Here’s What’s Up: Life is Going On

Hey there folks, how are you doing today? What new things have you been able to embrace during this struggle to overcome the SARS-CoV2 virus and its threat of Covid-19? What can you embrace that you might be overlooking?

I am embracing the time to focus on changing some habits, like being better about getting dishes done sooner than later. I’m also trying to embrace less grocery shopping and healthier picks when I go. Since it’s better to reduce exposure I don’t just go to the store when I feel a craving and have the money (CHIPS CHIPS CHIPS!). I’m also more likely to eat what I have instead of focus on what else I might be able to have. For example, I might say sure I have bread and tuna fish and mayo, so I could make a tuna fish sandwich but I would really rather have some chips and hummus and a hot dog. Nope, I’m not going to the store for chips and hummus. The food that’s available in my house is still food whether it sounds great or not. And do you know what’s so beautiful about this? I discover that that thing I really didn’t think would be as good as a hot dog or Taco Bell mexi-melt, is actually pretty darn delicious! As I ate my dinner the other night – tuna fish sandwich, cashew carrot ginger almond soup (something like that) and a side of fresh yellow pepper I thought, that’s right, I can do this diet thing. That’s right, eating healthy is a beautiful thing (even if I still want some chips and hummus).

By the way, cutting up that pepper made me that much more excited to grow my own orange peppers this summer. I planted my seeds inside (late) and my seedlings have come into this world! Yeah! More on that later.

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This quaran-time (as I like to call it) has not been without its challenges, its down days, and fear. But I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on myself and life even more than usual.

Sometimes we have the option to choose which lens we wear. During this lockdown period I imagine a lot of us are donning lens of fear. Still others pick up those of anger and frustration. Some days maybe you don’t think you have a choice, you just feel what you feel. I know that feeling. I know that need.

Compulsion:

1) the action or state of forcing or being forced to do something; constraint.

2) an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one’s conscious wishes.

3) Psychology. a strong, usually irresistible impulse to perform an act, especially one that is irrational or contrary to one’s will.

Google search of the word compulsion

Perhaps you feel compelled to be upset, afraid, and/or sad. Perhaps you are focused on how much is out of your control. Perhaps you are compelled to resist a new way of living and seeing life. Perhaps the compulsion is your own, not the fault of another.

We do not have control over SARS-CoV2. We do not have control over the Covid-19 illness. But we have control over ourselves and how we view things. The actions we’ve been required to take, or stop, have been as a result of what is unknown in an effort to protect all of us for as long as possible. The best way to protect beings from a virus pandemic is to keep said beings away from each other. Unfortunately, we can not rely on everyone to do the right thing without being compelled to do so.

I’m getting beside myself here…

Let’s try something. At least once a week – if you don’t already – choose to wear a different lens. Now come on, don’t roll your eyes at me – kumbaya shit right? – let’s wear a lens that helps us see how life goes on. See what you don’t always see. See passed the veil of stop and go and into a life you do not know…

Today besides this little rant I bring to you a piece of short fiction. It is inspired by real life but fiction. It’s fiction because it is not an exact account of the truth but a representation of it. 😉 Enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments.

They rise in the morning

They rise early in the morning, with little thought about whether or not they want to. The work has to be done. The work will be done. The work of life will do itself whether you care to participate or not.

Perhaps if they could wish it, they’d talk to their coffee pot. Could you make the perfect cup this morning please? I hear it’s going to be a cold one. These midwestern springs are beautiful, but they are often temperamental. Could you please help me start my day with a great cup of coffee.

Work clothes present and on, fashion step aside there’s work we must do. Clothes up, coffee down, shoes on, let’s go!

Out to the barn they head, the dog running in circles around them. He’s likely the most excited creature headed off to work. Perhaps they cross their fingers before they pass the threshold into the barn. Hopefully the night was good to its inhabitants.

They walk through the barn greeting all the mommas and mommas-to-be. Good morning girls. Are you doing alright? Hello momma, how are your babies? They look over every ewe and every lamb. Are their bellies full? Is she taking care of them? Are they strong and healthy? Those for whom the answers are no require action by the farmers and they oblige the responsibility. That one needs a bottle. Never go to the barn without a bottle. We might have to tube that one. These folks in the barn are not just two-legged creatures; they come in like rays of light through the large doors. They bring hay, corn, fresh water and help. They are protectors, without their farmers many of would not survive on their own. They bring soothing voices billowing up from hearts deep and rooted in what they do. They are not cruel. They are not uncaring wicked creatures. These are real farmers. These are real people. This is a farm, not a factory.

This is a way of life and living is what they do. Keep on with the living her sister used to say.

They spot a ewe at the back of the barn. She’s laying down, straining, her chin outstretched, like a dog getting a good scratch. Life is on its way. She eyes the farmers. She’s wary, but she knows them. They will keep an eye on her to make sure all is well.

They go about their business of chores. They each have their routines, their preferred methods of doing things. Sure they bicker some, but that’s how we get on isn’t it? This is life and they are living it. They are living it despite the deceptive sun that hides the fact of the cold wind. They are living it despite the fact that a lethal virus waits in the wings. It waits where we can not see it. It lingers around all that we do. It waits for us to go about as though nothing else is happening. It waits. It acts. It takes. It is a virus. It does what viruses do.

But the farm must go on, and these people aren’t about to stop. Not age, not pain, not even fear, they are their weathered barns, antique and golden. As long as their blood pumps red as the paint, they will endure. They will listen to the news on their coffee breaks, their lunch breaks, and their dinners. They will take the necessary precautions and heed the science, as they do with any illness. Not simply because they were told but because decades of experience has taught them. And heck, that’s just common sense isn’t it? They will protect themselves, each other, and their flock. They will get up every day. They will do all that they can.

It’s been too long. They’ve given her plenty of time. The ewe in the corner of the barn stands, she is uncomfortable. She still has not given birth. She and the baby could be in danger. The farmers do not panic. They get to work. He takes his coat off and lays it over a nearby fence. She approaches the nervous ewe slowly, cooing softly as she does. The ewe is afraid, it’s in her nature, she’s a prey animal. And yet she knows them. These are her people. They have come to help.

The farmer stops but a few feet away. He approaches from the side. They communicate with each other about what they’ll do. He’ll hold the ewe, keep her still, assuming she cooperates. She will assist in the delivery.

Closer now she can see the lamb’s feet, the tips of two tiny hooves. She knows exactly what she’s looking at. It’s a breach. Oh? Yup. Nothing more to say. She grabs hold of the two little feet and pulls down ever so gently. The ewe does not resist, she grunts. There’s a little resistance from the body but then the legs come free. The farmer pulls and the hind of the lamb is revealed. With a few more gentle pulls against the strength of the body it gives way and the lamb falls to the straw. They use some straw to wipe the newborn’s mouth and nose, to clear the mucous so it may breathe. One of them gently pats it to be sure it’s alive and well. And maybe to be sure it acknowledges its arrival, as much as one can expect.

The lamb sneezes, lifts its small wet head and shakes it. The farmers have removed some of the membrane from around its head but the rest is the work of the mother. Were she not to do her job – which sometimes happens – they would do it instead, albeit as humans do. But this is a good momma. She turns to her lamb and begins licking it clean. She clears it inch by inch, all the while bleating a song that she only sings to her newborn. Even an untrained assistant can hear the soft pitch is different from her normal sound. Its tone is something innate to them. This sound is a bond. This sound is a forging between mother and child. One would not doubt the lamb knows its mother.

The farmers smile. Job well done. Good looking lamb. It is, it’s beautiful. What a good momma. Perhaps if momma spoke the language of the two-legged hairless ones she’d thank them. Perhaps she’d say, I knew I was in trouble, I couldn’t have done it without you. But the farmers would not need that, they know. This is a thankless job but they know they’re needed. They’re needed by the ewes, the rams, the lambs, and the people that count on the harvest. Wouldn’t it be nice though, if everyone knew how much the farmers are needed?

Outside the sun tells the wind to take a break. Let me warm things a bit, it is spring after all.

Outside, somewhere out there among the humans, the virus travels. It is expelled from one to the next. Or maybe it flies, soars, or simply floats, but it carries on because after all, it is life. The farmers know its there but they are here and there is work to be done.

Their eyes and minds open up beyond the delivery. They watch the swallows dip and dive through the barn. They are everywhere and yet their grace enables them to stay in their own space, they bother no one. They carry on. The farmers hear the lambs bleat for their mothers, the mothers bleat for everything. Might they talk to each other? The farmer opens the door to allow the other ewes back inside the barn after tending to one of the herd, a sister or mother perhaps a cousin. Some rush in looking for fresh hay. Others approach the new mother in her pen, smelling what has happened. Still others watch the farmers, wary of what they’re doing as they finish checking the barn and all its inhabitants. The dog sits nearby waiting for a job or a pat on the head.

Well let’s get coffee then we’ll do some marking.

Inside they’ll hear the news that the numbers are still rising. They’ll hear about the angry people resisting the current situation. They know the threat is real. They know that were the world their barn they would have to do things differently. They would have to change their course of action to ensure survival of the herd, not comfort of the individual. They would adjust. They would adapt just as they do every spring.

The farmers know that life isn’t just about survival of the fittest. The farmers didn’t need school to teach them that the mechanism of evolution is adaptation. They survive because they do not stop, they adapt.

One last check of the barns after dinner then they’re off to bed. They will rise in the morning, again and again.

My Review of Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor – 5 Stars

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Information from Goodreads:

It’s up to a famous rapper, a biologist, and a rogue soldier to handle humanity’s first contact with an alien ambassador—and prevent mass extinction—in this novel that blends magical realism with high-stakes action.

After word gets out on the Internet that aliens have landed in the waters outside of the world’s fifth most populous city, chaos ensues. Soon the military, religious leaders, thieves, and crackpots are trying to control the message on YouTube and on the streets. Meanwhile, the earth’s political superpowers are considering a preemptive nuclear launch to eradicate the intruders. All that stands between 17 million anarchic residents and death is an alien ambassador, a biologist, a rapper, a soldier, and a myth that may be the size of a giant spider, or a god revealed.

Hardcover, 304 pagesPublished July 14th 2015 by Gallery / Saga Press (first published April 10th 2014)

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My Rating: 5 Stars

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My Review of Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

5/5 stars

I know I say a lot of stories are unique, maybe it’s just because I’ve been fortunate enough to come across such jewels but this book deserves such a description more than most.

Ayodele smiled and nodded, gazing into the camera. Adaora shivered. If there was any strong hint of the alien in Ayodele’s appearance, it was in her eyes. When Adaora looked into them, she felt unsure… of everything. A college friend of hers used to say that everything human beings perceived as real was only a matter of the information their bodies recorded.

From Lagoon

Nnedi Okorafor is a very talented and imaginative writer. I will continue to look forward to and gravitate towards her work. Much like one of the main characters in this book, a female marine biologist resident of Lagos Nigeria, Okorafor is an explorer and scientist of “what if”.

But the air really did shiver. And as I stood there, it came right at me. There was no physical breeze; it came like a ghost. Then it washed over me like a great wave of water. When it passed, I felt drenched, heavy.

From Lagoon

This story takes place in Lagos, Nigeria with an almost completely Nigerian cast. I loved this opportunity to visit far outside the world I know. I’m so happy that she went ahead with including large amounts of Pidgin English and other slang as I really enjoyed being fully transported to another time and place. Aliens have landed in the ocean off Lagos with the goal of making contact with the locals, among other things. What will they do? What do they do, the Lagosians and the aliens? Such stories as this really make you wonder, what would we do? Do you think people would panic? Who do you know who might at least try to welcome them? Who might outright reject their existence even as they stand before you?

His aunts were excited to have so many to cook for, and they happily went to the kitchen to get to it. Nevertheless, his mother’s face looked pained. She must have had a feeling that this situation went beyond the family. Beyond their beliefs. Beyond their religion.

From Lagoon

Her story is not one I’ve ever read before, not the aliens or their mission, or their skills. If I have heard such a story it would only be similar, but not anywhere the same. I really enjoyed her focus on the ocean as well as the sea creatures interaction with the aliens. That detail alone is unlike other first contact stories.

This story is an accessible easy read and it feels real even as I’ve never seen or met aliens nor have I been to Nigeria. The author is herself Nigerian-American so we have the privilege of reading an own-voices story. I read with a new perspective since I read this during the Covid-19 pandemic. There is violence, mention of sex acts, and strong language.

The story’s structure and voice are also different. I liked the bits from the perspective of animals or various people out and about on the street in addition to switching between main characters. I also enjoyed all of the characters even if we didn’t dive all that deep into them. This story didn’t seem to need that. Even if you find fault in some parts of the story I think you will enjoy it and its originality. Also it’s fast-paced, something is always happening. This book has interesting curves and angles. I recommend this to all fans of sci-fi/fantasy especially first contact, African culture, and ocean stuff. 🙂

Aman iman, Adaora weakly thought. The phrase meant “water is life” in the Tuareg language of Tamashek. She’d once worked with a Tuareg man on a diving expedition. “Aman Iman,” had been his answer when Adaora asked how a man of the Sahara Desert had become an expert scuba diver.

From Lagoon

You might recall my review of Binti, another of Nnedi Okorafor’s books that I loved. I shamefully admit I kind of forgot about it just after I was in the midst of planning to order it. (That felt complicated to say. That’s probably how I forgot. 😉 ) Don’t worry, I will, oh yes I WILL make my way back to it. I’m still planning to re-read The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death, #0.5) Mainly because it deserves it, I read it a while ago and I forgot I’d already read it when I came across Binti. Yes that’s all weird of me, don’t be surprised.

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But never mind that, check this information out in the author’s bio on Goodreads:

Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian-American author of African-based science fiction and fantasy (Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism). Okorafor has won a Hugo, a Nebula, a World Fantasy Award, and a Locus Award, and her many fans include Neil Gaiman, Rick Riordan, John Green, and Ursula Le Guin. She is writing a series for Marvel about Shuri, Black Panther’s sister, and has a number of book-based projects in development for film and TV – including HBO’s adaptation of her novel Who Fears Death, with George R. R. Martin signed on as executive producer. Okorafor is also co-writing the screenplay of an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed with filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu for Amazon Prime Video, with Viola Davis producing. Her novel Akata Warrior (of the Akata Series) is the winner of the Lodestar and Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/588356.Nnedi_Okorafor

Wow and heck yeah! This woman is making some waves and I am enjoying having the privilege of experiencing them. I encourage you all to check out some or all of her work. Upon finishing this book I’ve started Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1), her YA/children’s fantasy series. I already have both books in the series and am looking forward to reading them. Stay tuned for my reaction to Akata Witch later this month.

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And don’t forget to visit Nnedi Okorafor’s website and add her books to your TBR, Goodreads and otherwise.

Also if you do add her and her books to your list as a result of recommendation, I would so appreciate it if you could give me a shout-out, link back here. I’m all about giving credit where credit’s do, so if you refer me to a book I do not hesitate to give you credit. I do my best to keep notes when I visit other bloggers, listen to podcasts, read articles, talk to people, friends, family and they interest me in books and/or authors. Then I link to and/or mention said person/group/publication when I post about adding the book/author. As I said above I read the Book of Phoenix a while ago and later heard of Binti through at least one podcast, including Writing Excuses.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours, whether you liked the book or not, or are just now adding this to your TBR. Or maybe you’ve read other books by Nnedi Okorafor, let’s chat! 😀

If you want to know what I think about other books I’ve read please VISIT THIS PAGE. Or if you want to know what my upcoming reading plans are CLICK HERE. I try to keep everything up to date as best I can, so stay tuned, follow me, for updates. 😀

Bye for now. I hope you and yours are safe and well.

Here’s What’s Up: Saturday Update & April Wrap Up

So guys, how ya doing? It’s Saturday although Saturdays don’t hold quite the same sentiment these days – would you agree – it still feels good in theory. We’ve had kind of a rainy, groggy week which oddly enough echoed through a lot of our moods. However this weekend is already GORGEOUS as far as weather goes.

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So Here’s What’s Up: There’s a lot to be grateful for in addition to sunshine and a warm weekend. I’m grateful for audio books – just finished Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse, loved it, better than the first and highly recommend – and physical books – I read Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee, which was very moving as well as Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, an intriguing novella, both recommended. I’m grateful for the time and capacity to read and listen to them. In March I started What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra and finished at the beginning of April. One thing I enjoyed about this book and Catching Teller Crow was that they were fairly simple and by simple I mean the language was accessible and I would say direct.

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The plots were original, intriguing but not overly complicated. I don’t mind complicated writing or stories but it’s nice to read something straightforward and easy. Ironically both of these books focused on characters who had their fathers (in some respect) but had lost their mothers. The main characters’ relationships with their fathers are central to the plot. Both protagonists are young women, one is 15 the other I think 19, who are going through some kind of transition in their lives while trying to balance their inner struggles. What I really appreciate about how these characters were written is that they felt true to life, even as one is a ghost (that’s not a spoiler). Some YA books turn me off because I feel they exaggerate the lives and abilities of young adults. Perhaps I’ve not used the right word here. I’m not trying to say teenagers and young adults are like children, or they’re weak or incapable of leading extraordinary lives and adventures. No, that’s not what I’m saying. But it seems like most YA’s focus on young people enduring journeys, trials and tasks that would be difficult for older adults with more life experience. And yet, the young people do just fine, for the most part. A lot of the time I read YA novels (not that I read a ton) I tend to forget I’m reading about a 16 year old or an 18 year old. I’m thinking of one story in particular (I will not name, I did like it though for the most part) in which the main character goes from a sheltered little girl to a wise, ass-kicking, lover, queen and warrior in the span of a year or two and we’re talking young teen. It just didn’t ring true. I struggle with stories that suddenly toss in a scene about how young (usually a girl) the character is when all along they act like much more experienced individuals, even though as in the case above they might be a very sheltered individual with little life experience. That’s a big reason why I try to shy away from YA.

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That said, Catching Teller Crow and What the Woods Keep didn’t do that. Their characters felt far more true to life than many if not most other books I’ve read about younger ladies. Beth in Catching Teller Crow read like a 15-year old to me. The authors didn’t try to make her something else, to make her better or stronger. She was herself and perfect as she was. She was a 15 year old girl. The character in What the Woods Keep was a little older and read as such. Sure she had to be braver and maybe some things might feel like a stretch but they weren’t unrealistic in my humble opinion. Check these books out, then come back and tell me what you think. 😀

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About a week or so ago I finished listening to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. This is an epic fantasy, so it’s very long and I think long books make great audio books. For one it gives you a chance to settle in to the narrator and their various performances. I also find it easier to finish, it’s less daunting. I listen while driving, working in the yard or around the house, even walking the dog sometimes. Do use caution while listening to audio books and doing other things, better to be distracted away from the book than the task at hand. This was a great story, no doubt. The only reason I’m giving it 4.5 stars is because I think maybe it’s a little too long. However Patrick Rothfuss is a very good writer, the skill and talent is there. The characters are interesting and well-rounded, at least the most important for sure. The plot is pretty cool but sometimes I feel like I lose track of what’s actually going on as most of the story takes place as a retelling of the journey that brought our main character to the present time. Again though I have to say it is a very good story. I’m nervous to start the next book which is equally as long because everyone has been waiting on the promised third book for a long time I’ve heard. Today I visited Rothfuss’ website to see if there was any news. But all he said was when there is news he’ll be sure to share it.

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Oh and to be technically correct, I also finished Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices, #1) by Cassandra Clare (started in March). Sorry, but no I do not recommend it and I will not continue the series.

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At present I’m reading the hardcover copy of Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, not quite halfway through it but it’s pretty cool. It’s set in Lagos, Nigeria with a large diverse cast of characters. A unique story no doubt, something I see Okorafor does not fail to deliver. 🙂 When I finish Lagoon I plan to read Akata Witch, a yound adult, middle grade (I’ve seen it referred as both?) story, the first in a duology, also by Okorafor.

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I’ve not yet decided on my next audio book. For some reason I have a tendency towards wanting to start something new and fresh so I feel a weird aversion towards starting the sequel to The Ruin of Kings, The Name of the Wind or Strange the Dreamer. Lol. I think it’s kind of funny of me, but yeah. Probably I need a break from The Name of the Wind so I’ll likely go with The Name of All Things (A Chorus of Dragons, #2) by Jenn Lyons as my next audio book. I do believe the third book is due out this October. 🙂

I am also still reading Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom, Kind of Coping: An Illustrated Look at Life with Anxiety by Maureen Marzi Wilson, and over there on the couch is Voyage of the Basilisk (Memoirs of Lady Trent, #3) by Marie Brennan and over on that shelf is The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman.

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Aside from my reading my novel work has been…meh. I’m a little stuck with some details going forward regarding where things are going. Feels like I’ve been saying that for a little too long. I have no doubt I’ll break through this, I just need to focus harder and knuckle down, something I plan to do this weekend. With over 200k words I feel good, lots to edit, but there’s still a ton of work to be done. I did figure out that one of my characters, a retired schoolteacher is now a yoga instructor. Hey, what can I say, that detail came to me and I think it makes sense, it’s a good cover for what else she’s doing. 😉

There’s a lot of emotion in this thing, a lot of energy. I think it would help me to put more of my own emotions to work this weekend. This whole coronavirus situation has been beating at my brain and heart this week as I think about the future. How long, for real, until everyone is safe? What about all the high risk people? What about all the people who care only for themselves and their situation? What will happen to people who rush the process? What about the people who are quietly suffering, the people who are keeping their fears to themselves and not talking about them lest they worry someone else? How can we help each other’s mental health?

These are some of my questions. These questions are good to think about, not ruminate on but just consider. And I’ve found for a person such as myself, a creative among other things, that putting these emotions and questions, this soul-digging (as I’ll call it) to work for me and my work is one of the best things I can do. How am I feeling? How can I apply that to what my characters are going through to make it more authentic and deep? When I put my own emotions to work it helps me, it helps me in a ton of ways. So when I am feeling all over the place, stuck, down, up, everything, I think, I have got to write something. A lot of times I don’t do that but when I do, man I’m glad I did (like exercise). 😉

What else? Well I’m working on my raised garden beds, first time ever doing this but not my first go round with a garden, just my first garden in a very long time. I’m stoked! My diet and fitness goals/plans got a little off track in April but I’m set to get back on the wagon! Woo hoo! I’ll restart some kind of daily yoga and exercise regimen and hopefully start running again sooner than later.

That’s it for now but stay tuned for some book reviews, a TBR update, expected reading (basically the same as I shared before), some images (I’m going to return to sharing some of my hobby photography, at least just using it in posts), flash fiction, and I’m going to start a regular short fiction column as well.

Cool please feel free to comment, I do love to chat. Bye for now, I hope you all stay safe and well and have a lovely weekend.

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