Monday, August 24, 2009

DIY Larry

On Curb Your Enthusaism Larry David and virtually all other Jewish characters are portrayed as incompetent at any type of manual labor. They are also invariably liberal in their political views (except for one episode where Susie's irrationally right-wing brother-in-law helps his son cheat in "find the afikomen".)

This Fantasy Episode features a new character, Ira (semi-biographical of course :^) who is a retired engineer and handy with tools. His political views are somewhere between FoxNews and CNN. And, he is Jewish!

Larry is shamed into tackling a do-it-yourself project that, at first, is a disaster. However, with some good luck (and bad), a subsequent effort turns out better than the work of an expert.

NOTE: When I originally outlined this story idea, the Cheryl David character was still with Larry. She is included in some scenes. I hope they get back together in the coming season, but, if they do not, just assume some other character is substituted in her scenes.

SCENE 1 - Party at Ira and Vi's House

Larry and Cheryl run into Jeff and Susie outside Ira and Vi's house, where they've been invited to a party.

Jeff: This guy Ira is a retired engineer and he can't help himself. The whole house is computers and automation. He's also taken up cabinetmaking ...

Suzie: You know he's a right wingnut on politics. How can a Jew do that?

Jeff: He's no worse than your brother-in-law ...

As they enter the house, Vi is showing off the kitchen. The doors of the oven and refrigerator/freezer are giant display screens. There's a camera inside so you can see what is on the shelves without opening the doors.

Larry: Why not just have glass doors? Our microwave has a glass door, and the oven too...

Vi: There are weight sensors on the shelves so the computer can figure out if you are getting low on milk or other staples and put them on the shopping list or order them automatically. You can pick menus on the displays and the computer lets you know if you have the ingredients. Or else you can ask the computer for a menu suggestion using what is in stock! The display screens also show high-def TV and the Internet and you can play DVDs, everything ...

Larry: (Unimpressed by all the high-tech, focusses on the instant boiling water dispenser.) Hey, you have a steamy water faucet. We have one too and, let me tell you, it is wonderful to be able to make a quick cup of hot coffee, or tea, ... or cocoa, or even instant soup. I love that "Cupa Soup", yes indeed, ...

As Vi continues the kitchen tour, Larry and Jeff drift into the living room. Ira is showing off the fine furniture he has made by hand. He and the other men are discussing the fine points of dovetail and box joints, mitre saws, sanders, and other power tools.

Larry: With all those sharp implements and power tools I hope you fellows have good health insurance. Yes indeed, we need universal national health insurance for eveybody!

Ira: The government can't do anything right. (Smiles) If you put the government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there would be a shortage of sand!

Some of the men express agreement and, to Larry's dismay, Jeff laughs heartily.

Larry: (Sputtering) That is nothing but a lying exaggeration!

Ira: Its a clever hyperbole!

Larry: HIGH-perbole? Hyper-BOLEY? More of a LOW-per-BOLEY to me.

Ira: The word comes from "hyperbola", the conic section that shoots towards infinity. But you BS show business types wouldn't know a hyperbola from a parabola.

Ira opens a cabinet he has made and explains how the special hinges operate.

Larry: You know, I have lots of scripts and papers and stuff in my den and I could use a cabinet like that. How could I get one?

Ira: Well, you could take a course in cabinet-making like I did and make it yourself.

Jeff: (Laughs heartily) Yeah, Larry the do-it-yourselfer!

Ira: This cabinet and all my furniture is Brazilian mahogany and I use only the finest Portuguese glue. (Ira affectatiously pronounces it "Bra-silly-ann" and "Pour-two-geesey".) The only place in LA you can buy furniture of this quality is Floresta de Chuva de Amazon on Wiltshire. I understand you're rich Larry so you can afford the very best and this place has it. In fact it's an adventure just to go to that furniture store! Tell them Ira sent you. They know me from the Master Cabinet Makers Club of LA - the "MCMC".

SCENE 2 - Floresta de Chuva de Amazon Furniture Store

The store is a jungle. The greeter wears an Amazon-explorer costume, complete with a heavy metal machete. She asks Larry and Cheryl to wear pith helmets and carry plastic replica machetes. They get into an argument when Larry refuses. The greeter insists pith helmets are required due to liability insurance because customers have to duck under low branches to get to furniture displays. Larry compromises on the helmet but refuses the machete.

Other customers are seen happily ducking under the branches, imaginatively using their machetes to clear the way. Larry clumsily passes between the various furniture displays and hits his head on a branch. A sales associate approaches. He is also dressed as a jungle-explorer.

Larry: Thank God for this helmet! Are you a salesman?

Sales Associate: (Hautilly) No! I'm an "Amazon Guide Sales Associate". (Pronouncing each syllable with exaggerated distinctness, particularly "Ass-Sociate".) Can I take you to any particular kind of furniture?

Larry: My friend Ira -well he's not really a friend just an "ASS-ociate" - says all your furniture is made of Pour-two-geesy mahogany and Bra-silly-ann glue, and I would like to buy a cabinet like that. (Motioning that it should be about as tall as himself, and three times as wide.)

SA: (Hautilly) No! You got it backwards. (He smiles) It is "Bra-silly-ann" mahogany and "Pour-two-geesy" glue. (Making quote marks in the air and copying Larry's affectatious pronounciation.)

Larry: OK, what have you got.

The guide leads Larry to a display of cabinets and Larry picks one he likes. Cheryl agrees.

Larry: How much is this one?

SA: Three-thousand five-hundred and ninety-four dollars, plus shipping.

Larry: Ira told me you were expensive, but I had no idea!

They get into an argument about the high prices. Cheryl asks if the mahogany is old growth from the rainforest. It is. She throws a fit about global warming. The SA orders them to leave the store and chases them out with his machete.

SCENE 3 - Larry's Kitchen
Larry is foraging under the kitchen sink for a garbage bag. He finds one and takes it to his den where he is trying to clear the mess. He turns on the TV and there is a commercial from Home Depot "You can do it, we can help!" He switches channels and there is a do-it-yourself program. Another channel flip and there is a Lowes commercial "Let's build something together."
He turns the TV off. As he continues cleaning, he picks up a pile of old newspapers. There, right on top, he is hit with another do-it-yourself advert.
Cheryl: (Calling from kitchen.) Larry! ... Larr-ee-y! Larry, were you poking around under the sink? Come to the kitchen!
Larry: What's the problem?
Cheryl: I went to make myself a cup of instant coffee and the water is lukewarm.
Larry examines the boiling hot water dispenser, turns it on, and confirms it is only lukewarm. He looks under the sink at the maze of wires and pipes.
Larry: Earlier I was looking for a garbage bag down there and I may have disturbed something. I guess we have to call the plumber - or should we call the electrician?
Wanda arrives and is told about the problem. She looks under the kitchen sink and finds that the plug is loose.
Wanda: There you go Larry. You don't need any plumber or electrician. All you need is the plug firmly in the socket. No wonder you don't have any children!
Cheryl: You know we were at Vi and Ira's place the other evening and they have a totally automated kitchen. They both designed it and Ira built it himself. It must be great to have a man who knows how to do all that kind of work. (Wanda and Cheryl look at Larry and sneer.)
Larry: Well, Ira is a right-wing crazy guy. But, I guess you can overlook that if you need someone to fix your kitchen.
Wanda: I don't care if he supports King George with the Bush-y beard! I can overlook his politics cause of what he did for my nephew. Tyrone lives in Watts and goes to the High School there and he told me Ira volunteers twice a week for an after-school carpentry shop. The regular shop teacher makes them use only manual tools because of liability but Ira lets them use the power tools. Tyrone was having trouble with the academic stuff and lost interest in school until Ira got involved.

SCENE 4 - Jeff's House

Jeff: Let me show you the cabinet I made for Sammy's dolls. I got it at Lowes and all the pieces are pre-cut and finished. You put it together by popping some metal flanges and posts into pre-drilled holes and the whole thing comes together easily.

Larry: Very nice cabinet! Is it made of Bra-silly-ann mahogany and Pour-two-geesy glue?

Jeff: (Laughs) I don't know what kind of wood they use. No glue is required at all.

Larry: But, you could use glue in the joints and that would make it stronger, wouldn't it?

Jeff: I just followed the instructions and they don't say to use glue. Just follow the instructions and anybody can do it.

Suzie: Except Larry! That glue-sniffing, four-eyed ...

SCENE 5 - Larry Driving to a Meeting

Larry: (Musing to himself as he drives) I have to drive two hours for a half-hour meeting! Why can't anyone come to my office?

On the freeway he passes a Home Depot and then a Lowes. As he goes by he hears their commercials reverberate in his head: "You can do it, we can help" ... "Let's build something together". He turns on the car radio. Again do-it-yourself stuff.

He arrives at the meeting site, a suburban office complex.

Receptionist: The meeting has been delayed two hours, Mr. David. Sorry, I called your house and also your cellphone and left a message.

Larry takes out his cellphone. It is in "flight mode".

Larry: I put it in flight mode a couple days ago at the movies. You know, they should have something in the movie theater, you know, an automated transmitter, that turns cellphones off while you are in the theater and they go back on again when you leave. Same thing on an airplane. Why don't they have that?

Receptionist: Sorry, I don't know. You know, there is a big shopping mall adjacent to this office and you could spend your time over there.

SCENE 6 - Lowes (Terra Incognita for Larry)

Larry exits the office complex and there it is, a gigantic Lowes home improvement store. Energetic customers are streaming in as others come out with carts filled with all kinds of lumber, masonry, tools and whatever.

He steels his courage and enters. The greeter, a kindly old woman, asks if she can help. She points the way to the storage department where he can find the cabinet he needs. He walks there uncertainly -he has never been in this kind of store. With some difficulty, he finds a display of cabinets. One is exactly what he needs. He is approached by a Sales Associate, a tall, athletic black woman.

SA: Can I help you?

Larry: (Flustered - she is taller than him and very good looking.) Yes, I am interested in building a cabinet like this one, do you sell Bra-silly-ann mahogany and Pour-two-geesy glue here?

SA: (Smiles.) "Bra-silly-Ann?" (miming by touching her bra, then acting silly, and pointing to her name tag, conveniently it is "Ann") mahogany? "Pour-two-geesy?" (miming again by pouring, holding up two fingers, and then flapping her wings) glue? We sell mahogany in the lumber department, but I don't think it comes from Brazil. As for the glue, my dad is a cabinetmaker and he used to use that "Pour-two-geesy" stuff but now he uses "Car-pen-tears" (miming again by steering a car, writing with a pen, and touching her eyes with a downward stroke) glue. We sell that in another department.

Larry: OK, how about this cabinet?

SA: Well, this one is made of particle board, and there is no glue required. (She takes him over to a display board and shows how it goes together with metal cams and posts.)

Larry: But, if you wanted it to be stronger, you could use car-pen-tears glue?

SA: I suppose you could, the glue might make it a little stronger, but it is unnecessary.

Larry: (Impulsively.) OK, I'll buy one!

She helps Larry load the very large box onto a cart and push it to the checkout.

Once outside, Larry faces the problem of putting the gigantic box into his tiny Prius. As he struggles a short man approaches to help. Larry at first refuses the help because the man is clearly what we used to call "developmentally disabled". Then Larry notices he is a Lowes employee and lets him help.

The helper is very competent at loading. He shows Larry how to fold the rear seats of the car. He has twine to tie the hatch down. He barks out commands and Larry, realizing he is the one who is less abled when it comes to loading large boxes into small cars, obediently obeys. Larry, though earnest, is somewhat incompetent, and the helper shakes his head in dismay. Larry offers him a tip but he refuses "Against Lowes policy."

SCENE 7 - Larry's House

Larry stops at the garage and picks up the homeless guy who hangs out there. He pays him $20 to help carry the box up to Larry's den. (He does not want Cheryl to know he is doing this project in case it goes wrong.)

Over the next few days, Larry confronts the box, which seems to be getting larger. Finally, on a day Cheryl is gone, he screws up the courage to open it. He is appalled at all the pieces of finished wood and the bags of unfamiliar hardware. He finds the instructions and, with great difficulty, starts following them. After he successfully assembles several pieces he becomes cocky, sometimes completing two steps without referring back to the instructions. [This happened to me, and I left out a key crosspiece when I assembled a cabinet in the true story that inspired this fantasy episode.]

When the top, sides, and fixed shelves are assembled, and the cabinet is on its side, Larry has to go to the bathroom. He takes the instructions with him, looking ahead at the next several steps, and cockily shakes his head up and down. No problem!

He returns to his den and cannot locate the instructions (which have been left in the bathroom). The next step is to nail a large piece of thin hardboard to the rear of the cabinet. [The instructions say to flip the cabinet on its face, but, in the true story, I instead decided to lift it up to a vertical position. When I did so, the whole thing collapsed "like a house of cards".]

Larry finds the large piece of hardboard and unfolds it. He positions it against the back of the cabinet which is still on its side. He figures it would be easier to nail it if the cabinet was vertical. He lifts the cabinet and the whole thing collapses, "like a house of cards". The metal cams are pulled out of the splintering particle board and some posts are bent.

Larry returns to the bathroom, gets the instructions, and sees where he went wrong. Of course, he cannot leave the evidence of his error in the house and be further embarrassed in front of Cheryl. So he gets the homeless guy again and they disassemble the cabinet and, as best they can, stuff it back into the box and haul it back to Larry's Prius.

Larry remembers the big sign at Lowes "Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back" so off he goes to Lowes. On the freeway he passes a couple of Lowes but he worries that he has to return it to the same store where he bought it.

SCENE 8 - Lowes

The same able helper assists Larry. He notices some of the wood pieces are sticking out of the box and they have splintered ends, but he says nothing.

The clerk at the returns counter is a cute young woman with a sunny disposition. Larry hands her the receipt. She scans it into her computer.

Clerk: OK, you purchased this here five days ago. (Softly, sincerely) May I ask why you are returning it?

Larry: (Lying) It was defective.

Clerk: (Very sympathetic and genuinely sorry.) I'm sorry sir, uh (Looking at her computer), Mr. David. We've sold 768 of those type of cabinet in the past year and this is the first one returned for being defective. I'm sorry it happened to you and Lowes will give you a full refund or a credit slip for a replacement.

Larry: Please give me a re...

Clerk: (Looking at computer, interrupts him.) Oh my! You live two hours from here! You didn't have to drive all the way back here, you could have returned it at a Lowes nearer your home. The computer says this is your first purchase from Lowes and I feel so bad for you having to drive all that way. I wish store policy could reimburse you for your driving expense, but all we can do is give you a full refund or a credit slip.

Larry: (Lying.) Well, I have to come to regular business meetings at the adjacent office complex, so it's not out of my way. (Thinks a while.) But, I had to pay a homeless man $20 to help me carry it into my house and up to my den and another $20 to get it back into my car. Can you reimburse that?

Clerk: (Overflowing with tender sympathy, almost crying.) Oh, that's terrible, but store policy doesn't allow reimbursement. But you are blessed for helping a homeless man earn some money doing honest labor for you. You are a wonderful, generous, kindly man! Why do bad things happen to good people? Some people say it's part of God's Plan, but I don't know. So Mr, David, do you want a full refund or a credit slip?

Larry: (Overcome with guilt for putting this tender young woman to grief.) Of course I want a credit slip for a new cabinet. Thank you very much!

Larry strides over to the storage department -Lowes is no longer terra incognita to him- and finds the cabinet. He high-five's the SA.

SA: Hello again Mr. "Bra-silly-Ann" (miming again) what can I do for you?

Larry: I need another cabinet and, if you don't mind, some of that Car-pen-tears glue.

SA: But, this cabinet doesn't need any glue.

Larry: (Lying.) Oh, the glue is for one of my other projects.

She walks him over to the glue department and he selects the largest container of Carpenters glue. They load the large box on a cart, he wheels through checkout using the credit slip, pays for the glue, and the helper guy gives his surprisingly competent aid again in the parking lot.

SCENE 9 - Larry's House

Larry can't find the homeless guy, Jeff is out of town, so he asks Richard Lewis to help him. Richard tries to get out of it but Larry is desperate. They schlep the box up to Larry's den, open it, and begin the assembly.

Larry is now the expert, barking orders to Richard. They follow the instructions scrupulously, except Larry insists on putting glue into the joints. Richard is a bit too generous with the glue and it gets on his hands and pants and gobs of glue run down the sides of the cabinet. Larry hurriedly gets some newspaper to protect the carpet.

The cabinet is mostly assembled and on its side when Larry has to go to the bathroom. Richard wants to sit down, but with glue on his hands and pants he does not want to soil any of the furniture. So, he sits down on the cabinet and it collapses, "like a house of cards". Richard is both angry and guilty.

Larry returns, surveys the situation, and, surprisingly to Richard, laughs it off.

Larry: These things happen. We'll just return it for a full refund.

Richard: They'll never take this thing back with all the glue the instructions said we should not use!

Larry insists Lowes is very accommodating. They stuff the pieces back into the box with some difficulty, load it into the Prius, and go back to Lowes.

SCENE 10 - Lowes

The helper notices the splintered wood, covered in glue, protruding from the box and shakes his head. Richard continues to insist they will never take this back. And, if they do offer a full refund "you should take the money and run!"

The young clerk at the returns is appoplectic about the string of bad luck Larry has encountered. She begs his forgiveness for Lowes selling two defective cabinets to the same person. "What are the odds?" Richard goes crazy as Larry refuses the refund and takes the credit slip.

The same SA greets Larry and they high-five. Richard watches in amazement as they both mime "Bra-silly-Ann" and "Pour-two-geesy" and "Car-pen-tears". Cart, checkout, Prius, drive, home, schlep it up to the den.

SCENE 11 - Larry's House

Larry: (On the phone with Ira.) I'm desperate with this project and I really need your help. Jeff is out of town and you are the only one I can turn to. ... Please Ira. ... Why should my political views affect your decision one way or the other? I have no problem with you helping me despite our different views. Consider it a personal favor. ... Ira, do you know a young man, a high school student, called Tyrone? ... Yes? Well his aunt is Cheryl's best friend and she, her name is Wanda, told me you volunteer your time at the Watts High School and you have changed his life for the better. ... You'll help me? THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Ira arrives, reads the instructions, and points to the parts strewn over the floor of Larry's den.

Ira: (Laughing) This particle board is all just compressed sawdust - you know that? But, I'm intrigued by these metal cams and posts. It seems like quite a clever engineering solution for people who can't use woodworking tools. You know it is a responsibility for those of us with knowledge and talent to help those less fortunate than us, like Tyrone, and you!

Larry: (Stung by the "less fortunate" comment, but desperate for help.) Thank you, thank you. I try to help the less fortunate, like that homeless guy who hangs around at the gas station ...

Ira: You made a lot of money on Seinfeld, didn't you? I watched that show and found it mildly humorous. You know, people like to feel superior to those losers who can't sustain a relationship with someone of the opposite sex for more than ten minutes at a time. I've been together with Vi for over forty years, she's the only woman I've ever been intimate with.

Larry: Is that supposed to be funny?

Ira: (Insulted) What the hell do you mean?

Larry: (Worried Ira might leave.) Uh, I meant that -in a situation comedy- couples who stay together for forty years are not funny.

Ira: OK, I understand. You were successful at writing and producing but it seems like it is all BS. You know singers are talented and musicians and the cameramen and technicians, but what you did was BS that anybody could do. Did you ever help someone in show business who had less knowledge and talent than you?

Larry: Well, I got Cheryl's idiot cousin a job in my production company and ...

Ira: No, that's afinity welfare -a relative- have you ever helped someone with whom you did not share an afinity?

Larry: Afinity? (Starting to make a joke about the word, but stifling the thought.) Well, once, when I was a kid there was a blind lady with a cane and she asked me to help her cross the street. I was so careful looking for traffic that I walked her right into a lamppost. [True story, happened to me when I was about twelve.]

Ira: OK, let's get to work!

Larry: (Showing Ira the container of Carpenters glue.) I have this glue and I'd like to put a bit on the joints to make the cabinet stronger. The sales associate at Lowes said it might make the cabinet a little stronger.

Ira: (Looks at the instructions again.) My dad taught me that the first time you do a project you follow the instructions exactly. The instructions do not call for glue. We will not use glue!

Ira barks out orders and Larry meekly complies. While working, Ira unloads his political opinions and Larry struggles to stifle his normal reactions.

1) Yes the Earth has warmed over the past decades but we are not anywhere near any kind of tipping point for global warming. Most of the warming has nothing to do with human activity at all. The warming is mostly due to natural cycles, particularly sunspots. The sunspot cycle that is now ending was at least two years longer than predicted. That means a cold period is coming, based on historical records from the past several hundred years during which sunspot counts have been recorded and low counts and long cycles correspond with decades of unusually cool weather. It looks like we are in for a couple decades of low sunspot activity and we have seen some cooling in the past decade and we might see more for ten to thirty years. Yes, carbon dioxide is rising and it is a factor in global warming, but it cannot be the dominant factor since temperatures have leveled off as carbon continues to go up. We do need alternative energy sources that are carbon-neutral but the best way to do that is a revenue-neutral carbon tax that will use market forces to encourage development of carbon-neutral power. Cap and Trade is an Al Gore scam! see

2) We can't expect all races and ethnic groups to have equal representation in all professions. Jews of European extraction have IQs that are about a standard deviation over the average for whites in the US. Now, that is only about 15%, but if you expect to see only about 15% more Jews getting the Nobel Prize or representation in the professions like engineering and science and economics where academic brainpower is critical, you will be wrong. If you understand the normal curve, sometimes called the bell curve, you'll realize that Jews have over ten times as many proportionately above the two-sigma level. (Ira tries to explain the normal curve see to Larry, but it is clearly beyond Larry's understanding.) Now, other racial groups are two-thirds of a standard deviation below the average for whites in the US. Some of them, like President Obama, are way up in the two to three-sigma range -I don't question his intelligence, he was clearly the smartest among McCain and Palin and Biden- my problem is with his policies and they are due to his life experiences and associates. He wants to tax people who earn money for working, and pay people who don't. And he wonders why they don't work! Tyrone, one of my students you mentioned earlier, is very street-smart and has lots of talent for music and athletics and manual dexterity, but he just does not have the academic smarts for bookwork. He will be a very good carpenter when I get through with him but it would be a mistake to push him into college.

3) One of your Seinfeld episodes I found very offensive - The Soup Nazi. The story was good but why didn't you call him the "Strict Soup Guy" or the "Soup Dictator" or the "Soup Martinet"? I quit listening to Rush Limbaugh ten years ago when he called radical feminists, "feminazis". I sent him an email but he continued doing it. Now, I'm no fan of radical feminists, but you don't call anybody "Nazi" or "Hitler" who hasn't croaked at least a million people because of their religion or ethnicity or race. That's the cutoff - one million. Nine-hundred-thousand does not qualify. Anything less trivializes the Holocaust and I won't put up with it!

The cabinet is completed is short order and Larry thanks Ira.

Cheryl sees the cabinet and asks Larry to build one for her.

Scene 12 - Lowes

Larry and Cheryl go to Lowes to pick out a cabinet. Cheryl watches in amazement as Larry and the Sales Associate high-five and mime together.

Scene 13 - Larry's House

Larry assembles the cabinet himself, applying glue to the joints. The completed cabinet, standing right next to the one Ira helped Larry put together, leans to the left a bit and has some streaks of glue near some joints, but it is pretty darn good. "Pretty good! Pretty, pretty good!"

Scene 14 - In Front of Larry's House

Ira comes by on his bicycle and Larry waves him down.

Larry: Well, I got another cabinet and assembled it all by myself.

Ira: Wonderful. Always happy to help someone less knowledgeable and with less talent than me. Congratulations. By the way, I've got an idea for a situation comedy episode. I'll show it to you when it's done and you can help me get it on TV!

Larry: (Ignores the situation comedy item.) And, I'm proud to say, I used some Car-pen-tears glue in the joints!

Ira: (Adamant and condescending.) First of all, its Carpenters glue, and second of all, that compressed sawdust excuse for carpentry does not need glue. Glue is absolutely of no use for that cabinet, you are an idiot if you think that glue will do any good ...

At that moment the sky darkens. There is a flash of lightning and thunder and a sudden strong wind. Larry and Ira watch in terror as leaves blow around and the tree in front of Larry's house sways to and fro.

The trunk cracks and a large, fork-shaped branch crashes through a second story window.

Larry and Ira rush into the house and up the stairs to the den. They find Cheryl on the floor covered by twigs, but she is OK.

One fork of the tree branch rests on the cabinet Larry made. The glued cabinet has bowed a bit but not broken, saving Cheryl's life. The other fork landed on the cabinet Ira helped Larry make -without glue- and it broke into lots of pieces.

Larry: (Smiling proudly and giving a "thumbs up".) See, just like the Sales Associate at Lowes said, the glue did make it a little stronger.

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