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Terry Mesnard RSS Feed (Bellevue, NE)
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Stone Cove Island
Stone Cove Island
by Suzanne Myers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.21
66 used & new from $2.67

3.0 out of 5 stars Good for the target audience, December 16, 2014
This review is from: Stone Cove Island (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Stone Cove Island is about a 17 year old girl named Eliza. A brutal storm tore through town and left it in disarray. Eliza joins a volunteer crew to help with the cleanup. She starts cleaning the lighthouse, comes across an old letter and before you can say MacGuffin, Eliza's on her way to solve The Mystery of the Dead Bess Linsky. Naturally, the townspeople don't want to discuss it. She's warned against digging into it. But Eliza, our steeled-willed protagonist, won't back down. Especially with the help of Ben, a recent high school graduate who's heading to college.

In some ways, Stone Cove Island is your typical young adult novel. Characters overreact. The flow of the novel is sometimes disjointed. The mystery at the heart of it won't pass the muster for those who've read their share of mysteries and thrillers. There's the requisite romance. Teen drama. You know the drill. But, yet, I was entertained throughout most of it. And I'm definitely not the demographic. What I enjoyed the most was that Eliza was a strong character and the romance wasn't the entire point of her existence. I also liked that the book touched more on the thriller aspect and the horror feeling than most popular young adult books right now (dystopias are the in thing, obviously). So, it's a good book. It read well and fast. If you're new to this genre and a teen, add one star.


Nutri Ninja Blender Duo with Auto-iQ (BL641)
Nutri Ninja Blender Duo with Auto-iQ (BL641)
Offered by BKKT Products
Price: $200.00
4 used & new from $179.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Surprised me, December 16, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have never used one of these types of blenders. They always seem like one of those "As Seen On TV!" specials that aren't really that special. But I figured, given the opportunity to try one, what the heck. I couldn't be more surprised. The Auto IQ comes with a 72 ounce pitcher that has blades at varying levels, so get a more consistent blend. Most blenders operate on wave technology, where the blender on the bottom pulls the ingredients down. This can lead to inconsistent blending. I've found that this particular pitcher's blending dices things up perfectly. It's very nice. But it also comes with "to go cups," in three sizes: 18, 24 and 32 oz. They also come with sippy lids. I found this to be a fun and welcome surprise. Blend the drink and then go on with your day. Unlike the pitchers, these come with the traditional blender on the bottom.

The bigger feature with this, is the Auto IQ technology. The base has buttons that will blend for specific things, like smoothies, food puree, as well as more standards like low, medium and high.

I'm going to be completely honest. I'm not going to use this to make healthy smoothies, like most people will. I will most likely use this to make margaritas and other frozen drinks. I have the Margaritaville models and they make perfect margaritas. I am more partial to the way those machines shave the ice, blend the ingredients and then mix them all. But next to the shaved ice perfection of those machines, this blender makes the second best home margarita I've had. The fact that it has so many more uses is also a plus.

I'd recommend checking this one out, if you're in the market for an expensive blender. It has a lot of options and I really like the to go cup aspect of it. It also comes with a recipe book with around 200 recipes. So that was also a nice surprise.


The Girl on the Train: A Novel
The Girl on the Train: A Novel
by Paula Hawkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.86

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An above average debut, December 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Girl on the Train brings to mind the great Hitchcock story of Rear Windows. I think in some ways, The Girl on the Train is a perfect story for our time. With the advent of vlogs and the popularity of watching YouTubers, where the viewer feels like he/she gets to know the people they are voyeuristically watching, the themes explored in this novel seem perfect. Rachel takes every day to and back from London, watching the world move by. She's an interesting character, with a tragic past. Her current life is pretty much in the dumps. For example, on Mondays, she'll hide alcohol in a bag on the train because it's less acceptable than drinking on a Friday. Every day, she drives by the house of Scott and Megan, two individuals that Rachel does not know. But she's developed a fanciful idea of their relationship, naming them Jason and Jessie. As Rachel watches their relationship unfold in front of her, she decides they are the epitome of the Golden Couple. To Rachel, their interactions seem like the life she had when she lived about four houses down from them, with her ex, Tom.

The Rachel from that period of time seems markedly different from how she is now. She suffers from blackouts from alcohol. She's been living with a not-friend from college who had a spare room. Her life has seemingly fallen apart and she doesn't seem to care about any of it. She isn't bothered when the train takes longer to get home because, why should she? What has she got to look forward to? She only seems to care about this golden couple she sees every day, on her ride home. When we're first introduced to Rachel, she's making up a convoluted story about a pair of clothes seen on the side of the train tracks. And we see that she makes fanciful stories to, presumably, take her mind off her own sad state. Life intrudes on Rachel's fanciful delusions of Scott and Megan when she sees Megan kissing someone in the backyard who is not her husband. And then, of course, Megan disappears, and Rachel, in a blackout drunk episode, was seen in the neighbourhood. Then Rachel manages to force her way into the investigation.

The Girl on the Train is told from three different perspectives and timeframes. Author Paula Hawkins expertly weaves together the three women narrators expertly, adding complication upon complication. What seems like a standard case has wrinkles; mostly because all three narrators are completely unreliable for different reasons. As the seemingly simple story continues, twists and turns drew me in and kept me guessing as to what was really going on. It's not the most complex thriller and I did figure out what happened way before it finished, but the twists were genuinely intriguing and kept me second-guessing myself. This is probably the best voyeuristic thriller I've seen since Rear Window and I would definitely recommend giving it a chance.


Wahl 9787 KM5 Professional 2 Speed Corded Clipper Kit, by Wahl Professional Animal
Wahl 9787 KM5 Professional 2 Speed Corded Clipper Kit, by Wahl Professional Animal
Offered by Electronics Warehouse Outlet
Price: $175.00
6 used & new from $169.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Great clipper, comparable to Osters, November 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have a Maine Coon cat. She has thick fur. She has long fur. She takes a lot of maintenance. She's also incredibly feisty. I have mainly used Oster shavers in the past. I bought the A5 awhile ago and then was offered the A6 last year from this program. I really enjoyed the A6, it worked really well on my cat's fur and, unlike the A5, she wasn't as panicked when I was using it. As other reviewers mentioned, The A6 is probably the closest model you can compare to this Wahl clipper. In some ways, the A6 might seem like the better choice. It has three speeds, while the Wahl has two. The A6 also goes up to a faster strokes per minute, besting the Wahl's 3500 SPM. They also weigh about the same, and the A6 is currently cheaper since it's been out longer.

That said, I still think I would go with the Wahl. As I mentioned above, my Maine Coon is feisty and when I would use the A6 at the highest setting, she wouldn't put up with me clipping very long. But the Wahl, while not going up to the high speeds, is quieter than the A6. It has a lower tone and just seems quieter. It doesn't bother my cat as much. She actually purrs. And even at the lower SPM, it cuts through her thick, sometimes matted hair even better than the A6.

I'm not a professional groomer. I'm not even an experienced one. I just know I don't want to spend tons of money at the groomer constantly, for my kitty's grooming. And this clipper is the best of the three (Oster A5, A6 and this) that I have used. Highly recommended.


The Babadook
The Babadook
DVD
Price: $6.99

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Baba-ba-dook-dook-dook, November 12, 2014
If it's in a word
Or it's in a look
You can't get rid
Of the Babadook

Grief is such a powerful emotion. It clouds your judgment. It colors the way in which you interact with the world, how you see the people in it and how you deal with everyday living. People deal with grief in completely different ways. It can turn to anger or depression. It can make you overcompensate with giddiness. One thing you don't see very often is horror movies that deal with grief as its central theme. Surprisingly, when it is used, it's often used effectively, as in The Orphanage. Or the Babadook.

Amelia is a single mother, widowed by a car accident that took the life of her husband. Compounding this issue is that the couple were on their way to the hospital to deliver their son, Samuel. The Babadook opens years after that event, just as Samuels is going to turn seven. His birthdate obviously coincides with the husband's death, so pressure surrounds them. Amelia and Samuel deal with this overwhelming grief in completely different ways. Samuel acts out and has become convinced that an evil presence is going to take his mom away from him. He carries makeshift weapons to school and his interactions with others prove that he lacks certain social cues. He's looked at as a weirdo and no one seems to want to be around him. Amelia, burdened by grief and also trying to make ends meet as a single mother, seems depressed. She frequently spends more time sleeping and when she looks at Samuel, you can see the resentment in her eyes. And as the birth/death date starts to come closer, her depression and tension gradually increases.

I haven't even mentioned the titular villain in this movie yet because, like any good horror movie, the story isn't simply about the horrific being. But when a book shows up called Mr. Babadook and depicts horrific events in a pop-up book fashion, Samuel freaks out. More pressure weighs on Amelia. They both become increasingly cognizant that something evil is following them. Mr. Babadook is quite an original creation and when it shows up, it's often freaky and disquieting. Disquieting is actually the best word I can think of to describe this movie. It's scary and intense at times, but even when it's not trying to scare you, there's a disquieting dread that sits just beneath the surface. When I first watched the movie, I didn't particularly care for the resolution. But the more I think about it, the more it seems like the perfect ending to the theme and intent of the movie. One thing the movie does perfectly is the way it presents the story to you. Even as it progresses toward the finale, you doubt whether the events are true or if they're made-up delusions brought on by depression, sleep deprivation and resentment. Fantastic acting, particularly with the weight of the story resting on Essie Davis' (Amelia) shoulders. Grief oftentimes sits below the surface, ready to rear its ugly head when you least expect it. As time passes, you may start to think you're getting over it. And maybe you are. Maybe you're learning to deal with that unbidden feeling.

But, as the book tells us, you can't get rid of the Babadook.


The Army Painter Wargamer Brush - The Psycho
The Army Painter Wargamer Brush - The Psycho
Offered by Art's Game Store
Price: $6.53
6 used & new from $1.54

5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic details brush., November 4, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Can I tell you how awesome this brush is? I recently got into miniature painting, thanks to Kickstarting Arcadia Quest and finding myself surrounded by dozens of unpainted miniatures. Cool Mini Or Not's resident artist had painted a few of them and was posting them in the Kickstarter updates and I was amazed at how they looked. So I decided to try my hand at it. I've learned quite a few things in just the four weeks I've been painting and one of the biggest lessons (outside of using good paints and thinning them) is the importance of the correct brush.

Now that might seem obvious. And it is. But one area I kept falling woefully short in was the details. These miniatures are so small and the parts like the eyes, clean lines and small details require a fine touch and an even finer brush. Most of the brushes I found, even the ones marked "fine details" were too big for me and my clumsiness. You won't find me claiming to be an artist, but I want to try my best. This brush was a life saver. Now, I'm not as worried about eyes or tiny details. The tip is so fine that you can pickup just a small amount of paint and apply it...even if you have unsteady/untrained hands. It's a great learner's brush, too, I've found.

I would definitely recommend this brush for miniature painters who need a finer touch when taking care of fine details. It's probably my favorite of the brushes I own.

Note: I've read some of the reviews stating that the product arrived damaged. Mine did not, but it was ordered along with other items so it was in a box. The actual brush came wrapped in a bag and with one of those brush protectors over the tip.


Dirt Devil SD30060 Jag 3 Multi Bagged Canister with Turbo Floor Tool
Dirt Devil SD30060 Jag 3 Multi Bagged Canister with Turbo Floor Tool
Price: $84.15

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great concept, terrible execution, October 28, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If a vacuum causes you to constantly pull out the instructions to put the device together, you know there's a problem. In my case, the problem would be the handle part of the vacuum. There was a cat litter spill, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to test it. Took it out of the box and, after looking through the instructions, figured out (sorta) how to put it together. Except that I couldn't figure out how to switch from carpet mode to hard floor. This is important because I really didn't want to get pelted with litter. So, I went back to the instructions. After searching through them, I discovered that all you need to do is push the button to switch--wait...what button? Oh, the button on the handle part of the vacuum. That I seemed to be missing. Dug through the box, found absolutely nothing except a two-in-one hand tool (more on that in a bit). So I'm missing what's arguably the best feature of this little vacuum: the ability to turn off the bristles so I can vacuum my linoleum. Not deterred, I decided to try the attachment tools. I'll be honest, they confused me. They looked like a bristle attachment and an upholstery attachment were trying to...well this is awkward...get it on, rather unsuccessfully. What the heck am I supposed to do with this?

Needless to say, it took me more than I'd like to admit to figure out how the two-sided tool work. It involved a lot of pulling and pushing. It made me a little uncomfortable. The instructions were absolutely no help. They don't even really mention the tool, except for the fact it's supposed to snap to the vacuum (with a piece that, surprise, didn't come with my unit). Finally got the attachments to uncouple and managed to finally get the litter cleaned up. Entire time: ~30 minutes of searching, reading instructions, tearing the box apart to look for the handle, messing around with the attachment tool and screaming in frustration. It then went back in the box and I went back to one of my upright vacuums.

I like the idea and concept behind this vacuum. I thought it would be perfect for my litter box and small cleaning around the kitchen. But, my model at least, was missing the important part that would let me do that, so it's strictly a carpet vacuum right now. The problem is that I can't see this being used for major vacuum carpet jobs and if I can't use it in my kitchen, it just feels useless. Maybe it's because it's a Vine product, but I can't recommend this device to anyone based on my experience with it.


Cash N Guns Second Edition
Cash N Guns Second Edition
Price: $27.21
28 used & new from $26.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A good, fun group game, October 23, 2014
This review is from: Cash N Guns Second Edition (Toy)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I remember seeing Wil Wheaton tweeting about Cash N Guns a few months ago and thinking, "ah man, that looks like fun!" Unfortunately, the first edition was sold out and I wasn't aware of a second printing. Normally, my board game interests run the gamut of Last Night on Earth or the recently Kickstarted Arcadia Quest or Shadows over Camelot. But there's something to be said about pick-up-and-play party games. Let's face it, not all of our friends want to hunker down and play through a four hour marathon game of Arkham Horror. For them, we have Sushi Go, Bang! and, now, Cash N Guns.

Cash N Guns is the best part of those heist movies: the crew has gotten away with a massive robbery and everyone is meeting up to disperse the goods. But, like any good heist movie, you're dealing with robbers. Criminals who think that they deserve more money than the rest of youse crooks! The game is played out over eight rounds. You turn over the loot and then everyone picks a card from their hand, either a "bang" or a "click" and finally the bullets start flying. You point your foam gun at whoever you want and the game becomes a bluffing game. Does the person who is pointing their gun at you have a "bang" card? Or is he/she trying to fake you out. The goal is to make it through the rounds with the most money, and to not get shot, obviously.

Cash N Guns is a very simple game. The rules are few and easily understandable. This type of game is really dependent on the group of people playing. I find bluffing games to be fun and laugh-inducing. But if you have a group of people who aren't into the more social games, this might be like pulling teeth. For those old enough, it also can get quite raucous when you introduce alcohol. It also can be played with up to eight people. In fact, I would recommend with this type of game to play with at least five people. I think six hits the sweet spot. I'd really recommend this game for the board game group that sometimes has a lot of players. It's a good game to break the ice or as an intermission between more complex games.


Alien: Isolation - PlayStation 4
Alien: Isolation - PlayStation 4
Price: $37.49
81 used & new from $30.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finally. A good Alien game., October 14, 2014
20th Century Fox hasn't done right by the Alien saga in...well, an extremely long time. One could argue that they've not done right by the saga as far back as Alien 3, a movie that was pretty much bungled from day one. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy Alien 3 and I think it's aged remarkable well; but to call that movie contentious or controversial is a bit on the nose. Video games haven't fared well, either. The less we talk about Colonial Marines, the better. But recently, I'm a least a little hopeful that maybe (maybe??) they're starting to get on the right foot. Maybe? First, there was the start of what could be a really interesting comic cross-over series that pits Aliens, Predator, AvP and Prometheus together in a shared universe and is overseen by Kelly Sue DeConnick. The first few issues of that suggest that the creators of the comic have an actual understanding of the universe and are writing with confidence. Now, we have Alien: Isolation, by veteran developer The Creative Assembly (developer of a ton of Total War-branded games) and the results have me mostly giddy.

Glossing over the story, it's about Ellen Ripley's daughter, Amanda. As an engineer working for The Company, she discovers that the flight recorder of the Nostromo was located and is now held aboard Sevastopol Station. She, along with two other notable Weyland-Yutani employees, Samuels and Taylor, go to the station, in hopes of finding out what happened to Ellen Ripley. Of course, Sevastopol is found in disrepair, people are dead or missing, the androids are acting up and there's something out there, waiting in the dark. Without getting into too much detail, the story hits most of the beats you'd expect from this game. It takes a lot of story beats from Alien and feels like it could almost be a remake of Alien, in terms of the pacing. But the most important aspect is the little things.

It's all about the details. Alien created a signature look that was used and abused for many years afterwards (think: Critters and a host of B or C-grade horror films). Isolation nails that look. The dark hallways. The wetness of everything. The contrasts of stark white and industrial pipes. The vastness of the ships, piloted by a small number of people. The isolation. Then there's the music, probably one of the best scores by Jerry Goldsmith. Isolation takes the score and the look of Alien and runs with it, creating a universe that feels like a perfect companion to Alien. Everything is as it should be, down to the sounds the old school computers make and the little tippy bird. The space suits look great, the atmosphere is heavy and misty. I could go on about the set design of the game. As a huge fan of Alien(s), I had a huge smile on my face for the first hour and a half of the game.

And then the alien happened.

Isolation takes the cue from Alien and is pretty skimpy with the alien in the beginning. The first hour and a half is a slow burn where you, as the player, are anticipating the moment the alien will make its appearance. I jumped at little things and got spooked walking under vents. I just knew it would happen. And when it finally makes its appearance, it's worth the wait. My smile left my face and was replaced by an agonizing fear as it hunted me, its metallic tail slowly trailing behind it. The creature is huge and menacing in just the right way. Again, it is based on the idea of the alien in Alien; tall, imposing, with exaggerated and almost leisurely actions, even when it's speeding towards you. This isn't the creatures in Aliens, moving along the walls and ceiling, swarming you. This is one large beast, methodically hunting you. As the game progressed, Isolation found even worse ways to mine that fear, whether it was forcing you into the open as you try to hack a door, waiting as an airlock decompresses and/or tackling androids (who the alien completely ignores), Isolation utilizes the Alien effectively. Even when it's not there, its presence is felt.

I have a confession to make, though. I played the game on Easy. After reading reviews about how frustrating the Alien was on Hard difficulty, I over-compensated and went with easy. Easy is almost too easy in a lot of ways. The alien isn't as observant. There were times when I knew for sure it'd see me and it just walked by me. It's a lot more forgiving than I thought it'd be. I probably should have stuck with Normal. The problem is, there's a fine line between being afraid for your life in a game and being frustrated that you're constantly repeating a section. The more times you die or are thwarted, the less fearsome the event becomes. Even on Easy, the game walked a thin thread between these two thoughts and honestly, towards the end I was more afraid of not finding a save point than I was of the Alien. And that's kind of a problem. You should be terrified of the alien, not of losing progress. Additionally, at least on easy, my fear of the creature was diminished after I got the flamethrower. Supposedly, the alien learns your behavior and weapons become less effective. That never happened to me (again, on Easy) and I relied on the flamethrower to get me through each encounter with the Alien.

The last half of the game becomes a fan service explosion that feels like a "best of" in terms of Alien and Aliens. But in a good way. There are a lot of moments that directly call back to Alien that I would love to just discuss. Through it all, the game never feels cheap or manipulative, like I felt the events of Colonial Marines were. It brought out the Alien nerd in me. One particular moment was both exciting and emotional, for a variety of reasons. The pace picks up and the game races to the end in a fantastic way...and then it just ends. Abruptly. Biggest letdown ever, with the ending. After all of the strife and pain that Amanda went through it just ends. That was the only truly disappointing thing about Alien: Isolation.

All of my quibbles aside, Alien: Isolation finally gets this massive franchise back on the right feet. It's scary, intense and fits all of the right pegs. I'm actually shocked that no one has done anything substantial with Amanda Ripley until now. What a rich narrative they could mine with that. While Alien: Isolation isn't the perfect vehicle for that narrative, it's the best Alien game I've played. I hope The Creative Assembly makes more.


Horns [HD]
Horns [HD]
DVD
Price: $14.99

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Giving the Devil his due...mostly, October 6, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Horns [HD] (Amazon Instant Video)
Some books are called unfilmable. I remember reading Horns and thinking how great of a rambling book it was. Partly an allegory, partly a dissection of Kafka's famous story Metamorphosis, it verged in many different directions, careening from horror to romance to a religious critique. But considering how over the place the novel was, I couldn't imagine it being turned into an effective film. As the time passed, Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes) was attached to direct and, shockingly, Daniel Radcliffe was going to play Iggy Perrish. Still, I worried: how would they make this into a movie?

The answer is by mostly changing it and focusing on telling a mostly linear story centered around the murder of Merrin Williams. And it's mostly effective, probably more so than I could expect or, frankly, hope. Horns, the film, starts with Ig waking up and dealing with his normal routine. His life is pretty much in the dumps. We meet the pissed off townspeople who have already written Ig off as his girlfriend's killer. We meet his parents and his brother who is a relatively famous musician and who is eye-rollingly introduced with trumpet in hand. How do we know he's a musician? He walks out to a sad Iggy, playing a mournful tune on his trumpet. We're then quickly introduced to Lee Tourneau, Ig's friend since childhood. Unlike the book where Lee works in a congressman's office, here he is a public defender who is defending Ig. But worry not, for now we are whisked away to the night where, in the novel, "Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things." The next morning, he wakes up with knobby pointed protuberances; aka, horns. Not only does he have horns, but for some reason people around him start telling him their darkest desires and, if Ig touches them, he gets a clearer picture of their thoughts. And he learns he can push people to do their darkest, most base desires. And, of course, he decides to use these powers to find out who actually murdered Merrin.

Whew! Horns, the film, has a lot of problems. It (mostly wisely) cuts out a lot of what I thought made the novel unique and focuses on one major aspect of the story: Merrin's murder and Ig's task to find her killer. It takes a narrative that was structured more like a puzzle that unspooled its secrets, histories and character development in a very non-linear way and makes it into an a more succinct mystery about the horns, Merrin's death and Iggy's quest to discover who actually killed her. I can't honestly think of a different way a two hour movie could tackle this rambling tale. Unfortunately, it's also a bit heavy-handed in its message and is too on-the-nose in terms of its religious imagery, specifically the religious-tinged dialogue. The foreshadowing is too blatant in the dialogue. And I don't feel like we get the full transition of Ig to The Devil that we do in the novel. What surprised me most was how much Alexandre Aja pulled his punches with Ig; the director of The Hills Have Eyes, a movie that threw the worst at its protagonists, didn't seem to want to go that far with Ig. Also, the climax of the film was cheesy and not as effective as the novel. On the plus side, the movie can be incredibly funny at times. One aspect the movie completely nailed was how random people would simply start spilling their deepest desires to Iggy. And Daniel Radcliffe completely sold the amusement and horror of realizing he has this effect on people.

So why the four stars? Because Aja's heart is in the right place and most of the changes help strengthen the movie into a more cohesive tale for film. Even though it loses a lot of the metaphors and philosophy of the novel, it still feels like a good telling of the story. Its pacing is equally excellent and kept me enthralled the entire time. It's also incredibly darkly funny and Aja gets a fantastic, if brief, performance out of Heather Graham. She steals the movie, for me; something I never would have thought possible with her. And Aja gets the romance between Ig and Merrin right. Sometimes in order to translate a book to a film, you have to kill your darlings, as the saying goes. And I believe Aja has given Joe Hill his due.


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