"Alternately quirky, insightful and appalling, this is a fascinating
marketplace of ideas and inventions. I'll bet some insinuate themselves into
our lives -- and I hope that others never make it past their description."
--Paul Saffo, Institute for the
Since this site does some new things, I've been having trouble
explaining it quickly to people. My new approach is to say it's like
a blog for ideas, or a lazyweb, but with three additional features that
make it a safer way to publish and sell new ideas:
How's that? Full details are in the FAQ. The
upshot is, ideas posted here enjoy far more protection than ones
posted to sites without all this extra fancy stuff going on. And it's
all free to use.
- A combined legal/technical peer-enforcement scheme that
incentivizes everyone to keep everyone else honest, and assists in the
discovery of those who aren't.
- An archiving scheme that "fingerprints" all ideas accepted and
posted to this site using the MD5 algorithm, then has the keys printed
out and notarized in the physical world by a Notary Public, providing
unfakeable evidence both on- and offline of who came up with what
- Asking prices, so you can make a little money as well as get credit.
Premises, Premises is now online
and seeking submissions! If you've got any wacky or not-so-wacky
schemes kicking around in the back of your head or scribbled in the
margin of some notebook somewhere, this site provides a way you can
share it safely and maybe even make a few bucks in the process (but
not very many). Read the FAQ for details.
I'm in the earliest stage of a "soft launch" for this site, and I'd
love to get any and all criticisms or suggestions you might have (as
well as any idea submissions), and please consider registering for maximum fun. I know the
contracts you must agree to look a bit daunting, but if you read them,
you'll see that they're quite reasonable. They're supposed to be
scary enough to dissuade people from stealing/plagiarizing, but not
discourage people from joining in the first place-- although I'm sure
that for many, they'll unfortunately have that effect as well. Advice
The Outbox Reconstruction Database (idea #151)
Want to read every email ever sent by a certain person (or, at least, from a certain email account)? Visit the Outbox Reconstruction Database! The ORD is a collaborative project to reconstruct people's email outboxes. Contributing to the project is easy-- just forward any emails you've received to the project's "submissions" email address, and they'll be automatically indexed by From: address, Date: timestamp, and all other header info, and stored in a publicly-searchable database. A boon to journalists, researchers, and even blackmailers and revenge-seekers, the ORD lets people collaboratively archive each others' entire lives of online correspondence. Easy-run utilities let contributors upload the entire saved contents of their email accounts to the ORD, and optionally forward all future correspondence to the project database as well. Note that the database cannot identify counterfeit submissions from spoofed addresses, and verifying content is ultimately the responsibility of the user, but its search interface lets you process messages' complete header information, to help flag or ignore contributions from questionable sources. Funding for the ORD, which requires minimal human maintenance, comes from online advertisements and contributions from pro-surveillance interests.
Minitrue Fact-Checking Services (idea #149)
What's the difference between a blog and a newspaper, a Wikipedia and a Britannica? It's the fact-checking, stupid!
Minitrue Fact Services is a team of experienced fact-checkers from top national publications who've gone independent,
and now offer their professional services to anyone. For newspapers and magazines looking for ways to cut back,
Minitrue lets you lay off your research desks and start outsourcing. We all live in the same reality-- so why should
everyone have to hire and manage their own redundant research desks? For bloggers, Minitrue gives you the authority
and credibility of the big boys if you can pay the price (and spend the time on corrections). All approved content gets
to display the Minitrue Seal-of-Truth logo, which links to the verified clients list on the Minitrue website. Look for it! And for
all you old journalists who started out as fact-checkers and have been trying to work your way "up" to editorial writers:
Don't bother. Opinions are cheap, now more than ever. These days, the real action is in verification.
Club Meds Healthcare (idea #148)
Sick of overpriced and lousy health coverage? In beautiful cities around the world, top-flight physicians--
trained in the US and speaking fluent English -- dispense world-class medicine for a fraction of the cost
of the bloated and broken US health care industry. In fact, radiologists in India may already read your
X-rays, and call centers in the Philippines may process your insurance claims. Club Meds functions like
a normal health insurance company when it comes to day-to-day medical care such as vaccinations,
sore throats, and broken bones. But when you need Major Scheduled Procedures, they fly you and a
companion to one of their hand-picked hospitals and clinics in places like Mexico City, Paris, Bangkok,
Prague, Budapest, India, and Canada, and then put your companion up in a clean, friendly local hotel
until you are discharged. With all of this, it still costs you and the company far less than if you had the
procedure performed in the US. Lower premiums, higher quality medical care, and free travel-- abandon
the sinking ship of US healthcare, and come on over to Club Meds today!
The Slingtrack (idea #146)
Jai-alai players use a wicker cesta to hurl rubber pelota balls at speeds of over 160 mph,
making them the fastest thrown objects in the world. The cesta works by increasing the length
of the throwing arm and the amount of time it has contact with the ball, which lets the thrower convert
more muscle energy into forward projectile velocity. The Slingtrack follows the same principle, but it's
designed to propel metal bearings, not rubber balls, and it's designed for throwing only, not catching.
The size, shape, and balance of the light, ultra-smooth track derive from all appropriate heavy-math
equations, optimizing projectile speed through physics, human-factors engineering, and modern fabrication
techniques, rather than traditional basket-weaving. With no moving parts and no explosives, this durable,
proto-World War IV weapon hurls spherical steel or brass projectiles, more massive than bullets, at
bone-shattering velocities. And, while it takes quite a bit of practice to achieve high accuracy, no training
is required for using the Slingtrack to fling a ball-bearing with lethal force in some generally-intended
The Anarchistol (idea #145)
The Sheridan PGP is a pistol-style paintball marker that's powered by common CO2 cartridges. A reliable favorite among
paintballers out on the playing field, the PGP is also great at defacing billboards and staining windows and fur
coats in town. But this versatile marker has been marketed exclusively towards paintball-loving patriots, ignoring the
many anarchist malcontents who would also love to own one. Enter the Anarchistol-- it's got the same portable,
reliable workings as the Sheridan PGP, but a different look: The circle-A Anarchy symbol on the grip and the
bony-looking case are designed to appeal to young "anti" consumers. And instead of being distributed through
paintball and sporting-goods channels, the Anarchistol is sold through comics stores, dirtbag hipster boutiques,
anarchist websites, and other alternative channels-- along with large boxes of red and black paintballs, ready to
paint the revolution!
Telepresent Wastesorting Facility (idea #144)
Waste management companies spend millions of dollars shipping first-world garbage to third-world labor markets
for hand-sorting-- then sometimes ship the recyclables back home for processing. What a waste! The Telepresent
Wastesorting Facility eliminates shipping and reduces labor costs by allowing trashpickers to work remotely, from
anywhere in the world. A satellite cross-link connects workers, who wear virtual-reality goggles and force-feedback
data gloves, with their telepresent robotic proxies sorting garbage far away. And because the labor providers work
virtually, you can pack them into a tight grid pattern, saving space. What's more, you can deploy the labor facility
inland, where wages are even lower, rather than having to locate near a port. Best of all, if economic conditions
change, or if the local workforce starts causing trouble, the Telepresent Wastesorting Facility's modular physical
infrastructure can be easily dismantled, palletized, transported, and redeployed elsewhere, onto any flat concrete
foundation, where the job opportunities you're providing will be more appreciated.
Secret Seed (idea #142)
Has a generation of Political Correctness eroded fundraising income for your college secret society?
Thankfully, you have other endowments to draw upon. Secret Seed is a private consultancy
dedicated to helping elite secret societies (Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, etc.) realize their
economic and genetic potential by establishing ancillary operations as exclusive sperm banks.
You'll "do well by doing good" -- gaining a significant new source of revenue, for wild, lavish
parties and other expenses, while benefiting future generations with greater expression of your
society's superior genes.
Getting started is easy! Many aspects of secret society life and architecture migrate naturally to
the sperm bank industry: The all-important screening process, the secret entranceways and
private chambers, the special sense of masculine comraderie and destiny. Members-only occult
rituals may be sexualized with impunity, to exploit their donation value. Meanwhile, Secret Seed
will take care of all the technical details, from constructing a small, state-of-the-art cryogenics
lab in your headquarters building or "tomb," to administering the business and scientific sides of
the operation. College-age men are in the biological prime of their life as potential sperm donors,
so don't waste this opportunity-- it's a moral imperative upon which the fate of humanity may rest!
And who knows what the brave new future of genetic/eugenic commerce will bring? Perhaps
our species will be guided by powerful, multinational gene banks, and the fact that they started
out as college secret societies will simply be a bit of interesting historical trivia.
Klenz-Worx (idea #141)
If you're a needle drug user who's on the road, you may know how to
clean your rig perfectly well, but still lack access to bleach, distilled
water, and sanitary containers. What are you supposed to do, carry a
supply of cups and bottles around everywhere? Klenz-Worx has a better
way for you to treat yourself right. The one-use hypodermic sanitizing
system, available at willing retailers nationwide, gives you the fresh
bleach and water you need in a conveniently portable, foil-sealed plastic
container-- and at just 99 cents, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg! The
compact kit resembles one of those single-serving breakfast cereal
packs, but with multiple mini compartments. Just poke your spike
through the foil on each of the five clearly-numbered spots, then draw,
shake, and squirt out in sequence, and you're ready to go. Compartment
two contains the bleach, while the rest hold distilled water, so you get
the recommended three good rinses after disinfection. Sweet! And, next
time you're sending supplies to the Third World as part of a large-scale
relief effort, throw in some Klenz-Worx kits for general medical use by
the people down there. They'll certainly be appreciated!
SheepTool - Remote Group Decision Interface (idea #137)
Coming to a decision as a group is like moving together as a flock of sheep, a sophisticated dance of body language; repeatedly-vocalized
concerns; small, tentative steps; and an eventual, shared understanding about where the group has decided to go. The collective mind takes time to
come to its decision as each sheep weighs its own preference, preference-strength, and standing against those of each other sheep in the
group. Through the process, each individual sheep also monitors the dynamic of the discussion as it unfolds, and gauges its accuracy against evidence
it sees from the outside world, drawing upon its personal model of the way the world works: "I swear, I saw a wolf in that direction and Betsy saw it too--
right, Betsy? Since wolves tend to come from one direction, I feel very strongly that we should move the other way."
This tried-and-true decision-making formula works brilliantly across many species, with or without language, allowing the group to think more carefully and
deeply than any one individual would alone. Humans often do it in conference rooms, where everyone can see each other, physically place
where they are relative to everyone else, and discern how people are reacting to one another. But what if the workgroup is all in different places?
Videoconferencing may be a nice idea, but it removes the biologically-hardwired metaphor of shared space and group direction that underlies all successful
consensus-building. Simply seeing faces onscreen is no help when you're missing the subtle, direction-based adjustments in people's posture, attention,
and breathing that follow along with trajectory of the discourse, clueing everyone in to which direction people are leaning, whose arguments are holding sway,
and who is losing ground.
SheepTool offers a better, more natural alternative to videoconferencing. At meeting time, everyone logs onto a shared virtual workspace and opens up a
communal audio connection, the Bleatspace. At the same time, a round field is shown onscreen, and clustered in the middle are icons that represent each
participant, consisting of nothing more than a circle with a name label, and two dots representing a pair of eyes. The matter currently under consideration is listed
at the top, and different possible outcome decisions, defined in advance, are arrayed around the edges of the field, whether it's something as simple as Yes on the
left and No on the right, or a longer list of possibilities-- industries, companies, individuals, budgets, calendar slots, proposals, etc. Initially, the simplified
Sheepicons are arranged in org-chart order, with higher-ranking participants in the middle of the DecisionFlock cluster, and more junior members occupying the
At the sound of the starting bell, participants begin the gradual process of bringing the DecisionFlock group to the edge of the virtual field, where the flock's
position will correspond to one of the possible decision outcomes. In doing this, each participant has two tools at their disposal: their voices, carried and heard
by everyone over the Bleatspace, and their pointing devices, which can nudge their associated Sheepicon bodies and eyes in any chosen direction. The Sheepicons are
programmed to stick together, which automatically lessens the influence of any one participant's strong movements. Meanwhile, each Sheepicon's
body movement exerts a force that nudges and draws neighboring Sheepicons along in their direction, with more power logically held by the icons located
in the center of the flock.
Throughout the process, low-level random noise is generated in order to make the Sheepicon bodies wiggle slightly in all directions. The purpose of this is to
loosen the connection somewhat between a users input and their icon's movement, thereby providing a certain level of anonymity and deniability regarding being
swayed by the arguments and movements of others.
Primary Juice (idea #136)
Simple shapes and primary colors are good for young
children because they constitute the building blocks
of visual perception. Yet, tragically, some
unthinking parents pack their kids' lunches with
profit-maximizing fruit juice blends,
robbing them of their ability to distinguish
individual flavors beyond simply recognizing the muddy slurry
coming up their straw as "juice." Primary Juice
rejects this crippling of our childrens' developing
tastes with a line of pure, elemental fruit juices
such as apple, cranberry, tangerine, and quince. Sweetening and
dilution, where required (as with cranberry) are given
by refined fructose and branch water, neutral
ingredients that don't detract from the original fruit. Dishonest, flavor-marring
sweetening agents like grape juice
concentrate, agave extract, and evaporated cane juice,
need not apply! Older children can graduate to the
Primary Juice Varietals line, which includes Pink Lady
Apple, Cabernet Franc grape, and other wholesome
juices pressed from single-variety fruit, each
carefully selected to further refine your child's
palate-- and by extension, his or her overall sophistication and
future likelihood of success. Turn your Baby Einstein into a
Sportsposer (idea #133)
You're meeting some new people on a business trip, and you need to gain their trust, but you don't give a tinker's damn about sports? Sportsposer's Daily Regional Briefings will supply you with the knowledge you need to make a great impression. Each weekday, Sportsposer publishes short, simple reports, geared towards non-sports fans, which provide an overview of the current sports situation in any of one hundred regions in the U.S. and Canada. You'll get timely information carefully selected for its plausibility in light sports banter, drawn from recent games, standings, and trades-- as well as background basics that aren't spelled out on the Sports page, such as who the local teams are, what sports they play, what characterizes them, where they are in the current season, and who are the major figures. And it all fits on one page, guaranteed! Frequent travelers can get unlimited access to the Sportsposer Daily Regional Briefings online for a yearly fee, or you can buy them individually. With Sportsposer, you can make the locals think that you actually care about sports, or their team, or their stupid little city, or them, or whatever.
RoveMail (idea #130)
Insiders know the art of timing their emails and composing Cc: and Bcc: lists, but this simple set of choices is woefully incomplete. RoveMail solves the general problem by making email delivery scriptable and smart, with a detailed personal contacts database. Attach a "RoveScript" to any email message, and the mailer will selectively disclose any rumors or other insider information over time, "roving" about the complex terrain of knowledge, affiliation, and hierarchy.
For example, let's say you have a memo on the subject of "Chalabi" which you wish to reveal in the following way:
This easily translates into the following RoveScript excerpt:
- Immediately email it to Dick and Karen, allowing them to see the message's RoveScript.
- Deliver it early tomorrow to all 100%-trustworthy senior staff at Halliburton and OSP, but not to Paul or anyone who has ties to the University of Chicago.
- Finally, deliver it in one week's time to journalists who write for top-tier publications and cannot think for themselves, and Bcc: everyone at the Trilateral Commission.
(Send (Subject "Chalabi")
(Date (NOW (To Dick Karen) :show-script YES)
(02Apr2004 07:30EST (To (Recipients R where
(AND (= :trust-level 1.0) (= :level "senior") (= :affiliation (OR "Halliburton" "OSP"))
(NOT (OR Paul (includes :ties "U of C")))))))
((+ NOW 7d) (To (Recipients R where
(AND (= :job "journalist") (= (status :affiliation) 1) (> :sheep-level 0.8)))
(Bcc (Recipients R where (= :affiliation "Trilateral Commission"))))))
The recursive nature of the RoveScript language allows you to attach counterfeit headers and RoveScripts, when necessary. You may also include formulas, for example to send a message to recipients one-by-one, spaced apart at intervals and ordered based on quantifiable personal characteristics such as age or income.
Future releases of RoveMail will support voicemail and text messaging in addition to email. Later, a GUI will eliminate the need to write most scripts, and RoveScripts will be applicable to incoming messages as well as outgoing -- for example, "If I get a message from Paul over the next two hours, forward it immediately to my Blackberry; after that, route it to my Recent-Assassinations folder."
Mirror-Time (idea #127)
You're ready to head out to the evening's event, but your spouse is stuck preening in front of the mirror again, making you late, as usual. Establish control with Mirror-Time, the mirror that shuts off when it's time for you to leave. You set the installable dressing-room mirror just like you set an alarm. Then, five minutes before the appointed moment, the inner LCD layer starts flashing opaque black, disabling the mirror intermittently as a warning sign. When the time's up, the mirror goes completely black, rendering it unusable-- and you can only restore its reflectivity by entering a secret code.
Al Qaeda Sneakers (idea #125)
What's the baddest brand in the world? It isn't Nike. Al Qaeda sneakers strike fear and young-rebel admiration wherever they tread, as they stomp into the cultural battleground of leisure footwear on the heels of such leftie, do-gooder labels as No Sweat and Adbusters' Blackspot. But absolutely none of the profits from the aggressively-styled basketball shoes actually goes to the Al Qaeda organization itself-- and anyone claiming to represent Al Qaeda who objects to the "trademark violation" and seeks damages will just have prove it through the court system. Gotcha! It's a trap that uses the terrorist organization's most valuable asset, its reputation, against itself-- while defusing, trivializing, and profiting off of it in the process. Actually, Al Qaeda brand sneakers are assembled in non-exploitative, unionized facilities, with 1% of gross income donated to UNICEF. But with status-symbol pricing, there's ample money left over for the manufacturer. Copycats and knock-offs? Bring 'em on! They'll just dilute, commercialize, and confuse the brand further.
Chateau Chien Taureau (idea #120)
Many people don't realize that Fresno State University produces some really good wines out of its Viticulture and Enology department. But unfortunately, the "Fresno State Winery" appellation is a turn-off for more closed-minded varietal consumers. Enter Chateau Chien Taureau, Fresno State's new, upscale wine label. They're some of the exact same award-winning wines that are bottled under the Fresno State label-- specifically, their Cabernet, Syrah, Barbera, Muscat, and Orange Muscat (and not their Tailgate Red). But they cost a few dollars more and have a fancier-sounding name, in order to appeal to the insecure wine buyer. It's that simple, and everyone wins: Certain consumers get a whole new set of wines that they can accept and enjoy, and Fresno State University gets another source of income-- which they desperately need these days, just like all public educational institutions in California.
Warhol's Empire on DVD (Flat-panel TV Decor) (idea #115)
You've wall-mounted one of those nice, big, flat LCD or plasma television screens. But what does it do when you're not watching? You can just let it sit blank, play a cheesy fireplace or aquarium video, show some distracting eyecandy. . . or you can display a true landmark of modern art: Andy Warhol's Empire. This 8-plus hour experimental film consists of a motionless shot of the Empire State Building, filmed in 16mm from the 44th floor of the Time-Life building back in 1964 -- perfect for adding that quietly artsy touch to your living room, or even making it look like you have a window that faces midtown Manhattan in a time warp. Despite the film's epic length, Empire compresses easily onto a single DVD because it's black-and-white, it has no sound, and most significantly, it has no movement other than slow changes in lighting and the occasional bird flying. Finally, a way to put this notorious film to good use!
FreewayWriter (idea #112)
A highway's wet-weather traction is improved by grooves in the concrete, now standard in road construction. These channels produce a hum that's audible in any vehicle that travels over them, and varying the grooves' direction, spacing, and depth changes the resulting sound's volume and frequency (see S. Meiarashi et al.). FreewayWriter takes advantage of this effect to make highways sing-- literally. The computer-controlled tining machine etches complex patterns into the pavement that not only improve highway safety, but also play music to motorists-- even in stereo, when the left and right sides of the lane are etched differently. It's a great way to reduce deadly "highway hypnosis" on long, remote stretches of road, or even to deliver commercial messages. You're exhausted, you're still hours from your destination, and suddenly the road sounds like Rhapsody in Blue; that's when you think, "next time, I'm taking United Airlines."
IceWriter (idea #111)
New from the Zamboni Company, IceWriter is an ice-resurfacing vehicle that "prints" semi-permanent color images of any size as it traverses the ice. The robotic vehicle sweeps over the image area line-by-line, while a hot metal print-head underneath melts holes in the ice, one for each pixel. The vehicle then sucks up the water, mixes it with vivid, biodegradable dyes, and re-deposits it into the hole, where it soon re-freezes. The resulting long-lasting color pictures turn rinks or frozen lakes into colorful billboards visible from far away-- even from airplanes!
Astrological Wall Orrery (and Wrist Orrery) (idea #110)
AstroWin, Delphi, and other astrology apps are great for drawing up and analyzing charts for past and future events, but what if you just want to check where the planets are now, without having to consult a computer or handheld? The Astrological Wall Orrery is an attractive and affordable quartz-movement wall clock that doesn't just show the time-- it also displays the current zodiac positions of all the planets, giving you a complete, anytime read on your current astro status. Unlike traditional mechanical orreries, it isn't this ridiculously huge and expensive thing you'd only expect to find in a museum. But it does make a strong decorative statement that's in tune with the universe. For planetary guidance anywhere, strap on the Wrist Orrery, which captures all that great solar-system action in a snazzy-looking wristwatch. Hey babe, would you like to know what's rising right now?
Bensfi Designs (Blog-Enabled No-Sweat Fashions from India) (idea #104)
Enlightened consumers will gladly pay more to have a personal connection to the products they buy, which is gravy for local artisans and farmers' markets, but what about importers? Bensfi Designs (Blog-Enabled No-Sweat Fashions from India) has the answer: Publish the company's org chart online, and give every employee their own blog, which they can update on company time, uncensored, every week. Next time you're out wearing one of the Mumbai-based company's stunning vegetable-dyed Kalamkari or Ikat full-sleeve tops, you can share the lives the seamstresses who made it -- their workdays, their hopes for their families and communities, and any messages they have for the people who wear their clothing in other parts of the world. These online accounts provide more than just a feeling of connection; they also guarantee that the manufacturer's employees are not being exploited, more convincingly than any "No Sweat" logo or other institutional certification. And if you ever travel to Mumbai/Bombay, you can schedule a tour of the Bensfi factory and say hello to some of the team members in person. Wear your Bensfi design, and you'll get in free of charge-- just like all the leftie journalists visiting to cover the company's inspiring success.
Malcolm Gladwell's Project X (idea #102)
Japan's hit television series Project X documents key industrial innovations, one per weekly episode, with topics ranging from the development of the VHS standard to the development of the electric rice-cooker. Featuring frequent interviews with retirees, the detail-rich and optimistic program has inspired a large, devoted following, while spawning companion books, comics, and DVD's. Malcolm Gladwell's Project X translates this successful formula to U.S. audiences, focusing on American innovations. The appealing young New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell hosts the program, further guaranteeing its embrace by the PBS-NPR complex (which seldom backs properties that don't have a highbrow name attached).
Matching Pipe and Cat-Toy Set (idea #101)
Much of the younger generation's best glassblowing and glass-sculpture talent has gone into medicinal herb paraphernalia -- witness the beautiful work coming from Seattle's influential Glassworks Park. Meanwhile, companies like MetPet.com have been raising cat-toy aesthetic standards with handsome interactive rod toys such as SpidersFluff and Comet-on-a-String. The handcrafted Matching Pipe and Cat-Toy Set combines these synergistic tools into one piece of functional art, a colorful tabletop set that holds a variety of rod toys alongside either a conventional pipe, a water-pipe, or an herbal vaporizer. On a cold winter's night, there's no more elegant way to present the evening's entertainment!
GunNut Magazine (idea #94)
A whole generation of video-gamers is coming into legal gun-buying age, and some are realizing that blasting inanimate objects with big guns is just as thrilling in real life as it is in DOOM. But they don't share the cold-dead-fingers paranoia or Bambi-shooting sensibilities of traditional gun enthusiasts. Enter GunNut magazine, tagline: "Shooting Is Fun." Each month, GunNut covers all forms of recreational shooting (except for hunting), emphasizing target practice with real firearms, but also discussing First-Person Shooter videogames, paintball, homemade siege weapons, archery, and other projectile-centered recreations. All topics are presented with a lively, young, video-game sensibility -- think PC Gamer meets Guns and Ammo meets Maxim. The magazine will attract a whole new audience of trigger-happy gamers to the world of gun ownership, inviting lots of advertising revenue. Meanwhile, gun traditionalists will resent the publication's playful, irreverent attitude, and concerned parents will object to the way it blurs the distinction between virtual and real-life shooting, guaranteeing a rebel-cool "underground" status from both sides of the shocked-grownup spectrum.
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