The Big Push

In my youth I read a book about Vince Lombardi, the fabled coach of the Green Bay Packers. Lombardi was able to motivate a mediocre or average team to world championships in pro football. One of his favorite motivational methods was to urge his team towards “the big push” by exerting more effort.” Lombardi employed this motivation towards the end of the season when winning games were critical if they were to get into the playoffs.

When a class paper needed to be written in a few days or having to cram for upcoming exams I used to amuse my college classmates by solemnly announcing that it was time for “the big push.” I also used this as a rallying cry in a tightly contested sporting event to finish strong at the finish. This was useful at the end of a 5 or 10K race so I could summon the energy to sprint not jog at the finish line. Partly motivation, partly advisory, “the big push” was my mantra when there was little time, and significant effort needed to be extended as an assignment, a project, a finish line or objective was imminently due.

I remember blearily typing a college paper (this was before computers and word processors) the night before it was due. My fingers cramped up from all the typing and my brain froze from fatigue. The words blurred into the paper and I could barely keep my eyes open. I learned my lesson. (No, reader, it was not to wait until the last minute but to find a girlfriend who could type my papers a lot faster than I could.)

Photo by Vlad Chetan-Pixels

The mantra followed me into my career. How many times sensitive projects and assignments required me to expend a lot of effort and time at the end to successfully complete it? I confess that the mantra often was a result of procrastination on my part.

One of the benefits when retiring is that the corporate big push disappears. No work deadlines! No demands from bosses to be met! No late and hurried meetings! No changes at the eleventh hour or rushing to edit/revise a spreadsheet, presentation, flowchart or report.

So does “the big push” disappear at retirement??

The answer is “No.” In fact the mantra becomes more incessant, more personal and more time sensitive.

In our younger days, our efforts were largely to fulfill or meet the expectations of others (employer, client, manager). The target dates for completion could be arbitrarily changed. When we stop working, our focus is on fulfilling our personal dreams and goals. Maybe there were things we put off while working and did not have the time to do. Along with a Medicare card and social security check, retirement provides a mental bucket list of plans and dreams to get checked off. For many of us, this list includes travel, cruises, adventure,  relocation, endless golf and pickleball, philanthropy, and more quality time with family, children, grandchildren and friends.

Regrettably there is no guarantee particularly as one gets older that the vagaries of time, good health, capacity and circumstance won’t interfere with our plans. For example, my stepfather intended to fish and live down the shore when he retired. Unfortunately he had health issues with his heart and with cancer and he never fully realized his dreams dying only a few years after his retirement.

My closest friend’s parents died relatively early. He is obsessed with living as fully as he can daily. He doesn’t need to say the big push mantra, he lives it. Life and experience have taught him the uncertainty of guaranteed future time and opportunity.

Many of us want not only to pursue our pleasures and hobbies  but to leave a legacy, whether it is a result of our charity or community efforts or to serve as an example to our children or grandchildren. This is our big push, indeed it may be our final big push. Let’s not look back at this time with regret but with satisfaction that we used the time and opportunities we had to enjoy life and make life enjoyable and better for others.

The “It” Factor

Clara Bow was an actress in the 1920s who was labeled “The It Girl.” She was the predecessor to Farrah Fawcett, Marilyn Monroe, Raquel Welch and a number of sex symbols who were on TV and movie screens as well as posters on many men’s collegiate dorm walls. Clark Gable, Paul Newman and Brad Pitt might be characterized as having “it” by women.

What is “it?” “It” is a mixture of attractiveness, charm, personality, sex appeal and confidence that radiates from the person. I don’t think that “it” is only a phenomenon or brand for just Hollywood actresses or celebrities. I think that all of us have “it”. “It” are the qualities that make us attractive and what attracts us to a potential spouse, partner and opposite sex. It may also be defined differently as to its constituent qualities.

“It” is not inexhaustible and some people are blessed with more of “It” than others. There are peaks and valleys of “It”. Some people run out of “It” faster than others. Some lucky people never lose it no matter how old they get.

Here is my unscientific, totally subjective and undocumented (no data) analysis of the peaks and valleys when most men and women exhibit IT. Apologies to George Clooney, Morgan Fairchild and Christie Brinkley in advance…

Women acquire “it” earlier than men as they mature more quickly. Women may also lose “it” at a faster rate than men from age range 40-70. The peak age range for both men and woman is from 20 to 30. Again these are generalizations. Depending on one’s heredity, health, financial status, plastic surgery and desire to maintain “It”, results can vary.

Senescence: Round 4

A shower of passing thoughts and thunderous ruminations…

With apologies to Rodney, five jobs where you don’t get any respect: 

  1. Epidemiologist 
  2. Eagles football coach
  3. Governor of a largely populated state
  4. New host of Jeopardy
  5. 44th U.S. President

Summer is coming to a close. I won’t miss the heat, the humidity or the mosquitos. I will miss the early dawn sunrises and the late dusk sundowns.

On deeper reflection, I have lived through 70 summers, how many summers do I have left to enjoy?

The French showed more resistance in 1940 to the German invasion of their country than the anti-vaxxers have demonstrated to the invasion of covid in the United States.

Long running TV Talk Show in the 1960’s and 70’s that would not last 13 weeks today: Dick Cavett.(That’s no reflection on Cavett, it’s a reflection of our culture and the limited sophistication and education of today’s audiences).

RIP Markie Post. She was a beautiful distraction on one of my favorite comedies in the 1980s, Night Court.

Celebrity whose death affected me the most? John Lennon

Current Five Overrated Sports People and Events

  1. Pickleball ratings
  2. NBA Draft
  3. Dallas Cowboys
  4. The Process (not Embiid but the tanking by the 76ers)
  5. Sports Talk Shows (worst show is Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharp)

While I enjoyed the Gold medal victories of the U.S. Men and Women’s Basketball Teams in the Olympics, I became a fan of the 3 on 3 Women’s Basketball competition (also won by the U.S.)

Two late Summer 2021 Book Recommendations:

  1. The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis
  2. The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, A Temptation and The Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell

Another 1970 high school classmate passed away recently. My class had 481 students. Based on what I know, approximately 10% of my class has passed away in the 50 years since graduation. Given our stage in life now, it’s possible that 50% of us will die within the next 10 years.

Health, opportunity and time. The older we are, the less certain and smaller window to take advantage of them.

With possible apologies to W.C. Fields, I’d rather be living in Philadelphia than anywhere in Florida.

Observations on reaching the last year of my seventh decade

From left to right, Sandra, Eric, Joanne and two other unnamed cousins

Feeling wistful, ruminative and a bit thankful…

If life is a train ride, my station may be coming up soon. Regrettably most of us don’t know when our ride will end. A few friends and family members have disembarked too early, leaving me sitting sadly alone in the train car. 

All of us have an “aha” or life changing moment. Mine occurred on the morning of February 14, 1960 when I was told about my father’s sudden death. At age 7, I learned about impermanence, self reliance and responsibility. Some people never receive those insights no matter their age.

I have not measured my life’s success based on my net worth, corporate executive titles or possessions I owned. Simply I wanted to be the best husband, son, brother, uncle and friend I could be. Largely that meant I needed to be “present” when someone needed help or encouragement.

My 44 years of marriage to a wonderful woman represents the best decision and greatest commitment of my life. The joy and love from this woman more than offset any disappointments, failures, and travails I have experienced. Life does not always offer an easy road but I am grateful for my constant and supportive companion.

Some of my life’s biggest disappointments, socially and in business, were as a result of women. This is not an indictment of women as much it shows my lowered expectations of the words, promises and actions of my brother man.

Coincidentally, but not surprising, my biggest supporters and influencers, in my youth, were women. Besides my wife Chris, my sister Sandra was a source of encouragement, love and motivation. Sandra’s death twenty seven years ago is my greatest personal loss.

Two biggest trends in my lifetime: (1) the explosion, breadth and advancement of technology in business and personal life and (2) the disintegration, coarseness and division of our politics and civility.

I have no heirs but I am sad about the type of world that my generation is leaving to those generations behind us. We’ve left them problems with government debt, climate change, rebuilding infrastructure, improving public education etc. Those are issues that we should have been focusing on instead of building walls, creating conspiracy theories and disputing fair elections.

I was looking at some pictures of birthday parties for me or cousins when I was 6 or 7. The black and white pictures were a bit faded, many of my family in the photo are deceased but the memories remain. Was there anything more exciting for a young boy or girl than to look forward to a birthday party with friends and family?

The basic evidence of humanity among people is simply sharing a smile.

I’ve lived 25,202 days. That’s a lot of opportunities to appreciate sunsets, sunrises, great conversations, varied travel experiences, meet new friends, and make social and business contributions. Success and appreciation of life are often measured by how close our results = opportunities.

Sign of the Times:  We need a Facebook prompt to remember and celebrate a friend or relative’s birthday. 

Why is it that despite much improved personal training and sports medicine that today’s pitchers can’t go beyond five innings and basketball players can only play half a season?

Senescence: Round 3

More reflections, thoughts, perspectives and broodings on being older. You can find earlier and similar posts here and here.

Old age: Current age + 10 years; Youth: Current age – 10 years.

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You  can only break my heart, once.

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The ratio of laughter to tears narrows as one ages.

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2:00 a.m. : (age 18) = 10:00 p.m. : (age 60+)

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The penultimate expression of acquired wisdom is when we value health over wealth.

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The value of what we don’t know > the value of what we do know.

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Britain’s greatest export was The Beatles.

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Baseball is this nation’s passed time.

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Picture by Keegan Houser (Pixels)

Many of our sweetest memories generally have a soundtrack playing in the recesses of our mind.

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Investing today is like playing a game at the carnival fair. You know the odds are stacked against you but the allure of winning a proverbial stuffed animal is too strong.

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I wish I had a penny for each time a person changed the channel or fast forwarded a program on their remote or Roku. Within a day or two, I would be richer than Jeff Bezos.

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Mother’s and Father’s Day is “Memorial Day” for many of us.

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Our portals in time travel include old polaroid pictures, a yearbook and ticket stubs from a decades old concert or sporting event.

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Do we ever really “grow up”?

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Not sure that this applies to many 1960’s era football stars, but Jim Brown definitely could have played into today’s NFL.

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In addition to Medicare and Social Security, one of the unheralded benefits for seniors are naps.

Lifespan: Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To by David A. Sinclair (Review and Notes)

If you are over 50 years old, this book is an excellent resource related to your health, general fitness and quality of life.

I have included some excerpts for the book as my notes and reference:

I believe that aging is a disease. I believe it is treatable. I believe we can treat it within our lifetimes. And in doing so, I believe, everything we know about human health will be fundamentally changed.

There are some simple tests to determine how biologically old you probably are. The number of push-ups you can do is a good indicator. If you are over 45 and can do more than 20, you are doing well. The other test of age is the sitting rising test. Sit on the floor, barefooted, with the legs crossed. Lean forward quickly and see if you can get up in one move. A young person can. A middle-age person typically needs to push off with one of their hands. An elderly person often needs to get onto one knee.

There’s also a difference between extending life and prolonging vitality. We’re capable of both, but simply keeping people alive – – decades after their lives have been defined by pain, disease, frailty, and immobility – – is no virtue.

Multiple “hallmarks” of aging:
Genomic instability caused by DNA damage
Attrition of the protective chromosomal endocaps, the telomeres
Alterations to the epigenome that controls which genes are turned on and off
Loss of healthy protein maintenance, known as proteostatis
Deregulated nutrient sensing caused by metallic changes
Mitochondrial dysfunction
Accumulation of senescent zombielike cells that inflame healthy cells
Exhaustion of stem cells
Altered intercellular communication and the production of inflammatory molecules

Youth—broken DNA genome instability— disruption of DNA packaging and gene regulation (the epigenome)— loss of cell identity —cellular senescence— disease— death

The older we get, the less it takes for an injury or illness to drive us to our deaths. We are pushing closer and closer to the precipice until it takes nothing more than a gentle went to send us over. This is the very definition of frailty.

When we stay healthy and vibrant, as long as we feel young physically and mentally, our age doesn’t matter. That’s true whether you are 32, 52, or 92. Most middle-aged and older adults in the United States report feeling 10 to 20 years younger than their age, because they feel healthy. And feeling younger than your age predicts lower mortality and better cognitive abilities later in life.

After 25 years of researching aging and having read thousands of scientific papers, if there is one piece of advice I can offer, one sure fire way to stay healthy longer, one thing you can do to maximize your lifespan right now, it’s this: eat less often.

The important thing is not just what we eat but the way we eat. Many of the centenarians have spent their lives eschewing a morning meal. They generally eat their first small meal of the day around noon, then share a larger meal with their families at twilight. In this way, they typically spend 16 hours or more of each day without eating.

According to one study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in 2017, individuals who exercise more – – the equivalent of at least a half hour of jogging five days a week – –have telomeres that appear to be nearly a decade younger than those who live a more sedentary life.

One recent study found that those who ran 4-5 miles a week – – for most people, that’s an amount of exercise that can be done in less than 15 minutes per day – – reduce the chance of death from a heart attack by 45% and all cause mortality by 30%.

It’s high intensity interval training (HIIT) the sort that significantly raises your heart and respiration rates— that engages the greatest number of health promoting genes and more of them in older exercisers.

A study of more than 41,000 metformin users between the ages of 68 and 81 concluded that metformin reduced the likelihood of dementia, cardiovascular disease, cancer, frailty, and depression, and not by a small amount.

People taking metformin were living notably healthier lives – – independent, it seemed, of its affects on diabetes.

The beauty of metformin is that it impacts many diseases. Through the power of AMPK activation, it makes more NAD and turns on sirtuins and other defenses against aging as a whole -– engaging the survival circuit upstream of these conditions, ostensibly slowing the loss of epi-genetic information and keeping metabolism in check, so all organs stay younger and healthier.

Like most people, I don’t want unlimited years, just ones filled with less sickness and more love. And for most of those I know who are engaged in this work, the fight against aging is not about ending death; it’s about prolonging healthy life and giving more people the chance to meet death on far better terms – – indeed, on their own terms. Quickly and painlessly. When they are ready.

Either by refusing the treatments and therapies at all for a prolong healthy life or accepting those interventions and then deciding to leave whenever the time is right, no one who has returned what they have been given should have to stay on this planet if he or she does not wish to do so. And we need to begin the process of developing the cultural, ethical, and legal principles that will allow that to happen.

Thoughts on the Fly

Close friends, family and even spouses may know 60-80% of who we really are. No one knows 100% of us, not even ourselves.

Emotionally it is easier to give help than to accept it. Giving is an expression of the heart;  accepting often requires the surrender of ego and pride.

The endings of most friendships and relationships are not mutual decisions decided concurrently. Often one of the parties finds it an unpleasant surprise…

Strangely enough in retirement, what I miss most are not the paychecks or the benefits but the memories of the joys and anticipations of a two week vacation from work.

A very useful and unique skill I possess is the ability to quickly retrieve my wife’s train of thought, without prompt, from a conversation or point she was making from a day, weeks or months before.

Does anybody remember the excitement and feeling of accomplishment from the first time they were able to ride a two wheeled bike? Does anyone remember their first bike like they remember their first car?

A great coach teaches not only how his team should win with class but also to lose with dignity.

After one retires, does one really need a watch? It’s like a prison ankle bracelet that serves little purpose once one escapes the confines of working 8 to 5.

Sage wisdom from a New York Times Article 7 Questions 75 Artists 1 Bad Year

I’ve made peace with myself. I chose to no longer stress over the things I have no control over.

Tiwa Savage, musician

I have to have a thousand bad ideas before I can get to a good one.

Aaron Sorkin, writer and director

I’m writing a book, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started over from scratch. But the bad ideas lead to the best ones. Sometimes you have to break down to break through.

Amanda Gorman, poet

Miscellanea: Ruminations on a Dreary and Somber Day

Sandra Lynn Burleigh (Donahue) 2/28/1956 – 1/5/1995

I have lived 25,080 days. My sister Sandra who would have been 65 today died at age 38 in 1995, lived 14,191 days. She embodied the adage that it’s the quality of life in your years that matter not the years in your life.

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While it’s important at any time, the value of having good friends and family is far greater in our senior years than the value of one’s investments and assets.

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There are people who have hundreds or thousands of “friends” or followers on social media that may influence their lives. In my life, there are or were five people who influenced me by their thoughts and examples to be a better person. For them, I am grateful.

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We receive 86,400 “presents” daily so everyday is Christmas.

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According to the book, Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality by physicist Frank Wilczek, we can have a billion thoughts in our lifetime. I think that as we get older many of our thoughts are re-runs like old Gunsmoke or MASH episodes.

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Based on normal actuary tables, I have probably lived between 87-89% of my expected life. If I was a car, I would probably be replaced for a new model. Regrettably my trade-in value would be relatively low. My tires are worn, my headlights are dim and my engine is not as powerful as it once was.

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Ben Johns: Pickleball = Michael Jordan:Basketball

Johns and Jordan are the best closers in their respective sports.

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Cash Prizes: 2021 Australian Open = $80,000,000; 2021 Pro Pickleball Championships = $100,000

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Mitch McConnell: on Capitol Riot 1/6/21

“The mob was fed lies,”.“They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”…”These criminals were carrying his banners. Hanging his flags. And screaming their loyalty to him,”

Mitch McConnell on 2/25/21:He would “absolutely” support former President Donald Trump if he became the GOP presidential nominee in 2024.

WTF???

Senescence: Round 2

Some additional Pensées on the art of aging and other ruminations…Earlier Pensées found here

The best thing that we can receive are not presents, but simply “presence”.

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While I sadly accept the fate of lost friendships by death, I continually mourn lost friends due to distance, dispute or their disinterest. 

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Young broken hearts quickly recover; older hearts rarely…

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Memory is a funny thing. It vividly remembers the wink of an eye from a pretty girl 50 years ago but can’t remember what it had for lunch yesterday.

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In every real man, a child is hidden who…misses the comfort of hugs and reassurances of parents, siblings, relatives and friends no longer alive.

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As a young child, I treasured a pocket watch as my timepiece, today I just treasure peaceful time.

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One may try so hard to be liked by everyone that one can forget to take the time to like themselves.

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The average older guy’s daily wardrobe often can fit into the locker he had in high school.

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30 minutes of personal or phone conversation > dozens of text and Facebook messages

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On long solo walks, I find myself rarely traveling alone…

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40+years of marriage: Life accomplishment = .400 batting average: baseball. Both achievements deserve recognition in their respective Hall of Fames.

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Linus has his security blanket; older Americans, nostalgia.

Photo by Daniel Frese from Pixels

Muses on a Cold Winter Morning

My writing efforts resemble my pickleball game performances. Brief flashes of brilliance mixed with plenty of unforced errors and faults.

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The experience of watching televised college and pro sports during Covid is like viewing a sitcom without a laugh track.

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Parler: politics = Pornhub: love

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So who stands “in the dock” for the various atrocities and abuses to our democracy and laws committed in the past four years? A number of Trump sycophants, enablers and officials, in a bid to salvage their reputations and careers, finally bailed out from the “Herrenvolk.” Nikki Haley, Bill O’Reilly, Betty DeVos, Elaine Chao, Mitch McConnell, John Kelly, John Bolton, Mike Pence and many other Trump supporters are fleeing from Trump like Melania avoids child refugee camps.

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Rush Limbaugh’s receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom is as appropriate as the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences awarding Bonzo its Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Professional sports championships are generally decided off-season and by General Managers and less by players. College championships are generally decided in recruiting, less on the field or court. 

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How Trumpism mimics the coronavirus: (1) Can damage or kill the host (U.S.)  if untreated or unopposed. (2) Moves quickly through the populace through spreader (campaign) events. (3) Spurs denials by naysayers as to its existence and dangers. (4) Adverse after effects continue for many months (years) after initial contagion. (4) Mutates frequently posing additional dangers.  (5) Remedied by inoculation (election results).

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The biggest editors when many write are psychological, concerns for acceptance and approval plus the fear of speaking one’s mind and upsetting a career and reputation. How freeing to be retired and of advanced age when those editors are not as binding! While I still value the opinions of others, it’s more important that I move ideas and thoughts from my brain to screen, while I can.

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Tell me how many books and what you you read on a topic  and I can tell you how seriously I value your opinions on that topic.

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As I get older what has tragically declined faster than my physical and mental capabilities has been my decline in trust for most people to simply do the right things, especially when it comes to acting in the best interests of the nation, community or fellow man. 

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