Friday, July 29, 2011

Food Puritans Attack Hot Dogs

Food Puritans Attack Hot Dogs

I'm tired of people who try to ruin the fun for everyone. I'm tired of these smug societal Puritans who can only enjoy life when they try to spoil everyone else's good time. Like the Calvinists who burned witches at the stake. Like the preacher dad from Footloose. Like people who call Christmas trees "Holiday foliage."

Now the food Puritans are attacking hot dogs and comparing them to smoking and causing cancer. A national group of hot dog haters recently put up a billboard near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the message "Warning: Hot Dogs Can Wreck Your Health" next to a giant photo of hot dogs inside a cigarette pack, and a web address for

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a special interest, no-fun group that promotes a vegan diet, wants to draw a link between colorectal cancer and hot dogs.

If you're trying to link hot dogs to smoking to colorectal cancer, I don't think you're smoking right.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the billboard will be ruining hot dogs for Indianapolis residents for about a month.

Susan Levin, the committee's nutrition education director, told the Star that hot dogs "should come with a warning label that helps racing fans and other consumers understand the health risk."

No, food Puritans should come with a warning label. We all need a few pleasures in life, something that brings us comfort and joy, even if it's only for a few minutes. We don't need you exaggerating the dangers of certain foods. If you want to do some real good in the world, feed the hungry, don't tell us what not to eat.

Hot dogs are not like cigarettes. They are not packed with addictive cancer-causing additives that the Big Processed Meat industry has lied about for decades, giving money to politicians to court the pro-hot dog vote. People don't have two-pack-a-day hot dog habits. If I go to a baseball game, I don't come home with my hair and clothes smelling like hot dogs. And kissing someone who has eaten a hot dog is not like licking a barbecue grill.

I wish the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine would actually be, oh I don't know, "responsible" in the message they're sending to people, rather than needlessly — and maybe even falsely? — trying to frighten people with nonsensical messages that stoop to the hysterical shrieking of a PETA campaign.

Hot dogs, when eaten in moderation, are not health hazards. Cigarettes, even when consumed in moderation, are hazardous. Do you see the difference?

But moderation is the key. Even the American Cancer Society says in their guidelines that "it is not necessary to eliminate consumption of red or processed meat; rather the message is that these foods should not be the mainstay of your diet."

If I'm going to trust anyone about messages about cancer, it's going to be an organization that has dedicated itself to the fight against cancer for nearly 100 years, not some fly-by-night organization that bought a $9.95 web address with "cancer" in it. Even the doctors the Star interviewed for the story said that hot dogs won't kill you as long as you're eating a generally healthy diet.

"A hot dog a day could send you to an early grave," Levin, a dietitian (i.e. not a doctor), said.

Of course a hot dog a day will send you to an early grave. A double-wide-you-need-12-pall-bearers-and-an-industrial-crane early grave. Hot dogs are delicious and good to eat, but everyone knows you shouldn't eat one every single day, just like they know 5 doughnuts a day is also bad.

Most people of average intelligence understand that you can't eat certain foods every day. Or they'll figure it out once they put on 10 pounds in three weeks. Everyone else forms advocacy groups to stop people from doing things they love.

But Levin says they're going to stand by their puffed up message, saying that it's needed to "make people think twice about eating hot dogs and all processed meats, including deli meats, ham, sausage, bacon and pepperoni."

They're going after bacon? What's that ad going to look like? Maybe they could do a mashup with the "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs" ad and come up with a pretty tasty breakfast.

Just enjoy it while you can. Because the one thing that's truly going to send you to an early grave — or make you want one — is the frothing no-funnery of food Puritans who are never truly happy until they bring misery to the lives of everyone around them.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Becky Hardy, Indiana Fever High-Fiver (VIDEO)

If you go to an Indiana Fever game, you've probably seen the woman who runs up and down the stairs in Section 17, on the southwest end of Conseco Fieldhouse. That's Becky Hardy, a die-hard Fever fan, and the Indiana Fever High-Fiver.

Becky started a tradition several years ago, where she would high-five the people around here every time the Fever scored a three-point shot. After the people who used to sit behind her moved to a different row, she would run up and high-five them.

Soon, people in the top row were shouting for a high-five, and she would make the trip to the top, slapping hands with people on the way up and the way down.

That turned into the tradition you can see on the video today.

By the way, y friend, Julie Graue, the VP of Business Operations for the Indiana Fever is letting me give away two free tickets to a Fever home game to anyone who wants them. Any home game between now and August 9 is eligible.

Visit the Indiana Fever tickets page, and use the passcode XGRAUE (all caps) to get your tickets. You only have to pay the Ticketmaster processing fee. There are only two games left — July 31 against the LA Sparks, and August 9 against the San Antonio Silver Stars — so time is running out.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Get Two Free Tickets to an Indiana Fever Game

I've got two free tickets to an Indiana Fever game for anyone and everyone who wants them.

This isn't a contest, you don't have to leave a comment, send a tweet, like a Facebook page. They're just there.

My friend, Julie Graue, the VP of Business Operations for the Indiana Fever has asked me to make these tickets available to anyone who wants them. Any home game between now and August 9 is eligible.

Our Indiana Fever has the best attendance record in the WNBA, and they want to make sure they hold on to that game.

Visit the Indiana Fever tickets page, and use the passcode XGRAUE (all caps), and you can get the tickets. You only have to pay the Ticketmaster processing fee, but the tickets are yours. There are either two or three games left, so you should be able to see all the home games if you would like. And if you want to sit with me and my family, we're in Section 17, row 13. Get the tickets and hang out with us.

I hope to see you there.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Stop Messing Around With the Language

Stop Messing Around With the Language

Businesspeople need to quit messing around with the English language. They're really screwing it up. They need to stick with selling things and making money, and leave the language to the experts.

I was recently listening to A Way With Words, a grammar and language show on National Public Radio (think "Car Talk" for word nerds). Someone called in and said he had seen the word "effort" used as a verb several times. As in "I am efforting a new update for my computer." Translation: "I am working on/getting/finding a new update for my computer."

I efforted really hard not to drive my car into a ditch.

Since when did "effort" become a verb? It's a noun. A noun is a person, place, or thing. Not something that businesspeople can mangle so they sound cool. They don't. They sound like they were kicked in the head by a horse.

Excuse me, hoofed in the head.

You put "a lot of effort" into carrying something heavy. Running five miles "takes effort." It takes "no effort" to lift a pencil. You don't "effort a box upstairs," "effort a five mile run," or "easily effort a pencil to a vertical position." It can be an adverb — you can run "effortlessly" — but that's it.

The problem with business jargon is that it turns verbs into nouns and nouns into verbs. Very occasionally, it works. It sounds good. It rolls off the tongue and you wonder how we ever got along without it. Martha, the show's co-host, even gave several examples of verbed nouns we use.

We think nothing about "accessing" our records on a computer. I've heard "access" as a verb for as long as I can remember, and there's nothing wrong with it.

"Texting" on a cell phone isn't a bad thing. Some people may not like it, preferring to "send a text" instead, but it easily lends itself to becoming a verb. It's a word that means what it says.

I wasn't thrilled when "friending" became a Facebook verb, but then, I'm not a big fan of Facebook. (I prefer Twitter where I "tweet" other people, but that's a different matter.) I've come to accept "friending," and use it when I'm talking about Facebook. Otherwise, I still make friends. (Out of paper dolls and we have tea parties, but that's a different matter.)

"What about 'gifting?'" Martha asked.

"Hate it!" I shouted at my radio.

I don't "gift" anything to anyone. I give. I give them a gift. I give them a hand. I give them a head start. The original word — to give — is so short, we don't need a different short word to mean the same thing. We need to get rid of "gifting," and I will do anything I can to incent people to quit.

At least I would if "incent" wasn't more stupid than "gifting." "Incent" is the needless shortening of "incentivize," which isn't a word either. It means "to motivate." We motivate people; people are motivated. We do not incent people, and they are not incented or incentivized.

It has me incensed.

I understand English is a fluid and malleable language. It's changing all the time, thanks to the new technologies that need new words to explain our world.

That's why I don't have a problem with accessing a computer, so I can friend someone, and text them later. I don't even have a problem with the language of texting, although I try to set a good example for my oldest daughter whenever she texts me.

Daughter: Dad, Elizabeth n I r going 2 the mall. L8r.

Me: Dear eldest daughter. I recall stating you could not depart the premises until your quarters were sufficiently cleaned. Have you completed the tasks I set forth this morning?

Daughter: U bet. C U 2nite.

Me: Oldest child of mine, have you discussed this situation with your mother. Is she aware of your intentions about how you propose to spend the remainder of the day? And pray tell, what method of conveyance will you and your compatriot use to travel to the mall?

Daughter: Wut R U talking abt?

Me: Speak English!

Daughter: Join the 21st century!

So, there's a bit of a generation gap there, but I can read what she's saying. On the other hand, I still hate the business jargon that threatens my beloved language. I hate incenting, gifting, and now — with a white hot passion reserved only for misused apostrophes — I hate efforting.

Excuse me, I'm efforting white hot hatred for people who are jargoning my language.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Minnesota Lynx at Indiana Fever, July 15, 2011

So we got to see the Indiana Fever take on the Minnesota Lynx last night at Conesco Fieldhouse. The Fever had won six in a row, and tonight they were looking to hit #7. I decided to tweet as much as I could during the game, so here are my tweets, along with any additional commentary.

  • Getting ready for the @IndianaFever game against the Minnesota #Lynx. #Fever can make it 7 in a row tonight.

  • I think I could use @jessdav50's knee socks as a sleeping bag. #indianafever #donotangerthecenter (Jessica Davenport is a very tall woman — the Fever program has her listed at 6'5" — and she wears some honking big knee socks. Some players wear calf-high or even ankle high socks. But JD and a few of the other players roll on the knee-highs.)

  • I think earlier I accidentally called the Minnesota #Lynx the Lunx. Didn't mean to insult the #Fever opponents. #PleaseLoseAnyway (Turns out I didn't actually call them the Lunx. But after the way they manhandled — womanhandled? — the Fever, I wouldn't feel that bad if I had.)

  • The #fever struggled in the beginning, but have come back to 33 - 30 in the 2nd qtr.

  • Would love to see the #Fever Inferno perform at an Indiana Ice game. (I'm sure every WNBA team has a dance squad, and my kids actually like watching them perform.)

  • If the refs keep blowing calls, #fever's @Coach_Dunn is going to yell at them. #DontPissOffMemaw (One of the funnest parts of a Fever game is watching Coach Lin Dunn get wicked pissed at the refs, and she'll go out on the floor and holler at them.)

  • @indianafever 41 - Minnesota #Lynx 41. Lynx is hammering on the Fever, but refs are missing the calls. (There were more than a few missed calls today, and the Lynx were playing awfully hard. A lot of women getting knocked to the floor. The Fever stepped up their game though, and fought back.)

  • The @indianafever are strict on #grammar usage by fans. Fan code of conduct says you can be removed for "improper language." #writing

  • Would love to see 5'2" Shannon Bobbit in a jump ball situation. #fever

  • Freddy Fever is in the crowd firing us up for the start of the 4th quarter. #fever 54 - #lynx 59

  • (In all the weeks we've been going to the Fever games, this is the closest we have been to Freddy. Dude, how about a little love for Section 17?)

  • Dear Minnesota #Lynx, 1985 called. It wants its uniforms back. (After the physical drubbing the Lynx is giving the Fever, I felt less bad about possibly calling them Lunx.)

  • Erin Phillips has committed 4 fouls in 15 seconds. If you need a break, tell @coach_dunn you're tired. #fever (Erin was a fouling machine, taking several for the team. She didn't reach #5 though.)

  • #Fever's Shavonte Zellous with a beautiful open field tackle on Lindsay Whalen. (I think Shavonte was getting a little tired of the rough play.)

  • The Lynx ended up stopping the Fever's streak, 80 - 70. The Fever fought hard, but had a few things not go their way -- they missed some important shots, the refs missed some important calls, and the Lynx's rough play was a little surprising to the Fever players.

    (Special thanks to the Indiana Fever for the tickets to the game.)

    My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.
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    Friday, July 15, 2011

    I Do? (Advice for Newlyweds)

    I Do?

    Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2003.

    My wife and I raised a lot of eyebrows when we first announced we were getting married. It was especially puzzling to people, because we had already been married for three years.

    Actually, it was because people never thought we were the marrying type, at least to each other. So, as we close in on our tenth wedding anniversary, I would like to take this opportunity to say "neener neener" to all those who doubted us.

    And while I may not have been married as long as someone who has been married for, say, eleven years, I think I have a pretty good grasp on what it takes to make a successful marriage. So I would like to offer some tips for those of you who are getting married, are newly married, or are wondering, "Jeez, why did I ever get married in the first place?!"

    The foundation of a successful marriage is being able to communicate effectively. Husbands and wives need to discuss their feelings, their dreams, and even the future. But more importantly, they need to understand that there is a proper time and place for this sort of thing.

    This isn't one of those columns where I trot out the tired joke of "Wives, don't bring up your feelings during the football game." That joke has been around a lot longer than football, and frankly, it's annoying.

    Ancient Roman Wife: Darlingus, does this toga make me look fat? Why don't you like my mother? I'm feeling bad about myself, do you still love me?

    Ancient Roman Husband: Sweetieus Maximus, I don't want to discuss this right now. The gladiator match just started, and they've tossed in a lion.

    But tired jokes aside, another bad time to try to talk to each other is through the bathroom door. That's the sanctuary, a place to get away from the chaos of the household. Saying anything other than "Dinner is ready" is a serious breach of marriage etiquette, and is punishable by letting your spouse get his or her way for a week.

    At least that's what I keep telling my wife. She's not buying it.

    Instead, try to find a time where you're both ready for an in-depth discussion of your feelings, like the middle of a three-day driving trip, and you've just entered Iowa.

    Spending time together on common interests are another important part of marriage. They help you gain greater insights about your spouse, and learn important things about each other, like neither of you likes Brussels sprouts, reality TV shows, or that neighbor kid who keeps letting his dog crap in your yard.

    Do things together that you'll both enjoy, like watching football, talking about football, and reading about football. And wives, try to do things your husbands like too.

    Spending time apart on different interests are equally important. Don't think that you need to do everything together just because you're married. For example, wives can use their time apart to develop their love of musical theater. And husbands can use this same time to develop their love of anything that is not musical theater.

    However, it's not a good idea to develop interests that are mutually exclusive, like ant farming and breeding aardvarks, practicing yoga and playing in a heavy metal band, or working for opposing political parties. James Carville and Mary Matalin have become successful political consultants for the Democrats and Republicans, respectively, and have stayed married for many years. But how they have managed to stay together without killing each other is beyond me and all of Washington DC.

    Finally, and most importantly, make sure to express your love for each other on a regular basis. Reminding your spouse why you married them in the first place — "your dad made me" — can go a long way in strengthening your relationship, making the rough times a lot smoother.

    You don't have to gaze deeply into each other's eyes and whisper "I love you" seven times a day, but do things that let your spouse know that you still care.

    Do one of their regular household chores for them. Pick up their favorite candy bar or treat the next time you're at the store. Surprise them with the "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" DVD they've been wanting for the past three months. To help this along, be sure to drop small, but subtle clues in places so they don't forget that you want the "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" DVD.

    Places like, say, a newspaper column.

    My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

    Friday, July 08, 2011

    Foursquare Phone App Is Not For Spies

    Foursquare Phone App Is Not For Spies

    Are you the mayor of your favorite restaurant? Do you check in? Do you even know what I'm talking about?

    Foursquare is the social network that lets you "check in" on your iPhone or Android to a place you visit, like a restaurant, a store, the movies, your office, or any other business location. It announces to your friends where you are, telling them that you have arrived at a particular place, or especially like a particular location.

    This is useful if you're meeting a friend at a restaurant and you want to see if they already showed up. Or finding people you already know. Or tracking down a deadbeat who owes you money and is stupid enough to tell everyone where he can be found.

    Foursquare tells you your status, how many times you have been at a particular place, and even if you're the mayor of that place. The mayor is the person who has visited a location more times than anyone else in the past 60 days. Or, to look at it a different way, the person who has a lot of time on their hands and no real goals to speak of (said the mayor of eight locations).

    Some mayors receive special discounts or free gifts from businesses that participate in Foursquare, because business owners know that Foursquare means increased sales. The more people show up to become the mayor, the more money they spend.

    I know a lot of you are still avoiding Facebook, because you don't feel you have anything interesting and worthwhile to share with your friends and family. You're probably wondering why you would want to tell people where you are?

    "I already avoid social media because I don't want to tell people what I had for breakfast," someone might grumble. "Why would I want to tell them where I had it?"

    First, this is not what social media is about. It's not about telling people what they had to eat. If you still think this, you're not allowed to use social media at all. You're banned.

    Social media is about staying connected with friends and meeting new people who share your interests. Although to be fair, I'm sure there are online groups where members do tell each other what they ate. Also, to be fair, these people probably don't get out much, preferring to spend time with their 13 cats.

    If you're concerned about privacy, don't worry. You can actually tell Foursquare not to reveal your location. That's also why it's a good idea to never check in when you're at home. Or, you could just not use it at all for a while, and no one will have any clue about your whereabouts.

    Note: Foursquare is not a good social network to use if you're cheating on your spouse, a spy, or on the run from an angry mob with torches and pitchforks.

    "Congratulations, you are now the mayor of the giant oak tree behind the Old Man Jenkins' house."

    Second, Foursquare is about so much more than telling people where you are, what restaurants you visit, or letting people keep track of your errands ("This is your 8th trip to Darryl's Doughnuts in one week. You're creeping up on the mayor. And a heart attack"). It's about keeping in touch with friends, catching up with people you haven't seen in a while, or making surprise discoveries by finding someone you knew in a large crowded area.

    A couple months ago, I was at the Indianapolis 500 in the media center. I checked in on Facebook, and a few minutes later, received a couple Twitter messages from friends who were also at the Speedway. If we had been so inclined, and the media center wasn't so wonderfully temperature controlled, I would have gone out to meet them in the stands. But the media center has food and isn't filled with raging drunk people. At least not until the race is over.

    Foursquare even saves you money. Some restaurants actually give discounts or free food if you check in. One restaurant gives free mini appetizers or mini dessert if you check in. Another gives a 10% discount on lunch or dinner. All just for checking in.

    If you're not a social media user, then Foursquare probably isn't going to be that interesting to you. But if you're socially inclined, like meeting new people, or trying new technology, give it a try. And if you happen to be near a local coffee shop, check in on Foursquare and see if I'm there.

    I'll be the one hunched over his smartphone, typing away madly, ignoring everyone around me. Stop by and say hi.

    My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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    Friday, July 01, 2011

    Fruits and Veggies Prepare for Meat Battle

    Fruits and Veggies Prepare for Meat Battle

    The fruits and vegetables in this country are organizing, and it doesn't look good for meat.

    I recently received a press release from the Produce for Better Health Foundation (official motto: "Soy burgers are just as good as real burgers. Almost. Sort of. Okay, not really."), telling me that cantaloupe and garlic have been featured as the Fruit and Vegetable of the Month for July.

    Fruit and Vegetable of the Month? Who got to make that decision? Why wasn't the public asked for input? Were strawberries and green beans given a fair shake? And which category will tomatoes be in?

    I'm rather worried, because this Produce for Better Health Foundation just sort of sprang up out of nowhere and started sending me press releases about random fruit and veggie celebrations. Yet there are no parades, and apparently the issue is not important enough to have national holidays where I can take a three day weekend, so I don't think these are real celebrations.

    According to the release, the PBH is a "non-profit fruit and education foundation." In other words, they want to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables to improve our overall public health. They are also the "nation's largest public-private fruit and vegetable nutrition education initiative."

    There are so many questions and ideas floating through my head right now:

    1) As a non-profit, are there fund raising events with little veggie hors d'oeuvres? Do private citizens donate money to help teach people to eat more fruits and vegetables? Why shouldn't I just give the money to an organization that will actually feed people?

    2) Saying you're the "largest public-private fruit and vegetable nutrition education initiative" implies there is more than one. Is there really? Why do we even have the first one? Who decided that one wasn't enough, and that we needed a second one?

    3) In the spirit of fairness and equal time, does the American Beef Council also get to declare that the ribeye is the Awesome Steak of the Month for July? If they haven't, they should. I would give it a nice garlic rub, with a couple pieces of cantaloupe for dessert. Topped with butter pecan ice cream, because the National Ice Cream Foundation should declare Butter Pecan the Ice Cream of the Month for July. (June is Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.)

    But here's what really worries me. The PBH is also "a member and co-chair with Centers for Disease Control & Prevention of the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance."

    The National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance?!

    The fruits and vegetables are organizing. They have a little cabal, and I'm afraid they're going to take over. I mean, it was one thing when the corn growers would get a little in their cups and start arguing with the potato farmers. Or when the apple growers got a little out of hand in a Florida citrus grove back in 1978.

    But now they've put aside their differences and organized into an entire alliance! This may spell disaster for the Beef, Bacon, and BBQ Ribs associations, all of whom are loosely organized, and rather flabby. They don't pose much of a threat to the NFVA, who may be able to crush the junk food rebel alliance with a single blow.

    It'll be like the Empire driving the Death Star to a local burger joint and blowing it up in a hailstorm of zucchinis.

    I don't expect the chicken people to support the meaties, since the NFVA tolerates their presence, as long as they limit their incursions to 3 -4 ounces per meal, skinless and baked. And the fish people are about as supportive and immovable as, well, a dead fish.

    The only thing that gives me hope, is that the American Grain Association hasn't thrown their lot in with the NFVA. You might expect that they would, given the whole "brothers and sisters of the soil" thing, but grains have gotten a bad rap ever since the South Beach diet taught us about the evils of bread and doughnuts.

    If I've learned nothing else over the last several years, it's that there needs to be a balanced diet of foods of all kinds. There's room at the table for everyone: hamburgers with big slices of tomatoes. Hot dogs and cole slaw. Turkey and green beans, with corn mixed in the mashed potatoes. I think we can all learn something from each other in this fight, and finally get along.

    But the most important lesson of all? Never send a press release to a humor writer without first knowing what he's likely to do with it.

    My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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