Friday, May 31, 2013

8 Ways to Beat Loneliness While Travelling

Loneliness is one of the worst diseases you can get while travelling and when it hits, it usually hits hard. Although I travel all the time I can still find myself getting really lonely. Here are a few tips that I use to combat loneliness:

Keep yourself busy: One of the greatest traps for loneliness is boredom. As soon as you find yourself with nothing to do loneliness can set in. Giving yourself something to do is an excellent way to pass time and take your mind of things. Some people like to sketch, others keep journals - I write a lot of my blog posts while travelling.

Don’t wallow in self pity: If you are keeping a journal avoid writing long epitaphs on how sad you are. Likewise keep your reading to something light or motivating. I remember on my very first solo trip to Europe when I was twenty I read those heavy literary master-pieces and wrote these tortuous letters home; of which both helped my black mood spiral further downwards.

Don’t hide in your room: Once you do get lonely it can knock your confidence about. Try and avoid hiding in your room and instead hit the bar or common spaces in your hotel or hostel. By all means you don’t have to get yourself smashed - but do have a drink and a bite to eat and try talking to a few people.

Get out and about: Doing some exercise is an excellent way to overcome loneliness. The endorphins created by exercise can really lift your well-being. If you’re not the running type try going for a long walk, stop at a cafe for a coffee along the way - time will fly
Avoid phoning home too often: It is all too easy to go to a phone booth or jump on Facebook or Instant Messenger when you get lonely - but it should be avoided where possible. Although you may think it gives you a lift, the joy is short lived and the resultant lonely emptiness can in fact be much worse than before the call.

Don’t be too cool for school: Being an adventurous independent type is awesome; travelling by yourself, going to these out of the way places. But if you are someone who is going to be susceptible to loneliness make sure you regularly have stops with lots of other like-minded travellers to touch base and recharge your feel-good batteries.

Sleep well: over-tiredness is one of the biggest sources of loneliness. Get some good sleep - but at the same time recognise that over sleeping can also make your tired and lonely. When lonely it is often easy to go to bed early and “hide” in your sleep. This can actually cause you to be more lonely and tired.
Spend a little cash: whether it is a day-trip or a multi day tour, getting out in a group environment is a great way to meet other travellers. Often many of them are in the same situation as you. There is an unfortunate correlation between loneliness and lack of travel funds!
Have you got any other tips you can add?

Tell the world!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Brain (4)

Early philosophers were divided as to whether the seat of the soul lies in the brain or heart. Aristotle favored the heart, and thought that the function of the brain was merely to cool the blood. Democritus, the inventor of the atomic theory of matter, argued for a three-part soul, with intellect in the head, emotion in the heart, and lust near the liver. Hippocrates, the "father of medicine", came down unequivocally in favor of the brain. In his treatise on epilepsy he wrote:

Men ought to know that from nothing else but the brain come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations. ... And by the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us, some by night, and some by day, and dreams and untimely wanderings, and cares that are not suitable, and ignorance of present circumstances, desuetude, and unskillfulness. All these things we endure from the brain, when it is not healthy...

Hippocrates, On the Sacred Disease

The Roman physician Galen also argued for the importance of the brain, and theorized in some depth about how it might work. Galen traced out the anatomical relationships among brain, nerves, and muscles, demonstrating that all muscles in the body are connected to the brain through a branching network of nerves. He postulated that nerves activate muscles mechanically by carrying a mysterious substance he called pneumata psychikon, usually translated as "animal spirits".Galen's ideas were widely known during the Middle Ages, but not much further progress came until the Renaissance, when detailed anatomical study resumed, combined with the theoretical speculations of René Descartes and those who followed him. Descartes, like Galen, thought of the nervous system in hydraulic terms. He believed that the highest cognitive functions are carried out by a non-physical res cogitans, but that the majority of behaviors of humans, and all behaviors of animals, could be explained mechanistically.

The first real progress toward a modern understanding of nervous function, though, came from the investigations of Luigi Galvani, who discovered that a shock of static electricity applied to an exposed nerve of a dead frog could cause its leg to contract. Since that time, each major advance in understanding has followed more or less directly from the development of a new technique of investigation. Until the early years of the 20th century, the most important advances were derived from new methods for staining cells. Particularly critical was the invention of the Golgi stain, which (when correctly used) stains only a small fraction of neurons, but stains them in their entirety, including cell body, dendrites, and axon. Without such a stain, brain tissue under a microscope appears as an impenetrable tangle of protoplasmic fibers, in which it is impossible to determine any structure. In the hands of Camillo Golgi, and especially of the Spanish neuroanatomist Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the new stain revealed hundreds of distinct types of neurons, each with its own unique dendritic structure and pattern of connectivity.

In the first half of the 20th century, advances in electronics enabled investigation of the electrical properties of nerve cells, culminating in work by Alan Hodgkin, Andrew Huxley, and others on the biophysics of the action potential, and the work of Bernard Katz and others on the electrochemistry of the synapse. These studies complemented the anatomical picture with a conception of the brain as a dynamic entity. Reflecting the new understanding, in 1942 Charles Sherrington visualized the workings of the brain waking from sleep:

The great topmost sheet of the mass, that where hardly a light had twinkled or moved, becomes now a sparkling field of rhythmic flashing points with trains of traveling sparks hurrying hither and thither. The brain is waking and with it the mind is returning. It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the head mass becomes an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one; a shifting harmony of subpatterns.
—Sherrington, 1942, Man on his Nature

In the second half of the 20th century, developments in chemistry, electron microscopy, genetics, computer science, functional brain imaging, and other fields progressively opened new windows into brain structure and function. In the United States, the 1990s were officially designated as the "Decade of the Brain" to commemorate advances made in brain research, and to promote funding for such research.

In the 21st century, these trends have continued, and several new approaches have come into prominence, including multielectrode recording, which allows the activity of many brain cells to be recorded all at the same time; genetic engineering, which allows molecular components of the brain to be altered experimentally; and genomics, which allows variations in brain structure to be correlated with variations in DNA properties.

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How To Make A Good Resume...

A résumé is a self-advertisement that, when done properly, shows how your skills, experience, and achievements match the requirements of the job you want. This guide provides three free samples on which you can base your résumé. It will also walk you through setting up and laying out the content to highlight your skills and grab the reader’s attention.

Sample resume
Here are some well formatted sample résumés you can copy. For information on how to choose a layout and to write your own résumé, read the topics below.

Set Up The Resume

Format the page. Regardless of which résumé style you choose, it should be formatted in a specific way. Proper formatting draws attention to your accomplishment rather than to the font. By following the guidelines below, you’ll polish your résumé so that it makes a strong first impression. Guidelines to follow when formatting your résumé:
  • Set your margins to 1” all around.
  • Use a standard font such as Arial or Calibri. Times New Roman is acceptable but a little hard on the eyes; every second you can get a potential employer to look at your résumé counts, so consider using a sans serif (i.e. a font with no projecting features at the end of strokes).
  • Use font size 16 for your name, 14 for section headings, and 12 for all other text.
  • Use bold font for your name and section headings.
  • Use plenty of white space (blank lines). Proper use of white space will make your résumé easy to scan quickly and to read. Unless applying for a job where unique formatting is thematically appropriate, always use white paper and black font.

Create your heading. It should include your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. Your name should be in 16-point bold type, and the rest of the heading in regular 12-point font. You may either center the information, or justify it to the left or right of the page.

Choose a layout. How you lay out the information depends on the job you want. Here are three different types. More information on each type is available in order further down the page.
Chronological résumé. The focus in this format is on experience. A chronological résumé is best for those who have mostly worked in the same field and can show steady progress up the ladder, each job being a step-up from the last. For example, someone who has worked as a receptionist, then as a legal secretary, and now as a paralegal may want to use a chronological résumé.

Functional résumé. The focus of this type of résumé is skills and experience, not job history. A functional résumé is best for those who cannot show a steady career progression. This type of résumé is designed to highlight specific skills rather than job titles. For example, a functional résumé is best for people who have changed jobs frequently, or who have gaps in work history. A mother who took time off to raise a family would likely benefit from a functional résumé. A photographer who has won awards for photographs, but who has only had one job as a photographer, would also benefit from the format of a functional résumé.

Combination résumé. A combination résumé is best for those who have specific skills and wish to highlight how they were acquired. If you’ve developed a special skill set from a variety of activities, and an evolving work history where you acquired them, a combination résumé is likely the best style for you.

Chronological Résumé
List your employment history. Your jobs should be listed in order with the most recent one first.
Include the name of the company, the city in which the company is located, your title, your duties and responsibilities, and dates of employment for each employer.
Under each job description include a bold heading, which reads “major accomplishment” or “achievements”, and list two or three achievements or a major accomplishment for that position. For example, you could list ways you saved the company money, made the office run more efficiently, or brought in new clients or customers. For example, you could include information on how you “implemented a new filing system that saved $1.50 per client in supply and labor costs.”

Provide information on your education.
  • If you attended more than one college, university, or training program, list the most recent one first.
  • For each institution, include the name, city and state, and the degree or certificate you received.
  • If you had a cumulative grade point average (“GPA”) of 3.5 or better, list it as well.
  • If you did not attend college or trade school, do not include your high school education; including high school information on your résumé doesn’t look professional.

Add additional sections as needed. Because a résumé is unique to each person, you may want to add additional sections in order to highlight something that makes you stand out as the right candidate for the particular job. For example:
  • If you have job specific skills, list them in a section titled ‘Special Skills.’
  • If you are bi-lingual and the job favors those who speak more than one language, list the languages in which you are fluent under “Other Languages”.
  • If being computer literate is important to perform the job well, create a ‘Computer Skills’ section and list all of the programs, applications, and programming languages you know how to use.

Functional Résumé
Determine whether to list your ‘Education’ or ‘Skills, Awards, and Achievements’ first. Choose whichever best sells you as the best candidate for the job.
  • If you have a bachelor or graduate degree, you likely want to put your education first.
  • If you have job specific skills, or a large number of awards, you may want to list those first.
  • For example, if you don’t have any paid job experience but you just graduated from college, listing your education first will highlight your most impressive accomplishment first.
  • If, on the other hand, you did have not completed your undergraduate studies yet but you have worked at 2 volunteer jobs and 2 internships, listing those accomplishments first will showcase how industrious you are.

Provide details of your education. Regardless of whether you list your education first or second, it’s important to give recruiters details of what you studied.
  • If you attended more than one college, university, or training program, list them with the most recent one first.
  • For each institution, include the name, city and state, and the degree or certificate you received.
  • If you had a cumulative grade point average (“GPA”) of 3.5 or better, list it as well.
  • If you did not attend college or trade school, do not include your high school education; including high school information on your résumé doesn’t look professional.

Decide how to present your skills, awards, and achievements. You may divide these into three individual sections in your functional résumé, or you can consolidate the information into one section.
Label each section something like “Special Skills,” “Awards & Achievements,” or “Major Achievements.”
This section, or these sections, could be presented as a list of the skills you have that are related to the particular job, a bullet point list of awards, a chronological description of your achievements, or some combination of the three.

List your employment history. Since this isn’t the strongest part of your résumé, you’ll want to list it at the end so that the recruiter reads through your more impressive accomplishments first.
You should include sub-headings for the type of experience each job provided you with, such as “Management Experience,” “Legal Experience,” or “Financial Experience.”
For each job, be sure to include the name of the company, the city in which the company is located, your title, your duties and responsibilities, and the dates of employment for each employer.
Optionally, under each job description you can include a bold heading, which reads “Major Accomplishment” or “Achievements,” and list two or three achievements or a major accomplishment for that position.
You may want to outline how you took the initiative to make the office run more efficiently by, “establishing office procedures to improve workflow and reduce paper costs.”

Combination Résumé
Decide in what combination you will list your education, work history, and other achievements. Remember, your résumé is an advertisement for you, so your best qualities should be listed first. For example, if you have a graduate degree, you may want to list your education first, or if you have won a prominent award in your field, you may chose to list your skills, awards, and achievements first. On the other hand, if your most recent role is an impressive achievement, make sure you start with that.

List your employment history. This can be done in one of two ways:
If your work history includes positions in more than one field, you should list your jobs under functional sub-headings, which categorize the skills you used at each particular one (e.g., “Financial Experience,” “Customer Service Experience,” “Research Experience,” etc.). When listing your employment history in this manner, each sub-heading should contain a listing of the positions you’ve held that relate to those functional areas. The listing should include the name and location of the employer, a description of your duties and responsibilities, the dates you were employed, and any accomplishments or achievements at that particular job.

If you can demonstrate that your evolving work history highlights the key skills you want to promote, you may want to list your work history in reverse chronological order, without including any sub-headings. Instead of the subheadings, you could strategically select the way you word your descriptions of your roles and responsibilities to highlight how you honed those skills.

Provide information about your education. The details you include about your education will be the same as the details you’d include in other résumé styles; the difference is in where you present the information on the résumé. For each college, university, or trade school you have attended, list the name and location of the institution, the degree or certificate you received, and the years you attended. If your grade point average (“GPA”) was 3.5 or higher, you may want to list it as well.

Provide information on your skills, awards, and achievements. This can be blocked into one section, or they can be distributed within the sub-headings of your résumé that highlight specific skills.

Make Your Content Shine
Create titles that will catch the employer’s eye. Take a look at your job titles. Are they interesting and descriptive? Try punching them up a little. Take your time with this; your résumé is going to be scanned quickly by someone in 30 seconds or less and you need to catch their attention fast. Instead of saying you were a cashier, say you were a customer service professional, or rather than saying that you’re a secretary, say you are an administrative assistant. Do not use a job title that is misleading, however. Simply think about how well the job title describes the work, and how interesting the title is. For example, “Manager” does not describe who or what a person manages. “Sales Staff Manager” or “Executive Manager” may be more descriptive and desirable job titles on a résumé. Visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook for an alphabetical listing of job titles to get ideas on how to make your job titles more descriptive.

Use keywords strategically. Because many employers now scan résumés with special software programs to determine the presence of certain keywords as a way of filtering them before a select few get passed along to an actual human being, you want to be sure that your résumé contains all of the proper keywords for your industry, and the particular job for which you are applying. Look at what words the employer uses in the advertisement. If an employer lists research as a required skill, be sure to include the word ‘research’ or ‘researched’ in at least one job description or skill set you include on your résumé. Avoid using every keyword mentioned in the job posting, however, or your resume will look suspicious.

Use action verbs to describe your responsibilities and accomplishments. This will highlight your skills and your ability to do the job for which you are applying. Choose verbs that describe your responsibilities and then make sure to begin the descriptions of your duties with these verbs. For example, if you were a receptionist, you may want to use verbs such as scheduled, assisted, and provided. You can do this by saying you ‘scheduled appointments’ ‘assisted clients’ and ‘provided administrative support.’

Spell check and proofread your résumé. This step cannot be overemphasized. Proofread your résumé several times. Have someone else proofread it. Then, have another person further removed from you read it. Spelling and grammar errors in a résumé will get it discarded regardless of your skills and experience. Some things to look for when proofreading are:
  • Spelling mistakes.
  • Grammatical errors.
  • Incorrect contact information.
  • Typos.
  • Misuse of apostrophes, plurals, and possessives.

  • Sell yourself. Don’t just tell the potential employer that you ‘answered phones’ at a previous job. Instead, tell them you ‘managed a five line telephone system in a timely and courteous manner.’
  • Get creative. This does not mean you should use colored fonts or spray perfume on your résumé before placing it in the mail, but some bulleted lists, bold font, capital letters, and thoughtful organization of information can go a long way in making you stand out from other applicants. Remember, employers will view a résumé for an average of 7 seconds before deciding to actually read it, or pitch it in the trash. You need to draw the employer’s attention to the skills and achievements that make you the best choice in that small window of time.
  • Purchase good quality, white paper and matching envelopes if you decide to send your résumé out in the mail. Make sure to print the mailing address and return address on your envelopes; this is especially important when applying for a job such as a secretary, administrative assistant, or paralegal, where you will be expected to know how to prepare and print envelopes for mailing.
  • Tailor your résumé for each job. Analyzing the advertisement for the job you’re applying for will help you understand what the employer is looking for. If a job specifies that potential employees should have 3 to 5 years experience, be sure that the version of the résumé you send to that employer clearly reflects the fact that you meet their desired qualifications. For example, you may want to include the phrase “15 years of experience” in a prominent position. Research the company to whom you are applying. Find out what would impress them most so that you can tailor your résumé to them.
  • Make your resume realistic and not the "too-good-to-be-true" type of bragging

Brain (3)

The brain does not simply grow, but rather develops in an intricately orchestrated sequence of stages. It changes in shape from a simple swelling at the front of the nerve cord in the earliest embryonic stages, to a complex array of areas and connections. Neurons are created in special zones that contain stem cells, and then migrate through the tissue to reach their ultimate locations. Once neurons have positioned themselves, their axons sprout and navigate through the brain, branching and extending as they go, until the tips reach their targets and form synaptic connections. In a number of parts of the nervous system, neurons and synapses are produced in excessive numbers during the early stages, and then the unneeded ones are pruned away.

For vertebrates, the early stages of neural development are similar across all species. As the embryo transforms from a round blob of cells into a wormlike structure, a narrow strip of ectoderm running along the midline of the back is induced to become the neural plate, the precursor of the nervous system. The neural plate folds inward to form the neural groove, and then the lips that line the groove merge to enclose the neural tube, a hollow cord of cells with a fluid-filled ventricle at the center. At the front end, the ventricles and cord swell to form three vesicles that are the precursors of the forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain. At the next stage, the forebrain splits into two vesicles called the telencephalon (which will contain the cerebral cortex, basal ganglia, and related structures) and the diencephalon (which will contain the thalamus and hypothalamus). At about the same time, the hindbrain splits into the metencephalon (which will contain the cerebellum and pons) and the myelencephalon (which will contain the medulla oblongata). Each of these areas contains proliferative zones where neurons and glial cells are generated; the resulting cells then migrate, sometimes for long distances, to their final positions.

Once a neuron is in place, it extends dendrites and an axon into the area around it. Axons, because they commonly extend a great distance from the cell body and need to reach specific targets, grow in a particularly complex way. The tip of a growing axon consists of a blob of protoplasm called a growth cone, studded with chemical receptors. These receptors sense the local environment, causing the growth cone to be attracted or repelled by various cellular elements, and thus to be pulled in a particular direction at each point along its path. The result of this pathfinding process is that the growth cone navigates through the brain until it reaches its destination area, where other chemical cues cause it to begin generating synapses. Considering the entire brain, thousands of genes create products that influence axonal pathfinding.

The synaptic network that finally emerges is only partly determined by genes, though. In many parts of the brain, axons initially "overgrow", and then are "pruned" by mechanisms that depend on neural activity. In the projection from the eye to the midbrain, for example, the structure in the adult contains a very precise mapping, connecting each point on the surface of the retina to a corresponding point in a midbrain layer. In the first stages of development, each axon from the retina is guided to the right general vicinity in the midbrain by chemical cues, but then branches very profusely and makes initial contact with a wide swath of midbrain neurons. The retina, before birth, contains special mechanisms that cause it to generate waves of activity that originate spontaneously at a random point and then propagate slowly across the retinal layer. These waves are useful because they cause neighboring neurons to be active at the same time; that is, they produce a neural activity pattern that contains information about the spatial arrangement of the neurons. This information is exploited in the midbrain by a mechanism that causes synapses to weaken, and eventually vanish, if activity in an axon is not followed by activity of the target cell. The result of this sophisticated process is a gradual tuning and tightening of the map, leaving it finally in its precise adult form.

Similar things happen in other brain areas: an initial synaptic matrix is generated as a result of genetically determined chemical guidance, but then gradually refined by activity-dependent mechanisms, partly driven by internal dynamics, partly by external sensory inputs. In some cases, as with the retina-midbrain system, activity patterns depend on mechanisms that operate only in the developing brain, and apparently exist solely to guide development.

In humans and many other mammals, new neurons are created mainly before birth, and the infant brain contains substantially more neurons than the adult brain. There are, however, a few areas where new neurons continue to be generated throughout life. The two areas for which adult neurogenesis is well established are the olfactory bulb, which is involved in the sense of smell, and the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, where there is evidence that the new neurons play a role in storing newly acquired memories. With these exceptions, however, the set of neurons that is present in early childhood is the set that is present for life. Glial cells are different: as with most types of cells in the body, they are generated throughout the lifespan.

There has long been debate about whether the qualities of mind, personality, and intelligence can be attributed to heredity or to upbringing—this is the nature versus nurture controversy. Although many details remain to be settled, neuroscience research has clearly shown that both factors are important. Genes determine the general form of the brain, and genes determine how the brain reacts to experience. Experience, however, is required to refine the matrix of synaptic connections, which in its developed form contains far more information than the genome does. In some respects, all that matters is the presence or absence of experience during critical periods of development. In other respects, the quantity and quality of experience are important; for example, there is substantial evidence that animals raised in enriched environments have thicker cerebral cortices, indicating a higher density of synaptic connections, than animals whose levels of stimulation are restricted.

The field of neuroscience encompasses all approaches that seek to understand the brain and the rest of the nervous system. Psychology seeks to understand mind and behavior, and neurology is the medical discipline that diagnoses and treats diseases of the nervous system. The brain is also the most important organ studied in psychiatry, the branch of medicine that works to study, prevent, and treat mental disorders. Cognitive science seeks to unify neuroscience and psychology with other fields that concern themselves with the brain, such as computer science (artificial intelligence and similar fields) and philosophy.

The oldest method of studying the brain is anatomical, and until the middle of the 20th century, much of the progress in neuroscience came from the development of better cell stains and better microscopes. Neuroanatomists study the large-scale structure of the brain as well as the microscopic structure of neurons and their components, especially synapses. Among other tools, they employ a plethora of stains that reveal neural structure, chemistry, and connectivity. In recent years, the development of immunostaining techniques has allowed investigation of neurons that express specific sets of genes. Also, functional neuroanatomy uses medical imaging techniques to correlate variations in human brain structure with differences in cognition or behavior.

Neurophysiologists study the chemical, pharmacological, and electrical properties of the brain: their primary tools are drugs and recording devices. Thousands of experimentally developed drugs affect the nervous system, some in highly specific ways. Recordings of brain activity can be made using electrodes, either glued to the scalp as in EEG studies, or implanted inside the brains of animals for extracellular recordings, which can detect action potentials generated by individual neurons. Because the brain does not contain pain receptors, it is possible using these techniques to record brain activity from animals that are awake and behaving without causing distress. The same techniques have occasionally been used to study brain activity in human patients suffering from intractable epilepsy, in cases where there was a medical necessity to implant electrodes to localize the brain area responsible for epileptic seizures Functional imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging are also used to study brain activity; these techniques have mainly been used with human subjects, because they require a conscious subject to remain motionless for long periods of time, but they have the great advantage of being noninvasive.

Another approach to brain function is to examine the consequences of damage to specific brain areas. Even though it is protected by the skull and meninges, surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, and isolated from the bloodstream by the blood–brain barrier, the delicate nature of the brain makes it vulnerable to numerous diseases and several types of damage. In humans, the effects of strokes and other types of brain damage have been a key source of information about brain function. Because there is no ability to experimentally control the nature of the damage, however, this information is often difficult to interpret. In animal studies, most commonly involving rats, it is possible to use electrodes or locally injected chemicals to produce precise patterns of damage and then examine the consequences for behavior.

Computational neuroscience encompasses two approaches: first, the use of computers to study the brain; second, the study of how brains perform computation. On one hand, it is possible to write a computer program to simulate the operation of a group of neurons by making use of systems of equations that describe their electrochemical activity; such simulations are known as biologically realistic neural networks. On the other hand, it is possible to study algorithms for neural computation by simulating, or mathematically analyzing, the operations of simplified "units" that have some of the properties of neurons but abstract out much of their biological complexity. The computational functions of the brain are studied both by computer scientists and neuroscientists.

Recent years have seen increasing applications of genetic and genomic techniques to the study of the brain. The most common subjects are mice, because of the availability of technical tools. It is now possible with relative ease to "knock out" or mutate a wide variety of genes, and then examine the effects on brain function. More sophisticated approaches are also being used: for example, using Cre-Lox recombination it is possible to activate or deactivate genes in specific parts of the brain, at specific times.

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