Friday, September 17, 2004

Will the bad news please stop???

This has been a very very rough 3-4 months for me. The move, while great, has been stressful, and then adding on the fact that my job situation is less than stellar....

Then, the cat ran away...

And then... Wham, my mom tells us two weeks ago that she has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. We anticipate a full recovery, it is still very hard and it starts one down that path of thinking of mortality, yours and your parents. Of course the guilt of being overseas contributes to that some too.

Now.... Wham again. My sister Trish is 24 weeks pregnant, she had her water break yesterday and is now confined to a hospital bed for the rest of her pregnancy. It is so very heartwrenching to know there is nothing we can do but wait. The longer they can stay pregnant, they higher chances the baby has. If she can make it to 30 weeks... it is so much better. Make it to 35... better still, but right now, she is hoping for 24 weeks and 3 days. Each day she holds onto that baby, the better his chances are...

OK, so there is the adage that you are only as strong as the tests provided to you and surviving them... but I am done. How about some good news for a change?

Friday, September 10, 2004

Ever think about sustainability?

I do, I guess that is probably not normal, but I do think about it. I also think about what a shame it is that since moving to Singapore, I throw so much more GARBAGE away. And, how Singapore, like many other countries, dumps lots of its garbage into the open ocean. The rest they incinerate. OH, I think my calling maybe to teach the rest of the world about recycling... but first I have to practice what I preach.

This weekends goal. To set up (hopefully not have to buy items to accomplish this) a recycle center in our home. We have a small recycle area downstairs, and I am going to follow up with the Condo management to see if they actually do recycle, or if it is tossed down the shoot.

Anyway. Sustainability.

Environmental Sustainability has been defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Here are the top 10 things you can do to live sustainably. (Cribbed from a great website called the New Colonist.

) Recycle everything you can.
2) Most appliances that use power supplies consume electricity even when they are turned off. Plug these appliances into power strips and turn the power strip off at night.

3) Don't buy overly-packaged goods. Buy equivalent goods in minimal packaging.
4) Shop at local stores, and discover the joys of personal service, quality products, and a business model that lets them special order anything out of the ordinary that you might need.

5) When you ship packages, or buy by mail, phone, or internet, use ground service rather than overnight; ground shipping generally goes by rail, which is far more fuel-efficient than air.

6) Use public transit to get to work, if you don't live near enough to walk.

7) If you live where there is rail service, use the train instead of flying for trips of under three hundred miles.

8) Sell your car, and rent one when you really need it.

9) If you own your own laundry facilities, buy a front-loading washer, and if possible, dry your laundry on a clothesline.

10) Move to a high-density mixed-use community, where you can walk or bicycle to at least the three destinations you visit the most often: grocery, dry cleaner, video rental, library, work, etc.

Most of these are pretty easy if you live in the city, but even those who live in suburbs could be challenged to do a few of these... like walking to the local store in McMinnville. I think my sister who lives in Tigard would have trouble with this, but my Mom could do it to the local Fred Meyer for those little shopping trips. The key is having a cart you can use to get your items home and not have to carry them!

Love to you all-



Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookies

Trying our first sourdough recipe today. Declan and I baked sourdough Choc. Chip Cookies. If the recipe turns out, I will post it! *btw, I am so happy to have a real oven again*

On one of the lists that I am on, one gal promotes shopping for a years worth of food. And, then keeping it and using it up from a pantry. I guess I am not quite sure I could do a full pantry... but then I do remember having a pantry out on Orchard View when we were growing up, and Bonnie keeps a well stocked pantry. I guess part of the rationale behind a pantry is "survival". In the event of a storm, power outage, or your random act of terrorism... the fact is that if you keep a stocked pantry, that you will have some food, water and basics to survive at least in the short term. While I can only think of one or two days in my WHOLE life (including the Typhoon right after Declan was born) that I was completely housebound, for some, it is probably a very real issue. The second part of having a pantry is that by shopping in advance, you can purchase those items that you need-in bulk- store them and use them up over a period of time. Saving time and money shopping.

The gal on my list (she lives in upper BC, Canada) has prepared a list that each week, that adds only a few key items (and the goal is less than 15-20 dollars) to your "normal" shopping list, and therefore, you gradually stock up. Then, if you follow the planned shopping list, over the following year, you consume the goods and replentish every 3-6-9-12 months- as you use it... again in bulk. This gal has been feeding her family (she and her husband I believe) this way for a couple of years. She does not keep more than about 9-12 months of food "stored" in pantry, but she does store a years worth of consumables (shampoo, soap, and the like). She also swears that after a few months her weekly grocery expense DECREASES...

It is an interesting thought, and one that I may adopt, partially. Living in a tropical climate will make storage of flours and the like more difficult as they stale quickly and are prone to bugs. But, in terms of stocking up on basic canned goods, TP, soaps, staples, might take further exploration.

Family update:
I am going to post a picture from Declan's makeshift birthday party. On his birthday we had cake with a couple of the Waldorf School moms who attended a craft session (these gals get together once a week to knit or sew or make Waldorf inspired play items for the children). I don't know if I posted about Declan's birthday, but it was very simple. He only got 2 presents. One was a great water toy that he saw and played with at the toy store in McMinnville (which then got packed back to Singapore) and a wooden car. But, frankly both toys were very well received and he has spent many hours playing with both. 2 toys was enough!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Toys (reduce step 1)

OK, so the first step of toy purge has taken place. I have only concurred the living room toys and still have the bedroom toys, but first half accomplished.

I threw away all of those toys that were broken.
Put away toys that were clearly baby toys. Will either donate or keep for a little while longer.
Sorted toys that still had "value" to them and put them into two piles. The donate pile and the keep and store pile.

The keep and store pile went into the closet and will get rotated out while the donate pile went into a plastic bag and will either go to the salvation army or will go with Jeff and Bonnie to Mexico for the orphans. (Jeff and Bonnie will come to visit in November).

So far, the living room has about half the toys it did before, and the kids don't seem to miss any that are gone.

Next step:

Pull out all of the VCR/DVDs and trash the clearly broken... divide remainder in half. Store half with toys in storage and rotate out after 2 months.

Next to last step:

Repeat step 1 in the kids bedroom.

Last Step:

Discuss with family what toys the kids need and what other alternatives we can do for holidays/birthdays in the future.

Ongoing process... always ongoing!



Monday, September 06, 2004

Frugal Weekend

I was a busy camper this weekend. We thought long and hard about having a weekend out, but rather than go out for dinner, and rather than take the kids out, we spent a bit more on groceries, bought a bottle of wine and had a nice grilled dinner with homemade salsa and grilled tuna instead.

Compare this to the cost of a dinner out:

Tuna steak $8.00 Sing (about 4 US)

Wine $19.90 Sing (about 10 US)

Asparagus $2.80 Sing (1.40 US)

Salsa and Chips total cost (not including prep time) $5.00 US

I think that the total cost of the dinner was around 20 for 2. Now granted, it was not prepared by a gourmet chef- nor did it have the "ambiance" but it was pretty darn good if I do say so myself (not that I was the grill cook, I leave that to Jeff!)

Other frugal things over the weekend included starting my own sourdough starter. I have it "cooking" on the shelf in the kitchen and it should be ready for our first loaf of homemade bread by the end of the week. I know that bread at the store is cheap, but the kids like playing with the bread dough, I can make it with whole grain flour and not include all of the sugars and preservatives. We won't survive off home baked bread, but a loaf a week should cut back our dependence on processed foods and it will be a fun day to boot!

I also saved I figure at least 150 dollars this week (US$). Rather than buy a new rug for the kids play area, I dyed one that I already had. back when we lived in Taipei, I purchased two very nice white rugs for about 15 bucks each on sale at Ikea. I figured while Declan was an infant (right before he was born is when I got them) I could still do white. Well, needless to say, there is so much ambient dirt in Taiwan, that they were dirty within 2 weeks, even though we don't wear shoes in the house! So, they got put away when we moved to Lotus Hill in XiZhi and I could not throw stained but otherwise in perfect condition rugs away. SO... When I was home in the states this summer I spent about $20 on navy Rit dye. I dyed one of the rugs this weekend, and it turned out surprisingly well. I figure that is at least the cost of a new rug (around 100-150 dollars for sure!)

Remember the cardinal rules:

1. reduce
2. reuse
3. recycle

Every step helps...

Tomorrow, the purge of toys report...



Friday, September 03, 2004

Two Thoughts

I have been reading a book by Alexandra Stoddard called "Graceful Living in a Modern World". Many of her thoughts are very nice, she talks about slowing down, making time for ourselves, appreciating that we are overworked and we need down time to be truly productive. However, I am also troubled. This seems to be a book for those people who have "too much" but don't really want to divest themselves of it. Though out the book she makes reference to all of her beautiful things. The vase from Italy, the pink boots she bought in the great "little shop" in Paris. So, this book makes me think of two things:

1. Conspicuous Consumption and obtaining things to be similar to the "Jones'"; and
2. The need for Beauty

OK, so these things seem rather unconnected... but I think not.

Conspicuous consumption and the need to keep up. This is hard. I find myself looking at other people’s possessions and saying to myself... oh I want that shelf, or that cabinet, or that painting. Oh, I need to have a car, a nicer house, a better wardrobe. But, do I really?

What is it that I need? I often say I need this, when in fact I really can do quite well without it. When I was in Taiwan I bought a hand mixer... because I did not have one. I probably only used it a half dozen times. Now, I can't use it because the electric current is different here. I also do not own a microwave. It would be nice, but frankly, I think we survive quite well without it. It takes more planning, we need to start the kids’ food earlier, we need to plan in advance what we will eat for dinner and take it out to thaw.

I would LIKE, some wall hangings, a cabinet to hide the TV (out of site, out of mind???), I would like painted walls, and I would like a mixer/food processor so I can prepare more foods. I would like to have a better mix of clothing. None of these things are required in my life. But, perhaps they would make my life a bit better, easier, and more productive. So, in another post, later, I am going to talk about how I plan to reconcile these desires with actual needs. It basically involves my use of the "Your Money or Your Life" principles of how much of my life energy will it takes to obtain them and then making the decision if it is worth it.

So, this is a perfect segue into my next thought- Beauty (oh btw, I did not know how to spell segue for the longest time, I always thought it was spelled SEGWAY, so don't even ask me what I was thinking if I read the word... cause I knew what it meant...but I digress.)

I don't think that Simplification means a lack of Beauty. I need to do some more thought and research on this, but I wonder if those who try to follow the principles don't burn out and go back to conspicuous consumption because they forget to include beautiful things in their life. Alexandra Stoddard does often talk, in her book, about appreciating beautiful things, and that it is very important in having a well balanced life. Beautiful things may cost more, so you may need to plan for that, but they don't always have too. Frankly, Jeff and I saw some great- I mean great- artwork at our local Salvation Army store... for less than 100 US for a large art piece. Apparently an art gallery went out of business and donated all of their works. I want to save a few dollars this month and get some art.

This reminds me of an exercise I did once in Jr High Drama Class. Carol Scofield was our teacher. Everyone in the class was given a "job"... some were doctors, some were teachers, some were mechanics and some were artists. We were all then "stranded" on a desert island and we had to selectively choose who to send off the island. The result of the exercise is that in most cases, people sent the artists, teachers, writers off the island early (was this an early version of the reality TV show survivor???). Later in the exercise, information was brought into play about how we were fighting, had no culture, no one to teach the following generations. At the end, the result is that we were supposed to think that in a balanced society, you need all of these people, all of these types of endeavors/professions/parts of culture... in order to have a balanced society.

Obviously the lesson must have struck a cord with me if I can remember it some 23 years later. I think that this is true for our lives as well. We have to have some beautiful things to look at, to read, to hear, and to surround ourselves in beauty. This is a NEED. My goal for this weekend is to bring a thing of beauty into my house, recognize it as a need and account for it.

For an update on the family:

This week has been anything but simple. Kristy flew to Shanghai for 3 days. Ate too much, junk food and drank too much wine (easier to do on an expense account). Jeff flew to Bangkok overnight for 2 days of work. Declan has started preschool 3 days a week and Kiera has a cold. This weekend is going to involve our big monthly shopping trip and perhaps a day at the park on Sunday for some much needed family time.

I will post some things of beauty next time.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

She is Found

Just a quick note. Jeff found Sedona this morning, she is a bit skittish and very dirty and finally slim... but we are very very happy to have her home otherwise safe and sound.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

powerlessness and letting go

I am always reminded, usually by the slap in the face method of remembering, that life is often outside of our control and that we are powerless to change many things. We are dealing with the loss of our cat, my mom is dealing with some personal health issues, and I am dealing with some issues of my own... all of which remind me, brutally, honestly, intensely, that there is little I can do to change many of these things. So, we move on and we get over ourselves. We accept that this is the way life is and we deal. Not well sometimes, but we deal.

I have been thinking a lot today about clutter. I look around my house and think of all of the extra things that I have that I don't need. The kids have too many toys, stuff they don't play with anymore. I have problems with throwing it away. At least in Singapore, right down the street from our house, we have a Salvation Army where I can donate the goods. But, so much of the problem is in my own head. I come by my pack rat syndrome honestly. Both my parents’ horde. My sisters do too, in their own way. So, I have come up with a solution, I think.

This is the plan for de-cluttering my children's stuff.

Step one. Get rid of anything broken. Throw it away.
Step two. Divide the remaining into three piles. Really don't ever see a need for, outgrown or not used. This goes into the immediate donation pile. Second pile, stuff that we may use again, or the kids don't play with anymore, but still has potential. This will go in the "storage" box. I will keep one container of goods in storage for 3 months. We will reassess the toys in 3 months, perhaps rotate some out for play and some of those currently being played with will be returned to storage. Those which we are ready to let go off will then go off to the Salvation Army.

I am not sure how well this will work, but it is a plan at least. As we look more seriously at the Waldorf school, one of the recommendations is that they toys the kids have at home resemble the toys at the school. This is to reduce confusion as to what is appropriate and what is not. I have always liked wooden and simple toys, and many of our toys already meet these criteria, so the transition, for me of the plastic toys will be a welcome change. BUT, we will see how the kids do.



Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Time to say goodbye?

Well, it is not looking like Sedona is going to come home. It has been 2 days. Nancy saw her when she left for church Sunday morning and then Jeff opened up the house at 7am and he did not see her. I saw her Saturday, but not again. It is very hard, the not knowing. If she wandered off, that is bad, but if she is hurt and can't get home that just kills me.

So far I have called the SPCA and the AVA (the National Veterinary Association) and will check out an additional resource called the Cat Rescue Society here in Singapore. I wonder if She wandered off to find a place to die (She is 9), if she went into an apartment and got locked in somewhere, if she did make it all the way outside and got lost, it is just so hard to know what happened. I guess we don't know, and we never will.

The kids know something is wrong, but I don't really know how much they understand that the kitty kitty is not coming home again. Declan looks at her picture and says bye kitty, but again, I am not sure he fully understands. Kiera is just mimicking us as we walk around saying "here kitty kitty".

I know that all pet owners face the loss of a pet, that is part and parcel of pet ownership, but we always assumed we would lose JD first and Sedona would be with us for much longer. So much for assumptions. I am just not sure we are ready to say goodbye.



Sedona still missing.

Well, it is not looking like Sedona is going to come home. It has been 2 days. Nancy saw her when she left for church Sunday morning and then Jeff opened up the house at 7am and he did not see her. I saw her Saturday, but not again. It is very hard, the not knowing. If she wandered off, that is bad, but if she is hurt and can't get home that just kills me.

So far I have called the SPCA and the AVA (the National Veterinary Association) and will check out an additional resource called the Cat Rescue Society here in Singapore. I wonder if She wandered off to find a place to die (She is 9), if she went into an apartment and got locked in somewhere, if she did make it all the way outside and got lost, it is just so hard to know what happened. I guess we don't know, and we never will.

The kids know something is wrong, but I don't really know how much they understand that the kitty kitty is not coming home again. Declan looks at her picture and says bye kitty, but again, I am not sure he fully understands. Kiera is just mimicking us as we walk around saying "here kitty kitty".

I know that all pet owners face the loss of a pet, that is part and parcel of pet ownership, but we always assumed we would lose JD first and Sedona would be with us for much longer. So much for assumptions.



Monday, August 23, 2004


Well, Sedona did not come home last night. we have searched the building and the grounds. I have talked to the condo manager and he said he would talk to his grounds keepers and maintenance staff, but I am starting to lose hope.

I am going to try to find a picture of my little kitty and post it, but I am pretty sad right now. Jeff is in Jakarta for work and won't be home until late tonight. Sadly, the kids walk around calling kitty kitty, but she doesn't come back. I just hope that someone took her in and is giving her a nice home.


Sunday, August 22, 2004

Sad Day in Singapore

I was going to write about the great day we had yesterday at the East Coast Park. It was a wonderful day, spent playing in the sand, ocean and simply enjoying the day with the family.

Instead, I am going to tell you that we are all very sad here. Sedona went missing this morning, she wandered out of the house, by sneaking through the grates on the doors. We don't know where she is or if someone is taking care of her, or if she is lost. We have posted a sign in our building and I will do the same around the whole complex tomorrow. Sedona has been with Jeff and I since right after we moved from Salem to McMinnville, in July 1994. If you can, please say a prayer, or keep us in your thoughts as we look for our kitty.



Friday, August 20, 2004

New Day in Singapore!

First, some pretty generic news about Singapore, for those of you who don't live here (ok as of today that is all of you). But we have a new prime minister. This is a really big deal. Singapore is 39 years old and we have had only three prime ministers. The first, Lee Kuan Yew, the second Goh Chook Tong.... and the third, the first prime ministers son, Lee Hsien Loong. The effect of the exchange of power has yet to be seen, but it is anticipated that the young Mr. Lee will be more inclusive (having women on his cabinet, a first for Singapore and recognizing the handicapped population in a speech only days after he took office). We enjoy living in Singapore because of the fierce national pride, among other reasons, and the joy that most Singaporean’s exhibit by per chance of birth (in many cases) that they live in a growing, vibrant, safe and clean and successful city in Asia.

So, Simplicity... what does it mean and why are we doing this funny-hokey-hippy thing. Doesn't the simplicity movement mean moving out in the woods and homesteading... curing your own ham and churning your own butter? Sure, for some that may be what it means- for others it is slowing down and de-cluttering. Again, then for others, ourselves included, Living Simply means, setting down, figuring out what are life values are and living deliberately to try to meet those values.

Frugality is a part, environmentalism is a part, decluttering (mind, body and soul...not to mention the house) and finally living peacefully. As the war in Iraq continues, I really am thinking more about the peaceful part, but more on that later.

OK, so critics out there, my own family included... who says "Look, Kristy, you have never done well with the frugal part, Ms. World Traveler". You are correct. But, living frugally can mean, and it will mean, that if we chose to travel, we will simply need to cut back on other expenses. How can we be frugal, peaceful, and deliberate when we have a live in maid/nanny? Well, here is how. We pay our Nanny a pittance. In many ways I feel guilty about the minor amount we pay her. We already made the conscious decision to pay her about $50 US dollars over the market rate in Singapore for a new nanny. Why... because again, part of the living deliberately is knowing that Nancy is a single mom, supporting her son in the Philippines. The market rate is abysmally low, but an example of how far her salary will go in the Philippines follows:

When we first started speaking to Nancy about hiring her, we asked her to Fed Ex a copy of her passport to us so we could begin processing paperwork for her work permit in Singapore. After a few hems and haws... she said she could not afford it. For those of you who know, a Fed Ex letter or similar service may be between $15-20. Nancy told us that is more than a weeks worth of groceries.

Living simply means, for me anyway, knowing that every thing I do, positive and negative has consequences. If I have an ice blended chai this morning- I do not follow my diet, and I may not lose that pound. If I have an ice blended chai this morning-a $6.50 Singapore treat (roughly 3.25 in US Dollar), it means that on my daily tally of expenses, it shows as a negative. I used up a certain portion of my life's energy for that drink. Was it worth it? For me, this morning, yes. Was it within my long term goals, ideals and principles, not to mention my budget? No. So, what do I do? Recognize that this is a step by step process.

Ok, finally, not that you all care to know... and I think I will keep the actual dollar figures private for now (cause this is public internet after all). Jeff and I are on a debt reduction plan. Does this mean we will be coming home? Don't know. Does it mean we will get new jobs? Don't know. Does it mean we will really get this debt out of our lives? Yes. So the debt reduction counter has begun. If, assuming we get no raises.... and assuming we have no unforeseen REALLY bad things happen to us. We will be out of debt December 14, 2010. The only debt that will exist at that time will be our mortgage on the house. SO, in 6 years and roughly 5 and a half months... or for those math wiz’s... I calculate that to be 77.5 months and 2291 days!

Now, for your regularly scheduled family update.

Jeff and I have been borrowing a car for a few days. Driving in Singapore illegally. Which overall, is not a good thing. If we got caught, we would probably forfeit the right to drive here forever. But, it has opened up parts of the city for us that we have not yet seen. We (the kids and I) have been to the east coast Singlap area for playgroup before, but driving there is MUCH quicker. Saturday, we plan on going to the beach, and tonight Jeff and I might go to the night safari. Cars are PRICEY here though, so it will be a major decision to get one. For those who don't know, a Honda Odyssey mini van runs around 120,000 Sing Dollars, or... again roughly 69,000 US. If we can get a car without paying those fees we would do it. If we have to pay that, it may be a long while. Cause that is a lot of dough.



This is my new blog.

Ok, that is a pretty simple statement, but what I intend to do is to first, keep my friends and family informed about our lives as we live in Singapore, and second, to keep people informed of our conscious decision to simplify our lives and to live the “simple life” in Singapore. NOT the Paris Hilton or Nicole Ritchie “Simple Life”, but the Henry David Thoreau, Duane Elgin, Paul Hawkin, Janet Luhrs, Sarah Ban Branach “simplicity movement” type of simple life.

As many of you reading this blog are friends and family, you will remember that I was very active in the simple living community in McMinnville. Attended a number of seminars and even became a group facilitator in order to assist simplicity and group study programs sponsored by the Northwest Earth Institute (A great group, by the way, that have study groups on earth stewardship and simply living. As a side note, I actually was on the webpage the other day and saw that Paul Studebaker is still active, he was the first person who I met in the group and one who really sparked my interest. Paul, I hope that I can get a copy of this blog to you and you can read that I am back on the “wagon!” ANYWAY, I really have come full circle and wanted to journal about our reasons and our path.

Why the simple life? First and foremost, is the fact that I have two children. I do not expect the world to be the same as it was when I was a child. I was able to ride my bike, sometimes from town all the way home (7 miles). When I was back in McMinnville this last trip, I realized that the same could not be done today. Why, simply the changes that have affected the town, as it has grown, and has made that particular ride not possible. But, I believe similar activities should be possible, I want them to be possible for my kids. Slowing down, spending more time with the kids, realizing that they are more important is the key issue.

Another reason is money. Without detail, let’s just say that we are still racked by huge student loans. In order to pay these off faster and get ourselves on a track of saving and investing, we will need to curtail our spending habits, re-evaluate what we value and how we do it. To that end, we are following the 9 steps of “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominquez and Vicki Robin.

Third, Jeff and I are strong proponents of groups that support environmental causes, alternative education, and we want to support these values, even living in Singapore. To that end, we are looking at enrolling Declan in the local Waldorf School, a kindergarten using the Waldorf education method, which is run by a small Coop of the parents and a key group of similar minded people. (More info on Waldorf School in Singapore here We also are hoping to be able to spend more positive energy doing things we enjoy, and we hope that make the place better, and our lives more enriched as the end result.

So, where do we start?

To paraphrase Julie Andrews, as she sings in my favorite movie of all time “The Sound of Music”… “Let's start at the very beginning, A very good place to start,When you read you begin with A-B-C, When you sing you begin with do-re-mi… do-re-mi”. Lets start at the beginning with what is Simple Living, which I will discuss in the next post.

Oh, and while this will largely be about my/our simplification process and how it works in Singapore… it would not be enough for those family members out there, so I will always give a Declan/Kiera update each post as well.

So, on August 17, 2004 Declan successfully went pee in the potty today. Well, semi-successful. He was so happy about the process; he wanted to get off the toilet before he was done. Well, it is a start anyway.

Kiera fell down a week ago and it required a trip to the Doctor and what I assumed to be her first stitches. Well, the doctor here actually used wound glue instead. Pretty cool stuff. She is now recovered and still quite the daredevil. She tries to jump off of the steps, chase after dogs and generally keep up with Declan all the time…Do you think this will scar them for life if they read this post in 20 years?

Love and Happiness

Simple Living Singapore
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