Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bird In The House!

Friday night, for the first time in two weeks, Ginny and I went out for our Date Night; this was the first time I’d set foot outside since we got sick.

We’ve been together in the same house but miles apart because our illness created a barrier. Ever try to kiss a coughing girl with a runny nose?

We’d watched the tv news before we left the house, so in the restaurant our conversation naturally turned to the state of the economy. TV says that 100,000 Americans lost their jobs this month.

Since President Obama is moving the terrorists prisoners of war out of Guantanamo prison camp, I suggested that the government round up all oil company executives (tv news says Exxon garnered the largest prophet of any company in the history of the world last year), all stock brokers, bankers, mortgage lenders, insurance agents, etc. And put them in Guantanamo to be tried for treason. These villains have damaged the U.S. more than any other terrorists.

None of the bailout packages or economic incentives the President proposes will touch us personally at all. All that money goes to somebody else.

However, I assured Ginny that at least my job will never be outsourced to a foreign country.

“There’s not a peasant in China who wants to do the work I do for the same amount of pay,” I said. “He’d want more money”.

My book sales have not done well recently.

When we returned home, we discovered damage.

Part of a statue from a high shelf lay on the living room floor. Fancy, Ginny’s lovebird, squawked frantically in her cage. A model clipper ship (the Joseph Conrad) I’d worked on for ages had been knocked on its side as though it had floundered…

Ah, there’s the culprit—a bird in the house.

Apparently as we left for our date, the bird had entered to escape the cold.

WE propped open the front door. I grabbed a broom. Ginny, a towel. We stalked the invader to capture and set it free outside. Not understanding our intention, the bird careened around the living room and kitchen from curtain rod to bookcase to ceiling fan blade to model ship to chair back in a panic.

Laughing, we finally chased it out the open front door.

Then we sat down to reminisce about how when all the kids were home and we lived in HUD housing and Ginny did not have a dryer but hung clothes on the line, wrens loved to nestle in folds of our clothes and inadvertently be brought into the house.

The cry would go up, “Bird in the House! Bird in the house!”

We and all the kids would garb dishcloths, towels, sweaters, brooms and chase the bird through the house. The three cats leaped in the air trying to catch the wren first. Broom-holder batted them back. Our black lab Sheba would charge around barking frantically but having no idea of what caused the commotion. At last the bird would be captured and released unharmed outside.

The Peaceable Kingdom our home was not.

In fact, I once wrote a magazine article, “The Hand Of The Almighty Smites A Sea Gull”, about one Cowart bird encounter. It can be found at http://www.cowart.info/Family%20Life/seagull/The%20Hand%20Of%20The%20Almighty%20Smites%20A%20Seagull.html

As I remembered that incident, it half-way brought to mind another:

Years ago I wrote some article for some magazine (can’t remember which one) and inside the back cover of that magazine was a poem by some lady who wrote about a sparrow being trapped on her sun porch.

The poet likened that situation to the frustrated, trapped feeling of so many people.

People who could identify with how that bird was feeling

Her trapped sparrow tried frantically to escape by flying here and there, crashing into the wire mesh, feeling trapped and frustrated and thwarted by its circumstance—yet the screen door stood open all the time.

The door to freedom always stands open.

Jesus once said, “I am the door”.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 7:56 AM

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Convalescence Reading

As I recover from this cold (must be just a cold because I had a flu shot months ago) I’ve begun reading again. Yes, during my illness I stupored through a couple of murder mysteries and a few science fiction tales, but a week later I can’t even remember what they were.

But over the past few days I’ve really enjoyed Tom Chaffin’s Sea Of Gray: The Around-The-World Odyssey Of The Confederate Raider Shenandoah. It’s the best book of this sort I’ve ever read.

During the War Between The States, the enemy’s “Anaconda Plan” strangled the South by blockading all southern ports. The federal navy cut off imported necessities from the Confederate homeland and prohibited the export of cotton, on which Southern economy depended, by sealing ports and rivers.

The South responded by enlisting privateers, privately owned ships outfitted for wartime duty, by commissioning blockade runners, swift vessels which tried to break through the yankee stranglehold, and by outfitting a dozen raiders to prey on yankee commerce.

The idea behind the raiders was to thin out enemy warships by drawing them away from blockading ports, and to run up insurance rates so yankee merchants would sue for peace—hit the enemy where it hurts—his pocketbook.

The C.S.S. Shenandoah’s mission as she left Liverpool, England, required her to destroy the yankee whaling fleet in the Arctic’s Bering Sea, and whatever and wherever else she could attack.

Here’s a photograph taken of her during a stop in Melbourne, Australia, in February, 1865:

Chaffin’s book, drawing heavily on journals kept by Shenandoah officers, details the ship’s voyage that circumnavigated the globe. Covering 58,000 miles, she was the only Confederate ship to do so. During her quest she burned 32 yankee ships, ransomed six others, and captured 1,053 prisoners of war.

Oddly enough in this war, during the Shenandoah’s operation, not a single man on either side was killed in battle.

Problem was…

While the raider cruised out of touch of land and news of the day in the Arctic, much of the damage the Shenandoah inflicted occurred two months after General Lee had surrendered to Grant effectually ending the war. The yankees labeled the Shenandoah a pirate ship saying all officers and crew should be hanged… The Shenandoah had to make it from the Arctic, down the Pacific around the Horn of South America, and back up the Atlantic to Liverpool to surrender to the British there without falling into yankee hands.

What a tale!


Great reading!

Also, this morning I finally finished reading the Book of Genesis, first book of the Old Testament. Yes, I’m way behind in my resolution the read the Bible through this year. Is being sick a good excuse (or the fact that I read murder mysteries and Sci/Fi instead)?

Anyhow, my general impression of Genesis is a sense of wonder at how God dealt with people who were busy doing ordinary things.

When visited by God, most of these folks were breeding goats, tending sheep, digging wells, watering camels, buying fields, dreaming dreams. They seldom seemed to be doing religious things at all.

Yet the Lord God had His hand on them.

Even the people who were religious didn’t make a Thing out of it. They worshiped the Lord and milked their cows and cooked dinner and got married and buried their dead and squabbled among themselves and fled famines and simply lived in the light of God.

Yet they were by no means flippant about it. They held the Lord in highest regard while weaving Him into the warp and woof of their lives without much fuss.

I’m impressed.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 3:56 AM

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Preparing to surface

При расточительном дворе Короля Солнца, Луи XIV из Франции, развернулась бурная светская деятельность вокруг…сидений.

Those are the opening words of the Russian translation of my profile of Madam Guyon, a chapter from my book Strangers On The Earth. Maria and Kent, e-friends in the Ukraine, are preparing this translation and have sent me various questions about it.

In English that opening sentence reads: “In the lavish court of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, elaborate social activity revolved around... chairs”.

My profile of Madam Guyon can be found online at http://www.cowart.info/John%27s%20Books/Guyon/Guyon.htm .

Responding to Maria and Kent’s e-mail is the most active thing I’ve done recently; this cold just knocked all my props out. It’s been all I can do to read a murder mystery. Most of the past ten days has been spent in a stupor… I mean more of a stupor than usual.

Ginny returned to work yesterday but she’s not really up 100 % yet either..

I feel like a bear just waking out of hibernation, or a submarine preparing to surface from the deep green cold depths.

The world is out there waiting for me.

Do I really want to face it?

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:58 AM

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Out of the Blue--Thanks

Ginny and I still battle these super colds.

One bright spot: yesterday’s mail brought this unsigned card containing an anonymous gift of $150. Thank you; we’ll try to spend it wisely.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 7:01 AM

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Out Sick For A Week

Last Sunday I fell sick with the worst cold of my life. Only now am I beginning to come out of it. Wednesday, Ginny fell sick with the same cold; she’s still down.

Tuesday the United Stated inaugurated Barack Obama as our 44th President; Tuesday also, my proof pages arrived from the printer. I felt too sick to pay much attention to either event. The manuscript box still lies unopened on my desk. I don’t have the energy to face it.

I dosed off and on during the inauguration ceremonies, parade and balls on tv, but I could hardly take it all in. I think the tv commentators slight the man in their constant references to his being black as though that were the only noteworthy thing about him.

God bless him. He’s got a tough row to hoe.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 7:36 AM

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Last State Of The Man...

A mass casualty event, such as hurricane, terrorist attack, earthquake, etc., may overwhelm Jacksonville Fire Rescue Division personnel. It may take several days before they can reach individual neighborhoods. Therefore the city sponsors all-volunteer Community Emergency Response Teams, CERTs, to help in their own neighborhoods during an emergency until professional help can arrive.

The JaxCERT website is at http://www.jaxcert.info/ . Ginny and I are members.

Saturday we attended an advanced CERT training class where we learned more about personal safety preparedness, bandaging wounds, and back boarding.

We also learned that one neighborhood team, from one of Jacksonville’s wealthier areas, has acquired a Humvee for their rescue efforts; our own neighborhood team will stumble among the ruins on foot.

Life is not fair!

I did tell our team leader that if we ever get a Hummer, I have room to park it at my house. I’m generous that way.

In training, our group encountered a volunteer casualty with back/neck injuries and we secured him to a back board for transport—sort of.

I knelt up at the victim’s left shoulder attaching him to the board with broad, bright orange nylon straps…Got him buckled up, but, when we went to lift him, my knees gave out, I got the shakes, and I almost fell on top of him! Being too weak to lift the guy surprised me; I had to withdraw and let another team member take my place.

I really thought I could do this.

But I was just too weak.

Poor victim, he had to give me a hand up to keep me from falling on him.

That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

A Scripture came to my mind: Jesus said, “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first”.

That’s what I thought about our poor volunteer victim after we got through with him—The last state of the man is worse than the first!

However, I was not completely useless in the exercise:

While our team practiced first aid for broken collar bones, burned hands, arterial bleeding, severed limbs, and gasping chest wounds, I showed the ladies in my group how to fold the triangular bandages to make a bunny rabbit.

What did you expect?

I don’t have a Hummer to drive yet.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:34 AM

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Historical Notes For The Kid In The Attic

Every writer envisions the reader he expects to read his work.

For me, that’s the kid in the attic.

Though few of my contemporaries buy my books, I foresee that 50, 70 or a hundred years from now, on some rainy afternoon, a teenage boy prowling through boxes in the attic of his house will chance upon a dusty box of old books. Some title will capture his fancy and he will begin to read my diaries.

This is the reader I write for; I want to show him the reality of Christ in one ordinary guy’s life, to reveal the good and bad of how the Christian life works our for me.

In order to put that spiritual dimension in context, every now and then I feel it appropriate to mention contemporary historical events as pegs to hang the personal elements on. Two such events happened yesterday:

President Bush, our 43rd president, gave his farewell speech to the nation last night.

His first speech as president came on September 11, 2001, the day moslem terrorists crashed airplanes into New York’s World Trade Center killing thousands of Americans. This tragedy launched our war against Al Quaida in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last night President Bush pointed out that there have, as yet, been no further terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. He cited the founding of the Homeland Security Department and refurbishing of FBI and intelligence agencies. And he warned ““The gravest threat to our people remains another terrorist attack; we must never let down our guard.”

He mentioned the present economic depression we are entering—a depression I feel is caused by greed, corruption, bribery and usury.

And he spoke of the smooth transition of presidential power to Barack Obama, who is scheduled to become our 44th president next Tuesday. This transition from one man and one political party to a different man and party appears to be smooth and seamless. Bush appears to have handled his party’s defeat with grace. I think more of him now that when he assumed office.

His brief farewell speech shows a strength of our democratic system of government wherein it takes no bloodshed or military uprising to move from one power base to another.

Yesterday’s news also reported another significant event:

In New York, U.S. Airways flight 1549 lost power on takeoff and crash landed in the Hudson River with 155 people on board.

The pilot, C.B. "Sully" Sullenberger, said a flock of Canadian geese smacked into the jet knocking out both engines. He saw he could not make it back to LaGuardia airport so he smoothed the plane into the river.

Apparently all New York saw the crash. Immediately, ferry boats, water taxies, Coast Guard vessels, and dozens of private watercraft rushed to aid the passengers who scrambled out of the fuselage onto the wings of the floating plane which sank shortly after all survivors were removed..

Other than a couple of broken legs and a bunch of frozen asses, all aboard survived intact.

As the plane went down, many viewers feared another 9/11 sort of incident, to the contrary, the accident proved the heroism, skill and character of good people as all aboard the plane were rescued.

Never though a plane crash could make me proud, but this one does.

But, all is not good news:

On the local front—yesterday Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton send out a looong e-mail explaining why $67 million, earmarked for a new court house, has disappeared from the city’s treasury leaving the city with nothing but a weed-covered vacant lot.

The money was in the city’s pocket, now it is in someone else’s pocket.

Yet, the e-mail explains, no one did anything evil, criminal, corrupt, or even stupid.

That’s good to know.

On a personal level, as I await my manuscript proof pages to come back from the printer, I’ve been reading Stephen King’s latest book, Just After Sunset, a collection of his short stories. The sheer beauty of some of his tales brought me to tears.

Two phrases from my devotional reading struck me:

“They refused to obey, and were not mindful of the wonders that You performed among them… But You are a God ready to forgive…and abounding in steadfast love”.

Not mindful of wonders… I feel as though we drive daily through a thick fog. All we can see are the white lines in the center of the highway as we move through the mist. Then suddenly a solid shape appears in our path—a deer, a tree beside the road, the bumper of a car ahead. We zip on by still focused on the white lines on the asphalt unmindful of the real, the concrete solid spiritual things God reveals.

We ignore the real and live in the mist… Yet He is ready to forgive, abounding in love.

The other phrase I noticed:

Jacob bewailing his circumstances said, “All these things are against me”.

What he was bitching about was the fact that God was saving him and his family from a seven-year-long famine! But he only saw the immediate circumstances and thought they were terrible.

How often I echo his words, “All these things are against me!”

Another Scripture says something about “All things work together for good” for somebody or another.

I often fail to see that.

As Granddaddy used to say, “There’s some folks would complain if you was to hang ‘em with a brand new rope”.

Ginny and I are scheduled for a Civilian Emergency Response Team training session tomorrow.

Maybe we’ll learn how to help in a plane crash.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 12:13 PM

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Treading Water

I don’t know the name of the singer or the song.

But the other day Ginny tuned the car radio to some folk song where this guy in jail bemoaned his unfair treatment.

All he had done was shoot a deputy, he wailed, and that mean judge sentenced him to 99 years in jail. His cellmate comforted him saying it could have been worse; “He could have sentenced you to life”.

For some reason, not sure why, that song resonates with me.

While waiting for a manuscript’s proof pages to come back from the printer, I hesitate to start a new project till that one is finished, so I’m treading water between times. When the proofs return, I’ll correct them, then I’ll be ready to move on.

Meanwhile I spend my days moving Ginny’s dirt-eating plants inside out of the cold (yes, winter has finally come to Jacksonville) and reading murder mysteries.

In my devotional reading yesterday, I ran across an odd phrase about righteous people: “They shall still bring forth fruit in old age...to shew that the Lord is upright”.

That’s a nice thought.

I feel pretty dried up and withered myself.

However, I’ve still got it!

As Ginny and I enjoyed breakfast at Dave’s Diner, I pointed out a speck of burned crumb on my toast and told her it was a bug. As she leaned forward to see, I pretended to examine the speck more closely. “No, it’s not,” I said. “Insects have six legs,” I said biting into my toast, “This one only has three”.

She's crazy about me!

Don’t worry, Honey, we’ve only been married 40 years… It could have been for life.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:50 AM

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Rearranging Furniture

I spent much of the weekend rearranging furniture with Ginny.

If you really hate a man, give his wife two new chairs and a large ottoman on a weekend when bowl games are being played….

No, Honey, the fireplace would not look better over there.

Since nothing much is happening in my life recently, I find joy in reading about what’s going on in the life of my e-friend Good Listener at Making A Life .

I’ve followed his blog for over a year now, and it seems to me that God’s hand is on Listener; I enjoy reading his quiet adventures. You can drop by his site at http://makingalifewithk.blogspot.com/ ; please leave him a comment.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:08 AM

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Staying Connected

Saturday’s mail brought in a royalty check from the my book sales in the Philippines; there I earned one dollar and 22 cents ($1.20) last year.

Not enough to pay for a cell phone.

Saturday also, Ginny and I went to browse in Jacksonville’s main library. After checking out our books, we paused in Hemming Park for a smoke.

Here’s a photo of Ginny in the park:

Hemming Park pre-dates the Civil War. Right across the street from City Hall, the park is venue for concert, speeches, art displays, whatever. Disguised as decorative rocks in some flower beds are electrical outlets for use in park activities.

Snowbirds flock to the park—snowbirds are homeless people who migrate south every winter to escape the cold in the north—Snowbirds flock to the park because it’s in easy walking distance from the City Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army Shelter, and the Clara White Mission. It’s not unusual to find snowbirds asleep on park benches or playing checkers beneath the Civil War Memorial.

As Ginny and I talked about our library finds this week, we noticed a snowbird settle on a wall across from us. Ragged clothes, shoes in tatters, worldly goods in a pillowcase, unshaven, typical. He fiddled with something in his pillowcase and drew out an electrical cord. He moved aside some bushes and uncovered one of the rock-disguised outlets and plugged in—He was re-charging his cell phone!

This year, Jacksonville attracts a better class of bum.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:16 AM

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Return To Normalcy

At last a weekend with no holiday activities. Thanks be to God!

However, in the past week Donald and Helen gave us an office chair and a microwave. And yesterday Terri and Rita (friends of Jennifer’s) brought over an over-stuffed chair… But we already had chairs.


I’ll have to move furniture all weekend.

It looks fine where it is. No need to move it over there.

Didn’t Solomon or someone say, “He that increaseth goods, increasteth sorrows”?


Well, he should have.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 4:41 AM

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Friday, January 02, 2009

On Receiving A Gift

At the midnight service in church Christmas Eve, something disturbed my equilibrium.

As Ginny and I attended the service, I anticipated singing Silent Night, holding up a pretty candle, and feeling nostalgic about Christmases past.

But just before the service started…

First I should say that six or eight weeks ago, I told someone about something that concerned me. On Christmas Eve I discovered that that someone told someone else who… Well, you know how that goes.

Well there I was in church listening to the organ prelude, praying a bit, feeling sentimental, observing the cleavage of a woman in an extremely low-cut Christmas dress a couple of pews away, minding my own business,

Then, just before the midnight service started, a wealthy gentleman came over to the big stone pillar I hide behind when in church and announced that he intended to help me with the matter that concerned me. In pure Christian charity, he offered to bail me out. He was only being kind.

I took it wrong.

I reacted as though he had said, “John Cowart, you failure. You looser. You no-good sorry excuse for a husband. You should have provided for your wife better than you do, you stupid, useless drone. Now I’m going to have to step in and straighten out the mess you’ve made of your life and marriage, you pathetic, pitiful bum”.

That’s not what he said; that’s what I felt.

Here he offered me a gift which involves a considerable amount of money, and I felt offended.

His offered gift struck me as an affront.

What business is it of his how I provide for my wife? In fact, why is my private business being talked about by people who are in no way involved?

I don’t even belong to that church; I’m just visiting.

I balked big time.

Got my ass on my shoulder and sulked. Wanted to rev up my lawnmower and shred poinsettias. Wanted to stuff my candle someplace where it could never be lit. Wanted to pluck the wings off angels. Wanted to tell the low-cut woman to put on a sweater. Wanted to stomp out without taking communion. Wanted to huff and puff and… Well, that service was a wash.

Why is it so hard for me to receive?

Somebody said it is more blessed to give than to receive.

A lot He knew!

It’s easy for me to give. Makes me feel important. Empowered. A contributor. One of the blessed prosperous.

But to receive—that’s hard. It’s humiliating. It means I have to acknowledge my weakness, my neediness, my lower station. It makes me beholden.

When I first became a Christian, I remember what a struggle I had with the idea of receiving salvation as a gift from God. I felt I should earn it so that God would be beholden to me.

John’s Gospel says, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”.

I think it would be easier to be saved if God only asked that I swing over a river full of crocodiles holding the rope in my teeth while carrying an anvil. It would take a real man to get saved that way.

But to acknowledge that I have no merit, that I am a spiritual paraplegic, that I need Someone to save me because I don’t stand a chance otherwise. That I live every day on life support. That the building is burning and I can’t get out, that I need a Savior, that I have to receive Him—that’s hard.

So, on Christmas Eve and in the days following, I’ve behaved churlishly.

Instead of feeling gratitude for the help offered, I’ve felt resentful, offended, hurt.

Instead of seeing the offered help as a gift of love from the Father through the hand of man, I’ve wished I’d never confided in anyone about my concern in the first place. I’ve fumed and worried and twisted this situation in my mind again and again.

So much for the openness and transparency I wrote about on New Year’s Eve.

Oh well, this is an on-going situation.

May the Lord teach me how to cope with it… and maybe, eventually, be thankful.

What a crock! Changes in attitude, heart-changes, are also a gift from above, and have to be received. How you react to a gift, reveals what you are inside… and right now, I don’t like what I’m seeing within myself very much.

Ugly Ingratitude overshadows all my thoughts since Christmas Eve.

I don’t know how to cope with this.

What’s worse, I ‘m not sure I want to know.

Lord, be merciful to John Cowart.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 9:57 AM

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