Archive | July, 2012

Boat sinks, so do fishing hopes

July 31, 2012


I strolled down to a dock on North Long Lake near Brainerd last Tuesday. My wife and two of my kids were staying at the cabin of two friends of ours, Patti and Brad Bye.

We had arrived two days earlier, and I went fishing on Monday afternoon. I landed two bass in about an hour or so of fishing, and I was primed to catch many more on Tuesday morning.

With hopes high, I walked the planks toward my Crestliner Fishhawk, already dreaming of the lunker bass I would be landing.

But, my heart sank when I saw that my boat had done the same. The back end was submerged, and I was left in shock at the sight.

Getting the transom elevated so we could bail out the water was no small task. The sunburn on my shoulders I discovered later attested to the amount of time required to accomplish this feat.

With the help of my wife Julie and children William and Claire, I got the boat afloat and took it to Nisswa Marine I thought it was a problem with the live well and bilge pumps, but learned there was a small hole in the hull, right at the bottom center of the transom.

The week before our trip, I had taken the boat out for a test ride. While backing the boat and  trailer into the water to launch, I realized I may not have put the drain plug in, and hit the brakes. That tipped the front of the boat up, and the back end hit the concrete ramp. The fin behind the propeller, called the skeg, was bent, and I got that fixed. But, I did not realize at the time that the transom had hit the concrete as well.

That, in fact, is what happened, which created the small hole where water was getting in.

The mechanics at Nisswa Marine did some welding to repair the hole. To my surprise, the repair cost only $164. And, it was done on Friday afternoon, which gave me the weekend to fish.

Unfortunately, the fishing wasn’t so great. I ended up catching six bass total on the trip, four of which I took home. The bigger reward, however, was the lesson in patience that I learned. It wasn’t fun waiting for the boat to get fixed, and watching precious fishing time slip away.

But, by God’s grace, I was able to wait. What helped is the fact that I brought my bow up north with me, along with my new Rinehart archery target, which I really like. I finally decided to spend $100 for a nice target, and my research showed that the 18-and-1 target was one of the best on the market.

I also got a chance to visit an awesome archery shop called Archery Country with my son, William. It’s a really cool shop, and I learned about two great products that I hope to use soon – VAP arrows and Ulmer Edge broadheads. I plan on using the broad heads this fall and maybe the arrows next year.

I’m excited about the upcoming bow hunting season, as my shooting form has been getting better!

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Footprints around God’s World

July 27, 2012

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With the London Summer Olympics in our midst, I thought I’d share a story I wrote about embracing life while running in different countries. In this piece I discuss jogging while pregnant, noticing that there weren’t many babies or expectant moms in Austria (because of Europe’s national decrease in births), and watching the world learn to love this favorite sport of mine. This was published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners book in 2010.

Footprints around God’s World

“It’s elevating and humbling at the same time. Running along a beach at sunrise with no other footprints in the sand, you realize the vastness of creation, your own insignificant space in the plan, how tiny you really are, your own creatureliness and how much you owe to the supreme body, the God that brought all this beauty and harmony into being.”

~Sister Marion Irvine, 2:51 PR and 1984 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier


“You’re going to wear that out in public? You must be jokin’!” six-year-old Helen Rafferty asked me in a lilting Irish brogue as she watched me unpack my running shorts and tank top. I could tell that her mother, standing near the lace curtains, was thinking the same thing.

     Oh great! If they really don’t wear running gear here in the Emerald Isle, then I’m going to have to spend a titanic amount of my Guinness money on a sweat suit. At least then I won’t stick out while running the next few months.

     And that’s just what I did. Like a banshee, I scoured Dublin that fall day in 1986. I finally found a turquoise warm-up suit. It wasn’t my style, but at least now I was ready to hit the cobblestones. Even though Dublin had a small marathon at that time, I deduced that the Irish hadn’t been bitten by the running bug. It seemed like I was the only runner out there during the entire semester I studied abroad. And so it didn’t really matter what running gear I wore, because regardless of what I threw on, I stuck out like a fitness freak anyway.

     I found it curious that the running craze hadn’t reached this island yet. Jogging had been so popular in America ever since Rocky hit the big screen in 1976, when I was ten and had become a runner myself. Even on cold days a person couldn’t drive around my home state of Minnesota without seeing people running through neighborhoods, along the banks of the Mississippi or on paths around our numerous lakes. I pondered: Had the running craze bypassed only Ireland, or had it leapfrogged the entire world, only to be popular in the United States?

     It’s been twenty years since I first wrestled with that query. I have traveled the world with my husband due to incentive trips he is blessed to win. In the early nineties, at our vacation destinations, the only people “hitting the road” were my triathlete husband, some of his American co-workers and yours truly. The locals looked upon us as alien creatures come to seize control of their sidewalks, paths and streets.

     The place I got ogled the most was Vienna, Austria in 1995. I had an hour to kill before my presence was expected at a meeting, so I laced up my sneakers and decided to run through Stadtpark. During my three-mile course I didn’t encounter any other runners. I noticed the same phenomenon on other days. Obviously, the jogging bug hadn’t bitten in this part of the world either. As I rounded the Johann Strauss monument, I noticed a very gentrified man staring at me. I recalled reading a book before our trip that stated the Austrians were in the midst of a national decrease in births. I read that there would not be many expectant women or babies in Vienna, and the author was right! I’m sure I looked rather goofy to this dapper gent as I approached him in a bright pink T-shirt and matching Spandex shorts. I’ll admit, it wasn’t the prettiest set of running clothes I owned, but it was the only thing I could find to fit over my large, pregnant belly. So you see, I looked very much the outsider to him… an expectant mom and a jogger all rolled into one!

     My husband and I have trotted God’s globe from sea to shining sea on these business trips. From the lakes of Minnesota to the hills of Hong Kong, we’ve created extraordinary memories along happy trails. When we commune with nature in this remarkable way, we feel God’s pleasure. As we’ve carried forward (even after my husband’s diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis in his late thirties), we’ve wondered: If running is so beneficial, why aren’t people all around the world getting hooked on this exuberant sprint for life? Even my husband’s specialists are saying how healthy exercising is for everyone: to persevere and just do it!

     And so, we do keep running all over the place. If we’re not dashing after our seven kids, we’re making tracks along the beaches of Mexico or the mountains of New Zealand. Why shop in different nations when there’s so much glory to see as we run?

     It finally happened in Barcelona in 2000. My husband accompanied me as I went for a slow run (more like a waddle since I was eight months pregnant) and we actually saw Spanish people out there jogging along the sea! I could tell they were avid runners because of the athletic gear they had on. It was wonderful. The running fever wasn’t just in America anymore. And further proof that the Spanish attitude had reconditioned was the fact that when we neared the hotel, after our morning jog, instead of strange looks from the doormen, we were handed a cold bottle of spring water from an ice bucket and a moist towel with which to wipe our sweat. Now there are road races all over Europe. There are marathons in Africa and Antarctica.

     In a few months, my husband of seventeen years and I will travel to Ireland with his company. I’ll pack my tank top and running shorts, and not the turquoise sweat suit (I left that in Ireland back in 1986). I can jog in my regular running clothes because I know I won’t get odd looks from the locals; Ireland has joined the U.S. in a running craze. The Dublin marathon has grown from 2,100 participants its first year in 1980, to 10,000 entrants this year. In fact, when we were visiting the Emerald Isle in 2004 we actually came across a bloke training for the Dublin marathon. This young man left hobbled prints by the River Liffey; he had pulled his Achilles tendon. But the thrill of the upcoming race was evident in his freckled face. I noticed he was wearing soccer gear, but heck… he was a runner!

(Please read my blog titled, My Pro-Life Running Stroller, too!)

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Why fruitfulness is an essential mark of marriage

July 17, 2012


Whether you consider them fruit or vegetables, tomatoes are evidence of nature’s fruitfulness. Photo/Andrew Fogg (ndrwfgg on Licensed under Creative Commons

Gardening becomes more fun in midsummer when the first produce appears. I like spotting the tiny cucumbers and watermelons, and watching the tomatoes turn red.

As important as fruitfulness is to the natural world, the Church teaches that it also is one of the two meanings of the conjugal act in marriage. According to the Catechism:

 The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family. The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.  (CCC 2363)

This idea of fruitfulness in marriage raises some interesting questions: What does the Church say is the essence of fruitfulness and how is it part of marriage? How do the body and soul interact when married couples have sex? Can a couple’s union still be fruitful when they’re not able to conceive a child?

Just as the vines in my garden produce fruit and vegetables,  the body can make present one tangible aspect of the fruitfulness of love–a new human being.  Bl. Pope John Paul II writes about how fruitfulness is part of the essence of the person in the Theology of the Body. The body can add a new dimension to the fruitfulness of spousal love,  in a way that the soul alone can’t.

Through their bodies, God allows married couples to participate in His creative action and possibly become parents.   The Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes puts it this way: “…wishing to associate them in a special way in his own creative work, God blessed man and woman with the words: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’”

The Trinity as model of fruitfulness

God didn’t tell Adam and Eve to do anything that the Persons of the Trinity weren’t also doing—though not in same way. Love, consisting of both union and fruitfulness, is the basis of Trinitarian life and also of our being, Pope John Paul writes. Union and fruitfulness are also necessary aspects of spousal love.

Couples reach the peak of both unity and fruitfulness during sex, which is the heart of spousal love, according to Maria Fedoryka, associate professor of philosophy at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla.  During the conjugal act the body and the soul intersect and communicate in a special way, she writes in her article, “The Family in the Theology of the Body.”  (2012. Manuscript submitted for publication.)  They expand each other’s capacity and each acquires a new dimension. The spirit gains something new because of its connection to the body, she writes.

Love is about superabundance. Because fruitfulness is at the core of love, the spousal union creatively overflows beyond itself—or else it’s not love. A couple’s love becomes a physical reality when they conceive a child.

Obviously, love doesn’t take this path with every conjugal act. Pope John Paul writes in Donum Vitae,  “Nevertheless marriage does not confer upon the spouses the right to have a child, but only the right to perform those natural acts which are per se ordered to procreation.”

Marital act is fruitful even if couple is infertile

In the “noble and worthy” marital act by which life is transmitted, Pope Paul VI states in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, that an infertile couple always remains ordained toward expressing and consolidating their union. When couples can’t conceive or are not seeking to achieve pregnancy for a legitimate reason, they can express the fruitfulness of their conjugal act by serving others.

“In fact,” writes John Paul II, “every act of true love towards a human being bears witness to and perfects the spiritual fecundity of the family, since it is an act of obedience to the deep inner dynamism of love as self-giving to others.”

Clearly, to love means to be fruitful, but fruitfulness in marriage holds the potential for the most profound collaboration with God in the creation of new human life.

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Enjoying a drive in the country

July 13, 2012


Not many folks in the country live within walking distance of their church. Pete and Regina Poncelet are fortunate enough to enjoy this blessing.

After visiting with them this morning, I went on a drive up Highway 47 near Goodhue to see their church, St. Columbkill (pictured above). Because they share a pastor with two other churches, they only have one Mass on Sundays. Sometimes, they walk.

It’s hard not to envy people who are surrounded by this type of rural scenery every day. I make any excuse I can to get out into the country.

The Poncelets don’t have to. They can just go into the garage, get out their bikes and start riding. Sitting down with them and four of their five children (their oldest, Laura, is down in Miami where she is studying to be an architect), their wholesomeness was as easy to spot as the cornstalks in view out their back window.

Because both of our families have kids around the same age, we thought it would be fun to get together and compare notes on parenthood, faith and life. I enjoyed the discussion, not to mention the beautiful drive down Highway 52, with a detour  through Cannon Falls.

That area seems to have rebounded from the flooding a month ago. In fact, the Poncelets say that the whole region now could use some rain.

Fortunately, rain fell overnight and there was a sprinkle or two left as I drove down. With more forecast for tonight, I think farmers will be in good shape. The corn stalks I saw looked thick and green – and high! The old saying used to be “knee high by the Fourth of July.” It’s closer to chin high now.

One of the Poncelet children has taken a special interest in all things farming. Michael, about to turn 15, has wanted to be a farmer since he was a toddler. With both Pete and Regina having relatives who farm, Michael is getting plenty of opportunity. He seems very determined to do it for a living someday.

We need many more like him to keep farming going strong.  There aren’t as many small, family farms as there used to be, but the Poncelets noted that organic farms are now dotting the landscape and doing well.

I just hope the rural landscape stays unspoiled until long past Michael’s retirement!

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Outboard motor problem solved!

July 12, 2012

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I know this sounds strange, but I put my fishing boat in the water for the first time this season just the other day. On Monday evening, I took it to Lake Johanna in Arden Hills to make sure everything was running OK. Our family is going up north to the Brainerd area on July 22 for a week, so it’s always nice to check things out before a trip.

As I was backing the trailer into the water, I thought of something that needed to be done and hit the brake. With all of the straps unfastened, the back end of the boat dropped down and the bottom of the motor hit the concrete ramp.

Not good. Not good at all. Before even looking, I knew what I would  discover – a bent skeg. This is the triangular shaped fin at the very bottom of the motor, directly in front of the propeller.

The last time my skeg got bent, I had to pay $140 to get it fixed. Needless to say, I was not happy. In fact, today I went to confession to ask God’s forgiveness for the vocabulary I used after the mishap.

Despite the problem, I knew I could still drive the boat, so I dropped it in the water and tried to start it. It took a while, but I finally got it going. As I motored out on the lake with my son, William, and his friend, I noticed the boat pulling noticeably to the right. This is the classic symptom of a bent skeg.

So, that night, I went online to find a repair shop. I had been to one in Brooklyn Park for the first repair, but that’s a long ways, and it’s only open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Very inconvenient for me. It would mean no option of going on evenings or weekends.

Further searching produced a place called Propulsion, Inc. in Hudson, Wis. It’s open earlier in the morning (8 a.m.), plus on Saturdays. I called and talked to Dan Cremin. He was very helpful, and said I could come in the next morning and the shop mechanics could squeeze me in. He thought there was a good chance they could pound the skeg back straight again.

Excellent! I arrived there at 8:30 yesterday morning, and Dan got me in right away. In about 15 minutes, the job was done. And, here’s the best part – it only cost $15.

Needless to say, I was thrilled. This is a shop I can highly recommend. Dan did a great job of customer service, and I thanked him profusely.

He seemed a bit surprised by my praise.

“Usually, people don’t like to see us,” he said. They come in angry because they damaged their prop or lower unit and aren’t happy about paying an unexpected sum of money to fix the problem.

I get that. I wasn’t happy when I first bent the skeg, but I walked away satisfied because I knew I would have had to pay a lot more if the skeg had cracked while the mechanic was pounding on it. Dan had warned me that this could happen.

Thankfully, it didn’t. Now, I have a boat that’s in good working order, and a soul that’s clean, thanks to a priest I had lunch with today who was gracious enough to hear my confession.

Fortunately, there is no charge to straighten a bent soul.


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A Contraception Quote and Broadcast from Archbishop Fulton Sheen…

July 12, 2012


Archbishop Fulton Sheen is on the fast track to sainthood. This dramatic and humorous man might possibly become the first male American-born saint. The Vatican recognizes his heroic virtues and recently granted him the title “venerable.”

“Life is Worth Living”

Known as the “Patron Saint of Media and Evangelization,” Verable Fulton Sheen broadcasted a radio show called “Catholic Hour.” From 1951-1957 he hosted a television program titled “Life is Worth Living” which was watched by millions and won an Emmy. He brought Catholicism into the family rooms of the faithful always signing off with, “Life is worth living!”

This media pioneer lived and worked most of his life in New York. He died in 1979 at the age of 84. He truly helped the human race embrace life. The Catholic News Agency stated in an article, “Sheen’s work has helped create 9,000 clinics, 10,000 orphanages, and 1,200 schools. The institutions his donations support now educate 80,000 seminarians and 9,000 vowed religious.”

An Interesting Quote:

I found this statement by Archbishop Fulton Sheen in the July 8 bulletin from the Church of Saint Charles in Bayport, Minnesota (Fr. Mark Juettner is the pastor):

“The root principle of birth-control is unsound. It is a glorification of the means and a contempt of the end; it says that the pleasure which is a means to the procreation of children is good, but the children themselves are no good. In other words, to be logical, the philosophy of birth-control would commit us to a world in which trees were always blooming but never giving fruit, a world full of sign-posts that were leading nowhere. In this cosmos every tree would be a barren fig tree and for that reason would have upon it the curse of God.”

His Broadcast on Contraception:

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(More on Venerable Fulton Sheen to come in future posts.)


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It’s rewarding to share wild game

July 6, 2012


I walked into the Ascension School building in north Minneapolis this afternoon as the heat index soared well above 100 degrees.

As I waited in the hallway, principal Dorwatha Woods poked her head out of her office and gave me a warm greeting.

Once again, I was there to make a wild game donation. But, I was going to get something meaningful in return – smoked wild turkey. Yum!

Several weeks ago, she had accidentally dialed me and I happened to mention during our conversation that I have a bunch of wild turkey in the freezer. She replied that she has a smoker and she knows how to use it.

What a match! My friend, Steve Huettl, had some extra turkey he wanted to give away, so I took it off his hands and gave it to Dorwatha for smoking. When she described the process of smoking it in her charcoal smoker, I was getting hungry right then and there.

Of course, it’s nice to get something back, but that’s not why I bring wild game to her. She prepares it for poor and underprivileged folks, of which there are many in north Minneapolis. That’s something I believe in, and it takes very little prodding to put together a care package for her.

I added a few packages of venison to the donation, plus two turkey legs from the bird my son, Joe, took in Montana. So, it was a nice selection of wild game for her, and I’ll be counting the days until I get smoked wild turkey. I’ve never had smoked turkey before, so it will be fun to try.

After depositing the bag full of frozen game on her office table, we sat down and started talking about life, as we always do. I couldn’t help but think of her in the wake of the shooting death of 5-year-old Nizzel George not far away from her school on June 26, as he slept on his grandmother’s couch.

I know that this type of tragedy tears at Dorwatha’s heart, not just because of its proximity to her school, but because caring for children is her passion.

Sadly, this shooting is one of many to take place in her school’s neighborhood during the 25-plus years she has been at the helm at Ascension School. Thankfully, she – and her school – is a beacon of light in an area shrouded by the darkness of violence.

Amidst the crime, she marches – and prays – on. More than 200 children are safe within her school’s walls, even though she often invites the very thugs who perpetrate street violence into her building.

“I am determined to make a difference in this neighborhood,” Dorwatha proudly proclaims, adding that she is afraid of no one, even when police issue warnings that people should not be alone in a parking lot.

She scoffs at such alerts, saying “I’ve been going out alone for millions of years.”

It is not so much a statement of age, but of experience. What else would you expect from a woman who once walked across the street and told a group of young men to clean up the drug paraphernalia in the yard so the school children would not see it while looking out their classroom windows?

There is no fear in Dorwartha, but lots of fight left. And, make no mistake, she will not rest while kids are dying in her school’s neighborhood. Unlike many others who see such violence regularly, she has not grown cynical.

Far from it. She continues to open her arms wide and offer a warm smile to every visitor a warm, even those who have been in jail, or will be on their way there soon. She sees value in every person, saying over and over that all people are God’s children and have value.

I’m happy and proud to say I am on her good side, though the stories she tells indicate that visits to her office aren’t as scary as students might think.

In other words, she’s as tough as nails, but with a heart of gold.

And, I can’t wait to be called to this principal’s office for some smoked wild turkey!



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Conception-Birth: View the New Technology

July 5, 2012


Two of the inventors who developed this new x-ray scanning technology won the Nobel Prize. Watch the video explained lovingly by a mathematician and be amazed about the magic of you…

YouTube Preview Image

(Thanks to my uncle, Bill McMahon, for letting me know about this clip)

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Touring Amish country

July 3, 2012

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As my wife Julie and I drove westward on Highway 44 toward the southeastern Minnesota town of Mabel, we saw a most unfamiliar sight on this back-c0untry road – a black, horse-drawn buggy.

We were in Amish country. After slowing down and circling widely around the buggy, we continued on our way to St. Olaf Catholic Church for 10 a.m. Mass.

The liturgy celebrated by the parish’s new pastor, Father Shawn Haremza, was a nice way to cap our 15th wedding anniversary celebration. It began with a nice drive down Highway 52 toward Lanesboro the day before. We stayed at a very nice bed and breakfast in Harmony, just about 10 miles from Lanesboro, called the Selvig House. It is owned by Carol and Ralph Beastrom, who not only are gracious hosts, but fabulous cooks!

Our appearance on their front doorstep was an answer to prayer. On Friday, Julie had been doing research on the Lanesboro area and was interested in spending the weekend there. But, most of the B&Bs in town were booked. By the time I left in the evening to pick up our daughter Claire from a friend’s house in Apple Valley, Julie was discouraged about her search for lodging.

So, I said a simple prayer as I drove southward on 35E: “Lord, you can make something out of nothing. Please help Julie and I find a nice place to stay.”

On the way down, I stopped at an outdoor archery range for some practice with my bow. Then, about 9 p.m., I headed to Apple Valley. I got to talking about our weekend plans with the parents of Claire’s friend, who perked up when I mentioned Lanesboro.

“That’s where we went for our honeymoon!” the mom replied. She said she and her husband stayed at the Selvig and really enjoyed it. The town of Harmony is quieter than Lanesboro, they said, but close enough to take advantage of everything this small tourist town has to offer.

On the drive back home, I decided to call the Selvig. I figured I would get an answering machine and planned on leaving a message, hoping for a call back on Saturday morning. Instead, Carol picked up and said they had vacancies.

In fact, all four of the rooms were open. She said we could come down and look at them, then pick the one we liked.

Praise God! What an answer to prayer. And, this fit in perfectly with Sunday’s Gospel passage from Mark, in which Jesus raised the daughter of a synagogue official, Jairus, from the dead. His words to Jairus were, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

Sometimes, it is so simple. Just bring our requests to the Lord and believe. Father Haremza, who originally is from the Twin Cities, echoed that sentiment in his homily, exhorting those inside the small church to act on Jesus’ words.

For us, the weekend seemed to be about simplicity – the landscape, the small towns, and, especially, the Amish lifestyle.

We found that both appealing and refreshing. There are a number of Amish tours in the area, and we took one out of Harmony. The guide got into our van and we made a loop just east of town. We visited a number of farms and got to talk to some Amish folks. Unfortunately, they do not allow photos of themselves to be taken, so I had to leave my camera in the van for most of the tour, which was painful.

But, we got to visit two different farms where furniture is made and sold. The craftsmanship was remarkable – and each piece was made of 100 percent, natural wood. The Amish find trees locally, have them cut down and brought to an Amish sawmill, where planks are cut and kiln dried.

After seeing so much beautiful furniture, I couldn’t help but dream of buying some. For about $1,500, you can have a gorgeous red oak dining room table.

For sure, the way to get the best price is to buy directly from the Amish. There are stores that sell their stuff, but there is some hefty markup involved.

I think it would be fun to go down again and do some serious furntiture shopping. Perhaps, in the fall, we can drive there to see the colors change, then take home a table or dresser.

I wonder: Do the Amish sell scratch-and-dent furniture?

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