Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon — folkcat at 9:11 pm on Saturday, April 25, 2009

We’ve been having a computer adventure lately. Today was the big climax, though I’ll admit that Gryphon got to have most of the fun.

The symptoms – EverQuest 2 was frequently crashing on me. The blog publishing software I used to use was failing to publish. So was the new software I got to replace it. Attempts to update malware detector and anti-virus software failed. And when I clicked on links online, especially in my Google search results, they were often being re-directed to someplace not related to what the link was supposed to be.

Gryphon has spent a large portion of the day working on this for me. The verdict? Apparently I’m an early adopter of the very latest virus/worm, one so new that it’s only just being identified, and doesn’t even really have a name yet.  Luckily, there are already protocols for finding and removing it, which Gryphon has applied to, so far, apparent success.

For the record, if you suspect something like this, be aware – Microsoft’s Malicious Software detector doesn’t find this one.

If you’re suspicious of your own computer, and these symptoms appear familiar, Gryphon has graciously permitted me to offer you his e-mail address. gryphon@billkubeck.com Write to him, and he’ll give you guidance in identifying if this is your issue, and with getting rid of it.

Slow Times

Filed under: Daily Life,Games,Gryphon,Rats! — folkcat at 7:23 pm on Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sorry I don’t post very often these days. Truth is, things are pretty slow here in lots of ways, and very busy in others.

Marbles is as cute as ever. He had his surgery and is recovering well. We expect to be able to integrate him with the rest of the ratties in a couple of weeks.

One of my readers suggested calling the nine ratties The Ennead (en-ee-ad). It’s an ancient Greek term for a group of nine Egyptian deities. I like it. Rats almost look more Egyptian to me than cats do. I can picture them going around being pharoahs, building pyramids, and so forth. Not sure if they’d worship cats and dogs, but I’ll bet they could make an interesting Egyptian society.

I’m knitting a lot. We don’t use my knitted rat rugs as rugs anymore, they don’t cover the larger cage floors as well. But we do give them to the rats to use for nesting in. So I guess they’re more blankets than rugs now. Anyhow, the rats do chew them up, and when they get too ragged we have to toss them. Since supplies were dwindling, I needed to get back to work. The stock of new blankets is growing, slowly, but it’s growing.

We’re still somewhat in limbo on Gryphon’s situation, though there is progress. Still can’t talk about it much here, but know that he’s doing well and we think we can see, if not light at the end of the tunnel, at least a glow-in-the-dark sign pointing in its direction.

I enjoyed the first episode of ABC’s The Unusuals last week. I wasn’t sure how I was going to like Amber Tamblyn as a New York cop after Joan of Arcadia (a series I still, sadly, long for more episodes of). But it worked. I’ve got the second episode in the Tivo, waiting for me to get around to it.

I’m playing lots and lots of EverQuest II these days as well. It’s just really working for me at the moment. I’m hoping to start into Free Realms as well, a new Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) game that’s currently in beta testing. Both Gryphon and I made it into beta. Free Realms looks to be built on more of a Japanese model of an online game, more cute graphics. It’s also designed to be a very family friendly game – young children could play this without any issues. Sure, you fight creatures. But you don’t get killed, you get knocked out.

We pick up our next foster ratties this weekend, and may also be providing transport for another pair of girls to get to their new adoptive home. Still waiting for details on that.


Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Daily Life,Gryphon,Rats! — folkcat at 9:11 pm on Saturday, February 28, 2009

Two weeks ago today, Isabella came home with us.

One week ago today, I did what I always wind up doing. I abandoned my “slow and cautious” approach to integrating her with the other ratties, in favor of the “rip the bandage off fast” method.

All eight ratties spent a couple hours together in the bathroom last Saturday afternoon. Gryphon and I cleaned and redressed the main cage during that time.

The Seven Little Ratties and Isabella, having spent the time in the bathroom not killing each other, were placed in the cage together. Isabella soon took up residence in one lower corner of the cage.

She defended her spot, and her right to be there, vehemently. All who approached – and they all did, really – were met by a white rat with bared teeth, reared up on her hind legs and squealing. She did not hide, she did not run. Nor did she attack in return. Merely insisted that she was there now, and they could deal with it.

Isabella rapidly gained confidence over the next few days, expanding her defensive perimeter, finding quiet moments when she could get to the food dish unchallenged, and approaching other rats first, instead of waiting for them to come to her. After a year and a half of living without ever seeing another rat, she was now in a cage with seven furry beings like herself, and she was determined to stay.

By Monday night, Leo was seen intervening between Laurel, Laura, and Isabella. By Tuesday, ‘Bella was going where she wanted in the cage.

Wednesday afternoon, Isabella was seen curled up in a hammock along with her greatest enemy, Lola.

Sadly, I have no picture of that moment. But I did take photos today as all the ratties gathered around the fruit-and-veggie dish.

l. to r.: Lily (almost off screen), Laurel, Isabella, Leo, Laura, and Lola

And there’s Isabella, right in the center of things, making sure she gets her share.

Isabella has already decided that some spots are the most fun. Like this dryer vent hose we’ve attached in the lower levels, so that it snakes around the cage.

Dryer vent hose is:

  • cheap (under $5), so you can replace it as often as the rats rip it to shreds
  • Easily mountable in the cage (we use zip-ties. Poke holes through the plastic of the hose on either side of a wire, and attach to the grid of the cage. Use sturdy pliers to turn the bare ends of the wires into a loop for safety.)
  • Lots of climbing and nesting fun
  • Can be arranged differently every time you replace it
  • And is easily remodeled by the rats, as you can see from the window that Isabella has created above.

For the record, that’s Lola lounging in the hammock below the hose.

The other ratties have been enjoying themselves lately, too. This hammock was a gift from the adopter of Brynn and two of her girls. As you can see, Lola and Laurel find it quite comfy.

Leo has found the addition of Isabella to the harem has made all the girls look fresh and interesting. Here he canoodles with Trixie beneath a child’s plastic step stool the rats use as a hut.

He’s in the true lap of luxury here, as we can see in the end view of the scene. Trixie is giving him a loving, attentive, all-over grooming.

Lola has stood down from being ever-vigilant about Isabella’s intrusion into the cage, and in addition to the sleeping above, she is spending time with her other favorite activity:


The other rattie not seen in these photos is doing well, too. He’s just a little more camera-shy. Yuri is intermittently sociable, and most often prefers to stay in his little hidey-huts. Rattle the treat tub, though, and he’s a speed demon coming to get his share of the goodies! The trick is that it’s almost impossible to control a large, hungry male rat, hold a treat, and operate a camera at the same time.

In our personal reality, Gryphon and I are doing as well as can be expected. Gryphon has another change in his medicines to endure, and the transition is being difficult. We’re doing things to improve our diet, like actual meal planning (gasp!). Just a loose plan for dinner, mostly, with me planning my lunches, too.

I’ve always resisted meal planning, because I couldn’t imagine deciding today, for instance, that I’d be in the mood to eat spaghetti on Thursday. What if Thursday came, and I didn’t feel like pasta, but wanted tuna salad instead? So much for the meal plan!

In practice, however, I’m finding it works. Some of the things it’s improving:

  • We won’t be “shopping for shopping at home” anymore. This is where we don’t plan meals, but rather, just buy things we know we like to have in the house in case we feel like eating them. Meal planning then becomes a matter of looking in the cupboards and deciding “what looks good tonight.” Sometimes something doesn’t look good for a while, and it sits idle in the cupboard.
  • In relation to that, we don’t spend time wondering what to have for dinner and simply settling for something because it’s easier than making up our minds.
  • We can know ahead of time how much personal energy we’re going to need for meal preparation. If Sunday night is a more complex meal, we can relax and schedule other chores to happen on other days, saving ourselves for the effort of cooking.

We’ve been at it for most of a week now, and so far, so good. Gryphon’s going to cook a nice baked white fish dish we found in our local newspaper for our Sunday dinner tomorrow. Next week, I’ll figure out what’s good in the cupboards and cook something. The rest of the week, we rotate among dishes that use the current meat specials and things in our cupboard. Some nights we plan for minimal effort – there’s a frozen entree night in the schedule, for instance.

All in all, life is finding its way to work out. Things are still rough, but we’re taking our new reality much like Isabella took the challenge of turning the Seven Little Ratties into the Octo-Ratties. We’re facing it down, refusing to let it overpower us, and taking our rightful place in the new paradigm.


Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 5:12 pm on Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I know, I know – I’ve been conspicuously absent from this blog. Well, I’m here now, and ready to bring you up to date!

Things have been busy here. A couple of Sundays ago, we had the Great Rat Baby Exchange, passing along babies from Brynn’s litter who were destined for other foster homes, and collecting a little girl from another litter, Persephone, who would be paired with Perignon for adoption.

Perignon and Persephone

That’s our Perignon on the left, and Persephone on the right. ‘Seph, as we came to call her, looks like a Pink-Eyed White (PEW) rat, but she’s almost certainly going to grow into Siamese markings. Right now, she’s a lovely cream color, with soft pink eyes. I used to be put off by the appearance of PEWs, but now that I’ve met a rat who, at least for now, is one, I actually find them quite attractive.

Peri and ‘Seph didn’t stay for long. Even before we brought Persephone home, an adoption was in the works for these girls. This past Sunday, one week after ‘Seph came to stay with us, we delivered the pair to a delightful 11-year old girl. Their new human is already head over heels in love with these little ratties. Their new names are Ginger (Peri), and Nutmeg (‘Seph). Which are so darned cute I wish I’d thought of them! I just might have to go to the spice rack for the next litter I raise.

Over the last week, we also delivered the remaining members of Brynn’s family, including Brynn herself, to their new homes. Everyone was just thrilled with them, and I am getting regular e-mails and photos telling me how well they’re doing. We made some people very happy, with Brynn’s help!

In other news, I’ve been stepping up in my role with Mainely Rat Rescue. I’m in training to become an adoption counselor. I think I’ve reached the probationary period – they had me make first contact with a potential adopter for the first time last night! If this pans out, I’ll be right on the front lines, so to speak, helping people who love rats connect with the rats who need them most.

I’m also operating a Twitter feed for Mainely Rat Rescue. I’ll be providing links to featured rats for adoption, newly available rats, and perhaps unknown features of the MRR website. If you’d like to keep in touch with what’s going on at MRR, you can follow the Twitter user @MaineRatRescue and get all the news. (www.twitter.com)

On the subject of our personal health – Gryphon finally got to see a neurologist last week, who agreed that he does have a neurological issue. There are a few possibilities – none of the options include cancer or such, thank goodness. He’ll be undergoing some testing soon to rule out possibilities.

And then there’s the Seven Little Ratties. They seem much pleased by the gradual disappearance of all those strangers in the cage next door. Lola particularly has been demanding extra time with her humans – I often look over to the cage to find her laying on the shelf closest to me, with her nose stuffed into the space between the bars, and gazing longingly in my direction. At which point I always laugh, open the door, and take her out for a snuggle.

Lola is happy. She has me well trained!

Just Putting This Out There…

Filed under: Daily Life,Games,Gryphon,Holidays,Rats! — folkcat at 5:28 pm on Tuesday, November 18, 2008

…since I know several family members now read this blog, at least on occasion.

Here’s the link to my Amazon Wishlist .

In case it matters, I’d say the most desired item on that list is the three copies of the new EverQuest II expansion, The Shadow Odyssey. With Gryphon currently on at least temporary disability from work, and without cable television, EQII is our number one entertainment source, and the only one we’re still paying for in this tight budget. We derive so much pleasure from it, and the cost-per-hour for the value we get from it is dirt cheap compared to what a lot of people spend money on, so we consider it a totally worthwhile expense. We’d need a separate copy of the expansion for each active account – between us, that’s three.

We can still play and enjoy the game without having the expansions right away, but The Shadow Odyssey does add a lot of content that will enhance our online reality.

For What It’s Worth. No obligations, no worries. Just putting this information out there for anyone who wants it.

In other news…

Gabby and A.J. went to their new foster home on Saturday. Caitlin has already had such success with them that I’m calling her the Rat Whisperer. Within 24 hours, she had handled them multiple times without a bite, and had them hanging out on her lap.

I am humbled, and in awe. And simultaneously immensely pleased that the girls have such a wonderful place to live now, and totally curious how we managed to get off on the wrong foot with them.

To use a phrase I really hate, but which seems appropriate, “it is what it is.” I’m really glad that it’s all working out for the best for them, at last.


Still out of work. Still waiting for disability insurance to kick in. Still immensely grateful to my family for all the help they’ve been able to give us.

We are closer to answers regarding Gryphon’s health. He has, apparently, more than one lung-related problem. We’ve begun treating for the one, the other still has some tests needed to determine how bad it is.

Meanwhile, we passed a threshold today. We went to the DMV and picked up temporary disabled parking tags for him. Given that he can hardly walk from the living room to the kitchen and back without stopping to catch his breath, he needs them.

We’re still wrapping our brains around that.

The Good, The Bad, and The Vague

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Mainely Rat Rescue,Rats! — folkcat at 5:19 pm on Friday, November 14, 2008

The Good News: We actually have some results on Gryphon’s health that give a clue what’s wrong with him. Further tests are being done to confirm and to define the parameters, but at least we know something now.

The Bad News: If this is what we seem to think it is, the implications are life-changing. While we don’t have an official diagnosis yet, and can’t be sure it’s as bad as we fear, we’re still very shaken as we try to process the information.

The Vague: All of the above, for several reasons. It’s too soon to say anything for sure, it’s Gryphon’s story, not just mine, and we just don’t know if putting out too much detail at this point could hamper future issues or not. I promise that you will know more when we have something we can say. Maybe I’ll even convince Gryphon to write a guest post.

On a Happier Note: Our foster girls go to their new home tomorrow, where the foster parent has previous experience with rats that bite.

Meanwhile, it’s good to know that our Perma-Ratties love us and miss us when we’re gone. Here was the scene I found when we came home from grocery shopping this afternoon:

Clockwise from top left – Lily, Laurel, and Lola

The three girls heard us come in the house, and in their excitement they simply piled on top of each other as they each tried to be the one closest to me in the corner of the cage. Poor Lola got to be the bottom of the pile. (The focus is part of the “Vague” section of this post, because I took this picture with my phone.)

Where were Yuri and Leo while this was happening? They’re boys, and therefore too cool for such a display of emotion. So they stayed in their nap spots and pretended to pay no attention. Now, if I’d had treats in my hands, I’m sure it would have been a completely different story.

Final Note: Many thanks to all who have offered their support and encouragement in comments and e-mails. It means a lot to us to know that we have such good friends out there. My sincere apologies to anyone I have failed to respond to – and I suspect there are at least a couple of you. My only excuse is that my head has been as addled as ever as we try to deal with current reality.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Holding Pattern

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 4:01 pm on Monday, November 10, 2008

Many thanks to everyone who offered their support over the issues of our foster girls. It really did help to hear from you.

Gabby and A.J. will be moving on soon to a foster home where they know how to deal with biting rats. I am greatly relieved – I knew that something more can be done for them than we are able to offer at this time, and now they’ll get it. It looks like we’ll be passing them along this coming weekend, schedules willing.

Gryphon is still home. We still don’t know everything about what’s wrong. But we do have some progress – a test today actually showed something that can be explored further, and may be a likely factor in many, though probably not all, of his symptoms. I’d tell you more, but it’s not my story to share, and we actually don’t know enough yet to say anything more certain than this.

I’ve been knitting rat rugs, kitchen dishcloths, and rat hammocks. Many of them. My hands hurt sometimes. They’re simple garter-stitch, fairly mindless, and we need them. So it’s a good thing. And they help me cope with the stress of everything.

The Perma-Ratties are still doing just fine, and keeping me good company. Lola is now 1 year, 9 months old, and at least once a day she comes to my lap and just tucks in a narrow space between my arm and my belly to snuggle and get skritched. Yuri and Leonardo are about 1 year old now and, well, they’re boys, and spend lots of time just lounging up in the highest elevations of the cage. Both of them, however, are more willing to come out on the lap with the whole gang and mill about under a blanket. Lily and Laurel are all of 4 1/2 months or so old, still children, really. They are bouncy, lively, and curious about everything. Still too wriggly to sit still for a skritching, but they love coming out to play.

Hang in there, folks, and thanks for keeping me company. More when there’s more to tell.

Stumbling Along

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 7:52 pm on Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I finished the socks I’ve been working on.

The yarn is…actually, I forget the name. It’s that fairly inexpensive one with aloe in it that started showing up last year. On Your Toes, maybe? This colorway is called “Beach Print”.

Those who get picky about details may notice that the color sequence runs in opposite directions on the two socks. I had started these as lace-patterned socks, then frogged and began again as my plain vanilla k2p2 basics. In the course of frogging that first sock, the direction of that half of the yarn got reversed. Since I’m not concerned about my socks being matchy-matchy, I left it. I like how they came out.

I began my increases for my heel and ankle earlier on the foot – at only 4.5 inches from the tip of the toe, in fact. These are the best fitting socks I’ve made yet, so clearly, I’m doing something right.

In other news, I wish I could report that all is better. Truth is, a lot of the financial stuff is hitting the fan, big time. We’re going to be visiting various government offices in the next several days – and have already visited a few this week – with the goal of putting some of our past tax dollars to work for us. If you get my drift.

Because things are so tight, I’m going to have to stop going to Panera on Thursday nights for the foreseeable future. We just can’t afford the gas expense of driving anywhere that isn’t absolutely essential, nor can we justify the cost of eating at even a mildly priced restaurant. Anyone who reads this and wants to continue the Thursday night tradition without me, please do so! I’ll be back when I can, I just don’t know when that will be.

Gryphon’s health is improving, but it’s slow and unsteady progress. But there’s no denying that there is progress, so that’s good. Beyond that I really can’t say much except that he’s not back at work yet, and we’re still not sure when he will be.

He’s making good use of his recovery time at home, though. Gryphon has always been a whiz at homemade pizza, having worked at a pizza shop many years ago. This weekend, he tackled making a quiche for the first time – and boy howdy, that was tasty! He did it again last night (those refrigerated pie crusts come two in a package, after all), and as far as I’m concerned, he can make quiche any time he wants, I’ll be happy to eat it.

Nothing new to report about the ratties. I know I’ve left you hanging on the Gabby and A.J. story, but with the way things are in our life right now, that’s turning out to be a very difficult story to tell. These girls are about as tough a pair of ratties as I’ve ever seen, and the trust training they’re going through is a brand-new, stumble-and-trip as we try to figure it out, different sort of process for me and Gryphon. We’ve way out of our element here, and trying to work together to see that we do right by them.

I’ll be sure to tell you what I can, when I can.

Rainy Monday Random Bits

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Daily Life,Games,Gryphon,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 3:24 pm on Monday, April 28, 2008

Pretty cold and dreary today. It’s been raining for goodness knows how long, certainly since sometime last night. Good thing I don’t have anywhere else to go today, I wouldn’t enjoy going out.

No progress to report on any of the knitting. Weekends are turning out to be mainly for EverQuest 2. That’s when Gryphon has time to play, and we really do enjoy playing together. We’ve given up on trying to play the regular servers on the weekends, though, because enough people are online that the lag in the cities gets unbearable. So Saturday and Sunday are for running characters on the test server, and what play time we have during the week can be on our regular server.

The Ratties have accepted the Ruffled Rattie Nest, but I can never seem to get the camera in at a good angle to take a picture of them in it without someone (*koff*Lola*koff*) wanting to come sniff the lens. So no pictures yet, but I am watching for an opportunity.

We baked a large loaf of the Honey Nut Oatmeal bread from the Donna German book over the weekend. That’s become our current go-to loaf. We’ve also been gathering the heels of various loaves in the freezer – one of these days, I’ll be making bread pudding again.

I finally cut my hair last night. It’s been over long for, well, too long. I like it at a length that’s too short to pull back in an elastic, which seems to be the only way I’ll wear it when it’s long enough to do so. Since I don’t go anywhere to have it cut for me, it was just a matter of getting around to grabbing the scissors and chopping away. I must have hit some threshold last night as I watched television before bed, because I decided at 2 a.m. to do exactly that.

In other news, the part time job that Gryphon started at two Thursdays ago ended last Friday. The owner of the company decided a couple days in that he really wanted someone full time for the position. In spite of the fact that the department head he was working with really liked Gryphon and felt the job was adequately covered by his part time presence, the owner ultimately had the power to make this change.

Gryphon’s co-worker/direct boss is quoted as saying, “lessons will be learned.” ‘Nuff said, I think.

So the search is on, again, for the next job. Whether another part time gap-filler, or the full-time replacement job we really hope for. Fingers crossed, everyone!

Dull Can Be Good

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Crochet,Daily Life,Gryphon,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 2:22 pm on Monday, April 21, 2008

Not anticipating anything very exciting today. It’s Monday, and that’s enough sometimes.

Our lives have shifted again. Gryphon very quickly got a new part time job last week. As in, we saw the listing Monday night, he dropped off his resume Tuesday, and Wednesday they called to say “how soon can you start?” The answer was “tomorrow”, and so he’s been going each day to a part time job before going to his full time one in the afternoon.

It’s a lot of work, yes, but this time he A) doesn’t have to go in at 6 a.m. after working until midnight the night before; B) is working for a small, locally owned company (less than 20 employees), so the atmosphere is very different; and C) isn’t having to get up for a 6 a.m. shift after working until midnight.

Did I mention he doesn’t have to get up as early?

My morning wake-up now is happening without Gryphon, since he’s already at work by the time my 10 a.m. alarm goes off. Our baking this weekend included some preparations for the new reality. Morning routines have always included homemade breakfast sandwiches, prepared by Gryphon. Without him around, that’s not doable.

So we took our filled pie concept, based on refrigerated biscuit dough, and made a breakfast sandwich version. I scrambled up 8 eggs with some chopped green pepper and tomato. Divide into 8 portions onto the biscuit rounds (rolled out to at least 6″ diameter). Add strips of Canadian bacon and some American cheese. Seal, poke holes in the top, and bake following the instructions on the biscuit tube.

These keep well in the refrigerator, and re-heat nicely in the toaster oven. I had one this morning, and it was tasty. Also far better as a breakfast than what my bleary-eyed morning self would be likely to prepare. Which might just be nothing, because that requires the least thought.

In other baking, we did homemade pizza with fresh dough from the bread machine again Sunday. And the latest loaf of bread from the machine is a Honey Oatmeal recipe from The Bread Machine Cookbook by Donna German. Haven’t tasted it yet – it’s for today’s sandwiches – but it smells great. The loaf is a little on the small, dense side, for all that I used the medium recipe. This version includes some whole wheat flour, along with the bread flour and oatmeal, as well as using a smaller dose of yeast. I might just make the large loaf next time, just for a bigger sandwich size, assuming we like the taste of this bread.

Knitting Crocheting

Yup. Didn’t knit a stitch this weekend. But I’ve crocheted 2 1/2 utilitarian rugs for the Rattie Palace. With Stinky Boys in the house, we’re changing out the fabric pieces more often, just to keep the area habitable for humans. We’re running through rugs at an alarming rate sometimes, and barely have enough to get us from one laundry day to the next.

The knitted ones hurt my hands too much, and take too long, so I decided to crochet some simple rectangles from the same Sugar ‘n Cream yarn. Ch. 32, *work 30 half-double crochet (American terminology) across, ch. 2, turn and repeat from *. Easy-peasy, and good television crafting.

As for the Ruffled Rattie Nest, no pictures of mobs of Ratties crowding into it yet. It is, however, sitting in a dishpan with warm soapy water getting cleaned. They may not have accepted it as a nest yet, but apparently, it’s a perfectly good object to pee on!

For the rest of this week, I’m going to finish the current crocheted Rattie Rug, then get back to work on the Adult Surprise Jacket. By Thursday, though, I’ll probably begin the next pair of socks. Thursday is Panera night, and the ASJ has gotten too big to carry with me. The lucet is portable, but I’m beginning to itch to do something small in the knitting category. And we always need more socks! Ooh, just checked, and the last socks were for Gryphon. My turn next! I’ve got a fun yarn I picked up when we visited Syracuse that I want to see knitted up…

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