In 1938, with funding from the federal government, New York engineers designed the two-lane Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington State. Through backdoor wrangling and a few greased palms, construction began. People from miles around had picnics on the hills above to watch the construction of the third longest suspension bridge in America. It was grand entertainment. It was history in the making.

After completion, the thin span began to bounce and sway. Many engineers thought the design dangerous. Even so, the bridge became wildly popular, even with its topside waving in the wind. The bridge would ultimately collapse into the Narrows below. Many believe the failure to be a combination of frequency and resonance, like a single note vibrating and shattering a crystal glass.

In 2016, a presidential primary was in progress. The frequency of news stories was intense. Certain candidates seemed to resonate with the masses, so dazzling with comebacks, one-liners and insults that it felt like we were all on a roller coaster. It was grand entertainment. It was history in the making.

There was a certain beautiful resonance to all of it, the way people’s brains were changing, their minds bridging electronic valleys with almost no effort at all. Their attention spans were shortening too, but they didn’t seem to care. They were busy. They clicked and bought things that showed up at their door. Everything was on track.

In 1940, a few months before the Narrows Bridge fell into the gorge, adventurous crowds crossed the bridge for the thrill of it. If DC and New York engineers had built it, what could go wrong? The bridge made some people seasick, but most of the people were thrilled to ride the bridge as it crested and undulated. The bridge was a big money maker. It was like a roller coaster. It was just plain fun.

In 2016, the presidential primary waged on. People were proud. They’d created a whole new frequency, and their resonance would make history.

With a Perspective, I’m Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a construction project manager.

When I came here from India almost 20 years ago it was the things that were different in America that stood out. These days, I notice how similar we all really are.

Take our reaction to revelations of marital infidelity, for instance.

There, and here, when we’re in the vicinity of this type of salacious dust-up, us women, we band together. We become a sisterhood of good wives. “How could she?” we say, or “that home breaker,” as we turn on the woman who’s erred, even if her guilt is only presumptive.

I mean, do we really know what happened? But that doesn’t stop us from reinventing the scarlet letter for our age. Even the phrase, The Other Woman, is so well known as to be a cliche. To say it is to tell the story of a happy family broken by a predatory woman, while the wife suffers, in silence.

But where is the husband here? He’s the one who took the vows. He’s the one who broke them. And he’s the one that got not one, but two women into this mess of public heartache and embarrassment.

And yet we don’t have verbal short hand for this male misstep. We’re quick to forgive. We even feel a sense of right-ness, when the lying man apologizes and professes undying love, once again, to his long suffering wife.

It occurs to me, as it probably does to you, that there’s something not quite right with this picture. Because there could be no Other Woman without a straying man. And the fact that we are so ready to blame the woman hearkens back to the dark ages, or to dark and insecure parts of ourselves.

In 2016, and in our global village, we really should shift the spotlight to where it belongs.

With a Perspective, this is Priya Balasubramanian.

Priya Balasubramanian is a gastroenterologist and hepatologist, and has just completed her first novel. She lives in Gold River.

This month, four years of working on my Bachelor’s degree comes to a close. I have studied and planned for the future while carrying the weight of student loans and the stress of working while being a full time undergrad.

It’s been a difficult road. Like me, over 70% of full-time college undergraduates work jobs. 20% of these students work more than 35 hours a week. To be considered a full-time undergrad you must take at least 12 units per semester or quarter. Most universities recommend two or three hours of studying outside the classroom for every unit students are enrolled in. So your average full time student is expected to study for 24 to 36 hours weekly.

On top of that most college students get around 6 to 7 hours of sleep nightly. Let’s not even talk about extracurriculars.

Where are full-time college students supposed to fit in resume refining, applications and interviews?

So you’d think I’d be excited to walk away from all of this, carrying my degree. Instead, I am more stressed out and anxious than ever. In 2015, 71% of undergrads will leave university with $35,000 in student loan debt. And six months after they graduate, payments start being due.

So I need to start my career. Or maybe at least get a well-paying job that proves I earned my degree. For college students who do find the time for job searching before they graduate, two-thirds will get jobs in the fields they studied But only 42% of college graduates find jobs within six months of graduation.

By the time most Americans are 48 they have held around 11 different jobs.

So encouraging millennials to find their lifetime careers as soon as possible seems off base. Yet someone with a bachelor’s degree will earn about 62% more than someone with a GED, so being a college student is worth it in the long run.

I am up against the odds, odds I am constantly reminded of when people ask, “So what’s your plan after you graduate?” For the time being, help us college students out by not asking us questions we’ve already asked ourselves. I guarantee we lose more sleep trying to come up with an answer

With a perspective, I’m Naomi Outlaw.

Naomi Outlaw is leaving San Francisco State with a degree in journalism, three jobs and a pile of debt.

Last week my dogs and I went hiking in the Marin Headlands. There are 140 miles of trails in Golden Gate Recreation Area, and we were on one of the few that allows dogs. As we passed a woman on a wide dirt road, she swore under her breath about the dogs. The trail was big enough for all of us and the dogs ignored her. But to her, their very presence was a nuisance.

I was reminded of the time I took my fourth grade class to the zoo. Field trips often require schlepping 34 students on MUNI. This class was not especially rowdy and I had prepped them in proper MUNI etiquette: use inside voices, keep your feet and hands to yourself. But kids are kids, and like many field trips on public transit, some cranky commuter moaned and groaned about having to share their bus with a bunch of kids.

To be honest, I’m often the one moaning and groaning. Behind the wheel, I curse at pedestrians texting and walking too slowly. When walking, I give the evil eye to distracted drivers inching into my crosswalk. And on my bicycle – forget about it – why is everyone in my way?

In spite of all the sharing on social media, when it comes to sharing physical, common space, we forget that public space is, well, public. Winner-take-all permeates every aspect of public life. Neighbors get into fights about street parking, Trump supporters don’t want to share our country with Muslims and Mexicans, and the 1% have no intention of sharing the wealth with the rest of us.

In the growing Bay Area, we’re all feeling cramped. The traffic is ridiculous, the rent is too damn high, and sharing the road or the sidewalk or the park is sometimes irritating. But living in an urban area requires sharing – the kind of sharing that doesn’t have anything to do with posting or liking or clicking – but with giving a portion of something to others. Without real-time sharing of actual resources, we have no chance of connecting and creating real community. When crankiness becomes my default emotion whenever I leave home for public space, I’ll know it’s time to move to a cabin in the backwoods.

With a Perspective, I’m Ren Volpe.

Ren Volpe lives in San Francisco. She is a public school librarian and professional dog trainer.

We are parked outside the motel at the edge of town in my worn-out Honda Accord. It’s a sweltering day in May, and our minds are still reeling from being kicked out of our respective parents’ homes when they discovered my partner is pregnant.

“So do you want to keep it?”

I look away reluctantly as her words echo through my brain. She had already made it clear that abortion is inconceivable for her, so I recognize quickly that her question is directed squarely at whether or not I would stay with her. My mind races as I slowly wipe the sweat off my forehead. If I stay, there’s a tumultuous road ahead, with just a part-time retail job and no place to call home. But if I leave, would I ever look at myself in the mirror with pride, knowing I chose the easy way out? In a moment of resolve, I reach for her hand.

“OK, let’s raise our first child”.

For young parents, we all have stories to tell. Mine starts at a Motel 6 when I was 19. When people see teen parents, though, there’s an automatic negative energy in the air. It’s hard to describe the shame and unwarranted judgments we must endure from both strangers and loved ones. We’ve been called foolish or irresponsible for having kids so young, or too immature to even handle ourselves. Not long ago we watched an older couple stare at us in a grocery store, shaking their heads as we walked past them with our daughter.

What people don’t see are the struggles of enormous responsibility, torn family relationships, and agonizing financial woes. What also seems to be invisible are the relentless love for our little ones and the round-the-clock work we put in to build them a better future. For me, I’ve worked two jobs for a new car at age 21 and to buy our own home at age 23. At the same time, I’ve gone back to school and recently got admitted to my dream university, and I can now say that I’m ready to take on the world with my family by my side.

So, the next time you see a young couple at the grocery store with their kids, take a second to consider your reaction. Understand that we’re not asking for money or even sympathy–just the consideration that we’re trying to raise happy children just like any other parents. Our first child is now four years old and is joined by her little brother, playing and laughing with the purest joy lighting up their faces. You don’t even need to smile at us as we walk by–we have plenty of smiles on our kids’ faces already.

With a Perspective, I’m Daniel Shepard.

Daniel Shepard works as a paralegal in Palo Alto and a server in Fremont. This fall, he will study business administration at UC Berkeley.

At a recent meeting concerning foster youth, I met a young woman, Shamir. Waif-like, with immaculately coiffed hair, she clicked her long nails nervously on the table.

Abandoned as a toddler, she passed through dozens of foster homes before ending up homeless in Vegas where she worked as a “dancer”. She returned home with a young baby, but no one, she found, would take her. That’s when she decided she would go to college. She dreamt of opening a shelter for foster youth with children.

Right now, she said fiercely, the only thing keeping her from her goal was an Algebra class that she’d failed twice. “I got this thing with math,” she said.

By any standard, foster kids perform abysmally. Abandoned, they find it notoriously hard to trust the world. These are the throw-away kids who’ve grown accustomed to being failed by the system. More than half end up homeless or exploited.

At break, I asked Shamir if she would like some help. Later, we sat with her seven-year old boy, who demanded her attention. He needed help with homework. He was hungry. Someone at school had taken his lunch.

Shamir struggled with equations that involved inequalities. She didn’t understand why if you divide by a negative number the equation shifted. You have to flip the sign for the equation to remain true. I struggled to explain why this was so. Shamir, though, had little time for it. She just needed to make it through the next test. So I gave her simple rules, she tried some problems, and they seemed to work. She smiled with relief.

“Now that’s good,” she said. “I like it.”

But then her phone rang. “Is she okay?” she asked abruptly. “Are they still in lockdown? Did they get her out?” She left the table.

Her boy looked up. “My school was in lockdown three times last month,” he said. Shamir returned, clearly shaken.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I’m okay,” she said.

“Are you ready?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I’m ready.”

“Are you ready for the inequalities?” I asked.

With a Perspective, this is Andrew Lewis.

Andrew Lewis works with at-risk youth while working on a memoir about the emigre experience. He lives in Sebastopol.

There’s a cold civil war brewing in the US and one of the coldest fronts is where factions attempt to draw the line on political correctness, a term that, for all its power these days, perhaps enough to derail our nation’s politics, few people bother to define.

We’re told PC is wrong, but what is it? One vague notion is that it’s taking offense. If you’re offended by what I do, then you’re PC and therefore wrong.

The main target of PC-policing these days is the left, always fretting about things said by right wingers. Many Trump supporters subscribe to this notion. To them, it’s time to throw off the shackles of left-wing hypersensitivity.

There are plenty of hypersensitivities on the right too, but somehow these don’t count. Fox news fretting about gay marriage, Planned Parenthood, and transgender bathrooms. No that’s not PC, that’s just upholding standards.

The United States is an apt oxymoron of a name for our country. Which are we, a united whole, or individual states? It matters, since they’re opposites.

The answer is both and that’s not easy. Individual states, not just the 50, but our diverse states of mind will clash. That’s democracy.

Whenever there’s conflict the question arises: Who is being hypersensitive and who is being insensitive? It can’t be answered by accusing each other of political correctness, since in conflict, we’re all offended. The touchy, toughy anti-PC police as much as admit it, saying “I’m offended that you’re offended.”

I think a better definition of political correctness comes from taking the term literally. Politics is the struggle for power. Correctness is having the 100% right answer

If there’s anything to police in our country, it’s the trump-card self-certainty that the term suggests when read literally. Political correctness is the tendency for any faction to get on its high-horse, certain that it has the 100% correct solution to our country’s challenges, no debate, no negotiation, just civil war with anyone who disagrees with us.

With a Perspective, I’m Jeremy Sherman.

Jeremy Sherman is an author and a blogger for Psychology Today.

“Hello, I must be going.”

That’s the song the great social commentator, Groucho Marx, sings in “Animal Crackers.”

It’s also what’s happening in the Bay Area right now.

You hear a lot about people who can’t afford to buy a house, but what about the people who can’t afford to stay in a house. Not if they want to retire before 90.

Could this be you? Has the house you bought with a big fat mortgage now become a big fat asset? To access that asset, you’ll have to sell it. And you’ll have to pay capital gains. And you’ll probably have to move.

Yes, the increase in home prices that has made you richer has also made it impossible for you to buy another house here.

Where will you go? How about Washington, where they have lots of water and no state taxes? Or Portland, Oregon, where they have Voodoo Donuts and no sales taxes? Or how about a place where they don’t know the meaning of traffic jams? Are you feeling me, Greensboro, North Carolina?

All of these places have advantages. Unfortunately, not one has a Golden Gate Bridge, or a decent gluten-free Ethiopian fusion restaurant, or, perhaps even more important, they don’t have all the dear friends you’ve made living here.

Yes, it’s difficult to leave, but if you don’t want to deplete your paycheck paying for housing, and private schools, and $5 orders of toast, or if you’re reaching the age you’d like to retire, but the possibility of retiring is increasingly out of reach, your only choice may be to take the money and run.

What do I recommend?

Use vacation time to explore your possibilities. When you’re not on vacation, take a cold hard look at what you could give up if you left, and what you could gain. Most important, don’t dawdle. Don’t wait until you’re even older and even more grumpy and no one will want to be your new BFF.

Will the advantages of moving outweigh the advantages of staying put, I can’t tell you – yet.

After fifty happy years in the Bay Area, I’m moving to Bellingham, Washington.

As always, Groucho says it best: “Hello, I cannot stay, I came to say, I must be going.”

With a Perspective, I’m Bob Goldman.

Bob Goldman is a financial planner. He lives in Sausalito.

I have become a connoisseur of waiting rooms. But walking into foster care clinic, the mood is different. Mothers and daughters sit slightly further apart, and skin colors often don’t quite match.

The day’s first patient is Tyrone, perched in his diaper on step-mom’s knee. His medical chart has a special tab for the police report that led child protective services to take custody. A police officer found Tyrone in the backseat of a car while his Mom was a mile away in the park, high and barely conscious. Tyrone, meanwhile, is at the 2nd percentile for weight.

As I make an airplane gesture and zoom my stethoscope onto his chest, Tyrone giggles and grabs his stepsister’s hand. He has been starting to eat more, talk more, and he copies his new sister’s antics. I ask the doctor the chances that Tyrone returns to his birth mom. “Probably 50-50,” he says.

That afternoon, I continue my pediatrics shift a few blocks away at juvenile hall. The mood in this waiting room is diametrically less subtle. Double-locking security doors open to concrete halls, winding through blocks of cells. Physical exams here are mandatory, and as such it’s the first clinic I’ve experienced with a zero percent cancellation rate.

Shuffling into our concrete exam room in his brown sweatpants and orange T-shirt uniform, 16 year-old Miguel explains his burglary strategy. “Old Asian people always hide money in their house,” he says. I ask if he worries about hurting people. “Not really, I just like money and smoking and stuff, “ he says. We discuss the pros and cons of his decisions, I administer immunizations, and we walk back to his cell.

I think back to Tyrone, the toddler I saw in the morning. I worry our clinic is only a detour in the “school to prison pipeline.”  In medicine, we have a philosophy that to cure a disease we treat the source, not the symptoms. Today I worry I’ve only treated symptoms. So that Tyrone doesn’t sit on the same exam table where I saw Miguel today, we have to look upstream, to our prisons, schools, communities, and most importantly, our homes.

With a Perspective, I’m Jake Rosenberg.

Jake Rosenberg is an MD/Phd student at the Stanford School of Medicine.


I teach writing to people who, with rare exceptions, are not and will not become writers.

Some of them enjoy writing, but more do not. Almost all balk when I tell them they will be writing and then reading what they’ve written aloud to the group. Yet, without exception, they have something to say on topics that matter. And with astounding regularity, they are able to write about these topics in moving, insightful and compelling ways.

There’s one other thing my writing students all have in common: they are, or soon will be, doctors or nurses.

What I teach them might be called public medical writing since it’s writing about medicine and health that is separate from the professional writing necessary for patient care or publishing research. This sort of writing takes many forms, from op-eds to narratives to blog posts. Its common denominator is the use of story, language, ideas and experience to explore a topic or issue. While it varies widely in style and subject, all such writing aims to increase empathy, educate, advocate or provoke discussion of health and illness, medicine and society.

Of course, you don’t have to be a doctor or nurse to do this. You just have to be a human being.

Sometimes I ask participants to start with a story they keep telling, or one they’ve never told. Other times, the group has a shared focus — the under-served or obesity, global health or geriatrics — and then the key is to find the right story to make the case for their cause. Inevitably, these non-writers don’t want to stop typing or put down their pens when I call time.

Finally, they take turns reading. There are as many approaches as people in the room. The best stories make the rest of us care. We nod, laugh, cry. They are intimate and honest, surprising, disturbing or funny. We lean forward to find out what happened next, what was learned and what can be done differently and better. Always, participants express awe for the talents and passion of their peers.

Is everyone in these groups a good writer? Not at all. The great thing is how little that matters.

With a Perspective, I’m Louise Aronson.

Louise Aronson is a geriatrician, writer, and Professor of Medicine at UCSF. 

The summer after my high school graduation, my mother decided to become Mexican. It was 1978. I feared she had lost her mind.

Fifteen years earlier we had immigrated to the Bay Area from Belize, a tiny Central American country with a decidedly Caribbean vibe. Growing up in Belize, my mother longed to be from somewhere she imagined as exotic: Mexico! So she became who she always wanted to be: a Mexicana.

During my absence she had begun watching Novellas, and the Latin American soap operas inspired her. My mother ditched her Caribbean accent and adopted a Spanish one. She sang boleros romanticos while cleaning the house. She befriended Mexican women.

At home, our conversations went round and round like a Mexican Hat Dance.

“Mom, you can’t change where you were born. It’s a fact. You were born in Belize.”

“Beli-seh. It’s Beli-seh,” she would say, insisting on the Spanish pronunciation of our native country. My father just shrugged.
Sometimes, I would try to trick her. I’d research famous figures in Mexican history, and then I would quiz her. In return, she would warn me, Telenovella-style, of the terrible things that happen to girls who backtalk their mothers.

Two years later, my mother was still Mexican, and I was facing my own identity crisis. My parents wanted me to live at home to attend college to study nursing or business. I refused. I didn’t identify with their definition of who I should be. They wanted me to be a nurse or businessperson. I wanted to be a writer.

It was then that I understood how lucky I was to have a mother who believed she could be anything she desired. Her metamorphosis taught me that identity is fluid. Growing into ourselves depends, in part, on our willingness to evolve. We must leave behind what no longer fits, and after that loss, discover a new self.

So I left home, worked my way through college and into a full and vibrant life. Along the way, I shed expectations for what a mother is, and how a mother should behave. I guess I lost my mind-or at least the parts of it stuck in judgment and expectations about identity and who we can become.

With a Perspective, I’m Joey Garcia.

Joey Garcia is an advice columnist and solo performer. She lives in Sacramento.

I have blue eyes, sandy brown hair with a blonde streak, and light skin. My English is excellent, perfectly accented and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think I was a native California girl.

But if you pay a little more attention, you begin to wonder. I have fuller lips than your average white girl, wider curves, and an undeniably Mexican name.

Lupita Montserrat Uribe Hernandez.

You get the double R, the soft Ts, the stereotypical long name. Thirty letters to be exact. I was born in Mexico, and nearly all of my family was too, but I constantly have to defend my roots, all because I’m light skinned.

I’m often asked, “If you’re from Mexico, why are you white?”

The simple answer is because there are a lot of light-skinned people in Jalisco, my home state. The not-so-simple answer is, “Why do you care?”

More than someone who fits the profile of a Mexicana, with the darker skin or kinkier hair, I have to prove myself. I have to know the traditions and be able to recite them upon request. I have to prove that I know how each word in Spanish is accented. I have to know the Mexican recipes and the significance La Virgen de Guadalupe has to our people.

In all honesty I don’t have to do anything, but there is a constant pressure to.

And if there’s a slip up and I forget a fact, or mispronounce a word, a feeling of shame fills me, as if I’ve disappointed my family

That pressure is not just coming from my own community, but from the one I belong to outside of my culture.

Even if I’m not Mexican enough for the Mexican community, some times I’m too Mexican for the white community.

On paper, there is no denying my ethnicity. Because of that, I’ve received subtle hints of racism from people disrespecting me. Their tone changes when my Spanish accent comes through. Also, being unresponsive after they read my name in emails, or their attitudes switch from polite to cold and frigid, eyes rolling and their tone sharpening as soon as they hear me speak Spanish.

It is an odd oscillation between not being enough and being too much, but that’s what I was born into.

With a Perspective, I am Lupita Montserrat Uribe Hernandez.

Lupita Uribe Hernandez is graduating from San Francisco State University with a degree in journalism.

Oprah Winfrey is worth $2.9 billion.

I don’t know how much Joe makes. We’re at the river in Gold Country and Joe holds cubes of iron pyrite, the ones that sparkle like little diamonds. During the Gold Rush of the 1850s people would collect this fool’s gold, thinking they’d hit the big time. We’re sweating. He points out the Alders, the birch-like volunteers at the river’s edge. He’s an art teacher.

Damien Hirst, the world’s richest living artist, is worth $1 billion.

We climb down to the river and pull off our shirts. We’re both strong swimmers.

Michael Phelps is worth $40 million.

As always, Joe’s the first one in the water. We’ve been coming here from the Bay Area since we were kids.  Joe was going to be a famous artist.  I was going to be a rock star.

Madonna is worth $700 million.

I dive in after him, both of us swimming in the Stanislaus, the cold water shocking us. Joe’s been my best friend since we were tots. We crawl onto warm rocks to sun. “What kind of clouds are those?” he asks. “Stratus maybe?”

Al Roker is worth $30 million.

“Cumulus?” I guess. We both look at the sky and wonder. The white noise of the river relaxes us. We’ve come up for the weekend and it’s always good. I’m back to work on Monday, but Joe gets the whole week off. Joe collects some dry Alder sticks for barbecue dinner. Joe is an amazing cook. Watching him eat makes me jealous.

Wolfgang Puck is worth $75 million.

“Let’s pick up some wine on the way back.”

“Sounds good,” he says. We head back to the car, the weekend making us feel alive. Joe’s a half-full kind of guy, and I feed off his positive attitude.

Tony Robbins is worth $480 million.

As we drive back towards town, a song comes on the radio. It’s from a new pop star, one that’s getting tons of press and media attention. I wonder what it would be like.

“What if our dreams had come true?” he asks me. “We’d be listening to you on the radio right now.”

“Yeah,” I say, “and you’d be in New York.”

We both laugh, knowing we wouldn’t be here. And that would be a shame.

With a Perspective, I’m Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is a construction project manager.

That lemon-faced look of sympathy would flash across their face whenever I said it.

‘I live in Oakland.’

“Oh you poor thing, what have you done to deserve that?” I was once asked.

The artistic, economic and intellectual triumphs bestow San Francisco, Marin and Berkeley residents a reflected cache, whereas we Oaklanders are seemingly tainted by our city’s notorious crime statistics and Jean Quan’s 100 blocks of murdering mayhem.

When real British blueblood Jessica Mitford, progeny of the 2nd Baron Redesdale, rejected her noble origins, joined the communist party, entered self-imposed exile and became an unlikely Oakland resident alongside Huey Newton’s Black Panthers, her resolutely aristocratic sister Nancy Mitford, pleaded “At least you could live in Berkeley.”

The Late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia claimed that no man of means would ever live in Oakland – and indeed wealthy San Franciscans are reputed to negotiate the Bay only when their dead bodies make the trip to Oakland’s Mountain View cemetery.

We Oakland residents knew the truth though – the 17 miles of parkland running along the hills, the spectacular views, Lake Merritt, cheaper housing, the multicultural lifestyle and the glorious Mediterranean climate made Oakland more livable than, dare I say it, San Francisco.

Times change, of course. Jerry Brown’s stimulus rejuvenated downtown living. The restaurants and the night life followed and now you can’t open a newspaper without reading of Oakland’s desirability and the sky-high rent. The New York Times named Oakland a must-visit destination in 2016.

Jessica Mitford passed years ago, the memories of Huey Newton’s murder are fading, crime statistics are down and Oakland’s recent desirability, morphed through demographic change, became gentrification.

Exiting the hipster-friendly Adam’s Point Whole Foods recently, I passed a woman just as she said into her phone ‘you can’t buy a house here any more, the white folks bought them all.’

With a Perspective, I’m Luke Pease.

Luke Pease is a longtime resident of Oakland.

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