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[sticky post] Hello!

Oct. 29th, 2009 | 03:00 pm

Welcome back my friends
To the show that never ends!
We're so glad you could attend
Come inside, come inside!

— Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Karn Evil 9 (1st Impression, Part II)

Hi there!

If you're reading this, you're probably just looking at my journal, perhaps even thinking about adding me as an LJ-friend; or alternatively, perhaps I just added you as an LJ-friend, and you're curious about me now. In either case, I'd like to use this opportunity to say a few things.

Trevor: You're skating the edge.
Æon: I
am the edge.

— Æon Flux

First of all, I tend to write freely about topics everything that matters to me; more distanced, "professional" entries may directly be followed by more personal ones (and vice versa), and I will, generally, openly write about all sorts of things, including philosophy, sexuality, politics and more. Some of my entries will be friends-only, others will be publicly viewable, too, and unlike other people, I don't use <lj-cut /> tags or specific "topic filters" (i.e., custom friends groups dedicated to specific topics) to shield people from things they may not want to see.

Well, as long as it's text, that is; I will cut images that aren't safe for work etc. (at least if I remember, which I might not always do!), since I wouldn't want for people to get in trouble if their boss happens to be shoulder-surfing at work. Text, though, is a different issue, and if you'll get into trouble for reading about certain topics at work, you probably shouldn't be checking your friends page at work to begin with.

He said, "I am told that when men hear its voice, it stays in their ears, they cannot be rid of it. It has many different voices: some happy, but others sad. It roars like a baboon, murmurs like a child, drums like the blazing arms of one thousand drummers, rustles like water in a glass, sings like a lover and laments like a priest."

— Mike Oldfield, Amarok (liner notes)

Second of all, concerning friending me: feel free to. There is no need to ask if it's OK to do so; everyone's welcome to, as well as to post comments etc. (as long as they're genuine: spammers etc. will not be tolerated, but that goes without saying, anyway). I may add you back if your journal looks interesting or if I know you, too, but this isn't automatic. If you do want me to add you back, engaging me and talking to me is probably the best way to go about it.

Please don't ask about being added back if I didn't do so on my own, either, unless I already know you well and you want to be able to read my non-public entries.

If I already friended you but you don't know who I am and haven't been in contact with me before, that most likely means I became aware of your journal somehow, took a look, and decided I wanted to keep up with what you're writing — "I find your ideas intriguing and wish to subscribe to your newsletter", as it were. I don't expect you to friend me back or otherwise take an interest in me, but if you do — all the better.

If what it is to be furry you still don't comprehend
Then consider this advice, my curious friend
If you're willing to respect that which you don't understand
Then come take my paw and I'll take your hand.

— from "Furry", by Croc O'Dile of TigerMUCK with help from Tony DeMatio, June 1995

Regarding commenting, BTW, I'm always happy to receive comments. However, things like "lol" are not proper punctuation, and correct spelling and grammar would be nice as well. And of course, I expect people to not be insulting or rude, but that, again, should go without saying.

That's about all I can think of for now. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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Shy heart

Oct. 21st, 2018 | 10:42 pm

ponyphonic — Shy Heart

Be yourself, they say, but be assertive
Hold your ground but do not be unkind
I have sought to be both lamb and lion
Heartache is the thing I tend to find
Can I only have what I can capture
Will I be unheard unless I shout
Clamor overwhelms me and I wonder
What is there to be so loud about?

Many are the musings of my shy heart
Though precious few are spoken out aloud
How I wish to wrap them up in confidence and style
And send them out like magic through the crowd
Then everyone would listen and I wouldn't be afraid
I wouldn't shrink away and disappear
I don't want them to worship me or care that much at all
I only want to know they know I'm here

I can wear a mask of pluck and power
But it never says what I intend
Words become like scissors in my keeping
And friendships are so difficult to mend
I don't want to shout above the babble
I'm not even sure what I would say
Maybe just, "Excuse me, could we maybe
Be a little quieter today?"

Many are the musings of my shy heart
Though precious few are spoken out aloud
How I wish to wrap them up in confidence and style
And send them out like magic through the crowd
Then everyone would listen and I wouldn't be afraid
I wouldn't shrink away and disappear
I don't want them to worship me or care that much at all
I only want to know they know I'm here

Part of me has things she wants and wishes
Part of me is worried she is wrong
Part of me is busy masquerading
As a girl whose pieces get along
I don't mean to come across as distant
I don't think it adds to my mystique
I just find it difficult conversing
And think an awful lot before I speak

Many are the musings of my shy heart
Though precious few are spoken out aloud
How I wish to wrap them up in confidence and style
And send them out like magic through the crowd
Then everyone would listen and I wouldn't be afraid
I wouldn't shrink away and disappear
I don't want them to worship me or care that much at all
I only want to know they know I'm here

Artist: unknown, but possibly illuminatiums

I've been feeling like Fluttershy a lot lately.

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Oct. 14th, 2018 | 08:53 pm

Do you have malapropisms that really get on your nerves? Ones that stand out in any text you read, in any words you hear, and grate? I do.

I dislike the expression "quantum leap" when it's used to refer to a particularly large (conceptual) jump; a quantum leap is the smallest conceivable leap.

Worse than this is "significant", used in the same sense, as "large" or "noteworthy". A difference being significant means it is statistically distinguishable, i.e. unlikely to be an artifact of random chance. Significance has nothing to do with effect size: a small difference can be significant, and a large difference insignificant. (In fact, one must take further care to confuse significance with semantic meaningfulness. As sample sizes increase, any difference, no matter how small, will become significant, but whether this tells you anything is another matter.)

Turning to German there's "anscheinend" and "scheinbar", a pair of words that both mean "seemingly", but with different twists. The former indicates that appearance and reality match; the latter, that they don't. Wilhelm Busch, for instance, wrote: "Scheinbar schlummert der Leib, aber die Seele ist wach": Silen appears to be sleeping, but really isn't. Some people I know consistently (at least they are consistent!) use "scheinbar" when they mean "anscheinend", and it's always bugging me something severe.

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R.I.P. René Pétillon

Sep. 30th, 2018 | 10:03 pm

René Pétillon, French comic artist and staple of Le Canard Enchaîné, died today, at the age of 72. Yan Lindingre summed this up as neatly as anyone could possibly hope to on Facebook, saying: "René Petillon est mort. Merde."

R.I.P., René.

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File sharing between Windows 7 and Windows 10

Sep. 24th, 2018 | 11:50 am

I had to diagnose some issues with sharing files between two computers, one running Windows 7 and one running Windows 10. The latter could see the former just fine, but not vice versa. What gives?

They were both on the same LAN, in the same workgroup, and all the necessary services were running. In the end it turned out that:

  1. Sophos (which was running on the Windows 10 computer), by default, blocks all SMB traffic; and
  2. Windows is unable to properly handle computer names that have non-English[1] letters in them.

The latter in particular is annoying. It's not like Windows refuses such names; quite the opposite, it happily lets you name your computer just about anything you want. It just silently breaks as a result.

FWIW, attempting to connect to the Windows 10 computer from the Windows 7 computer yielded the message "0x80004005 Unknown Error", which is not only unhelpful, but also so generic as to be ungooglable (the same error code is apparently used for all sorts of things). Windows' network troubleshooter tool failed to identify the problem as well (entirely expected, it never does anything useful).

But hey, Windows has only been under development for, oh, 35 years. And Microsoft is only one of the largest software companies in the world. Surely it is entirely too much for me to ask that non-English letters in computer names work; that if they don't work, they at least be refused; that useful error messages or codes are displayed; that troubleshooting tools actually do useful work; that there be useful diagnostic tools for administrators that go beyond Windows' dumbed-down control center; that Microsoft's website and KB have useful information; and that Microsoft's support forums yield useful answers that go beyond "have you tried reinstalling Windows".


Once it worked, files still couldn't be shared. This turned out to be my fault, as in my naivety I had assumed that selecting "Give access to..." and selecting "Homegroup (view and edit)" from a file's context menu might share it, or that otherwise "Give access to... > Specific people..." might give me the option to select who to share with.

This is not the case. And Windows 10's "Share" ribbon doesn't have anything useful, either. The proper way to share a directory on the network is:

  1. From the context menu, select "Properties";
  2. Go to the "Sharing" tab;
  3. Click on "Advanced sharing";
  4. Check "Share this folder";
  5. Click on "Permissions";
  6. Check "Change" in the "Allow" column if you want to allow writing as well as reading.

(You may also have to configure any firewalls that may exist; I'll leave that up to you.)

(I owe lots of thanks to this guy, and to kevlarhusky.)

  1. This may not seem like a big deal to you if you're from an anglophone country, but I see no reason why I shouldn't be able to write, say, "Æ" if you're able to write "W"; neither is a Latin letter. And in any case, this is a solved problem.

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Thoughts on communities

Sep. 1st, 2018 | 01:02 pm

I recently noticed that even after more than 20 years, _whitefire_'s Furry Peace website is still online – a refreshing change in today's world where links regularly go stale after years, if not months, and URIs are decidedly not cool –, and reading it again I thought about the points he raises, and what makes a community in the first place.

For those who don't remember, the Furry Peace campaign was a counter-movement to the "Burnt Furs", a group working to expunge all sexual or "adult" material in order to produce a "squeaky clean" furry fandom. Furry Peace emphasized acceptance of other viewpoints, openness, and tolerance, very much in the spirit of the Valley and the Bay Area at the time, where a significant part of the fandom was based (or traced its roots to). And it was also created to get the "silent majority" to speak up, when the Burnt Furs claimed that they were not just a small group, but rather (silently) supported by most of the fandom.

Now, that said—

The argument is about who is, should be, is considered, or should be considered a member of furry fandom. This is a question that's difficult to answer when you don't understand just what the nature of the furry fandom is, so I started thinking about the nature of communities, and distinguished five tiers:

  1. Tier I: "set-theoretic" communities; "sets".

    At this tier, the whole is defined as simply the set of all people sharing a certain trait. No explicit or implicit community exists (by necessity). Example: all blonde people.

  2. Tier II: relationship-based communities; "groups".

    At this tier there is an implicit conception of community; people don't think of themselves as a community, but are more likely to interact with like-minded others. Many hobbies live on this tier. Example: anglers (i.e. fishermen) who e.g. talk to other fishermen at the tackle shop.

  3. Tier III: explicit conception of community; "fandoms".

    At this tier, people start conceiving of an explicit whole that they are (or aren't) part of (i.e. identify as being part of). Fandoms, movements, and "communities" (in the narrow sense) often live on this level. Example: furry fandom, the FOSS community, the fluxus art movement.

    This is also the tier where things get thorny, as there are two competing notions of community membership:

    1. Self-identification as a community member; and
    2. acceptance as a community member by others[1].

    I'll note that acceptance by others strays upward, conceptually speaking, to tier IV; perhaps there is an intermediate tier to be distinguished here that I haven't worked out, but my gut feeling is that the truth is that tier III is simply "complicated".

  4. Tier IV: official communities without legal weight: "clubs".

    At this tier, there is an explicit concept of membership, though this is ignored (i.e. neither recognized nor officially rejected) by society as a whole. Many "clubs" live on this tier. Example: the neighborhood kids' treehouse club; a pub quiz group.

  5. Tier V: official communities with legal weight: "associations".

    At this tier, there is also an explicit concept of membership, and this is socially / legally recognized. The community itself is also legally recognized (as existing, if nothing else!). Many non-profits, for-profit companies, churches etc. live on this tier. Examples: the NRA, TUG.

    Note that explicit, socially recognized membership is independent of if, how or when members can be removed, BTW; all that matters is that if you aren't a member, there's no disagreement that you aren't, and society recognizes whether you are a member.

    Note also that the above doesn't preclude conflicts regarding membership status.[2]

Note, BTW, that self-identification only makes sense on tier III. On tier II and below, there is no community to identify as being a member of; on tier IV and above, membership is explicit. (It doesn't make sense to say that you self-identify as a member of a pub quiz group you in fact aren't a member of, say.)

So, getting back to Furry Peace and the Burnt Furs, the question of who is a member of the furry fandom needs to be separated into two separate sub-questions:

  1. a positive question of self-identification: "does this person consider herself a member?"; and
  2. a normative question of acceptance: "should we consider this person a member?".

Now, Furry Peace's argument is basically that the second question is irrelevant, i.e. that its answer should follow the answer to the first; anyone who self-identifies as a member should also be accepted. This removes normativity and leaves only a positive question, but the argument is of course itself normative, and much of the what's written on the Furry Peace website is a philosophical justification for this normative argument.

The Burnt Furs, meanwhile, insist that the first question is irrelevant, and that the answer to the second should be based on their own (sexual) mores. There's an obvious problem with this position: who decides whose mores are used as the yardstick used to measure prospective members? More to the point, the mores are exogenous in this approach, supplied "from outside", whereas in the Furry Peace position, they are endogenous and arise within the fandom.

Of course this is also problematic, as the fandom's mores may change depending on who self-identifies as a member. This can lead to inadvertant "hostile takeovers", where a large influx of newcomers who are unaware of the existing norms of the fandom transform the fandom into something new. (This can be seen as a good thing as well as a bad thing, mind, or alternatively simply as something that happens, without any attached value judgement.) It arguably has happened as well: the fandom is not the same as 20 (or 25, or 30) years ago anymore. If you've ever thought "this is not the fandom I used to know"... there you go.

Reality, of course, is largely unbothered by these philosophical discussions; there is a smooth iterative (positive) solution, where the fandom simply evolves a certain way andthat'sthewayitis. Both the Furry Peace and the Burnt Furs positions, in contrast, are normative in that they seek to create community norms.

I realize that none of this is of any importance anymore, of course; both Furry Peace and the Burnt Furs are history, and in a sense both sides lost. The Burnt Furs certainly did, in that sexuality is more prevalent in the fandom than ever; but the Furry Peace movement also did, as its advocacy for tolerance, open-mindedness, compassion and acceptance seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The furry fandom is as judgemental as any, and the only recent change there is that in contrast to, oh, 10 years ago, the fandom does not generally seem to describe itself as being particularly open-minded anymore. Whether that's a good thing (reality matching theory) or a bad thing (not even the ideal of tolerance left to aspire to anymore) is open to debate.

What I really just wanted to write down was the five-tier conception of communities. I think that's useful (for myself, not necessarily for anyone else) for understanding how groups work.


  1. A natural question to ask here is "by who exactly?". I've not thought about this, and don't think it's particularly relevant in this context, but I'll note that "others" can include both community members and non-members, and that in practice in particular, it won't be every community member either. Compare "squeaky wheels", opinion leaders, the "silent majority" (which of course was one of the very things Furry Peace was trying to address!) etc.

  2. For instance, the "official" churches in Germany (catholic and lutheran) have in the past been known to lie about the membership status of the de-converted, which can become relevant if the records that the state keeps itself (for tax reasons) are destroyed, and the state turns to the churches for membership information: the churches, especially the catholic church, will happily claim that you are a member, against better knowledge. Or at least they did; perhaps this has changed by now, I don't know.

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TeXstudio, nomencl and arara (and Perl)

Aug. 3rd, 2018 | 01:11 pm

Another thing that TeXstudio sadly lacks is built-in support for the nomencl package's workflow. This package requires an extra run of makeindex (with certain parameters) in between two LaTeX runs to generate the data file used for the nomenclature section; there was a feature request to integrate this eight years ago, which was curtly denied by a developer.

Failed attempts to integrate nomencl and TeXstudio

There is a suggestion to use user commands, of course. To do this, go to Options › Configure TeXstudio › Build; in the "User Commands" section, Click on the "Add" button to add a new command. In the left text input field, put "nomencl:Nomenclature" or so (left of the colon is the internal identifier of the command, to the right is the command's user-facing name); in the right input field put "makeindex.exe %.nlo -s nomencl.ist -o %.nls". So far, so good; the command's now available as Tools › User › Nomenclature.

Of course you don't want to have to remember to run this whenever you add nomenclature to your document; it should be automatic, part of the compilation process. So you might add it to the "Build & View" command; under Options › Configure TeXstudio › Build again, you might update the "Build & View" command to execute the following "txs:///nomencl | txs:///compile | txs:///view".

But there's three problems.

First of all, you may not want to run makeindex to generate nomenclature data for every document; they don't all use the nomencl package, after all. What's more, you may not want to give nomencl special treatment that other tools like biblatex etc. don't get either.

Finally, and this is the biggest issue, it may simply not work. If your TeX document uses a magic comment to indicate which engine it should be processed with, e.g. "%!TEX TS-program = xelatex", TeXstudio will ignore the default Build & View command and use whatever you specify instead.

Now, you might think you could use this to your advantage: create another user command, e.g. "xelatexnomencl:XeLaTeX and Nomenclature", have it invoke "txs:///xelatex | txs:///nomencl", and then put an appropriate magic comment such as "%!TEX TS-program = xelatexnomencl". But this doesn't work; TeXstudio will complain, saying "%!TeX program not recognized! (xelatexnomencl). Using default." (if you use "Compile") or "Error: Could not start the command: xelatexnomencl" (if you use "Build & View").

Enter arara

The solution I've found is to use arara. It's not obvious from the name, but this is a tool that'll allow you to specify, in a document what commands need to be run and in which order to process it correctly. Having done this once, you then only need to process the document in question with arara, and you're set.

You'll want a user command again for this, so do as described above, create a command named "arara:Arara" or so, and have it run "arara %.tex". To make it more accessible, go to Options › Configure TeXstudio › Toolbars; select the "Tools" toolbar in the left dropdown and "All menus" in the right one, then expand "Tools" and "User" in the right pane and move over the "Arara" menu item to the left pane. Drag it to the preferred location (I like having it at the top, i.e. leftmost in the toolbar), and right-click and select "Load Other Icon" from the context menu to assign it a different icon. (TeXstudio does not seem to give you access to its internal icons, so maybe just find a nice picture of a macaw. Personally, I used pdfimages(1) to extract one from the arara documentation.)

Now all you still need to do is put arara's magic comments into your document, e.g.

% arara: xelatex
% arara: nomencl
% arara: xelatex

Compile the document by clicking on the arara toolbar button, and it should Just Work&tm;. You won't have to remember what tools to invoke for which document in which order; it's all in the document. And what's more, your regular build/... workflow isn't affected, so you can choose to use arara or not for each new document, or even choose to mix build tools (e.g. if you know you've not changed your nomenclature).

A note on Perl

You may or may not find that running makeindex and friends will throw this error:

The script engine could not be found. 
Data: scriptEngine="perl.exe"

When this first happened to me, I installed Strawberry Perl (the best Perl distribution for Windows). Yet the error persisted in TeXstudio, even though invoking makeindex manually on the command line worked just fine.

I managed to solve it by configuring an appropriate search path in TeXstudio. Go to Options › Configure TeXstudio › Build again. At the bottom of the window, you'll see two fields for entering "Additional Search Paths". See the tiny little scrollbar on the right? Scroll down, and you'll find a third field, previously hidden, labeled "Commands ($PATH)". Put "C:\Strawberry\perl\bin" here, assuming you installed Strawberry Perl to C:\Strawberry (adjust accordingly otherwise). Great UI design this ain't — but after making this change everything worked for me.

A closing thought

The arara manual, in its prologue, says "Writing software is easy. Writing good software is extremely difficult". That's very true, and TeXstudio is a good example of that, IMO.

Don't get me wrong, I like the program, and I think it's the best LaTeX IDE that there currently is. But it's got its warts – fair enough, all programs do –, and the developers' apparent aversion to integrating tools because a (complex, complicated, difficult-to-implement, unsatisfactory, or just-plain-not-working) solution exists is dismaying. As with much other free software, the developers don't seem to understand (or care) that software is primarily a tool allowing you to get work done. Making a tool configurable is good — but it's no excuse for not endowing the tool with good, built-in support for users' workflows. And understanding users' workflows and requirements is important. The more easily and quickly users can get their jobs done, the better.

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TeXstudio and Git

Jul. 30th, 2018 | 11:38 am

I use TeXstudio for editing (La)TeX documents. It's a great tool, and I'm generally very happy with it.

Now, what I'd like to is automatically sync my documents with a remote repo. I'm less interested in collaborative editing etc. myself, but I'd like to have a remote backup: backups are important, and the mantra "backup early, backup often" is best followed when making backups is quick and easy.

Tracking changes and being able to revert to old versions is also invaluable, so you'll want to use a revision control system of some sort. These days, Git's a natural choice. You could host your own server (remember we're talking remote backups, so a local repo won't cut it); if you don't want that there's a lot of hosting services out there, both free and paid.

Back to TeXstudio — it supports revision control, but only using SVN, which is less than useful these days (the only time you'll ever want to use SVN is in a legacy environment). Git support has been requested for about 7,5 years, but to no avail so far.

So you gotta do it yourself. A couple of years ago, someone suggested substituting Git for SVN without TeXstudio noticing what's going on, but this didn't work for me. The differences between Git and SVN workflows go beyond different command line arguments (notably, Git requires you to stage changes before committing).

One suggestion I found was to create a shell script (or batch file) doing the necessary work, and adding that as a new build command. I didn't try this, but I imagine it'd work. There was also a question on tex.stackexchange.com (one of the most valuable TeX resources out there) about this a while back which pointed to a user-contributed TeXstudio script.

This works. What I've done is import this as a script, and also add a light-weight version that can be invoked anytime I want a quick-and-dirty automatic backup:

buildManager.runCommand("git commit -a -m \"Committed by TeXstudio\"", editor.fileName())
buildManager.runCommand("git push origin \"master\"", editor.fileName())

Occasionally, this says "Everything up-to-date" in the message log rather than indicating it actually pushed a commit, but the commits themselves are apparently still working. Knock on wood; the whole thing feels like a stop-gap solution, and TeXstudio really needs proper Git support, but it's better than nothing.

If anyone's got any tips, tricks, suggestions, caveats, war stories etc., I'd love to hear them.

EDIT: sadly, this isn't working as I thought it would after all. On my production files, rather than a few test files committed to a test repo, Git is producing a lot of warnings, and nothing is getting committed. Back to the drawing board — which for now means manually invoking Git on the command line.

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Troy Hurtubise, checking out

Jun. 23rd, 2018 | 11:09 am

Troy Hurtubise has died:

Troy was a most unusual person. When he heard a colorful, even fanciful, idea emerge from his mouth, he seemed to feel honor-bound to make that idea come true, no matter what. He was, until this unfortunate highway crash, a willfully mythical creature—often bound in a strange and wondrous suit of titanium, duct tape, hockey pads, and his own imagination—walking, running, and occasionally toppling over, amongst mortals.

R.I.P., you badass motherfucker.

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ANSI PMV: Obsolete

May. 3rd, 2018 | 05:10 pm

You probably know ASCII art — you may or may not also know ANSI movies, depending on how old you are and how extensively you used computers and frequented BBSes in the late 80s/early 90s.

Well, a couple of years ago, klystron2010 created an ASCII art version of Twilight Sparkle, and I commented on it, saying "Your next mission, should you choose to accept it: make an ANSI movie involving ponies".

I don't know whether it's directly as a result of this, but the artist actually went ahead and did, producing an awesome ANSI PMV for Rudebrat's Obsolete:

This was finished in February this year, and was apparently almost 5 years in the making — a real labor of love, and it shows. (I only wish Youtube's compression was a bit less draconic — the compression artifacts are quite bad.)

Equestria Daily also picked it up, BTW, but described it as "pixel art". Kids these days, eh? ;) Or maybe "ANSI art" really is an antediluvian term and concept[1] (in which case the choice of song is really quite clever).

  1. Unrelated: a while ago I tried to find out how to filter Usenet[2] messages in Thunderbird; my first instinct was to do a web search for "Thunderbird Usenet killfile", and one of the first hits mentioned that "killfile" was, in this day and age, an antediluvian term that few people would understand, and fewer still actively use.
  2. Usenet is, of course, arguably antediluvian in and on itself.

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