Monday, December 28, 2009

Randy 'Brianna' Beth Clarke (1980-2009)

No doubt you all have been wondering where I've been the past couple of weeks. The day after my last post, my dear friend Bri died at the age of 29. Bri had a mitochondrial disease, whch affected her on a cellular level. Despite this, she never stopped doing whatever the hell she wanted.

We met when I rejoined DS495, a DC area Star Trek fan group (that sadly no longer exists). She and I were a lot younger then and got along quite well. At the time, she wanted to be a writer in the worst kind of way and often submitted stories to the group newsletter. When DS495 dissolved, we would chat online fairly often and see each other at conventions. Bri eventually decided to concentrate on her Master's degree in History rather than working to be a novelist. She had just finished her two final papers before her passing. George Mason University will be posthumously awarding her degree, which I think is just awesome.

Bri's death was quite sudden and has hit her family and friends like a freight train. As cliche as this sounds, it's been a bit of a wake-up call to me. Hopefully, I won't put that call on hold like I've done so many times before. Thanks for indulging me and my absence during what's been a rather difficult time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A View from Borders

Every once in a while, I hang out at Borders and type up blog posts. Each time brings something odd, annoying, and sometimes even cool.

  • A young couple sitting at the table adjacent to mine felt the need to pour through women's fashion magazines citing who was ugly... rather loudly. And the guy offering most of the commentary? Horses laugh at him.
  • Invariably, people come in with their laptops and stay for hours, believing the one cup of coffee they bought three hours previous entitles them to park at the outlet-accessible tables forever.
  • There's just something about a woman confident to wear jeans and a sweatshirt with her hair up that I find incredibly alluring.
  • Matt, the barista here at the Manassas Borders, is pretty cool.
  • If the squirming in the chair is any indication, I think the girl in the comfy chair near the window is trying to pull off a one-cheek sneak.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


No time for love, Dr. Jones! Heading to Tony Stark's party at the Udvar-Hazy Annex of the Air & Space Museum.

Update: Here's a blurry pic!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pirate Radio

Editor's Note: If it's not one thing, it's another. First connectivity and now, for some reason, I can't get the automated posting thing to work. Bear with me if you would. Thanks.

I caught the movie Pirate Radio the other night and if I were a schoolteacher, the film would get a B or a B- from me. For those unfamiliar, there was no radio station in Britain during the late 1960s that broadcasted rock for any length of time. To right this particular wrong (it was the 1960s after all), ships anchored themselves off of the British coast and piped in unlicensed broadcasts to the masses -- not unlike the Voice of America effort.

There's a lot to like in the film. The DJs on the ship are a fun, rowdy lot and even the government bureaucrats trying to end the very popular pirate radio transmissions are fun to watch. We see a minor Coming of Age story, a bit of angst, a DJ pissing contest, and cartoonish government bumbling. While this is all fun, there's a plot point that hinges on a massive piece of BS drama resolved only by suspending your disbelief, attaching it to a hot air balloon, and never seeing it again.

That said, the film's cast is simply amazing. Bill Nighy continues to be one of the most awesome underrated actors of our time. Philip Seymour Hoffman is good but not nearly as much as he was in Capote. Kenneth Branagh gets a chance to do some comedy and the rest of the cast makes a good effort to make this enjoyable.

Pirate Radio is a fun movie, but not the sort of thing you'll want to watch over and over. It's worth a rental.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Biggest Loser Unhealthy?

A friend of mine sent me this article in the November 24 edition of the New York Times. The gist of the article is that some contestants on The Biggest Loser resort to high school wrestling tricks to maximize their weight loss at those end-of-episode weigh-ins.

Honestly, I'm not surprised that some folks would do this. There's a $250,000 prize in addition to having two professional trainers, round-the-clock medical coverage, and a bit of relaxation in the form of "The Ranch". Money is a hell of a motivator, but that's not really why these people are supposedly participating. Every season, all season long, every contestant talks about "getting my life back." I'm curious when the motivator moves from getting healthy to show me the money.

I hate to sound like a dork, but the show did inspire me to lose some serious weight this summer. May began with yours truly weighing in at 275lbs. Today, I'm 230. While I've more or less taken the month off from the gym, the loss came from working out every day and eating better. This isn't to say I was a perfect angel about food all the time. Occasionally, I'd have a burger or hit Taco Bell but the key was moderation. That said, maintaining willpower was incredibly hard to do after the second month started. That's when the cravings began. I would wake up wanting to eat a dozen tacos or be tempted to eat an entire box of granola bars on a random workday afternoon. Either I'm somewhat unique about the cravings or it's an issue that's never been addressed on the show.

This week's finale showed some truly ghastly contestant transformations. A couple of the women appeared as if there might have been starvation used to make that final weigh-in. Some of the men looked just plain uncomfortable. While I'd jump at the chance to spend 12 weeks on The Ranch with a stocked kitchen of healthy food and a fully-equipped gym, I don't think money would ever be my reason for participating. I'd just want the chance to stay there as long as possible.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Weight A Minute

Biggest Loser finale is on tonight, so I'll be parked in front of the TV like the other 35 million slack-jawed American viewers.


This is what I was doing instead of posting last night. My bad. Today's post coming later.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

DC Comics Double Feature Tonight!

Looking forward to finally seeing Green Lantern: First Flight and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. The direct-to-video DC stuff has mostly been lackluster thus far (though I still adore New Frontier) so I don't have high hopes. However, I remain optimistic.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Watch Out for That Plane!

Heading out to see Hitchcock's masterpiece, North By Northwest at the AFI Silver in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Friday, December 4, 2009

This Guy Rocks

If you like songs about zombies, higher math, and dreams of world domination, Jonathan Coulton should be your songsmith. Listen to his songs for free here and I highly recommend ordering the MP3s and CDs because you will never ever get those songs out of your head.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Selling Stuff for Amy Zahn

My pal Smacky has inspired me to begin selling stuff on Amazon instead of eBay. The once vaunted eBay has become more and more frustrating to use as a seller and I still have a ton of stuff to clear from my cluttered house. I figured I would give Amazon a go and the results have been rather busy.

Over the past two weeks since I started this, I've been averaging one order per day. Every day on my lunch break, I've been carting stuff off to be shipped. I'm not making a mint from this by any means but I am making back most of what I paid for this stuff in the first place. Of course, with the holidays coming up, any extra cash is a good thing to have around.

Here's a list of what I have so far. I'll try to get around to putting this stuff in the sidebar eventually, but here's the list for now:

More DVDs and stuff will be headed toward Amazon in the coming days. Look for the seller known as filmfaninva and leave off the last 's' for savings!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lists and Lists

Shameless stolen from my pal Smacky...

Websites I Check Daily:

Mike Sterling's Progressive Ruin
Siskoid's Blog of Geekery

Magazines To Which I Subscribe:

Symmetry (it's about particle physics and it's free)

Things I Can't Live Without:

(we'll leave out the obvious stuff like food, water, etc.)

Places I Have Lived:
Aylesbury, United Kingdom
Wichita Falls, Texas
Goldsboro, North Carolina
Jacksonville, Florida
Clemson, South Carolina

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sea-Goin' Blockbuster

Not a lot of time to write tonight, so here's something you can never have enough of: dinosaurs in World War II!

I bet JFK could have kicked a dinosaur's ass with one arm tied behind his back. And how do we know he didn't?

Kablaam! It's a Ferrous Wheel!

Ever wonder where you can buy the t-shirts worn by the cast of Big Bang Theory? Well wonder no more as Sheldon's Shirts has done most of the legwork for you. Big thanks to Smacky for finding this site.

If that doesn't sate your appetite for geeky t-shirts, there's always the clothing section of ThinkGeek.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pleasant Valley Sunday

Editor's Note: See yesterday's entry regarding late posts.

Much to just about everyone's surprise, it was lovely winter day here in the DC Metro area. The high was a little above 60 degrees, making jackets optional. Started the day with the usual manner of sundry details and then made my way to Rockville to meet a friend. We took a walk along the Bethesda Trolley Trail where we crossed over both I-270 and 495 but didn't quite walk all the way to fabulous Bethesda.

Walking worked up a decent appetite, but where to go. My friend suggested Rockville's own Amina Thai. What makes this place somewhat unique among other Thai restaurants is the fact the owners are Muslim. This means all food is halal, so you won't find any pork on the menu. D had the Green Curry while I enjoyed the Panang Curry (coconut milk, spices, and ground peanuts). Delicious is putting it mildly. I wanted to just devour it all but restrained myself. The plan was to take it home for dinner but I accidently left it in D's apartment. Oh well.

It wasn't long after lunch when D and I parted ways so she could make cookie dough with her gal pals. Arriving home, it was time for some Netflix goodness. Two discs of Big Bang Theory and the Blu-ray of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock landed in the mailbox on Friday. Big Bang Theory was friggin' hilarious as usual and the HD transfer of Star Trek III is just gorgeous. Having seen the film many many times, I focused on some the more minute details like the textures of the costume fabrics and trying to discern how props and sets were constructed. Throughout all of this was enjoying pound cake that my mom was kind enough to send home with me Saturday night.

The unfortunate aspect of Sunday is that Monday is right around the corner. And with the calendar going into December, weekends will become less and less relaxing as the social calendar fills up with holiday engagements. This isn't to say they can't be fun, but I'll miss my solo movie time and one-on-one friend interactions.

What To Do?

Editor's Note: I continue to have connectivity issues at home (this also happened Sunday). Hopefully, things will be back to normal by week's end. Here is Saturday's entry...

Not sure how to handle turkey leftovers? Behold Turkey & Cranberry Quesadillas!

You can find the recipe at Closet Cooking.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Catching Some Rays

Had to work today and now I have to get ready for my evening of billiards and booze. Until we meet again, enjoy this version of Toto's "Africa", complete with a capella rainstorm:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Link Blogging

Had a bit of an Internet connectivity problem this morning, but here's the entry I had written for today. Now if you'll excuse me, there's a comfy chair with my name on it.

Holiday Links:

Have a safe one everybody!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve

Way too much to do today in preparation for tomorrow. Hope all of you find some measure of happiness tomorrow.

Picture cropped from cover of JSA #54 (art by Carlos Pacheco)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Talkin' Some TV

I find myself watching a lot of TV when I'm by myself at home. This usually happens late at night, especially on the weekends where I can easily stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning. Normally the stuff watched is time shifted (i.e., recorded when it airs and watched later) but occasionally I'll watch shows in real time. So what am I watching? I'm glad you asked:

The Big Bang Theory: I'm a couple of years late to the party on this one, but I am hooked hooked hooked now. Socially inept scientists having wacky misadventures and they're geeks? It's like a sitcom version of my life (except for the socially inept part, right ladies?).

The Biggest Loser: As cliche as this sounds, this show spurred me on to begin losing weight. Starting at 267lbs, I've managed to drop down to 235 in the span of three months. Seeing people with severe weight issues taking charge (with the help of a TV show of course) to improve their health is a good thing. Some of these peoples' stories are genuinely compelling; however, I'm not a fan of the Machiavellian drama that ensues over voting people off.

V: Only four episodes of this will be shown before hiatus with the remainder of the episodes to air in January (I think). The first episode went by way too quickly and now the subsequent episodes are moving too slowly. Along with the pacing, another big sticking point with me is the lack of normal people. In the original, we had three different families and saw the story unravel through them. I'll watch the mid-season ender and see if I'm willing to put up with more.

NBC's Thursday Night Comedies: Without a doubt, I am a huge fan of The Office. I even considered going to the Scranton convention. The show has dipped a bit in quality this past season but there are still enough chuckleworthy moments to still make it worthwhile. Parks and Recreation has vastly improved from that clumsy first season. I'm not an Amy Poehler fan at all, but the supporting cast on that show more than makes up for her "Look at me! I'm ca-razy!" style of comedy. Community rocks my world. Okay, Alison Brie (Annie) rocks my world. The show is pretty funny too. Still haven't gotten into the habit of 30 Rock. Sorry folks.

Stargate: Universe: In fanboy circles, this is often referred to as Battlestar Galactica Light. To an extent, I have to agree. However, the past couple of episodes have appeared to be getting away from the tropes associated with Galactica. The characters appeal to me much more than the plots. Eli especially stands out as my favorite character. He's a math geek who constantly whips out pop culture references. What's not to like? Don't like the communication stones at all. Hard to sympathize with the marooned people when they spend half their time on Earth (albeit while inhabiting other people's bodies).

Monday, November 23, 2009

You're in command now, Mr. Kirk

Yesterday, I watched the Blu-ray of Star Trek partly because I wanted to watch it again and partly because I promised a review way back in May. Watching it again evoked memories of attending that press screening and being surprised at just how good it was. Friends wanting to see what the hype was about drafted me to see it with them. This meant I saw the film four times this past summer.

The following will contain spoilers and could cause blindness if not viewed properly. You can rejoin us after the picture of the Enterprise to remain spoiler-free.

The film still holds up reasonably well in its fifth viewing. The opening scene retains its intensity despite its obvious viewer manipulation. I still like that George Kirk was able to share a last moment with his wife to name their newborn son. The look of the U.S.S. Kelvin and its crew felt perfect to me. I know it won't happen (except possibly in comics and novels) but I really want to see more adventures with the Kelvin's crew.

The bit with young Kirk and the corvette was a bit long compared to young Spock's intro. I understand that this was to portray his brash youth (further cemented by the obligatory bar fight) but it felt a bit like pandering to the 18-24 demographic. I think it would have worked better if we had seen the consequences of stealing the car.

My favorite character in the film was easily Dr. McCoy. Karl Urban and Chris Pine worked really well together and pulled off the McCoy-Kirk chemistry nicely. If there's anything I'm looking for in the sequel, it's more McCoy.

I did have some problems with the movie. First and foremost was the unexplained 25-year absence of the future Romulans. The deleted scenes show that they were all in a Klingon prison, captured after the collision with the Kelvin crippled their ship. The audience shouldn't have to obtain a plot hole's explanation from a deleted scene (or in a comic book). I've mentioned the overly long car chase. The other problem I had was the lack of senior officers aboard the Enterprise. Cadets serving in senior positions (like first officer) is a contrivance that serves only to put the younger characters in the spotlight. I was able to swallow this (and the subsequent command assignment at the end) but it remains one of the film's weaknesses to me.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Star Trek canon in all of this. I've mentioned my issues with Trek fans and this subject before and I'm not surprised there are fans who don't like the film because of the changes made in the film. We bought the idea of a Mirror Universe for 40+ years and now we have a problem with alternate universes? The appearance of "our" Spock in this alternate timeline, in my opinion, continues the canon. Many fans believe this film has overwritten/erased the timeline "established" previously and they couldn't be more wrong. Spock (with Uhura chiming in) clearly explained what had happened. The writers could easily have told the rabid fans "tough toenails"
Overall, I felt the film got more right than it got wrong. Doing things a bit differently is what Star Trek needed and audiences seem to agree (and not just the 18-24 demographic either). It's a decent film and one I'll probably watch a number of times if only to find Easter eggs and such.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A New Beginning

Wow. Here we are nearly seven months later since my last post. And here I am hoping to begin writing on a regular basis once again -- hence the new layout. Unfortunately, I've fallen victim to microblogging via Twitter and Facebook. Both are fine for keeping in touch and providing some laughs, but don't allow for a whole lot of insight. While things are busy at work and my social life is full, I think both are manageable enough to allow for some actual writing.

From now until New Year's Eve, I will be posting at least one new entry per day. Feel free to razz me on Twitter or in the comments should I fall down on the job. No guarantees that all of these entries will shed anymore light on the question mark that is yours truly, but there will be at least something. The other blogs (Best Picture Derby and The Unofficial Index to G.I. Joe) are slowly but surely taking shape for regular updates again.

I hope you'll join me on my thoughts inane and look forward to having a bit of fun with this.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

More Star Trek Stuff

I decided to post yesterday's entry over at the Raving Toy Maniac's Buzz board and it was funny to see folks totally missing the joke. My point was that a number of the same complaints leveled against the new Star Trek film, could very well be applied to the sacred cow of Star Trek movies -- my beloved Wrath of Khan.

When I first entered the foray into Trek's universe of fandom, it was clearly understood that continuity, when scrutinized, does not hold up very well. We liked the stories. When Star Trek: The Next Generation exploded into a phenomenon popular enough to spin itself off, a new type of fan emerged. A fan that held some vaunted notion that the entire pantheon of Trek was some kind of consistent whole and armed with Michael and Denise Okuda's Star Trek Chronology and Star Trek Encyclopedia to prove it. Unfortunately, this is now the majority of the active fans seen on the plethora of message boards and blog comments across the electronic frontier.

The fandom just mentioned tends to hold the story's ability to entertain secondary to how it fits with what's come before. The Okudas' books were terrific references, but they made assumptions in many cases (and conjectured in others) to make things fit when it wasn't readily clear what or when something occurred. Yes, the authors actually worked on the shows, but the shows' writers weren't tied down to these items. For instance, both editions of the Chronology stated that Kirk's five-year mission ended in 2269; a character in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Q2" mentioned that it ended in 2270. Message boards were on fire that night with accusations of Voyager's writers and producers not knowing what they were doing (again). This type of thinking carried over of course with Star Trek: Enterprise, but I'd be here all day telling you about it. I'll just say that it got really really ugly.

The stories should be paramount (pardon the pun), not how lock-and-step the story elements fit with previous installments. Is it really that jarring if the stripes on Spock's sleeves don't match with the previous week's episode? Back In The Day, part of the fun in all of this was trying to figure out ways to explain the inconsistencies. Unfortunately, the fandom seems to have forgotten that this was supposed to be fun. Thankfully, general audiences have been receptive to the new film and hopefully, fandom will benefit from this New Blood entering the fray like I did back in 1987.

Next time: My review of Star Trek.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Why Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Sucks

Many of my fellow Trekkies think Wrath of Khan is the best Star Trek movie ever made. Well, they're wrong and here's why:

  1. Why are Klingons in the Neutral Zone? It was established that it was a border with the Romulans on the original series.

  2. How does Khan know about Chekov? Chekov didn't appear until Season 2; Khan appeared in Season 1.

  3. Starfleet didn't know Ceti Alpha VI exploded? I find that hard to believe, considering one of history's biggest criminals was exiled there.

  4. A starship can be brought down using a code? That's a story contrivance if I've ever seen one.

  5. Why did Scotty bring the injured cadet up to the bridge? You'd think he would have told the elevator to go to sick bay.

  6. Spock and Saavik visibly showing emotion over the cadet's death? That's very un-Vulcan of them.

  7. The Genesis Device? This thing can terraform a planet in a matter of days? That's just silly and unscientific.

  8. Why couldn't Scotty or one of the other engineers sacrifice himself and fix the reactor? They didn't know that's where the trouble was?

  9. If the magical Genesis Device needs a moon to work, how did it form a planet out of the nebula? That's some pretty weak writing right there.

  10. Saavik is crying over Spock's death? More un-Vulcan behavior! Did these people even watch the show?

As you can see, this movie is a huge slap in the face to not just the fans, but Gene Roddenberry too. Nicholas Meyer was such an overrated director. His movie, Time After Time, was just dumb and his Sherlock Holmes books were dull as dirt. Can't believe anyone would like this movie. Why didn't the fans stand up and tell Paramount to do the movie right?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Where Does the Time Go?

Yeah yeah, I know - I chide myself for not posting for two weeks and what happens? I end up not posting again for two weeks. Sheesh!

So what's happening? Not an awful lot other than the increased likelihood of my hair turning white before the end of the year. Work has been a constant thorn in my side. Personally, I feel that I've been issued entirely too much responsibility but I can't really say anything to anyone about it unless I want to look like a dumbass. It's really getting the better of me and I'm not entirely sure what to do about it. If "my" part of the system doesn't work right, I'm the one that's going to be fired, not anyone on the technical side. My expertise lies in writing, not troubleshooting database code or fixing hardware compatibility issues but that's essentially what I'm charged with. And as much as I enjoy job searching, I'd rather not be doing it in this shakiest of recent eras.

Sorry to resurface only to wallow, but now you know why I've been sticking to movie reviews over at the Best Picture Derby. For those of you who come for the comedy, here's a blast from the past:

Flying Shark vs. Flying Crocodile!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

25 Totally Random Things You Didn't Know About De

Several of my friends have done this, so I figured I'd do it too. Without further ado, and in no particular order:
  1. I'm not a fan of most fruit. I'll only eat green apples because the regular red ones are too mealy. Pineapple is okay. Can't stand the smell of bananas. Fruit juices aren't too bad but I like them sour, not sweet.
  2. I once ate 12 Taco Bell soft tacos in the span of 10 minutes one day during my freshman year of college.
  3. My hair began going gray when I was 19. I hate it, but I'm afraid of getting a bad dye job and looking like some creep who stands outside of the Disney Store all day. As a result of the gray, most of the women I dated in my 20s were at least 5-6 years my senior.
  4. Once upon a time, I could regularly run a five-minute mile.
  5. I hate talking on the phone. Because of this, I tend to be a bit rude with people I don't know who decide they need to call on a Saturday afternoon. If someone calls after 9pm, there better be an emergency.
  6. I'm rarely taken seriously by my peers, especially at work.
  7. Before I left college, I helped develop a TV production course based on Star Trek. Not sure if the course ever happened.
  8. I think farts are funny.
  9. If my knowledge of trivia were equivalent to medicine, I'm pretty sure I would have cured cancer, AIDS, and Ebola four times over by now.
  10. I don't like crowds.
  11. I once dated a girl who never laughed. It was like going out with an android.
  12. Anglophiles piss me off. If all you watch is BBC America, then you're a pretentious git. British culture contains just as much stupid crap as American culture.
  13. I still eat Lucky Charms on occasion.
  14. The last foreign nation I visited was Canada in 1986. Speaking of which...
  15. I do not own a passport and haven't since I was a little kid (when I came over from England). This does not mean I'm not interested in other cultures nor does it mean I'm some redneck Neanderthal.
  16. I think I could handle solitary confinement if I were ever sent to prison.
  17. I'm an amateur actor and perform 3-4 times per year with the Luna-C comedy troupe.
  18. I can't grow a normal-looking beard or mustache.
  19. Around this time last year, I weighed 300 pounds. I've lost 50 pounds since, but need to lose a bit more.
  20. I love dated educational films.
  21. I am the first male in my family not to serve in the military. The closest I came was being a member of the Civil Air Patrol in high school.
  22. I once drank a container of Papa Johns garlic butter sauce. Spent the next hour drinking my weight in Dr. Pepper trying to get that greasy feel out of my throat (that's what she said).
  23. While my political ideology heavily leans liberal, hippies annoy the living crap out of me.
  24. My favorite book is To Kill A Mockingbird.
  25. Among the autographed photos I own are James Earl Jones, Peter Weller, and William Shatner.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Two Weeks? The Hell?

Yeah, it's been two weeks since an update here on ol' Retcon Redux. It's been hell at work with lots of extra hours and weekend work. Grr. Argh. Pretty much any free time I have had has been devoted to my new blog, the Best Picture Derby. Hope you're checking it out.

Not much else is going on. Stopped at Barnes & Noble tonight and fell prey to their Buy 2 Get 1 Free sale. Snagged three Blu-Ray discs averaging about $20 each, which isn't a bad price for what I bought: The Day the Earth Stood Still (the original, not the recent Keanu Reeves blank look-fest), the two-disc Dark Knight, and the collector edition of The Shawshank Redemption. Looking forward to watching these, whenever that might be.

I have some thoughts on a number of topics that I'll be yapping about over the next several days. Hopefully, you're all faring well.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Future Stud Thursday!

Somebody has a crush on me... in the future!

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year, New Project

I've been hinting at this via Twitter for a little while now, but now I can announce that Best Picture Derby is up and running!

Updated three times a week, Best Picture Derby will chronicle my attempt to watch every single Best Picture nominee from the beginning. So check it out, bookmark it, and tell your friends. Feel free to tell me what's wrong, what's right, and what's on your mind.

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