kingfu.co.uk

Bullshit & Ignorance

August 15, 2011

So I watched some films

I know right? Me watching films? Practically unheard of.

Some of the stuff I have been watching came from Netflix, which, as an aside a whole bunch of people are all ‘OMG’ about because they recently changed their prices in an upwards direction for some of their services. Personally I don’t care for the following reasons:

  1. The old price used to include the discs we get sent as well as access to streaming content. We’re on a crappy satellite connection (which sadly is the best option available to us) which means that you pretty much can’t stream movies anyway since it would swallow up our entire bandwidth limit and take 3 times longer to watch than it should while it buffered every 10 seconds. For us, it has made little to no difference — in fact, it costs us less for the service we actually use than it used to.
  2. It’s a subscription service. They’re a business there to make money. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. Crying about the deep injustice of a fucking film rental service putting their prices up a bit strikes me as one of the most stupid things people have had to whine about in a long time. Go get some perspective, you shower of fucking clown shoes.

Okay, well, that was something of an unplanned rant! Back to what I originally sat down here to write. Stuff. About films. Okay, I remember. Let’s try this again.

Stay Alive

I actually haven’t seen the end of this yet, but I will and I sincerely doubt seeing the end of it will change my opinion on it dramatically. The basic outline is that some kids get a computer game that’s haunted or something along those lines and people start dying in messy ways. The only cast member I recognised was Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle) who is playing a geeky kid. So…Malcolm again, but in a horror movie really..

The film gets an average rating of 4.6 on IMDB which honestly I think is harsh. A couple of one-star reviews I read on it just further add to my belief that user-contributed rating systems are increasingly losing any value they may once have had. I’ll spare you that rant for another day though and just say that yes, Stay Alive is at best a B-movie time killer. The story has some nice ideas, but the characters are fairly weak and the plot progression is predictable. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun though. I think there’s an element of ‘take it for what it is’ with all films of this kind. It’s not ever going to be a cinematic masterpiece. Don’t watch low-budget horror movies if you’re expecting cinematic genius.

A fun time killer with a few well shot jumpy-moments and a reasonable production quality. If you enjoy this kind of thing then you’d probably get some entertainment from this film.

Unthinkable

I picked this one up out of a $5 bin in walmart because, well it was $5 and I hadn’t seen it, and it has Samuel L. Mother Fucking Jackson in it and he’s usually worth the price of admission to watch. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, I was pleasantly surprised.

This is a really good film. Don’t get me wrong — again, it’s no masterpiece. It’s just that it addresses some really, really interesting issues. Also, Mr. Jackson is, as usual, entertaining to watch. The story keeps moving along at a decent pace and there are some really well presented twists in the plot. Definitely worth a watch.

August 8, 2011

We’ll keep the red flag flying high

Swindon Town FC badge. A shield rimmed in gold with a red steam train at the top, a gold football in the centre with band running diagonally through it which reads Swindon Town FC there is a harlequin pattern on the rest of the shield with two red and two white squares. The top left square is red with a white robin in it. The bottom right has the date 1879. Beneath the badge is a scroll which reads Salubrita et Industria

I can’t remember, but I have a feeling the only times I’ve talked about football on the previous incarnations of sites I’ve hosted on this domain, it was with reference to the England team and their variable levels of success in major tournaments. I do of course also support a club team, my home town team, Swindon Town.

I have been a fan ever since the day, when I was about 5 years old, that I opened a packet of Panini football stickers and was treated to a glittery foil sticker. The logo on the sticker had a bull’s head on it and my young impressionable mind was thoroughly impressed. Right up until my older brother smacked me upside the head for showing any kind of delight at the Oxford United badge. I then received a balanced and fair explanation about how the pox were a blight on humanity and must, must be opposed at every turn. I didn’t really understand a word of it, but Swindon wear red and I liked red so I was okay with that choice of team instead. Also there was a train on the Swindon badge and trains were cool, Thomas the tank engine was a train not unlike the one on the Swindon badge so yeah, I was sold.

My career as a member of the ‘Barmy army’ started slowly, with me being taken along to a handful of games a year, until I was sufficiently self-sufficient to buy my own tickets, then I started attending games more and more regularly, until I was going to more or less every game home and away. Good times. Then I got a job that required me to work on Saturdays and fucked that right up. But anyway, I supported the team and followed the results wherever they took us, even if I couldn’t be there in person, I’d listen to the games on the radio or watch them on TV on the rare occasion someone deemed a game involving Swindon to be TV worthy.

During my time at University, I discovered after a couple of weeks that a new friend I’d made was one of the dreaded pox. This person I had been drinking with almost daily for weeks was an Oxford fan…and yet he seemed to be a human being, too, and a fairly likable one at that. We decided to stay friends anyway rather than stabbing each other with broken bottles and things, since that would have been awkward during seminars and lectures. We kept our rivalry good natured, restricting it to the occasional smart crack and the fact that when we played pool in the pub, I was always the red balls and he was always the yellow.

Why, you may be asking yourself, the fuck is he rambling on about supporting a League 2 football team on this here interwebs? I will answer that question:

Well, aside from the fact that this is my blog and can therefore write whatever the fuck I want on it (you cheeky bastard), I am giving background so that the following ramble about more recent football related things has some context. So there.

Right. Where was I? Oh yes, Virginia. That’s why this came up you see. I now living in the far away land of America, where people think football is that silly egg-chasing game where they all dress funny and spend a lot of time standing about and every now and then someone throws a ball and they all run about for 10 seconds, fall over and then stop and stand around for a while again. Wait, I need to give more background I guess, since some people are not familiar with the fortunes of STFC for some reason. The 09/10 season saw Swindon reach the League One play off finals. We all got a jolly fun day out at Wembley (that’s a big stadium in London in case you are unaware) where we were shit and lost to Millwall. Boo. No promotion for us but a good season anyway. 10/11 Season was a total disaster. We went into freefall and despite being promotion contenders the previous season, ended up planted firmly at the bottom of the table. This brings us to the 11/12 season (That’s this one, what has just started okay? following me so far? Good). Having got shot of a couple of hopeless managers, the chairman stepped down and a new fella, Jeremy Wray (Not the professional skateboarder), took on the job. The board then appointed Paolo Di Canio (PdC) as our new manager. This is an interesting choice for the following reasons:

  • Although he was a superb player in his day, PdC has never managed a football club before.
  • PdC is quite happy to tell the world that he’s a fascist. He has told the media before all about how he admires Mussolini. He has been fined on a number of occasions for giving the ‘Roman Salute’ to fans during games.

I believe a minor sponsor withdrew their sponsorship as a result of the decision to appoint him. However, a high profile former player, particularly a controversial one like him has generated a buzz about the club. Early concerns about his lack of experience seem to have been allayed as the pre-season campaign progressed.

Right, back to where I was before I forget and ramble off on a tangent. I’m living in Virginia where football is the silly egg chasing game. The match coverage on the BBC radio stuff seems to be unavailable overseas via the intertubes, so I am left with text-reports on the match. I created a twitter account just so I could follow twitter feeds related to the games and other news about the club. Watching the game via a text feed on the BBC website reminded me a lot of playing football manager games. I feel a bit like I’m playing Champ manager or something, only I’m only watching a demo or something, since I cant do any of the things myself. Despite everything, I’m still having a lot of fun following the club this season. I may not get to see a single minute of a game this year but I will still keep the red flag flying high.

June 30, 2011

Spore

I recently dug Spore out again and installed it and have been playing it. Although it’s fun, it was also always slightly disappointing to me. Pre-release it sounded really exciting. Totally new and innovative and generally excellent. I don’t know if a lot of the talk about it at that point was just hype, or if Maxis simply couldn’t manage to implement a lot of what they seemed to be planning to in those early stages. In short, it felt like it got dumbed down.

The cell stage is fun. I’ve always liked it. It’s simple, but that’s part of its appeal I think. You swim around, collecting cell parts, eating things and generally stabbing other cells in the face in the race to evolve. It’s the sort of thing that would make a neat little game for a phone these days.

Then you evolve to the creature stage. This is where most of the creature building happens. You scamper around the planet on your newly evolved legs, tearing the faces off of the many weird species you encounter (Or singing and dancing and shit if you feel so inclined). You once again collect up parts, and accumulate DNA so you can fly in the face of creationism and evolve into a bigger, better creature. This stage I also enjoy, although after the first few times it can get a little repetitive. So once you’ve charmed or massacred your way along the evolutionary path, and expanded your tiny brain to such a degree you can discover fire, you can move into the tribal stage. This for me is where things go a little wrong.

The tribal and civilisation stages are kinda half arsed. The game goes from single-creature-focus, to you controlling first a whole little tribe of your beasties, then the vehicles of your civilisation. Both stages have elements of RTS about them. You build your village/city, you produce your units, you win over the other villages and cities with force, persuasion or in the civilisation stage, cash money, yo. It’s all a bit limited though. There’s not much variation here. There’s no tech tree, no rock/paper/scissors arrangements of units to balance out when building your forces and so on. It’s extremely simplified and as such, for me, feels too easy and really largely pointless.

Then you leap into space, and we’re back to single-unit focus. The space stage is a little limited too, but still entertaining. I could moan about the limited variety in missions, but I won’t. It’s still pretty fun.

I know it’s pretty old now in computer game terms, but I still think of Spore as an underachiever. After all the hype and promises, the finished product lacked sparkle. Still fun, easy to sink hours into without realising you have, but not the masterpiece it could have been.

June 7, 2011

The Future is Medieval

So the Kaiser Chiefs new album, The Future is Medieval, has been released in an odd way. If you visit their website, http://www.kaiserchiefs.com, you can create your own album. They have a little web based application that lets you select 10 of 20 tracks, then using some supplied artwork you can create an album cover to go with it. The images you get to work with are, as far as I can tell, linked to which tracks you select. Once you’ve created your album, you can buy it for £7.50 and download it. All the albums that are made can also be downloaded by other people, and for each one of yours that gets downloaded, you get paid £1.

It’s a neat concept, it’s kinda fun and I suspect it won’t be the last time we see this kind of initiative from bands.

I played with it for a while, didn’t actually buy the album though. The available tracks were a bit on the bland side for my tastes. A shame, because I quite like some of their earlier stuff.

March 30, 2011

It’s not just me, right?

Whenever I play games from the Fallout series, I get the urge to hoard the caps from beer bottles and things…I might need them come the apocalypse after all!

It’s not just me, right..?

March 7, 2011

DVD and Blu-Ray

When the price of DVD started to drop, I thought nothing of replacing my VHS movie collection with DVDs. The experience of watching a movie on DVD compared to VHS was a pretty huge leap for both sound and picture quality. The experience improved in such a way that having watched movies on DVD I found it hard to go back to VHS.

Blu-ray though. Hrm. I have a PS3 which I bought a couple of years ago primarily for the ability to watch films on it on blu-ray. It was, I felt a worthy accompaniment to my purchase at the time of my 42″ Panasonic plasma screen with its fancy HDMI inputs, and my DTS amplifier with its fancy digital audio connections.

I’m rather underwhelmed by the whole HD revolution though. I mean, don’t get me wrong – High definition visuals and audio are stunning, they really are but relative to an upscaled DVD? eh…

Play them side-by-side and sure you’ll see the difference. Play them separately and you’ll know the image is that much crisper; however there really isn’t that same experience altering difference that came with the switch from VHS to DVD. Hardly surprising I suppose, given that one was a switch from analogue to digital and the other is, let’s face it, a refinement of what we already have.

I’m not saying don’t get a blu-ray player. They also play DVDs and if you have a decent TV and sound system, then you’ll probably enjoy the clarity of images and sound and so on. The players are also rapidly dropping in price, no bad thing. For now at least though, the cost of the discs themselves are substantially more than DVDs.

While I was still in England, I’d often pop into HMV or wherever at the weekend and browse around the film section. Yes, I know it’s much cheaper to buy shit like that on t’internet, but sometimes I jut felt like watching something new then and there. Being able to browse around and take something home with me that I could watch that same day. Anyway…frequently I’d pick something out and stand with the DVD in one hand and the blu-ray in the other, trying to decide if I wanted to spend an extra ten quid on the blu-ray version. Nine times out of ten the answer was no. Unless the film is all sparkling special effects and so on, I really didn’t see the point.

I don’t think it’ll ever replace DVD as a format unless manufacturers stop selling DVDs. Unless they come down in price so they cost the same as DVDs I think there will always be that weighing up moment.

Not like it’s a world changing issue or anything like that, just one that crossed my mind!

March 6, 2011

DVD storage

As someone who has a tendency to buy a fuck of a lot of DVDs, I’ve often found it something of a struggle to store the bastard things. Commercial storage units are usually a) small b) expensive c) both. A DVD storage unit that costs 60 quid (Or the dollar equivalent these days!) that holds 300 DVDs sounds great until you realise you’ll need three or four of them.

Before I moved to the US I bought a couple of shelving units from a guy who used to run a DVD rental place. They were kinda ugly and massive – but cheap. I paid about £20 for the pair and they held around 700 discs each. When it came to moving to the States however I decided against shipping them with the rest of my stuff. Like I said, they were fucking massive and I was paying for shipping by volume.

So I decided to build my own. I’ve never really been what you might call a DIY enthusiast so I just kinda made it up as I went along. The end result was this:

dvd shelves

I know, awesome right?

I’ll now attempt to give instructions of some kind in case anyone feels like trying to build their own. You will need:

  • 4 8″x1″x6′ boards
  • 16 1/2″x48″ dowels
  • A drill with a 1/2″ spade bit
  • Wood screws (I used #8 x 1-1/2″ but you can probably use other shit, fucked if I know, like I said I was making it up as I went along.)
  • A screwdriver
  • A wood saw
  • A tapemeasure
  • A pencil or pen
  • A bit of paper or cardboard
  • Stickyback plastic, some empty washing up liquid bottles and a the cardboard tubes from a toilet roll.
  • Okay you don’t need any of the previous item, I just got caught up in that whole Blue Peter vibe.

Right, so now we have a big fuck off pile of stuff. This is how I did it, which may be cackhanded and have proper DIY types being all ‘WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING YOU TWAT!?” But bollocks to you, it worked so I figure I was doing it mostly right. Or got very lucky.

Step One

This is turning out to be a very professionally written thingamewhatsit I’m sure you’ll agree. Look at me using headers and stuff for the steps. Wait, I should be explaining what to do not wazzing on about how good my guide is, shouldn’t I. Moving swiftly on.

Get your tape measure and one of your big planky-things. The 8x1x6 things. Yeah those. Use your tape measure to mark the board at 9 inch intervals. That means every 9 inches. Why? Because I told you to, that’s why.

Step Two

Get your bit of paper or card, which needs to be at least 9 inches tall and 8 inches wide – probably should have mentioned that earlier but it’s not like I’m getting paid for this so you can’t expect me to care. Anyway; get that bit of card and cut it so that it fits exactly into one of the spaces you’ve just marked out on the board. Then, get a DVD case and position it so that it fits on the card, tilted back slightly. Use your spade bit (IN YOUR HAND NOT IN THE FUCKING DRILL. Just saying) to mark a circle under the front edge of the DVD, and another one at the back edge, near the top. I should probably do a diagram here because I’ve already done this and even I’m not sure what the fuck I’m talking about.

badly drawn diagram

It’s not to scale or anything, just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Okay? Okay.

Use the spade bit, or a knife or scissors or whatever to make the holes go all the way through (you may want to get an adult to help you with this if you’re a child or stupid or whatever) This will become a template.

Step…whatever the fuck I’m up to

Use the template to mark where the holes for the dowels will need to go on the board you marked the lines on. At this point, I put three of my boards together and used the spade bit to drill through all three at once. This means getting them all lined up and making sure they don’t move around too much and stuff. You can do it that way, or you can do them one at a time or however you like really. Again, using a power drill here so if you’re prone to self harm, or a child or whatever, probably best to get someone who’s less of a fuckwit to help. Also don’t do it on your floor, or whatever because you’ll make big holes in it. This should be common sense but I’m well aware that there are a huge number of people in the world who buy Apple products, which is a good indication that common sense is lacking in the world thus I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry. Really? An ipad? okay back on track..

The step after the one before

Get your saw. Cut your remaining 8x1x6 in half. Exactly in half, so measure it, with a tape measure or something. The two halves of the cut board will be the top and the bottom of the shelves. They go on top, and on the bottom…use screws and a screwdriver of some kind to attach them to the larger boards with the holes in, making sure that the holes in the three uprights are lined up. There should be one on each side and one in the middle. Look at the picture of the completed shelves if you hit your head hard, or are too drunk to know what I mean or whatever (if you’re really drunk you probably shouldn’t be doing this, since it involves pointy things and power tools. Just saying).

At this point I also attached another piece of wood across the back about half way up to give the frame more support. I don’t think it actually needs it once the dowels are in place but it might, so you might want to get another bit of wood and do it, or you might not, I don’t care either way since it’s not me it’s going to fall on if it’s not sturdy enough.

The next bit

Thread your dowels through the holes. All the way through. They’ll poke out the end. That’s because they’re longer than your shelves are wide, don’t panic or anything that was expected. Just cut them off at whatever length you want. You could probably do that before you thread them through but measure it if you’re going to because you’ll feel a right twat if you cut them first then realise your cackhanded carpentry has left you with the shelves slightly wider at the top than the bottom or something and you’ve cut the dowels too short.

That’s about it. Now you can put it wherever you want, and slap your DVDs on it. You could use a wall strap of some kind if you’re worried about it falling over, but it seems pretty secure to me once its full. Finished it should hold roughly 58 DVDs per shelf. With 8 shelves, that’s 468 DVDs on the unit total.

Price for materials will no doubt vary from place to place, but I got mine for a little under 40 USD, and the build took about an hour, maybe a little less.

February 24, 2011

Browser Games

Browser games are everywhere these days. Most of them are utter dross, but every now and then a diamond shows up in the rough.

My top three at present are:

3. Urban Dead

Found at urbandead.com, this is a zombie apocalypse game. You can play either as a survivor, or a zombie. Odds are, whichever you choose to be, at some point or another you’ll wind up joining the other side. It’s easy to die, and Zombies can be ‘revived’ and turned back into ordinary people.

You’re limited to 50 turns a day, which sound a lot until you play the game for a while. It’s really not and probably the most annoying thing about it. I understand why it’s limited that way, but it does mean that you’re pretty much done with a character after 10 minutes. There’s a pretty decent community and despite being a pretty low involvement game it’s still fun to kill a few minutes in the morning while you have your morning tea, coffee or class A drug of choice.

2. Echo Bazaar

Found at echobazaar.failbettergames.com. You have to use twitter or Facebook (ewwww) to sign into this one, which is a plus point for most people I suspect. For me it was a pain in the fucking balls because, as regular readers of my ranting my know, I am not a fan of either. Since facebook is the spawn of the devil’s inbred cousin or something, I registered a twitter account for one of our cats (because he likes to walk around on my keyboard so I figured what the fuck, he probably has just as much of value to say as the vast majority of twitter users!) and then usurped it for playing Echo Bazaar.

Okay so now that I’m done ranting about how you log into this one, I can get around to the part where I actually tell you something about the game.

This is a kinda…erm, I guess Steampunk game, about London falling into the ground and devils wandering about and people with squids for heads. And cats who can talk. There was probably a lot of crack smoked during the creation of this game. It’s beautifully presented, and the story elements of it are entertaining and well written. It’s also not finished, and has recently switched to a subscription model to get the most out of it, which is understandable in the sense that a lot of time and money has gone into its development I have no doubt, but that switch from freeplay to paid for content always leaves a bitter taste.

Spangly as it is, it’s also pretty slow to load if you’re on a shitty connection like mine and as I mentioned, unfinished. As you progress it also turns into a bit of a mindless grindfest as you spend your time repeating the same storylets over and over and over again in an attempt to build up a skill enough to progress to the next part of the story.

1. Kingdom of Loathing

Found at kingdomofloating.com. It’s hard to know where to start with this one…I’m not sure if it rates so highly at the moment because I’ve only recently discovered it, or if it really is as awesome as it seems to be.

It’s really, really silly. It’s a fantasy rpg type game but really only in the loosest sense..character classes include Disco Bandits, Turtle Tamers and Pastamancers. The currency in the game world is meat, and meat is also used to forge weapons and armour. Yes. Really. So apparently copious amounts of crack were smoked during the creation of this game, too.

This one is totally free to play, though you can donate if you want to. There’s an astonishing amount of detail and content in this one, too. It’s nuts. You get limited ‘adventures’ per day, but these can be increased by eating food, which you can cook yourself or buy, or drinking cocktails…don’t ask. If you miss a day, your adventures accumulate, too. I don’t know if there’s an upper limit for how many you can accrue, but if there is I haven’t yet found it. Awesome fun.

December 7, 2010

This probably needs a snappy title, but it doesn’t have one

I’ve watched a few films lately, and figured I’d give my fingers some exercise and type some stuff about them. I’m pleased to say that none of these movies featured talentless plank of wood, Terry Stone.

Pride & Glory

Edward Norton and Colin Farrell team up for this one. It’s about police in New York and thus the story trots along the inevitable cliché avenue of corruption and the like. There’s a good story in this movie, but to be quite blunt about it, it’s too long. It runs for over 2 hours and there are a lot of scenes which should probably have just been left on the cutting room floor. I totally get that building a background for a character allows us to feel empathy for them when shit hits the fan or what have you, but in this instance, those scene disrupt the flow of the main story and don’t really add anything significant to the characters development. It’s almost as though they were added as an afterthought.

“Hey this is a good movie, but what it needs is more human interest”
“You mean like, scenes to show these otherwise tough-guys to have a caring, sensitive family focused side?”
“Yeah that’s it! We’ll toss in some scenes where they get a bit emotional about stuff and maybe tell someone they love them. That kinda shit. It’ll be great. Oscars all ’round I reckon!”

Still, it’s not a bad movie, a solid 6/10 I’d say.

Slither

This one’s been around a while, I’ve seen it before but I don’t believe ever commented on it. It’s a comedy-horror dealy, with some genuinely pretty good horror moments, while still being very funny. Good script, good cast and probably able to pick it up in a bargain bin for next to nothing. I know this, because I did. Excellent movie.

7/10

Righteous Kill

De Niro and Pacino play a couple of detectives on the hunt for a serial killer. It was written by Russell Gewirtz, who also wrote ‘Inside Man’ which is another excellent movie. I enjoyed this one. The story flowed well, the acting as you may expect from two old legends like these two is excellent and there’s a quite cool, if somewhat predictable twist in the tale. I figured it out not too far into the movie, but it was well handled all the same.

7/10

Knockaround Guys

I felt like I probably shouldn’t have liked this. It had a lot of warning signs flashing when I first looked it over – Vin Diesel and Seth Green, er, really? Amazingly though, this is well worth a watch. The story is kinda predictable in many respects, but its well done. John Malkovich features in the cast, and he is brilliant as always. This is by no means a great cinematic masterpiece, but for an entertaining movie to kill some time, it’s worth a watch.

6/10

November 7, 2010

On the subject of books

I just finished reading Zero History by William Gibson – which is I suppose a sequel to his earlier novel Spook Country. I got into Gibson by reading his cyberpunk classic, Neuromancer many, many moons ago. His more recent books have stepped away from the science-fiction he used to write – he’s still dealing with the same subjects of corporate corruption and industrial espionage, staples of the cyberpunk sub-genre of course, but he believes we’ve now reached a point where his fictions are being realised as facts. His recent books therefore, are set in our present day, with the technology he writes about being things we often use ourselves, or are at least aware of.

I enjoyed Zero History, though at times I felt like I was watching one of the new James Bond movies. I don’t mean because there was all kinds of spy stuff going on – but because throughout the book Gibson is dry-humping Steve Jobs and his ever expanding catalogue of over-priced, over-hyped Apple toys, to the extent it really started to feel like product placement. Maybe it was, who knows.

On the subject of movies

I watched The Crazies last night – that’s the 2010 remake of the 1973 film of the same name by Zombie-movie-godfather, George A. Romero. Remakes often fall short of original movies and while I must confess that I have never seen the original in this instance, the 2010 version is definitely worth a watch if you like horror movies. In many respects it’s something of a twist on a zombie movie in its own way, inhabitants of a small town in the US are infected by some form of toxin that makes them all start trying to kill each other and our band of plucky heroes makes a valiant attempt to fight their way out past hordes of zombies crazed infected people to safety, and just for an additional size 12 to the groin, the army has shown up in gas masks and isn’t letting anyone out.

There are plenty of suspenseful moments and aside from one or two “What the fuck are you doing?!” moments, generally the characters manage to avoid a lot of the typical horror-movie-survival mistakes that make me root for the monsters in a large number of the films I watch.

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