Monday, January 22, 2007

Tiny Details and Larger Themes

The other birth certificate came back from the New York Chinese Embassy. This seal is a fancy silver & holographic seal on a small green form pasted to the back of the certificate. Very sharp-looking. The other one from Chicago added a separate page with red stamps. More "traditional" looking with all the red if you know what I mean. Interesting to see how the authentications differ from embassy to embassy.

The final copy of our homestudy finally arrived late last week, with a copy of what was sent to the CIS office, and two copies of the dossier country report, one for the dossier and an additional copy.

Of course, there were a few details that grabbed my attention and made me wonder whether we should worry about them. My philosophy is if we need to worry about doing something, we should get it done NOW!

So of course I had to contact my placing agency to see what was going on. I really don't bug them that often. This is only the second time I have contacted them about *anything* in the dossier process, but it is always some picky little detail that I don't quite believe in the documentation. In this case, I had to ask about some little detail showing up in our homestudy, but not being required in a separate report. It's been drilled into my head how important it is to have the homestudy and documentation match, and here was this errant detail that had no supporting report at all!! This was after we had been told we didn't need a separate report by our homestudy agency, blah-blah-blah :) So of course, I was like: whaaaa?

No doubt this was another instance of conflicting information that messes with my head...

... Such as the *additional* issue about whether the notary's commission expirations date needed to be good at the time that the match is made. The homestudy notary has barely a year before her commission expires, so naturally I was anxious, I mean, concerned. hehe

But when I called my dossier contact, she said neither of those issues were a problem. Being the picky, detailed-obsessed person that I am, I asked again for confirmation about the notary commission expirations, asking really, because I had heard that could be a problem. At THAT, she gave a sigh like she had had to answer to this question way more often than she'd like and said, "That's an unfortunate rumor." Paradoxically, that was convincing enough to reassure me that she wasn't holding out on something I should worry about! lol

Boy, did I feel like an idiot, though. I'm also a little disappointed. I was hoping for a little more hand-holding in the process. I am mostly very self sufficient, making lists and coordinating the various documents comings and goings like air traffic control. It's only on these little details that worry me, and then I need a live person to tell me that it's really, truly okay, that I've done exactly what I need to do.

So now that THAT's officially A-Okay (and my contact thinks I'm a flake), we sent off the homestudy and new document on their rounds together, (kee hee!) like the big sister taking care of the little sister. Wheee! If we are lucky, that will come back in time to get sent to DC this week, and then we *wait* until Ms Rice comes home to sign more documents... and then send them out to the next embassy in line and *wait* some more.... *whew* It is rather exhausting at times.

* * * * * *

Last week, I met my mother for lunch and had a good visit. I was telling her about the current state of the paperwork process, and about the list of blog posts on "Why China" which she was also curious about. I ended up telling her more about our decision-making process (which I will write up at some point), and even about the length of time (years) we had spent trying various other options, mostly medical.

I have to admit, I sometimes bludgeon people a little with black humor and gory detail if they get too breezy about our trials. If they want to dismiss all of OUR pain, yes, I CAN share details of loss and medical procedures and injectables and such--to help THEM feel a little part of our pain. Then they tend to think oops! Maybe it wasn't so easy afterall. Doing my small part of educate others. :) heheh

Of course, I have gained enough distance from those traumatic times to use them as a defensive weapon if necessary, to laugh and make jokes about what we went through. If I make somebody wince, I am not that sorry. Maybe they will be more sensitive to stepping where they don't belong. Cold of me, huh? Okay, I do try to be subtle about it, but the impulse to be blunt IS there. I am not obvious in my guilt trips. I am matter of fact, which is how I prefer it, but sometimes that does feel blunt.

Anyway, I was rather blasé about needles and such. After a while, my mother mused that she had not realized until some of our conversation this Christmas how much we had "gone through" before we pursued adoption. Not that we should share all the personal details, she hastily added. I'm taking that as a chagrined admission that she has not always been as sensitive to our situation as she might have been. No, not really. I mean, she was acknowledging that there was more to our process than she had been privy too. That we had good reasons for doing what we do, and she respected that.

Overall, it was a good conversation.

* * * * * *

On a completely different note, last weekend was chock-full of performance and success, acknowledgment and new opportunities opening up. I have no end point plotted out on this particular path, but I love what I'm doing! It's so satisfying that I will keep following it and see where it goes as long as its working. It's too self-identifying to speak about in detail here, but it works so well with my personality and aptitudes that it would be painful to NOT pursue it at this point.

Even my new variation on teaching will be quite interesting. The director of the program I'm soon starting asked me what I wanted to do with the certificate. I laughed and said I don't know! Maybe this possibility x, maybe that possibility y, maybe both or something altogether different. Maybe it will not work at all, but it has been calling to me, and so I owe it myself to explore the possibility. See where it leads me...

K has been leading me to think of the creative process again. Cool stuff. As the saying goes: ... dance like nobody's watching... For me, I add: live like your whole life is a work of art. It's not pretty like some art. Well, some of it is. Some of it makes friends and family say Wow! But most of it is messier and more fluid than others are sometimes happy with. But it does not help it develop if I try to cut it down to size to fit inside a particular box or frame. Living OUTside the frame, yeah. Being open to the flow and see where it leads me.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Ethnically-Themed* Insults

* "Not-Really-Racist" Noooo, no, not really. I didn't mean it. I was just trying to be, ya know, insulting, not racist. **snark alert!**

I spent some time thinking about this and working up a fine rant, and then thinking and writing more and rewriting. Here is what's left. I can't get the italics to work, so it may have lost some nuance. heh

* * * * * *

I have been hearing about the Indian actress in Briton who has been getting racist remarks lobbed at her on a reality show. Or as they claim, it's not racist. Oh, so it's only Indian-themed insults? Ooo. Now that's different. Shall we make lists of ethnically-themed insults that aren't really racist? No? Too close to the line? Well, it's not okay, then, is it?

I find it interesting that the execs are describing this as Confronting the Stereotypes That Exist in our Society. Ahahahhahah. Really. What a lame, lame excuse. And so letting this ugly situation run on is helping us how??

I do not see how encouraging people to speak racist and ugly trash is helpful or elucidating. Just because you have trash in your mind does not mean you need to show it off. The show seems to be an excuse to release ones inner bully, beating up on anyone who might have a weak spot. Or to take sides vicariously, whether one secretly sides with the perpetrators or the object of the bullying. Not that this is unexpected on a show designed to encourage friction.
(A side thought: Maybe the SurvivOr ethnic teams were hoping for a little similar glimpse of the underbelly to boost ratings. What were they hoping for? "Dozens" at 20 paces?)

Okay, yeah, I get that such shows are set up so that the viewers get hooked into the conflict, even though it's the last thing I personally would want to watch. So I guess I'm not really surprised that someone is acting like a guttersnipe on television. Why is it that someone thinks they need to come up with something Indian-related to give the proper dig to a nasty taunt? Using the "otherness" as an insult, and THEN deny that they are not using that. That's what really astounds and steams me.

They asked the "actress" in question about her language. The article reports:
"Denying racism, Goody said: "She is Indian, thinking of an Indian name and the only thing I could think of was Indian food. Wasn't racial at all. It was not to offend any Indian out there. Everyone knows I don't like her. She don't like me." "

She calls her "Shilpa Pappadum" but not to offend any Indian out there? pu-LEASE. Lame, lame, lame. Hon? Uh, NOT okay. I am not a perfect person, but I was appropriately slapped down for such behavior in early _elementary school_ (which was, trust me, decades ago) and I have been trying to be a better human being ever since. How old is this person again? I can't say that the teevee execs are much better, excusing this as merely insults. How do you excuse a slap to swaths of society?? _Uh, forgive me; I was a moron?_

I have to say that such catty, racist remarks shows a person's lack of class. I am not a big fan of "class" as a social order, but it seems appropriate to say that verbally rolling around in the gutter indicates a lack of self-control and respect for other people. Someone who has been raised to be a decent human being can find other ways to disagree with someone than slinging stereotypes.

By some accounts, the perpetrators' careers are already suffering. Ehehehe. So there is some justice. And even TB as PM is having to "reaffirm Britain's opposition to racism." Karmic Shadenfreuden!

* * * * * * *

Another aspect of this is the denial from people who don't want to see the ugliness that exists. I don't want to see it either. But when someone gets slimed with hate, we are confronted with the flaw in our thinking that this never happens. In my own community, I have been really shocked and sad that others of certain ethnic groups experience racism and prejudicial hate on a regular basis. Just because I don't often see it or experience it personally does not deny that reality. I can't say "oh, that never happens here" if I am honest with myself.

Those of us adopting from the international or multi-ethnic community (what would be the proper word here?) have even more to think about. We are charged with raising and loving our children and helping them grow into fine upstanding adults. If we don't acknowledge that they will suffer racism, we are _denying their reality_ and doing a grave disservice to them as our child, not to _mention_ to the larger community! We can't just fantasize that we can always protect our children from ever experiencing racism (although I admit I do). We need to find ways to confront racism and to teach our children to defend their sense of self. We need ways to change our societies for the better so that racist thought, speech and action has no purchase.

*sigh* ... This topic is always larger than I can write.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Star Signatures

Surprisingly enough, the big packet of documents coming from the St@te Department arrived this morning via F3dEx! Despite the federal holiday. I was especially surprised (yet pleased) because I had been looking up the tracking number every couple days and had seen no movement on it yet.

I was also very surprised to look down the first page and see the name C0nd0leeza Rice on the authentication statement. Doh! :) How could I forget. Yeah, she is our Secretray of St@te. So there it was: her scrawl on every authentication page. I am somehow amazed.

I had several thoughts in quick succession:
Wow, Condi touched all of our documents! (or at least the authentication pages)
Then: How do I feel about THAT, since I am not a fan. Ew, mixed thoughts. (several thoughts deleted)
Then: EEEeeeeeeee! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Finally: No wonder the packet took so long; she's been so darn busy selling the recent um, change, in troops numbers.

My husband joked, "So do you think the next time we need to send documents, we should look at her schedule?" Yeah, maybe we should get the next ones in before she leaves for the Mid-East later this week... We think that probably everytime she comes back into Washington, her secretaries have stacks and stacks of documents lined up and waiting for her to scrawl several hundred signatures at a time. Do you think she blocks out an hour a day just to sign documents? How else would you ever get it all done?

In any case, I am very happy to have that batch in hand after hearing *nada* for so long.

Even better, the final homestudy report has been tweaked and should be in our hands within the next couple days. So the paperwork seems to be coming together again after "resting" the last couple weeks. We still need to re-notorize a corrected document, blah, blah, blah. But that is small potatoes considering the larger picture of getting the dossier ready.

I'm feeling upbeat about finishing it in good time yet again. Do I hear the end of January, early February, can I get a January? Yesss! We have The End of January for the young lady in back! There are other important things happening, but I am focused on this.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Docs and Sightings

The St@te Dept has had our packet of documents since Jan 3rd. Result? Nada! This concerns me a little.
The Chinese Embassies have had our birth certificates for authentication since last Monday. Result? So far, one package was attempted to be delivered yesterday morning. So I have hope.

* * * * *

In other news: if you happen to see a small Asian child who is apparently adopted, do not, I repeat, do NOT attempt to draw my attention to their presence by pointing, squealing,"Oh, look!!!!!!!!!!!" and looking at me meaningfully.

Yes, I can spot an Asian child at 50 paces. Yes, I do see adopted Asian (and other) children in my community fairly frequently. No, I do not need to talk to/gawk at said child or their parents; they are not a side show. No, I do not need my other aquaintances to wonder why I should be excited at the mere sight of an adopted Asian child. When I see my own child for the first time, yes, THEN I will be excited. So please do not jump up and down and wiggle your eyebrows at me meaningfully; I'm sorry but other people's adopted Asian children are just not that novel. So please restrain yourself, and you can preserve *everybody's* sense of privacy and decorum.

This has been a public service anouncement by way of illustration.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Embracing Housewifery

"Hi I'm Marie, and I'm a housewife."

I've been embracing my house wifery in the last several months. Partly it's because I'm tired of justifying what I do and don't do. It's nobody's business how much money we make (except, of course, our adoption agencies and oh yeah, the tax people) or how fulfilling my serial, complex career has been. So rather than making vague answers to that question "what do you do?," I come right out and say "not much!" or "I'm a housewife" or, depending on how I'm feeling, I'll explain my recent trajectory of educational/design projects. I like my projects; I just don't feel it necessary to justify my existence or use of time that way.

But if I don't feel like giving a history (which admittedly can be interesting), I'll just cut straight to the chase. The secret to this is that I am cheerful about it. I announce it with a smile and get it out of the way without a fuss. Only the most obnoxious dare say anything about the income. Or look down their noses at me because I am not working full time. And those people are also surprised to find that we have a nice life without me working full-time. Because, you know, we are thrifty people with live-small values. We like our life together.

Taking on the label of a housewife (for however long until I am sick of it) frees me up to do all kinds of things. Less guilt, more productivity. :) So I have my self-imposed list of tasks. I get stuff done, both around the house and on my own projects. My husband is very supportive. And actually, I am the one who does more housework these days. But hey, my husband is bringing in the big bucks (lol), so the least I can do is sweep the floor occasionally. But I *like* sweeping the floor and cleaning various things; there is satisfaction in that, as I have blogged about elsewhere.

The big issue underpinning my current housewife status is that I have put off *numerous* career moves because I have (had) thought for the past oh... 4+ freakin' years(!!) was that I would become a Mom any day now. yeah. So I've left a big space in my life to be a SAHM. Except, I don't have a baby to justify my SAH existence. Which has been frustrating, in fact at times, excruciating. Not that I mind staying home more, but where is my baby? That's been very hard. I could have had my second child by now if things had gone according to plan. ha, yes, plan.

Now that we have gotten into the long process to Baby (adopting from China), I am more relaxed about being home. Another two years? eh... uh... ack! I mean, no problem! :) I do feel at the end of all of it, I will have my baby to love.

I don't *like* the wait extending; sometimes I want to cry over how long we have been wanting a child. But on the positive side, I have a year or two (or three) to pursue shorter-term projects, of which I have several already in the works. I'm excited about having that time as a "last fling" of sorts before Impending Motherhood. Of course, I have been fooled before. See previous 4+ years. Which has taught me that if there's something I really want to do, I should go do it rather than wait. So I'm using this time in a positive light.

And besides, we have major work on the house and household to be ready for a baby/toddler. And besides, as my husband has pointed out, we probably would have been nowhere near this far along in our paperchase if I *had* been working full-time. So I am house-wife-ing away, working full-time on house and paperchase and my various cool projects. If I have to wait, I might as well enjoy it somehow.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Waiting for Authentication

Well, it's not Waiting for Godot (who never came), but it's feeling similar. The days and weeks stretch.

We've sent off a larger packet to the US State Department to further authenticate the stack of docs that are from this state before sending them to the embassy. The two birth certifs have been dispatched to their respective embassies based on state zones. One to Chicago, one to New York. They have all been received, but no word yet on when they will reemerge.

The authentications are a special aggravation because of all the little details we need to follow. We need to send things like an additional set of photocopies and a copy of of our passport, PLUS the official request form. Oh yeah, plus a money order, and the embassies are no wimps. 20 bucks per doc and a $5 per-package fee. So that will add up even more dramatically*.

Then packages have to be sent by something trackable, but the return mailer has to be by prepaid US Express mail. Oh yeah, and that return mailer has to be *stamped* not metered, which necessitates a special trip to the post office. The larger package of docs will be more problematic because they probably won't all fit into the flat rate mailer (especially if they add an additional page onto each document during authentication). ... Wait. No, we won't be able to use the flat rate mailer for that because we *also* have to make a complete set of photocopies to send with, and that will double the page count. So we will have to weigh the whole thing. I can't wait to see what the total is for THAT. :) Although I have an idea of mailing them in batches if that is cheaper. I have to see whether the extra cost of an extra package fee outweighs the weight of approximately... um... 84+ pages??!! Eeek! (see this is why I don't add things up; I don't want to know.)

* While we are listing our expenses as we pay them, we are NOT keeping a running tally of the costs associated with adoption. Too depressing. Time enough to add up all the receipts when/if we manage to apply for a deduction from the IR$.

Anyhoo. The state agencies have generally done pretty well--a day or two before sending the docs back out. However, neither the Chinese Emb@ssies nor the State Dep@rtment are exactly whipping our docs back to us. I suspect that the national/international offices are pretty well swamped with both everyday business, AND with the crush of hopeful adoptive parents trying to get in their dossiers before May 1st (when the new restrictions take effect). We are fine... but we'll still suffer some slow down.

Now to nag our homestudy agency again about our country study... It just occured to me last week that maybe THAT document has to go through the whole certification process too.... and yup, it's true: Notarization > State Certified > Nationally Authenticated > Embassy Authenticated. aaaiigh!! Yes, I know I am working on a whole collection of exclamations of frustration and anguish. But ** Onward **

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Fresh Dietary Ideas

Since early December, I've been reading some new books about health and diet. This is in no way related to that whole New Years resolution idea. Due to some health concerns, my doctor has encouraged me to educate myself more about dietary hows and whys, specifically and especially about the Glycemic Index.

Both books that I am reading so far have given me lots of concrete and practical information. Both books have me exclaiming: Cool! I understand this so much better now!

* * * * * * *

The first book is from the Brand-Miller and Foster-Powell series of books about the Glycemic Index, which is "a measure of how quickly carbohydrates hit the bloodstream." The book I chose is called The Low GI Diet Revolution, which was not my first impulse. However, it seemed like the best option from library selections. I'm liking it more and more.

The gist of what I am getting is that one should chose mostly low-GI foods while getting more exercise. Here's one quote:

Low-GI foods have two important advantages for people trying to lose weight [and gain better health, I might add]:
• They fill you up and keep you satisfied longer than their high-GI counterparts.
• They reduce insulin levels and help you burn more body fat and less muscle, so your metabolic rate is higher.

There's much more, of course. I might write more later, but if you want to read it, buy the book! :) Or your library has some rendition.

I am being more conscious about choosing foods with a low-GI. Not always easy, but I'm going to try it for a while. As the author emphasizes, it's not a diet book really, but an approach to eating better the rest of your life. And since I am trying to get in shape for this upcoming backpacking trip, I don't mind having diet and fitness info packaged together like this.

And as the insulin surges and drops have been annoying me for some time, and I have been already making some headway in recent years, I am even more motivated now to make better eating choices. And yea for that!

* * * * * * *

The other book is The Portion Teller by Lisa R. Young, Phd, RD. I picked this up on impulse in the library, and I am pleasantly surprised; it's very cool, very sensible.

The gist of the Portion Teller seems to be that in this era of extravagant super-sizing, we have lost all sense of what constitutes a reasonable portion of food. Larger portions (what we actually eat) turns into more servings (recommended food amounts) that we realize, which means more calories and ... you know... bigger butts.

I am especially interested in the idea that we are so influenced by comparative size of the packaging or presentation.

One serving on a big plate looks teeny, and so we invariably feel unsatisfied with our portion and so we eat more. The same serving on a smaller plate looks more satisfying (larger) and so we tend to eat less.

I have noticed this effect with my ice cream bowls. When I visited Italy, all gelato was served in tiny cups with tiny spoons. I do the same thing at home now-- I have several small cut-glass bowls that hold maybe an even cup total, and several little demitasse spoons. If I serve myself ice cream in one of these small bowls and eat it with one of these cute little spoons, it feels like a special treat, and I'm usually satisfied with my portion. However, if I try to put ice cream in, say, a larger cereal bowl, that half cup or whatever, looks measly! You know you have to add more ice cream into a larger bowl!! It's sure happened to me. Big bowl leads to big portion, leads to feeling like a hog afterwards.

Did you know that plate sizes have expanded dramatically in the last 30-50 years? Did you know that a serving of pasta is more like an appetizer than a trough? Oohwee, this is so fascinating. I knew there was a reason I liked using my smaller plates and dishes.

Likewise with larger "jumbo" packaging versus a smaller package. Research has shown that we eat more out of a jumbo container. Hmmm. I'm thinking Co$co is NOT a good option for me.
But even in an average store, many foods are packaged *as if* they are a single serving, when in fact a package may contain several! Eating the whole darn bag means you are eating *how* many servings? Ack! Yes, that's x times more calories etc than you thought. I knew this, but somehow it did not sink in until I read this book.

So I've been practicing being more aware of portion size. When we were traveling recently, I tried to steer myself away from the usual junk or candy that I tend to indulge in on long trips. Keeping the whole protein-carb-vegetable balance in mind (yes, it talks a lot about that as well), I chose a modest bag of trail mix that contained mostly various nuts, dried fruits and a scattering of MnMs. This way we'd get a little chocolate with the energy food, but not the whole shebang.

Well, this was a great idea, and I made sure to read the back of the package. And do the math, tho the results were painful!

This 6 oz bag had *5* servings in it! Of 160 calories each. So clearly, I was not going to be able to wolf down the whole thing with impunity. Not with *800* calories and *50* grams of fat to be had! OMG.

My strategy (one idea/strategy from the book) was to portion out one serving at a time into my hand, in this case, 3 Tablespoons. The author recommends taking what you *think* is a serving, and then measuring or weighing it to see how accurate you are, then trying again for better accuracy. It's supposed to help retrain your eye to discern a more accurate serving size.

... Anyway, I did not do badly with it, estimating Tablespoons, although I did not have access to a measuring spoon to check my accuracy. And so I ate only approx. 1 serving at a time..... and then waited a couple hours before snacking again. *Knowing* that it was actually a serving helped me avoid eating out of boredom rather than actual hunger... or eating most of the bag in one sitting.

I did the same thing with my G@torade, drinking a cup (8 oz) at a time rather than guzzling it without a thought. Even what looks like a single serving of soda these days is actually 20 oz! That's about 2.5 servings right there.

There is apparently a movement in the FDA to list the nutritional information for the *whole* package of anything.... so that we are not suckered by misrepresentation of information. Can't wait!

The book has much more about balancing portions of food groups-- I can't write it all here, but it's pretty neat too.

The six groups listed are:
• Grains or starchy vegetables (4-8 servings per day)
• Vegetables (3+)
• Fruit (2-4)
• Dairy (2-3)
• Fish, Meat & Meat Alternatives (2-3) (what I think of as the protein group)
• Fats (1-3)
• Treats & Sweets (0-2)

This is another area that is open to misinterpretation if we don't have an accurate idea of a serving size. While we may aim for 5 servings of grain, that may be 5 slices of bread OR one bagel!! Ack! Yes, even foods themselves have gotten larger over the years. She has a whole list of this kind of portion-inflation.

. . .
Ok, I realize I am probably babbling here (although it's my blog, so hey, who cares, right?), but there is a bunch of really interesting and useful information in these books. I find that thinking about food using ideas about both portion and Glycemic Index is way cool.

Now if you add the book that my husband is currently reading-- The Omnivore's Dilemma (about the development of the modern food-industrial complex)-- into the mix, it gets *really* interesting. I have read only the intro and heard my husband talk about it so far, but I am getting the feeling that it will be very eye-opening as well. What little I have heard has encouraged urges to revisit the Macro-biotic philosophy, of which one aspect is that you eat food as close to its natural form as possible, i.e. little or no processing. .... But that's a topic for another day...

* * * * * * *

One last thought, though. When I became a mostly-vegetarian (cheese, egg, occasional fish, meat maybe 2-3 times a year), I found myself making interesting choices. I do like most vegetarian foods, and am less thrilled with meat, so it's not hard for me to be MV.

It boils down to this: if I have a vegetarian option, I chose it.

No whining about how I should do this or that, or how I'd rather eat this or that, I just made the healthier choice. So with these fresh dietary ideas, I have even better information to make better choices, and I can approach each meal positively.

It's so easy to eat junk or overly processed junk. Yeah, yeah. But if you approach it day by day or meal by meal, you can find yourself saying-- for THIS meal, I will make a good choice. Even if I had too much ice cream or chocolate earlier... well, I can still have some veggies and get myself back on track...

I find it encouraging that I don't have to berate myself for past dietary sins. I can make that positive choice if I so chose. Yum yum. Now go eat something good for yourself. :)

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