Sunday, 10 December 2017

While the kids were hiking, Jon and I checked out the upgrades to the trail to Cape Raoul. It's going to be part of the 3 Capes Walk so it is being re-routed and upgraded.  


It was really nice. Instead of going straight up and down the lower part of Mt Raoul, there were gentle switchbacks and there were also lots of boarded sections which I always enjoy.  The work is obvously still in progress..


but it's looking good. My favourite improvement is the new lookout just near the very end, which allows you to look back at the dolomite columns poking straight out of the water and rising 200metres.  Very cool.



On the way back Jon left me to walk up the big hill while he ran ahead to do an extra loop taking in Shipstern Bluff..

and Tunnel Bay..



Then he followed an unmarked track (on the map at least) which wound around some private property and led back to the carpark where I'd been having a nice time waiting on the grass in the sun for an hour or so.  

It was a great trip out. My out-and-back was about 15k and Jon's longer circuit was around 23k.

The best laid plans..

Sunday, 10 December 2017

This weekend was the much anticipated kids hiking trip that Zali, Jett, Toby and Miley had been planning and looking forward to for months.

Sending the kids off unsupervised was something Jon and I had taken seriously.

So back in October I ran the proposed route and visited the campground to make sure there was mobile phone reception and access to water. I also checked the vehicle access and I found a place for Jon and I to stay that was just a 20 minute drive away.   At home we got the kids to set up  & pack up the tents & equipment, and I taught Zali and Miley how to use the cooking stove, then supervised them using it safely to cook noodles and make hot chocolates.  We'd gone through basic first aid and snake bite treatments, and what to do in case of emergency. Of course, even with their experience and the training  I didn't think they'd have a mistake free trip.  In fact I was kind of hoping they'd make some small mistakes they could learn from - like leaving food out for the possums, or leaving their clothes out in the rain - things we would no longer have to nag them about when we hiked together!   Unfortunately the lesson they learnt was a much bigger one.

 More on that later.  Here they are at the start of the hike.  


Zali and Jett were carrying fully loaded large packs for the first time ever . Miley was also carrying a serious looking pack while Toby, the only one who hadn’t done an overnight hike before was carrying Jett’s smaller pack. They were both nervous and excited.  

The rest of the photos were taken by Zali.   


The route wasn’t sign posted, and there is a bit of a network of tracks so Zali told me they had some navigational problems early but after a while were able to relocate confidently and proceed along the planned route.  With snack stops of course..


They saw a snake along the way which isn't surprising given the nice weather and terrain.  


Arriving at the campsite by the beach they were shocked to discover they were supposed to pay for camping.  When I visited I hadn't noticed this at all - thinking back it's because I ran in along the tracks, not along the road which has all the signs. After a flurry of text messages I managed to convince them that no-one would kick them out (there wasn't an on-site ranger anyway) and that they didn't need to worry.  

From Zali's photos it looks like they spent a lovely afternoon playing by the beach.  It's a super-safe beach as you'd have to walk about 500m out to sea before you got deeper than your waist! 


Putting on sunscreen - I"m so proud!! 




 Their camp setup looked really good..


It was after the card game that they decided to start on dinner.  It's also where the photos stop and my worst case scenario came to reality.

From what I've been told, they started up the stove and firstly boiled a few loads of water and poured it into their empty water bottles, so it would be good to drink the next day during their hike out.

Then they boiled more water and poured it into Toby's noodle cup thing.  Then, in the act of putting two minute noodles into the next lot of boiling water Zali and Jett overbalanced the cooker (the exact details are a bit hazy but I think Jett was putting noodles into the water while Zali was trying to stabalise the cooker with the tongs she had in her hand) and it tipped up, pouring boiling water onto Miley's nearby sock-clad feet. Unfortunatly at this exact moment, Miley wasn't looking, so the first thing he knew was that his feet felt like they were on fire.  He immediately took of his socks and the rest of them poured what cold water they had left onto his feet. Them Miley raced down to the beach and stood in the water.  

This is when Jon and I received the phone call from Jett. We'd recently returned to our accomodation after our long run/hike, and I was moments away from starting dinner.     We quickly jumped in the cars (we needed to take two so we could get all 4 kids to the hike), and drove out to assess the situation. It was immediately obvious that Miley needed to go to hospital - the skin peeling off both his burnt feet and it looked pretty bad.  Miley was really calm while he stood in the ankle deep water but it was incredibly painful if he came out.   The others were distraught and quite shaken up so we set about packing up the camp while Jon talked on the phone to various health professionals to get advice on how to transport Miley.  We could get him into the car easily enough, but once his feet were out of the water he was suffering a lot.    After being advised to wrap his feet in a wet towel Jon headed off to RHH with Miley and Toby, while Zali, Jett and I returned to our accommodaiton at Nubeena to pack up the rest of our stuff then follow them home to Kingston.

Jon tells me that the towel wasn't helping Miley much, and the nurafen I'd given him before he left wasn't making much of a dent in the pain, but luckily Denny had called ahead and somehow convinced the Dunalley Hotel to provide them with a bucket that Jon could pick up on his way past about 30 minutes into the 80 minute journey.    Filled with water it made a huge difference for Miley.  

Jon met Robin at the Royal Hobart Hospital where he was eventually treated and was able to go home at about midnight.   We were all hugely relieved to hear that the burns weren't the worst, and he's going to recover just fine. He won't be able to wear shoes for a while.   Thank goodness.     

My three biggest concerns for this trip were always a snake-bite, tree-fall, or a cooking accident.  In fact earlier in the day I said to Jon that I was looking forward to it being later in the evening as then I wouldn't have to worry about them having any cooking accidents anymore as they were planning on just having cereal for breakfast.   We couldn't do anything about a tree-fall (except keep them inside forever), and a snakebite was pretty unlikely.   So getting the phonecall from Jett about a completely avoidable accident was the worst.  It certainly wasn't the lesson I was hoping they'd learn from this but there's absolutely no doubt that they've learnt from it.  

Small decisions lead to big outcomes.     

We've talked since about how often it's not one single decision that leads to bad outcomes, it's the combination of small ones. and in this case I'd say it was the combination of the slopey ground (I had told them to cook on FLAT ground), the inherently tippy cooker - it's tall rather than wide,  the careless handling - I suspect that as they hadn't had any troubles up until that point, they were perhaps getting a bit blase - as evidenced by the fact that two people were attempting to doing something with it at once (Zali and Jett both feel terrible about what happened),  the closeness of Miley's un-shoed feet and of course general inattentiveness all around. 

On the other hand I'm thankful for the small decisions I made before they did their hike. If they hadn't had mobile coverage, or we hadn't had a way to get them out without having to walk, or even if we'd camped for free at Fortescue Bay which would have been more than 50 minutes away rather than paying for accommodation much closer, the whole situation would have been much worse.   

On the bright side, Miley is going to be ok (giant relief), and I'm confident I no longer need to worry about this as they will never again make the same mistakes when it comes to using that stove. It's still such as shame that trip ended this way as from all accounts (and the photos) they were having a fantastic time up until that point.  Jett described it as a rollercoaster ride from having a blast, to feeling very very bad.  Despite the trauma they are keen to do another hike which I am happy about.  

Hopefully Miley feels the same.  :)


Show Photos

Saturday, 18 November 2017

There was something hilarious about the guinea pig judging that we happened across. Maybe it was how the animals were all lined up and pointed towards the judge, quietly waiting their turn to be poked and prodded.. 



Quite unlike the attitudes of the alpacas who were also being judged as we came past.  

The woodchopping was good, and the 'animals made from vegetables' category is always amusing..


Zali and Jett are old enough to drive their own dodgem car now..


and of course the dog highjump was a highlight. Although it was roastingly hot sitting in the sun.


All up it was a good morning out.  The only sad part is that it's the first show we've gone to without Jon, as he's in SA for a few more days. Still there's always next year :) 



Zali & Jett's cake

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Zali and Jett finishing off their entry into the Novice decorating section of the show..


And this is their reward..


Show Cakes

Friday, 17 November 2017

Because it’s been a while since I’ve entered anything, and because I had time to do it, I’ve also got two Christmas cakes which are headed to the Huon Show tomorrow.   


Let’s call them The Knitted Cake (left) and the Wrapping Paper Cake (right). 

The Wrapping Paper Cake took quite long time to create - what with a double layer fruit cake and all the different greens and time consuming techniques I was using. On the other hand I pretty much threw together the knitted cake on a whim one afternoon last week.

Although to be fair, that cake actually has quite a history.  I originally wanted to do a cake that looked like a christmas pattern on a jumper, like this:

So in December last year I started investigating how to get a knitted effect on icing. Firstly I sent away for an imprint mat from a regular cake shop. The stitches looked authentic but the overall knitted effect was actually so small and fine that it wasn’t suitable for a big cake - it was suited to jumpers for these gingerbread men though.. god rest their delicious gingerbready souls…

On the hunt for a larger imprint thing I scoured the entire internet and found just one option - there was someone in the Netherlands who made their own imprint mat and sold them. In euros. Via international bank transfer only (no PayPal). Sigh. With no other options I went ahead with a 16 euro purchase and we won’t talk about the shipping.  Having said that, I must add that the seller was actually really nice and helpful thoughout the transaction.

Anyway, it arrived a few weeks later, but as I suspected, the result was actually more of a crochet/knotted effect than a simple knitted effect. I really wanted big clear knitted stitches.

There was no other option, I had to make my own. After some time spent with the institute of You-Tube I felt confident I could make the actual silicon mold part, the greater challenge was to find the thing to make the mold OF - Let’s call this the ‘knitted-positive’.  Obviously I couldn’t just press silicon up against a wooly jumper as it would be too soft and impossible to release once the mold was set. I toyed with the idea of spraying layers of varnish over some knitted garment and using that once it was dry but after consideration I decided that it was likely to be very messy, and Jon (the owner of the garment) would probably not be happy with the end result.  So it was back to the internet to find something that was both knitted, and hard - and I found this - an ugly knitted looking plastic basket - perfect!  Another purchase and some more shipping costs later and I had my starting point.

To make my knitted-positive I cut the ugly basket up into rows, trimmed them,  and lined them up on some wood.

The size of the stitches actually changed from the top of the basket to the bottom, so I tried to adjust for that as I stuck them down. Then I used a silicon-cornflour mixture to make the mat, pressed it down as hard as I could, and left it to dry. The first go wasn’t great (below left), but the second attempt went really well (right). Yay! After many purchases and many months I finally had my knitted-imprint mat - yay me!

Then it was time to test the concept of using it with actual icing to make a jumper pattern and I quickly found out that it was very hard to any sort of pattern, in fact it was going to be impossible to do what I had originally planned. dang.  

So I put the whole lot back into the stupid ugly half cut up basket and pushed it to the back of my cake shelves.  

It was only last week (some six months later) that I had the strength to pull it all out again and try to create something. Originally it was in order to justify at least some of the hard work (and expense!) that had gone before it - but in the end it was simply quite fun to create something using my hard-won knitting imprint mat.



The funny thing is that there's absolutely no way anyone will look at that cake tomorrow and guess its complicated past!  


Gingerbread Men

Thursday, 16 November 2017

I had some extra gingerbread dough and lollies after the gingerbread house, so I suggested to the kids that they make some gingerbread men for themselves and their friends. I was expecting nice happy gingerbread men like this..


but they called him Boring-Man, and went on to make:


                       Harry Potter Man                             Gandalf? (I'm not a lord of the rings person)


Angry Paleontologist Man                                   Fat Subway Man


 Ski-Jumper Man                                       Stabbed In The Heart and Eyeballs Man


Two Faced Man                  Contageous Disease Man

and finally..


Sad Business Man.

I have referred them to child phycologists.

Gingerbread Brewery

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

This big pile of stationary is not normally how I'd start a baking project. I do occasionally make a sketch, or maybe even grab a reference photo from the internet, but creating reams of recyling isn't a normal thing - but this project has been a bit different. Let me explain..

While perusing the baked goods display at the 2015 Huon Show I thought to myself that it would be fun to enter the gingerbread house competition with a gingerbread house that looked like something in Hobart.   And having not entered anything at the show that year I promised myself that I'd create this house and enter it in the 2016 show.  Just a few weeks later I came up with the perfect idea - Hobart's Cascade Brewery:


So with the idea in place, and alnost a full year to execute it, I did absolutely nothing further.  I arrived at the 2016 Huon Show empty handed.  

This year I've had a lot of unexpected free-time, so it seemed like 2017 was a good time to revive my plan. Duly armed with some photos from the internet I started by trying to sketch the front of the brewery onto some graph paper so I would have the basis for the model.  This went terribly, and after a few attempts I was ready to shelve the plan for another year.  Luckily for me though, after I had abandoned my sketches on the kitchen bench and left the house to do something else, Zali came along and immediately saw the 'pattern' of the building's architecture - she said it was something about thirds. Anyway she drew up a perfectly scaled version for me.


With this hurdle overcome, and my enthusiasm rekindled, I took Zali's template and turned it into a cardboard proof-of-concept..


This helped me iron out some of the structural problems. The Cascade Brewery is really just a massive sandstone facade, with lots of tin-shed looking bits stuck onto the back and sides.  I had to simplify the details of the real building and make sure it would be strong enough to stand.

With the overall design sorted out, I decided to draw it up on Sketch-Up, so I could print out accurate guides for cutting the gingerbread.  This involved teaching myself how to use the 3d drawing tool - I'd tried it before but given up immediately, but once I got the hang of it it was quite fun..

By the end of that task I had a nice set of printed templates that I stuck onto cardboard and used to cut out the gingerbread. Along the way I also made a new metal cutter to do the windows, and I also like to think that I invented a new technique of doing windows - cutting them out and replacing them with thinner gingerbread - so they are inset.  I added on the thin strips of gingerbread to imitate some of the other features of the building. Here's the front of it before it went into the oven. Oh - I also invested in s $3 piece of plastic for pressing in the brickwork - which saved a lot of time and made it quite neat.


I did have a few attempts at cooking the parts as I experimented with other ways of doing things, but by the third time I was ready to commit to baking all the bits..and they turned out well.


The next step was assembling the building, using the time honoured method of tins to hold the sides up while they dried!  

I didn't end up using most of the roof bits, as the thickness of the gingerbread (as opposed to paper) made it look and fit a bit funny.  It turned out the liquorice straps made much better looking corrugated iron roof anyway. Zali came up with a method for making it look aged.


With the stucture built, it was time to do the funnest stuff - decorate with lollies.  It took me a while to settle on a method for doing the road out the front - in the end I sliced up liquorice bullets and laid it like cobblestone..


Then it was time for the finishing details - I came up with a good way to do trees if I do say so myself. Zali invented the mixed lolly hedges. The rest is pretty standard gingerbread house fodder with a few extra details:


like the drunk man out the back.. 




I hope my efforts are enjoyed by punters on Saturday when Zali and I enter it in the 2017 Huon Show. Regardless of the outcome, it's been a fun if rather frivolous project!



Spring Flowers

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The other day I went for a run on the pipeline track. My favourite spot on the pipeline track is here, where the trail narrows, and this big slab of rock on the right radiates heat and the views suddenly open up all the way to the water:


This particular time it was especially nice as these flowers smelt so strongly it was almost overwhelming. It was lovely. 

Derby River Derby

Monday, 30 October 2017

I have to admit that I was really reluctant to go to Derby for just one night. After all it’s almost a 4 hour drive, and in order to make the first race of the Derby River Derby we would need to leave no later than 5.15am.   The obvious solution would have been to leave the day before, but Jett had a waterpolo game at 8.30pm - making it too late to even head to Launceston after that.

So we got up at 4.45am, and we left at 5.15am. With a short stop in Campbell town we arrived with 25 minutes to spare. Unfortunately this meant we only had that amount of time to construct the ‘home-made’ raft, which in our case was a plan to join two $5 pool air mattresses together with a tarp and wrap the structure with duct tape.  While Jon and the kids did that, I sorted out the paperwork for them and for the rest of the cousins - and by some miracle, they were all lined up and ready to go at 9.30.

It turned out that two small air-mattresses taped together weren’t nearly bouyant or stable enough to carry two people down a river.  Zali and Jett got a good start (by running) but got caught up and left behind once the floating part of the race started! 

Derby River Derby from Cathy McComb on Vimeo.

Nevertheless they had fun and they appeared back at the start line just in time for the next event when they combined forces with the cousins and got a win on the Fleming’s more bouyant double air mattress based watercraft.  yay!

Then Jon, Zali, Jett and I had a go in the Family race - this time we rented an inner tube and had a nice paddle down the river together. It was all good fun but next time I’d like to do the 7k race - it takes a few hours rather than 15 minutes and I think it would be a fun way to see the river.

After all the excitement we pitched our tents by the river and Jon and I went for a fantastic ride on the Derby trails.  I forgot how great it was to ride there. 

The next morning, after a run for Jon and delicious pancakes for all of us,  Jon and I went out for another ride on a completely new set of trails.  



Zali and Jett spent the hour watching the local platypus mosey around in front of them and playing frisbee.  Once we were back we only had time to pack up, have lunch at the cafe, and head home so we could make home with 15 minutes to spare before family dinner.

So it was only one night, but we packed a lot in. Camping by the river in Derby was so lovely that we all felt the short trip was totally worth doing. We’ll plan a longer trip next year though. We'll also try harder to get the kids out on their bikes - they were very happy not riding, but it feels like they are missing out on lots of good fun. Next time.

Search Party

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Last Monday and Tuesday I joined a number of volunteers helping the SES search for former orienteer Bruce Fairfax who had gone missing while on a small bushwalk to Duckhole Lake near Dover on Saturday. 


Both days of the search were physically arduous - after being assigned to a team we were given a search area and a task which was generally to fight through thick scrub looking behind every log, into every hollow and basically anywhere that a person could be.  By the end of it my legs were covered with bruises and scratches and my muscles were sore from all the clambering over obstacles and pushing scrub aside. 


As well as being  physically draining it was also quite emotionally draining.   I didn’t know Bruce that well but I have known him and his family since I was about 14 and it was awful to think about what the rest of the family were going through as each minute, hour and day went by.  And of course there was the constant thought that he was out there *somewhere*, desperately needing to be found,. So by the end of each day I was feeling pretty low.  Luckily the drive back to Kingston, whilst long, was absolutely beautiful and in a way, restorative. I always felt a bit better by the time I arrived home. At the end of my 2nd day of searching the SES said that they were going to take the search in a ‘different direction’ and didn’t require the use of volunteers any more. By then Bruce had been missing for three nights so it wasn't looking good.

I’ve never been involved in a search like this before. Now that I’ve seen one first hand I think that the SES are pretty awesome. On the Monday there were quad bikes checking all the dirt roads nearby, helicopters buzzing overhead and an experienced team of SES people on the ground leading the search teams.  I suspect it’s not possible to ever execute the perfect search, and I certainly don’t think the outcome would have been different in this situation, but I do have some suggestions for improvement should a search party ever need to be organised for me. 

1) All volunteer searchers should be issued hi-viz vests. On both days a lot of time was spent by the leaders and participants  trying to keep all the members of the search teams accounted for as we did line searches in the thick scrub.  It was particularly hard to keep track of the people wearing green or brown tops - those cheap hi viz vests would have made volunteers easily identifiable. (the professionals already had navy and flouro-green shirts).

2) ascertaining each volunteer’s fitness would be good before assigning them to teams and areas.   On the second day I was in charge of a team of 5 searching beside steep forestry roads.  Much of my time was spent making sure one particular volunteer didn’t have an exertion induced heart attack.   At the same time I had to make sure we were still covering the ground we needed to in the limited time we had.  A short pre-search questionnaire would do the trick.

3) They should hire a portaloo for the search base.  I accept that it’s essential for the forest to get trampled all over during a search, but it’s seems crazy to not provide toilet facilities for the 60 or so people who came each day - some environmental damage is necessary but some is completely avoidable. 

4) If the search is actually for me, I would like each search team to contain an orienteer, and for anyone who wants a map to have access to one.  On day one we wasted a lot of time (hours) due to some navigational mistakes by our leader, I think that having a few more people in each team with maps  (rather than just the one) would minimise the chances of that occurring.

Having said that, I was really impressed by the way in which the SES people interacted with the volunteers  - they expressed a lot of appreciation and we all felt valued,  They took time to explain why we were doing what we were doing and some of the statistics behind it.  They were also were really gentle and responsive with the family., 

After 4 days the hunt for Bruce was called off completely with no trace having been found. His family have returned to Launceston and the SES plan to do more extensive diving in the lake at a later date. 

Today Clare and I returned to Duckhole Lake to walk up to Creekton Falls - we did this for a few reasons, firstly  Bruce’s daughter Kirsten had asked Clare to have one more look in that area if she had a chance (although of course it’s been searched many times already so it was a peace of mind thing more than anything), and secondly, I really wanted to go back when it was quiet and peaceful so I could process everything and have a sort of debrief with Clare. Clare wasn’t able to be involved in the search earlier in the week due to minor foot surgery. 

Although we were slightly rushed due to Sunday afternoon commitments, we had a nice walk, and stopped to take a few photos.  I felt altogether better afterwards. I hope the family are able to get some resolution to this mystery in the not too distant future.

There's a a wrap-up of the search here.

Fortescue Loop Take 3

Friday, 20 October 2017

I'm just going to say it. This is Australia's best 20k trail run.  I love it.  

Despite being a bit inconsistent with training lately due to illness before we went to Bathurst, then injury afterwards, I wanted to do this run nowwhile lots of the spring flowers are in bloom.  

So while Jo and Clare took a leisurely stoll to Cape Huay and back (actually that's not really leisurely - it's quite a solid hike), I did my favourite run ever.


The weather was great and the flowers didn't disappoint.. 

My very favourite part of the loop is a section where there are huge amounts of white flowers on the left:

and amazing views on the right:


then the white flowers give way to bright yellow flowers:

then they in turn give way to soft pink and more subtle yellows. And although I was pretty tired by the end, I was so happy to get to do this runt - it's such a lovely area.

Then to cap it all off it's possible to  have a shower at the campground before heading home. Today was even better as I had a shower then had a picnic with Jo and Clare who had just returned.  Yay.

Lime Bay

Friday, 20 October 2017


I can't remember ever having gone to Lime Bay before - so it was nice to have an excuse to go there with Clare and Jo and have a bit of a run around the area yesterday. It turns out it has a lovely camping site,  a big shallow beach, gorgeous views and lots of echidnas!



Once that was done, we checked into our low-brow glamping accommodaiton at the Port Arthur Holiday park. I love the Safari tents there - they are really fun and are positioned right above Stuarts Bay baach. We had a lovely evening watching the Bachelor and strolling along the beach.



Ikea makes everything better

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Jon and Zali's hotel was conveniently located near an Ikea, so after picking them up in the morning we headed over there and met the Marsh Bluetts for breakfast and a long browse.


Because I was still hobbling around I had a great time just relaxing in the lounges at the cafeteria drinking bottomless pepsi max and reading my book. The others were road testing couches..

Roadtesting the couch from Cathy McComb on Vimeo.

After 3 blissful hours and numerous unplanned purchases we headed home to Lane Cove with time for a swim before dinner. It was the first day in over a week that I hadn't had to drive hundreds of kilometres so that was also nice!


Back in Sydney..

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The last day of the carnival was good fun. Jett and I got drafted into relay teams but neither of our teams were in the top 3 - we both had good runs through the tricky terrain which was a nice way to finish up the carnival. Unfortunately I rolled my ankle in a hole with about 1k to go on my course. I finished the course but it's now pretty sore so I'm limping around and can't go for my usual favourite runs around Lane Cove.

Jon had another clean run and Zali also ran well - so they both got their relay teams some more medals. I was particularly happy for Zali's team mates as they had both missed out on being on the schools relay team - so it was awesome to see them up on the podium with great big smiles.


After a long day at the event (not helped by getting up at 6pm on Daylight Saving's morning) Jett and I drove back to Sydney, stopping in Mt Victoria to see the Marshes luxury holiday home, then follow them the rest of the way home to Lane Cove.


Jon and Zali were staying on the school bus then at the airport hotel where we would pick them up the next day. Zali was looking forward to a night in a room with a door!


Australian Champs - Day ? + 2

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Today was the Australian Long Distance Championships back in the surrounds of the Hill End township.  Jett and I were running the enter-on-the-day courses again, and we both had good runs.

Zali and Jon were properly entered in their rightful classes - and I’m happy to report that Jon won his class, and Zali was 4th - which would be her best individual result all week I reckon - just 15 seconds from third!  Clean navigation in the tricky gold mining areas paid off for both of them.


Afterwards Jett, Alexa, Lyra, Kari and I checked out the township a little, then visited one of the old gold mines.  It was a nice afternoon.



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