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How to Procrastinate Wisely

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If you’ve ever been on the Internet, chances are you’ve stumbled across a thought-provoking essay by hyperprolific writer and English professor Roxane Gay. We wanted to find out how she finds time to watch Law & Order.

If there’s a through line in my work, it’s giving a damn about the world. Whether I’m writing fiction, nonfiction, or criticism, it’s about caring enough to speak up about what I think and feel. I read a lot, and I’ll think, “I have an opinion about this.” It will start from there. I’ll cook something, and I’ll think, "I’m going to blog about this."

I’m an insomniac. Theoretically, I sleep about four or five hours a day. Sometimes I don’t sleep at all. I live in the middle of nowhere, and there’s literally nothing to do. It’s the best cure-all for work I know. If you want to write this much, just move to a very small town in Illinois.

Twitter makes me feel as if I’m in a big, communal office space. I find that chatter helps me focus. I do a lot of my best thinking on Twitter!

If I’m in my office, I’m much better at focusing, because if I’m at home, I’m like, “Oh, Ina’s on the Food Network.”

At home, I mostly work in front of the TV, so I can watch Law & Order.

I think there’s value in procrastination. I do a lot of writing in my head, doing the work mentally before I ever commit something to paper. I think our minds are telling us something about what we’re ready to do and not do.

I love listening to music while I work. I make this list called “Music,” whatever I like at the moment. Right now, it’s a lot of Beyoncé, Lorde, Haim, and some sort of BS rap, of course. And some Lady Antebellum, my favorite guilty pleasure.

I read every day. Books. With magazines, I always have good intentions, but they’re sitting in a stack on my coffee table. The one magazine I read regularly is The Believer.

I write at airports, in hotel rooms, on planes. I’m going to be on the road for the next 10 days, and I have a reading or meeting in each place. But I have a bunch of free time and I don’t know anyone, so it’s easy to write. When I’m not at home, it’s very easy to focus.

Writing online has given me a thicker skin. I can deflect an argument in a way that’s productive. I’ve learned to figure out what is valid, and that has helped me become a better rhetorician.

My next novel is called The Year I Learned Everything. People are calling it YA. It’s about a young woman who has a really transformative year; she learns about love and finding herself and overcoming her past. It’s a novel told in diary entries. I love immersing myself in her voice.

I’m trying to make more time for human interaction, away from the laptop. On Sundays, I try not to make my phone the first thing that I look at.

You have to make space in your life for writing. I love to have fun and play. But I make time for writing. It’s a significant priority for me. You have to commit. It can’t be like, “Maybe I’ll do this.” You don’t have to write every day to be a good writer, but you can’t not write every day.

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12 Fantastic Facts About A Wrinkle in Time
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Madeleine L’Engle’s acclaimed science fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time has been delighting readers since its 1962 release. Whether you’ve never had the chance to read this timeless tale or haven’t picked it up in a while, here are some facts that are sure to get you in the mood for a literary journey through the universe—not to mention its upcoming big-screen adaptation.

1. THE AUTHOR’S PERSISTENCE PAID OFF.

She’s a revered writer today, but Madeleine L’Engle’s early literary career was rocky. She nearly gave up on writing on her 40th birthday. L’Engle stuck with it, though, and on a 10-week cross-country camping trip she found herself inspired to begin writing A Wrinkle in Time.

2. EINSTEIN SPARKED L'ENGLE'S INTEREST IN QUANTUM PHYSICS AND TESSERACTS.

L’Engle was never a strong math student, but as an adult she found herself drawn to concepts of cosmology and non-linear time after picking up a book about Albert Einstein. L’Engle adamantly believed that any theory of writing is also a theory of cosmology because “one cannot discuss structure in writing without discussing structure in all life." The idea that religion, science, and magic are different aspects of a single reality and should not be thought of as conflicting is a recurring theme in her work. 

3. L’ENGLE BASED THE PROTAGONIST ON HERSELF.

L’Engle often compared her young heroine, Meg Murry, to her childhood self—gangly, awkward, and a poor student. Like many young girls, both Meg and L’Engle were dissatisfied with their looks and felt their appearances were homely, unkempt, and in a constant state of disarray.

4. IT WAS REJECTED BY MORE THAN TWO DOZEN PUBLISHERS.

L’Engle weathered 26 rejections before Farrar, Straus & Giroux finally took a chance on A Wrinkle in Time. Many publishers were nervous about acquiring the novel because it was too difficult to categorize. Was it written for children or adults? Was the genre science fiction or fantasy? 

5. L’ENGLE DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO CATEGORIZE THE BOOK, EITHER.

To compound publishers’ worries, L’Engle famously rejected these arbitrary categories and insisted that her writing was for anyone, regardless of age. She believed that children could often understand concepts that would baffle adults, due to their childlike ability to use their imaginations with the unknown. 

6. MEG MURRY WAS ONE OF SCIENCE FICTION'S FIRST GREAT FEMALE PROTAGONISTS ...

… and that scared publishers even more. L’Engle believed that the relatively uncommon choice of a young heroine contributed to her struggles getting the book in stores since men and boys dominated science fiction. 

Nevertheless, the author stood by her heroine and consistently promoted acceptance of one’s unique traits and personality. When A Wrinkle in Time won the 1963 Newbury Award, L’Engle used her acceptance speech to decry forces working for the standardization of mankind, or, as she so eloquently put it, “making muffins of us, muffins like every other muffin in the muffin tin.” L’Engle’s commitment to individualism contributed to the very future of science fiction. Without her we may never have met The Hunger Games’s Katniss Everdeen or Divergent’s Tris Prior. 

7. THE MURKY GENRE HELPED MAKE THE BOOK A SUCCESS.

Once A Wrinkle in Time hit bookstores, its slippery categorization stopped being a drawback. The book was smart enough for adults without losing sight of the storytelling elements kids love. A glowing 1963 review in The Milwaukee Sentinel captured this sentiment: “A sort of space age Alice in Wonderland, Miss L’Engle’s book combines a warm story of family life with science fiction and a most convincing case for nonconformity. Adults who still enjoy Alice will find it delightful reading along with their youngsters.” 

8. THE BOOK IS ACTUALLY THE FIRST OF A SERIES.

Although the other four novels are not as well known as A Wrinkle in Time, the “Time Quintet” is a favorite of science fiction fans. The series, written over a period of nearly 30 years, follows the Murry family’s continuing battle over evil forces.

9. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST FREQUENTLY BANNED BOOKS OF ALL TIME.

Oddly enough, A Wrinkle in Time has been accused of being both too religious and anti-Christian. L’Engle’s particular brand of liberal Christianity was deeply rooted in universal salvation, a view that some critics have claimed, “[D]enigrates organized Christianity and promotes an occultic world view.” There have also been objections to the use of Jesus Christ’s name alongside figures like Buddha, Shakespeare, and Gandhi.  Detractors feel that grouping these names together trivializes Christ’s divine nature. 

10. L’ENGLE LEARNED TO SEE THE UPSIDE OF THIS CONTROVERSY.

The author revealed how she felt about all this sniping in a 2001 interview with The New York Times. She brushed it aside, saying, “It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it. Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, 'Ah, the hell with it.' It's great publicity, really.'' 

11. THE SCIENCE FICTION HAS INSPIRED SCIENCE FACTS.

American astronaut Janice Voss once told L’Engle that A Wrinkle in Time inspired her career path. When Voss asked if she could bring a copy of the novel into space, L’Engle jokingly asked why she couldn’t go, too. 

Inspiring astronauts wasn’t L’Engle’s only out-of-this-world achievement. In 2013 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) honored the writer’s memory by naming a crater on Mercury’s south pole “L’Engle.” 

12. A STAR-STUDDED MOVIE ADAPTATIONS WILL HIT THEATERS IN 2018.

Although L’Engle was famously skeptical of film adaptations of the novel, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay (13th; Selma) is bringing a star-filled version of the book to the big screen next year. Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, and Zach Galifianakis are among the film's stars. It's due in theaters on March 9, 2018.

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43 Dead Game of Thrones TV Characters Who Are Still Alive in the Books
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George R.R. Martin may be famous for killing off fictional characters, but let’s not downplay the homicidal tendencies of Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and Davis Benioff. The list of alive-and-kicking book characters whose on-screen counterparts have gone to the great godswood in the sky just keeps growing, especially now that the show’s many plotlines have flown past their book counterparts. The season six finale, in particular, was a bloodbath. And who knows? Maybe season seven will get the “dead in the show, alive in the books” list up to an even 50. After all, valar morghulis: All men must die.

WARNING: Spoilers for all aired episodes and all published books.

1. JEYNE WESTERLING/TALISA OF VOLANTIS

Helen Sloan/HBO

One of the major book-to-show changes made by Game of Thrones is a complete overhaul of the character of Robb Stark’s wife. In the books, she’s Jeyne Westerling, the daughter of one of Stark’s minor vassals. In the show, she’s Talisa, a noblewoman from the foreign land of Volantis. Whatever the specifics about Mrs. King of the North, in the show she’s dead—memorably killed during the Red Wedding—and in the books she’s alive, mourning her late husband and possibly (according to some fans) carrying his child.

2. JOJEN REED

This one’s a bit iffy, because if you believe a popular fan theory, Jojen Reed—one of Bran Stark’s traveling companions and the one who taught him about his supernatural powers—is actually dead in the books. In the show, however, it’s a sure thing: the season four finale saw him get stabbed multiple times by a zombie skeleton (a “wight,” in Thrones parlance), before his sister Meera mercy killed him by slitting his throat. Oh, and then his body was blown up. This character is no more. He has ceased to be!

3. AND 4. PYP AND GRENN

Game of Thrones book readers were shocked when season four’s penultimate episode, “The Watchers on the Wall,” saw Jon Snow’s close friends Pyp and Grenn killed during the battle between the Night’s Watch and the Wildling army of Mayce Rayder. They’re still around as of A Dance with Dragons, serving at Castle Black and freezing their butts off.

5. SHIREEN BARATHEON 

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In one of Game of Thrones’ more gruesome scenes (and there have been a fair number of those), season five’s penultimate episode saw Stannis Baratheon burn his teenage daughter Shireen at the stake as an offering to the god R’hllor, who counts sacrifices of those with king’s blood among his very, very favorite things. In the books, Shireen and her mother Selyse are still at Castle Black, while Stannis and his army are snowed in several days’ march from their intended destination of Winterfell. Showrunners Weiss and Benioff have implied that Shireen’s show fate is what eventually happens to her in the books, though if that’s true, the specifics of her death may change.

6. AND 7. RAKHARO AND IRRI

By the end of George R.R. Martin’s most recent A Song of Ice and Fire book, A Dance with Dragons, these two members of Team Daenerys—one of her bloodriders (essentially a bodyguard) and one of her handmaidens, respectively—are out hunting for their MIA queen, who took one of her dragons out for a quick jaunt and never came back. In the show, the pair of them have been long dead—Rakharo killed offscreen in early season two by an anonymous khalasar, Irri strangled to death a few episodes later as part of a plot to steal Daenerys’ dragons.

8. XARO XHOAN DAXOS

Irri’s death, as revealed in a deleted scene, came at the hands of fellow handmaiden Doreah, who had secretly been conspiring against her Khaleesi with the merchant prince Xaro Xhoan Daxos. As punishment, Daenerys locks the pair of them in Xaro’s vault, leaving them to die. In the books, while Doreah’s dead (of a wasting disease), Xaro’s still around to be a pain in Daenerys’ queenly neck. In book five, he pops up in Meereen to try and bribe her into going to Westeros and stop messing around with the slave trade. She refuses, and Qarth declares war on her.

9. PYAT PREE

This character—warlock, bald, purple lips, creepy—is in the same boat as Xaro Xhoan Daxos: They were both part of season two’s Qarth storyline, they both conspired to steal Daenerys’ dragons, they both died in the show (Pyat Pree was burned alive, which is just what happens when you mess with dragons), and they are both still alive and nursing major chips on their shoulders in the books. Pyat, a minor character, hasn’t actually been present for three books now, though Xaro mentions to Daenerys in book five that his warlock bud is still very much alive and plans to get revenge against her for burning the House of the Undying to the ground.

10. MANCE RAYDER 

Helen Sloan/HBO

The death of Wildling King Mance Rayder is one of eight season five deaths that didn’t happen in the books. In the show, he was burned at the stake for refusing to declare allegiance to Stannis Baratheon. Ditto the books, except—the way Martin writes it—it’s revealed that the man who actually died is a Wildling named Rattleshirt, who was glamored by Melisandre to look like Mance. The show could conceivably still pull a bait and switch and reveal that Mance is alive and protected by a magical disguise, but given HBO’s fondness for truncating plot lines, it doesn’t seem likely.

11. BARRISTAN SELMY

Fans of Barristan Selmy who were upset by his tragic death midway through season five can take refuge in the original books, where the former knight and hardcore Daenerys supporter wasn’t slain by the group of insurgents known as the Sons of the Harpy. Instead, book-Barristan assumes the title the “Hand of the Queen” after Daenerys disappears from Meereen and does his best to keep the city standing while his sovereign is away. He has a particularly hard time dealing with Daenerys’ husband, Hizdahr zo Loraq, who, oh yeah …

12. HIZDAHR ZO LORAQ

… is also not dead in the books—though a scene in the penultimate episode of season five had him stabbed to death by the Sons of the Harpy.

13. CATELYN STARK

This one’s less straightforward, so stick with us: In the books, Catelyn Stark was murdered at the Red Wedding but came back as Lady Stoneheart, a sort of vengeance-minded, zombie version of her former self. In the show, there’s been nary a whisper of Lady Stoneheart, even though we’ve passed the point in the story when she would have shown up. Actress Michelle Fairley has said outright that her character won't be coming back, but hey, this cast has lied before. But for now, Catelyn is dead in the show, and undead in the books.

14. AND 15. DORAN AND TRYSTANE MARTELL

The Dornish plotline is a lot bloodier in the show than it is in the books. Shortly after Myrcella is assassinated by Ellaria Sand, Prince Doran Martell and his son and heir, Trystane, are murdered as well; Doran by Ellaria, Trystane by his cousin Obara. In the books, Doran is still playing the long game, trying to stay out of a war with the Lannisters while secretly attempting to broker an alliance with Daenerys Targaryen. Book Trystane, younger than his show counterpart, has still only been mentioned, never actually seen.

16. MYRCELLA BARATHEON

Helen Sloan/HBO

In the books, Myrcella Baratheon—the only daughter of Cersei and Jaime Lannister—is currently missing an ear, the result of a botched Dornish plot to install her as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms over her younger brother Tommen, thereby starting a civil war. In the show, she fares quite a bit worse, having been assassinated by Ellaria Sand in the season five finale as payback for her family’s role in the death of Oberyn Martell.

17. STANNIS BARATHEON

The end of A Dance with Dragons leaves Stannis Baratheon and his army in a pretty bad place: en route to Winterfell to take the North back from the Boltons, they’re trapped in a blizzard that shows no signs of relenting. Back at the Wall, Jon Snow receives a letter from Ramsay Bolton claiming that Stannis has been killed. (An already-released chapter from The Winds of Winter gives us some additional information on that front; obviously, there are spoilers.) In the show, Stannis makes it out of the snowstorm after he sacrifices his daughter Shireen (see above) to the Red God, but during the subsequent battle between his army and the Boltons, he’s killed by Brienne of Tarth. Brienne, you’ll remember, vowed vengeance on Stannis for his role in the assassination of his brother (and Brienne’s liege lord) Renly back in season two. See, Stannis? This is why you don’t kill family members.

18. SELYSE BARATHEON

Lest you think any of the Baratheons make it out of Game of Thrones happy and whole (Robert’s bastard son Gendry is at least supposedly out there somewhere, not dead), Stannis’ wife Selyse hanged herself in the season five finale after allowing her daughter to be sacrificed. In the books, Selyse and Shireen are currently living in Castle Black with the Night’s Watch.

19. AND 20. ROOSE AND WALDA BOLTON 

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In the second episode of season six, Lord of Winterfell and betrayer of the Starks Roose Bolton is in turn betrayed by his own son, Ramsay, after his wife, Walda, gives birth to a son that Ramsay believes could threaten his standing as the Bolton heir. In addition to stabbing his father to death, Ramsay murders his stepmother and unnamed half-brother by setting his dogs on them.

21. MERYN TRANT

In the books, Kingsguard member Meryn Trant hasn’t been up to much lately; since testifying at Tyrion’s trial for the murder of King Joffrey, he’s mostly tooled around King’s Landing guarding the Lannisters. The show, however, sent him off to Braavos as a guard for new Master of Coin, Mace Tyrell. Let’s just say there have been better business trips; Arya Stark, training to be an assassin at the House of Black and White, happened upon Trant and tracked him to a brothel, where she killed him in retaliation for his (presumed) murder of her mentor Syrio Forel back in season one.

22. BRYNDEN TULLY

Fan favorite character Brynden “Blackfish” Tully—uncle to Catelyn Stark—is still alive and kicking alive in the books, out somewhere in the Riverlands causing problems for Lannister forces. In the show, on the other hand, he was ultimately unable to escape the Lannister family’s wrath and received an offscreen death at the hands of anonymous soldiers.

23. AND 24. SUMMER AND SHAGGYDOG

Poor, poor direwolves. In Martin’s books, two have been offed so far: Sansa’s Lady, killed in A Game of Thrones, and Robb Stark’s Grey Wind, one of the casualties of A Storm of Swords’ Red Wedding. In HBO’s Thrones, Bran’s Summer and Rickon’s Shaggydog also met violent ends at the hands of the Wights and Ramsay Bolton’s allies the Umbers, respectively. Ghost and Nymeria had better watch out.

25. WALDER FREY

HBO

One character whose death Thrones fans have long craved is turncoat Walder Frey, who was instrumental in orchestrating the infamous (and very bloody) Red Wedding. For his part in the murder of her brother and mother, Arya Stark has long had ol’ Walder on her kill list. In the season six finale, the youngest Stark daughter made good on her deadly promise and slit Frey’s throat. In the books, Walder’s still around, his extended family being picked off by Lady Stoneheart (who hasn't made it into the show, disappointing fans and Martin himself) and her followers.

26., 27., AND 28. HODOR, LEAF, AND THE THREE-EYED RAVEN

The wight battle that saw Summer bite the dust also took out three characters who are still, in the books, an integral part of Bran’s storyline: Leaf, a Child of the Forest; the Three-Eyed Raven (called the Three-Eyed Crow in the books), Bran’s mentor; and Bran’s longtime companion Hodor, whose death and backstory revelation (“Hold the door”) was a particularly traumatic one for Thrones fans.

29., 30. AND 31. MARGAERY, LORAS, AND MACE TYRELL

Game of Thrones’s season six finale was, in a word, a bloodbath. Cersei’s grand plan for vengeance came to fruition when she and Qyburn managed to blow up King’s Landing’s Great Sept, with—among others—Margaery, Loras, and Mace Tyrell trapped inside. That leaves one Tyrell, matriarch Olenna, still alive and plotting vengeance in the show, while in the books the Lannisters' rival family (one of them, anyway) is still more or less intact.

32. AND 33. THE HIGH SPARROW AND LANCEL LANNISTER

Two other poor characters who went kablooey in the season six finale are the High Sparrow, leader of a fanatical religious group, and his acolyte Lancel Lannister. In the books, the whole “Cersei vs. the Church” plotline is still playing out, with Cersei unsuccessful at outmaneuvering her cultish enemies… so far. Another character, Septa Unella, has been captured by Cersei in the show and handed over to Gregor Clegane, a.k.a. The Mountain, to be tortured. She appears, for all intents and purposes, to be out of commission, but she’s not technically dead.

34. RAMSAY BOLTON

Helen Sloan/HBO

Turnabout is fair play for the sadistic Ramsay Bolton. Season six’s penultimate episode, “The Battle of the Bastards,” sees Jon Snow finally go head-to-head with Bolton at Winterfell. Snow beats Bolton half to death and then locks him up in his kennels … but it’s at the hands of his own starving dogs, unleashed by Sansa Stark, that Bolton finally meets his doom.

35., 36., AND 37. RICKON STARK, OSHA, AND WUN WUN

Before being eaten alive, Ramsay and his men managed to take out three still-alive-in-the-books characters: The Wildling giant Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, a.k.a. Wun Wun; youngest Stark child Rickon; and Rickon’s Wildling guardian Osha. In the show, Rickon and Osha were betrayed by Smalljohn Umber and delivered to Ramsay Bolton, who stabbed Osha in the neck and, several episodes later, shot Rickon to lure Jon Snow into an attack. In the books, Rickon and Osha haven’t been seen for a while, but we know they’re hiding out on the cannibal-infested island of Skagos. The end of book five has Davos Seaworth embarking on a quest to retrieve Stark so that his family’s still-loyal allies can rally around him.

38. BROTHER RAY

As with Jeyne Westerling/Talisa of Volantis, Ian McShane’s Brother Ray is a character who’s different in the show than he is in the books. Or, rather, Ray is something of a combination of two book characters: Septon Meribald, a man of the faith who ministers to war-beset commoners, and the Elder Brother, the leader of a community of monks that (per a popular fan theory) is harboring a still-living Sandor Clegane. (In the show it’s been confirmed that Sandor is still alive, while in the books his status is officially TBD.) Regardless of character specifics, in the books Meribald and the Elder Brother are both alive, while in the show Brother Ray was killed by the marauding Brotherhood Without Banners after one episode.

39. DAGMER CLEFTJAW

A fairly minor character in the show and the books, Dagmer Cleftjaw is a warrior and man-at-arms hailing from House Greyjoy. In the show, he and his men received an offscreen death-by-flaying at the hands of Ramsay Bolton after the latter’s capture of Winterfell from Theon Greyjoy. In the books, he has his life and his skin, having been holding the Northern stronghold of Torrhen’s Square with a force of Ironborn for quite some time.

40. TOMMEN BARATHEON

HBO

Let’s pour one out for little Tommen. The season six finale saw Cersei and Jaime’s youngest child join his sister Myrcella in the “Wait, You’re Not Supposed to Be Dead Yet!” club. Pulled back and forth all season by the competing interests of his mother and his wife Margaery, Tommen committed suicide after the former engineered the latter’s death-by-explosion. In the books, the conflict between Cersei and the Tyrells hasn’t come to a head quite yet. Tommen could probably use some hugs before things get really bad.

41. LOTHAR FREY

One of the more popular theories among A Song of Ice and Fire fans is one called “Frey Pies,” which posits that Stark bannerman Wyman Manderly baked some of Walder Frey’s relatives into meat pies and fed them to him. That theory’s credibility got a boost in the season six finale when Arya Stark did that very thing before cutting Frey’s throat. In the show, one of the pie-bound Freys was Lothar, who killed Arya’s sister-in-law Talisa and her unborn child during the Red Wedding seasons earlier. In the books, though still involved in the Red Wedding, Lothar has so far managed to escape that cannibalistic fate.

42. ALLISER THORNE

A perpetual… er… thorn in Jon Snow’s side, Night’s Watch master-at-arms Alliser Thorne is all but exiled by Snow in A Dance with Dragons when he’s sent on a mission beyond the Wall. As such, he’s not around for the mutiny that fells Snow (if only temporarily). In the show, Thorne spearheads the mutiny and is hanged for treason once Snow is resurrected.

43. MAEGE MORMONT

Maege Mormont, known as She-Bear, is a loyal follower of the House Stark and the matriarch of a whole clan of kick-ass ladies. In the show, she sacrifices her life for her liege, dying in some unspecified battle after appearing very, very briefly in a handful of episodes. Her death makes way for her young, steel-willed daughter Lyanna to become head of her family. In the books, Maege is still involved in the fighting, though readers haven’t actually seen her in quite some time.

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