Monthly Archives: May 2014

Catching up…

Been a minute since last I posted… When I last left off I was moving out of my house in VA, packing up my car and driving to my folks in FL. My dad had recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and the prognosis was pretty damn grim. Terminal, I believe is the word. Trust me when I say, a lot has happened since then…

Florida, in a nutshell- was about family. The day after I got there, my sister arrived from Italy, and my brother came in from Seattle. It has been over 10 years since the three of us have been ‘home’ at the same time. I say ‘home’ but, really- it is where our parents retired to. We never lived there. So really, it was the first time my parents had all of us in THEIR home. And it was wonderful.

My dad had his team assembled for a fun week prior to his surgery! He’s one of those guys who just loves having his kids all home. Mom does too, but she was still carrying dads diagnosis and pending surgery on her shoulders, and it was wearing her down. We all had a good time, to be sure, and his BP was the lowest it has been since this whole ordeal began.

His surgery was on April 4 at the Moffett Cancer Research Center in Tampa, FL. I can’t say enough good things about that place! I felt better after seeing the facilities and meeting the people who were taking care of my dad. Truthfully, it was a night and day difference between his cancer experience and my own. Obviously our prognoses were a big factor, but even just how it was handled was amazing. I had a form letter, with a date for “your cancer surgery.” That was how I found out I had cancer. A filled in form letter. Dad has an extensive team of brilliant, compassionate professionals and a hospital that offers both cutting edge trials, new advances and holistic approaches. They treat the whole patient, AND the family that is going through cancer with them. Amazing.

So, since his surgery… Dad had a radical lymphendectomy (sp.), tumours removed from his throat (near esophagus) and upper back (dead center on the spine). His back, (ground zero– the original tumour that raised the alarms) was originally going to require a skin graft, but instead they were able to do a wide excision. Good news!!! Dad has a large scar across his upper back, another under his arm, and a third that runs from below his ear down his clavicle.

His surgery was about 6 hours long, and he came through like a champ. Surgery was on Friday, and he came home Monday morning after I left for my cross country trek. He amazes me on a regular basis… His next check up will be Wednesday, but as of right now, the doctors seem confident that they got it all, and he may not even need chemo or radiation!! Seriously! Did I. Entire. His doctors are brilliant? Chairmen of the Sarcoma and Melanoma departments. He had the best of the best, and is healing beyond our wildest expectations. My dad IS beating the odds. My dad IS kicking cancers ass, one nap at a time right now… ❤

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Westward Expansion Part 2: Road Dawgs and Tails

So, back to the actual trip!
4/7 @ 9am– vet visit for health cert.
@ 11 am– left The Villages, FL


Oliver and Sophie, all packaged up in their ‘to-go’ gear! Let the Crash Course to Crating begin!


Oliver? Apprehensive


Sophie…was unimpressed.

@ 7 pm — arrived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana stayed at La Quinta!
***La Quinta Baton Rouge was well appointed, clean, and didn’t feel like a dog hotel! 🙂 highly recommend!



20140407_200000 The La Quinta Lobby in Baton Rouge was very modern, clean and gave the feeling you were staying somewhere fancier! 😉


This was the breakfast room– they even had Belgian waffles!


This is the face of a pup who was VERY glad to be out of the car…He spent most of the night bouncing from bed to bed– he enjoyed jumping on the beds immensely.


As I said, it was a nice big room, and although there are no pics here, the bathroom was equally modern and clean.


Not a bad first impression at all… ! Also, since I had notified them in advance that I was traveling with dogs, they put me in a room on the ground floor near the side exit where the ‘dog-park’ (complete with baggies) was located.

        >>> Sights seen along the way: a dead alligator (belly up, no less) and drove through a blinding road strangler of a storm, FL, MS, AL, LA


Aligator heads, feet, hands/claws, teeth as decor and accessories…because we’re in the South!

4/8 @9am– left Baton Rouge
@ 5pm — arrived in Segovia, Texas (middle of NOWHERE!) Econo Lodge.


Ok. You’ve surely heard how everything is big in Texas, right?? Well. Lemmetellya.. WHat you are looking at is not a mop. That long handle is on a squeegee. You know– the gas station staple for bathing the bugs on your windshield? Yup. In TX, apparently, even the squeegee handles are big. (* Side note: I saw one in use by a steretypical Texan: cowboy boots, hat, and satellite sized belt buckle, gassing up his beast of a pickup truck. The long handle suddenly made all the sense in the world…)


“WATCH OUT FOR SNAKES”… I think that’s how Texans say “welcome?”

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Welcome to the Lonestar state!


Although this looks like a proper Texan lobby… the tv was blaring a Bollywood Dance sequence that was  most awesome…


Allright, so what you are looking at here, is a lobby shrine. A shrine to what? Well hell, son, glad you asked! Anyone! Pick a deity! Mary? Check. Jesus? Check. Buddha? check. A Hindu god whose name escapes me? Check. A Firebird? Check. Light a candle, sweetgrass, incense and worship accordingly.


Oops– also a Yogi. Namaste.



So, this is the front desk at the Econo Lodge in Segovia/Junction Texas. I think the towns population was 25. This back wall was pure magic to this travelers eyes… Framed cowboys, a Velvet Indian, VFW paperwork for the owner (Thank you!) and –of course– framed Elvis. I died. This wall of wonders made my day.


So, this was the view from the parkinglot. Not much out there… The friendly lady at the desk cautioned me to ‘keep my dogs on leashes, as there is wildlife out there. Coyotes, snakes, etc.’ That was enough for me to determine the pups would be peeing in the small grassy area under the motel sign…No way in hell was I going out there.


“Whose bike is that?” “It’s not a bike, it’s a chopper.” “Whose chopper is that?” “Zed’s.” “Who’s Zed?” “Zed’s dead, baby… Zed’s Dead…” ALL I could think of was Pulp Fiction when I saw this lone bike in front of the motel. That vehicle in the distance? Yeah, that’s the NavWif-Mobile. My car.


Cue the music from those old westerns: dudda-dudda-duhhh, wah-wah-waaaah…dudda-dudda-duhh, wah-wah-waaaaahhhhh…. Imagine a tumbleweed blowing by, as a lonely coyote howls inthe distance. Where in the world WAS I?!


Remember the lady warning me about the ‘wildlife’? Well. No prob. My pups wanted NOTHING to do with that desert nature stuff. No way. NO how.


Sweet Sophie. She wasn’t AT ALL interested in leaving the relative comfort of the room.


Ah yes. The room. It was clean. It was functional. It was old. It was bed-bug free. (Believe me. I checked. Twice.)


I said it was bed bug free. I make no such guarantees against spaniel infestations.

** Econo Lodge was dated, kinda dicey, with only a truckstop available for food! Not my first choice (LaQuinta Kerrville was booked up) but it worked. However– be Careful with your pups: coyotes, rattlesnakes and scorpions in the area!!
>>>sights seen along the way: a bunch of dead armadillos (they suck at road crossings), tumble weeds (they don’t stand a chance when you hit them at 75 mph), sand, long stretches of NOTHING, rest areas with rattlesnake and scorpion warnings, and our middle of nowhere motel: population 25…. The lobby was decorated in cowboy, paintings of  Natives on black velvet (not kidding!) , framed Elvis, a shrine to about 5 different religions, and the tv was blaring a Bollywood dance sequence. LA, and the first half of TX

4/9 @ 9am — left Segovia,TX
@ 5 pm — arrived in Deming, NM : LaQuinta (again, clean, comfy, well appointed and this one had a small fenced in dog park! Which made me feel better, after the previous nights coyote concerns…)


This picture is important for two reasons: the intriguing rock formations (like tables or a mini-badlands) and the sheer amount of NOTHING in my rear view mirror.


Well now THAT is convenient. Here I am, driving through the middle of nowhere, and a giant truck of coffee pulls ahead of me. It was like hanging a carrot in front of the mule… (*Side note: although hydrationis super-important in the desert, restrooms are nearly non-existent and there is NOTHING to pee behind. Ration your liquids ladies, and download the restroom/rest area finder apps on your phones for reference!)


That, right there, is a giant bronze Roadrunner. Apparently, it is the patron saint of Fort Stockton, Texas.


These are Texas trees. I have no idea what they are..But their spiky-bushiness amused me.


ALMOST done with Texas!!! And trust me.. I was way past done with Texas… No offense to Texans, but that is one giant state of nothing when driving through it on the highway. Friendly suggestion: you wanna shake that boring-borderline-hostile ride? Put in some restareas!! With restaurants, and gas stations! Holy Hannah, it’s a captive audience– there are NO turn offs, you WILL get business! Take a cue from the New York State Throughway! They have a bajillion rest areas, all with wonderful facilities along the way!


heh heh heh… GO ahead. You know your first thought was Oregon Trail. I am happy to report, nobody had to go hunting, no wagon wheels were broken, no bodies of water (AT ALL) so no fording river accidents, and nobody died of dysentery. Thank g-d…


Whole lotta nothing out there,,,


This is great.. You can’t see it, but one of the buildings here actually said Truck Stop.


This just cracked me up. Middle of nowhere, a strip bar. FFS. How’s a stripper supposed to work her way through college in a town of 7?! 😉

20140409_141401 20140409_141316 20140409_141308 20140409_133921 20140410_142611 20140409_104113 20140409_104201 Look at all that…Nothing…..
>>> sights seen: cacti, trains, sheriffs, tractor trailer with sheriff star on it, another with ‘Gold rush’ on it and a third with ‘stage coach’ on it!! More tumbleweeds, sand, some rocky hills, oil wells, trains

4/10 @ 9am — left Deming, NM


Approaching Border Patrol


Border patrol on the horizon!


A few more of those friendly signs.. now it’s not just Snakes I’m looking out for, it’s scorpions too! YES! (groan, nooooo….)

20140410_093548   20140410_093542
@ 4 pm — arrived in San Diego,CA ( Motel 6 near airport) ** the room was huge, the location convenient, but the beds were awful! However, for just one night? Doable.
>>> sights seen: roadrunner sculpture, trailer parks, ghost town, Tombstone & Boot Hill, the border to Mexico, went through a couple of Border patrol pit-stops, saw seguaro cacti (seguaro natl forest, actually), drove through 5 reservations, several canyons, saw a sign for curly horned rams, and then finally the sun setting on the bay of San Diego.

But first… a few pics of Mexico,and New Mexico, and California…The ride started getting prettier from here on out…

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Here are a bunch of pics from when I dropped off the pups at cargo…


Here are the crates with my babies inside… You can see the stickers on the crates, as well as the ziplock bags of food, taped to the tops.


Here, you can see the little collapsible food (green) and water bowls (blue- behind the green) I attached with a carabiner to the cage door. That orange tag is actually a QR code, with all my contact info on it, as well as Sophies flgiht info, destination info and how to reach Island Pet Movers. I made sure both cages (and collars!) had these on them in case there was ANY question where these guys belonged and who to call to get them there! The two waterbowls in the crate are filled with ice. (Filled and froze the bowls the night before)


Again, you can see the bowls carabiner’d (is that a word??) to the door, the orange QR code tag, and the LIVE ANIMAL stickers all over the crates. The cargo dudes put the leashes in a ziplock on each crate top, along with the ziplock of food. Also on top of crate (can’t see it here) is the 2 copies (one for airline, one for Hawaiian agriculture) of the vets Health Certs.


Man… this was SO HARD. Putting my babies in crates, loading them on the thingy and watching them get rolled away for flight prep… However, the cargo dudes at Hawaiian/Delta (Hawaiian ships cargo out of the Delta cargo area) were excellent, and since the warehouse was dim and quiet, the pups were pretty damn calm.


Through the fence… (not allowed to go through- this point forward is controlled access)


Whimper. They did fine. I was a wreck.


This dude, putting the airline zipties on the crates… (The airline has special re-usable ones, so they can get your animal out in an emergency). So, even though everything online says you have to ziptie the crate– call your airlines cargo peeps. They may tell you otherwise.


Take care of my babies, Cargo Dudes… They’re all I have…


Bye guys… I’ll see you in Hawaii… ❤ ❤

4/11 @ 7am– brought pups to cargo building at San Diego Airport (process took about 30 minutes!)
@ 8am — brought car to be detailed and washed (took an hour and a half, during which time I got breakfast with a Navy buddy of my folks!)
@ 10 am — brought car to Pasha to ship out! This took (I kid you not) about 10 minutes. Recall , shipping SeaMonkeys car took about 3 hours?! Amazing.
@11 am— returned to hotel with Navy Buddy to pick up other Navy Buddy (NavWif2) and luggage, and got dropped off at new hotel: Wyndham Bayside San Diego (not pet friendly, not cheap, but a view of the bay!)


The view from our window…South tower, 2nd floor. (*If you stay here, I suggest requesting a higher floor– we were about level with the rooftop of the RuthsChris Steakhouse in front of us. Go up a few floors for a clear view of the bay!)


DOwn the road a bit form our hotel… It reminded me of both the Verizon ad (how many bars..?) and a lesson on one point perspective I taught my 4th grade art class.


Why didn’t I imagine there would be skyscrapers in San Diego? Huh. Who knew?


View of the Midway from my room…


4/12 spent the day enjoying San Diego! Check out the Seaport Village and parks near the Midway! And NO. I did NOT go on board. I’ve been on enough damn Navy ships at this point…. 😉
>>> sights seen: d-day kiss statue, several military monuments, fantastic outdoor village (styled after a Hispanic marketplace)


The Midway… hilariously (to me) it has a cafe on the fantail, complete with bistor tables and umbrellas…


I’m a sucker for a sailors kiss… 😉


Coolest damn trees!!!


The little jetty of the park behind the sailor and nurse… which are beside the Midway

And now for a million pictures of that statue I love so much… 😉 20140411_132313(0) 20140411_132502 20140411_132440 20140411_132430 20140411_132418 20140411_132403 20140411_132359 20140411_132323 20140411_132313

Not far from here, was another statue/ monument to the armed forces (GO NAVY!) nearby: 20140411_133136 20140411_133249 20140411_133200 20140411_133155_1 20140411_133152 Forgive me for not remembering the exact nature of this monument.. it was beautiful though. His face is so expressive. ❤

20140411_133407 20140411_145344 20140411_134232 20140411_134224 20140411_134209 20140411_133443 Funny little sights along the way to (and including) the Seaport Village area (which was fabulous!!)

(**Side note: everybody raves about the Gaslamp District. Meh. I was unimpressed. Perhaps I am jaded from having grown up in/ spending so much time in cities, but really– Gaslamp was any restaurant/bar district in any city. Nothing exciting. I did enjoy a chili-pepper and mango margarita there, and was treated to the sight of a shirtless dude (not the kind you would want to see..) wearing one of those Mexican Wrestler masks, and workin’ a shake weight as he strolled along. Really. It made my trip to Gaslamp worth while. (as did the margarita!) Given a time limit– skip Gaslamp, and spend more time in Balboa Park! It houses the San Diego Zoo, Cultural centers, museums, gardens, parks, etc. MUCH cooler. Also– the Zoo is an ALL DAY affair. Plan for it.)

4/13 spent the day at San Diego Zoo, and enjoyed dinner at the hotel pub: The Elephant and Castle
>>> sights seen: peacocks, flamingos, parrots, monkeys, dewy, gazelles, oxen, pandas, gorillas, lions, tiger, cheetahs, bears, rhinos giraffes, hippos, pandas, and lots of “deer-goat like things” 😉


This baby was presh. She was so serious about consulting her Zoo Map, while studying the peacock and flamingos! I loved the little ‘Uncle Traveling Matt’ hat as well… 🙂


Well now, you’re just showing off…


A meercat… could it be any cuter?


Capuchin Monkey…. I had a student who owned one as a pet. Wretched little thing was cute as could be, but the kid was constantly being bitten by it!








Okay. Seriously. I am 5ft tall, and this thing was on the damn ground. They ALL were in this particular restroom (the one near the parrots)!! It was a… squatty potty??


FFS. My knees never stood a chance…


Not being a zoologist, I was able to divvy up all zoo animals into my own version of phyllum and classes: monkey things, goat-deer things, and animals I could recognize. This was a goat-deer thing. Try not to be intimidated by my astounding knowledge… 😉


Sleepy lioness… majestic queen… with her tongue sticking out.


I have better shots somewhere…


Yes. This is a camel.


Red Pandas…? I think..? Lovable snuggabugs was what I dubbed them though.


Snoozy Koala.


A sassy giraffe, sticking out it’s tongue!


Stripes. Vertical and horizontal!




Just a lady out for a stroll… with her cheetah.


So, the San Diego Zoo has a Buddy Program that pairs up jungle cats with a domesticated dog buddy. I’m not sure how this works exactly, but here comes a buddy pair…


This bear…is apparently a vegetarian! (Okay, it’s not really,but here he is enjoying a salad)


Dum de dum… just a bear…


Oh Panda Gurrrrll…. I feel ya. My back end looks about the same. I don’t think they’re ready for this jelly! 😉


I see you eating your bamboo vegetarian special … panda gurl on a diet? You go on and eat Boo.. you’re beautiful!


So, here’s this little bamboo forest, with all these carved in names and initials .


THIS is why we can’t have nice things!!!!


…and then I found my and my husbands initials…womp womp…


This is actually the view of MOST of the animals I saw at the zoo. They saw me and my camera, and promptly presented their asses. I edited most out for braggers rights (oh, these photos? The animals just came to me!) but for you, dear reader: the truth. I went to the zoo and saw a lot of Critter Booty and Zoo porn. Now you know.


A side eye from a hippo!! WHAT!?


I was fascinated by the whiskers. It reminded me of when you use those little Biore strips, and rip ’em off, and see all that pore-debris sticking off the strip like a scalped hedgehog…(Oh c’mon… you were thinking it too! …right?)


Serious note– this guy made me sad. There are so few rhinos left in the world, and here’s the one I get to see. Looking sad and depressed in his little ‘habitat’ that no matter how you slice it , is still too small for this creature. My heart actually broke for this guy. 😦

4/14 explored SanDiego and it’s Gaslamp district, then got picked up by Navy Buddy for dinner with his family up in Cardiff. It was beautiful!! Sunset on the ocean dinner surrounded by new friends and surfboards, it was perfect. 🙂
>>> sights seen: Mango margarita with chili powder on the rim, dude walking down the street topless using a shake weight and wearing a Mexican wrestler mask (Lucha libre?) , sunset on the ocean signs for surfer crossings


I loved this– it was covering up a construction site, but employed an artist! 🙂


Pretty Mosaic obelisk


The architecture here is pretty interesting


This was in the gaslamp district– again, it’s nice enough, ut really? AnyCity USA


Beautiful architecture on these old buildings!


Yeah buddy….. Mango Margarita, on the rocks, no salt, sub salt with chili pepper and crushed red. FANTASTIC.


House of Blues ceiling…


I enjoy public art. 🙂


Um. I heart this completely!


This artwork made me smile! 😀


I just love this!


Dear Nan Coffey– I am now a huge fan of your artwork!


I like the Spanish influences in this city


Sunset from Cardiff by the Sea


Cardiff by the Sea (Thanks to my folks Navy buddies Chuck & Wendy for taking me in for an evening!) 🙂


I tried, multiple times, to get a good “Sunset Selfie”. but, typical me… I ended upwith a series of pictures that looked like Calvin and Hobbes on Picture Day at school. The only one I got, where you could really see my face was this one. Making a perplexed duckface, that I SWEAR to you was unintentional. I do not do duckface. I mock it. Here? It mocked me…


Yeah. Hair and sunset. Naturally.


This place is gorgeous…


Seagrass AND sunset?! This could TOTALLY be an album cover form the 70’s!! Judy Collins maybe??


“YB divided”… Y indeed, surfing philosopher… Y indeed…




A golden sunset… nice way to say see ya later Mainland USA! (By looking to the ocean..?)


Out of sequence– but here’s the Gaslamp District again… :/


…and again with the public art…

4/15: updating my blog while flying to Honolulu, as I write this!! 🙂

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Westward Expansion: Doggie Details

****PLEASE NOTE: these tips although solid and legit, are NOT all-emcompassing! There is a LOT involved in shipping your fuzzball to the island of Hawaii. Please be sure you get the complete ‘checklist for 5-day or less program’  from the military vet (civilian vets seldom have them) and cross check it with the Hawaiian Dept of Agriculture!! I’m jotting stuff down as I remember them in retrospect now, but will try to create a seperate post with a more thorough list later!****


Well, it took me 4 days to drive cross country. I left Florida @ 11 am Monday April 7, and pulled into SanDiego around 5 pm Thursday evening. The way I planned my route was simple: go straight. Stop after 9 hrs. I used a website called TravelMath, to help plot out my stopping points ahead of time. (Remember: I went from VA to FL in March, to be with my family first– so this part of thr trip was FL to CA) This way I was able to be sure I had a pet friendly reservation for every night. Nothing worse than hitting exhaustion point and having nowhere safe to sleep!! Courtesy of such sites as BringFido and PetFriendlyHotels— I had a safe and clean place to crash every night of my journey.

So anyway, I Left The Villages, FL @ 11 am. I had planned on an earlier start, but decided to get my pups pre-flight check /vet appt out of the way. This appointment, must be done within 10 days prior to flight. Now, obviously it is a better idea to leave a few days flex, just in case of flight delays! I had planned on the pups flying with me on the 14th, which put me at 7 days, with 3 to spare. Plans changed though, and they ended up flying out on Friday the 11th ahead of me! (Thank goodness I didn’t wait until San Diego to get that vet appt!! ) ***As a reminder, during this appointment you MUST get a certificate (or even a notation!) of acclimation, in addition to the health certificate and a note from the doctor stating that they applied a flea and tick preventative like Frontline or Advantix 2. Be sure you get seperate certs for EACH animal! The vet I went to tried to give me one cert with both pups info on it. No bueno. Each animal crate MUST have an original AND a copy of the form for each pup carried within the crate. Place the original (BLUE INK) in an envelope or page protector taped to the top of the crate and write on it “for Hawaiian Agriculture Use ONLY! DO NOT REMOVE” and a seperate envelope containing the xerox copy for the airlines. They will keep that copy for their records,so you don’t want them grabbing the wrong one! Be careful! Now, the Letter of Acclimation… That is actually just a line or two from the vet hat specifically states that your pet cannot be left on the Tarmac or in any space for longer than 15 minutes of it doesn’t register between certain temps. (**Actual wording, courtesy of our pet movers: “Pet can be transferred between cargo facility and aircraft for periods not longer than  15 minutes in temperatures between 20 and 85 degrees.”)

The crates also must have a gallon sized Ziplock baggie of food (in case of delays!). This will be taped by the cargo people to the top of the crate. I suggest writing your pets name and what brand/flavor food is contained therein, (esp. if your pup has any wheat allergies!!) as well as amount given. Just in case. Since my pups were being picked up by the pet movers early (again: Island Pet Movers, they are WONDERFUL!) and boarded for a few days (long weekend) I also bought 2 collapsible bowls each, attached them to the outside of the crate door with a carabiner and wrote their names and food instructions on the bottoms. Inside the crates, you need to have an absorbent thing (diaper pad type thing) and for their comfort, I also put in 2 crate pads (like dog beds) underneath the potty pad. I’m not optimistic that the potty pad served it’s purpose (my dogs love to shred paper, so really….expectations are not high). My theory was, if one crate cushion was soiled, it can be tossed and there would be a clean one underneath. I know they aren’t intended to be disposable, but we all know our pets… 😉 They cannot have any toys, but I spoke to the cargo dudes, and they let me tuck a little (no longer stuffed) bee in a Baggie on their crates for them to play with when they get to the boarding facility.

Now,the flight… My pups flew cargo. Believe it or not, there is NO difference between flying as excess baggage and as cargo. None. Same place on the plane! However, by flying them cargo, you check them in ahead of your flight– In a separate building all together. You aren’t stuck with 2 stressed puppies in crates, being dragged/wheeled/carried through a busy airport. I don’t know about your dogs– but mine would be barking and stressed by that. The way this worked out, I brought them to cargo, presented my paperwork, and held each pup as they checked the crates for contraband. Once that was done, they secured the crates with their own zip ties,added some hardware to Oliver’s crate (each crate must have 4 screws down each side!!) and they kept the crates side by side on a flat dolly type mover in their warehouse until flight time. It was relatively dark, cool, and quiet, so the pups both calmed right down! (***or maybe it was the Sentry calming collars the IPM people recommended?! ) Either way, when they were calm, I felt calmer…

Now… Back to my cross country trip


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