A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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    Default A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    It has to be quick, cuz I'm in the middle of assignment-writing. Anyway, in the process of writing this-here assignment on the "alternative explanations for the construction of the pyramids", I've been reading a whole lot of dodgy books. I thought I'd put up a few of the more absurd comments for general perusal and ridicule and to make me feel better. I'll probably add more as I find them.
    If anyone else has a dodgy book they'd like expose to the world, feel free.

    "Primitive people cannot construct a monument with such incredible accuracy!" - Smith, Warren, "The Secret Forces of the Pyramids", pg. 7 ~ Maybe, but the Egyptians weren't all that primitive now, were they?

    "When the length of the ante-chamber is multiplied by 50, we obtain the height of the structure in pyramid inches... If we also take the height of the pyramid and divide by 50, we arrive at the length of the ante-chamber." - Smith, "Secret Forces", pg. 64 ~ I mean really, what the hell? This is supposed to be profound?!

    Also, this same writer spends pages and pages on quoting huge slabs of other people's work.
    That's all on this stuff I can remember at the moment. If I think of anything else, I'll be sure to continue my rant. In the meantime, I'll leave you with the last line, said by a doctor, in an American documentary on face transplants.
    "If Columbus hadn't taken a risk, we'd all be speaking with English accents."

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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Ow, my brain.

    I should mention that the second sentence you quote likely even dodgier than it seems on the surface, thanks to the term "pyramid inches." IIRC, that's a measurement ginned up in the 19th century (possibly by the Bristish-Israelism movement, but it may be just that they adopted it quite wholeheartedly) to help make the mathematical relationships between different features of the Great Pyramid of Giza come out in nice, round numbers.

    It's also tied to concepts of a millenarial clock, with each pyramid inch representing a certain number of years - once you run out of pyramid inches, you run out of time (ie. the end of the world). Various groups (like the British-Israelists) and individuals used it as a predictor of the end times, and to make other prophetic calculations.

    Anyways, with alternate pyramid construction, my two favorite dodgy theories are the space alien and progenitor culture theories, both of which make me laugh, bitterly and often. :P

    As for other dodgy books, a lot of early anthropogical books are really screwy. I'm trying to find the title of one of my favorite messed-up ones, but I can't put my hands on it atm.

    I will mention Erich von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods?, which proposes extra-terrestial origins for megalithic structures, and even for human evolution and culture. It's particularly dodgy because even von Däniken has admitted some of the ideas and examples put forth in the book have been discredited - but neither he nor the publishers have ever gone back to correct them.

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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Pyramid inches were invented by one Smyth (or was it the guy before him?) who was in search of the original unit of measurement, and apparently found it in the Great Pyramid. It's about 1.0001 of a British inch, and is also a load of crap. To be fair, the nice round numbers were actually used to find it. The pyramid inches = time thing comes in when people decide to try to find prophecy in the corridors. Just so everyone knows, at the last check, the world ended about fifty years ago.
    I didn't manage to find "Chariots of the Gods", but I did find "The Chariots Crash", a response to it. It really restores your faith in human intelligence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Serpentine
    I didn't manage to find "Chariots of the Gods", but I did find "The Chariots Crash", a response to it. It really restores your faith in human intelligence.
    That assumes I thought humans had any to begin with ;) Studying anthropology has the odd effect of both instilling amazement at what human beings can accomplish, and amazement at just how petty and stupid people can be.

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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Quote Originally Posted by Gorbash Kazdar
    That assumes I thought humans had any to begin with ;) Studying anthropology has the odd effect of both instilling amazement at what human beings can accomplish, and amazement at just how petty and stupid people can be.
    Agree there.

    Of course how the Egyptians build the pyramids is a bit of a mystery given that the Great Pyramid (Khufu's?) was built in about 20 years and consists of something like a million and half 1 ton blocks. So for it to have been built in that time frame with currently accepted building methods the Egyptians would have to have quarried, moved, and placed one block per minute for 20 years.

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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Of course how the Egyptians build the pyramids is a bit of a mystery given that the Great Pyramid (Khufu's?) was built in about 20 years and consists of something like a million and half 1 ton blocks. So for it to have been built in that time frame with currently accepted building methods the Egyptians would have to have quarried, moved, and placed one block per minute for 20 years.
    Ahhhhhhh! but if you have aliens giving you a hand you can get it done quicker ;)

    I suppose if you have half the population of Eygpt and many many slaves it's possible.........

    The best stupid books are the ones where victorian archaeologists are talking about how people were too 'primative' to build monuments. Also the Nazi idea of a ancient race that lived between Asia and Europe - the Aryans - is pretty hilarious. They went around, dug some stuff up and made up a whole new 'superior race' which they then adopted as their own. Half the reason they tried conquering Europe was to get back the land 'that was rightfully theirs'.

    Archaeology texts written in reaction to other papers can be amusing. You have to really read what they are trying to say......
    'Well i think this guy is wrong because he smells'
    'Yes but if you had actually read my paper of 1993 it quite clearly states that you wear ladies underwear'

    hmmm....these guys are supposed to be at the top of their field......



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    They had whips, massive, massive whips.
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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Quote Originally Posted by Were-Sandwich
    They had whips, massive, massive whips.
    Ah HA! Actually, nope :P I know it's hard to believe, but once again Red Dwarf has been caught perpetuating fallacies. If slaves were involved, they made up only a small portion of the workforce. They managed with a few dozen thousand seasonal workers and a permanent force of several thousand skilled men, all of them volunteers or at least just paid workmen. Mendelssohn suggests that free food and comradery (sp?) played a big part.


    I think we can forgive Red Dwarf though, it's a great line.

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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Quote Originally Posted by Serpentine
    If slaves were involved, they made up only a small portion of the workforce.
    I really hate when a popular image of history turns out to be fiction. Its disconcerting >:(

    On the issue of books though I was recently given 1421: The Year China Discovered The World by Gavin Menzies. The gist of the book is that the Chinese discovered America before Europe... and then promptly forgot to tell anybody or record their discovery.
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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Quote Originally Posted by Om
    On the issue of books though I was recently given 1421: The Year China Discovered The World by Gavin Menzies. The gist of the book is that the Chinese discovered America before Europe... and then promptly forgot to tell anybody or record their discovery.
    If I'm remembering the right book and the right theory, you can probably add it to the "dodgy" pile.

    That being said, there is some new evidence supporting the possibility of pre-Columbian contact between China and the Americas that isn't nearly as sketchy as Menzies' claims, though it seems to point to very limited, likely completely accidental, and very intermittent/short term contact. If it occurred, it's possible the Chinese didn't recognize the significance of what had happened, or that it stemmed from such an irregular occurrence that the Chinese authorities did not credit the accounts of those that made contact. But, the evidence so far is very minimal. It points to an area that should be studied further, but is far from compelling at this point.

    Menzies' book also touches on one of the great, little known events in history - the voyages of Zheng He. I highly recommend looking into more mainstream and solid works on that, as it's really an incredible story.

    The fact that Menzies' work is pretty shaky shouldn't reflect on either the actual voyages of Zheng He, nor the new work being done on examining the possibility of such contact.

    On a seperate and particular note, the discussion of porcelain in the above article is an interesting exception to the extreme diffusionist fallacy. That is, often some will claim that a particular group lacked the technical know how or advancement (or occasionally inherent intellect, thought that is much rarer nowadays and easily countered in any case) to create something, and thus must have learned it from someone else. Pyramids a prime example. However, these theories often overestimate the complexity of a the skill or technology, underestimate the ingenuity of various groups, overestimate the similarities between two different technologies, or ignore evidence of indigenous development.

    However, the example in the above article - Chinese porcelain - represents what is in fact a difficult to reproduce technology with a very specific and traceable development by one group and not by others, with no known indigenous development series. It's also a rather quirky technology - it's not something many cultures would pursue as there are other technologies that would fill the same role just as capably that are easier to develop. It's the exact sort of accidental technology that wouldn't naturally develop in every culture that can provide evidence of diffusion.

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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Quote Originally Posted by Om
    On the issue of books though I was recently given 1421: The Year China Discovered The World by Gavin Menzies. The gist of the book is that the Chinese discovered America before Europe... and then promptly forgot to tell anybody or record their discovery.
    Man I loved that book! Used it as the basis for a whole sci-fi mini-campaign. Dodgy archaeology, but at least it wasn't as flat out loopy as Von Daniken's space gods. I wanted to hear more about the Chinese and Javans knowing all about Australia, but just dismissing it as an empty, dusty, backward and altogether useless hellhole. :D

    I wouldn't have put it beyond the Ming to have (maybe accidentally) discovered America and then forgotten about it. There are several instances in Chinese history of knowledge being lost or deliberately covered up to protect the ruling elite.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dEggtanian
    I wouldn't have put it beyond the Ming to have (maybe accidentally) discovered America and then forgotten about it. There are several instances in Chinese history of knowledge being lost or deliberately covered up to protect the ruling elite.
    That particular "tradition," if you will, goes all the way back to Qin Shi Huangdi, the Only First (emperor of China). Now there was a wild historical character. On the other hand, it's also at odds with the China's bureaucratic mania to record everything, which makes for an odd dichotomy. Regardless, I agree that it's not beyond the realm of probability that a small scale contact could have gotten lost in Chinese history.

    I do find it sad when a potentially reasonable theory ends up getting tied to a sketchy initial presentation :P I should take a moment to note that I personally am still very skeptical of a pre-Columbian Chinese discovery of the Americas and think the evidence so far likely has other explanations, but I'm very curious about it and keeping an open mind - after all, the initial evidence of the Norse pre-Columbian contact was rather similar. Basically, something to keep an eye on, but not neccessarily buy into at this point.

    For a stupid book on a non-anthropological topic (or, not specifically anthropological, given that any human activity is potentially the providence of anthopology), I have to bring up Dan Brown's Digital Fortress. Besides the fact that it's not particularly well written, with flat stereotypical characters and a plot as juvenile as it is predictable, Brown manages to get so much about Spain, the NSA, Canadian consulate officials, Japanese names and deities, computers, and most of all cryptology (specifically digital cryptanalysis) utterly wrong it's actually rather impressive. In fact, I must turn this post over to Morbo for a moment to properly express how completely Brown had no idea what he was talking about:


    CRYPTOLOGY DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY! GOOD NIGHT!

    Anyways, for a fiction novel that revolves around cryptology that's actually good and gets the vast majority of its facts right, I suggest Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson.

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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Well I certainly wouldn't rule out any possibility of Chinese contact with the Americas over the centuries but the evidence put forward by Menzies to support his 1421 theory is completely lacking in almost every respect. Its just bad, bad history. And that does annoy me.

    Of course if one good thing comes out of this its increased research into proving just why Menzies is so very wrong
    :)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Serpentine
    "Primitive people cannot construct a monument with such incredible accuracy!" - Smith, Warren
    Some people have tried to use this same argument to say that Native American mound-builders couldn't have constructed the effigy mounds in the Midwest and other locations.

    Yep, too primitive to stack dirt! ::)

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    Aww, I like progenitor race theories. You know the ones where Lemurians give completely unrelated writing systems to differant people so they won't be able to understand each other. Pesky Lemurians...

    It's quite annoying when writers of such things ruin their credibility by making up rubbish despite having some okay points. There's an okay theory connecting the biblical Joseph (the guy with the coat) to Imhotep based on a tablet that describes Imhotep as doing some of the deeds Joseph is attributed to. At worst this could at least be used as evidence to guess that the stories at least influanced each other. Then some writer came up with a crappy theory about Imhotep meaning "voice of Im", the 'im' referring to a part in the Bible when god says to moses "I am that I am" and supposed that 'I am' was a name of a god, who of course spoke English to an Egyptian taught Hebrew.

    For a moment he made sense and then he just ruined it.

    I actually quite enjoyed reading "The Sign and the Seal" by Graham Hancock. He of course gets many 'facts' wrong but at least he puts his progenetor nonsense in a seperate chapter to the actually worthwhile part. He even discounts the obvious theory and tries to find his own one. Didn't make me want to read one of his books on Atlantis though.
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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    The one thing so many of the proponents of outlandish theories seem to forget(or deliberately disregard) is that people 100, 1,000 , 5,000 or 10,000 years ago were just as clever, resourceful and cunning as people today - we haven't changed much in that time.

    They didnt have the accumulated knowledge pool to draw on that we do today, but if you assume they were just semi-civilised chimps, then yeah aliens are a more plausible explanation.
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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Here here! (or was it hear hear? I know we decided it elsewhere, but I've forgotten again) I couldn't agree with you more, Mole. In fact, I pretty much wrote an assignment based on that. It's like these people have a sort of weird species-self-depreciating arrogance - they don't believe their ancestors were capable of doing anything on their own, yet they were fascinating enough for aliens from hundreds of thousands of light-years away to take an interest.

    There's one theory on Atlantis I quite like. Looking at the book it's in ("Mystic Places" by Time-Life)... The great, ocean-dominating Minoan civilisation of Crete had close trading ties with Egypt, who looked upon them with awe and wonder. Then, a huge volcanic eruption wiped the whole lot out overnight. The Egyptian recorded the people, the disasters that swept the earth - the resultant smoke and tsunami, at leas - and the sudden disappearance of their great trading partners, and connected them. 900 years later, Plato turned up and translated the story into Greek. Unfortunately, there was confusion in translating Egyptian numbers into Greek, and most or all the numerical information gained a zero. Thus it happened 10 times as long ago, the city was 10 times as big and the country was too large to fit in the Mediteranean so Plato had to place it out in the Atlantic. It works for me.

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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    I remember seeing something, somewhere, about these mummies with traces of cocaine in their systems.

    -What's up with that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarl
    I remember seeing something, somewhere, about these mummies with traces of cocaine in their systems.

    -What's up with that?
    When the cops showed up, the archeologists, thinking quickly, stashed the drugs and blamed it on the ancient Egyptians.
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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    ^^Proabaly *eek*

    Some people have tried to use this same argument to say that Native American mound-builders couldn't have constructed the effigy mounds in the Midwest and other locations.
    They say that about Neanderthal burials also. Many still believe that they didnt have the brain capacity to bury their dead even though there have been many examples of them doing so.

    AND they had larger brains than we do. I just hate sterotypes. But i am not going to go into detail as i have a tendency to be a bit abusive. especially to artistic reconstructions.

    Another good one is Progressive Social Evolution (or Social Darwinism) created by a bunch of British capalists in the 19th century. They basically read Darwin and applied his theory of evolution to societies saying that the lower ones are 'inferior' and the highest - funnily enough emergant capitalism - was the best.

    The best bit is that they 'rated' each society by how curious they were about new things i.e. things the explorers brought with them that they had never seen before.

    That sounds a bit mental to me


    Serpentine: What are you studying? I'm a first year MA student (couldn't give the lifestyle up that fast ;D) studying archaeology. I'm assuming you do sometihng related if you were writting about altenative construction theories on the Eygptian pyramids right?



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    Re: Social Darwinism. >:( GRRRRR! >:( *explative deleted* This is the feeling it gives me.

    FYI - some of the crackpot believers are now finding sanctuary in sociobiology which, in and of itself, might otherwise be sort of interesting considering the synthesis of ideas that forms its foundation.

    Hopefully, evolutionary psychology will stay apolitical, even if there are some problems with predictability.

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    I always liked the theory that the Egyptians, Incas and the people who built Augkor Wat were all linked. I saw a TV programme on it and the main idea was that because Augkor Wat was built in the shape of the constellation of the snake, the Inca pyramids were in another constellation shape and the Egyptian pyramids (at least until you realised that if it was their intention to build them this way then they messed up the angles) resembked the belt of the constellation of Orion. Great theory but hmmmmm.

    Anyway, the programme finished by showing spectacular new evidence that there was a load of buildings in the shape of Leo. One of them was a public toilet in Manhattan I think.

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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Quote Originally Posted by Timberwolf
    I saw a TV programme on it and the main idea was that because Augkor Wat was built in the shape of the constellation of the snake, the Inca pyramids were in another constellation shape and the Egyptian pyramids (at least until you realised that if it was their intention to build them this way then they messed up the angles) resembked the belt of the constellation of Orion. Great theory but hmmmmm.
    They were linked as in they were all looking at the night sky from a relatively similar point in the universe. If aliens living on a planet orbiting Orions belt made art depicting the Orion constellation as seen from earth it would be suspicious, that link just isn't special enough.

    The problem with "they weren't advanced enough" is that a lot of people don't realise where there own information comes from. For example our information about the earth being round (well, spherical really) comes from the ancient Greeks. If it wasn't for the ancient Greeks we might not know that. Well, trans-sea sailors have always known the world was spherical. The people who say the Egyptians couldn't have built the Pyramids probably didn't know that they traded with Asia either. Or that Greek Philosophers got their Elements from Asia or that traveling Buddist monks carried Greek texts along with their Zen scriptures. Most Greek texts we have only survived in Arabic translation. The moment they see a similarity they invent a proto-culture that just isn't neccesary since ancient people actually knew how to walk to other places.

    There's a seperate group of loonies who believe that ancient peoples were MORE advanced. There's a theory that the Egyptian Priests used technology more advanced than we currently had for "magic" in the raising of obelisks. The "Solomon's Temple = Nuclear Power Plant" one is quite amusing. I mean, why would anyone cover the inside of a building with gold if they didn't want to stop the radiation from the Ark of the Covenant getting out? God didn't strike down people who stole the Ark with sores because they weren't Jews, it happened because they didn't follow radiation safety protocols.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Closet_Skeleton
    The "Solomon's Temple = Nuclear Power Plant" one is quite amusing. I mean, why would anyone cover the inside of a building with gold if they didn't want to stop the radiation from the Ark of the Covenant getting out? God didn't strike down people who stole the Ark with sores because they weren't Jews, it happened because they didn't follow radiation safety protocols.
    The supposition that the Ark of the Covenant contained some sort of radioactive object is weird, but not totally loony, if one assumes that the accounts are attempting to explain actual events within the framework of religious beliefs.

    The assumption that the ancient Israelites used it to produce power or something like that, OTOH, is probably loony, though. If the supposition has any basis in truth, most likely the Israelites would have found a radioactive object (say, a meteorite) and assigned it mystical/religious importance due to its unusual physical properties.

    It's still extremely unlikely, however.

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    I've heard, from a completely unverified source, that, according to reconstructions of the Ark done by (pre-Madonna) Cabbalists made it seems as if the purpose of the thing was to serve as a loudspeaker for whatever was in the thing. Interesting, but I doubt there's any truth to it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Demented One
    I've heard, from a completely unverified source, that, according to reconstructions of the Ark done by (pre-Madonna) Cabbalists made it seems as if the purpose of the thing was to serve as a loudspeaker for whatever was in the thing. Interesting, but I doubt there's any truth to it.
    Of course it was a loudspeaker. Israelites, unlike some other loons, actually wanted to know when the cat died.
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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Quote Originally Posted by Midnight Son
    Of course it was a loudspeaker. Israelites, unlike some other loons, actually wanted to know when the cat died.
    Quantum Commandments?
    I no longer actively read the forums, and probably won't respond to any PMs. I'm fine with people using my homebrew in anything, including fan-compilations and wikis, as long as you credit me.

    Homebrew by The Demented One.

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    Colossus in the Playground
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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    Quote Originally Posted by Silly_Bean
    Serpentine: What are you studying? I'm a first year MA student (couldn't give the lifestyle up that fast ;D) studying archaeology. I'm assuming you do sometihng related if you were writting about altenative construction theories on the Eygptian pyramids right?
    BaArts/Science. Whatever the hell I want, basically. This class is called Egypt in the Age of the Pyramids (Old and Middle Kingdoms, to be exact). I'm really enjoying it, but doing absolutely terrible. For example, this assignment I was doing? Handed it in yesterday, a month late. Also, it turns out this lecturer doesn't believe in 10% leeway, so it was 150 words short, which means my next one has to be 2500 words long. ARGH!

    I read a very nice dismissal of the "Ark = battery/loudspeaker/generator" theory. I believe it was in "Crash Go the Chariots". Basically, it wouldn't work, if only because it was all covered in gold, including the carrying poles and the loops connecting them to the Ark, which would mean the people carrying it would get zapped and die. Special protective clothing is a possibility, but it was never mentioned anywhere.

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    Orc in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    On the wsubject of advanced Arks, I remember reading the Wiki article on the Ark (as in Noah's) that suggeted the only way it could possibly be seaworthy would be with some sort of space-frame construction.

    -Which, if Noah was really guided by God, would make sense.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: A Quick Rant on Stupid Books

    By using jargon and awkard sentances, the illusion of intelectlism can apparently be created.
    I've learnt to look down on people like that
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