charter school arrangements with home-schoolers. In some states, charters have sprung up to service only home-schoolers, offering parents a free computer, DSL hookup, or textbooks. The schools can then collect public per-pupil funding while paying little for instruction or oversight.

California has enacted reforms to limit the per-pupil funding to up to 60 percent for some nonclassroom-based setups. The reforms have stopped the profiteering, says a spokesman for the California Charter Schools Association.

Not everyone agrees. "Even at 60 percent, it's still a cash cow for districts. You literally get a warehouse, put five or 10 teachers in there, and enroll 1,000 students. Do the math," says Dr. Huerta.

First of all, I'd like to know who is advising this people, because just because a case is "older than dirt" doesn't make it any less valid. After all, the Constitution is "older than dirt."

The state has an interest in a well-educated populace. HOW people get there doesn't bother me so much as long as parents (home-schoolers as well as public schoolers and private schoolers) make sure their children value education, and get a good one. Here is the Land Between the Coasts, however, home-schooling families don't actually have to do anything with their children. They can roam the streets for hours, they can play video games, and as we have seen previously with one nearby family, the kids can spend the day vandalizing houses and businesses. Kids can be home-schooled by parents who are illiterate or not even there. That bothers me greatly, because eventually the school systems are blamed even if the kids haven't been in a public school, and eventually my tax dollars will be used to support the adult products of such a system. But I have known home-schooling families who have done phenomenal jobs with their children, as well. I don't think it's asking too much to make sure the children are all right.

Nonetheless, the problem in this particular case is that the child is alleging that abuse has taken place. But that kind of situation certainly shows up in homes where kids are in public schools and private schools.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 106: my avocation edition

Welcome to yet another Movie Madness Monday, the Movie quote trivia game. This week we go in for a little romance, just when we need it the most. So put your quotes in the comments section.

"The best time I've had in the last fifteen years was sitting at that piano with you."
"That's wonderfully sensitive... especially from a man who wears such tight pants."
"It forces all the blood to my heart."

"People wait their whole lives to see an ex when things are going really good. it NEVER happens. You could make relationship history!"

"You're Cole Porter in panties. Of course, having said that, Cole Porter probably DID wear panties."

"Nobody grows up in Florida... unless you're an orange."

"And Shakira is BREATHING DOWN MY NECK! So I just wanna dance!"

C'mon-- why not?

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Really? What POSSIBLY could have been more important?

I was working after school and heard a commotion outside my door. I figured it was just the softball team running laps of our Incredibly Large School, and though nothing of it. Then I heard a sob and a moan.

A girl was sprawled on the floor, gasping for air. After asking what the heck was going on, and getting someone to call for help, we started ministering to the girl. She apparently has an anxiety disorder and collapsed. She was also blistering hot, not sweating, and had her arms pulled up toward her chest in a way that reminded me of someone in a vegetative state.

After checking her over for any other obvious form of injury, I took her pulse surreptitiously, because she was sobbing and crying. It was pretty fast. As I spoke to her, I tried to calm her down. I asked if she has exercise induced asthma, and her friends said no.

So eventually, an administrator came running up along with one of our police officers, and a trainer, and her mother was called. As I talked to the girl, she suddenly lost consciousness for about ten to fifteen seconds, lids drooping halfway shut, eyes unfocused, body going limp. She would alternatively cry about her chest hurting, talk kind of nonsensically, and then be very clear and concise in explaining that she had taken her medicine and when. Then she went unconscious again, and repeated the entire cycle. At that point, the administrator decided to call 911, thank God. He stayed cool and collected the entire time, and made decisions quietly and authoritatively. He betrayed no panic, which I appreciated, nor was he overly dramatic about the situation.

So we tried to keep her awake, calm her down, cool her down, and comfort her. We tried distracting her with humor when she was particularly lucid. The paramedics arrived and checked her over. After about thirty minutes from the time she had fallen in the hallway, she was placed on a stretcher and taken to the ambulance, crying all the way.

And here's the insane part: the mother never came to check on this girl, even though the house was nearby and mom was there. The coach came and looked at her for about two minutes, and then went back to conducting practice.

WTH? Really.

So I haven't heard how it all came out. I assume she is okay, but I don't really know the girl. I will tell you it was pretty scary once she lost consciousness.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Gadfly Stingeth

My retired colleague, the Socialist Gadfly, got a gig at our school teaching for a fraction of the day for wheelbarrows-full of money due to a sudden influx of kids. So he's taking the money and running. He's got no duties, he doesn't have to go to parent-teacher conferences for more than two hours, he sleeps in, he goes home early. All is gravy. So why is he determined to drive me absolutely ape with all his questions?

"Why do you DO that hall duty? I'd refuse to do it. You're being taken advantage of."

"Why do you even bother? You know the administration doesn't care about _________ if it comes to the referral level."

"You don't have to try to be teacher of the year anymore."

"Why would you break up a fight? I wouldn't do it."

And on and on every lunch.

And so I answer: "Because it was assigned to me, and I am a professional. Yes, I am certain that it is not appreciated and that I am being used. Because I really don't care if I am pals with The Laziest AP on the Planet. Because I am never going to stand by and watch someone get beaten in front of me if I can help it. Because I have ten more years in this building before I can retire, and I don't want to be part of the reason why this building might slide right into the crapper."

My curmudgeonly friend will be out of here the second the bell rings on the last day of school. But I have to live with myself.

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Open Thread: Disappointment or anger?

Which is worse: To be angry with someone, or to be disappointed in someone?

Lead me to the truth, friends.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Oooh! A literary meme!

Andrea of Andrea's Buzzing About... hath tagged me with a meme about books, and you know I'm a sucker for books, a fanatic, even, so here goes.

The rules are as follows:

Go to page 123 of the nearest book.
Find the 5th sentence.
Write down the next 3 sentences.

So, I have been re-reading the Tuesday Next series by Jasper Fforde, whose imagination I greatly admire, and so here is a selection from page 123 of Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde. Now if someone can tell me where my copy of Something Rotten is, so I don't have to go buy a new one so that I can read the latest book (Tursday Next: First Among Sequels,) I would be much obliged.... People moving my stuff really bugs me, honestly....

And it was either this, or a history of the Ecumenical Movement.

"Your father is a washed-out clock jockey. I think you over-estimate his talents-- and his chances. Besides, we've got the summer of 1947 locked down so tight not even a transtemporal gnat could get back there without us knowing about it."

So I am going to tag anyone who wants to play, because I really like being turned on to new books. But leave a comment to let me know you played along. I will leave a link here if you say you played.

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There's a new Carnival in town...

The peripatetic Carnival of Education comes home to roost at its birthplace over at the Education Wonks.

And it's another good one, too. The Colossus of Rhodey has a very interesting post about the dearth of male teachers, and and nyc educator gives some great advice about department meetings, and the Tempered Radical gets dissed by someone claiming to be a "teacher leader." Want irony? Note what network of bloggers for which the Tempered Radical writes. I feel your pain, buddy.

Go read and learn!


Monday, March 03, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 105: wart on the face of humanity edition

Howdy there, and welcome to Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game-- the best waste of time for those who have that kind of memory in which you can usually think of some movie tie-in to any situation.

For this week, we won't discuss the people in my life to which this movie could apply. Because then I would just get mad.

"I'm on my knees in a $900 suit!"

"Mr. Reed, one more word out of you, and I will hold you in contempt!"
"I hold MYSELF in contempt! Why should you be any different?"

"Is wrestling real?"
"In the Olympics, yes. On channel 23, no."

"My teacher tells me beauty is on the inside."
"That's just something ugly people say."

"I was hoping after being married to me you'd have no more strength left."
"Well, you have to remember that when we were married, I wasn't having sex nearly as often as you were."

Annd, go!

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Happy birthday to Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore Geisel!

In celebration of Dr. Seuss, I offer you a snippet of one of my favorites.

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any
you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you'll head straight out of town.

It's opener there
in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

And when things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.


You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don' t
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you."

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