Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dubai World Islands - Who owns Taiwan???

Or better yet, is there even a Taiwan island???

I was watching Discovery with my wife when we saw a documentary about Dubai's next land mass project The World.

You may have already heard of Dubai's Palm Island. The World is the next big project originally intended to have private islands for millionaires but now opening up to hotel and resort developers.

One Irish contingent plans to fashion their island with luscious green grass just like that of Ireland, in the middle of a desert climate!!!

So it got me thinking (upon my wife wondering out loud) about if Taiwan had an island and who would be allowed to purchase it. Maybe this is China's big chance to get their paws on Taiwan, albeit without the military, political, social and economic impact of a real life capture.

The websites devoted to The World Islands don't offer much help with regard to whether a Taiwan island exists. It would be interesting to know. And if so, has it been purchased and by who?

Here is what the island developments will look like in the end...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Xmas from Taiwan 2007

Here is something I have never seen before. It's a picture of carolers singing in front of a police station. And although I shouldn't be too surprised to see carolers, I was surprised to see them out in the terrible weather we've been having of late.

Merry Xmas to all my readers. Hope you expat types are not too homesick. Get someone and shack up somewhere!

In other news, Xmas activities are taking over Constitution Day events. Apparently:

"Taichung citizens could light lamps on their Christmas trees free of charge. The municipal government would pay their power bills."

Christmas celebrations trump Constitution Day in Taiwan

Wow! City government supporting a religious holiday. Wonder how long the ignorance will last?
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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Book Reading: Notes from the Other China


I'm also the creator of Troy Parfitt's website http//www.troyparfitt.com for his book "Notes from the Other China".

Check it out for info about the author, particularly the regularly updated blog excepts that are outtakes and b-sides from his "Notes from the Other China".

Just wanted to add too that The Notes from the Other China book launch will occur on Saturday, Dec. 15 at Taipei's PS Cafe located just northwest of the Zhongxiao-Dunhua MRT/intersection. The address is 181 Dunhua S. Rd. Section 1. Their phone number is: 2776-0970.

Troy is going to do a brief reading, and we'll be all having some wine.

See you there and check out the site!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Eee PC is here!

In case you have been living on Mars (oh yeah, living in Taiwan is a bit like that), then you are aware that the future is here. And it is the ASUS eee PC!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASUS_Eee_PC
http://eeepc.asus.com/global/product.htm

It's roughly half the size of a regular laptop and it's totally stripped down to basics. 7" monitor, no cd player and, this is the clincher, no hard drive. That's right! This is a computer with a flash drive!

As such, this is the computer that everyone is talking about and looking at in stores and at computer shows. CNET has pronounced it one of the most likely gifts under the tree this Xmas. Asus thinks it can sell an amazing 3.8 million units too! They may just be right as the Eee PC has been selling like hotcakes and is sold out in many places.

There are some limitations due to the fact that it uses Linux and not Windows but the flavor of Linux used is very easy to use, with icons and easy tools. Also, there are two main models with 4GB and 8GB storage space respectively. With an OS on the flash drive as well occupying 2.5 GB then that doesn't leave a lot of space.

However, it comes equipped for what many people say the direction of things are going. Instead of storing your files locally, you can upload them to the web using such things as Google Docs.

Personally, I see this as a truly mobile laptop at only .92kg (no more lugging around hefty laptop with a sore shoulder). All the rest of that stuff like drive space, playing games, cd player, bluetooth are really all unecessary on a stripped down laptop.

I would use it to surf the net around the house (ie. move it around). I would also use it for teaching privates at WIFI hotspots. also, i could use it as a light presentation tool (usign the pre-installed Open Office suite with a program similar to Powerpoint) for the classroom or business classes. Finally, I could use it to watch downloaded movies on our flat screen TV. Or I could put a few movies on it for the road...

In the end, the Eee PC represents the first major move away from moving parts (CD, HD) in computers. The result will be lighter and less power consuming (hot) portables from now on...

Here's a great review:
http://www.linuxlinks.com/article/20071204141457291/Asus-701-Introduction.html

Alexander the Great Falls


Alexander Gym, of which I am a member, collapsed yesterday. Although I didn't have much to lose considering my contract was nearly finished, I'm sure a lot of people have been caught.

Personally, after the investors and employees have been paid, I doubt that members will get back any money.

I guess people didn't learn the lesson from the previous big closure of a high profile gym in Taipei 101. At that time, there was talk about limiting gym memberships to just 1 year at a time to prevent such disasters...

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/biz/archives/2007/12/11/2003392128

California Fitness must be laughing its way to the bank. If they were smart, they'd try to lure the former Alexander members over with some incentives.

The latest on the MRT's future

This time in English. Who knows what kind of a time span but ambitious none the less...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Just one more example...

A girl poses in front of a Nazi flag somewhere in Taiwan. She is obviously unaware of the association she is making and is likely totally clueless about world history. Taiwanese tend to be very inward-looking. Hopefully this will change over time but I'm not crossing my fingers.

Use the Google search to the right to search for more of my articles about Taiwan and Nazism.
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hello Kitty Beaujolais Wine

What will they think of next for Hello Kitty?
Kitty Cigarettes?
Kitty Tampons?
Maybe these already exist....
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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lucky this guy was drunk

The infamous Aluba m.o. . I empathized with every ram.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Made in Taiwan: The Tattoo

I've been joking about this for a long time with my students. Somehow I imagined it would be a little more interesting looking than this. Maybe like a barcode?
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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

More Funy Chinglish


Here's a great example of some direct from Chinese to English translation from a place called Evans Burger ... with service that has the same feeling as a sofa.

(click on the pictures to see them bigger)

BTW, their business card reads:

"Stop the challenge from your stomach! You gotta know!"

So there!
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Monday, October 22, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Taiwan's national sport, baseball, being replaced


While we're looking at trends here, I am also predicting another one about Taiwanese sports. And I know I'm going to get bawled out for this one.

Baseball is on the decline. Face it everyone!

That's right. Taiwan's pride and joy is going the way of the dodo. And not even Wang Chien Ming, Taiwan's savior, can stem this tide.

Baseball has been popular in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan since the post-war years primarily due to the American (military) presence in these countries. However, another sport has been rising at a breathtaking pace in recent years.

Basketball.

And why do I believe this is happening? Well there are some clearly visible signs and some general things that can be said about affinity to sports in different countries.

Take a look around you. Kids in Taiwan are playing basketball in droves! When was the last time you saw a scrub baseball game?

And why do they prefer basketball? Well, there are many reasons:
a) it's easier to start a game, requires less players and less equipment and set-up and even space (which is at a premium in Taiwan!)
b) it can be played indoors (an asset considering the weather here)
c) it's faster paced and higher scoring (remember the up-and-coming generation has been raised on PS2 and PS3)
d) guys are getting taller due to dietary changes so basketball doesn't seem like such a far-fetched choice of sports anymore

There is a larger international trend to look at though. Soccer and more recently basketball are more popular than other sports primarily because they allow the most people to play and to play easily. It's no surprise that the poorer countries excel in soccer as, if you have some motivated kids and some basic equipment and set-up, you can have a game. It doesn't really have to be all that organized even. The same things can be said of basketball. (Even soccer, which is not popular to play or watch in Taiwan except than at World Cup time, is popular in China where scrub games are a common sight. However, I believe that even soccer cannot withstand the rise of basketball in China as the middle-class and crowded city-dwellers seek a sport that appeals to them.)

Once again simplicity, cost, space and pace all mean that aspiring Taiwanese are choosing basketball more often over baseball by far. Oral testing of students almost always plays this one out: 99% of students claim to play basketball in their free time while a show of hands in class only once in a while reveals a single student who played or had played baseball regularly. So I wonder if many young kids are really playing baseball these days, how long and where?

All these factors bode ill for baseball in Taiwan. Basketball is the clear future winner... for now...

Tea culture is far from dead...


... but it is taking a pounding and is on the retreat for now.

According to a new Reuters article:

'tea has little appeal for Asian youth who don't have the patience to wait the 10 minutes it takes to brew tea in the traditional way.

"I don't have any time or relevant tea culture," said Becca Liu, a 25-year-old college graduate in Taipei. "I'm more curious to know how to make coffee," she added.'

'Younger drinkers prefer canned tea, powdered tea, soft drinks and coffee. They increasingly refer to traditional tea as "old people's drink." '

This echoes some points I made in a previous blog article Are you a coffee or a tea person? especially about why coffee is ascendant and tea is in decline.

Although tea culture is far from gone, it has to do something to make it hip and youthful again.

"Determined to restore tea to its exalted status in Asia, tea lovers are trying to repackage tea as a funky new-age brew to a young generation more inclined to slurp down a can of artificially-flavored tea than to sip the real thing."

As the article goes on it hits on a good point. Tea promoters should probably be stressing the supposedly healthy properties of tea (coffee is also touted every once in a while for its healthy properties).

"In Japan, a new tea line is winning fans among young Japanese with its claims to reduce body fat, while a South Korean brand called "17 Tea" is popular for its claims to blend teas that cure a host of ills."

This linking is certain to make weight conscious girls take a glimpse but what about the boys???

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dumpy visa office


This is the visa office of America's defacto embassy in Taiwan called the AIT (American Institute Taiwan).

It's amazing that with all the unofficial connections between the ROC and the US that they couldn't have gotten better property and a better building. It looks like barracks for construction workers.

Is that the strategy? Low key? Well I say it's an eyesore and an embarrassment. Any Americans feel like weighing in on this?

Swastikas for Feng Shui

Here's a prominent building with some huge swastikas on it.

Those are buddhist swastikas for good fengshui. It's not Nazi HQ Taipei.
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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tip of the hat

A pal of mine just got his book published called
"Notes from the Other China". Here's a little write up:

"By turns irreverent, informative and amusing, a dauntless young man captures the experience of the expatriate in Asia. Notes is a humorous yet insightful romp based on the author s decade-long experience as an English teacher in Taiwan (the other China ) and Korea, with expeditions to other parts of Asia. With a lively appreciation for the absurd, he cuts through the frustration to moments of splendor, friendship and stirring human warmth.

Part travel narrative, part cultural exposé, Notes is based on the author s decade-long experience as an English teacher in the less-traveled parts of Asia. Taiwan, or the other China, takes center stage, while Japan, the Koreas, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Nepal and Vietnam also play their parts.


Steering clear of politics, Parfitt focuses on the individual humans he meets. This is a glimpse of real life in the shadow of China, neither a dry-as-dust academic treatise nor a heroic tale of surviving the Cultural Revolution. He takes a look at Korea s fever-pitch nationalism and gives an assessment of the world s only Chinese democracy, has a run-in with a Nepalese rhinoceros and one or two equally volatile Vietnamese tour guides. Most of all, he ponders the actions and reactions of the people he encounters as he finds his way in an alien world: the man on the street, in the pub, in his adult language classes and sometimes weirdest of all his fellow Westerners. Simple people greet the author with everything from spontaneous gestures of friendship to sudden slaps, from openness and warmth to rock-headed obtuseness.


Parfitt endures the jolts of traveling where there is no travel industry, touring where there is no tourism infrastructure, and teaching map-reading skills where there is no Western-style logic and adults freely admit they can hardly find their way to work and back. He shares it all with the reader over a beer, and all is well again with the world. Then he's off to look for more. A picture emerges of a fractured, diverse humanity muddling along and still getting by together in spite of all."


You can purchase it here:
Amazon.com

He also has a website to visit and a blog to add comments:
http://www.troyparfitt.com/

Maybe a little something for under the Christmas tree???

Military Precision

It's nice to know that some divisions of the ROC army are disciplined and seemingly ready for real combat. I think the airforce is what really counts. They have the right equipment and are impressive when seen in demonstrations like this at the Double Ten Day celebrations.

(Click on the picture for a great larger view. Further pics of the air show here.)

I've written about the general malaise in the army in a past blog, especially in the consripts but also in the officers. I've always wondered, after all the simulated wargames, and the rhetoric whether the ROC army would be ready should the fight come.

Maybe a better question would be, if Taiwan were to declare independence, how many people would step up to put their muscle where their mouth belongs? Let's hope it never comes to this.

But, who knows, I firmly believe that China is obsessive and crazy enough to pull something foolish and disastrous like this off...
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videoROC Air Might!

videoROC Heavy Metal!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What's a wedding in Taiwan...

...without strippers?

This was filmed at a wedding I recently attended. Thought I'd upload it because, for once, the strippers actually looked half decent. They need to get some new dance moves though...

video

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Looking for work



Will you hire me? Will you hire me?

I was thinking of children's English teacher.

Nice ink dudes!









I say we hire these two instead. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 24, 2007

What's popular back home?


Fall is here and I need to catch up with what's going on in the English speaking world, especially with the Fall TV season just beginning.

Here are a few of my choices of links to keep up with what's going on if that's your thing:

Bittorrent
http://www.mininova.org/cloud
Find out what most people are looking for in downloads on bittorrent networks. It's not a bad way to know what's hot since the greater searches are written in bolder type.

I usually use Mininova to find my favorite TV shows and use µTorrent to download since it is a small, easy-to-use client.

Music
http://www.google.com/trends/music
As part of Google trends, Google talk keeps track of what people are listening to. You can view by various musical styles.

Movies
http://www.imdb.com/Top/
What are the top box-office movies. Not a great indicator of quality though... You can also research movies by credits and see what movies are in production.
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/
A summary of what critics are saying about movies that are out.
http://www.apple.com/trailers/
See the trailers before anyone else does for upcoming Xmas and summer movies.

Radio
http://www.shoutcast.com/
Listen to radio all over the world with Winamp. Search by musical styles or even comedy and talk shows.

If you have any other ways to keep on top of what's going on back home in your country and care to share it, send the links in!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mid-Autumn Festival? No! BBQ Day!


Earlier, I ran a blog article that was about BBQ season opening and why Taiwanese don't like to use gas barbecues.

blog.islaformosa.com

This time I've decided to delve into the BBQ/Mid-Autumn Festival linkage. I've always found it strange that people in Taiwan BBQ in the Moon Festival period (even in the heart of the city on the pavement or sidewalks outside their homes or businesses, the oddest thing seeing convenience store clerks BBQing outside their locations!). In China, no such BBQ custom exists for the Moon Festival. So how did barbecuing and Moon Festival become linked?

Although it has been hard to find the true roots of this modern Taiwanese tradition for the holiday, I do have a theory. It's basically the same reason Valentine's Day, Halloween and Christmas have become so important as well. Money! These holidays promote spending on chocolates, flowers, candies, decorations and gifts to say the least.

This way companies that are not supplying the enormous onslaught of moon cakes that occurs this time of year can also get a slice of the pie. My wife said that BBQ Sauce companies probably led the way and then the BBQ related product companies have since fueled the tradition.

This is evident at the hypermarkets. At Carrefour the other day was a wall of disposable BBQs with tons of chopsticks, tongs, plastic plates, bowls (not very environmentally friendly mind you, but we are in Taiwan!) and everything you could think of for a BBQ. We are talking big money here! Not to mention the BBQing food and charcoal!

Interestingly enough, Taiwan's EPA (environment protection) has been coming down hard on the BBQ custom this year due to carbon monoxide (CO) pollution:

Mid-Autumn Festival BBQ accused of being 'eco-hazard'

So what did the mayor of Taipei do? Just ignore the recommendation.

"Choosing not to follow central government's suggestion, Hau said
the Mid-Autumn barbecue is an important celebration for the public
because it creates opportunities for people to interact with
neighbors and friends."

Agreed! Why take away the fun? (Although going back to my original article, gas BBQs might be the solution as they burn cleaner) But will fireworks and firecrackers and incense burning for other festivals be spared in the future??? I'm not so sure.

Anyways, the Da-chia Riverside Park has been designated as an area that families can go to BBQ together, complete with city services to help them out.

Get involved. Have a BBQ with friends and try some homestyle Taiwanese BBQ cooking! Just remember to clean your trash afterwards or else the EPA will really be on your ass!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Myna bird's Taiwanese sounds

Meet Xiao Hei (Little Black). He's my father-in-law's bird. And a very special bird indeed.

First, he was found in the rafters of my parents-in-law's house under renovation.

Second, although a wild bird, he is quite fond of my father-in-law and, upon being released into the wild, will spend the afternoon in a tree with others like him only to return to his cage later on.

Third, Xiao Hei is a Myna bird. This kind of bird has a special mimicking ability. And this is where the real fun begins because Xiao Hei doesn't do the "Polly wants a cracker" routine. Xiao Hei does what birds in Taiwan usually hear. And that is cars and scooters!

He has two specialty sounds: scooters starting and car lock beeping. I have been fooled on many occasions as he truly does a smashing imitation of the real thing! I have even gone out into the street thinking someone was leaving or someone had just parked their car only to find that it was just Xiao Hei sitting lonely in his cage!

I'd like to make a recording of it if I get the chance and upload it. Stay tuned!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myna_bird

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crested_Myna

Friday, September 21, 2007

Damn! More Engrish!


Anyway you read this one it's bizarre.

No idea what the 'online' part means since this is a street stall. But you know, everything is online these days so I guess tofu online is not so far-fetched.
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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Flying over Taipei with Google Earth

Imagine flying over Taipei. For free!

Now you can with Google Earth's latest version. While you've been sleeping, that application that was initially intriguing and then lost it's appeal just became the coolest thing again.

It was leaked a few weeks back that Google had hidden a flight simulator in the new Google Earth update.

blogger

Well it's official. The simulator is now easily accessible from the menu. By adding the Sketch Up mock ups of 3D buildings to your view, you can add even more realism.

I'm starting to use it to scope out some potential hikes as well. For now, I'll scout them out in my F-16 (just so you know you have the choice of an F-16 or the considerably slower SR22).

Happy flying everyone! Tell me if you make any new and great finds! Click on the picture to see the view of 101 from above Elephant Mountain.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Around the World Pub Crawl 2pm to 10pm



It started out as a regular pub crawl but developed into something more. My friend John laid down the rules. Every new Taipei bar we went to had to have different international flavor. At each new bar we would have to drink a different country's drink.

So when the day came we all met up at JB's, a British pub/restaurant on ShiDa Road to the south of Roosevelt Road. At 2pm our crawlers came in, one after the other. John, Noel, Alicia, Paula, Graeme, Anita, Peter, Raquel and I. It had begun.

We started with lunch, a (terrible) hamburg because we hadn't eaten and we had a lot of drinking to do. We accompanied our lunch with some great Abbot ale. Very fresh tasting. JB, the owner of the pub, must have dipped into the good stuff for us. Some of us also enjoyed beans and fries and onion rings, standard pub fare. The end of the meal and this stage was signaled by the tasty but bizarre birthday custard bread pudding. Not the most flavorful but, like I said, we needed something in our stomachs for the journey we were about to take.

Next step was The Bastille in the ShiDa area for the Belgian stage at around 3:30pm. Peter, a non-drinker, sensing he was out of his league, bid us farewell. We eventually found our way to the Bastille by going through the various alleys of ShiDa which all look alike. Once at the Bastille we took over the VIP room, a nook in the back, and we stuffed the whole load of us in there. We then proceeded to drink Belgian beer which is usually on the strong side. I chose Chimay Blue, a 9% one with just the right taste. It came recommended by John who was already on his second beer by the time my first came!

And onwards we went, losing Graeme and Anita along the way. It was about 5pm by this point. We walked out to HoPing Road and caught taxis to Salt and Bread, a Russian resto on DunHua South Road. There we commandeered a table and got a round of Russian beers at happy hour prices that I'd like to tell you about if only I could read the Russian on the labels. I got a wheat beer, which had an odd taste; others got lagers. This was served with finger food... bread and sauce.

The decor is dark in Salt and Bread but it was sparkling clean. The walls were red and fringed with those Russian wooden dolls that open to reveal another and another.

And it was here that we entered the notorious "Ice Room". The Ice Room is a freezer room with windows that houses a vodka bar, an ice bar complete with packed ice around the edges. The less tolerant of our group (the girls) wore heavy North Face parkas, supplied by the restaurant. The more daring went in as is but this didn't last long.

Upon entering, we came face to face with the bartender behind a wall of vodka, 140 types to be precise. On the bar, was a thermometer. It read -15C. Once we came in, it heated up to a balmy -12C. John wasted no time and quickly ordered 80% vodka shots. Being the burly (and hairy) Canadian boys we were, we took off our t-shirts and downed the vodka bare chested for show! The shot burned the mucosa off my uvula. Immediately I had a scratchy throat and craved another beer. We took our pictures and I picked up the tab, a reward for my loyal crawlers!

Shit! Almost 6:30pm. Only 30 minutes to get the happy hour at the Australian Outback Steakhouse above the IKEA on Nanjing. It's an odd shaped place, not unlike a boomerang itself. Making our way to the very far side we sat down in our regular spots and ordered our buy-one-get-one-free Ozzie VB beers.

By this point we definitely had the munchies. John, de rigeur, ordered his favorite steak. We ordered fried calamari, which was delicious (or were we just very drunk?) and Noel got a plate of fries with salad dressing for a dip, not bad either.

Looking up on the walls we could see boomerangs everywhere nailed on. Even a bar stool table beside ours was shaped like a boomerang. Tacky but fun!

But this was to be topped in tackiness by Hooters which was our next stop, now nearing 8pm. We walked from IKEA to Hooters down NanJing Road and got in just as their famous and worthwhile hula hoop show was starting (I've blogged about this before). We got a round table and ordered our next international drink. And it was Miller Time baby! And what goes great with Miller? Well, chicken wings and shrimp, that's what! We ordered a platter and proceeded to demolish it.

The performance kicked off with the hostesses doing their regular hula hoop throwing and dancing act. Some girls with their tiny frames can really pack them on, twirling up tp 10 hoops at a time. I repeat, although the food is mediocre at Hooters, this show is good and should not be missed. The Hooter girls elsewhere are not nearly half as talented ("What? ME? Hula hoop?").

Later, they pulled some victims out of the audience to have a hula hoop showdown. We chose our usual whipping boy, Noel! Noel made his best effort, winning a valuable sticky notes pad for his effort and almost getting his shorts pulled off by John at the end of his performance to the cry of one of the hostesses saying "There are children here." I guess shortless Noel would have been way worse than those hot shorts and tops the hostesses had on!

Time for the last leg as it was nearing the 9:30pm mark. We hightailed it to the nearest 7eleven to have the taste of home, Taiwan Beer on the cheap. We snagged some Snickers ice cream bars for good measure to top off the evening and sat like Jay and Silent Bob in front of the store, basking in our accomplishment.

We had gone to 6 locations and had obeyed the rules of getting different international booze at each place. This was truly deserving of "Mission Accomplished".

As we later whizzed away towards home in our cab, we had some final reflections on the whole odyssey. If you are going to undertake such an endeavor, make sure you have the following:
a) a motivated, passionate leader (like John: we couldn't have done it without you man!)
b) a clear idea of where you want to be and at what time (Once again, John had an agenda and kept it!)
c) respect of the rules (Don't break them or face aLuBa by John!)

If you want to see all the pics in their glory, check them out here:
AroundTheWorldPubCrawl2007_09_16

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

If NTU only knew...

This is sitting very close to the NTU campus entrance on Roosevelt.

I doubt it's sanctioned.

It has certainly caught a lot of people's attention though...
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