F**k New York!

Recently went through the great state of New York to visit Niagra Falls.  Here comes an exaggeration, but it felt like we passed a toll every five minutes on Interstate 90.  I knew we were passing a toll area because of the signs declaring a toll, saying no EZ Pass, dial **826 to avoid penalties (with additional not so vague threats).

Let’s not forget that we stopped in New York state twice to purchase gasoline, each time paying a state tax for each gallon of gas.  Also while in New York, again visiting Niagra Falls, we purchased Maid Of The Mist tickets, paying state taxes again.  Let’s not even mention food and beverages, etc., again paying state taxes.

So, what did we receive for all of these state taxes?  Seriously?  What?  Oh yeah, a fifteen minute boat ride (which happened during the solar eclipse – way cool).

But back to the state tax on each gallon of gasoline.  Isn’t that supposed to be for road maintenance?  Why all these tolls?  Why all these additional taxes?

Not wanting to be penalized, we contacted **826 and signed up for text message notifications for bills.  When signing up, we were notified that it could take up to two weeks for the toll bill to be generated.

Fast forward to first notification of toll bill.  It was for ten something dollars, something we felt was too reasonable for New York, but we paid it.

A day ago, we received another notification.  An additional thirty-two dollars this time.

My gripes — if it’s being done electronically, why more than one bill?  If it’s electronic/computerized, wouldn’t they have everything almost instantly?  Why are we paying taxes on gas, and paying to use their freeways?  Why almost forty-three dollars to pass through this overpriced state?  Why am I afraid that we are going to receive another bill after I pay the second one?

Again, F**k New York!!!

As a follow up, the New York, steal your money saga is not over.  Just received another bill via text (2024-05-14 – over a month after the passage).  Went to site, and an additional $21.14 showed up.  With that paid, we’re at $56.00 to pass through that $h!t hole, money stealing, state.  Never again.

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Apple Watch Continues To Disappoint

To be fair, the apple watch is a smart piece of kit, and not all of its shortcomings are seemingly of its own design, but —

  • Battery life still fails to impress, although if you purchase the ultra model, it’s somewhat better
  • You still have to have a phone to set things up/maintain the watch
  • More apps are being withdrawn, making the watch less and less useful

Per the bulleted list, battery life just plain sucks.  That’s all I have to say about that.

You know what else sucks?  You have to have a phone to set up/maintain your watch, which makes getting a watch with cellular a bit redundant.  No, you can’t use your Mac Mini or your Macbook Air or IPad.  Phone is required.

Anyway, I suppose if you forget your phone and need to make an emergency call or text, the watch can step in and take over.  However …

More and more apps, can you say Uber, are going the way of the dodo.  I guess it costs too much, and the companies feel like they are not receiving the returns they envisioned.  To be sure, developer time/cost could be a big part of it, but Apple doesn’t give anything away for free, so that weighs in.

So the watch costs more if you buy it with cellular capabilities.  Your cellular provider charges you an amount to have another phone line, the apps you want, like Uber, go away, and can only be used on your cell, so it seems pointless to have cellular on your watch when you HAVE to have your phone with you ALWAYS.

Needless to say, I paid extra for the cellular version — my mistake, but that’s water under the bridge.  My cell phone provider wanted to know why I recently cancelled the extra line for my wearable, and had a difficult time understanding why I wouldn’t want to pay for an extra line so I would be forced to carry my cell phone with me EVERYWHERE.  But, they finally acquiesced.

It’s a shame, really.  I wanted to do away with my phone but no one supports me in that desire.

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Kill A Squirrel Plant A Tree

Wait, before jumping on your soapbox, hear me out.  As I intend to offend everyone.

Squirrels are natural tree planters.  They perform this job most of their waking hours, gathering and hiding nuts in preparation for lean times.  Because they often forget where they’ve hidden all their nuts, new trees “accidentally” sprout in the spring.

My proposal, kill the squirrel during the winter, thereby saving all those hidden nuts.  That way, more trees will be produced.

Obviously, this process will not be 100% efficient due to natural losses (not germinating due to rot for example) and other animals (turns out squirrels are not the only nut eaters), but statistically more nuts remaining hidden in the ground equates to more trees.

On the other hand, as a friend of mine suggested, if you’re tired of cleaning up after said slovenly trees – so inconsiderate with their leaves at the end of the growing season, you can kill the squirrels before the nuts are hidden.  Thus eliminating the trees to begin with.

One way you enhance tree production, the other, you break the vicious cycle.

Do it before the squirrels acquire a taste for human flesh.  The life you save may be your own.

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Seriously Apple, Up To 18 Hours?

I have been waiting patiently to buy an apple watch, and was hoping the apple watch 6 would finally address the dismal battery performance issue.  Battery life is one of the most asked for features, and yet apple just can’t seem to figure out what the people really want.  How many more people would purchase an apple watch if it had a more reasonable battery life?  I know I would.  I just don’t see up to 18 hours being reasonable.  I mean, if you want to use it while sleeping (sleep monitoring), you have to charge it before going to bed.  What a piece of crap.  I’m ranting here, and I’m not even going to separate this into logical units (at least not right now).  I’m just not going to buy something that would go dead on me should I be away from the power grid for more than 18 hours.  Just not going to do it (and believe me, I want one).  Can you imagine someone getting lost in some inhospitable place, and their only piece of electronic assistance lasts up to 18 hours?  What a joke!

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Term Limits For All And Voting

The title says almost everything I wish to say:  There should be term limits for all!  I do mean all, including the Supreme Court.  Yes, I realize that would require an amendment to the constitution, but I’m okay with that.

Also, I strongly believe that there should be no poll results for elections until all polling places are closed (and that includes Hawaii and Alaska).  You should not be leaving your place of employment after a long day of work only to find out that the president has all but been decided (based on conjecture, exit polls, etc.), making your vote somewhat futile.

While speaking about government, let’s throw in the idea that laws should not automatically last forever.  They should always have an expiration date (10, 20 years?).  At that time, they can be voted in anew, or left at the roadside.

Just my opinion.  Yours may vary.

 

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Eversource – Why Does My Electricity Cost So Much?

I live in the NorthEast, and recently while paying my electric bill, I was looking over the costs (all prices cents per kWh):

  • 8.123 – Service Rate
  • 2.928 – Transmission Charge
  • ??? – Distr Cust Srvc Charge (flat rate?)
  • 0.246 – System Improvements
  • 5.739 – Distr Chrg
  • -0.011 – Revenue Adj Mechanism
  • -0.058 – CTA Chrg
  • 0.89 – FMCC Delivery Chrg
  • 1.259 – Comb Public Benefit Chrg
  • Subtotal Delivery Services $87.60
  • Subtotal Supplier Services $57.75

Why, is the delivery charge so much higher than the actual cost of manufacture (of electricity)?  I realize that Eversource doesn’t really produce the electricity, they are only resellers (so the price of the electricity is higher than it should be), and that the system needs to be maintained/upgraded from time to time, and some of the fees, maybe all of them, are government regulated/required.

Still, what’s the deal?  Is the government and it’s general fund fixes all attitude running Eversource?  What is the deal?

Follow up Feb 17, 2020:

I recently asked Eversource why electrical transmission cost so much –

Why is the delivery price of electricity so high? It’s more than the actual electricity cost – 140%. That is unreasonable.

The response was  (and the customer care agent is the one that spelled Eversource incorrectly) –

Thank you for your email, Robert.  We’re happy to explain the delivery charges.

These charges are made up of several different items related to the transmission and delivery of electricity and maintenance of the electric distribution system that delivers electricity to your home or business.  You can find a more detailed description of the line item charges on your bill at Evesource.com by clicking here. (Note:  I removed the link – if you’re curious, you can find their reasoning at their site.)

Both supply and delivery charges are fixed rates that are multiplied by the amount of energy you use each month, which means you can manage these costs by reducing your energy use.  Take care.

Thank you,

Name Removed Because it’s not cool to make that person responsible for the company she keeps

Eversource Customer Care

My thoughts, hmmm, you mean, if I use more, I have to pay more?  Must be a math thing – kind of like:

  • If I pay give or take $100.00 per month (let’s assume $100.00 is a reasonable average for their clientele – also makes the math easier) for transmission fees (more than 140% of the cost of the actual electricity itself – saying it again in the hopes that it sinks in),
  • and we round that to 10 months (to make the math easier), that’s $1,000.00 per year.
  • Multiply that by 1 million (very round figure of 1/3 the population of the state using/paying for electricity),
  • and you arrive at $1 Billion dollars a year in transmission costs ($1,000,000,000.00/year).

Sure, that number probably isn’t even close to the real number (I envision it being higher), but you get the point.  I can’t even imagine that much money being needed by Eversource for anything.

My question is, why isn’t anyone talking about this?

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Cheap OAir Sucks!

tldr; Bought airline tickets on Cheap O’Air.  Wanted to pay for an extra bag (originally only paid for one bag), but Cheap O’Air said I had to talk to Spirit Airlines directly.  Spoke with Spirit Airlines and they said I couldn’t buy an additional bag for the flights.  In addition, had to pay even more money because Cheap O’Air had only charged me for part of the flight (1/2 way to final destination and 1/2 way back).  Months of conversations ensued.

To continue,  after reading this I realized the title should be more like, “Cheap OAir Sucks!  Spirit Airlines sucks, too!”  Perhaps Cheap OAir and Spirit Airlines Suck would have conveyed the same meaning to humans, but it wouldn’t be the same to Google.  Anyway, on with the story:

My wife wanted to visit Peru for Christmas, so I purchased a round-trip ticket for her in September 2018. At that time I also paid for one bag (luggage) to accompany her from Bradley airport to Lima airport and back.

Oct 6 – To surprise my wife for her birthday I called Cheap OAir to arrange for an additional bag as she was having great difficulty fitting everything into one bag. I was advised at that time, that I had to speak directly with the airline, and that they could not do so at Cheap OAir.

When I called Spirit Airlines, they said I could not purchase an additional bag. While speaking with the representative, I was informed that my wife’s baggage, that I paid for via the Cheap OAir site, was only booked for the first part of each flight (as the entire flight was considered two flights by the airline, and not a connecting flight). So, I had to pay an additional $100.00 so my wife’s luggage would make it to Peru and return with her to Hartford.

I immediately contacted Cheap OAir and asked:

  • What kind of service do you offer?
  • What kind of bungling mismanagement is going on there?
  • Why would I book a flight through your company and only want my wife’s luggage to go part of the way to her final destination?
  • What is wrong with you?

I ended the e-mail with: I will not be recommending your company, or be using your service ever again.

Oct 7 – Cheap OAir responded and said that I needed to send them the invoice (in pdf format) for the additional luggage fee that the airline required, so they could investigate it further.

Oct 8 – I contacted Spirit airlines to inform them that I needed an invoice, preferably in pdf format, for the required additional purchase.

Oct 8 – Received an automated response from Spirit airlines. No human involved.

Oct 10 – Must have contacted customer support directly as I received an e-mail expressing the hope that that contact was satisfactory, that I received Spirit’s signature service.

Oct 11 – Received another response from Spirit. I had submitted another request for an invoice. Taken from said e-mail:

I still require an invoice due to the debacle with Cheap OAir. I have asked for an invoice once before via your website, and the e-mail response was inadequate. I responded to the e-mail and have not received a response. I responded to the notification of the upcoming evaluation of the customer service, and have not received a response. I am asking here, once again, please send me an invoice for the purchase of the baggage accompanying my wife’s flight all the way to Peru and back to Hartford.

As a sidenote, I believe I should not have to ask for an invoice to begin with.

Oct 11 – Received automated responses, two of them. Wouldn’t it be delightful if human beings manned the customer service department?

Oct 11 – Evidently I complained via facebook, and someone human finally contacted me. I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say, it was like getting blood from a stone (turnip) to get an invoice for the additional charges for my wife’s baggage. I mentioned in our correspondences that it should not be so difficult, in this day and age, to get a receipt, electronic or otherwise, for the purchase of services. Of course, they were extremely sympathetic even when they were doing nothing.

I finally ended the lengthy conversation by advising them I would be back should Cheap OAir not accept what they sent me, and could not “say that I will have anything positive to say about this experience or about your company.”

Oct 12 – Cheap OAir responded to my invoice submission (per their request) by trying to suggest that I might have been at fault. I’m sure by now, if you have any empathy for me in this situation, you could understand why I was livid.

Later in the day I received another e-mail requesting I wait while they investigate this situation further.

Oct 13 – Received an e-mail about how they were going to contact the airline themselves, and something about the “seat assignment team.” Not sure what that was about, but seemed typical for Cheap OAir.

Oct 14 – Received an e-mail from Spirit asking how my experience regarding:

I need an invoice for my baggage purchase.

INVOICE

Third request via form/e-mail. Two requests via phone (where they inform me that I have to request an invoice here).

Oct 15 – Spirit was still responding to me:

Thank you for getting back to us with this information. Xxxxxx’s out of the office right now, and your concern has been assigned to me.

Sorry that it took a while to get back to you. I see that you were already assisted by one of our Social Media Support Team members in regards to your baggage invoice request.

If there’s anything else I can help you out with, please feel free to let me know.

Oct 15 – Cheap OAir sent an e-mail asking me to verify if I was the one that made the changes directly with the airline.

Oct 16 – Cheap OAir was very sorry to hear of the problems I was experiencing, and that I would lose a lot of money if I continued with my flight cancellation. I guess I had pretty much had it by that point and had asked for a refund. Refund statement as follows:

We apologize for the inconvenience caused to you. We would like to inform you that, we have spoken to the airline regarding the cancellation and your refund. As per the airline, refund is not permitted. However, you can cancel the booking for the Future Credit of USD 582.47 valid for 60 days from the date of Cancellation.

Your travel has to be complete before 06th September, 2019. However, you have to use the future credit amount within 60 days from the date of cancellation. If passenger does not use his credit amount within 60 days then the airline automatically forfeit the entire credit amount.

Five hundred eighty-two dollars was a bit light, to say the least. The wife said, let’s grin and bare it. We’ll just remember never to use Cheap OAir or Spirit Airlines ever again.

Oct 17 – Spirit Airlines sent me an e-mail telling me I could still change my unfavorable review of the services I received.

Oct 22 – Wrote to advise that they were working with Spirit Airlines to get clarification with some details. I was advised that my case had been escalated.

Oct 24 – Received an e-mail from Cheap OAir: We would like to inform you that we already sent a refund request to the Airline for USD 100.00 and we are still waiting for the Airline response, as due to some technical error we are facing some system glitch while processing the refund back to your card. Hence, we are still coordinating with our refund department.

I guess it wasn’t my fault after all. Go figure.

Nov 14 – Received an e-mail from Cheap OAir stating that they could not return my money as I had closed the account that had been used to make the purchase. In that event they wanted to deposit the money directly in my bank account. Please give them all of my bank account info (via e-mail).

Nov 19 – I advised them that I did not feel comfortable giving out the information via e-mail, and would prefer a check (via snail mail).

Nov 20 – I was advised to call/contact Cheap OAir’s billing department directly, because a paper check is not guaranteed. Not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but okay.

Nov 26 – Notified that there were internal communications at Cheap OAir about using a check. Allow 24 – 48 hours.

Dec 1 – Wife went on flight to Peru. No answer about check.

Dec 5 – Another e-mail advising me that they are still checking whether they can send a check or not.

Dec 30 – I e-mailed Cheap OAir asking for an update as I had not hear anything from them in approximately a month.

Jan 4 2019 – Received an e-mail saying that I need to verify the billing address to receive a check.

Jan 7 – Cheap OAir contacted me and thanked for the information.

Jan 9 – Informed by Cheap OAir:

Due to circumstances beyond our control we may not be able to process your refund within the original time frame you were given. We are continuing to work diligently with the (Airline/Hotel/Car Company) to complete the refund. We will continue to update you on the status of your refund every 2 weeks until the process is complete.

The check finally arrived and was dated January 9, 2019.

And to be sure, I have all the original e-mails between Cheap OAir, Spirit Airlines, and myself. Should anyone wish to verify that I have not embellished this tale, I would be more than happy to provide proof.

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Gripes About Amazon

Overall, for a giant of a company, I’d honestly have to say they do a good job. However, I do have a couple gripes.

  • If you have an issue with a delivery company, in my instance, LaserShip, and you complain, you can have them removed from your “preferred” method of delivery, but you cannot remove them as an option without paying for a better form of delivery.
  • If you wish to post a bad review for a product AND the company that sold it, you cannot do so. It does not matter if you are a verified purchaser or not. You cannot speak ill of companies that sell products via Amazon. So, in my opinion, you cannot rely on their reviews.
  • If you purchase an Amazon electronic device, such as a Fire or Kindle (Amazon tablet device), they do NOT warn you that the device is connected to your account, in such a way as it is obvious. As I am a web developer, I know for a fact that it would be easy to pop up a window that says something like, “This device will be automatically connected to your account. Hence, it will have the ability to make purchases via your account (and attached bank account/credit card).”
  • Also, if you gift a Fire device, say to a granddaughter, without hacking said device, I’m not sure how much it’s worth. It is pretty much locked into the Amazon market place, and by default CANNOT install apps from Google (android apps via Google Play).

As these are only my experiences, take them with a grain of salt. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.

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Another Bad Experience With Edge Browser

Microsoft has been trying really hard to jam Edge browser down everyone’s throats. Kind of reminds me of the old days with Internet Explorer. As a web developer, in the old days (really not too distant a past), we had to “make sure it works in Internet Explorer,” but now it seems we have to “make sure it works in Edge.”

Why, I ask? From what I’ve seen it’s not very popular, nor is I.E. for that matter. Supposedly it runs on the same engine as Firefox, but why isn’t it as good as Firefox (I’m a fan, btw)?

It’s supposed to be faster, but at the expense of what? I can tell you at least one thing it’s at the expense of, element redrawing when you’re updating data dynamically with javascript/jQuery. I know this issue has reared its ugly head in the past with other browsers, but in this day and age?

Why did my code TODAY work in Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer, but not Edge? Think redraw/repaint.

The fix was easy enough, hide and show the element. However, why Edge, why?

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Looking For A Good Sports Tracker For Bicycling? So am I!

I did my homework via Google and web reviews, and tried the following: Garmin Vivosmart HR+, Fitbit Charge 2, TomTom Spark Cardio GPS, and Samsung Gear Fit 2.

Garmin Vivosmart HR+ – I chose this model because, c’mon, it’s Garmin, right? Built-in GPS, Move IQ: “automatically tell the difference between movements like walking, running, biking, swimming and even using an elliptical,” a quote from their site, and many other features. Turns out it’s not very bike friendly, so you’ll have to enter your miles into their tracking system manually.

When I contacted customer service, they told me their site never said anything about bicycling, and they don’t support power meters, cadence, etc., something which I never asked for, but whatever. I do have a copy of the correspondences between customer service and myself, should someone wish to see it.

Suggestions to Garmin: Make your device activities customizable – Bicyclists want to see their miles accrue, and their tracks, without having to manually enter them.

Verdict: Seemingly good tracking, except it doesn’t work for what I want (bicycling).

Disposition: Return!

Fitbit Charge 2 – Okay, here’s another famous company. To be sure they’re all famous, so I won’t repeat for the other two below. Anyway, thought that this would be a good one, because everyone knows that Fitbit is all about activity tracking, right? Yeah, not so much. Although it was not waterproof, irksome to say the least, it seemed to work right out of the box. It did rely on my phone’s GPS to do its tracking, but I’m a bicyclist, and I always carry my phone for emergencies, so not a big deal.

The first day it seemed to work okay. The second day I noticed that the device was having issues staying connected with my phone, thus losing GPS tracking. My rides started recording as ten cents on the dollar, so to speak (10 percent – an exaggeration to be sure, but you get the point).

When I started researching the issue, I encountered many people complaining of the same thing (mostly runners) on Fitbit’s own forums. Another issue that popped up is that it woke me from a sound sleep (around midnight ???) to tell me I had met a goal for burned calories. Seriously? You’re going to wake me from a sound sleep (it also does sleep tracking … for your health) to tell me about calories burned for the day? Wednesday, Thursday, Friday?

Suggestions to Fitbit: Fix your connection issues, and make sure they never raise their ugly heads again. Also, turn off notifications (by default) when someone is SLEEPING!

Verdict: Tracking is, how do I say it politely, for the birds. Unfinished UI app.

Disposition: Return!

TomTom Spark Cardio GPS – So, I ended up on their site (via some search agent), didn’t realize they had a newer model. Tried to place an order, and it was rejected because of a supposed bad CSV. I then tried to purchase the same item with another card, and it was accepted.

When I attempted to look at my order, it showed two orders outstanding. Note, this was on a Saturday, and you cannot call them on the weekends. So, I put in a support ticket, contacted support via e-mail, to make sure the bad CSV order was cancelled.

I later discovered the newer model on their site (let’s just say their site is not user friendly), and then put in another ticket to cancel both orders. There was no contact about either e-mail over the weekend.

Monday rolled around, and when I got home from work, I had a message on my answering machine from a shipping manager at TomTom. She suspected a duplicate order. I returned her call, and she said she would try to cancel the shipment. I asked why no one from customer service cancelled the order, or contacted me? She didn’t know, “they’re in India … although they are on the job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” The shipping manager said that if she could not cancel the order, I could always refuse the shipment (when the delivery was attempted).

I had some errands to run, and went out for a couple of hours. When I returned home, there was no message from the shipping manager, so I called customer service. The initial response was, the item had been shipped, the duplicate order was never completed, and thus cancelled, have a nice day. I asked why no one had contacted me, and he said he would have to look at each contact, speak with each agent that was dealing with my ticket, and then get back to me. He put me on hold for a short time, and when he answered again, he basically said it was due to call volume, and that he was closing all the tickets, have a nice day.

I asked if there was someone to whom I could complain. Was there a phone number or e-mail address, perhaps? He assured me that there was not, but that this was all noted in the system.

I would have liked to have spoken to him about their ticket system failure, vent my frustrations a bit, but his accent was so thick I could barely understand him. With that I decided to not have anything further to do with TomTom. I mean, if they don’t even care when you’re buying their product (and the service shows), how are they going to act once you have the item?

Suggestions to TomTom: Get better customer service, or maybe put the shipping manager in charge. At least she seemed to care enough not to just phone it in.

Verdict: Customer service is so bad, I just sent it back without opening the box. Not going to take a chance.

Disposition: Return!

Samsung Gear Fit 2 – Beautiful color screen, although it’s not viewable in bright sunlight. Can tailor the activity to bicycle – great! And then the issue of connecting to my phone reared its ugly head.

I guess Samsung is not really all that keen to support users when it comes to connectivity. This really sucks, because you cannot directly connect to it from your computer. Read that as “Hello, Samsung, we should be able to connect the activity tracker to our computer.” I wrote that out, because they don’t seem to be smart enough to have figured it out on their own.

Anyway, when I tried contacting customer service for a list of compatible phones, I was told that all Android phones that have Android 4.4 and above, 2 Gig of RAM, should work. When I asked about sites that had lists, including one of their own, I was told that different countries have different spec’s for phones.

I looked into upgrading my phone and found the cost prohibitive.

Suggestions to Samsung: Try to make your app more phone friendly. Also, crazy idea here, but how about making an app that tells a person if their phone is compatible with a given device or not. Maybe even suggest a potential customer download and run the app before considering a purchase. And if the app finds the phone lacking, suggests a list of alternatives. Wouldn’t that be wild?

Verdict: If you have a Galaxy S5 or higher already, you’re probably okay. Probably. If you don’t, you might not want to take a chance, unless a new phone is what you really want.

Disposition: Return!

I only touched on the highlights of my experiences, and although I fully expect you to ignore my post, perhaps there will be some of you smart enough to learn from my misfortunes. At this point I am going to stop pursuing this idea any further. I guess the market is just not mature enough to give me what I want for the price I’m willing to pay at present. Anyone who tells you different has either never really used one, or has very low standards indeed.

A shame.

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