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News, Updates, & Rants...
Picked up the MPh diploma from CUNY Graduate Center. Apparently it's been sitting there since February. So now I have a double-masters... one a master-of-arts, another a master-of-philosophy, both in `computer science' :-D
- Alex; 20160629
Wow: Brexit: David Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU
Ok, I really don't get this whole nationality thing... shoudln't humans strive towards StarTrek style one-world-government instead of dividing into potential rivals? I mean, we're all born on this tiny planet---if aliens show up tomorrow, they really wouldn't care which nation is where...
- Alex; 20160624
Registered for Fall semester at CUNY Graduate Center :-)
- Alex; 20160623
Back to the Rocky Mountain National Park, and the plan here is to hike Mount Ida... again, supposedly one of the scenic hikes (after Longs Peak).
Got to trailhead, asked rangers about trail (apparently there were bears seen in the area), and headed up the mountain... but... again... shortly after starting hike, there was just too much snow. After losing the trail a few times, and not feeling upto walking in knee high snow, decided to turn back.
So instead of hiking Mount Ida, doing a bunch of touristy things along Trail Ridge road... the most scenic drive in the Rocky Mountain National Park.
[Trail Ridge, Rocky Mountain NP pix] [Other Albums]
- Alex; 20160619
So, the plan is to hike Static Peak... the 5k elevation gain hike, that's like the most scenic in the whole Grand Teton National Park. So got to trialhead, and headed up the Death Canyon (nice name, eh?).
This hike is indeed very scenic---and tough. Up up up it goes. First snow started in patches, then more patches, then sections that had to be traversed, then it was just endless snow... So about a mile from the summit, it was just ridiculously suicidal to continue... the slope was just too much, and sliding down would mean a pretty long fall off the mountain... so decided to turn back without reaching Static Peak.
Will have to come back in warmer weather :-)
[Death Canyon Hike pix] [Other Albums]
So with nothing better to do for the rest of the day, decided to drive to Yellowstone National Park---specifically to visit Artist Point; pretty much the only place I find truly spectacularly inspirational in Yellowstone...
[Yellowstone Artist Point pix] [Other Albums]
- Alex; 20160618
Flying out to Denver, Colorado :-)
- Alex; 20160617
No point in staying home... so BBQ in Harriman State Park.
UPDATE: My PhD advisor Danny Kopec passed away on June 12, 2016 from pancreatic cancer. RIP.
- Alex; 20160612
Been a while since I went on a good, long hike.. so drove out to New Hamshire and hiked Mnt.Washington. There's still snow on top!
[Mnt.Washington pix] [Other Albums]
- Alex; 20160611
Finished reading Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.
This is one interesting book. I can see why some folks would wanna form a religion around it... definitely unique scifi.
- Alex; 20160610
After a 15-hour flight, arrived back in NYC.
And with my luck, E train (train I take from airport) got stalled---and it took nearly two hours to get home :-/
- Alex; 20160606
Ride back to Delhi.
Stopped by Amrik Sukhdev for dinner-snacks.
And onto airport :-/
- Alex; 20160605
Arrived in Ambala very very early, and then slept most of the day.
By evening, went to a fluit garden near Chandigarh.
[Manali pix] [Other Albums]
- Alex; 20160604
Manali Day 5:
Still recovering from stomach bug; note to self: never eat anything from street vendors :-/
Ride Yak by Hadimba Temple.
Collect weed by the bus stop. Apparently it grows everywere by the river---just didn't pay attention until this last day in Manali.
Take bus to Ambala, which turned out to be a 12-hour bus ride.
- Alex; 20160603
Manali Day 4:
Mostly stay in hotel due to stomach bug. Highly likely whatever the Rohtang Pass cold-salad merchant was selling wasn't very good :-/
Make resevations for return bus to Ambala.
- Alex; 20160602
Manali Day 3:
Rohtang Pass trip. Trip is supposed to start at 4am, but car left at 5 or so (made us wait in hotel lobby for almost an hour).
As soon as car got into mountains, it got stuck in stand-still traffic. Apparently the "check-the-pass" area is the bottleneck. Everyone needs to get their pass signed there, so there's a huge queue of cars, and each car needs to have someone stand in human-queue to get their pass signed.
This Rohtang Pass trip is a day-long trip, and nobody bothered to mention to bring food---as there's no food or water anywhere on the way (at least not were the tour stops).
On way to Rohtang Pass, drove by (mostly without stopping) Kothi, Gulaba Camp, Rahla Falls, Marhi, Rani Nala.
At Rohtang Pass... there's no food/water. Nothing. Urgh. There's edible snow though :-/
But then out of nowhere there's was a cold-salad merchant. Whatever he mixed up on the spot tasted amazingly great. Ate snow for water.
- Alex; 20160601
Manali Day 2:
Vaishno Temple, didn't go in.
Kasol Valley drive through. Apparently there's a `fake' Starbucks right on the main road---too bad the guided tour just drove right past it.
Manikaran, hot water springs place. Cooked rice in a hot spring---15 minutes to cook rice. Tried to take a bath too, but water was too hot, so only dipped feet for a quick rince.
The food at temple was great (apparently all cooked in these hot springs).
- Alex; 20160531
Manali day 1:
So... my hoodie grew legs and walked away during the bus ride :-/
Tasks: Get hotel. Figure out trips. Rohtang Pass is apparently closed Tuesdays.
The Highway Inn hotel arranged a 3-day tour: today's parts are: Hadimba Temple, Club House (waste of time), and Tibetan Monastery.
The Hadimba Temple... long line to see nothing inside. Really. Just take pix from the outside, and that should be enough. There's literally nothing inside (just a big rock, and `no pictures' sign).
The Club House is a tourist trap. Avoid completely.
Tibetan Monastery was pretty neat. Wish could've spent more time there just sitting and enjoying the ambiance.
- Alex; 20160530
Bday party with lots of balloons. (Happy Birthday!)
Late night: Leaving for Manali from Chandigarh. 8-hour bus ride (or so).
- Alex; 20160529
Visited Ugly Valley Mall in Chandigarh.
- Alex; 20160528
Visited temple in Chandigarh, followed by a walk by the Sukhna Lake.
- Alex; 20160527
Arrived in Delhi. Hang out in Starbucks until 7pm train to Ambala.
- Alex; 20160526
Flying out India :-)
- Alex; 20160525
Finished reading REAL Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Book by Robert Hamburger. This book has been on my shelf for at least five years... finally got around to leafing through it (it's a very short book---it just takes an afternoon). Anyways, yah, it's hillarious. Some parts are downright amazing... but I couldn't help thinking to myself, am I really laughing at this? It's like you gotta be 12 years old to thoroughly enjoy most of it, and yet the book is definitely meant for adults---so... funny, but not sure how to rate it.
- Alex; 20160524
Ok, so this is going to be another of my crazy rants: there's no dark matter. Nor dark energy. It's all an illusion.
Let's take a look at ``Spacetime tells matter how to move; matter tells spacetime how to curve.'' Or does it? Consider Gravitational waves... that's pretty much proof that we can have an indentation of spacetime fly across the universe at the speed of light without having any matter flying along with it...
Now consider Standing waves, and imagine that somehow (forget how for the moment) we managed to setup a standing gravitational wave...
What would it look like? A dent in spacetime without matter...
What if some nearby matter just happened to be in the vicinity---lets picture it falling into the dent and forming say a galaxy, with the supermassive black hole at the center.
The resulting situation would appear like the galaxy has a much bigger mass---because it's ``creating'' this massive spacetime dent that it is right in the center of---and there isn't enough matter in the galaxy to explain such a spacetime dent...
So we (well, scientists) imagine dark matter!!! How would we find the dark matter particle if it's the curvature of space time that's causing us to think that there's dark matter?
Similarly, are black holes objects at all, or can we just think of them holes in spacetime? The objects are never getting out that, and besides the curvature of spacetime, what else is there? (e.g. would we be looking for black-hole particles that are creating the curvature of spacetime near a black hole?).
Similarly, waves want to spread out---making it appear like the indentations in space are moving away from each other... something we can label as dark energy.
- Alex; 20160516
Pulled a tick out of my side... Must've got it during BBQ :-/
Can't remember ever being bitten by a tick before. They're weird animals. Half the body of the bug digs into the skin, and the other half is wiggling legs... urgh. Pulled it out, disinfected the area, put Neosporin, etc., and googled for symptoms to watch for...
- Alex; 20160509
Went BBQ in Harriman State Park. Not too cold, but just cold enough not to be completely comfortable.
Had a very hard time starting a fire. Most of the wood was damp, and didn't have charcoal... and starting a fire with damp wood (and some napkins) is surprisingly difficult.
- Alex; 20160508
Back in NYC...
- Alex; 20160502
Train ride back to New Delhi... on a late train. So hurry hurry hurry to get to the airport on time :-/
- Alex; 20160501
Visited the other places to visit in Bikaner... Junagarh Fort, and a few places I can't remember.
What I can remember is visiting the camel research center, and doing a camel ride around the place---and having camel-milk ice cream :-)
[Bikaner pix] [Other Albums]
Then a 10-hour night train back to Ambala...
- Alex; 20160430
Train ride to Bikaner.
Got hotel by train station, and a 30-min train back to Karni Mata Temple (aka: the rat temple). ``The temple is famous for the approximately 20,000 black rats that live, and are revered in, the temple.''.
Got to see a white rat :-)
- Alex; 20160429
After a six hour bus ride, arrived in Jodhpur at around 5 in the morning; in the dark, the place does not look safe at all... once things brightened up, the place looks great.
Got the hotel right across the street from the Jodhpur step well.
Started day with a trip to Mehrangarh Fort. Saw the blue roofs of the entire city :-)
Visited the `the clock tower of Rajasthan'... went inside, and saw the mechanism, etc., The guy who winds/maintains it was very friendly.
Had dinner at the Stepwell Cafe...
[Jodhpur pix] [Other Albums]
- Alex; 20160428
Train to Udaipur... Getting hotel in touristy part of town.
Almost cheated by an auto driver, again :-/
Went to visit the `sunset' point on top of a mountain...
Towards evening made way to the Bagore Ki Haveli Dance Show... An amazing dancing show.
[Udaipur Bagore Ki Haveli Dance Show pix] [Other Albums]
Then went for a walk around town---visited temple, etc.
- Alex; 20160426
Starting day at 4am---train from Delhi to Ajmer. Arrived around noon, got a hotel right by the station, and started exploring...
Almost cheated by an auto driver...
In evening, walkted to the Ajmer Sharif Dargah. Pretty neat experience.
There're virtually no fast-food places anywhere, except for Domino's---so ordered Domino's Pizza delivery to the hotel :-)
[Ajmer pix] [Other Albums]
- Alex; 20160425
Traveling back to New Delhi... pretty hot. Non-AC sleeper train :-)
- Alex; 20160424
Landed in New Delhi, met Suneli, left backpack in cloak room, and spent the rest of the day in starbucks... Then took 7pm train to Ambala.
- Alex; 20160423
...and I'm off to India.
- Alex; 20160422
Finished reading Learning to Love Data Science by Mike Barlow. Very fluffy book. If you don't already love data science, not sure this book will show you the path towards loving data science... It is a collection of essays on all sorts of "this will be great in the future..." stories, about how data science will change the world, etc. Not a book I'd recommend... unless you're really bored and have nothing else to read.
- Alex; 20160419
Finished reading [Early Release] Fundamentals of Deep Learning: Designing Next-Generation Machine Intelligence Algorithms By Nikhil Buduma. Well, this was definitely not what I expected of a `fundamentals' deep-learning book. And yes, I'm aware that it's only like first 4 chapters or something.
For one, it doesn't actually do anything fundamentally---it uses a library that google recently released---TensorFlow. So all the examples (so far in the book) are using that and only that (and they're in Python!). Also, no mention of the algorithms---just feed this into that library and that's that. Yah, I know it's an early release, but... not coming back to this book once published.
Very disappointed :-/
- Alex; 20160411
My new laptop finally arrived. Lenovo Thinkpad x260. This will replace my old Thinkpad X200. They changed a few things... some for the better. More ram is welcome (16gigs), higher resolution screen (full HD), and some for the worst: the trackpoint button was better positioned in x200. I was hoping the new laptop would be thinner, and ... the body of the laptop is indeed thiner, but the extra battery makes it just as thick as the old laptop... the arrow keys aren't very good (it's hard to touch them and know where your fingers are).
One nice thing is the claimed 21 hours battery life :-) Also, Linux seems to work with everything. Need to have 4.4 kernel---which required manual installation on Linux Mint. But once it's installed, it all just worked (wifi, sound, etc.).
Opened it up and swapped out the SSD for a bigger one... was the hardest to open laptop I've ever had, but I guess it wasn't meant to be user serviceable in the same way that x200 was.
- Alex; 20160405
...and back in NYC!
Happy Square Root Day!
In other news, finished reading The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande.
This is a very strange book. It's written by a medical doctor, so definitely not a usual business process book. This book goes over various medical mishaps that happen during medical operations and during flights... the idea is that when procedures get too complicated for individuals, no matter how trained you area, you'll start missing things. For example (book's numbers) about 6% of surgeries forget something inside the patient... Why is one in 16 surgeries "fail" in this way? It's not because they don't know what they should recount all the napkins, etc., after the procedure. It's because there are way too many things to do, and sometimes the stupidest things get missed. Same goes for administering medication at the right times (right before surgery, antibiotics need to be administered no longer than 60 minutes prior to incision---that often gets missed, as the waiting time may be longer than 60 minutes).
So the book highlights that one way medicine deals with complexity was to have more specialization. Like doctors who specialize in only one narrow field, since there's just way too much to know and care about...
Another way of dealing with complexity is to create an outline, a checklist of what needs to happen and when, as a mental guide so that all the important things get done during the procedure. Most of those things aren't stuff that folks don't know, it's things that often get missed because there are a dozen other things that are happening.
I really enjoyed this book. I didn't know there was this many mishaps during surgeries. I'm now a lot more afraid of doctors... It's like every other surgery has some sort of a mistake that causes complications. Most of the mistakes are avoidable, and are usually minor in the grand scheme of things (like not administering medication at the right time, not checking things prior to surgery, etc.)
There's also a lot of stories of airlines having issues... like the Polar route issues and ice-crystals in jet fuel clogging engine fuel intakes... apparently that caused a few near disasters before it was addressed (procedurally---if engine loses power after a polar flight, the natural thing was to step on the gas... which causes more ice crystals to clog the intake----the "checklist" procedure is to ease off the throttle and let the ice crystals melt away and unclog the intake). This is the kind of direct flight I go by from NY to Delhi, so... that part was extra interesting.
All in all, highly recommend this book.
- Alex; 20160404
The primary purpose for this trip was to see Mesa Arch during sunrise. so that's where ended up in the morning. Had to wait for almost two hours for the sunrise, but it was great... Like two dozen other folks there with fancy DSLRs and me taking most pix via cellphone :-)
[Mesa Arch Pix] [Other Albums].
After sunrise, went on a loop hike by Islands In The Sky viewing area, then a short hike to False Kiva, then onto Arches National Park.
[Islands In The Sky pix] [Other Albums].
By the time (noon) I got to Arches National Park, there was a huge line of cars trying to get in... So decided to skip and go elsewhere. Not far from there (about 6 miles up the road) there's a Moab Giants dinosaur park---so spent an hour or so there---I wouldn't make it a primary destination of a trip, but if you have a few hours to kill, this is definitely worth visiting. Had a T-Rex burger for lunch :-)
[Moab Giants pix] [Other Albums].
Then a slow drive to Salt Lake City---the flight is at midnight, so drove very slowly, stopping by everywhere, etc.
- Alex; 20160403
Landed in Salt Lake City, and rented a cheapo car. Apparently the flight was delayed quite a bit---which I didn't even notice (I passed out in the window seat, and only woke up when the airplane landed). The airplane took off three hours late, and JetBlue gave everyone a $25 credit towards future flights.
Set out towards Canyonlands, Needles. The idea is to do a huge loop somewhere around there, hitting all the major attractions, etc.
Got to Elephant Hill (that's 3miles or so via dirt road) sometime around 9am, and set out towards Druid Arch. Past Druid Arch, via Joint Trail to Devil's Kitchen, then via Cyclone Canyon to Confluence point, then (since was getting a bit late, and I ran out of water) via dirt-road back to Elephant Hill.
Returned just after sunset---didn't even use a headlamp :-)
[Canyonlands Hike] [Other Albums].
- Alex; 20160402
Happy Fools Day!
...and in other news, flying out to Utah.
- Alex; 20160401
Finished reading Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel. Wow, this guy is sure full of himself. First off, the book is well written, and does have a lot of very good points. You could even say it's inspirational. But the vibes are just... bad. Like really really bad.
For example, when you read Warren Buffett, you learn stuff, and even his business attitudes make a lot of sense, and he doesn't come off like an ass. Thiel does.
Here's just one example... Thiel says everyone should dedicate themselves 100% to make their startup a success... like, no lavish salaries, no contractors ('cause they're not dedicated enough), no part-timers, mostly everyone compensated with equity sharing of some sort, everyone has skin in the game, etc. All this sounds great in theory---like if you work for Facebook during its first year... you work on something you believe in, something that might change the world (from your perspective), and then economics rewards you greatly.
But then Thiel himself goes on to say that in *his* selected list of startups (his own VC fund!), those startups that passed all of his red-flag tests (that he lists in the book), etc., just about all of them fail. The VC fund is lucky if *one* startup succeeds... The fund that had Facebook, just about all other startups failed, and profits from Facebook covered all the failures in that fund.
So in other words, he himself selects failures. OK, that's no so bad, after all, he funds startups, and nobody is perfect, etc., but then... none of those vast majority of startups make anyone rich, and the employees are compensated with t-shirts and worthless stock! It's like he's saying, yah, go on, believe in the startup, build the future, change the world, get paid in t-shirts and stock, and I know for a fact that 99% of you will be out of business in a year.
Sure it works out great for like 1% that *luckily* (not skillfully) happen to be in a right company that goes IPO and they make it big... and then write books about how skillful they were in being in the right statup at the right moment in history...
That's pretty much it... in order to succeed, you gotta skillfully be in the right place at the right time with the right idea, and have enough money to make stuff happen. Then your chances of success are pretty high. But if you happen to land a job that pays you with t-shirts and sodas, there's a 99% chance you'll lose your shirt within a year, no matter how dedicated you are or revolutionary your ideas are.
- Alex; 20160325
I130 filed :-)
- Alex; 20160317
Did taxes today. Apparently I underpaid, and under-expensed... urgh. Oh, and I really don't like Obamacare :-/
But eh, it's good to get that over with :-)
- Alex; 20160316
Happy PI day!
This is the 2nd time I arrive in the US on PI day... first one was in 1980s. This time I arrive married... :-)
Though my wife is still in India :-/
Out of the 15 hour flight, I must've slept for 13 hours. Passed out as soon as I sat down, and woke up only for meals.
On way out of airplane, a passenger got arrested right out of the airplane. Apparently they got drunk and peed all over (and screamed at flight attendants). So there was much commotion on the flight that I slept through...
- Alex; 20160314
Driving back to airport :-/ This trip was tooo short.
Had dinner at Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba. Pretty nice place...
- Alex; 20160313
Doing a day trip to Shimla. It's cold, rainy, and yet wondefully amazing...
We did a hike all the way to Jakhu temple (the one next to the 108 foot statue of Hanuman). It was great. Got totally soaked, and were freezing the rest of the day, but it was worth it.
[Shimla trip pix] [Other Albums].
- Alex; 20160312
So... getting married to Suneli.
Arrived at the Deputy Commissioner's (DC) office in Ambala (India) at around 9am... and then wait wait wait and more wait. It seems they had to prepare the forms right on the spot---with typewritten (yah, typewriters!) forms having passport-style photos of everyone involved glued in (and multiple copies of those too!).
Then wait wait and more wait... then the one-toothed lawyer (not kidding, he really did have only 1 tooth) said he cannot be witness since he doesn't know us well enough (!!!that's the dude that prepared all the paperwork!!!) so had to scramble to find another witness (and another lawyer---who turned out to be an actual human being, very cool guy!). Luckily family friend was available to witness such a historic occasion.
About three hours of waiting and waiting and worrying that the DC might just drive off (there was a car waiting for DC to take him to another town), we finally got to see the DC, and very unceremoniously he signed the `certificate of marriage', and that was it... took like 5 seconds.
And then he refused to take the candy, saying he doesn't eat sweets :-/
But YEY, that process is finally over, and we're married!
- Alex; 20160311
Flying out to India... :-)
- Alex; 20160309
Finished reading Data Science from Scratch: First Principles with Python by Joel Grus. Yah, it uses Python (urgh), but besides that, it's actually quite an enjoyable book to read. The examles (yes, they're in Python) are pretty easy to pickup, even if you're not a python person (like myself). It has a very good intro sections on math, stats, etc., and has actual working examples of simpler algorithms. Very practical book---the theme of the book is that you're hired as a data scientist and you jump from problem to problem to solve stuff---pretty neat setup.
I think this will be the book I'd recommend to anyone interested in actually doing data science---yes, it's in Python, but, eh, there aren't that many data science with Perl books :-/
One bad part about this book is... Python, and not enough SQL. There is a chapter on SQL, but I kinda feel that 99% of the time folks should really be doing SQL instead of writing procedural code :-/
- Alex; 20160307
Went to Harriman State Park for a walk. Did the usual loop around red-triangle to Appalachian trail to red-circle back to red-triangle trail. Pretty chilly, and yet enjoyable hike.
[Harriman trip pix] [Other Albums].
- Alex; 20160306
Finished reading The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway. This is the first thing I've read by Hemingway (yah, I visited his house with mutant six-toed cats, but never got around to reading anything by him until now). Well, this short-story (it's a pretty quick read) is nice... very well written, engaging, visual, and captures your attention.
Also, I now hate sharks. Damn sharks.
- Alex; 20160303
Finished reading Optimized C++ by Kurt Guntheroth (pre-print release). It's surprisingly very good and informattive---goes over important points such as keeping things in cache, avoiding certian library operations/data structures, such as incorrectly using std::string objects, and all sorts of tips on using map/vector (e.g. using fixed width character arrays as map keys instead of strings). Highly recommend, even for non-C++ programmers.
- Alex; 20160302
Finished reading Thoughtful Machine Learning: A Test-Driven Approach by Matthew Kirk. Not sure why all the bad reviews on amazon, but this book is pretty good---definitely above average `machine learning' book. Yes, it uses Ruby. And yes, there are mistakes in the book, and yes, it doesn't actually talk about the implementations of algorithms (e.g. for pretty much everything, it uses a library---so, no, there's no explanation how SVM works, there's just a call to the library...). There's fairly readable code for trivial algorithms (such as kNN, naive bayes, etc.,) but for the most part, I'd call this book non-technical. It's a good place to get your feet wet though.
The theme of this book is pretty unique---that machine learning algorithms need to be tested. Often it's just as trivial as doing cross validation, etc., but I've never seen a book focus much at all on this critical part of the process.
- Alex; 20160229
Mnt.Marcy snowshoeing weekend. There wasn't that much snow for most of the trail---crampons would've done much better overall, but, eh. The summit had some pretty high cold winds... Did the usual `loop' trail, starting at Adirondacks Loj, going to Marcy Dam, Colden Dam, Mnt.Marcy summit, then back across the mountain to Marcy Dam and the Loj... hike takes around 10 hours, with sections walking across the frozen Lake Colden and Avalanche Lake. That's the best loop in that area---amazing in winter and summer :-)
[Mnt.Marcy trip pix] [Other Albums].
- Alex; 20160227
Got old passport in the mail---ready to travel anywhere now :-)
- Alex; 20160225
While riding the E train from work this evening, some dude who was sitting next to me exploded. As in threw up. All over. No, not on the floor, but literally all over... the crowded train. Did I mention he was sitting next to me? :-/ Had to stand in the train for like 15 minutes with all..eewwww... stuff dripping from me. I really wish there was a place to wash up in the subway :-/
- Alex; 20160224
Got a new US passport card... (separate mailing :-/
- Alex; 20160222
Finished reading (EARLY RELEASE) Data Science with Java Practical Methods for Scientists and Engineers By Michael R. Brzustowicz.
Yah, I know it's an early release, but there's like no content in this book... zero. You learn how to open files, how to read files, how to write files, etc. In Java. And then that's it. The topic list looks damn impressive, but most of them are just place holders for more detailed chapters. (so skip this early release).
- Alex; 20160219
Got a newly renewed passport :-)
- Alex; 20160218
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