My "Daughter's" Project

My youngest daughter (I have two) is in the 10th grade in high school. Her history class is studying the French Revolution right now and, during the Thanksgiving break she decided she wanted to build a scale model guillotine for extra credit. She, of course, enlisted my help. It never even occurred to me that I could probably find something online that would suffice and, in fact, I just looked and found a couple of places I could have purchased a kit. Here’s a really simple one. Here’s another.

As it turned out, I think I jumped at the opportunity to re-arrange our ridiculously stuffed garage, so I could get to my woodworking bench and use all the tools I’ve purchased or was given over the years and haven’t used for nearly a decade. Amazingly enough, they all worked despite some rust and corrosion.

I took some pictures as I was going along, and finished it yesterday so she could bring it to school today. This afternoon, I came across the original note her teacher gave her with the “rules”, e.g. it must work, it can’t have a sharp blade, and it isn’t due until Friday . . . grrrrr. Frankly, I became a wee tad obsessed with pulling this off and I’m glad it’s done and gone. I was having a hard time doing anything else, even though there were periods of time in between gluing and when I needed to build up my confidence that I could pull something off. Sometimes it mostly involved my remembering how to do something.

I made the whole thing out of a plank of 3/4″ thick Pine and a hobby piece of 1/4″ Oak. Since most of the table called for 3/4″ square pieces, I had to use an old table saw designed for onsite carpentry. It belonged to a friend of mine and, even though it’s been in my garage for at least 17 or 18 years, it still belongs to him. I just get to use it. Some of the cuts I had to make concerned by fingertips greatly, but they all managed to survive.

At any rate, here are some photos.

Here, the guillotine is mostly finished and assembled. You can see I was making a set of stairs, which I hadn’t planned on doing, but my daughter insisted was necessary.
I made the blade out of plastic, so it’s incapable of cutting, the spacer out of some Oak I had to purchase to get the 1/4″ thickness I needed for a few pieces. I made the counterweight out of a piece of 2×4 that’s probably been sitting in our garage for two decades.
If you compare the stairs to what I started with and have depicted in the first photo, above, you’ll note I ultimately ended with four steps. I think it was because I realized I’d made them too tall to being with and had to scale it all down. The steps and the table/platform are made of Oak and here the whole thing has been treated with Watco Danish oil.
Getting the blade to actually drop was a bit of a challenge because cutting the channels on the two uprights so the blade assembly would be able to slide smoothly up and drop fairly quickly down was challenging, and they weren’t quite as smooth as I would have liked them to be. Nevertheless, I got it done after a bit of trial and error.
We have a little squeeze toy I picked up at a conference a long time ago from Hitachi. It’s a Sumo wrestler and, unfortunately, his head has managed to depart his body, though we keep him around (why, I don’t know). My wife thought he fit rather nicely with the device, so her ’tis. Next photo is from the other side.
That’s All, Folks.

Impeach 'Em All

Bill Barr has proven himself to be nothing more than another of Trump’s uncritical sycophants. Instead of being Attorney General for the United States of America, he’s acted as Donald Trump’s personal attorney. Couple that with his overwhelming partisanship and dishonesty, and you have a perfect case for another impeachment and a criminal indictment. Make it so!

Thread by @djrothkopf: “Just got this via text: “You are a retarded kike. You dont want to win 2020. You enjoy complaining about Trump.” It was accompanied by this […]”

I want . . . no, I need to share this thread. Although I have been an atheist for most of my adult life, I was born a Jew and am bar mitzvah. I feel it is incumbent upon me to stand not only with my fellow Jews, but also with all those who suffer oppression, prejudice, and hatred. I am not a public figure, so I have not been attacked like David, but if this keeps up (and, especially, if Trump is re-elected) we can expect things to get worse, perhaps a lot worse. Don’t think it can’t happen because this is America. As David points out, America is responsible for the slaughter of our native peoples and the enslavement of Africans for centuries. Our hands are hardly clean. We need to be prepared for the worse, all while working to bring about a better world for all.

Thread by @djrothkopf: “Just got this via text: “You are a retarded kike. You dont want to win 2020. You enjoy complaining about Trump.” It w by this and other anti-semitic art. This is Trumpism. The instances of this & worse happening in my life […]”

Source: Thread by @djrothkopf: “Just got this via text: “You are a retarded kike. You dont want to win 2020. You enjoy complaining about Trump.” It was accompanied by this […]”

My Twitter Suspension

Uh oh! Ricky’s been a baaaaad boy. This is what happens when you suggest a man surrounded by secret service protection and the best medical care in the world experience something everyone’s speculating he’s experienced already. The man responsible for hundreds, if not thousands of needless deaths and who knows how much misery. The man who vilifies those he represents and spews a constant stream of vile, hateful lies and deceptions. The person who violates Twitters rules on a daily basis and suffers nothing for his transgressions. And, of course, there’s precious little I can do about it. I will appeal and suggest context matters, but I can’t even be sure what I was responding to. I think I know what it was, though, so I’ll go that route.

Golly gee whiz! I sure hope I didn’t hurt his feefees or anything.

Understanding Grief

I’ve written fairly frequently about death and dying. The concept of non-existence for eternity fascinates me. I suppose that might be a taste weird, but I have a feeling I’m not alone in my wondering. One of my first posts on the subject is about my attitude toward my own death. You can read it here, if you’re so inclined.

I’ve also written about one of my closest friends who was killed in Vietnam, long ago. That post is located here. Another came much later, and is about another friend I had known since before I can remember. I hadn’t spoken with him in a long time and heard about his death from one of his brothers. It can be found here.

I also touched on the subject of grief, somewhat generally, in a post where I ended by lamenting the loss of people I never knew but somehow felt I should have upon hearing from those who were close to them. That post is located here.

All this is merely an intro to a thought I encountered recently on Facebook, and I wanted to share. I think it more than adequately expresses what grief truly is, and how it affects us. What follows is that sentiment. I want to remember it well.

Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.

~Jamie Anderson

Bribery or Extortion?

A lot of airtime has been spent over whether or not Donald Trump offered a quid pro quo to the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. Many astute commentators, however, have pointed out that a quid pro quo is not necessary in this case and, in any event, the real criminal activity here is either bribery or extortion. I would argue that it’s actually both. Let’s look at the elements of bribery.

  1. The individual being bribed is a “public official,” which includes rank-and-file federal employees on up to elected officials; [President Zelensky is most definitely a public official, as is Donald Trump.]
  2. A “thing of value” has been offered, whether it’s tangible (such as cash) or intangible (such as the promise of influence or official support); [Lots of cash was offered to Zelinsky. This is the “Quid.”]
  3. There’s an “official act” that may be influenced by a bribe (such as pending legislation that may have a direct impact on the party offering the bribe); [The Ukrainian government was to make an official announcement it was conducting a corruption investigation into the Bidens and the DNC server. This is the “Quo.”]
  4. The public official has the authority or power to commit the official act (for instance, the official is a senator who is voting on a particular piece of legislation); [Two Presidents . . . duh!]
  5. There must be the establishment of intent on the part of the bribing party to get a desired result (the intent to sway the vote by handing over an envelope full of cash); [The “transcript” of Trump’s call and plenty of testimony], and
  6. The prosecution must establish a causal connection between the payment and the act meaning there must be more than just a suspicious coincidence. [Again . . . lots of testimony from highly credible witnesses to the ongoing attempt at extortion].

It’s become quite clear the American public is a bit uncomfortable with the Latin phrase, quid pro quo and, in fact, as previously stated a definitive “this for that” offer isn’t necessary. Given the totality of the evidence so far, it’s quite clear to anyone who is really paying attention—and understands how the law works—Trump was using the threat of Russian violence to extort an announcement of (at the minimum; actual investigation as they real object) an investigation into Burisma and Hunter Biden.

It can also be argued, at the very least, that Trump was also soliciting a bribe from Zelensky before he would release the money Congress had already authorized for military aid to the Ukrainians. Also offered, in exchange for such a bribe, was a meeting at the White House for President Zelensky.

What’s important to realize is there is no reason to dwell on whether or not there was a specific quid from quo (an offer of something in exchange for something else) to find Trump was engaging in extortion and (as previously noted) at the very least solicitation of a bribe.

That Trump is a common criminal and con man, who has managed to grift his way into the highest office in the land, should be quite obvious to all but those who are now deeply enmeshed in his cult of personality. What this says about that swath of the populace supporting him is quite uncomfortable to fathom. Regardless, I’m looking forward to his impeachment and, if we’re fortunate, removal from office of this deeply deranged and hateful man masquerading as an actual President of the United States of America.

A Forgotten Limerick

Faux Snooze

Looking through some of my old writings, many of which have never been published (some because they’ve never been finished,) I came across this limerick. It’s dated December 3, 2013.

Fox newscasts, so chock full of hate
Render truth an impervious gate
They so often dissemble
We can’t help but tremble
With hope they will soon meet their fate

13 Reasons Why People Don’t Share Their Knowledge – and what to do about it

This is another paper I found on my computer. Truth to tell, I have no idea who wrote it. It could have been me, but I don’t remember. I searched the phrase from the title in Google, but could not find anything. Inasmuch as I retired from Rocketdyne (and the pursuit of enterprise-wide KM) nearly 10 years ago, it could be from something I encountered more than a decade ago. Nevertheless, I’m sharing it with the caveat that I’m not claiming to have written it; I’m only asserting it’s an important document for anyone who’s struggling with getting their organization’s people to share their knowledge for the benefit of their company. My experience, as well as my discussion with those who are still involved in the corporate world, is that knowledge sharing is still nowhere near as widespread as I think it should be. So, without further ado, here’s that Baker’s dozen of reasons people aren’t sharing:

  1. They don’t know why they should do it. Leadership has not made a strong case for knowledge sharing. Solution: Have the leader of the organization communicate regularly on knowledge sharing expectations, goals, and rewards.
  2. They don’t know how to do it. They have not received training and communications on how to share knowledge. Solution: Regularly communicate and conduct training, webinars, and knowledge fairs. Web-based training and webinar recordings should be available for all tools.
  3. They don’t know what they are supposed to do. Leadership has not established and communicated clear goals for knowledge sharing. Solution: Establish and communicate clear knowledge-sharing goals.
  4. They think the recommended way will not work. They have received training and communications but don’t believe what they are being asked to do will work. Solution: The KM leaders, knowledge brokers, and other members of the KM team have to convince people in small groups or one-on-one by showing them that it does work.
  5. They think their way is better. They are used to working on their own or collaborating only with a small group of trusted comrades and believe this is the best way. Solution: Regularly share stories of how others are benefiting from sharing knowledge using the recommended ways. This should help sway those stuck in their current ways to consider using better ways.
  6. They think something else is more important. They believe that there are higher-priority tasks than knowledge sharing. Solution: Get all first-level managers to model knowledge-sharing behavior for their employees, and to inspect compliance to knowledge-sharing goals with the same fervor as they inspect other goals.
  7. There is no positive consequence to them for doing it. They receive no rewards, recognition, promotions, or other benefits for sharing knowledge. Solution: Implement rewards and recognition programs for those who share their knowledge. For example, award points to those who share knowledge, and then give desirable rewards to those with the top point totals.
  8. They think they are doing it. They are sharing knowledge differently than the recommended ways (e.g., sending email to trusted colleagues or distribution lists). Solution: Assign people to work with each community and organization to show them how to use the recommended ways and how they work better than other ways. Providing a new tool or process which is viewed as a “killer app” – it quickly and widely catches on – is the best way for the old ways to be replaced with new ways.
  9. They are rewarded for not doing it. They hoard their knowledge and thus get people to beg for their help, or they receive rewards, recognition, or promotions based on doing other tasks. Solution: Work with all managers in the organization to encourage them to reinforce the desired behaviors and stop rewarding the wrong behaviors.
  10. They are punished for doing it. As a result of spending time on knowledge sharing, they don’t achieve other goals which are more important to the organization. Solution: Align knowledge-sharing processes and goals with other critical processes and performance goals.
  11. They anticipate a negative consequence for doing it. They are afraid that if they share knowledge, they will lose their status as a guru (no one will have to come begging to them at the time of need), that people they don’t trust will misuse it or use it without attribution, or that they will not achieve other more important goals. They are afraid of asking a question in public because it may expose their ignorance or make them appear incompetent. Solution: Position knowledge sharing as being a critical success factor for the organization. Facilitate ways for people to establish trusting relationships through enterprise social networks and face-to-face meetings. Recognize those who ask in public, and provide ways to ask questions on behalf of others.
  12. There is no negative consequence to them for not doing it. Knowledge sharing is not one of their performance goals, or it is a goal which is not enforced. Solution: Work with all first-level managers to get them to implement, inspect, and enforce knowledge-sharing goals. This needs to come from the top – if the leader of the organization insists on it and checks up on compliance, it will happen.
  13. There are obstacles beyond their control. They are not allowed to spend time sharing knowledge, they don’t have access to systems for knowledge sharing, or they don’t have strong English language skills for sharing with those outside of their country. Solution: Embed knowledge sharing into normal business processes. Provide ways to collaborate when not connected (e.g., using email for discussion forums). Encourage those with weak English skills to share within their countries in their native languages.

For My Eyes Also (Part 7)

Here’s that Iceberg Metaphor Again!

Managing Culture Change

Corporate culture consists of three levels: Artifacts; espoused values; and shared tacit assumptions.[1] Each of these levels is important in understanding not only what corporate culture is, but how it works, and how it can be both changed and used to the benefit of the organization as a whole.


Artifacts consist of real, tangible things which can be associated with the organization. For example, McDonald’s has its golden arches, KFC has its colonel, and Nike has its swoosh. These are the most obvious, though not necessarily the most powerful, artifacts which can be associated with a company or organization. The more important artifacts are, for our purpose, things like architecture, décor, and the way people act while at work.

Some of the deepest feelings attributable to an organization’s culture are engendered by artifacts. For example, outside the main entrance to Rocketdyne sits an F-1 Rocket Engine. The engine stands approximately 20 feet high and, at its base, is around 12 – 15 feet in diameter. In front of it is a simple, bronze plaque, which informs you that this is the engine, along with four others, which lifted the Apollo Lunar Modules off the earth on their trip to the moon.

For anyone who works there, and knows anything about the company where they work, this engine evokes powerful feelings of accomplishment and success. I know from firsthand experience and observation that this frequently translates into a willingness (at the very least, resignation) to work that extra hour, to take a little more time in assuring your work is the best it can be.

Espoused Values

These may be characterized by, among other things, an organization’s beliefs, level of communication, and methods of accomplishing it mission. These values may be seen in such things as a company’s rules, policies, and procedures. It may be found on the walls as slogans and posters. In talking to members of the organization you may be told that the company believes in things like teamwork, “best practices”, continuous improvement, and lean manufacturing.

At Rocketdyne, the corporate mantra involves team-based component production, commitment to safety, scientific analysis at all levels of the corporate structure, and lessons learned, in addition to other policies and procedures too numerous to mention. It is the background against which our daily activities take place and translates into copious collections of data, numerous briefings to higher and higher levels of management, and close inspection and analysis of every piece of hardware which goes out the door.

However, while many of these concepts may be spoken of, and may even appear as items of value on the corporate web pages and on slogans and posters put up around the plant and offices, it does not necessarily follow that they are actually carried out in our day-to-day lives. Frequently, managers and others who will say they believe in stated policies, are nevertheless placed in positions where they are required by more specific policies to do exactly the opposite of what the company says it believes in.

At Rocketdyne, this can be seen in the use of individual awards and yearly performance reviews, in spite of the outer appearance given by a team-based organization. This is a case where the management, due to executive requirements, fails to “walk the talk”, and falls back on “the way we’ve always done it”.

This inconsistency leads to what is arguably the most important aspect of culture, the real, deep assumptions by an organization and its members of how to accomplish the daily tasks, the sum total of which are the company’s true vision and mission.

Shared Tacit Assumptions

This is perhaps the most pervasive and, with respect to efforts at change, the most insidious of the three aspects of corporate culture. They are the things which “go without saying”, which we accept as the ways of the world, or the ways in which things get done. People cannot readily tell you what their culture is, any more than fish, if they could talk, could tell you what water is.[2]

In the same way, a company’s shared tacit assumptions are taken for granted. Many, if not most, people are incapable of seeing any other way to perform a task or get a particular result. It is all they know, and to think otherwise is, in a word, unthinkable.

At Rocketdyne there are numerous ways in which this happens. They are frequently discovered only when something goes wrong, or when a series of small things go wrong which, by themselves might go unnoticed, but which lead to a major problem. We have studied the Valuejet disaster in 1995 at some length, yet as soon as we return to our jobs we occasionally find it easy to forget that it can, and sometimes does, happen to us.

We have instituted numerous methods of improving quality and performance, such as quality circles, continuous process improvement, and total quality management. We are in the process of instituting “lean manufacturing” and some of the aspects of the theory of constraints. Nevertheless, we continue to assume individual action and heroics are the real way things get done. We look for the engineer or mechanic who will come up with the answer to difficult problems, and neglect to look to the whole company for answers.

Recently, some managers have been looking for people who can “think out of the box”, who are capable of changing their frame of reference and understanding our problems in unique ways, or approaching them from a different perspective. Still, the focus is more on the individual and not on the team.

If one sets about to change a company’s culture, its view of the world, it is of the utmost importance to understand not only these three aspects of culture, but also the depth with which they pervade the organization. Failing to do so will certainly result in a misapprehension of the difficulty involved in change.

The most important things to realize are: 1. Culture is deep – it is tacit and gives meaning and predictability to our daily lives; 2. Culture is broad – it involves every aspect of our work and sometimes even invades the way we conduct our personal lives, and; 3. Culture is stable – people are generally not fond of change, and are far happier when everything goes along smoothly, just like it did yesterday and the day before. Any attempt to enforce change is likely to produce resistance and anxiety.[3]

As formidable as the technical and procedural issues of Knowledge Management are, the need to change an organization’s culture far exceeds them. Most all have heard the term “knowledge is power”. This is generally perceived to be so and frequently translates into a desire to hoard information. Many organizations have experienced the “building of empires” which stands in the way of its freely sharing collective knowledge. Without a major change in our attitude toward ownership of information, we will not be able to take advantage of the tools available to us.

Peter Senge, in his book “The Fifth Discipline”, writes of the steps and the “core disciplines” involved in creating a learning organization[4] He points out that, among those disciplines, is that of having a shared vision, and why it is important. Here is what Senge has to say about shared vision.

“In a corporation, a shared vision changes people’s relationship with the company. It is no longer ‘their company;’ it becomes ‘our company.’ A shared vision is the first step in allowing people who mistrusted each other to begin to work together. It creates a common identity. In fact, an organization’s shared sense of purpose, vision, and operating values establish the most basic level of commonality. . . .

“Shared visions compel courage so naturally that people don’t even realize the extent of their courage. Courage is simply doing whatever is needed in pursuit of the vision.”[5]

I can think of no better way to conclude my paper. Moving from our current relationship with collective knowledge, our intellectual capital, may well require a massive rethinking of our entire corporate culture. There are organizations, mostly younger and already possessed of a shared vision which includes becoming a learning organization, who are already pursuing this path.

However, there are numerous, often older organizations which will be hard-pressed to find the courage and character it will take to let go of the control they feel they now have and embrace a new kind of control; that which comes from an entire organization pursuing the same goals and vision. Until we experience the transformation from being data and information driven, to being truly knowledge driven, we will frequently be at war with ourselves.

Knowledge Management provides some of the understanding of the problem, and the vision and direction we must strive toward. However, without fundamental changes in our attitudes the path will be long and fraught with difficulty. It is, however, truly a worthy struggle and is almost certainly inevitable. Changes in technology are coming at us with greater rapidity. We have no choice but to develop new ways of thinking to better take advantage of the new tools placed at our disposal. We owe it to ourselves.

[1] Edgar H. Schein, The Corporate Culture Survival Guide, (San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1999), pp. 15-20

[2] Schein, Op. Cit., p. 21

[3] Schein, Op. Cit., pp. 25 – 26

[4] Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline, “The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization” (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1990; A Currency Paperback, 1994)

[5] Senge, Op, Cit,. p. 208

For My Eyes Also (Part 6)

How We Acquire & Share Knowledge

The amorphous collection of knowledge residing within the minds and computers of any organization is now being referred to as “Intellectual Capital”. The question we face is how to preserve and invest that capital wisely. In order to understand and solve this problem it is important first to understand how we go about acquiring and sharing our collective knowledge.

The processing of knowledge can be seen as occurring in one of four interrelated steps. These steps may be characterized as sensing, organizing, socializing, and internalizing. Each of these steps may be further characterized by specific activities that people engage in to develop their understanding of, and ability to use, the information they receive.


Sensing consists of two basic dimensions, discovering and capturing. Every day we are experiencing the world around us, whether at work, play, or rest. Regardless of where we are, be it work or home, the world impinges on us. It is the degree to which we pay attention to our world that determines how much we will discover, and how much of it we will manage to capture (remember).

In order for information to be shared, or even utilized by an individual, it must be captured. Capture in the context of this analysis consists of placing information or knowledge in a form which is accessible by others. One of the most obvious manifestations of information capture is a report, written and/or posted on an intranet site, This aspect of Knowledge Management can also be characterized as turning tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. It prepares the way for the next step in the acquisition and sharing of knowledge.

At Rocketdyne, this is done through reports such as Monthly Progress, Inspection Discrepancy and Correction, Periodic Schedule updates, Budget Variance, and others. These items memorialize the analysis, by various individuals, of information gleaned from sources as varied as the mainframe computer systems, their own experience, and anecdotal knowledge learned from others.


Once information is acquired, it must be categorized and fit into each of our personal set of experiences. People who have been at a particular function for a long time generally know more about that function than those who have just started performing it. This is so because “veterans” have had time to make mistakes, to learn from those mistakes, and to adjust their behavior accordingly.

They understand almost intuitively how best to approach particular problems and how best to solve them. This is the area in which we develop our tacit knowledge, our knowledge which we find difficult to put into words, but know deep down.

Organizing also has an external dimension and involves such activities as: The writing of reports and presentations; the compilation of data, specs, or rules, and; the maintenance of databases, spreadsheets, drawings, and other documents.

Socializing or Sharing

No matter what our intelligence and experience, we still need to work with other people. Although not true of all, most of us do our best, and learn the most, when we collaborate and work with others. By working together, and sharing our thoughts and feelings, we are capable of looking at problems and situations from many different perspectives.

This is where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. When people collaborate, they are generally capable of getting more done than when they work separately. This is obviously true of producing a complex product, and it is also true of understanding

Socialization consists of all the informal ways in which workers interact with each other and share knowledge. It is the tacit to tacit aspect of knowledge transfer. Informal email, conferencing tools, even meetings over lunch and before and after presentations and briefings fit into this category.

At Rocketdyne this activity take many forms and, in some ways, continues on throughout the day. In addition to the ways in which people share information informally listed above, there are numerous conversations which take place at peoples’ desks, over a cup of coffee, or during a cigarette break outside the building.


Once information or knowledge is captured and set forth in explicit form, it is then possible for others to benefit from it. This is done, for the most part, through the reading of reports (however published) and the studying of graphs, charts, etc. This phase may be characterized as explicit to tacit and leads to summarizing, orienting, and personalizing of tasks and content.

At Rocketdyne, this is done in numerous ways. There are briefings taking place on a daily basis. There are Corrective Action Boards, Preventive Action Boards, Material Review Boards, Flight Readiness Reviews, etc. Numerous schedules and reports are placed on the intranet and each product team has its own intranet presence. Additionally, every process has an intranet presence.

Regardless of how we process knowledge, there remains the question of how we actually relate to it and its pursuit. Too often, in our zeal to get through the day, get things done, finish what we started, we fail to take the time to process what’s happening in our lives or on our jobs. By failing to do so, we rob ourselves of the sense of wonder and awe which precedes discovery and invention. A complete approach to Knowledge Management must include an understanding of the importance reflection and relaxation can play in the role of innovation. To do so may require entirely new methods of presenting information to knowledge workers, methods we can only begin to comprehend.

We do know this. These methods will undoubtedly spring from the World Wide Web and the Internet. Already, most large companies are using their intranet more and more to gather and present the collective knowledge of their organization. Both Boeing and Rocketdyne have an extensive intranet presence which includes Vision statements, Mission statements, and items ranging from “Lessons Learned” to benefits information to product part numbers and the Manufacturing Engineers responsible for them. There are pages and pages of content devoted to education, organization, and even Knowledge Management.

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