* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we confess to being just as surprised as the next fellow that the science of teleportation goes all the way back to the 19th century. In this case the next fellow is our good friend Tim Cushing.

Correspondence From A Teleportation Pioneer

By:

April 8th, 1897

Dear M.,

I’m afraid I shan’t be attending the 75th Annual Threshing Bee due to the lack of a reliable matter transporter in my area, and I find the prospect of a nine-day trip for three hours of threshing unappealing.

However, I am looking to rectify the matter transporter situation within the next fortnight.

Until then,

T.

April 17th, 1897

Dear M.,

Perhaps a fortnight was a tad optimistic. As seems to be the case with most mail-order kits, the construction of a teleporter seems to require a second person. To this end, I have been auditioning a veritable slew of assistants.

So far, the applicants have either been petty and backstabbing or alarmingly reverential. While my years with the railroad have made me immune to backstabbing (and given me plenty of handwritten “STAB ME” signs), the tendency of the “alarmingly reverential” hopefuls to display their devotion through insect eating or drunken late night telegrams is very unsettling.

Sincerely,

T.

May 7th, 1897

Dear M.,

Sacre bleu! My alarmingly reverential assistant has absconded with the blueprint for the matter transporter! While the cocktail napkin and writing implement are replaceable, I am concerned that he may attempt to construct “Plan B,” which I had scrawled on the reverse side after a half-dozen absinthe spritzers.

While a majority of “Plan B” consists of stick figures in compromising positions, it also includes a rudimentary “doomsday device.” I had intended to use this “doomsday device” as a vindictive statement to the many critics of my still disassembled teleporter. Not only that, but my cursed French seems to be returning. I had suppressed it early in life (along with my left-handedness) through a combination of prayer and buckwheat. This does not bode well, especially with mon lycée regroupement juste autour du coin.

Au revoir,

T.

May 16th, 1897

M.,

Good news!. My assistant returned around 5 am this morning with the blueprints and a toothy grin full of repentance and insect limbs. I was so grateful for the return of the prints that I completely forgot to have him drawn and quartered.

In addition, I received my long-delayed cruciform device. This integral piece was smuggled out of the Vatican by a well-paid courier who cleverly marked the package “1-1/4-inch Lag Bolts” so as not to draw the attention of customs. Unfortunately, I am still missing the ten (10) 1-1/4″ lag bolts I need. The postal service has told me to expect delays due to a shortage of lag bolts for their own hopper cars. I informed them that this sounded like classic postal service blundering and swiftly mailed an irate letter to my congressman. Hopefully, this will reach him before his term comes to a close (a mere 18 months away).

Hoping this letter finds you well,

T.

June 1st, 1897

Dear M.,

Another setback. I am still missing my crucial lag bolts. I also fear I’ve inadvertently made the situation worse with a stream of profanities directed at our Postmaster General. Informing him that the lag bolts are the only thing stopping me from assembling my transporter and rendering his livelihood unnecessary has brought my mail service to a near halt.

Hoping this letter finds you,

T.

June 20th, 1897

Dear M.,

Success! The lag bolts have arrived!

My assistant and I performed a test run late last night, sending two houseflies through the transporter and delivering them intact 40 feet away in the master bedroom. There seemed to be no physical damage, but upon “arrival,” they flew aimlessly to the nearest window and spent the next several hours motionlessly staring into the darkness.

They are still very much alive, but seem to missing, if not a “soul,” then their very essence of “fly-ness.” Can the ethereal be transported, seeing as it is not “matter?” A troubling question but one which should be answered by my assistant’s teleportation tomorrow evening.

Sincerely,

T.

June 21st, 1897

M.,

A partial success! My assistant made the 40-foot “jump” with no damage to his physical being. Unfortunately, his naively feisty spirit failed to make the trip. Upon emergence, he stared warily at me for a moment before heading to the windowsill to solemnly devour the two motionless flies and stare into the gathering gloom. A worrying development, to be sure.

However, I must try and get some sleep. Should my assistant suddenly return to his boisterous ways, I can expect to be awakened hourly with hisses of “Master!” and enthusiastic bug eating.

Warily,

T.

22 juin 1897

Dear M.,

My assistant is no longer. This afternoon (I overslept) found me greeted by an eerie silence and a badly-worded note stating that he was “off to Europe” indefinitely in an attempt to “find himself.”

I am left to test the transportation device myself. A baffling teletyped error message has appeared, indicating that I must “remove my clothes” before attempting teleportation as the device can apparently only transport “all-organic matter.” Even more baffling is the fact that the device has previously transported one (1) mostly-clothed assistant to the master bedroom and a portion of my laundry to parts unknown (following said assistant’s confusion as to the location of the hamper).

I will run a brief “clothing only” test later today. Should some apparel appear unexpectedly on your threshing floor, please inform me immediately. My name will be written on the waistband of the pants.

Sartorially challenged,

T.

July 5th, 1897

Dear M.,

As I have unsurprisingly received no response concerning my clothing experiment (the postal service is currently engaged in a localized strike, affecting only my mail delivery), I will be attempting to teleport myself to your threshing floor. To increase my chances of a successful teleportation, I will be “traveling” sans clothing.

Don’t be alarmed if I seem “out of sorts” (and “naked”) when I appear. I’m hoping this will be temporary and, once clothed and refreshed, I should be in attendance for the 75th Annual Square Dance and Bachelor Auction. I would imagine the womenfolk in your area might bid a tremendous amount for an underclothed scientist with access to various affronts to God, not to mention la chance de profiter des rapports sexuels très ambidextre.

Until my emergence,

T.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we will frankly admit to a lingering fear of ghosts, which is exceeded only by our fear of amateur ghost hunters. You know -- people like Tim Cushing.

My Amateur Paranormal Investigations

By:

As the somewhat proud owner of the home voted “Most Haunted in the Tri-State Area” for three years running, I have developed an interest in spirituality, as well as a slightly greater interest in the rules and regulations governing disclosure statements, “as-is” home sales and arbitration hearings. The home gives no outward indication of paranormal presence, but the interior mishmash of odd angles, creaky floorboards and “barely there” bloodstains indicate otherwise. There was also some talk of it having a “colorful” history, most of it being various shades of red. It also mysteriously contains a full-stocked library, which any amateur ghost-hunter knows draws vengeful spirits like moths to a flame, or frat boys to a kegger.

It’s an ongoing struggle, filled with open cupboard doors, eerie noises and multiple visits to small claims court. With the invaluable aid of sketchy local spiritualists (in conjunction with an intricate array of candles and incense), I have been able to make contact with five (5) of the many restless souls that wander this house, moping about and generally behaving badly.

Harold Myers
Harold Myers lived a long, full life if his overly long, overly full obituary is anything to go by. He lived to age 88 and was survived by several relatives, none of whom seem interested in visiting. His inability to join the afterlife (already in progress) seems to be based on the irritation that someone is living in his house, leading me to believe that concepts of ownership and personal property are largely unrecognized in the hereafter.

Manifestation:
He has made his presence known by rearranging my guest bedroom (which used to be his), moving furniture around (mostly at night) and misplacing the DVD remote (mostly at night, as well). There are also eerie moments of dislocated bitter sobbing after which I usually find that my DVD collection has been alphabetized/sorted by date.

Resolution:
Performed a séance tracing the history of the house’s ownership back to the point when his soul vacated the premises by dying, followed nearly four days later by his body. This information was greeted with weak orders to “get out” and “pick up some batteries for the DVD remote — AAs, I think.”

I have tentatively agreed to allow him to rearrange his former bedroom once a week, during daylight hours. The remote is to remain in the nightstand drawer. On the plus side, the constant reshuffling of my DVD collection has led me to rediscover films I had forgotten I owned.

Glen Overton
Glen seems to feel that his death was not accidental (despite much evidence to the contrary), but that he was the victim of foul play. Attempts to convince him that drunkenly whipping up recipes from The Anarchist’s Cookbook tends to lead to injuries at best and an “incredible amount of close-range shrapnel wounds*” at worst have fallen on deaf ears. (And a blinded right eye, if the coroner’s report is to be believed.)

*County Coroner’s Report. Also listed: high level of blood toxicity, high level of blood loss and a look of “drunken surprise” on Overton’s face.

Manifestation:
Opening cupboard doors and cereal boxes, often removing key place-setting elements and toy prizes. Occasional chandelier rattling. Unlacing shoes. Impressively crafting a single three-foot high stack utilizing every bowl in the house. Inexplicable chess moves. Night terrors.

Resolution:
I have promised Glen that I will tirelessly pursue his tiresome request to have his “killer” exposed. In practice this means that I head down to the library a few times a week to do some research, which is usually 20 minutes or so of microfiche spinning followed by an hour and a half of checking email, playing solitaire and miscellaneous Facebookery.

While the trips to the library are relaxing and unproductive, the replacement of dishes and re-lacing of shoes tends to get a bit annoying. Plus, every time I go golfing I start to feel a bit like O.J. Simpson.

Markus Koloczek
Markus has several issues that are keeping him from heading off into the afterlife, none of which are aided by his inability to communicate in anything but a mixture of his native language and the repeated opening/closing of doors.

Manifestation:
Doors opening/closing. Some light switch abuse. Cyrillic bloodlike text scrawled on walls/mirrors. Presets on stereo changed randomly. A/C in the winter/heater in the summer. Installation of staircases/doors leading to nowhere.

Resolution:
Despite a séance involving a translator, it’s still unclear as to what Markus wants, thanks to his illiteracy and impenetrable peasant accent. We’re assuming it involves mental trauma stemming from formative experiences with the pack of wolfhounds that raised him. All available evidence suggests Markus should be haunting a cottage in the Balkans but his inability to read a map (or anything else) has led him here. We are currently in talks with various Eastern European families as to the possibility of a foreign exchange student-esque swap.

Jacob Wiessman
Jacob’s haunting is centered around a former tenant’s eviction for non-payment of rent. He seems to feel that harassing current occupants will help him recover enough of the back rent to offset his losses. It has been pointed out that he “can’t take it with him,” but this worn-out cliché has been ignored. Experts are chalking up his recalcitrance to his lifetime in the collections industry.

Manifestation:
Full manifestations are infrequent but tend to give the house the look of a recent break-in, with drawers dumped out and closets emptied, presumably in a search of the safe I don’t have. There are also attempts to post eviction notices and change the locks, both actions that an incorporeal being is woefully under-equipped for.

Resolution:
None. Large checks have been written out to Jacob and left in plain sight. The lack of transportation or a viable checking account continues to hamper Wiessman’s collection efforts. Contact with his next of kin has indicated that they have no interest in pursuing this debt. The spiritualist (now on retainer) has recommended Wiessman haunt the nearest small claims court instead.

Toshiyo
This singularly-named apparition first appeared after a disturbing late-night phone call informing me that I would be dead within a week. I was confused at first as I was unaware that the Country Planning Commission kept such late hours. Apparently my refusal to vacate the premises was holding up construction of a new stadium/themed strip mall and a loophole in their eminent domain policy had allowed them to remove me from legal existence (in 5 to 7 business days). Obviously, my earlier threat of “over my dead body” had been all the permission they needed.

Over the following week, I noticed a tremendous amount of interference on my TV. (The cable company blamed it on “a high amount of sunspot activity.” Perhaps, but they also used this excuse to explain away their technician’s late arrival and six hour nap on my couch.) During a crucial moment of Top Chef, I was alarmed to see a soaking wet waif crawling out of my 46-inch plasma, accompanied by malevolent guttural noises which I took to be signs of gastrointestinal distress.

This was confirmed moments later as the ghastly tween hurried past me, leaving a trail of wet footprints leading to my bathroom. After the disturbing “growling” had finally died down, I opened the bathroom door to find nothing more than a puddle of static-y water and some overwhelming odors.

Manifestation:
Toshiyo seems to only appear during critical moments of Pay-Per-View events and series premieres, rarely interrupting commercial breaks or C-SPAN. I would assume that my revamped TiVo recording schedule, which has mistaken me for a 21-year-old basement-dwelling otaku, is her attempt to communicate with me. Either that or the periodic static bursts/bathroom runs are simply a matter of lousy sanitation logistics in the afterlife. I have also noticed that turning off the set during a manifestation causes her to hastily re-enter my TV and try for an open restroom elsewhere.

Resolution:
At this point, I have held off on ordering any PPV events, which has led me to miss several MMA tournaments and an even larger number of girls going wild. I have also wedged series premieres into my new anime-heavy recording schedule, time-shifting them away from their debut dates in order to avoid ghastly (and odorous) interruption, and switched to double-roll paper. Also purchased: new Stiffer, new bathroom fan.

While most of this seems hardly conclusive and often gives the appearance that I am scatterbrained and lazy, I feel that this will not be the end of my unwanted visitors. Within the past few days I have been accosted by writing in the condensation on the bathroom mirror (“Out of Mentadent”), felt strange drops in temperature in the uninsulated mudroom and had several videotapes eaten by the suddenly malevolent and ancient VCR.

I would like to continue my studies but have been informed that the county is now the proud owner of the “Most Haunted Stadium/Boutiquery in the Tri-State Area.” As such, I will join my new compatriots (albeit from the other, less pale, side of the pale) in haunting this new complex (construction beginning shortly). With their help, we should be able to cause several disruptions and delays, most of which will be chalked up to “union harassment.”

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we believe in the right of the average American to own his own home, almost as much as we believe in his right to tell his neighbors what they can do with their homes. What a pleasure to find that Tim Cushing agrees with us. Or does he?

A Brief Introduction To Settling Homeowner Disputes

By:

While it is the American dream to own your own home and burn it later for the hefty insurance payout, home ownership can be a perilous journey down a path filled with faulty city water lines, inept, expensive contractors and litigious neighbors.

The most common annoyance will be the “homeowners’ dispute.” Usually the result of familiarity breeding contempt or contemptuously breeding (this includes cats), what could have been solved with a simple apology or fruit basket has now become a matter for the Homeowners’ Association, whose power far exceeds the limits of the judicial system.

These disputes can happen at any time for nearly any reason: erecting a privacy fence, harvesting from the “communal” garden or following your weeklong bender during which you mistook the neighbor’s living room for your garage.

Most of these expensive disputes can be defused or avoided completely through a combination of “worst case scenario” preparation and lying. Let’s take a look at some common homeowner disputes.

Property Lines
This dispute will normally rear its ugly head once your fence construction is nearing completion or when a tree falls onto your neighbor’s addition. As these situations become more and more common, some clear delineation of your property lines is needed, meaning phrases like “a little past the mailbox,” “as the crow flies…” or “just before the leaking water lines…” are no longer acceptable.

As a property line dispute is the most common homeowner issue, multiple solutions to this problem have surfaced over the years. Rather than battling it out in court or dragging those assholes from the Homeowner’s Association into this, consider these options for dispute resolution:

— Slap fight
— Race around the world
— Pistols at dawn
— Jarts
— Flamewar
— Thunderdome
— Trivial Pursuit: ’80s Edition
— Facebook Friend-Off
— Agreeing to disagree
— Compromise

(Note: These last two are not recommended.)

Grass Color/Length
To those of us who reside nowhere near gated communities or golf courses, this would seem to be a non-issue. We would let nature take its course color-wise and mow the lawn down to an eighth of an inch every three months or so.

However, this matter is taken quite seriously by the Homeowners’ Association, whose keen eyesight and finely tuned calipers will be all over your property the moment the grass does indeed become greener on the other side of the fence.

Your neighbors, whom you previously trusted and shared mid-priced domestic bottled beer with, may turn on you if they feel your pear-colored lawn is somehow bringing their property values down. In a very short time, you will be apprised of the situation, usually through a variety of passive-aggressive letters and conversations.

There is really only one way out of this dispute: spend every weekend and evening hour in a highly visible place gazing over your lawn while comparing fertilizers, herbicides and minor lawn deities. This means that you will have to have a variety of lawn additives on hand at all times and be ready to quote Gaian prayers at the drop of a hat. Failure to do so will most likely result in a costly arbitration and passive-aggressive bomb threats.

Resolution Role-Play
There’s no better way to prepare for some hot homeowner-on-homeowner action than to “put the shoe on the other foot,” so to speak. With some healthy role-playing, you should be able to talk yourself out of any situation, including uncomfortable discussions about your inability to dress yourself properly.

Here are a variety of common disputes. Please choose the best resolution.

1. The city calls to inform you that you will be held responsible for the power lines chewed up by your tiller. Your response?

— “Well, send someone down to help me transplant the bodies.”
— “No habla engles.”
— “Tell your crew to stop vandalizing my yard. There’s frickin’ orange spray paint everywhere.”
— “I really think the responsibility lies with the Troy-Bilt Corporation’s incredibly powerful and smooth handling rototiller.”
— “Hold on a second, I have a call from the water company on line 2.”

2. The Homeowners’ Association has informed you that your choice of mailbox is not acceptable. Your response?

— “Have I shown you my extensive handgun collection?”
— “No habla engles.”
— “Why? Because the flag is shaped like a penis?”
— “I need someplace to test out my pipe bombs.”
— Sucker punch the representative and ask for a pro-rated refund of your dues.

3. During a fierce storm, a branch from your tree knocks out your neighbor’s windshield. Your response?

— “Well, that answers the whole “If a tree falls in Parkview Terrace, who starts whining immediately?” question.
— “Here’s a number for my insurance agent. Unfortunately, he doesn’t speak English.”
— “I would imagine this falls under ‘act of God.’ Like your slashed tires. Or your daughter’s pregnancy.”
— “Could I ask you to hold this pipe-ish, bomb-ish looking thingy for a minute while I run and get my checkbook? I’ll be back in 7-10 minutes.”
— Sucker punch him and ask for his insurance information.

4. An electrical fire discolors the outside of your neighbor’s newly painted house. He wants you to pay for repainting. Your response?

— “No, but I’m OK, thanks for asking.”
— “Are you familiar with the phrase ‘water, water everywhere/not doing a damned thing'”?
— “Perhaps my powerful urine will clean it off…although it really didn’t do much to the fire…”
— “Can you break a ten dollar bill?”
— “Remember that time when you asked if I’d seen anyone ‘strange’ lurking outside your daughter’s window? And I said I hadn’t seen anyone ‘unfamiliar’…”
— “Have I introduced you to my insurance agent? He’s not too good with the English but he throws a hell of a sucker punch.”

(Note: Role-playing is also a great way to keep your marriage fresh. Consider taking the role of “Disgruntled Neighbor #2” while your partner (or partners) acts out the part of “Inept Landscaper.” Sparks will fly!)

Arbitration
If these alternate resolutions fail, be prepared to end up in court. Unfortunately, the glamorous courtrooms you’ve often viewed on TV will remain a fantasy. Instead, you’ll be forced to lay your case out in front of a bored and biased arbitration “judge” whose bitterness towards his or her inability to secure a real judgeship (sans quotes) will be taken out on you.

As recent studies have shown, the defendant has only a 1-3% chance of leaving this hearing with a victory. However, there are a few steps you can take to “level the playing field:”

— Pray fervently.
— Skip town and continue life under an assumed name.
— Ask to be placed in protective custody.
— Sport an infectious and highly visible body rash.
— Shout “Objection!” every third word or so (even during your own testimony).

(Note: In these same studies, respondents referred to these suggestions as ranging from “completely useless” to “wholly ineffective.” Other comments included “It’s better than doing nothing, I guess,” and “Does anyone have some Cortaid?” Several respondents originally stated these suggestions “couldn’t hurt,” later amending their answer to “I was wrong. So very, very wrong.”)

If you arm yourself with information and approach this with strong resolve, you’ll be out in no time, reconsidering the pros and cons of renting.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we enjoy solving crimes the literary way. This week's author is a first-time offender named Tim Cushing, and the parole officer in us likes to think we'll be seeing a lot more from him.

A Guide To Homicide Investigation

By:

Good morning. I’m Detective James Morniwheg, Homicide.

As you know, your homicide team has suffered its share of “black eyes” recently thanks to some botched investigations and Officer Hisel himself. As a favor to your recently dismissed chief, I have agreed to speak to you briefly on the techniques of proper homicide investigation.

The First 24 Hours
You may have heard it stated that 90% of homicides are solved in the first 24 hours. Whether or not this is true doesn’t matter. Everyone already believes it is, so act accordingly.

This would seem to indicate that you will have a hectic day (and night) beginning with the homicide call. Try looking at it this way: you will only have to look busy for 24 hours before you can return to your normal schedule of playing computer solitaire and ticketing your ex-wife’s vehicle.

If you can make it past these critical hours, you are out of the woods, even if the victim’s body still isn’t. Label the paperwork “Cold Case” and throw it in the precinct fridge for some cheap laughs.

Your Homicide Toolkit
Here’s a list of items you should have on you at all times:

Gloves
Evidence bags
Ballpoint pen (for picking up empty casings; occasional writing)
Notepad
World-weary cynicism
Desire to help people (rookies only)

Optional

Unlit cigar
Sunglasses
Pet theories
Desire to hurt people

Arriving on the Scene
Your average beat cop will most likely be the first responder to a homicide call. They are usually unimpressed with your position and will undercut your authority at every opportunity. Send them out to “knock on doors.” This will keep them away from the crime scene and thus unable to show you up with their “attention to detail” and “logical conclusions.” Also, their street smarts will clash badly with your world-weary cynicism/desire to help people.

Securing the Scene
I’m touching briefly on this because improper police tape usage continues to be a problem in this department. Your tape has both an inside and an outside. Failure to keep your tape “right side out” while cordoning off a scene will result in you being “taped out” and unable to further pursue your investigation. It will also leave you exposed to the mocking laughter of the returning beat cops.

Identifying and Collecting Evidence
Expect to collect some form of “evidence” at every crime scene. Some criminals, especially drug dealers, will have thoughtfully pre-bagged some evidence for you. Mark any evidence with something distinctive, like “Party in a Bag,” “Retirement Fund” or “To Be Planted.”

You will also be charged with maintaining the proper “chain of custody,” which is easily accomplished by keeping the evidence in your possession at all times. Larger amounts may be stored in your house, storage unit or bus station locker. It’s also a good idea to have a stack of custody forms and ample amounts of Whiteout, in order to accurately reflect your rapidly dwindling stash of evidence.

Occasionally, you’ll find yourself with a surplus of evidence, especially during Internal Affairs’ investigations. Feel free to ditch the excess at any current crime scene. The other responding officers will appreciate your generosity and it will often take the case in surprising new directions.

The Smoking Gun
As the most famous form of evidence, the “smoking gun” can often refer to other things metaphorically. We will be dealing only with the literal interpretation.

If you find a gun on the scene, pick it up and sniff the barrel thoughtfully. Has it been fired recently?

If it hasn’t or is still “undetermined,” go ahead and fire a few shots into the wall or available corpse. Try out some creative angles to confuse the boys in forensics. Mark gun as “recently fired.” Place in evidence bag. (Allow time to cool.)

Be sure to indicate, when asked, that the gun was fired “circa the time of death,” rather than “shortly after I got here.”

Shell Casings and the Importance of Pen Selection
A homicide detective is only as good as his pen. Don’t scrimp on costs here, as you will have no other way to properly collect empty shells. Look for something thin with a low center of gravity.

Picking up shells is not as easy as it looks. You’ll want to practice at home, using one of the “evidence” guns you’ve secured. Fire a few rounds into the wall or available corpse. (This will also help you get the sense for the “recently fired” smell.) With enough practice you should be able to pick up casings in one smooth move.

(Important note: never use your hands to pick up shells, gloved or not. It is considered a crime scene “faux pas” and will probably “tamper” the evidence.)

Dealing with the Forensic Pathologist
As someone who deals intimately with death, your average forensic will often be a pasty, emotionless, wise-cracking weirdo who will insist on eating something no matter how gruesome the homicide.

He will often use phrases and ask questions full of words you won’t understand. Just nod and ask occasional leading questions, such as:

“Any signs of foul play?”
“What’s your guess on the time of death?”
“Would this ‘recently fired’ gun have anything to do with it?”

If stuck for words, you can always defer to the responding officer. A second tactic is to remove your sunglasses and chew on them thoughtfully while gazing over the scene, perhaps guesstimating the wholesale price of the now ruined Persian rug. I know this tactic sounds ridiculous, but do it in front of a mirror a few times and you’ll see how “thoughtful” it can make you appear.

I hope these tips will help you out in future investigations and bring a sense of competency back to this force, which has been hit hard by wrongful arrest suits and Officer Hisel himself, who seems to be “externalizing” his frustrated emotions through a series of well-placed left jabs.

Thank you for your time.

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