Finally Here

05/30/13

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As many of you who read this blog know, I’m getting married Saturday to my amazing partner Clay. So I’m going to take a tiny break from this blog till early next week (I’ll be taking a longer break for my honeymoon in July). I wanted to thank all my readers who have sent me congratulatory emails. There have been so many that I cannot respond to all of them individually, but I have read each of them and they are all heartfelt, and I so appreciate your support and enthusiasm for our big day.

Peace and love!

Off I go.

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100 Stones for Love

05/29/13

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a little blog post about all the amazing friends and family who have had a hand in helping to prepare for my wedding. One of those people is Diana Fayt, who is a longtime (and dear) friend and insanely prolific and talented ceramics artist. As Clay and I were beginning to prepare for our wedding many months ago, Diana asked if we would like for her to paint stones as our official wedding favors. I was already a huge fan of Diana’s painted stones (which I wrote about here last November), and so, of course, we took her up on her offer.

Diana has been working away on painting the stones for many months, and she’s been calling them 100 Stones for Love.  Just a couple of days ago, she finished 103 of them for the 103 people who will be sitting down at our celebration on Saturday, including Clay and me. On the back of each is printed: L+C 6-1-13.

It has been the kindness, generosity and palpable excitement of certain people in my life that has made getting ready for this big day a totally wondrous & unforgettable experience. Diana is one of those people.

Have a happy Wednesday, friends!

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Weapons of Mass Creation Fest

05/28/13

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Last August, I heard chatter on Twitter about a festival/conference for creatives in Cleveland, Ohio called Weapons of Mass Creation. Several friends — Kate Bingaman Burt, Austin Kleon, Margot Harrington, Tuesday Bassen – were speaking there and talking about it on Twitter. Previously, I’d never heard of the event before, and I was intrigued. About a month later I got an email from Joseph Hughes, one of the organizers: “I’m not sure if your ears were burning back in June,” he said, “but your name came up again and again and we’d love you to speak in 2013.” After seeing the amazing lineup of speakers they’d had 2012 & who they were gathering for 2013 , their mission, and a chance to spend a week in Ohio, (where I’ve never been), the answer was a resounding yes.

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The Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, or  “WMC Fest” as it’s come to be known, is becoming the premiere design and music festival in the midwest. This year, it includes three days and 70+ performances from August 16-18. It’s mission? To inspire. Jeff Finley, founder: “I wanted to bring in bands and artists that inspired me so I could share that inspiration with my community.” Jeff and his team have started this event with limited resources and are offering tickets at affordable prices. WCM needs funding. They have started a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money to get this year’s event off the ground. Learn more here.

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You can also support the event by attending. Tickets are on sale here. It’s going to be a blast. You can view the speaker lineup here and the band lineup here. I’m heading out there with Clay and my best pal Rena (who is also speaking). Join us!

Happy Tuesday, friends.

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On Being an Enthusiastic Bride

05/24/13

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A couple of weeks ago, I gushed something about my upcoming wedding on my personal Facebook page. A friend of mine commented: “You are, without a doubt, the most enthusiastic bride I’ve ever known.” I blushed at this sweet comment, but immediately I also thought, “Aren’t all brides this enthusiastic?”

I spent most of my life thinking I would never get married (even convincing myself for many years in my 20′s and 30′s that marriage was a stupid, overrated social contract). I thought all of these things as a way of protecting myself from the crater of sadness I felt. You see, deep down inside, I have always wanted to get married, since I was a little girl. Not necessarily for the sake of marriage itself, but to share my life intimately with another person. But I really believed it would never happen for me. Until recently, gay people couldn’t get married, legally anyway. When I was in my 20′s in the 90′s I could never have imagined that gay marriage would ever be legal. Most gay couples didn’t even have ceremonies back then like they do now, legality aside. The message: our lives, our relationships and our experiences were just not as important or valid as those in the rest of society. So a hope of marriage? I had none of it. I wrote about that a little bit here when I got engaged.

And then there is how long it took me to find a relationship with someone I’d actually want to marry, or who would want to marry me. I was 40 years old when I met Clay. FORTY. I am 45 now. That is a long time to wait, especially when there is a crater of sadness inside of you.

So, yes, I am enthusiastic about getting married. A wedding is something I never thought I would plan or experience. Sharing a life with someone as stellar as Clay was formerly a pipe dream. And now it’s real, it’s really happening. The pomp, the celebration of our love, the witnesses, the vows. And then, our life together — probably not much different than it is now — but we will be married. And maybe soon (if the Supreme Court does the right thing) our marriage will be legal.

I am extremely joyful, yes I am.

Happy Friday.

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My Nordic Adventure: A Tribute to Bikes in Denmark

05/23/13

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The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark were the number of bicycles, and how relatively few cars there were on the road. There are bicycles everywhere. Old women on bicycles, kids on bicycles, large people on bicycles. Nearly everyone rides a bike in Denmark. Bikes are especially popular in Copenhagen. At every street corner, they are lined up. And every street has a bike path. Rain or shine (or snow) Danes ride their bikes. It’s really an inspiring sight to see. Also, here’s a nice little blurb on the Official Website of Denmark on Bicycle Culture.

Have a wonderful Thursday, friends!

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Design*Sponge Sketchbook Series

05/22/13

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In the last few years I have begun keeping a sketchbook, mostly for doodling my ideas, a few of which turn into things like wallpaper and tea towels (never underestimate the power of doodling!). Currently Design*Sponge is hosting a sketchbook series, and they asked me to be part of it. I am thrilled to present some shots of my sketchbooks and a little interview. Head on over to Design*Sponge to check it out.

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Happy hump day!

CATEGORIES: Drawings | Inspiration | Press
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Sebastion Copeland :: Into the Cold

05/21/13

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{Beauty emerges as the ice retreats in the Arctic}

I’ve written many times before about my love for the Arctic, along with the brave film makers and photographers who document its beauty and demise. Camille Seaman, Simone Harsent, and James Balog are all very inspiring to me. This past weekend, I learned about the work of another filmmaker/photographer, Sebastian Copeland, who recently released a film about his gripping expedition to the North Pole called Into the Cold.  The film retraces two men’s dramatic trek to the rapidly vanishing North Pole. Over the course of two months, 400+ miles, and -50F temperatures, the two men (Copeland and his friend) make their way to the most Northern spot on earth. The expedition commemorates the centennial of Admiral Peary’s reach in 1909 (you can view awesome photos of that expedition here). “One hundred years from now, there will be no bicentennial expedition on foot to the North Pole, for the ice there will have long since gone,” says Copeland. This fact makes the film all the more compelling.

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In addition to the North Pole, Copeland has extensively traveled through the arctic, including the Antarctica and Greenland, documenting the ice and animal life. He uses photography as a platform for activism, and I love what he says about it: “Helping people fall in love with their world is a catalyst to wanting to save it.” Below are a few of my favorite photographs from his portfolio.

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Copeland founded a foundation to increase awareness about the effects of global warming on the arctic. You can read more about SEDNA here.

CATEGORIES: Inspiration
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Leah Giberson

05/17/13

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Hands down, one of my favorite painters of all time is Boston aritst Leah Giberson. I had the privilege of meeting Leah and showing her work when I ran a small gallery in San Francisco several years ago. Leah’s work depicts mostly suburban scenes — houses, motor homes, pools, poolsides, yard furniture — and she is known for her crisp and detailed renderings based on actual photographs. She strips the imagery down to its most essential elements, eliminating much of the background noise but keeping that which is the most interesting (reflections and shadows, for example). Leah’s ability to render the metallic sheen & reflections on vintage motor homes is insanely good.

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In 2010, I bought the piece below from Leah and it sits in my living room. It is part of a series she did (which you can see by scrolling through this set) in which she painted many of the iconic mid-century homes of the Westlake neighborhood of Daly City, California (which is right outside San Francisco). It is one of my favorite series that Leah has ever painted, though I am also smitten with her lawn chairs.

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If you enjoy Leah’s work as much as I do and would like updates on new paintings, you can follow her on Facebook.

Happy Friday, friends. See you Monday.

CATEGORIES: Inspiration
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All Hands on Deck Wedding

05/16/13

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My wedding is just 16 days away and the whole thing is becoming very real all of a sudden. Maybe some of you who have gotten married know what I am talking about? Over night, the wedding day goes from being this abstract event far in the future to something that is actually happening very soon. Thankfully, I am feeling more excited than stressed about all of it. One of the amazing things about this day is that so many of our friends have been involved in making it happen. Our friend Elizabeth Clayton is helping us coordinate the entire event. Anna Dorfman designed the invitations and website. Bonnie Tsang is photographing the day. Diana Fayt is painting rocks for the tables. My cousin Robin is helping us to plan the ceremony and will be officiating. My sister is doing the flowers. And last weekend, nine of my friends came over to help make the decorations (which Grace Bonney and Victoria Smith will use to decorate the event space). How lucky are we to have such talented and generous friends?

Yes, very. I pinch myself every day.

We have decided to go with a neon pink, grey and white color theme, but we’ll also be including some pale pinks, silvers, browns and golds in the decor as well.

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{These small “poufs” — as we’ve come to call them — will go on the backs of chairs tied with grey ribbon. We made 102 of them!}

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{My friend Lauren Smith was the master wreath maker. Photo by Lorena Siminovich}

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{Toothpicks and stickers make the best cupcake toppers! Photo by Lisa Solomon}

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{Can you spot Wilfredo? Photo by Rena Tom}

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{Our dining room is currently filled with tissue paper goodies. Photo by Clay Walsh}

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{Our recycle bin looked pretty when we were finished. Photo by Rena Tom}

Happy Thursday.

 

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My Nordic Adventure: On Hugging an Icelandic Horse

05/15/13

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Meeting an Icelandic horse was perhaps one of the single most magical moments of one of the best days of my life. Icelandic horses are unique to Iceland. They are relatively short and have two gaits. They have gorgeous long, thick manes. In three words: they are special. I have always loved horses, and it was a particular dream of mine to meet and hug an Icelandic horse. When I got to Iceland I didn’t know how I was going to make that happen. Most of them are somewhat wild (you see them everywhere), but I didn’t know how I could get close enough to one to make eye to eye contact. One of the days I was in Iceland, the cousin of an Icelandic friend of mine took me for a drive along the South Coast. She asked me what I wanted to do. I said, “I want to hug an Icelandic horse.” So every time we saw horses on our drive that day, she stopped her car to see if we could get close enough. And sure enough, at one stop, we met the most beautiful, most friendly group of horses. And I hugged them. I will never forget that day.

Happy Wednesday.

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My Next Book :: 20 Ways to Draw a Tulip

05/14/13

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As I’ve mentioned recently, I’ve been working on three different books in the last several months. I am so happy to announce one of them: 20 Ways to Draw a Tulip and 44 Other Fabulous Flowers: A Sketchbook for Artists, Designers and Doodlers. Published by Quarry, this book will be released in 2014, and includes 45 flowers, each drawn 20 different ways — yes, that’s 900 flower drawings! It was a huge undertaking, but really pretty fun for me. I just finished all of the drawings and the 45 layouts for the book yesterday, so I am feeling really excited.

Happy Tuesday!

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Etsy Shop Closure & Revamp

05/10/13

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Hello friends! Exciting news: I’m getting married! Oh, wait. You already knew that. Anyhow, because I’m getting married, I’m closing my beolved Etsy Shop for a few weeks. And while it’s closed I’m going to shake things up a little bit: new products and new prints!

What does that mean for you? It means if you want to place an order or are in love with something in my shop, purchase it before May 15, because I’m closing that day and won’t reopen until June 12 (and some of the items you see in my shop will no longer be there when I reopen).

Have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be back Monday with a Reconstructionist who happens also to be of my favorite poets.

CATEGORIES: For Sale | New in my Shop
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On Giving Fear a Bear Hug

05/09/13

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As you may know if you read this blog regularly: I reached a point recently in which I realized I had taken on way too much in my life. I also decided to use this experience as a catalyst for change. You can read the post I wrote about all of that here. It’s been almost a month since I wrote that blog post. For context, let me also say that the period during which that blog post was written I had a small but intense nervous breakdown — a breakdown in which I fantasized every day about leaving my life and my work obligations and running away to Hawaii.

I am happy to report I am making progress and no longer having escape fantasies (details to follow shortly).

I wrote another post recently about Owning All of It, and in that piece I was mostly talking about the experience of writing a book (which I am doing for the first time ever), and earlier in February I was thinking a lot about Embracing All of It, which is sort of the same thing. The idea is that life is always filled with some difficulty — no matter how hard we try to avoid and escape it. Sometimes our choices create the difficulty, sure (and we must work to make choices that support our well being) but sometimes it’s just stuff that happens in our lives that we cannot control. The idea is to not fight or try to escape the hard stuff (whether we’ve chosen it or not), but rather to give all of it a big bear hug. I am not a Buddhist, but I love to read Buddhist teachings because I think they offer a lot of wisdom in this regard: don’t try to run away from your fear, but get to know it intimately. Use it as your teacher. Let your difficulties make you more human and compassionate.  Easier said than done, but ultimately, if you get to know your most fraught emotions, they will no longer control you. And you will also become a more loving person toward others.

I am working on getting to know my fears: fears about having too much work, fears about not having enough work, fears about who I am, my identity, my life, my future. Just sitting with stuff, not necessarily trying to fix it. Every day that I do this I feel slightly more relaxed and my fears are having less and less power. But I also realize that getting to know my fears is a lifelong practice — meditation and yoga help, as do reading and writing, taking walks, and breaks and time to relax. I have been doing all of those things in spades in the last month since my breakdown. But I also realize I can’t just do all of those things now. I need to do all of those things as long as I am alive. I am naturally wired to worry. I have been a chronic worrier since I was six. This is my life’s work.

Like everyone, I have a yearning to be happy. I have a lot of things in my life that I thought would make me happy: a gorgeous and loving partner, ample work with great clients, a lovely home. All of those things do bring me joy; but ultimately happiness comes from not being blown by every wind, from being at peace, from not giving in to fear, and from relaxing in the present moment, whatever it is.

Over the last month since I had my breakdown and wrote about it, I have gotten countless emails from people who have gone through a similar experience or are going through one right now. This reminds me that we are never alone. We think we are alone and that our experience separates us. But, in fact, we all experience this to one degree or another. Thank you to everyone who has written to me. I have not had time to respond to everyone, but your emails and thoughts are heartfelt.

Have a great Thursday.

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Jenny Gray

05/08/13

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{INDUSTRIAL 30X30, oil on canvas by Jenny Gray}

It’s funny sometimes how you discover the work of another artist. Last night Clay and I were watching the latest episode of Mad Men, and during one of the scenes Clay interrupted, “That painting there, on the wall behind Ken Cosgrove, that’s by Jim’s the sister-in-law!” I used the controls on my computer to back up the scene slightly, and sure enough, there was a beautiful abstract painting on the wall. Jim, who is a dear friend and coworker of Clay’s, had posted about his sister-in-law’s painting on Mad Men (and a link to her website) earlier yesterday on Facebook. I thought the painting was beautiful, so after the show was over, I went to the website of Jenny Gray and took a gander.

I very quickly fell in love with her shapes, color combinations & layers. I love graphic elements,  the way she plays with hard and soft, and the obscured references to architecture and landscape. And the colors? Did I mention the colors? If I were an abstract painter, this is the kind of painter I’d like to be.

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{PART OF THE STORY 20″X24″” Oil on Canvas}

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{DETAIL NO. 2 48×48, oil on canvas}

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{THE ADDITION 30X30, oil on canvas}

Lucky for us, Jenny also sells originals and prints of her work on Etsy. I’m now saving my pennies for one of her paintings.

Happy Wednesday, friends.

CATEGORIES: Inspiration
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My Studio Mate :: Jamie Vasta

05/07/13

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{Jamie and one of her glittered skulls; all photos by Klea McKenna for IN THE MAKE}

Most of you know that recently I moved my home to Oakland, and with it, my studio. I moved into a warehouse space in East Oakland with my dear friend, artist Jamie Vasta. Jamie and I have a long history as both friends and studio mates. We met seven years ago in 2006 when we both began to sublet studios that were right next to each other in the same building in the Dogpatch neighborhood in San Francisco. We instantly liked each other and became fast friends and confidants. In 2008 when our sublets expired, we moved together to the studio that I kept until earlier this year. Eventually Jamie moved out of that studio (when she moved to Oakland a few years ago) and I took that space over as my own. Jamie moved into the space in Oakland that I recently moved into. We keep coming back to working close together, and I could not be happier! Jamie is a treasure (more on that below). Our current space a huge converted light-filled warehouse divided into three sections: Jamie has one, I have the second and two other artists share the third space.

I’ve been wanting to share with you some of Jamie’s work and I recently came across a fantastic interview with her and some stunning images of Jamie & her work taken by Klea McKenna for the artist studio project IN THE MAKE. I’d heard of IN THE MAKE before, as they had featured another close friend, Wendy MacNaughton; I was particularly impressed with how they captured Jamie’s work, her process and her materials. You see, Jamie’s materials and process are not typical! She “paints” in glitter!

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Jamie got her BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Art Boston and her MFA from California College of the Arts. Early on in her schooling, she took to glitter as her medium and has never wavered since, despite some protestation within her academic environments. Her persistence in using glitter has worked well for her. In 2006, shortly after finishing her MFA, she signed with the prestigious Patricia Sweetow Gallery in San Francisco where she has had two major solo shows. Jamie’s work is also included in the permanent collection at the Berkeley Art Museum.

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It’s hard to describe the extent to which Jamie’s work, even in the last seven years I have known her, has evolved and the extent to which her technique with glitter has become more refined. She has taken her work to levels of intricacy I never would have thought possible. Jamie’s attention to detail is awe inspiring for me, as is her openness to trying to new things. In her interview with IN THE MAKE she notes, “I’m very persistent, and a bit of a plodder- I’ll keep working with the same technique, trying to push and refine what I can do with it, but the big leaps in my process have usually come after several years of people suggesting that I try something- exposing the wood panel, for instance, or mixing my own neutral tones. Finally I give in and try it, and pow! It changes everything.”

Jamie typically works in very distinct, mostly dark and very dramatic themes, and her approach is fascinating. Her entire IN THE MAKE interview is wonderful. You can read it here.

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{Detail from Sirens 3, an enormous work by Jamie for her 20o9 show at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery}

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Working next to Jamie again is a dream come true. Not only do I get to see the work that she makes as she’s making it, but I also get to hang out with her. Jamie is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I know. She’s also incredibly smart. When I am painting, I can always turn to her for feedback on what I should do to fix any problems in my work, and her advice is always so precise. I love hearing her perspective on whatever I’m grappling with on a particular day (personally, creatively or otherwise). I am so happy to be sharing a space with her again.

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{One of my favorite paintings by Jamie, entitled Fillide, 1596}

The gorgeous photos in this post of Jamie and her studio would not be possible without generous permission from IN THE MAKE. IN THE MAKE is a collaboration between photographer Klea McKenna and writer Nikki Grattan, who document the studios and practices of west coast artists. About their project: “Through visiting artists in their studios we learn about each artist’s space, process, influences, and the behind-the-scenes elements that are often unseen in a gallery or museum setting. We document these visits with the hope of revealing both the richness and the daily realities of creative work. Our aim is to raise interest in art practice, while simultaneously debunking the romantic myth of the artist. We recognize that creative work is real work, done by real, passionate people in all sorts of different spaces. We are not art critics, but rather deeply curious observers; looking for the ways that each artist’s aesthetic pervades their environment and reveals their perspective.”

After documenting Bay Area (and some LA) artists for 2 years Klea and Nikki are now currently on an epic roadtrip/tour called Western Edge, from Tijuana to Vancouver, all the way up the west coast, during which they are visiting 40 contemporary artists. They will be publishing those visits over the coming year.  While they are on their trip they are also posting Fieldnotes about their experience. You can check out this wonderful project in its entirety here, and view the list of artists they’ve featured here.

Happy Tuesday!

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