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on Thursday, 17 June 2010
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Every evening, before I go to bed, I make a little list of things to do the next day.  Here in Maine, where I am alone and using the solitary time to work, those things are almost entirely work-related. (Okay, occasionally a DUMP RUN notation)  Back home, in Cambridge, there will more often be notes like "Call Nancy about movie time" or "lunch with Susan" or "Dentist"

Today's list had only three things. One, I was to write an short article about Paul Harding, author of the book TINKERS, which recently won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It's a gorgeous book (with a gorgeous jacket; see below) and a well-deserved award.  (And darn; I just inserted the book jacket, which is predominantly (and beautifully) WHITE---and of course it is hard for it to show up against this white background. I'm going to outline it in black—

  And maybe you can get a tiny hint of its stark beauty:

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Hi Ho Hi Ho! it's off to work....

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on Monday, 14 June 2010
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Well.  Company has gone, weekend has ended, and now it is time to begin working. I have had a daunting project on hold since last summer and presumably the wait has been good for it---and me---because surely my subconscious has been at work trying to solve the problems I was encountering with it.

In my very first book, A Summer to Die, written way back in 1976 (published a year later), the protaganist's father, an English professor on sabbatical, was writing, and encountering difficulties with, a very academic book called "The Dialectic Synthesis of Irony." I can still remember dreaming up that pretentious, professorial, and unwieldy title. Late in the book, he emerges from the room where he's been working (on a typewriter---it was that long ago) and announces happily that he has solved the problem of the book's structure, and he has done so because his subconscious had been grappling with it and a solution had revealed itself.

I do believe that that happens. I can only hope it will happen to me with this manuscript.  Last summer I had approached it though two different characters, and ended up with two different (and lengthy) starts. Both characters are intriguing (to me, at least) and they are related, but my quandary in part was the question of which one to follow and focus on. I finally had decided that they could be different parts of the same (probably lengthy) book, but the prospect was intimidating and I set the whole thing aside for a while and concentrated on other, easier things.

Now, today, after some necessary errands to bank and post office, I am going to open up those two manuscripts and decide which to attend to first, and how (eventually) to weave them together.

Here's a picture I took last weekend when we were over on the coast.

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Rx Take two aspirin and call me in the morning

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 10 June 2010
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 Funny little email interchange with my brother, a doctor, yesterday. He sent me an excerpt from an article from  the New England Journal of Medicine---he so hates opacity and pedantry, and this (rightly) seemed an example of that to him:


Inflammation is risky. Leukocytes recruited to fight microbes cause collateral damage that is often more severe than that originally triggered by the pathogen. Moreover, inflammation takes place even in patients with sterile tissue injuries such as trauma and ischemia–reperfusion.

The immune system recognizes mitochondria released from dying tissues as the bacteria they (the mitochondria) once were, and it mobilizes its destructive potential to limit their proliferation and arrest a mistaken invasion. This tragic "misunderstanding" could have a role in several human diseases, leading to inflammation in conditions as clinically diverse as post-traumatic systemic inflammatory response syndrome, myocardial infarction, cerebral ischemia, and systemic and organ autoimmunity.

Mitochondria are membrane-bound organelles that produce energy in virtually all eukaryotic cells. They have evolved from an endosymbiont alpha-proteobacterium (a relative of brucella and rickettsia). Mitochondria have their own DNA, enriched in hypomethylated CpG-containing sequences, which is duplicated when mitochondria divide. The origin of the eukaryotic cell is still controversial, and transitional forms between prokaryotes and eukaryotes have not been persuasively documented.3  The amalgamation of two prokaryotes or the amalgamation of a prokaryote with an eukaryotic precursor cell are possible scenarios. Regardless, the merger would have occurred long before the existence of an immune system, which by definition is a feature that is unique to multicellular organisms.

Zhang et al. detected mitochondrial DNA in the blood of patients with systemic inflammatory response syndrome after major trauma. Intravenous injection of mitochondrial proteins into mice resulted in activation of circulating neutrophils, with random extravasation in peripheral organs such as the liver and lung. Acute lung injury developed in these mice. Mitochondrial constituents also selectively activate an inflammasome, suggesting a possible link with other sterile inflammatory conditions such autoinflammatory diseases

Zhang et al. reason that, by virtue of their evolutionary origin, mitochondria might be recognized by pattern-recognition receptors and thus might initiate inflammation. This event seems unlikely to occur in healthy tissues, in which membrane-bound mitochondria are contained within cells

Mitochondrial structures released by injured cells possibly prompt inflammation during heart, kidney, or brain ischemia–reperfusion injuries, in which local neutrophil activation and further tissue damage occur when the blood flow is restored. Finally, mitochondria are probably released in patients with infectious disease — in whom substantial cell death takes place — possibly contributing to the molecular pathology of sepsis.

I gulped when I read it,  and then replied to him with this:

I feel I owe you an apology
For my molecular pathology.
I thought I might have hypochondria
Turned out it’s just my mitochondria!
I felt so ill, weak and sedated…
But my CPG was hypomethylated!
Wouldn’t a good strong antibiotic
Keep my cells eukaryotic?
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Garden in the Rain

Posted by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry
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on Thursday, 03 June 2010
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T'was just a garden in the rain
Close to a little leafy lane
A touch of color 'neath skies of gray
The raindrops kissed the flowerbeds
The blossoms raised their thirsty heads
A perfumed thank you
They seemed to say

                                                                                                                                                                 

I wonder if anyone else in the English-speaking world remembers that old song from the 1950's. Pretty hokey lyrics. I only thought of it today because I am in Maine now—arrived yesterday—and after storms during the night, today it is misty and all the flowers are heavy with drops of water. But it is so beautiful.

Peonies:lupine

Iris

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Memorial Day weekend

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 31 May 2010
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This is always a bittersweet time for me because it is the anniversary of my son Grey's death 15 years ago. Martin and I had just returned from a trip to Japan, were recovering from jet lag, when very  early---still dark---on that morning, we got the phone call from Germany  telling us of the F-15 crash that had taken his life. Within hours we were packing for Germany, getting emergency expedited passports for a daughter and grandson who had none, plane tickets (Northwest Airlines: Bereavement fare? No ma'am, never heard of such a thing. That'll be $4000)

It is all a bit of a blur. But the memory of him and his too-short life is not. 

This was taken about a year before he died.

Lois:Grey 1993

But at the same time, Martin and I are celebrating an anniversary---our 30th---and last night had dinner with the friends who introduced us to each other.

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Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 25 May 2010
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Each year, through the Childrens' Book Committee of PEN New England, this award (named for Simmons College Emeritus Professor Bloom) is given to new New England writers of books for young people..  We had 150 submissions this year and our committee spent a long and fruitful day selecting three winners, whose manuscripts will now go to editors at major publishing houses. The awards were given Sunday evening at a celebratory event to:

Bette Anne Reith for a YA novel called 'GREETINGS FROM THE MIRACLE

Bette Anne Reith

Heather Jessen for a picture book text called I WON A ROBOT IN A RAFFLE

Heather Jessen

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The Giver...(or not?)

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Monday, 24 May 2010
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Messenger Spanish

This is a very clever bit of marketing in Spain.  The cover of the book looks, as you can see, as if it is called THE GIVER. But in much smaller print, at the top, it says (in Spanish) Book III; MESSENGER.  So it is actually the book MESSENGER, the third in the Giver trilogy.  A little deceptive?  But aside from that quibble, I do like this jacket.  Was a bit troubled, though, to leaf through the pages (I don't read Spanish) and find that the character named Kira has been re-named Nora. Wonder why. Does Kira have bad connotations in Spanish?  And I don't remember seeing a Book II, in which Kira (Nora in Spain) is the main character.  Presumably there IS a Book II (otherwise, why would there be Book III?)---but it will be very confusing to readers if the girl is called Kira in that one.

Well, there are more important things to worry about. World peace. The stock market.

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"We'll always have Paris..."

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Sunday, 23 May 2010
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Here's Ingrid (or Ilsa, as she is called in the film*) looking down from the wall of the restaurant Casablanca, in Harvard Square, where we had dinner last night with friends before going to the theater.

*remember that; it will serve you well in NYT crossword puzzles

Ingrid

From dinner we went to the theater where the new musical called JOHNNY BASEBALL was thoroughly enjoyable. And now (Sunday morning. Yes, I work  on Sundays) I am back at work on the story I mentioned yesterday.

I can't tell you too much about this story or where it will end up (by which I mean where it will be published). But because a number of people have expressed interest in the process, I will describe that I know where the story is headed. My task is creating the 3000 words that will take it there. Yesterday I copied the first paragraph and printed it here on this blog. Here it is again:

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Summerstart

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Saturday, 22 May 2010
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Alfie groomed 5:10

Alfie had a much needed bath and haircut yesterday, to start him off for summer. And now that I am home, with no more trips till fall, and soon to head to Maine, it does begin to feel as if summer is approaching. I wrote a book once (Gathering Blue) in which seasons were named differently, and there was one period called Summerstart...that's where we are now, I think.

Headed to the theater tonight to see a new musical based on the Red Sox and called Johnny Baseball. Speaking of summer, and the boys of...

But today (Yes, it is Saturday; and yes, I work on Saturdays) I will begin the writing of a short story that I have signed a contract to do. It's a very interesting project which I am not at liberty to describe yet, but it was so intriguing that I signed on the minute it was offered to me.  Sometimes the initial enthusiasm feels misplaced when the actual work turns out to be tricky or difficult.  But I have had this project rattling around in my head, now, for quite a while, and I think that when I start (TODAY) on it, it  should begin to flow with some ease.

"It occurred for the first time in a hospital in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, but no one noticed except a maintainance man shoving a broom down the hall at 3 AM. He was startled by it and drew a quick breath, but he had fallen slightly behind and still had the whole OB/GYN floor to do before he could take a cigarette break. So he looked away, nudged a gum wrapper loose from the metal leg of a molded polyurethane chair by the hall window with his broom bristles, and continued methodically on without saying a word. And within the hour he had forgotten it entirely." 

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photos

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 19 May 2010
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With Sam

Here is SAM, whom I mentioned in a post yesterday; and here (next) is another boy whose name unfortunately I don't remember---but he was a wonderfully enthusiastic reader.

Kids Ink

Their teacher was good enough to send me a batch of photos---I wish I had room to publish all of them.

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HOME

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Tuesday, 18 May 2010
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I am home, at last, and will remain at home until June 2nd, when I head to Maine for the summer---and another kind of home.

Martin had kindly saved the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle, and we did it together, catching up on each other's news at the same time, before I even took my suitcase upstairs. Okay, correction: Martin carried it up for me.

I started out this latest trek last Thursday in Wallingford, Connectcut, a town I was last in when I had a boyfriend at Choate and went there for a weekend in 1953. When I checked into my hotel, I discovered it was filled with Choate Alumni there for a reunion, so I was in danger of running into an old flame--something that bad movie plots are made of---but there was no danger at all of either of us recognizing the other, after, let me do the math,  55 years.

I spoke that night at the Wallingford Pubic Library to a large and cheerful crowd of all ages. It is an unusually fabulous library, recently expanded and remodeled, and the town is so fortunate to have it and its enthusiastic staff.

On Friday I had to get from Wallingford, Connecticut to South Bend, Indiana, a daunting project. But everything worked smoothly, connections were made, and by nighttime I was in a hotel room in South Bend. On Saturday---a gorgeous sunny day---I received an honorary doctorate from St. Mary's College. The other honoree was Sylvia Earle, marine expert who had come from being Charlie Rose's guest the day before, in a conversation about the oil spill. After the graduation we were each waiting for the cars that would take us to our next destinations---Chicago for her, Indianapolis for me--and had an hour to have a glass of wine together. So what do two women of similar age, each of us with four grandchildren,  talk about over wine? Three guesses.

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Interview

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on Wednesday, 12 May 2010
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUogr6pduwA

Well, I can't figure out how to make that into an actual link. But if you paste that address into your browser, it will take you to quite a nice interview with David Bradley, the director of GOSSAMER for the Peoples Light Theater in Philadelphia; and with Maggie Fitzgerald, the very gifted 13-year-old who plays the leading role.

I recently was having to write up some autobiographical material for a doctoral candidate in the UK, and so I was thinking about myself at various young ages. At 13 I was shy, awkward, self-conscious, tongue-tied. How do kids like Maggie Fitzgerald become so self-confident and poised, so young? My granddaughter, Nadine, (who is now 16) was also, at 13, articulate and poised.  And neither of them at all obnoxious! I'm in awe of that.

Maggie
 
Teeny NL pines

                                                                                          NADINE LOWRY, 13

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Cliff Notes, etc.

Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 12 May 2010
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I've always been irritated by such "learning aids" because they seem to leapfrog over the learning process and feed a student information that he/she should be figuring out for themselves. But then I was an English major in college, and before that an English-class-lover in high school, and I actually enjoyed—passionately enjoyed—the process of thinking about the components of literature. Many kids don't, and perhaps these educational shortcuts provide a valid boost to those who might abandon thought altogether. I don't know.

And I only mention it because a website called Shmoop.com which provides such help to students has sent me this "award" which they wanted me to put on my website.  I am not going to do that. But I did go to their website and I can see that the same students who email me to ask, "What are the major themes in The Giver?"— and then are frustrated because I tell them I am not going to do their homework for them—well, they can go to this website and get their homework done.

Best-of-Web-badges-4

If it means that they, in the process of copying the information provided for them, might actually learn something....well, it can't be all bad.

But darn it. I remember the passion and enthusiasm with which I puzzled over literature when I was in school, and through which I learned to appreciate and love some writers who at first seemed "too hard." 

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Happy Mothers' Day

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on Sunday, 09 May 2010
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I came home from New York late yesterday to find these flowers waiting

Roses

sent from my much-loved daughter-in-law in Germany. A nice welcome after a long day.

But a good day. I flew down in the morning, and made my way to Books of Wonder on 18th Street, met Jules Feiffer there, and together he and I talked to a nice crowd of book-lovers, and then signed maybe a zillion books.

The driver who took me back to La Guardia apologized for being on his cell phone when I got into the car. He was calling his mother in Peru to wish her a Happy Mothers' Day.

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The magic of theater

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on Sunday, 02 May 2010
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I've just returned from Philadelphia and from seeing (twice) a beautiful production of "Gossamer" at the Peoples Light Theater.  I shouldn't be surprised at this anymore, but I continue to be amazed at how theater people---all of them: director, designers, actors---can take words and make magic of them.

These photographs were taken by Mark Garvin (you can see others on the theater website: www.peopleslight.org)

TE and Littlest copy

This is Littlest, played by Maggie  Fitzgerald, showing Thin Elderly (actor Christopher Patrick Mullen) how gentle and delicate her touch is....

Littlest and John copy

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playing catch-up

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on Tuesday, 27 April 2010
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I've not posted here for a while, mainly because I have been so much on the road. This past week, I was first in Raleigh, NC, where in addition to a wonderful event at Quail Ridge Books, I got to see and visit with a stepson, his wife, and daughter. From there to Chapel Hill and Flyleaf Books---a new and terrific independent bookstore---where I got to see old friend Barbara Cameron and her daughter Maggie (they were way at the back of a long signing line. When it was their turn, I asked, "Doesn't being old pals entitle you to a place at the front of the line?"  "Apparently not," grumbled Maggie, age 8)

Next, Miami for two days and two appearances: one at a gorgeous historic church where schoolchildren were bussed in; then at yet one more outstanding independent bookstore: Books & Books,  where lo and behold, my daughter appeared, with friends.

Here I am with her on, if I remember correctly, her 50th birthday in 2008:

Max 50th copy

She lives in San Francisco but was in Miami for a few days and came to Books & Books with a group of her friends.

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"This deeply-felt, original novel..."

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on Monday, 19 April 2010
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My twin 13-year-old step-granddaughters were just here with their mom overnight because they had to get an early-morning flight out of Boston for a spring-break trip to Florida.

"Do you have something we can read on the plane?" they asked.

I glanced around. I knew they didn't want the new Chang-Rae Lee novel (and anyway, I haven't finished it) or the Collected Stories of Carol Shields.

"How about one of these?" one twin asked, pointing to a stack on a shelf in a dark corner.

Oooof.  (Or, as the twins would write: OMG).  The stack. The dread stack. The neglected, dust-collecting, unread, unacknowledged, guilt-producing stack.

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Coming Up

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Soon  I hit the road again, and this week I will be at Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC, 7 PM Wednesday. Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC, 7 PM Thursday. Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL, 3 PM Saturday. Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL, 2 PM Sunday.

Next week---Tuesday, 4/27---- I'll be at the Brookline MA Public Library at 3:30 PM.

As you can tell, this is a very busy spring. Yesterday I took a break and Martin and I went with friends to see the Argentinian movie "The Secret in Their Eyes"---good movie, but I had to go  back just now and look up the title, which means it is not a good title.  You should be able to remember and say a title instantly, like JAWS.

Years ago---actually, 32 years ago!--- I wrote a book called FIND A STRANGER, SAY GOODBYE.  Ever since then I have had people say to me, from time to time, "I loved your book, ah, 'Say Goodbye to—' or some variation thereof.  See what I mean? Unwieldy title.

Images
Images-1

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Cleaning the pantry/cross-examination

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on Sunday, 11 April 2010
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DA: And so, Ms. Lowry, it appears that at some time in the distant past, you bought two pounds of cornmeal.

LL: Yessir.

DA: And that, at a later time, in fact during a later year, you bought another two pounds of cornmeal, even though you had never opened the first?

LL: Uh, yes.

DA: And then, last year, a third two pounds?

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Back home, back to work

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on Sunday, 11 April 2010
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I've returned from central Washington where I visited four different towns and did five different presentations and was warmly received by lots of wonderful people.  Brief snowstorm on Thursday! But mostly the weather was fine and the scenery in that area of Washington is spectacular. It was a fine, though tiring, trip. And just for the record: I hate Wolfgang Puck's airport sandwiches.

I got home Friday night and on Saturday morning joined several other speakers at an event held by the Foundation for Children's Books at the magnificent Boston Atheneum.  Each year they hold an event focusing on "What's New" so I had a chance to show-and-tell not only my newest published book, THE BIRTHDAY BALL, but also several upcoming ones, including one I've done for the newly-revived Dear America series. Mine, set in Maine in 1918-1919, will be called LIKE THE WILLOW TREE. Scholastic has updated the look of the covers of these books and also is now featuring the names of the many authors. It will be easier now for young readers to understand that these diaries are fiction --- there had been confusion in the past. But the historical events are carefully-researched and accurate. I would have loved these books when I was a kid.

Here, for example, is the original book "A Journey to the New World"---about the voyage of the Mayflower---

Journcvr

and here it is, same book, in its new incarnation, revealing the author's name, Kathryn Lasky:

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