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sunshine on my shoulders
So Fi and I--but mostly I--just invented a really good chicken pot pie variant, and I want to write it down now before I forget. No pictures 'cause they turned out horrible.

1 lb chicken (we used thigh meat)
1 largeish red potato, diced
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1-2 medium carrots, diced
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced
1 cup brown mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 stick butter, divided
4 Tbsp flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 - 1 1/2 cup half & half
1/2 cup milk
salt & pepper
bay leaves or italian seasoning

Biscuit Dough
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup Crisco
1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Prepare vegetables, making sure to wash the leek thoroughly to remove any sand or grit. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and poach chicken with bay leaves or italian seasoning until thoroughly cooked, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick) in a large pot or dutch oven and add leeks and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes and then add celery and carrots. Cook, stirring frequently, until leeks are soft and tender, about another 5 minutes. Remove vegetables from heat. When chicken is fully cooked, roughly chop and add to vegetable mixture. Toss potatoes in now or later.

In a wide saute pan or dutch oven, melt remaining 1/4 cup butter. Whisk in flour and bring to bubble; cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Add chicken broth, half & half and milk and stir until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste--about 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1 tsp salt maybe? Pour sauce into chicken and vegetable mixture and mix thoroughly. (We also added a bit of shredded sharp cheddar cheese here.)

For biscuit crust, mix dry ingredients together, then cut in Crisco and butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add milk to form a rough dough.

Pour filling into 9x13 casserole dish and top with pie crust or with torn biscuit dough, spread fairly thin. Bake for 30 minutes at 375, until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Let sit at least 10 minutes for sauce to thicken, then serve.

NOTE: This produces a fairly saucy pot pie. It may thicken after refrigeration; I enjoyed pouring the sauce over the top of the biscuit dough. On further experimentation I might add more flour or less liquid to the sauce but we don't repeat recipes often so that that probably won't be for a while. (EDIT: Sauce did thicken perfectly after standing further on the counter.)

You could also totally leave the chicken out, maybe increase the mushrooms and potatoes a bit, and this would be an excellent vegetarian pot pie.


[1790] Still alive

sunshine on my shoulders
It has occurred to me that now is as good a time as any to inform the wider internet (at least, whatever portion of it is reading my livejournal...) that I am not dead.

It wasn't exactly touch-and-go, but for a while it was pretty scary, especially early last week when a second visit to the E.R. revealed that the stabbing pain that had been building in my left leg was a second bout of DVT. Evidently the warfarin wasn't working, or I'd already developed a clot that was only just then revealing itself, or something. My left leg wasn't quite so badly affected as my right--fewer veins blocked, and only from groin to knee, not to ankle--but it still hurt. A lot. It still does, although the pain is ebbing now enough that I've been able to cut my pain meds in half and hope to switch from Percocet to Tylenol this weekend.

The second attack did bring benefits in its wake, though, because I was referred to a new doctor in the University of Utah healthcare system who's a thrombosis specialist, and he not only switched my bloodthinner meds (from warfarin to xarelto, which means I can eat vitamin K-containing foods again and don't have to go in for regular blood tests) but also ordered some additional labwork. The new tests revealed that I have a genetic mutation called Factor V Leiden, which vastly increases my risk of developing a blood clot when presented with extra estrogen (as with the estrogen-containing birth control pills I'd been using, or with any hypothetical future pregnancy). My parents are both going to be tested to see which side of the family it comes from.

It's been pretty scary. There's been a lot of crying, and not only from the pain.

But I'm doing better now. I walked unaided for the first time on Tuesday; yesterday I fixed myself a meal for the first time, while Mom was at the temple in the afternoon. I'm still only walking short distances--bed to kitchen and back again--, and in the evenings I have quite a bit more pain. I've worked some from home this week, though the quality of the work is perhaps dubious; I'll be back to the office on Monday, hopefully working longer hours and with only Tylenol in my system, not oxycodone. I've got into Facebook fights that I shouldn't have, and on Wednesday Mom and I spent the afternoon watching Pacific Rim to keep us out of further Facebook fights.  (It worked, and was a lot of fun. Then we watched Ultraman clips on Youtube, because Mom remembered watching it every week before Girl Scouts in California as a child. It was delightful both to see the forerunners of the kaijuu in Pacific Rim and to have that moment of bonding with her--I'd never known her secret fondness for ridiculous monster movies!)

We looked for more fun action movies on Netflix yesterday morning but ended up watching I Was A Male War Bride instead, which was even more entertaining. I wish today's romantic comedies had the quick, clever banter and situational humor of those old classics, instead of the current trend of gross-out humor and embarrassment comedy. Embarrassment comedy is the surest way to get me to turn the show off.

I was hoping to be able to get out of the apartment today, at least to take Mom to lunch somewhere. But Rosalind has abruptly come down with her own medical emergency, so we'll see how things go--whether Mom needs to go down to Provo today or not.
So, yesterday was a straight-up adventure. Complete with blood, pain, tears, and the kindly intervention of so many, many people.

For about two weeks I've been having localized muscle pain in my right leg. It started in my right buttock, moved to my lower back, and then moved to my right groin at the beginning of this week. It made walking difficult on some days, and I spent Christmas alone at home because I didn't think I could drive to down Rosalind and Chris's, spend the night on the couch, and attend the Burns family festivities on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. (Fortunately, Rosalind and Chris are champs, and they came up on Christmas day to bring me stocking presents AND an absolutely gorgeous pair of tall flat boots. I'd been wanting boots for months but hadn't bought any yet, not trusting my taste or my size--Rosalind and Chris picked the perfect pair.)

Things were a little better over New Years, but I was still sore enough that I wasn't much help as we packed to move, and on New Year's Day itself I talked Fi into only loading one carload of boxes to take down to our new apartment. I'd bought a hot compress and begun using it at home after work, and sometimes during the night; I was taking repeated and fairly high doses of ibuprofen, trying stretches for lower back pain, and occasionally icing, and I thought I was doing a pretty good job of things. I didn't see a doctor because it was just a pulled muscle and there was nothing a doctor could tell me to do that I wasn't already doing, right? But on Thursday and Friday, which should have been major packing days, I was sore enough that I couldn't do much. I promised Fi I'd finish my packing on Saturday morning before we picked up the U-Haul and family showed up to help, and I told my friends that if I was still sore on Monday, I'd see a doctor.

Friday night I could barely sleep. The pain in my groin was radiating down my thigh, and I kept having fevered hallucinations of actually taking my leg off, like a Barbie doll, and replacing it. I thought repeatedly, at 2 and 3 and 4 a.m., of calling someone, of waking phoenix_melody up and asking her to take me to urgent care--but it was so STUPID, for a pulled muscle, and surely it was only my imagination that my leg was swollen, much like my hallucinations about taking it off. I prayed that I'd find comfort, and I tried to sleep a little.

At 7:30 I decided to try going to the bathroom. Walking was agony, but I managed to put off collapsing until after I'd washed my hands and made it outside the bathroom door.

Fi heard me fall and came out. She said, "We"re going to the urgent care."Collapse )

[1788] Asian Art Museum

sunshine on my shoulders
I'm home safe in Salt Lake now, and I don't really want to update Livejournal because there are so many pictures and it's such a daunting task, but if I don't tackle it now I never will. And also I miss my friends. So, to the Asian Art Museum!

We got a late start on Friday (as we did, uh, most mornings) but by 1 pm we were in downtown San Francisco, right across from City Hall. The Asian Art Museum is housed in what used to be the city's main library, and it's the largest museum in the U.S. devoted exclusively to Asian art, with a collection of more than 17,000 objects.

City Hall

The Asian

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[1787] Gearing up for Thanksgiving

sunshine on my shoulders
So I think the last I wrote was Tuesday morning, and we were planning to head to the Asian Art Museum and the Japanese Tea Gardens. Well, we ended up not going--after the excitement of the Muir Woods and Catching Fire on Monday people were feeling kind of tired, so we ended up just lazing about in the morning, and then heading out for sushi.


But in the evening, Zach and Ryan finally unveiled their surprise--though only after trampsing halfway around the AT&T ballpark, which is lovely but GIANT (appropriate, as it is the home of the SF Giants...). The surprise turned out to be on the opposite side of the park, across the bridge. First we saw the lights; then we saw the tops of the tents. "The circus!" we exclaimed. "No, wait..."

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[1786] San Francisco and Muir Woods

sunshine on my shoulders
We got a late start yesterday, which meant a kind of lovely leisurely morning (for everyone except Zach, who had to go to the doctor). We headed out by 11 or so though for San Francisco, which is some sort of choke point on this peninsula; you have to go through the city to get anywhere on the other side, and oddly there are no main thoroughfares that zip you through. It seems poorly designed to me but Zach has all sorts of explanations about there being no space here. Whatever, they clearly had no Brigham Young demanding wide streets that could fit three carriages with room to turn.

We had lunch in the Castro district, at a local landmark diner called Orphan Andy's; it felt very Supernatural-eque, with its formica tabletops and very hearty food and everyone in plaid. Very hearty food, as it turns out; I chose a sandwich over a salad on the theory that we were going Into Nature and I would need energy, but I ate half my sandwich and had no desire to eat anything for the rest of the day. Poor Ash had a harder time; we suspect the cheese. But the food was indeed delicious!

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[1785] Sundays at Mori Point

sunshine on my shoulders
So yesterday was the most lovely day I've had in a long, long time.

We went to church in San Mateo, which was very interesting--a very different service than I'm used to, but incredibly touching at some points. I knew two of the songs (with slightly different lyrics) and sang those joyfully, while the rest of the songs I sort of stumbled along and eventually caught on by the end. Ryan and Ash and I spent a lot of the sermon making cheerful faces at the little girl in the row ahead of us, who was absolutely adorable.

The service was commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance and Thanksgiving--both memorializing and celebrating the lives of those killed because they were transgender. My most distinct memory from the sermon is the strong sense I had of God's love for all His children.

With Ash in the church parking lot

After church we went home to change, and then packed up our pies, fruit, cookies, and drinks for a hike out to the promontory on Mori Point. It's a lovely, pleasant walk along the boardwalk for about a mile, and then a hike up some steps to the top of the promotory, and then down to the edge overlooking the water. We took some pictures along the wayCollapse )

[1784] Sunday in CA

early morning (peter)
The longed-for day is finally here!

About 4 or 5 months ago, I was tossing around the idea of visiting my friends in my collaborative writing group (Zach, Ryan, and Ashley). I haven't seen Zach in 4 years and Ryan in 2, and I'd actually never met Ash in person, so I was sort of expecting it to be a pipedream--but someone seized on the idea and said, What about Thanksgiving?

And like all good ideas, it grew. :) I bought plane tickets on August 1, and yesterday I flew to San Francisco to spend the week with my pals. :)

Before that, though, it was a very busy week. I had to finish up the last of the QC for the air pollution project and finalize the delivery, which I managed Friday at about 3 p.m. Then I headed to Elise's house to help with preparations for Ruth's birthday party. Elise and Rosalind put together some pretty beautiful decorations; they had tealights floating on cranberries in mason jars, and Rosalind had these beautiful ceramic bird candlesticks, in which she put red tapers. We made funeral potatoes, sauteed zucchini with breadcrumbs and parmesan, garlic-parmesan breadsticks, and a drink that my family calls Shirley Temples but that my friends inform me is actually known as a Virgin Sunrise or Sweet Sunrise: a mixture of Sprite, orange juice, and grenadine syrup. (Though, looking at recipes on the internet, it looks like the Sprite is not traditional--in which case, hah, we HAVE invented our own mocktail, and we are free to name it whatever we like!)

(Maybe not. Looks like Allrecipes calls it a "Shirley Temple II." Mom was right after all! She always is.)

Anyway, Jordan brought steaks and a cake from The Chocolate, and Ruth brought a grilled chicken, and we had a really wonderful time talking and eating and playing with Evelyn and giving Ruth her presents. I got her a Martha Stewart Cookies cookbook and a Williams Sonoma gift card, Elise got her this GORGEOUS ivory-colored lace infinity scarf, and Rosalind and Chris are going to paint her window-seat and help her sew a cushion for it! It was a really lovely evening, and I'm so grateful for my sisters and the wonderful men they've married.

On Saturday morning I got up at 5:30, packed up Hazel and all his belongings, and left about 6:30 to take him down to Rosalind and Chris's for the week. Rosalind may be allergic to rabbits (we're not entirely certain if her bad reaction a couple of months ago was to the rabbit, or was a coincidental cold; she played with Hazel a while later and didn't report any symptoms), but she was so, so sweet about taking him, and Chris seemed excited to have a furry pet to play with. Hopefully he doesn't chew on anything they love...

Then I headed back to Salt Lake, and Fi took me to the airport. I got through security clean as a whistle (and my on-phone boarding pass worked every step of the way, except when I accidentally pulled up another screen while actually showing it to the boarding agent...) I read Max Gladstone's Two Serpents Rise in the gate and a little on the plane, but actually slept for most of the 1 hour 25 minute flight. Except for the time we spent at the gate waiting for mechanical problems to be resolved. >.> I got REALLY nervous when the pilot got on the intercom and announced that auxiliary power systems (meaning life support) had failed, but fortunately we got some external system going and ended up being only about 10-20 minutes late to S.F.

Where Ash was waiting for me at a landing between escalators leading to the baggage terminal, actually vibrating with excitement. Zach and Ryan were below, waiting with very warm and solid hugs. We drove to Pacifica to drop off my things and tour the house, which they have spent the week making very clean and inviting for our arrival. Then we went to get lunch at High Tide, a local crepery, which is a fantastic concept and which needs to come to Salt Lake. I had a chicken pesto crepe and mixed greens; Zach had ham and cheddar and spinach, Ryan the Pacific with salmon and spinach and cream cheese, and Ash a strawberry-nutella sweet crepe with ice cream. We ended up all sharing round so we got almost an equal portion of each. Delicious.

EDIT: My chicken pesto crepe was FULL OF CHEESE:

Then we went to the hardware store for ant killer to head off an incipient invasion, to DK's office to see the place and to pick up a turkey his coworker gave him, Ross's for walking shoes for GM and some kitchen supplies, and to Safeway for groceries--we only planned out meals for today and tomorrow but still ended up spending slightly north of $100. We did need to buy some staples, but still, ach! (We didn't even get everything we needed there--we went to an upscale grocery store for fresh-squeezed orange juice later, and then to an Asian market for miso, daikon, wakame, and, as it turned out, lots of delicious buns and cakes.) In between grocery trips we walked on the pier to see the sunrise, played with the pet rats, and leaned into each other and enjoyed the hard-to-believe miracle that our visit actually came true.

Then we baked. We made individual pork-and-apple pies, except I didn't actually look up the recipe and just made them from my head. We ended up making two batches, because the first batch of sausage revealed itself to have red pepper flakes in it, to which Zach is allergic. He went out to buy another batch, after being assured by the butcher that it had no red pepper, but upon cooking it did. So Ryan and I tried out best to fish out every visible red speck or seed, and we will bring an epi-pen on our picnic today. >.>

We also made almond-poppyseed muffins for breakfast today, but between generously buttering the pans and the oven running a bit too hot, they turned out quite hard so we may have something else for breakfast today. >.> In any case, cooking with everyone was a delight, and they were very able and attentive assistants! For dinner we had fluffy barbecue pork steamed buns, and then later we shared the miniature cakes I bought at the Chinese bakery--a triple mouse, chocolate mouse, tiramusu, and turtle cheesecake--none of which anyone could finish.

Today we're going to church with Zach, then hiking Mori Point to picnic with our pork and apple pies, and then making tonkatsu with miso soup for dinner if we're actually still hungry. We'll see. It's a lovely morning, no one else is awake--except Ash, who just came out of our shared room to snuggle up next to me on the couch. So it's time to wrap this up. Have a great Sunday, everyone!

[1783] Sunday Evening

sunshine on my shoulders
I have just discovered that it is possible to take photos with my Macbook's Facetime HD camera. It is entirely likely that I will now use this power for great evil.

Photo on 11-17-13 at 6.18 PM
Photo on 11-17-13 at 6.18 PM #2
Photo on 11-17-13 at 6.18 PM #4
Photo on 11-17-13 at 6.19 PM

It's been a good weekend! Yesterday was a lot of fun. I arrived at Rosalind and Chris's place in Provo about 1 p.m. and we hung out for half an hour or so before Sgt. Hill ("Josh") arrived. The day was cold and rainy but we ended up having a lot of fun with our Chopped Cooking Contest...even if the results weren't always edible.

We decided to have each person buy 2 copies of 1 item. Rosalind got cranberries, I got goat brie ( looked weird and interesting!), Josh got cream cheese, and Chris got the nastiest cheap frozen chicken nuggets he could find. Once we met at the front of the store to show off our items, we then got 10 minutes in teams to decide on what we were going to cook and to buy any additional items we needed.

Rosalind and I decided on baked brie wrapped in crescent roll dough, with a cranberry compote baked over the brie, and on a stir-fry with chow mein noodles and sliced chicken nuggets. The brie turned out to be very strongly flavored, so we sliced it in half and added cream cheese between the layers, in hopes of taming it. I made the cranberry compote with half a bag of cranberries, the zest of two clementines, a chunk of brown sugar, and a little water. We then wrapped it in the dough from 1 can of crescent rolls. It actually turned out pretty well; by the end of the day, we'd eaten about 1/3 to 1/2 of the dish. But the brie was expensive and not as good as cow's milk brie; I think I'd repeat the idea but not the execution.

The stir-fry might have been okay if we'd had fresh vegetables instead of frozen, if we'd had a good sauce instead of improvising soy sauce + Trader Joe's sweet chili dipping sauce, and if we'd had actual chicken instead of grey...disgustingness. The boys both finished their (tiny) servings, and Chris went back for more, but Rosalind and I had only a few bites each. At least the noodles were good!

Chris and Josh did a "shepherd's pie" where they made mashed potatoes with goat brie (which was actually surprisingly good!) and then ruined everything by adding raspberry chipotle sauce to the mashed potatoes and then layering them in a pan with chicken nuggets and adding cheese on top, before briefly baking it again. No one ate more than a testing bite, although I did catch Chris later plucking the nuggets out of the mess and eating them while he tipped the rest into the trash.

Their final dish, however, was really tasty. They made a cranberry cream cheese frosting and then fried rounds of Pillsbury biscuit dough into donuts, which they spread with the frosting. These were delicious. Everyone ate at least one (and Rosalind later ate a spoonful of frosting just by itself). It's a definitely an idea worth repeating, perhaps with actual donut dough...

So basically we had brie-baked-in-crescent-rolls and donuts for lunch. And we all felt terrible afterwards, but Chris did ALL the dishes while Rosalind and Josh and I worked on the chair she's upholstering. We got the left side (under the arm) completely done. It's surprisingly difficult, but she's doing a fantastic job; the chair looks amazing already. I'm so proud of her for tackling this huge project and doing so well!

We played a round of Munchkin afterwards, which I totally would have won if Chris hadn't gotten everyone to gang up on me, and then Elise and Paxton came over and Josh left. We went to Asian Fusion Grill for dinner, where I continued to defy my eating plan by ordering stone bowl bibimbop (but not finishing it). Everyone else got bulgogi, except for Chris, who had a fried egg. He said he was full from lunch. On further thought, I wonder if the chicken nuggets weren't to blame...

Dinner was really great. We had a wonderful time talking and laughing and teasing each other, along with a perhaps 30-minute discussion of our Book of Mormon heroes. Afterwards we went to The Riverwoods to see the lights and browse the shops, and then we parted ways and I headed home.

Today Hazel woke me up at 6:00, but I alternately drowsed and petted him until 8, when I got up to start working on my Sunday School lesson. I also spent an hour reading this fantastic article by Edward Kimball on President Spencer W. Kimball and the 1978 revelation that extended the priesthood to all worthy male members of the LDS church. If you've ever wondered about the historic Mormon prohibition on black men receiving the priesthood, please read this article.

Mom told me a really interesting story about it this weekend. When her father, my Papa, was investigating the church in the early 1970s, he wanted to believe but felt he couldn't join a church that prohibited blacks from receiving the priesthood or participating in temple ordinances. He prayed and received a direct revelation that the priesthood would be extended to black men in his lifetime. Acting on that revelation, he joined the church. Only a few years later, on June 8, 1978, the First Presidency of the Church announced the revelation now canonized as Official Declaration 2.

I talked a little bit more about the article with Mom and Dad when they Facetimed me this afternoon. Technology is so incredible! I downloaded a clip with Elder L. Tom Perry on missionary work this morning and took my computer to play it in Sunday School. Only a few years ago we would've been hauling in giant TVs on carts and playing a videotape from the limited resources of the church library (the manual I'm teaching from still recommends which video to play).

And on a tangential note, I'm fascinated with these colorized historical photos. The world's an amazing place, with amazing people in it.

Heading back to church tonight for tithing settlement. I paid this month's tithing this morning, with an additional donation to the humanitarian fund. The Philippines are still suffering so badly from the effects of Super Typhoon Haiyan. I've already donated to the Philippines Red Cross; I hope governments and charitable organizations will work together to swiftly bring the relief that these devastated people need.

[1782] Still Standing

early morning (peter)
Well, we've wrapped up phase 1 of the big project at work. Yesterday I said goodbye to my first-line reviewers, who are contractors; they've worked hard and done a good job, overall, and I hope we can get them back for another project soon. (Of course, better for them to find full-time employment somewhere--I remember my own contractor days, and they sucked--but selfishly I like working with good people.)

Now it's just up to me to QC, probably through next week, and then send in the final delivery to the client. This project ran a week over-budget internally, but we've kept up seamlessly with deliveries to the client and they are very pleased with quality. I've learned a lot about project management, too, including the importance of accurate scoping, starting the project with a schedule and a plan, and making your employees aware of the importance of the schedule every step of the way.

Overall, though, I'm pretty pleased. There were definitely some times when I stared at the schedule, banged my head off the desk, and then went to my boss and said "I don't think this is going to work." And he worked with me to find a solution, or I came up with options on my own and then we presented them to senior management, and the VP gave us the time and the budget we needed to get things done.

So it's not done yet, but nearly there. I will celebrate next Friday.

Yesterday was really, really tough emotionally, as several days have been lately. But after work I cleaned out quite a bit of old clothes from my closet for donation, and Fi watched a couple episodes of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries with me, and Hazel was very cuddly before bed and then this morning. I went to bed about 10:30 and woke up at 7:00 to loving face-lickings. We cuddled for about half an hour before I needed to get moving to do laundry with Fi.

He also chewed a hole in my Pendleton wool blanket, which I am significantly less pleased with. Why couldn't you stick to chewing books and baseboards, little guy?

This morning has been super productive nevertheless. We went to put laundry in at 8:00, and then for the 30 minutes of the washer cycle I stuck around in the gym. I did 10 minutes on the elliptical and 12 minutes on the stationary bike, along with some stretching. That probably doesn't sound like much but it was significant to me--and though it was hard, I felt good the whole way through. (It helped that I figured out on the bike that I could read kindle books on my iPhone. This makes working out so much less boring.) Still need to figure out a way to fit going to the gym into my regular schedule, but I'm happy for today.

We went grocery shopping during the drying cycle, and now I have folded all my clothes (though not yet made my bed) and eaten some cinnamon pretzel sticks. It is now time to shower, and then head down to Provo for a double-date with Rosalind, Chris, and Chris's sergeant, whose first name no one quite seems sure of. We're doing a Chopped/Iron-Chef style cooking contest. Honestly I'm more excited to hang out with Rosalind and Chris; even if the blind date is awkward, my sister is awesome!

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February 2014
"But as I rav’d and grew more fierce and wilde,
At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, Childe:
And I reply’d, My Lord."
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