Its fleece was white as snow

August 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

People, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is: I’ve had the second part of the Mitten saga mostly done and in draft form for about a month, and with handing in my Bachelor’s thesis, the urge to procrastinate and write 1700 words on mitten cuffs has sort of evaporated. I’ll try and get to it sometime soon, I promise.

The good news is: not only did I get the Gryffindor mittens as far as I wanted to in time for Adam, but it was a very good thing I didn’t entirely finish them: I had to rip back the tips and add almost 2 cm to each hand to make them fit. I can’t even imagine the pain of unpicking the woven-in ends and splicing new yarn to the whole shebang.

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It’s really hard to find a flattering pose for both gloves and the recipient’s face. I managed to fail on both counts.

The best news is: within two hours of arriving in Leipzig in the middle of the night (i.e. 6.42 am) last Friday, Adam had learned the knit stitch, and over the next days proceeded to knit like a madman, first on a little green garter stitch practice swatch, then on a project that made not only me go ‘holy shit, now that’s one hell of a first project!’: Susie’s Reading Mitts. Even with substituting the picot edge for a more manly straight edge, those mitts have it all: working in the round on DPNs, knit, purl, increase, decrease, yarn over, counting rows, fixing mistakes, casting on and binding off, sewing a hem down on the wrong side… and probably a couple of other things.

When knitters will have taken over the world, I’ll have done my part. Nobody spends more than a couple of hours here without at least trying a couple of knit stitches, but to say that he took to it like a fish to water is sort of an understatement.

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I remain suitably impressed, as I wistfully glance in the vague direction of my abomination of a holey, green cotton garter stitch first-time scarf…

But yeah. Apart from showing him around the city (and boy, did I go all-out on that. I think the walking tour around the city center took a good three hours), I tried imparting as much knitting wisdom as I could: from how to use stitch markers to the brilliance that is the Yarn Harlot, from medieval knitting guilds to the boyfriend sweater curse, from how to wind yarn cocoons to washing your woolens, from the story behind the Spanish Armada shawl to how to spend more time on Ravelry looking at patterns instead of actually getting any knitting done. Although come to think of it, he didn’t need all that much instruction for that last bit…

I also took him for an afternoon at Annelie’s, where I quickly plied my yarn and then proceeded to coo over the baby and tell her the story of Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves, switching between English and German every time I was distracted or needed for some light interpreting, because I could never remember which language I’d started off with. My sanity didn’t take too well to the constant language mix – it’s a good thing I’m not becoming an interpreter after all. But spinning always makes the confusion a bit better. (Also, shininess.)

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Anyway. I had a wonderful time, and I hope he did as well. There’s a slightly upsetting lack of photos, since he doesn’t have a camera and I seem to have very localized dementia when it comes to gadgets, but I made sure to get at least a couple of us, over the roofs of Leipzig.

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And let me just say: I’ve never had quite as much alcohol in as short a time period as the last week. Holy moly.

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The oceans and pangea – see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya

June 3, 2011 § 11 Comments

I haven’t written about the 4th Leipziger Wollefest at all, and it’s almost been a week since that particular event of the year. Truth to be told I’m still slightly overwhelmed – I haven’t even gotten around to unpacking and stashing my purchases yet, although that might also be attributed to a distinct lack of space.

I spent an awesome Saturday in the truly packed garden behind the Strickcafé. It was kind of insane – when we got there at 11am, the line to get in went all the way to the street. So many people. Even more yarn.

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Oh, and what yarn! I think apart from Wollmeise, all the major players on the German handdyer scene were there, and honestly, even the Wollmeise couldn’t have improved the yarn selection available. (Also, let’s face it: as breathtaking as her colors are, she isn’t exactly adventurous with her fiber selection. So, yeah.) (I don’t mean to snub her, really, but having Wollmeise available to me on a regular basis has sort of taken the edge off the hysteric fangirling.)

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I swear, the Dibadu stand was crowded all day. I have no idea how I managed to get this photo, but it had probably something to do with it being fairly late.

I was especially delighted to see the gals from DyeForYarn/DyeForWool, whom I’d discovered a couple of days before on Etsy, and one of which, as it turns out, wrote the pattern for the stole I’ve been planning for one of the yarns I bought in Berlin. Go check them out; they’re two separate stores, but they work together and they’re absolutely equally amazing. Both the yarns and the women. One of them was wearing a gorgeous blue shawl, and Saskia and I spent a good half hour debating which pattern it was. It was a good thing the Wollefest is one of those rare places where you can just go up to someone and ask about their clothes, and people are delighted instead of confused or freaked out. It also turns out that Saskia was entirely correct in her ‘Aeolian shawl with narrow edging’ analysis. I’d say that the student has surpassed the master, but I’m too petty for that. Also I’m still the better knitter. Neener-neener.

Anyway, my haul this year, overall a slight departure from my usual color scheme (i.e. no green this time):

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from top to bottom: dibadu BFL roving; DyeForYarn fingering-weight BFL; some dreamy orange alpaca/merino/silk lace yarn (from Kreativmitwolle) that was my first and most impulsive purchase of the day; blue/maroon/rust-colored merino lace yarn from DyeForYarn (again, I left a lot of money there); a gorgeous merino lace yarn from dibadu; four and a half cakes of Jamieson and Smith; and the breathtaking purchase of the day: a 70% cashmere/ 30% silk lace yarn from DyeForWool that I’ve been fondling to a point where I find myself creepy. It’s gorgeous, and smooshy, and most of all DISCONTINUED, which is the most magical quality a yarn can have. (They still have a single skein in a chocolatey brown in their shop. Act fast if you want it!)

What I like about the DfY/DfW crowd is that they give their yarns awesome names: they had an ‘Ex-Peacock’ that was named for the Dead Parrot Sketch (I asked); the merino lace is called Trauriger Harlekin (sad harlequin) and there’s a Death of a Harlequin colorway too; the cashmere’s called ‘fading lichen on a graveyard’ (I had to pull it out to verify. Excuse me while I go fondle my yarn. Again. Did I mention it’s discontinued?) and the BFL’s name is ‘Shadowstorm at dusk.’

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(in the background: Saskia’s Malabrigo shawl. It’s really soft. How I know? Well, let’s just say she does this thing where she comes up to you and very subtly announces ‘oh wow, this shawl I’m knitting is really, really soft TOUCH IT.’)

That one, by the way, was one of the two skeins Saskia and I wound to balls right there and then, chilling out next to the spinning wheels while Annelie was producing some wacky art yarn or other. People seemed to be confused by the fact that we were winding manually instead of using one of the winder/swift combos that were set up all over the place, but I like winding by hand. Although in retrospect it might have been advisable to wind at least some of my yarn with some mechanical support instead of insisting on winding three skeins of very, very thin lace yarn by hand. I kind of went on a lace rage there. Saskia also went crazy, albeit not quite as crazy as I did.

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But still fairly crazy. Wollum is never far away, no, he isn’t, my precioussssss…

Speaking of crazy. They had this awesome friendship spinning wheel there which I kind of want? Except let’s not kid ourselves, what would I ever do with it. Except brag about it to everyone I know, and some people I don’t, and land myself in a mental institution two months later. So, uh… maybe next year.

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It’s this ingenious contraption where one person treadles, but three people can spin at the same time. I don’t know how that would work out in reality – my passing acquaintance with a wheel has shown that regular stopping and seeing what the hell you’re doing is of utmost importance at least for a beginner – but apparently there are also wedding wheels, where the spinners sit next to each other, and that’s just too adorable for words.

But yes. I got to show off my Armada…

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… Annelie got to show off her mad spinning skillz and baby belly due to an evidently miscalculated due date…

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… and it turns out that as opposed to the Wollefest two years ago, where I had to cajole and threaten Saskia into going there to bring me more money, and she was bored out of her mind, this year she got to show off some lace knitting of her own and also do wacky yarn stuff with me.

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It turns out that if you don’t have any knitting friends, a little yarny bribery goes a long way in creating some brand new ones. In your own home! With items commonly found around the house! Go try it today.

We’re gonna turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse

February 7, 2011 § 5 Comments

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(We’ve been having some lovely weather lately. I just sat on the Augustusplatz and knit for half an hour today, in the blinding sunlight with my jacket open, just because I could.)

I’d love to pull a Yarn Harlot and proclaim my infection with finish-it-up-itis, but while I don’t maintain it doesn’t exist, it certainly isn’t happening to me. Or I’ve already had it for months, it was just that my projects weren’t as wisely chosen as these days?

First, the purchases of the week:

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That’s a skein of Wollmeise (color: Frosch) on top of the Lucifer Box novels by Mark Gatiss, which really deserve their own post and I could go on and on about them. So I’m just gonna say that they’re brilliant, and fun, and adventure-laden, and the hero is the perfect mix of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, every single character out of Dorian Gray (no, seriously. every single one of them. Well, maybe not Sibyl Vane. But everyone else.), and Captain Jack Harkness. They’re written in the first person, which isn’t normally my thing but works wonderfully with the wit and sparkle Lucifer Box has, and, you know. Even Stephen Fry couldn’t get enough of them. As of now I’ve finished the first two books, and I loved every page. Mark Gatiss is my new hero. (A brilliant gay sci-fi and adventure writer whose well-written hero is cheerfully bisexual but not utterly defined by some stereotype. What’s there not to love?)

Seriously. I’ve been recommending it all over the place for a week, and I’ll do it here as well: If you only discover one author this year, let it be Mark Gatiss. At least read Vesuvius Club. You won’t be able to stop there, anyway.

Second, I finished the Kai-Mei socks! I admit it’s kind of embarrassing that I’m the first one to finish a design out of Saskia’s birthday present, but, eh. They’re warm and lovely and SO CLEVER, and I think I’m going to knit a couple more socks with that construction, although not necessarily the same lace panel.

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I wore them to Annelie’s to show them off, partly because it’s always nice to show off an FO to real people, and mostly because Annelie had given me the yarn. And once again, it was one of these things that only happen with yarn people.

Annelie: Oooh, you finished the socks!
Me: Yup. *pulls up pants leg a bit* … you can touch them if you want to?
Annelie: Ooooh, they’re so soft!
Me: Yeah, I think there may be some alpaca or something in there.
Annelie: No idea. … Honeeeeey! Honey, come here for a second!
Annelie’s husband: … yes?
Annelie: Remember that yarn I had for the longest time?
Annelie’s husband: … no?
Annelie: you know, the one I got from XY, in Karolinsiel, don’t you remember?
Annelie’s husband: … no?
Annelie: well, Patti knit it up into socks. Here, touch them!

I have to say, he’s very well-trained in terms of yarn-related behavior.

Apart from surprise!sock-fondling, we actually got some work done on Sunday. I was at Annelie’s for six hours and I sat at the wheel for at least 5 of those. I had ~flow, man. But now, along with some gorgeous yarn I finished with only seconds to spare before I had to leave, I’ve also got sore muscles in more expected places.

Yes, I finished my first wheel-spun yarn. And I shall subject you all to a lengthy slideshow of every stage of the process.

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Well, actually I won’t. Kind of. I’ll put the major part of the lengthy slideshow under a break so the tl;dr crowd can’t complain (although, pretty pictures. what’s wrong with you people? have you got no soul?), but here’s some of the most important ones. Because I took this here:

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(Drachenwolle, 130 g BFL, color ‘Stroh zu Gold’, gorgeous but useless)

and turned it into this:

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(~130 g, 226m, still gorgeous, knittable!)

and it only took me two afternoons (and a total of two hours or so of pre-drafting on the Saturdays before). How would you not want to see more of where that came from? (Am I trying to guilt you into clicking that ‘more’ link, just so that I can geek about spinning a bit more? Damn right I am!)

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From the mountain to the air

January 31, 2011 § 6 Comments

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To say my clothing style is a bit hodge-podge may well be the exaggeration of the year.

In other news: I have sore feet. After a good three hours of constant treadling the spinning wheel, I’d expected sore thighs or sore calves or, hell, sore fingers from having a notoriously overplied thread running through them. But no, it’s the tops of my ankles that are kind of sore. What a random place.

Apart from spinning, we also washed yarn, which I guess is a thing you can only do with wool people… Annelie had a bunch of beautifully structured by wonky-smelling skeins of polyester yearn, and we washed a couple of them in the hope that the smell would go. Me agitating the soapy water until my rolled-up sleeves were full of splashes, Annelie rinsing the soapy skeins and hanging them up to dry… it’s moments like this when I feel so connected to history, to long-dead people all over the world, sitting together to wash and card and spin wool, talking and being useful at the same time. Everywhere, all over the world, for hundreds and thousands of years, connected by the red thread of… yarn.

It’s a good thing I don’t have my own spinning wheel (yet), or I’d just sit in front of it today, moodily wishing I could go on but realizing that the fun would last about 10 minutes until I’d crawl back to wherever I started from, tail tucked.

So instead I wound the gorgeous yarn Annelie gave me into a ball, and started on Cookie A.’s Kai-Mei socks. Annelie, if you’re reading this, thank you again. One day soonish I’ll make you a pair of socks in a color you actually like.

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Money, fame and fortune never could compete

November 29, 2010 § 4 Comments

Playing with my Macbook, I discovered that uploading my photos from my camera and uploading them to Flickrs was easier than ever, so here’s a long-overdue picture post!

I shall start with today, proceed reverse-chronologically, and illustrate (quite literally) some random items along the way. Yay!

Anyway, this weekend is Thanksgiving weekend as well as the first Advent Sunday, so I decided to throw a Thanksgiving dinner. I might have overdone it slightly…

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… keep in mind that this is for four people! Although somehow, miraculously, we have a surprisingly low amount of leftovers. What was on the menu? Rosemary goose (mostly following these instructions), Burgundy Mushrooms, Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potato Casserole, Buttermilk Biscuits, Cornbread Stuffing, Creamed Corn, Pumpkin Pie, Hard Sauce, and I think that was it. It was beyond awesome, and totally worth the spending two days in the kitchen.

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After dinner, we took a walk along the canal to aid digestion. It’s been cold here the last couple of days, and it’s even snowed – it feels kind of early for snow, but then again, I keep forgetting it’s almost December. Oh, wait, I don’t forget that: I purposefully push it out of my mind. Oh god.

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Incidentally, this was the first time I wore my Vespergyle mitts outside! The right mitten hasn’t been steamed yet and it shows a little if you know what you’re looking for, but I’m absolutely enamored with these mittens: big enough to fit my hands, comfy, Argyle… lovely, just lovely.

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Anyway, the pumpkin pie with hard sauce was kind of the highlight of my evening. Lovely stuff. I really like this photo for some reason.

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In other, less gluttony-induced news, I’ve been spinning! That’s 50g of New Zealand Lamb, dyed by Sandy at Alles Handgemacht, bought at the Bunter November event at the Strickcafé. I bought a bunch of stuff, including two skeins of BFL yarn and some red laceweight, but the thing I love most is this gorgeous 150g skein of merino from Handgefaerbt.com:

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I kid you not, it’s the most beautiful yarn I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how it’ll look knit up, but it’s rich, and subtle, and earthy, and vivid, and soft, and brilliant, and just so, so gorgeous! In every stage of winding, too, which is something I see rarely:

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It’s one of these yarns I’m not sure I’ll ever knit up, because it’s so hard to live up to something that gorgeous.

So, yeah. In other words: nothing new in my corner of the Land of Knitting. I’m trudging along on my Christmas project and getting my instant gratification through cooking and baking. (Two days of cooking are instant gratification?! Somebody help me!)

Somewhere ’round mile-marker one-twelve

September 30, 2009 § 2 Comments

Ah, I’m home. Back in Leipzig, back to the Saskias and the dog. Back to my wide bed where I can let my feet dangle over the edge. Back to my own kitchen, my own bath, two clocks in my room, green walls, cooking for myself, the TARDIS poster on my door, tons of pillows between me and the wall, and tons of yarn, needles and books to choose from.

I came home yesterday, actually, but it was rather late, I was kinda knackered, and pretty much all I did was changing my sheets from dusty to new and sparkly, taking a bubble bath, and making some baked beans. And tea, lots of tea. And soup, around 1.30am, when I was inexplicably bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Then, today, I got up late, and after breakfast set out to the long-procrastinated-on task of cleaning up my room. I’m… just so lazy with it. I do parts, but for the wide majority of the time, I just drop things on my desk or wherever, or plop down books on other books in the case instead of putting them back properly.

Seriously, the only part of my room that’s even remotely organized 90% of the time is my stash.

So I took down three bags worth of trash, a carton full of paper, plus I dusted, vacuumed, started on my desk, and reorganized my books. Oh, and I found two DPNs, a row counter and a crochet hook behind my bed. I’d been looking for those.

My proudest achievement of the day? Organizing a cultural timeline from Ancient Egypt all the way to contemporary Germany and the UK. It’s the history and culture textbooks I have, plus stuff like Shakespeare’s plays, Greek myths, the Iliad, Arabian Nights, Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’, Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, Thoreau’s ‘Civil Disobedience’ – basically, essential texts, books that I didn’t really want to put in my mostly fiction-based regular bookcase. The only thing in the main bookcase that’s non-fiction are the handful of knitting books, and John Barrowman’s bios. And I think that’s about it.

So, yeah. I’m rather enchanted by the whole timeline thing though, because it illustrates my point of view exactly: History and culture and literature are never entirely separate things, but quite the opposite: they three facets of the exact same thing. Like three sides of the same, weirdly-shaped coin. Ahem.

Other than that… I did the ‘most boring slideshow ever’ today, for Saskia. I’d told Sassi about it beforehand, and we both had to work very hard to keep from bursting out laughing when Saskia’s comments became more and more pissy. ‘Well, it would be nice if you could see anything besides the three of you! Seriously!’ Mwahaha. But I did a slightly-more-extended-than-the-regular slideshow afterwards, and she was rather more enthusiastic about that one.

I still have to upload a couple of pictures to show up here, but… not tonight.

It’s so nice here, all quiet, except for the dog breathing on the (freshly vacuumed) rug next to my bed.

Sassi squeed really, really loudly when I gave her the little ball I spun out of the hairs Wave shed this spring.

It’s an overload in my head

September 22, 2009 § 3 Comments

British Museum and shopping today, and my brain just cannot compute any more information. I only spent 2.5 hours in the British Museum, which is laughably short for a museum of that size and me, but at one point I just sat in this huge room (which doesn’t narrow it down much, there aren’t any small rooms in the British Museum) and I just could. not. take. any. more. That’s never happened to me, my brain just going into a shutdown like that in a museum, but it’s been a long nine days, and I’m beginning to suspect that my feet aren’t the only part of me that need a quiet day of sitting and staring at a wall.

But! Let’s start at the beginning! Because… I found buttons! For the Tempest Cardi! The one I finished in April! It was amazing. I’d basically scoured the length and width of Germany and still hadn’t found any buttons I liked, or that were the right size or weight or color or material or price, so after almost half a year, I was pretty desperate. I’d done my homework though, before coming to London, and had written down the address of the Button Queen. Remember my squeeage about BUTTON SHOPS IN LONDON? Yeah, that was that day. About that shop. Well, I went down Marylebone Lane, and there was the Button Queen… all boarded up. I had half a heart attack – and then ventured closer to discover a sign that they’d moved a bit further down the street. Phew!

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SO, I went into the shop, and was greeted by a very friendly gent,  who asked me what I was looking for. My mind went blank for a second, ‘Well… I’d like some buttons, obviously…’, but then I pulled out the cardigan, and he exclaimed, ‘Oh, I just saw something for this today!’. Then he went back to the back of the shop, came back with a drawer full of colorful laquered buttons… and they were a perfect match. The green ones AND the teal ones. Perfect weight, perfect size, perfect color, AND a real deal at 99p apiece. I could’ve hugged him. I felt close to bursting into tears of relief, and started babbling about how I’d been searching for buttons for almost half a year… and today, purchasing the buttons was a matter of ten minutes. And most of these minutes were spent trying to decide whether to take green or blue. I went with – both! I’ll alternate them. Unfortunately, that will have to wait till I get back, because my needle is too thick to fit through the buttonholes.

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But I’ve got buttons!!! I even bought enough so I can sew some onto potential gloves or hats, I still have a ton of yarn left over, after all. And I do recommend the Button Queen, wholeheartedly.

Then, I went to the British Museum, and there was a surprising amount of spinning and weaving stuff around. Maybe I’ve just never paid much attention to it before… but it was a pleasant surprise anyway. Spindle whorls and loom weights in the Greek, Egyptian and British exhibits, plus weaving shuttles and distaffs and vases with spinning and/or weaving motifs.

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Oh, and look! Some pharaoh with knitting in front of his face!

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No knitting exhibits, sadly. Well, big surprise, it wasn’t even invented when those cultures were around.

Aaaand at last… I went to iKnit in Lower Marsh.

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Such a jewel. Such exciting yarns! I mean, partly what I expected, Malabrigo, Manos, stuff like that. But then… silk/stainless steel yarn from Habu Textiles. And other crazy stuff from Japan. And my personal highlight, rare British sheep breeds, which prompted me to buy 200g of gorgeous scarlet Wensleydale. No pictures yet, silly me. Six pounds per 100g though, so not bad at all. Begging to become a shawl.

And then I bought a card. With a black sheep on it. Which, as it turns out, is made of recycled, Welsh sheep poo. Oh dear.

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