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25 October 2011

COLORADO COLLEEN: I Heart Prairie Dogs

I'm a Denver-based writer, and have reported extensively for The Denver Post on the natural world in a former series titled "The Nature of..." One installment - "The Nature of Prairie Dogs" - taught me how important prairie dogs are as a species supporting dozens of other species as wide ranging as spiders to burrowing owls.

Pictured, a black-tailed prairie dog. Image courtesy of We For Animals.

I also was amazed to learn that prairie dog communications rank as complex or moreso than dolphins' "language." Prairie dogs keep their colonies tidy and live in community, in addition to being cute as can be. And their link to Bubonic plaque or broken legs on livestock is highly exaggerated.
Therefore, I just joined WildEarth Guardians in messaging my gratitude to decision makers for having the wisdom and foresight and compassion to relocate a colony of prairie dogs. Here's the text:

"As a supporter of WildEarth Guardians and policies established to protect wildlife, I am writing to urge you to support the relocation of prairie dogs to Rabbit Mountain Open Space.

Prairie dogs are a central part of grassland ecosystems in North America, creating vibrant landscapes of life on western prairies. They are recognized as a keystone species and greatly enhance the land they inhabit by aerating and turning the soil, providing meals for predators, and creating burrows that shelter a host of other animals including snakes, cottontail rabbits, burrowing owls, beetles, and salamanders, to name a few. The nutritious vegetation in their colonies is kept neatly trimmed, providing fertile foraging for grazers such as bison and pronghorn. These important creatures should be preserved, and I support Boulder County's efforts to relocate them out of harm's way. Additionally, I appreciate my tax payer dollars being spent to improve our communities by creating healthy wildlife populations for future generations instead of poisoning or eradicating them.

I applaud Boulder County Parks and Open Space for working to implement non-lethal prairie dog management, and I support this relocation effort."

Wag your prairie dog tale.

Colleen Smith gardens in and writes from a historic neighborhood in central Denver.

Her second book, "Laid-Back Skier," was just released in September 2011 and is available through or

Her first novel, "Glass Halo," was a finalist for the 2010 Santa Fe Literary Prize.

Please feel free to post a comment here: I'd love to hear from you. ~ Colleen Smith

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27 September 2011

Why I Published My New Book: "Laid-Back Skier" When Books Are Going Downhill

Yes, I've read all the abysmal news about the post-literate age and the demise of printed books. In fact, all those discouraging words served to inspire my new book"Laid-Back Skier: As In Skiing, So In Life."

Of course, snow skiing inspired me, too. As I carved turns, I began crafting this new book's text in my head. All the while, I envisioned a charming book in three-dimensions, with luscious eco-friendly paper pages and colorful illustrations between hard covers.

I'm trained as a writer, and I've made my living as a writer. Consequently, books are an integral part of my life. They have been since I was a wee one. In fact, in my baby book, my mother noted that "book" was one of my first spoken words. My mom told me I always loved to be read to; and she related more than once that whenever she tried to skip pages - turning more than one at a time to rush through a reading - I always busted her.

"Laid-Back Skier" is for people of all ages and not for skiers only.

I hope mothers and other adults will read "Laid-Back Skier" to their children or grandchildren. I intend this book for "skiers, riders and snowflakes of all ages." The vocabulary might include a few words kids won't know, but the book will provide an opportunity to learn. Besides, they'll be captivated by the playful pictures, anyway. For Friday Jones Publishing, Denver artist Patty Leidy did 38 original illustrations.

"Laid-Back Skier" will delight adults, too. I hope this book reminds adults of the tactile pleasure of sitting with a book, turning pages, relishing full-color illustrations reflecting the text, reading. Yes, reading! An actual book!

"Laid-Back Skier" is a quick and easy read with special features.

If you're like I am, reading is not as easy as it once was. We've created an ADD culture with head-spinning distractions bombarding us constantly. "Laid-Back Skier" takes that into consideration. Intentionally, I kept the text very simple with only one sentence per page in the body of the book. Just about anybody can read this book and recall the joyful accomplishment of reading a book cover to cover.

To add to the practicality of the book, I added a skier's journal and a skier's packing list.

"Laid-Back Skier" is my second brainchild brought into the world by Friday Jones Publishing, my independent publishing company. Last September, Friday Jones Publishing released my first novel, "Glass Halo." While the books' subject matter varies greatly, both books present artful design and attention to graphic details that make quality 3-D books worth preserving even in the 21st century.

"Laid-Back Skier" is available through and Coming soon to a bookstore or boutique near you! Thank you for helping us wag this tale. Share/Save/Bookmark

26 September 2011

Architecture: Santa Barbara's New Airport Evokes Old Missions

The old Santa Barbara airport terminal was probably my favorite in the United States. With arched windows, octagonal tower, wrought iron, and a red tile roof, the little old open-air airport charmed me and made me feel I was in another country--especially the baggage claim area--so I was sorry to see the old terminal go.

At top, Santa Barbara's old airport, September 2010.

But Santa Barbara's new airport terminal also includes appropriate, pleasing Spanish architectural charms, too. Riffing on the old Santa Barbara Mission at the heart of this splendid enclave on California's central coast, the new airport includes architectural elements from the centuries old Spanish churches. Outside, the white stucco rises to a peak reminiscent of a steeple. Inside, wood trusses are stenciled with colorful patterns that call to mind the handiwork in California's old missions. A cheerful palette of vividly glazed ceramic tiles jazz up the risers of stairways.

Above, Spanish tiles decorate stairways in the new Santa Barbara Airport.

As I checked my bags, when I lamented the loss of the quaint, old, stucco building, a man at the counter told me it would be preserved as a museum. I'm glad that idea got off the ground.

And, architecture aside, I'm glad to fly back to Denver from Santa Barbara, rather than LAX, which also happens to be currently under much needed renovation.

"LAID-BACK SKIER" is the second title by Friday Jones Publishing. Friday was my beloved dog and remains my muse. A three-legged shelter rescue dog with health issues her entire life, Friday was diagnosed with cancer at age six. In an intense, alternative medicine clinical trial, she lived to age 15.5 people years, exemplifing an indominable underdog spirit.

For more information, visit and see LAID-BACK SKIER tab. Wag your tale.Share/Save/Bookmark

14 September 2011

LAID-BACK SKIER: Ski Bunny Illustrations by Patty Leidy, a Facebook Friend

Here's a link to a gallery of "Laid-Back Skier" illustrations by Patty Leidy - see her self-portrait at right.

Below, one of the earliest ski bunnies by Patty Leidy for "Laid-Back Skier."

And here's the tale wagging of how these ski bunnies came to be:

When I was preparing to publish my first novel, "Glass Halo," Jesse - one of the Friday Jones Players - opened a Facebook page for me. I was upset. I had railed against Facebook without really knowing what it was. "I don't have time for Facebook," I argued. "Besides which, I like my privacy."

Jesse gave me one of his sage young adult looks and said, "If you want to sell this book, you have to have a Facebook page," he said.

Jesse is wise, so I said "Okay." But I left the Facebook page dormant for months.

Until another Friday Jones Player, Josie, told me, "You really need to get into Facebook." Josie is wise, too, but I dug in my heels. "Things will happen on Facebook that you would never expect," Josie said.

So I jumped into the Facebook vortex. And how! I post regularly now, and I enjoy Facebook, I admit. Jesse was right: Facebook helped sell my "Glass Halo." My first novel reached readers I knew only through Facebook.

Moreoever, I met the illustrator for my second book - "Laid-Back Skier" - on Facebook. I'm not sure how Patty Leidy and I got connected, but I began noticing her "Cafe Neurotic" comics on Facebook. I loved Patty's style and the fact that she is a fan of bacon and cupcakes. Her gags made me smile and sometimes even LOL. Mostly, I admired Patty's artful drawing. Genius flows through the ink in her pen.

When I figured out that Patty lived in Denver, as do I, I messaged her about the possibility of commissioning her to do some drawings for the ski book I envisioned. Yes, she was interested!
At our first meeting, I explained my idea for "Laid-Back Skier." She showed me her sketchbooks: Moleskin books filled with doodles and drawings in a wide range of styles.

Patty and I began meeting at the coffee court outside Nordstrom in Cherry Creek North.We worked through some initial drawings, but Patty's first sketches of people--tho' expertly rendered--were not matching the playful spirit of what I had in mind for "Laid-Back Skier's" messages that apply to everybody's ups and downs.

One day, on the first of the month, I posted on Facebook one word "Rabbit." Saying "rabbit" on the first of the month is a common British superstition to bring good luck.
Patty saw my Facebook post and shot me a message of a single word: "Bunnies!"
"Ski bunnies!" I realized, would be perfect.
Patty hopped to and drew some initial bunnies to set the style. I knew we were on to something better than the humans. We met several times to collaborate on the bunnies, their fur color and eye color, their attire, equipment, actions, and the general gist of alpine landscapes. We created scenarios to illustrate the truisms I'd written to compare alpine skiing to life.
Along with ski bunnies, we added foxes, birds, and even a rare lynx. In the end, Patty completed 38 illustrations for "Laid-Back Skier." Each is adorable and expertly rendered with expressive faces, dimensional shadows, and creative coloring.
Here at Friday Jones Publishing, we all have our favorite illustration by Patty. The cumulative effect of the illustrations plus all the other elements of design and the truisms in "Laid-Back Skier" should bring a smile to reader's faces - even if they've never ever been on skis.
Which is the case with Patty Leidy, making her illustrations even more impressive.
Wag your tale, Patty Leidy!
And thank you Jesse and Josie for dragging me into Facebook. I'm red-in-the-face about my initial resistance.

P.S. To contact Patty Leidy about commissioning artworks, e-mail her at
Patricia Leidy hkit1@mindspring.comShare/Save/Bookmark

04 September 2011


I'm laboring this Labor Day Weekend. I'd complain - particularly given glorious weather in Denver, Colorado this holiday weekend. I've been holed away in my basement sorting old papers to make way for my new books: "Laid -Back Skier: As In Skiing, So In Life."
Friday Jones Publishing expects the books delivered at the end of next week. As the book's author, creative director and publisher, I'll also serve as "Laid-Back Skier's" publicist.

Laboring as a writer, editor and art director involves paper. A lot of it. Even in the digital age, I keep on file thousands of photographs, back issues of magazines,

This sorting strikes deep chords of melancholy in me, attached as I am to personal correspondence, old calendars, ephemera of not only my lifetime, but also generations of my family. I'm sentimental.

And I just might qualify as a paper horder. I filled cardboard apple boxes with yellowed newspapers, dusty greeting cards, business cards. I happened upon a box belying a book I wanted to write when younger about the Los Angeles Lakers and their three-peat seasons. Now I know little or nothing about the NBA. At this age, I'm almost positive I will not get that book written, so with relief I heaved three year's worth of clippings from both The Denver Post and The Rocky Mountain News.

Letting go of some of this old job stuff feels good.

I'm laboring in my gardens this Labor Day Weekend, too, but yard work feels more like play.

I like to think of myself as a hard worker. I'm from a line of hard workers, and my farmer and immigrant genes kick in when it comes to work.

Jobs I've held, a partial list: babysitter, lifeguard & swimming instructor, restaurant worker, parks & rec camp leader, fitness trainer, college writing teacher, bartender, clothing store sales clerk, framer's apprentice, journalist, Avon lady, Pepsi factory worker, calligrapher, staff writer, editor, public relations director, media relations officer, assistant communications director, freelance writer, publisher, author, columnist, novelist, book/music reviewer, reporter, dining reviewer, florist's assistant, greenhouse worker, and probably some I've forgotten.

I did not love all these jobs, but each of them taught me something and added to my current skill set.

This first weekend of September, this unofficial last weekend of summer, Happy Labor Day weekend whether you labor or laze.

Friday Jones Publishing will release Colleen Smith's new book LAID-BACK SKIER: AS IN SKIING, SO IN LIFE later this month. The book is a labor of love.

02 September 2011

LAID-BACK SKIER: How the book idea began on Colorado's ski slopes

COLORADO COLLEEN ~ ALPINE SKIING demands one to be in the now with pretty much every potentially perilous turn. Part of the appeal of skiing lies in the sport's ability to focus the mind and body, and, in turn, the spirit.

Illustration by Patty Leidy for Friday Jones Pubishing. One of 38 original drawings for "Laid-Back Skier."

When I ski - especially on challenging terrain - I tend to think almost exclusively about what I'm doing. I consider my line, my turns, my form. I look for fresh snow, obstacles, other skiers. My awareness is attuned to the mountain and myself on the mountain.
If I start fretting about deadlines or bills or household tasks, I might fall and seriously injure myself. When I ski, my interior dialogue deals with skiing. On black diamond runs, I'm frequently coaching myself, consoling myself, sometimes bolstering my confidence.

Which is how I happened to begin creating short ski mantras for myself. The first was "Lead with your heart." Alpine skiers seek good posture with a lifted chest and no bend in the waist. Lead with your heart, I reminded myself while making runs down the mountain. Lead with your heart. Good advice for life in general, I realized.

And eventually I collected in my mind several ski mantras: "Stay focused." "Don't hold your breath." "Face your fear."
I added language from ski resort signs: "Respect others." "Know the code."
Skiing provides a metaphor for life's ups and downs. I began adding the preface, "As in skiing, so in life" to my ski mantras. Soon I had a string of these sayings and discovered I had the bones of a fun book about skiing.

As in skiing, so in life, sometimes we encounter bumps. That was true along the way with my new book; but I copies of "Laid-Back Skier: As In Skiing, So In Life" were delivered yesterday - just in time to get introduce this lighthearted volume before ski season opens again.
As in skiing, so in publishing: Expect ups and downs. Here I go, wagging my ski tales, trying to stay balanced, and hoping to enjoy the ride. Whee!

"LAID-BACK SKIER" is the second title by Friday Jones Publishing. Friday was my beloved dog and remains my muse. A three-legged shelter rescue dog with health issues her entire life, Friday was diagnosed with cancer at age six. In an intense, alternative medicine clinical trial, she lived to age 15.5 people years, exemplifing an indominable underdog spirit.

For more information, visit and see LAID-BACK SKIER tab. Wag your tale.

28 August 2011

What Katrina taught us about Irene: Hurricane Lessons

I passed nine glorious days on the Eastern Seaboard two weeks ago, before Hurricane Irene showed up at the shore.

Pictured at left, Margate, Absecon Island, New Jersey Shore, August 2011

Currently, my host, John Becher, D.O. remains on Absecon Island, otherwise Irene evacuated save emergency medical personnel and about 130 patients in AtlantaCare Hospital in Atlantic City. Dr. Becher runs the Emergency Room.

He also serves as a trustee of the American Osteopathic Association. Dr. Becher and I both participated in an AOA board-sponsored mission of mercy in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Dr. Becher doctored in a free clinic. I hung sheet rock and also took the initiative to plant a garden at the home I worked at in St. Bernard Parish. I reported on my hurricane relief experience for The Denver Post and also my Denver Flower and Garden Examiner page, linked here.
Dr. Becher and his wife, his fellow AOA board memeber and my sweetheart Joel Cooperman, D.O. have experienced two hurricanes together. One in Florida, where we were gathered for an AOA convention. And another on Absecon Island, where the Becher's have a house in Margate.
That hurricane two summers ago was nothing like Irene. In fact, we body-surfed the righteous waves the day after the storm swept the island.

Irene is not so gentle. The storm stirs emotions in me, mindful of the devastation in NOLA even three years after the hurricane. The silver lining to this hurricane cloud? Hurricane Katrina taught us to beware Hurricane Irene. Here are a few ways we seem to be better responding to hurricane warnings:

Evacuate! Dr. Becher noted that the mayor of Cape May went door-to-door with indelible markers urging people to write their social security numbers on their forearms so officials could identify their bodies when found.

Do not put emergency workers in harms way for the sake of people who refused to evacuate. First responders won't be shoved out into the storm to rescue until storm intensity weakens: That's a message many municipalities proclaimed.

Include people who are indigent. Dr. Becher noted that people who are homeless were evacuated by bus to schools on the mainland. I salute the justice in providing for people in need in emergency situations and hope similar arrangements were made elsewhere for indigent people in the path of Irene.

Plan for pets. The ASPCA and other animal well being organizations dispensed information reminding people to make plans for pets. After Katrina, thousands of displaced pets added to the utter misery of the aftermath. In fact, I packed dog treats when I went to New Orleans. At the time, three years after Katrina, I saw one report that as many as 50,000 dogs and cats were still displaced. Allowing pets into shelters makes it easier for people to evacuate their homes.

Colleen Smith writes from central Denver.
Her first novel, "Glass Halo," was a finalist for the 2010 Santa Fe Literary Prize.
Her second book, "Laid-Back Skier: As In Skiing, So In Lifw" will be released in fall 2011.
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Wag your tale!


04 July 2011

WORDS TO LIVE BY: Preface from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"

"This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."

~ "This is what you shall do..." by Walt Whitman, from the preface of Leaves of Grass. Public domain.
Photo by Quincy Benton for Friday Jones Publishing Share/Save/Bookmark

06 June 2011


I hope I did not make a bad business decision by publishing another book--"LAID-BACK SKIER"--this September. I'm talking about an actual book, in three-dimensions, not an e-book, which seems to be the trend for people who buy and read books.

An e-book might have made more sense: It certainly would have cost a lot less money to publish electronically.

Illustration by Patty Leidy for Friday Jones Publishing.

But I don't want real books to go down on my watch. I want to be a friend of the book--my longtime companion in bathtubs and beds, on beaches and airplanes. For take-off and landing, federal aviation requirements never require passengers to turn off a real book. And for actual books, there is no power source necessary, aside from the ability to turn a literal page.

I'm plugged in and wired, too, and all for e-books, as well, in certain situtions. But electronic reading, no question, is a different experience. I hear owners of Kindles and Nooks and other e-readers rave. I myself have no desire for another gadget that requires a power cord. At least not yet.

"Laid-Back Skier" is a beautiful book to hold and behold--if I'm allowed to say so myself. With sumptuous yet eco-friendly paper and almost 40 full-color illustrations, "Laid-Back Skier" even includes a printed book plate with the Latin phrase "Ex Libris" (From the Library).

But "Laid-Back Skier" does not require much reading: The book's main section includes only one sentence per two-page spread. This was intentional: Like many wired people, I find myself struggling to read. My attention span shrunk when I dove deeper into the digital age defined by abbreviations, acronyms and 140-character Tweets. With "Laid-Back Skier," readers revive the pleasure of reading an actual book, cover to cover. I envision adults reading "Laid-Back Skier" to kids unable to read for themselves. Everybody will enjoy the illustrations by Denver artist Patty Leidy.

"Laid-Back Skier" celebrates the art of the book. With a colorful, satiny cover, artful design, textural paper, and even an unusual format with the spine on the top of the book rather than the left side, "Laid-Back Skier" delivers information, entertainment, practical help in print--a skier's journal and a skier's packing list. "Laid-Back Skier" is a sensual experience, a labor of love, an ideal gift book "for skiers, riders, and snowflakes of all ages."

More information about "Laid-Back Skier" can be found at

Wag your tale.


01 May 2011

MAY DAY! MAY DAY! Happy Birthday, Friday Jones & Other Festivals Celebrated May 1

When I adopted Friday Jones as a puppy sheltered at Denver Dumb Friends League, I had no idea of her birthday. I guesstimated and chose 1 May because May Basket Day was big in my neck o' the childhood woods.
We celebrated May Basket Day by making little baskets--often of paper--and filling them with popcorn and gumdrops and maybe a twig from a blossoming tree.

Photo by Morgan Huston for Friday Jones Publishing ~ Cheery cherry blossoms on the tree at Friday Jones Publishing house

We exchanged May Baskets with schoolmates or left them on the neighbors' doorstep, rang the bell and ran away, leaving our anonymous gift to celebrate sweet spring.

Today's installment of Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac reports a laundry list of other holidays celebrated on May 1, including the following: In pre-Christian Rome it was the time of the festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers. In medieval England, people gathered flowers to 'bring in the May' and erected a maypole bedecked with garlands. It's also the date of Beltane, a Celtic calendar festival celebrating the start of summer. Beltane was known for its bonfires, and has been revived by neo-pagans all over the world as a major religious holiday. In Germany, May 1st was the date of a pagan festival that was assimilated by the Christians and turned into the feast day of St. Walpurgis. The night before -- Walpurgisnacht -- is still celebrated in parts of rural Germany as a kind of Valentine's Day, with the delivery of a tree, wrapped in streamers, to one's beloved. It's also a day to celebrate Hawaiian history and culture, and it's known as Lei Day in Hawaii."
All these holidays lead me to believe that May Day was the ideal day to mark the birth of my late great muse, Friday Jones.

For more about Friday Jones, "Like" Friday Jones Publishing on Facebook or visit

Our tagline: WAG YOUR TALE. Happy birthday, Friday Jones. And Happy May Day, all. Share/Save/Bookmark

19 April 2011

Drop By My Virtual Garden on I'm Denver Flower & Garden Examiner

Do you have a green thumb or a thumbs down when it comes to plants? Either way, I invite you to drop by my virtual garden on

I'm finishing up my second year as Denver Flower and Garden Examiner, and it's a position I enjoy growing with. I'm happy to pass along information gleaned as a garden writer since 1995. And I learn as I go: Gardening is a deep subject!

On my page, you'll find posts about the following:
• Plants • Garden Animals • Garden Art • Landscaping Tips • Eco-friendly Ideas • Literary Garden Quotes/Poems • Plant-based products • Recipes • Garden Books • Garden Events & More.

• Hundreds of helpful posts, gorgeous garden photography and graphic design.

Visit my virtual garden by clicking here.

IMAGE: A garden of Earthy delights designed by William Morris


16 March 2011

Irish Movies: The Emerald Isle And The Silver Screen

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day and the creative spirit of Ireland with an Irish film. Try these lesser known gems related to the Emerald Isle:

In America: An Irish immigrant family learns to adjust to live in the U.S. Written and directed by Jim Sheridan in 2003. A devastatingly powerful film. Watch trailer at this link.

The Field: The legendary Irish attachment to land provides the motivation for this dark picture in which an American businessman (Tom Berenger) clashes with an Irish farmer (Richard Harris). Rated PG, some violence and profanity.

The Secret of Roan Inish: This beguiling folk tale blends realism, myth, family legend and the Irish art of storytelling. Set on Ireland’s coast, this mystical movie includes a boy in peril, as well as a wee bit of profanity, resulting in a PG rating.

Catholics: In this twist on liturgical reform, Martin Sheen plays a papal representative who travels to Ireland to conform Catholic priests to “new” Church teachings. Also starring Trevor Howard as a rebellious Irish abbot.

Da: When an Irish-American playwright (Martin Sheen) returns to Ireland to bury his father, he relives a bittersweet past that includes Catholic family and an anticlerical dog. Touching but unsentimental Irish irony and humor.

The Field: The legendary Irish attachment to land provides the motivation for this dark picture in which an American businessman (Tom Berenger) clashes with an Irish farmer (Richard Harris). Rated PG, some violence and profanity.

The Secret of Roan Inish: This beguiling folk tale blends realism, myth, family legend and the Irish art of storytelling. Set on Ireland’s coast, this mystical movie includes a boy in peril, as well as a wee bit of profanity, resulting in a PG rating.

The Dead: John Huston directed this elegant 1987 adaptation of James Joyce’s short story, but died before the film’s release. The cast includes Huston’s daughter, Anjelica Huston.

St. Patrick Photo + + + The Crosiers/Gene Plaistead, OSC

Author's Note: My first novel, "Glass Halo," centers around a stained glass artist of Irish descent. See below for more information. Happy Saint Patrick's Day from Colleen Smith.

Colleen Smith’s debut novel Glass Halo, set in Denver, was a finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Prize and was praised in the latest issue of The Bloomsbury Review. The novel is available online and through your favorite bookstore.

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