engineer

Falling in love with a book

I started reading the book The Pragmatic Programmer, published In 1999! It is such a fantastic book with very relevant tips for professional software engineers. I am just on chapter 2 now, but I have already marked up the book about important ideas that I need to follow up. How did I skip this vital […]

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getting things done, Uncategorized

Note taking iteration 2019

For note taking, I optimize for 3 things Being able to quickly create a document and worry about categorization later. Having access to the notes on any of my 3 machines, and phone Being able to find my notes later To do this, I’ve tried the following. Evernote, Google Docs, Google Keep, One Note. Several […]

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parenting

Mom, did you know?

Happy mother’s day. Today, my sister and I told my mom things she never knew. We hung out with kids who had a bad influence on us. Teaching us to smoke elementary school in China. Getting into fights in middle school with kids who bullied me. I bullied kids and was angry. I shoplifted with […]

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Uncategorized, getting things done, trust

Reciprocate

In the last few weeks, I’ve learned the power of the following Reciprocate I asked a team of 6 people for help. They have commit 2 weeks of work and 5 hours of time to do face to face presentations. In return, I give them what they really want, direct access to people who can […]

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college

Overheard through the office cubicle

Person X: “I don’t know why my kids would choose UC LA when they’ve been accepted at UC Berkeley!” Tony: “Where do you live?” Person X: “10 minutes away from the Berkeley campus” Tony: “Well, what do you think?” Person X: “uhhhh”

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art, cate

BTS enamel pin, from @ceik0

This BTS enamel pin is made by ceikzero ( Instagram @ceik0 ).  Thoughtfully designed, meticulously refined.  Shipping to you from San Francisco and soon to be from Boston. If you have to ask what is BTS, this pin is not for you.

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introvert

Solitude

I know I am an introvert.  I relish the solitude of reading, writing, thinking by myself. Solitude doesn’t mean I like to be alone all the time.  Just some span of time, where I am by myself with my own thoughts.  When I can get these thoughts out on paper, I feel energized. This seems […]

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change

Starting change

Asking people to change is hard. The person asking for change might be asking others to move 10 steps ahead. The people being asked to change 1) Might not be convinced 2) Think it’s too hard and unknown 3) They don’t trust the person asking them. My experience in pursuation is to first build that […]

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getting things done

What does not belong?

Another way to think about “everything in it’s place” is to look at “What does not belong?” You can apply this simply in organizing a drawer in your home.   You can also apply this in backlog grooming at work.  Out of 50 things on my plate, what doesn’t belong?  What is extra that I’m […]

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books

Valid criticism of Obama

While reading the book “Skin in the Game”, I saw several negative references to Barack Obama. At first I chalked it up for something for me to think about. After the latest reference on pg 156, I thought for brief moment to brush it off as a conservative author taking shots at a democratic president. […]

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life goals, podcasts

Scott Stowell On “Design Matters”

I have listened to every episodes of Design Matters with Debbie Millman.  One of the episodes I bookmarked is the one with Scott Stowell.  I really enjoy hearing from people in different fields than the high tech industry in which I work. Scott talked about how as a small child, he learned the craft of […]

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engineer, engineer-productivity

Walk over and ask to see a demo

(The photo is one of my favorite pencils I borrow from my daughter. I finally used up all the lead in the pencil) 20 minutes, that’s all it takes. “Could you show me how you work?” Let’s turn on screen capture. Oh, interesting, what else? Why do you like this over, let’s say this other […]

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leadership

Have true world class set the bar high

Last week, a highly analytical person at my company demonstrated how he used Splunk to deep dive into customer issues. The level of sophistication and depth was truly inspiring. In our life, I am reminded to always look for someone who operates at world class, level 10. Who set the bar for us to want […]

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visualizations

Inspired by creative folks: Book – Dear Data

This week I picked up the book Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi, Stefanie Posavec.  In this color and wimsicle book, the 2 authors who live across the Atlantic write weekly hand draw postcards to each other, using inforgraphics to tell each other a data centric view of a weekly topic. During my 10 page a day […]

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cate, parenting

Cat person

I am a cat person.  My personality matches a cat.  I like people watching and lazying in the sun. I move slowly, only pouncing when there is something that intensely interests me.  I have a deep-seated fear of dogs biting me randomly. I also raised a cat person and now she is 18!

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time

Let’s meet at 5:37

It’s an odd time to tell someone else to meet.  Why not 5:30 or 5:35? It is a lot more precise and shows that I have planned it out.  I mean what I say. It’s odd, I know. But it’s precise, exact and intended. Let’s meet at 5:37.  See you in 9 minutes.  Could you […]

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inspiration, library, san francisco, SF-Library

SF Public Library: Merced Branch

Getting There The Merced Branch of the San Francisco Public Library system is 1/2 block from the 28, K buses.  Right acrossed from the Stonestown mall.  There is plenty of street parking with 2 car parking for 10 minutes. What is different? One standout of this library is the central garden space with maple trees […]

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philosophy

No skin in the game?

(The photo was posted in the Chinese section of the SF Public Library near Stonestown shopping mall, written in simplified Chinese.  It takes a lot of effort for me to read in the simple form.  It basically says that it’s up to us as individuals to learn and thrive in a democratic society.  There are […]

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philosophy, Uncategorized

Are you on the diagonal?

In the book Skin In The Game, the author (pg. 61) stated a saying by the brothers Geoff and Vince Graham: I am, at the Fed level, libertarian; at the state level, Republican at the local level, Democrat; and at the family and friends level, a socialist. The author’s argument is that we cannot apply […]

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inspiration, lifehack, money, productivity

Spending habits in 2019

In 2019, I wanted try something a bit different than 2018. In 2018, I didn’t buy anything that was not a consumable. In 2019, I wanted to be less extreme and only buy non consumables once every quarter. In Q1 2019 – I have bought 2 pairs of shoes and that is it. Something else […]

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productivity

Mis en place

I remember my mom tried to teach me this when I was young. Put things back in it’s place. Of course she said it in Chinese. She was not very successful in teaching me. I was not a great listener when I was young. I am still struggling with this at home, everything back in […]

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mentorship

Tech Mentorship Final Proposal

Target audience: Female engineers at the 2, 3, 4 levels Purpose Introduce them to engineers, at least 2 levels beyond, who can help them with Expanding their technical breath, depth and quality. Review their work and help them think about ways to increase their impact. Improve their problem solving skills. Expose them to opportunities they […]

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mentorship

Proposal – Tech mentorship success / failure – Part 3

(follow up to part 2 of tech mentorship) What does a success mentorship look like? Both mentor and mentee are getting something out of the experience. They meet regularly, or the mentee feels free to reach out when they have issues/questions to work out. They hold themselves accountable to each other, if their are action […]

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inspiration

Proposal for technical mentorship (draft 1)

The goal of this proposal is to define how we build a culture of career growth for our technical staff in any individual contributor level. During the career of a software engineers, several key factors contributes to their career growth Innate skills and self motivation The type of projects they are exposed to and have […]

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cate, parenting

Thank me when you are 30

One my favorite movie scenes is when Sydney P., in the movie”Guess who is coming to dinner?” said to his father, something like “It’s your job to raise me, you brought me into this world”. “When it’s my time, I will do the same for my children”. There is no need for children to thank […]

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cate, fatherhood, parenting

My advice to you, dear daugther

Dear daughter, For your 18th birthday, and on my 48th year, I wish to write down something for you to refer back to in the next 30 years. I wish to tell you a few simple thoughts to help you to build a life for yourself that 30 years later, you would look back and […]

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cate, fatherhood, parenting

Identity as a father

For the last 18 years, my identity is primarily a father and a software engineer.  My daughter is going to be 18 years old in a few days and I wanted to remind myself that a large part of my identity is not lost, but changed. In order for her to be a fully formed […]

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habits

Book: Atomic Habits

I loved this book and will keep and re-read again in a year. Each chapter is about 10 pages, which fits very nicely with my “read 10 pages of a book” habit in the morning. It gives a little bit of science with each advice given on how to build long lasting good habits and […]

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tech-addiction

Withdraw symtoms of the smartphone

(The photo is of a parking ticket paying machine, it wants to do a lot in terms of payment, but very confusing) Last week, I  decided to leave my smartphone at my desk with only a sharp pencil and my notebook.  Yes, I did feel more engaged during the meeting, but I also felt like […]

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love, personal growth, thought-process

Pride, fear and stubbornness

This week I checked myself during a conversation where I let my own pride, fear and stubbornness get in the way of hearing the opinion of someone else. My fear of doing something uncomfortable.  My pride of asking for help.  My stubbornness in thinking that my way is the only correct path forward. I accept […]

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library, san francisco

SF Public Library: Ocean View

My plan is to visit every San Francisco Public library by having my reserved books delivered there and write down what is different and new that I learn there. At Ocean View, the library is super friendly and when I mentioned I’m trying to see all the libraries, he said they get mostly neighbor folks […]

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engineer, leadership

Experiment : Operating at 2 levels ahead

Last week a senior software engineer who has deep knowledge in a very specialized and high value skill (Machine Learning) for our company asked me for advice on getting more exposure and impact for her work.  She was in a situation where her skills and opinions are sought after by senior leaders in engineering, product […]

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engineer, hack, life-hack, lifehack

The profile of an engineer

(The photo is a piece of in store made of thick bacon from Luke’s, Cole Valley, San Francisco) A potential engineer doesn’t have to like math, abstract thinking, typing on the computer all day creating software. I head an interview with a IBM Fellow, who happens to be a woman say that she didn’t fit […]

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habits

Your money and time shows what you care about

We can talk about what we value but until we put our time and our money as wagers, talk is cheap. In the book Atomic Habits, the author James Clear suggest that repetition is the key to forming habits. Doing 5 minutes of reading every day, is way better than spending 6 hours reading a […]

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mentorship

When we are asked to help

Put yourself in the shoes of the other. When was the last time you put yourself out there and you asked for help and was rejected? Regardless of how nice the rejecting was, how did you feel about yourself? Now look at the person asking for help. How much of your ‘precious’ time and energy […]

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commication, engineer

Communications habit

Last week at work, I learned that an executive has been working on a diversity and inclusion effort monthly. They really care about moving the needed to increase the gender and under represented diversity in our engineering ranks. I was pleasantly surprised that they are so active in this area. I personally have not heard […]

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badminton, gtd, personal growth, systems thinking

Taking the long view

Yesterday, one member of my badminton group reinjured his knee which was already hurting from a skiing accident. He wanted to play yesterday because he loved the sport and thought he could still play and take it easy. Unfortunately, we pushed him pretty hard on court, and he collapsed in pain when he twisted his […]

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relationships, trust

Trust bucket

I’ve been thinking about why we trust certain people but keep others at arms length. This was inspired by seeing how a colleague navigates their interactions with meeting new people in the company. For people (other) in our work and personal life who we don’t feel an increase in trust – Our intuition tells us […]

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engineer, writing

Why should engineers write?

I write a lot of internal documentation, blogs to convey ideas for my future self as well as for engineers internally to reference. Younger engineers often are reluctant to write anything other than code. Here are reasons to write Writing something down clarifies your own understanding of the topic It’s one of the highest leverage […]

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engineer, gtd

What is next most important to add value?

Our VP Of Engineering asked us to think about this at work. We are all busy at work, but are we adding value to our customers with what we are doing now? What is the next most important item on our backlog that add value to our customer immediately? It’s a great way to prioritize […]

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inspiration

When NPS doesn’t cut it

How do you know when a training is effective? NPS score is a measure of whether the participants would high recommend someone else to take the training. But I wanted to switch up the metrics to measure outcome and confidence. At work, we are delivering a deep dive training to engineers to teach them about […]

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gtd, manager

Doing 1:1 with my direct reports

For my direct report 1:1’s, I’m trying a new structure. I open up a Google Doc that we both have access to for our 1:1’s Hearing from them what’s on their mind and discussing I bounce some ideas of future work to put on their backlog, some updates that are interesting for them and give […]

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engineer, gtd, productivity

My Email Flow

If you send an email to me, it’s very likely (95% chance) I will reply If you are recruiting me for a position at company X – You will get a polite / canned response that “I am extremely happy at Splunk and want to be there for 4 years to help the company grow”. […]

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inspiration

Not Proud to be myself?

I was fortunate to attend a talk by BD Wong in San Francisco and the playwright Lauren Yee promoting her play “Great Leap Forward”. BD Wong is an openly gay Asian man. He talked about how as an adult, he finally announcing to the world about being gay and being very proud to be gay […]

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engineer, gtd, impactful-engineer

Standing your ground

Two and a half years ago, when I joined my current company I was attending a new hire training and the last slide showed a very long URL to a document that we were suppose to remember for more information. I asked the presenter whether there is a URL shortener so that we URLs are […]

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inspiration, personal growth

Limited motivation

Recently I have been running dry on my personal motivation on important projects such as transcribing Impactful Engineer. I have not been able to diagnose what the root cause is.  Some possible reasons could be Transcription is not what motivates me and hence I’m putting it off The overall project and goals is not current […]

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inspiration

Effective Engineering Teams

An effective engineering team is highly collaborative, focused on delivering high quality code with velocity. The team sets the standard for other teams to follow in how they design software, write and test their software and ultimately delivering business value to the customer. The team functions as a coherent group, helping each other succeed, having […]

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feedback, inspiration, personal growth

Thank You For Your Feedback

This week I practiced what Lyn Campbell recommended during our interview on Impactful Engineer (read here).  I asked for feedback from someone I work with.  I asked her how she thinks I can improve in meetings. She generously took the time to give me the following feedback During one of our meetings about a previous […]

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attention, inspiration, time

Single Tasking Time & Attention

So Far I’ve deleted all my infinite scrolling apps (FB, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter). I’ve stopped reading online news and only read a printed Sunday paper. I’ve paid for products to remove ads (Cruncy Roll, YouTube, Pandora). Call To Action To Take Back Attention & Time Today, I listened to the founder of Center For Humane […]

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cate, parenting

Talk About Your Frustrations

Dear future self: Today, you were frustrated at your teenage daughter that she was 10 minutes later in leaving the house for high school. Even though she is the only one affected, you felt that it reflected on your personal value to be early or on time. You expressed to your daughter that you were […]

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inspiration, life-strategies

Take The Journey As a Team

Who Is On Your Team? Taking a journey alone is not only difficult, lonely but also not sustainable.  Starting with simple personal goals such as exercising. If I am only accountable to myself, I can skip a day, skip a week, skip a month, I only have to answer to my nagging self.  If I […]

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attention, life-strategies, time

Reading – Thinking – Writing

I have recently started a media detox program of not reading online news, online blogs, social networks (Twitter, LinkedIn, FB, Instagram). Instead I am focusing on listening to interview based podcasts and reading physical books. During this journey of reassessing how I spend my attention and time, I also started powering off my cell phone […]

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inspiration, mentor-seth-godin

link: Ask First!

Seth Godin writes with the smallest number of words to convey the clearest of messages.  Here he explains GDPR and the market’s dilemma “Talk to people who want to be talked to. Market to people who want to be marketed to. Because anticipated, personal and relevant messages will always outperform spam. And spam is in […]

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learning, systems thinking

Affecting Change

Systemic problems in our society, by definition, seem impossible to fix.  Part of the reason is that systemic problems are rooted in how our lives are structured and it’s not under the control of one person, one organization or sometimes even one government.  When I was doing a bit or searching around Google, there was […]

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badminton

The Finger Power In Badminton

@Tony Tam That’s right! It gives you more control and racket speed if you relax the fingers before you hit, but for power, you still need to figure out how to do the weights transfer! Weight transfer has something to do with the body, shoulder, forearm, and wrist rotation. You used to have problem with the […]

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books, inspiration

The Pop-up Bookclub

Recently I’m experimenting with starting up bookclubs at work in order to meet new people and helping to instill the habit of book reading into my own life. Here is what I’m doing Create a #bookclub channel on Slack Create a document with a list of books that anyone can propose Once there are 5 […]

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attention, life-strategies

Delete Google Activities

Taking Back Control Of My Privacy Goodbye Infinite Scroll Media : LinkedIn App Goodbye Twitter @ tonytam Friends Don’t Let Friends’ Data Be Stolen #deleteAllFacebook (Instagram,WhatsApp) Life Strategy #1: Why I Am Only Reading Long Articles and Books Google Activities This is the hardest one yet.  I love the convenience of Google maps, suggestion browsing […]

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inspiration

ignore

There is a Chinese proverb 難得糊塗 that my dad put up on the wall of our home which he wrote the calligraphy with Chinese ink and paper.  Every day at home, I would see it.  When I was younger, my dad was very angry and frustrated with life.  And I like to be believe that he stared […]

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attention, life-strategies, time

How I Optimize

Recently I have made choices on how I spend my time and this has helped me decide what I say YES to and more importantly what I say NO to Optimize for time over money If I had to choose between taking muni or Lyft to work, I choose Lyft.  Muni takes 45 minutes for […]

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inspiration

Saying What You Love

My daughter loves watching anime (Haikyuu, Yuri on Ice), she adores owning physical books, she loves drawing anime characters.  She is sometimes quiet about other things, but never about these unmistakable passions in her life. She is unwavering, unapologetic and ever in love with these passions in her life. It is infectious, because of her, […]

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books, inspiration

Book: Tell Me More

I loved this book (Tell Me More, by Kelly Corrigan). Once started, I couldn’t put it down.  It is a book about the author’s journey to learn to do and say the hardest things in life.  To learn to listen to her daughter and her dying father.  I will just quote from her website instead. […]

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attention, digital, life-strategies

link: Seth Godin Your kitchen table

Taking Back Attention I’m going on a detox program with media Goodbye Infinite Scroll Media : LinkedIn App Goodbye Twitter @ tonytam Friends Don’t Let Friends’ Data Be Stolen #deleteAllFacebook (Instagram,WhatsApp) Thank you brain trust member : Seth Godin After I have done my detox, I find this gem in my email Your kitchen table […]

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digital, life-strategies

Goodbye Twitter @ tonytam

On Saturday April 8th, 2018 12:15am I decided to make my twitter.com account @tonytam protected.  It is one of the many steps of media detoxification.   Once in a while, I do get exposed to something of value from the 250+ people I follow on Twitter. But the price of admission for these nuggets of information […]

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inspiration, life-strategies

Finite and Infinite Games

This podcast episode from one of My ‘Virtual Brain Trust’, Seth Godin, has given me a framework to talk about how I’ve structured my life around longer term vision leading to the right short term actions. Seth Godin’s Akimbo Podcast Finite and Infinite Games The idea is that there are finite games and infinite games.  […]

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engineer, thought-process

Talking About How, Instead Of What

This post is not meant for you, it’s meant for me;  So no need to read. Start With “What” People ask for advice. “What should I do, I’m running into this situation where I don’t know whether I should choose A or B?” Rather than telling them what they should do, I have been realizing […]

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