Category archive: Lifestyle

Road Tripping Scrambler Ducati Style – Part 1 – In the Beginning

From baby steps to a big adventure

A little over a year ago I took my first ever tentative ride on a 250 cc motorcycle. Wobbly and scared, I slowly let out the clutch and rolled on the throttle while my encouraging husband nearly exploded with pride like a daddy watching his child ride a bicycle for the first time.

Colleen Ann Guest, First Ride on the TU250 First ride on the TU250

Giddy with excitement myself, but tempered with a healthy dose of respect, I embraced what became a motorcycle obsession with fervor and within a month I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider’s Course (MSF BRC), obtained my full endorsement, and conquered some long-standing childhood fears. After attaining a little more intuitive dexterity in manipulating the levers and controls, a forgotten voice in my head whispered, you were born to ride. Growing up on horseback (almost quite literally) I already knew that riding was akin to flying and as natural as breathing for me, but it was an intoxicating surprise to find that my passion and natural inclination transferred seamlessly to a machine-driven beast.

Colleen Ann Guest Bike session, photo by Mike Ricciardi Flying or riding, bikes or horses, it’s the same thing. Photo by Mike Ricciardi

In short order, I began the hunt for my next bike, a bigger one. After months of searching and researching and agonizing and dissecting what MY riding style is (or will be) and what sort of bike lit my fire, I was left with a ho-hum attitude and a feeling that nothing in particular filled that bike-shaped hole in my heart. And then one day while randomly scrolling through Facebook posts, I saw a silhouetted head-on image of the new Scrambler Ducati about to be unveiled at the impending 2014 Intermot show in Germany.  Ah-ha!! I had at last found my personal Holy Grail without even a shred of info about its specs or a real picture of it. Two days after the actual reveal I put a deposit on one at Garcia Moto then endured seven long months of (sort of) patient waiting and pouring over every scrap I could find on the internet before the Falcon, as she would come to be called, would be mine. Why the Falcon you ask? Because upon downshifting she sounds EXACTLY like the Millennium Falcon when it can’t make the jump to hyperspace:

 

Colleen Ann Guest At Garcia Moto Taking the Falcon home from Garcia Moto

Without the teensiest bit of buyers remorse, I was pleased to find that the Scrambler was everything I’d dreamed she would be and oh, so much more! So what’s a girl to do with just a year’s worth of riding experience (10 thousand miles!) under her belt and a brand new 803 cc bike in her possession? Why, take a solo road trip adventure of course! Every summer for 18 years I’ve traveled from North Carolina to upstate New York to visit my family and friends back home. This year I vowed to RIDE the nearly 1200 mile round trip journey plus rack up some scenic miles in the beautiful mountainous regions of upstate NY and northern Pennsylvania.

Colleen's Scrambler, photo by Vincent A. Provenzano Brand new and unmodified. Photo by Vincent A. Provenzano

The Falcon needed only a couple of modifications for my purpose. I simply had to have lower handlebars for my personal comfort (and aesthetics) so I purchased a set of superbike bars from Dime City Cycles and enlisted my buddy William Vaughn at DMC Motorsports to put them on. Then I quickly figured out that I needed something to secure my tail bag straps to and found a handy DIY solution from a fellow Scrambler owner on one of the forums. And that’s about it. The bike itself is a handling dream and with an on-board USB port I never have to worry about losing charge on my cell phone (which BTW, I used quite often to check my GPS to ensure I was either on track or to make diversions). THAT alone is worth its  weight in gold let me assure you!

Colleen Ann Guest, The Falcon post mods The Falcon, post mods

With the major-ish mods out of the way, I focused my efforts on planning routes, plotting sites, purchasing gear, and picking apart every little detail I could think of as I counted down the days to my journey. Among my trip specific purchases were a Schuberth C3 Pro Women’s helmet and an Olympia Horizon rain jacket and pants, BOTH of which proved to be more than worth their expense and lived up to every review I’d read about them! I logged tons of miles on day trips and took a small overnight ride with my husband in an effort to appraise the best configuration of my set-up and gauge my stamina. I picked the brains of fellow road trip warriors and scoured the internet for advice. I planned and packed for every possible scenario (and my pack job, by the way, turned out to be brilliant as a result of all the time I spent visualizing and thinking through the placement/purpose of every little item). A week before I set out, I took and passed the MSF Experienced Rider Course so I was refreshed on my riding skills and knowledge. And in the event of a breakdown (assuming of course I had cell service) I had my trusty AAA card ready because, as my dear friend Johann Keyser of Moto Motivo told me in his suave South African accent, “There is nothing on this bike you will be able to repair.” Then he smiled and told me I would be fine with the basic tools and gave me a cheery send off. Even the world famous adventure rider Neale Bayly was kind enough to impart some good advice to me, “Don’t forget to stay loose, don’t grip the bars too tight, and have fun,” to which he sprinkled humorous (albeit, potentially valid) suggestions of items to pack.

Finally, after all the analyzation, preparation, and anticipation, the day of action arrived as determined by the best – or rather, least horrible – weather forecast. Ready or not, it was time to throw caution to the wind, load up the Falcon and hit the road.

Next up – Part 2 – Hitgirl Hits the Road…

Click here to read Part 2

Click here to read Part 3

Click here to read Part 4

Click here to read Part 5

Click here to read Part 6

Colleen Ann Guest pre trip Loading up and heading out

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JDRF Egg Crack Challenge

When your best friend has insulin dependent diabetes, you have to do something – besides freak out and cry with her; though we’ve done our share of that over the years. Nope, a best friend has to take action.

So, when Jean Graham took the Will Hauver JDRF Egg Crack Challenge and nominated me to do it too, it was a foregone conclusion I was going to support her, take the challenge, and donate to the cause!

My bestie is an amazing woman who has bravely navigated the diabetes waters with a  smile on her face (mostly) and a desire to be a strong role model to her daughters and others. She takes on the 24/7 challenges of this disease with grace and style in spite of her desperate wish she didn’t have to – there are no breaks or vacations from diabetes. She recently created a blog to help other newly diagnosed diabetics feel a little less alone: lifeandthesweetlife. But behind her winning smile and helpful blog posts lies a tender heart beating madly to keep her emotions in check while the infuriating numbers on her many devices occasionally tell her she’s over or under estimated the amount of insulin needed to cover her food intake or exercise output. When things don’t add up, it’s not that her calculations are wrong, but her metabolism plays insidious tricks on her, putting the perfect dose elusively just out of reach, while she plays a Price Is Right sort of bidding game with the bolus. I can hear Bob Barker shouting into his mic “Higher, Lower, Higher, Lower,” while she furiously tries to compensate for something entirely outside of her control. Yet, she puts each episode quickly behind her – no looking back – and readies herself for the next dance with diabetes. She’s got a life left to live and she truly is an inspiration. See for yourself:

So what’s a best friend to do?
Why make fun of her of course! She couldn’t possibly have thought I was going be mediocre about this “challenge” could she? I mean does she even KNOW ME??

 

I hope you watched through to the end including ALL of the credits – it’s worth the time. If not, go back and finish watching! See? Told you it was worth it! Special thanks to my husband Neel for being a the best straight man, Chesney and Cambree for being roped into the action at the last minute, David Aman for his tireless work filming and editing and to Grace and Tony and The Black Feathers for the use of their songs.

Now, if you care at all about trying to knock out this disease that literally destroys bodies and takes lives, help us make this thing viral!! LIKE, SHARE, and REPOST far and wide!! Then take the challenge yourself. Take a video and share it using the hashtags #EggCrackChallenge #EllenEggCrack #JDRFeggcrack #T1DEggCrackChallenge for the most exposure! Don’t forget to donate too or you’ve missed the point of the whole thing.

It’s YOUR turn to Crack, Nominate, and Donate!

If you take the challenge, I would LOVE to hear your story!
PLEASE share a link to your video in the comments below

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“That Little Girl Can PLAY!”

That was the general murmuring (and shouting) I heard going around a packed room at The Pour House Music Hall on Friday night.  And I admit, I was one of the more gleeful shouters. In part because, HOLY CRAP, that little girl CAN play, and in part because “that little girl” in the Gary Mitchell Band making their debut performance is my baby girl, Annelise!

She is doing what I only dreamed of doing at her age – throwing caution to the wind and doing what she does best in spite of all of the practical “advice” to settle for a job with a “future.” HA! What in world is “the future” and how are we supposed to know what sort of job will get us there? To heck with that I say. ( Oh, quit rolling your grown-up eyes at me! You know you wish you were a rocker too!) Now, I’m more inclined to chant this mantra, “Use what you got and do it while you’ve got it!”  God bless her for embracing and putting into practice that little tidbit of REAL advice much earlier than I grasped it! She’s sticking to her guns with the very first (and just about only) thing she ever wanted to do! If only the rest of us had that much perseverance.

The Gary Mitchell Band featuring (L to R) Lee Huggins, Gary Mitchell, Thomas Burroughs, Annelise Huggins. Yes I know its blurry – I was too excited to focus!

For me, finally seeing her command a stage at her own gig (not just sit in with other musicians) was the ultimate confirmation that hers is a life born to play. Even while in the womb, she heard music that I would blast from my stereo all day long and I took her to concerts as well, much to my mother’s chagrin. “Put earmuffs on your belly!” Mom would chide me. Sigh . . . Annelise was doomed to be a musical creature from practically the moment of conception! When she would cry without end and no amount of comforting would help, I’d give up and put her safely in her crib, and crank up GNR or KISS in the other room. This served two purposes: 1) I couldn’t hear her heartbreaking sobs and 2) it soothed her to sleep faster than anything else I did for her. The girl was born with music running through her veins!

All my friends knew it too. When Annelise was an infant one of them gave her a toy guitar with nylon strings. I didn’t give it to her until she was over a year old, but from the moment she got it, she carried it everywhere – even to bed! She didn’t care for cuddly stuffed toys or blankets – normal comfort items for other children- she only had a heart for that little guitar with pink strings.

A two year old Annelise with her first little guitar!

Then I met Mark DeBellis , professional musician extraordinaire, when she was 3 and her brother Stephen was 2, and they both were as drawn to him as much I was. The first time Annelise met him, she climbed into his lap as he held his guitar and she strummed while he changed chords. The two of them were peas in a pod and they became inseparable. The funny thing was, normally she was a very shy child who didn’t like to be held by people other than mommy, but the lure of the guitar was stronger than her fear!

Annelise and her mentor/daddy, Mark. Headed off to first day of kindergarten.

When the kids were a bit older, Mark taught them how to completely set up and tear down a full PA (wiring – not carrying the cabs!) and they were also his little personal roadies at many gigs. Our friend Greg coined the phrase Mark’s Army in reference to them. Wherever Mark went, my kids were always with him – grocery store, parks, bagel shop, gigs, you name it – and they were always his little soldiers! All Mark had to do was give them a look and perhaps a hand signal or two and either one of them knew what to do and when to do it. In every situation! It was a mutually beneficial arrangement for them when it came to gigs – Mark knew his stuff would be taken care of properly and the kids got to hang out watching real musicians and crew. They saw the world and heard the music from the vantage point of the stage looking out. Which, as anyone who’s been there can tell you, is not at all what you imagine it to be from the audience looking up.

Here I am Sarge – ready to rock. If I can’t play it, I’ll set it up for you.

Eventually, Annelise and Stephen really learned to play a few instruments and not just mess around with them. Mark and the kids would jam together all the time – on guitar and keys! And the funny thing is, they NEVER learned a thing about the keyboard. I doubt if today Annelise could tell you where middle C is on it! But she knew if she just plunked away, she could find the notes and chords and make music. Mark never impeded her.  Rather than insist she learn the piano, he encouraged her to play with her heart and the two of them used to stand side by side at the keyboard and play together for hours – jamming to the prerecorded rhythms. He and I did however insist on a proper musical education. We wanted both kids to have a real foundation of musical knowledge to build upon. Even though she only wanted to play guitar and he only wanted to play drums, we insisted they take other instruments to teach them how instruments fit together to make music. After all, “You can’t break the rules if you don’t know the rules!” (HA – a favorite “Markism”)

Middle School band concert. She was first chair!

See? The boy can play other instruments besides drums too!

Then, little miss smarty-pants grew up and got married! Fortunately she found a wonderful man, Lee, who is her perfect match in every way – including musically! He can sing like nobody’s business and also plays a variety of instruments! I just love him dearly and am grateful the two of them share the love of the Lord first and foremost and that they also have a love of music to help bind them together! He’s a gem of a man and soooo incredibly talented! I just love how he loves her!

Annelise jamming with her husband Lee

I just LOVE Lee’s photobomb in this shot!

So, this past Friday night it all came full circle for me. My baby girl stood on the stage alongside her husband and mowed people down with rich tone, rock solid timing, and tasty chops on the guitar! She also played percussion, keys and sang background harmonies! In spite of a few technical difficulties with her aged gear (Mark’s gear!) she plowed through and gave a professional show to a packed and cheering house! I was so proud of her for not cracking even a hint of a smile or a twitch of an eyebrow when something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t notice she had problems with gear until she told me about them later – and I’m usually the one who’s tuned into her facial expressions giving things away. She’s subtle but I can read her. She fooled even me!! And it reminded me of a few of Mark’s famous quotes:

“What mistake? I MEANT to do that!”

and

“There are no wrong notes, only a few poor choices.”

And just when I thought my heart would burst with pride and joy, at the very end of the night my boy jumped on stage without even thinking and immediately went to work packing up her gear and roadie-ing for her. He hopped to it so fast and efficiently, that I was transported back in time and I was seeing two little children on stage packing gear again just like they did for Mark. They ceased being grownups for a little while that night, at least to my eyes. The only thing that could have made that night more special is if Stephen played on stage with her too.  In fact, it was Stephen that used to get to go on stage and “play” (unplugged) during the sound checks at Mark’s gigs while Annelise was left fuming by my side watching him. She used say, “I should be up there too!” But in spite of her jealousy, she would support Stephen and help carry gear and cheer him on. Though the tables were turned on Friday night and Stephen was wishing he was on stage with her, he lived vicariously though her, cheered her more vigorously than anyone, and was a champ in helping her at the end of the night.

Some things change and some things never do!

Mark would be proud of the adults they’ve become and would be smiling a mile wide if he could see them now!  I know I am!

Little boy Stephen all dressed up like Mark and “playing on stage with him at a gig. You can’t see Annelise next to me quietly muttering and wishing it was her.

Stephen jumped in a started packing up Annelise’s gear. What a great brother! Mark’s Army rides again!

My babies are all grown up. Stephen, Annelise and Stephen’s best friend Brian (L to R). Although all I can see are three little kids.

Click the video below to get a little taste of her playing

 

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A 50th Anniversary Note to my West Coast Fam

I wrote this to for my Aunt Sherry and Uncle Bruce at the request of my cousin, Tammy.  Thought it would be fun to share publicly. Enjoy.

Memories of the West Coast Family:
Uncle Bruce, Aunt Sherry, Timmy, and Tammy

As remembered by Colleen Ann Guest, 06/10/2013

I’m perhaps either the laziest person on earth or the biggest procrastinator ever! I don’t put things off until the last possible minute because I don’t care about the thing I should be doing, in fact it’s usually just the opposite. Sometimes a task is daunting to me because I do care so much about how it turns out. So rather than do the “right” thing and get a good start on it so that I’ll have plenty of time to revamp and redirect if I need to adjust the direction it’s going, I get paralyzed and think to myself that I’ve got TONS of time so I don’t need to commit to this just yet. Well, I’ve been burned by my own inadequacy in recognizing the passage of time once again.

Much to my chagrin, my dear cousin; your THOUGHTFUL, CARING, PUNCTUAL daughter; called me the other day and cornered me about my lack of response to her ever so gentle request for a simple thing like a note for your scrapbook – and the request came with plenty of time to provide a FABULOUS response. I’m a loser. THIS is why I don’t plan parties for people. I’ll be late to my own funeral!

I wish I had lots of funny, witty stories about you guys. I have lots of second hand ones from my folks, and I’m sure there might be some that you would be just as glad for me not to repeat. But those are THEIR memories. I have my own too, but given the distance between us they aren’t as first person as theirs. So here are some of my rambling memories; the things that really stick with me. And perhaps, just perhaps, waiting until the last minute has its advantages.  The things that come to mind quickly are the ones that have the deepest impressions.

When I was little and my birthday would roll around, my mom would make a nice effort to have a birthday party for me. With so many aunts and uncles (and cousins – not as many then as what I have now though, but still a lot) the parties always involved tons of family. Most of the family lived nearby and the parties were pretty large and happening. But my mom and Grandma Eaton were always very careful to point out that Uncle Bruce and Aunt Sherry couldn’t be here and that I was to take special note of their cards and gifts.  They always showed me your pictures and told me stories about you. I felt like I knew you even though we hadn’t met. And I don’t know if you ever knew it but I used to count how many cat or kitten cards I would get. I knew it was going to be a GREAT year if all my cards had a feline on the cover! There were times you sent me one of those treasured cards and I just KNEW that you loved me and “knew” me! To this day there are two people (besides my mom) that can be counted on to NEVER miss my birthday with a card – Aunt Sherry and my dad’s sister Aunt Linda. So for all the years you tirelessly sent cards with no apparent thanks, it doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated! I tear up when I get your cards!! THANK YOU!!

Another strong memory is of time I spent at Grandma and Grandpa Eaton’s house. They kept your pictures on the wall over Grandma’s chair. You know the place – the wall to the right of the archway to the dining room if you are standing in the living room. I used to gaze at those pictures and imagine what kind of people you were and wondered if you thought of me at the same time I was thinking of you. Sometimes Grandma would catch me looking at the pictures and she would take them off the wall so I could look more closely. And then she would tell me stories about Uncle Bruce as a child. Gosh I wish I could recall some of those! And then there were all those AMAZING sugar Easter eggs with the little scenes on the inside that Aunt Sherry made. I LOVED those!! I used to beg Grandma to bring them out of the cupboard and show me up close. (It was difficult to really see the scenes on the inside from through the glass.) She would gladly oblige and she handled them so gently and with such care. She used to tell me that I had to be VERY CAREFUL – they were delicate works of art and couldn’t be replaced. She just adored those and all the other artfully created things that Aunt Sherry made (I don’t want to say “crafty” – that cheapens them. The things you made were ART!)

And then there were all the times Grandma and Grandpa would go to California to spend time with you guys. They would come back FULL of stories and pictures about all their adventures. We would sit around the dining room table with the pictures all over and they would go through them one by one and tell us so many things about each image in enormous detail. I could see so much more than what the picture alone held. I yearned badly to visit Disneyland and the national parks! I would dream about it and imagine what it must be like in real life. They made everything they did with you guys sound like the grandest adventures and everything there was bigger than life! It made things seem so “usual” back here. I was actually a bit jealous of Timmy and Tammy. Even though I had the grandparents all to my own all the time, it just seemed like their time in Cali with you guys overshadowed anything they ever did with us. I know that’s not true at all, but to my little girl self it was hard not to make comparisons. I knew it was wrong to feel those things, and I was ashamed to admit it so I never said anything – I didn’t want to be a brat – that would have hurt my feelings if anyone thought ill of me for feeling that way. They got so much enjoyment about recounting their adventures that I wanted to hear everything in spite of my own jealousy. Their faces glowed with such love and pride when they talked about Timmy and Tammy and they always looked so refreshed and relaxed when they came home.  I lived vicariously though those vacations!

But FINALLY, I got my wish – I got to meet you all! It wasn’t in Cali like I’d hoped, but I was THRILLED to have you all back home on my turf in the summer of 1977. I thought my other uncles were tall men, but Uncle Bruce was a true GIANT! I was tickled beyond belief that he picked on me just like Uncle Roger, Uncle Gary, and Uncle Alan!! He WAS one of us! And then I got to get a real hug from Aunt Sherry! Not just a card, but a real life hug! And those things cemented that you both were everything I imagined you to be! And for the first time I got to play with my west coast cousins. I was worried they would think we weren’t good enough and that NY wouldn’t ever be as awesome as California. But I was wrong. They loved it here as much as I felt I would love it there. I fell in LOVE with Timmy and Tammy! I remember showing off my horses to them and how Tammy especially was smitten with them. We spent a lot of time in the barn together and she was like a little sponge – asking questions about EVERYTHING and soaking it all in. She was eager to know all about the horses. She was a girl after my own heart. And still is!

So there it is. My fondest memories are the oldest ones. And those are the ones that come to the surface in a hurry. When I think of all of you, I think of those specific things before I start reminiscing about other times in more recent years or before I recall the many stories my mom and dad tell about you.  Now how much of this is relevant to your anniversary is questionable but they’re the things that make me smile when I think of you. I love you both so very much!! I’m so blessed the Lord brought you together so I could be related to some of the most awesome people in the whole world!

With love and tears (I just read this out loud to Neel so I could proof it and now I’m crying!),
Colleen

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Sore Throat Pain? Colleen’s Home Remedies to the Rescue

I often get asked how to relieve a sort throat; not because I have any kind of medical education, but probably because I’ve suffered with them so often in my life.

In fact, you might say I’m a bit of an expert on them – from a sufferer’s perspective, that is.

 Colleen Ann Guest sore throat

When I was 3 years old I experienced a life-threatening throat infection which included a 107º fever, seizures, other gory details which don’t really add anything of value to this post, and of course, unrelenting sore throat pain. Throughout my life, it seems that every time I get sick it always starts with the most HORRIFIC throat pain imaginable. I mean searing, burning pain that makes you contort your whole body when you swallow to try to avoid it. Razor blades and barbed wire would be easier to swallow than your own spit when you have one of these sore throats.

 

Sore throat pain can feel like swallowing razor blades and barbed wire.

Yeah . . . I know a little something about the subject. . .

 

But, when you are a performer who uses your voice like I do, you need to know how to tame the pain and try to keep from losing your voice altogether.  The show must go on after all!

 

One obvious bit of advice is NO TALKING!! This includes no whispering or vocalizing of any kind; whispering is especially harsh on the delicate vocal chords.

 

It seems like common sense, but it’s harder to maintain radio silence than you think. When you’re a Chatty Cathy (or a Blibbering Betty) like me, it’s the hardest thing in the world to do!

Colleen Ann Guest vocal performance

Help, I’m talking and I can’t shut up!

 

Aside from shutting your trap, you probably want something in the way of more immediate relief. There’s a wealth of information about sore throat remedies out on the web if you search or you can just ask somebody’s mom. I’ll post links to vocal health advice from trusted professionals below, but first, let me give you some tried and true home remedies that have always worked for me:

 

Gargle with baking soda and salt in warm water

Mix 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp baking soda in a small glass of warm tap water. You have to repeat often – every hour or so – but it really helps! This is a remedy my mother always gave me when I was growing up. I didn’t much care for it, but once I recognized it’s power (as an adult) I became a firm believer. The real key is that you must repeat it often and don’t drink anything right after gargling or you’ll just wash it all away.

 

Drink Franks Red Hot

Oh yes it’s awesome – quit giving me that look! Melt in some butter and warm it up if you like (think wings without the wings). It’s also great for the sinuses! I suppose any hot sauce would do, but in my house, Franks rules! Anything else is sacrilege.  I only use their original flavor as the others aren’t grain free.

 

Drink a mixture of liquid Maalox and liquid Benadryl

It’s recommended by doctors for cancer patients with sore throats! According to Robert S. Gillespie, MD, MPH – Pediatrician, children 2 years and older can take a mixture of Maalox and Benadryl to coat and soothe the throat. They can take it every 2 hours, as needed. The doses are:

• 2 through 5 years – ½ teaspoon Maalox mixed with ¼ teaspoon Benadryl
• 6 through 11 years – 1 teaspoon Maalox mixed with ½ teaspoon Benadryl
• 12 years and older – 2 teaspoons Maalox mixed with 1 teaspoon Benadry

 

Drink hot water, honey, lemon, and cayenne

Make a cup of hot water (like you would for tea, but NO tea) and add honey, lemon juice and a dash of cayenne pepper. This is a FABULOUS mixture for when you have to sing or speak with a sore throat. When I’m performing and losing my voice I carry thermoses of it and take constant sips!!

 

Now that you’ve read my advice, visit these places to read what the pros have to say:

Duke Health Voice Hygiene Tips for Performers
Duke Vocal Health PDF
Viral Sore Throat vs. Strep Throat

 

Do you have any remedies of your own? I’d love for you to share them with me by leaving a comment below!

 

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