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Romania week @ PhotoLogiX

Posted 2 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Yesterday at midnight, apart from the change from 2006 to 2007, two new countries joined the EU: Romania and Bulgaria. I only visited Bulgaria for 2 days, but have been to Romania quite a few times. A good reason to dig the archives for previously unpublished photos and tell some stories about life in Romania. This week will be Romania week at PhotoLogiX.

My first visit to Romania was back in 2002 as part of the big Central Europe trip with Bas (joined by my brother Matthijs for one week). We spent a month travelling around and got quite a solid impression of the country. I found it rather depressing, dirty and badly organised. Moreover, I had to visit a hospital which did not add to the niceness of the experience. We did have a lot of fun though!

Photo 1 shows how Bas is talking to a local station guard in Piatra Neamt, who played flute when no trains were near (= all day) and ate home grown honey, which he also allowed us to taste.

Photo 2 is also from Piatra, and shows the local market, quite a common and daily venue in each Romanian village or city. Beside these two people, we also happened to meet a guy who had been on a pick-pocketing trip through Europe. He explained the how and why of his 'profession' and why he thought it was good and reasonable business. He got arrested in Holland by the way, that's how the conversation turned towards pickpocketing.

Photo 3 is from the area near Bicaz (also central Romania) and shows some people at a bus stop / café. We hitchhiked from there back to the city in a small, plain yellow van then got harassed by stray dogs on the way to the 'campsite'.

(© Central Romania - RO, August 2002)
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Romania - City Impressions

Posted 3 Januari 2007 - The Hague (NL):

When we arrived at Oradea, our first real-life introduction to Romania, we felt like stepping back 20 years in time. Driving from The Netherlands to Belgium, one will hardly notice any difference these days, but Hungary -> Romania is at least an adventure. A change of landscape, buildings, colours, people..

Compared to Western Europeans, Romanian people seemed almost brown in colour. Funny enough, lots of them nevertheless had blue eyes. Clouds seemed sticky and roads were dusty. Cars and washing machines floated in rivers and got stuck behind trees or in waterfalls.

Photo 1: Many people were begging in the street or around railway stations. However, there seemed to be much more compassion with them than we had expected. Passers-by frequently gave them some of the plastic (!) banknotes of 10,000 Lei - which were only worth 60 eurocents by the way.

Photo 2: At the end of August, large floods put the north-eastern part of the country on the water. We had to cancel our plans to go to the Danube delta. We saw how one family desperately tried to rescue a cow from a square-meter-island in what had suddenly grown into a swirling river.

Photo 3+5: Road conditions were very poor. Highways were non-existent and complete city neighbourhoods had changed into giant swimming pools during the floods.

Photo 4: From the architecture, it was easy to tell that there had been better times, but you could also easily read that these days had long gone. Dirty water and eroded buildings in Cluj Napoca, which nonetheless is one of the richest cities in the country.

Photo 6: Bucharest, just behind the People's Palace, completed in 1990 and designed to honour the great Ceaucescu, to whom I will dedicate some words in tomorrow's posting.

(© Throughout Romania - RO, August 2002)
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Ceaucescu and his People's Palace

Posted 4 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Nicolae Ceaucescu (1918-1989) joined the then-illegal communist party in 1932 and became first secretary of the Romanian Worker's Party in 1965. He became famous for being the only head of state in Central Europe escaping the iron rule of the Soviet Union. Although formally a member of the Warsaw Pact, Romania excluded itself from the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. In the meanwhile, Romania flirted with the United States and even gained access to important loans from Washington and the European Community.

Ceaucescu's state visits to China and North Korea (1971) motivated him to start a process of total national transformation, aiming to reach a multilaterally developed socialist society. As a part of this program, various villages had to be completely demolished and rebuilt. Over 20% of Bucharest was destroyed to create space for the People's Palace. People living in these areas were assigned small apartments in huge blocks. The fact that they had to abandon their pets is one of the main reasons why Bucharest is still full of stray dogs these days.

Beside his systemisation policy, Ceaucescu runned an effective and omnipresent intelligence/torturing service. During the 1980s, Ceaucescu's policy implied the massive starvation among Romania's population. All locally produced goods were exported and not allowing for any importation of goods: loans to the West had te be paid off. Hardly anybody held a passport, so travelling abroad was almost impossible until the 1989 Revolution.

Ceaucescu never saw the completion of this megalomane People's Palace, which still today is the world's second largest building, and got shot on Christmas Day 2005. The first person to show up on the People's Palace balcony was Michael Jackson in 1991 - apparently addressing the crowd with the words Hello Budapest....

(© Bucharest - RO, September 2005 / August 2002)
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Romanian Orthodox Church

Posted 5 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

87% of the Romanian population are said to adhere to the Romanian Orthodox Church. During the communist rule, the Church was tightly controlled by the state. Many monasteries were transformed into craft centers and priests were encouraged to learn other 'worldly' jobs. A large number of clergymen collaborated and were informers for Securitate, the secret police. Many others were sentenced to long terms in prison. Existing church buildings were physically moved and hidden behind large apartment blocks. New churches were only built on similar sheltered locations.

Nowadays, religion is still very important. Many Romanians are poor and have lost their hope in politics or even in society. For outsiders, the most apparent expression of their religiosity is their habit to make the sign of a cross (3 times in a row) whenever passing a religious building. No matter whether they are passing by in a bus (lots of crosses in that case!) or just walking by. The best way to trace a church is to look at the people walking by, you're likely to see them before you see the church.

(© Bucharest/Piatra - RO, September 2005 / August 2002)
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Romanian people

Posted 6 January 2006 - The Hague (NL):

Throughout the last century, Romanians have undergone large changes in society, multiple revolutions and malicious leaders. Productivity has suffered from the lack of perspectives and hope for better times. Romanian workforce is badly organised, especially on the countryside hardly any machinery is used. A new class of workers is rising though: youngsters who have not faced the communist supression and are open to new ideas and commercial growth for the country as a whole. Their main challenge is the need to collaborate with/within old-style communist organisations, and to overcome the cynical approach of the elderly towards the EU.

Tomorrow: Romanian infrastructure, Monday: Romanian women.

(© Romania - RO, 2002-2005)
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Romanian cars

Posted 7 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Road conditions in Romania are plainly bad, and the same goes for the average vehicle that uses the aforementioned infrastructure. Tilt carts, trams, trolley buses, steam rollers, trucks and lots and lots of Dacias. The original Dacia was copied from the Renault 12 model and remained in production from 1968 until 2004. Since 1995, new models have been added to the fleet, including the Dacia Logan, which is also for sale in Western Europe.

(© Throughout Romania - RO, 2002-2005)
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Women of Romania

Posted 8 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Romania is quite a conservative country when it comes to women's rights. I don't have much time today to write more personal observations, but did find the text below which accurately describes what already becomes apparent to any open-minded visitor to Romania:

As has become apparent during the past decade, inequalities between men and women in Romania are structural rather than merely contingent, and pervasive phenomena rather than temporary consequences of the transition. The public political sphere is predominantly masculine, [1] as indicated by the systematic under-representation of women in the Parliament and government, [2] as well as by "the absence of an outlook based on gender equity" from political parties. [3] The economic sphere witnesses the same phenomenon: from 1991 to 1998, rising unemployment has constantly affected women more than men, [4] while women are over-represented in the lowest wage sectors of the economy (especially agriculture, healthcare and education). [5]

In the private sphere, four fifths of the total number of single-parent households in 1998 were headed by women; [6] abortion constituted the main means of birth control, with a staggering rate of over 300 abortions per 100 live births in 1990, receding to just over 100 in 1998; [7] the maternal mortality rate in 1997 was over five times the average in Europe. [8] Furthermore, both women's and men's understandings of gender roles is framed by patriarchal assumptions and practices: respondents to the 2000 Gender Barometer agree to an overwhelming extent that women are housekeepers and primary caretakers, while men are breadwinners for their families. Moreover, a staggering percentage of those questioned (over 80%) said that household tasks such as cleaning, cooking or ironing are performed exclusively by women. [9]

This was the last episode of the Romania introduction. Questions about my personal opinion about Romania entering the EU can be sent to info(a)

(© Romania - RO, 2002-2005)
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Penny for your thoughts

Posted 9 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

When observing the human species in its natural habitat, the best moment to do so is when the subject of your study is silent and, if possible, motionless (yet alive!). This reduces the risk of them being distracted and producing incomprehensible and senseless combinations of sounds and movements. I have been thinking about creating a photo series about this some time ago already, and was going to call it “Penny for your thoughts”.

Danish photographer Simon Hogsberg has gone a bit further than I usually do and bluntly stepped up to people asking what they were thinking at that specific moment. Although the idea is simple, I like it lots and his Thought Project is very much worth viewing!

(© Berlin - DE, February 2006)
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Royalty Buy-Out

Posted 10 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Photos of last night's Footsweep gig at De Paap can be viewed here.

In a world where almost just anything seems for sale, I have been wondering for sometime already how long it would take before one country would either be bought by another country or put itself for sale. The latter has come true: you can now buy the Principality of Sealand, just off the coast of Harwich, UK. The whole story about the off-shore installation / island seems rather ridiculous, but it's all true.. Photo below: Everything for sale..

(© Hindeloopen - NL, November 2006)
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PhotoLog Updatum and Travel Plans

Posted 11 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

You may have noticed that the achive functions of the PhotoLog menu have been expanded! You can now search for images by datum, by location and by type. I noticed that the Denmark link is still missing on the map, will fix that asap. For other countries I haven't seen much of since 1997 or at all (Portugal, Switzerland, Slovenia, Finland, Slovakia), I have dug my analogue negative files to come up with some photos to justify their dedicated pages. That's also how I got to the Finland photos below, dating back from a business trip in 2003. Finland is a funny country. Women have rope-like hairs, men look like bears and speak with soft, crackled and low-tuned voices. Humour is dry just like the elk and raindeer meat. Large parts of the population speak Swedish as a second or third language, while road signs in Helsinki are even bilingual. Good for us Dutchies because it's impossible to make sense of the iiiiuuuuu-Finnisch language.

Let me also post a list of the upcoming trips for 2007:

- End of January: Good-old Paris;
- Beginning of February: possibly US;
- End of February: Madrid and probably Barcelona and Bilbao as well;
- June: Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Scotland.

(© Lahti - FI, October 2003)
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Hungary missing out

Posted 12 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

An attentive colleague pointed out that I had forgotten to include photos from Hungary. Well here they are.. I haven't visited Hungary in any other way than by transit to another country. In about the same way Dutch people cross Belgium on the way to their holiday destination. At least, until 2008.

Other info of the day: I got some basic introduction in CSS style sheets, PHP and cross-criterial database searches which will help me optimise the structure behind PhotoLogiX even further. In the meantime, could anybody nominate me for the Dutch Bloggies? Category = photo blogs, please use a link to rather than photologix for this purpose :)

(© Various places - HU, 2001/2002)
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Muslim Sitcom

Posted 13 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

A Canadian TV Channel last week started a TV program that exactly forms the best cure there is to intercultural differences: make people laugh about them. Little Mosque on the prairie was first broadcast last Tuesday and attracted over 2 million viewers.

(© Sarajevo - BA, April 2005)
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Road sign overkill

Posted 15 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Although quite quiet in general, I tend to get very upset about things that don't make sense and things not doing what they have been made for. Some examples: a railway station where people have to wait for trains but cannot properly sit down (Schiphol), voice messages in foreign languages that are incomprehensible for, or sound ridiculous to native speakers of that language, badly written news articles in newspapers, clocks indicating the wrong time, and almost anything related to traffic and infrastructure.

A maintes reprises (more than once), I have found myself swearing about maximum speed matters. It does not make sense to design a road that looks suitable for >120 km/h and then have people drive 80 km/h (A13 Southbound > Rotterdam Kleinpolderplein Junction). Or likewise, have 8 parallel lanes and imposing 100 as a maximum (A16 Northbound > Junction Ridderkerk). Or leave them ignorant of the maximum speed on a particular road stretch. Is this an "80-road" or a "50 one"? Or keep putting up more and more and more signs. The only thing needed is just to prepare the road in such a way that people will automatically adjust their speeds (if necessary).

I was very happy to read an article about traffic engineer Hans Monderman, who produced some kind of organised chaos-theory about traffic. Very interesting and promising! It will be nice to see more of his ideas being put in practice!

(© Moerdijk - NL, 14 January 2007)
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The outdatumd concept called Car

Posted 17 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

On an average working day, I take bike+train to get to work. Whenever there's stuff to do outside the office, I sometimes take a car or drive along with a colleague. I enjoy the fun of driving, but can't seem to get rid of the idea of the whole concept of a car seeming terribly outdatumd. Why?

1) Amount of car (and space and energy occupation) per person is way too high, both during driving and during parking;
2) High risk of accident due to pure dependency on each participant's driving and navigation skills;
3) Propulsion systems are inefficient, noisy and dirty;
4) Short economic lifetime of cars and road surfaces; 5) Variable performances per car which decrease efficiency and safety.

I will expand on what the individual transportation device of the future should be like, but I won't do that today. This is just a general hint for fellow photographers to seize their chance to take photos featuring today's cars, they won't be around for much longer!

(© Delft - NL, 17 January 2007)
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Wandering of the mind

Posted 19 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Researchers have been trying to find out for ages where dreams come from and why the mind 'wanders' when we're not focused. I think they are basically one and the same thing, used in the following manner:

Senses collect experiences all the time when we're awake. Even when we're focused on one sense, the other 4 will collect stuff. They all end up on a big pile of sensatory sensations. In order to store them or keep them for future reference, they need to be structured. But as long as the incoming pulses are going on, hardly any restructuring can take place. Imagine somebody throwing 5 books a second to you, whereas you can only care to properly store 1 per minute. You will end up leaving the books all over the place and you can't start organising stuff as long as that person keeps throwing books at you.

Whenever the input stalls or diminishes, the organisation starts. Like a computer having to defragmentate every now and then. Random links to previous experiences and knowledge come up, together with seemingly senseless associations and thoughts. The process allows you to distinguish between what's important and what's not, and where to hook up the new important data.

Putting it altogether, the reason why I fall asleep so often is simply because whenever I'm actively doing something, I tend to be really focussed (having somebody throw 10 books/second to me, si vous voulez). Lots of books then end up in a giant mess, which I generally refer to as bedtime!.

(© London - UK, October 2006)
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Smile and I'll Shoot

Posted 20 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Back in November of last year, I took a set of portrait photos of all people working at Buddy Network, an organisation which by the way does a wonderful job for many people. I hope the old photos will soon be replaced. These will be the new ones:

(© The Hague - NL, November 2006)
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Charles Edward Deely III

Posted 21 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Not the most exciting Sunday today. Another day of Dutch shitty winter weather. Not suitable for tennis or any other outdoor activity. I helped Yvonne and Riccardo move stuff to their new house in Delft, wandered around the city centre there and also in The Hague, stopping to listen to Chuck Deely and getting some books for the Paris trip of this week.

(© The Hague - NL, October 2006)
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Travelling around Europe

Posted 22 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

It's great to live in Europe and to have so many different countries, languages, landscapes, food at arm's length.

It may be difficult to find your way around if you look for specific websites in each country so here's some hints of where to go:

By plane:
* Be sure to fly straight to and from budget airlines' hubs, this is lots cheaper than between most other airports.
(Ryanair: London Stansted, Brussels South, Easyjet: London Stansted/Luton, Transavia: Amsterdam, Air Berlin: Berlin, Aer Lingus: Dublin, Sky Europe: Prague/Vienna);
* Be sure to fly on weekdays: a long weekend is often a better option than an entire week;
* Book well in advance;
* Don't be too picky on time/datum/destination.

By train:
* Don't use website by the national railways. Especially the Dutch one is pretty much useless. Instead use the one offered by Deutsche Bahn is excellent (Deutsche Gründlichkeit!) for any European countr, right until the smallest railway station;
* For Northern and Western European long distance travel, use a travel card like Interrail/Eurorail etc. For Central and Eastern European countries, it's lots cheaper to buy tickets locally. Be as precise as possible when ordering your ticket (include datum, time, departure city, arrival city and train number.

(© Kijkuit - BE, February 2006)
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Gent / Gand / Ghent

Posted 23 January 2006 - The Hague (NL):

Another Belgian train :) This time to tell you that I will be in the city of Ghent most of today to visit Frederik, a fellow volunteer at Brzeg's Childrens Home back in 2002.

(© Ghent - BE, June 2001)
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Parking manager 2nd degree

Posted 24 January 2007 - Paris (FR):

I safely arrived in Paris and had a good time in Ghent. I got up really early to take a quick portrait photo of Frederik at work, then quickly caught the train to Lille -> Amiens > Paris.

(© Ghent - BE, 24 January 2007)
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Waiting for the train

Posted 25 January 2007 - Paris (FR):

Picture of last morning in Ghent, people waiting for the same train as me: the IC to Lille Flandres.

Quant à moi, I'm still in Paris, heading out for Interlaken, Switzerland by tonight. I should be back home again tomorrow night, if the train from Basel to Brussels is not running late (which it probably will....)

(© Ghent - BE, 24 January 2007)
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Posted 26 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

I did not make it to Interlaken and safely returned home. It was too cold in Paris to wait for the night train, so I just picked another one and got home via Metz and Luxemburg. Nice itinerary with good views. It will almost disappear in June when the new TGV East will be inaugurated.

10 Years ago, I chose to study international business, mainly because I knew that would allow me to go to France for a year. 3 Years later, Y2K, I was offered the choice between Nice, Lille and Clermont-Ferrand. I thought Nice would be too hot, Lille too ugly, and Clermont-Ferrand just nice. Only to find out later that Lille is not as ugly as I thought it would be. The historical city centre, that is. The rest of Lille turned out to be even uglier than I had expected, especially the areas 'designed' in the early 90s, like the one below:

(© Lille - FR, 24 January 2007)
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Posted 27 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Due to the cold and lack of ideas, I didn't take many photos on this Paris trip. Here's one of the very few, a metro crossing the Bercy Bridge in the 13th arrondissement.

Read more about the Paris metro network at Wikipedia.

(© Paris - FR, 26 January 2007)
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Vamos a la Playa - Line 11

Posted 28 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Barely 24 hours later, I find myself taking photos of another public city transport device (tram as opposed to yesterday's metro). In The Hague this time, where the last stop of line 11 is right next to the beach. I like simple photos like this one, especially when they include rails, light posts - when there's lots of individual things to see (clocks, seaguls, the Scheveningen pier, the beach and the waves), but the image altogether looks very simple..

I spent most of today in Amsterdam, visiting the Photo Museums Foam and Huis Marseille. Especially the last one had cool exhibitions. Will write more about that and also about typical Dutch food and the habit of eating from the wall.

(© The Hague - NL, 26 January 2007)
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Eating from the wall

Posted 29 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

The Dutch are known for their straightforward way of thinking and acting, which most of the time (especially by ourselves) is considered an advantage. You always know what you get and most of the time it's fairly well-organised. Think of Piet Mondrian, or zoom in on the Flevoland province (right east of Amsterdam) at Google Earth.

However, there's also a significant downside to this all. Straightforward is not always polite and it sometimes takes attention away from things that need not necessarily be ranked and organised. One of the things that generally do not escape the need for organisation and efficiency: food. Dutch people simply don't really care about food in any way different from the fact that it's something they need in order to survive. Food is something you do at set times, three times a day of which the last 'rendez-vous' typically takes place at 6 sharp. Lunch is a very quick and insignificant operation and so is snacking.

The culmination of this no-time-for-food-culture is Eating from the wall, which basically means that you buy hot snacks (frikandellen, kroketten, chips, meat balls) from a vending machine (photo below, righthand side, next time I'll take a photo of somebody actually using it). It is quite common here and some rumours say that it is currently gaining much popularity in New York as well... I personally prefer the French way of thinking about food, although I notice I may have mentioned this before...

(© Amsterdam - NL, 27 January 2007)
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Estafette / Relay photo project

Posted 30 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Another photo for the photo relay project. The idea is to photograph one person, then have him/her introduce me to the next person in line. All photos show an activity in which the subject of the photo likes to be involved. This time, it's Rosa who works as a caretaker in a home for disabled (or challenged, if you prefer) people. She took some of the people from her group for a daytrip to Sealife Scheveningen.

Other topic, I'm working on a new version of the PhotoLog. You may want to have a preview. Links are not working yet, it's just to get a grasp of what it will look like. I'm curious to know if anybody recognises which companies the text colours come from (all are in transportation).

(© Scheveningen - NL, January 2007)
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Belgian Motorway Collection

Posted 31 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

A few days ago, I promised I would write more about my visit to FOAM, the Amsterdam Photo Museum (will do the same for Huis Marseille later this week). The exhibitions were not very exciting, pretty random and somehow distant images from people of the 20th centuries and women peeing in a forest, all blurry and vague. In fact, the only thing I did like about the photo museum were the books on display at the entrance.. One book that caught my particular attention was about Belgium as a transit country and I will quote the official description of the book:

Graphic designer Rob van Hoesel (1974, NL) photographed all 35 Belgian motorways from the passenger seat of his old Opel Corsa. The Netherlands' neighbour to the south has always been seen by Van Hoesel as one big crossroad: the first 'abroad' on the way to France, Belgium, Italy, Spain or other holiday destinations (compare my posting of 12 January). In order to compile this book, Van Hoesel selected 920 images from a total of 3000 photos taken during his trips. They are organised by individual road number and there's additional information about each and every one of them.

And here's the site of Mr Van Hoesel, please be sure to click on "Transitoland" for a quick preview of the book.

(© Belgium E19 - BE, October 2004)
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