Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Favourite Posts - March

It's been a super-busy month with not very much time for reading blogs at all. Most days I find somewhere between 50 and 80 new blog posts on my Bloglovin' feed and I can't possibly get through all of these. Despite this, I have still managed to pull out a few extra-special posts that I've particularly enjoyed this month. No matter how busy you are, you should definitely take 10 minutes to have a quick read of these!

Towel Wars on Forever Amber
I've really been enjoying Amber's posts recently, they're so full of personality and brilliantly written. This particular post is especially humourous and features some pretty impressive towel folding skills! Honestly, it's so much better than you'd expect a post about towels to be.

Although I've not been running very much at all recently, I have started thinking about maybe, potentially, possibly entering a race at some point. I don't think I'll jump straight into a half marathon but Hazel's really honest advice and experience has made the concept seem far less scary and much more achievable. 

What's In My Bag? Version 2.0 on Little Miss Katy
There are a lot of What's In My Bag posts about (I've even done my own) but I've never seen one quite like this. Katy has a pretty amazing amount of stuff in her bag - think somewhere along the lines of Mary Poppins... This post made me laugh... and question just quite how many lipsticks one girl could need to carry?!

What have been your favourite posts this month?


Monday, 30 March 2015

Pawsomebox March

Apparently there was one happy pup at home when the March Pawsomebox arrived! I'm pretty sure my little Jack Russell Saffy misses me lots while I'm away at university so I tried to make it up to her with this box of goodies instead.

Subscription boxes are everywhere now - a surprise collection of items delivered to the door, and it's only fair that our four-legged friends get in on them too! I received a free sample of the March box for dogs containing six different things for Saffy to get her teeth into...

I was still away at uni when the box was scheduled to be delivered, so rather than get it sent to me in Bristol to take home, I had it sent straight there and got my sister to take the photos- so thanks for that! I had a live feed of photos and updates as Saffy worked her way through the items in order to see for myself what she thought.

Soft toy, pull toy, ear drops, plastic bowl, hide sticks, cheese chicken treats

Saffy's a bit of a poser and loves being in front of the camera, but she couldn't resist temptation for very long and was straight into the box to pull out her number one choice - a rather sweet soft toy lamb. Sadly for the lamb, there's not much sweet about a terrier's instinct and she was ripping into the toy within seconds. We get through a lot of soft toys and now usually look for pretty sturdy ones to make them last that little bit longer. Having said that, I did text the next day to ask about the lamb and was shocked to hear that Saffy had been cuddling up to it rather than ripping it to shreds!

Can I play yet, pleeeease? I know exactly which one I want! 
The only thing that could entice Saffy away from the lamb was some treats - not bad for a dog who's a pretty fussy eater! These Trixie Cheese Chicken Stripes seemed to go down well. If there's any left when I get home for Easter I might break them up and use them to brush up on training... unlikely to be the case though!

This is her enjoying them face - honest!
My sister and I then deliberated over what exactly the ear-cleaning product was for. As far as I know, Saffy doesn't really seem to have much of an ear-wax problem (do dogs get that?!) and we decided that we'd probably be utterly unsuccessful with any attempts at putting stuff in her ears. If you had a patient dog who did have some ear problems, it might be a useful product but Saffy is probably a bit too wriggly!

Poor pup looked a little nervous of this ear cleaning solution!

The next things they tried out were the Fresh Breath Hide Sticks. We've tried Dentastix before to help with her teeth and breath, but for some reason she feels compelled to bury them! With these ones though she ran off under the table to enjoy them in peace, resulting in my sister turning a bit secret detective to get any more pictures... 

The Keep Calm bowl might come in useful if we're ever out for the day with Saffy- carrying her ceramic dog bowls around isn't exactly lightweight travelling!

And finally there is the cotton bone pull toy. Saffy's certainly a dog you'd want on your tug-of-war team so she'll get lots of enjoyment out of this.

Thank you very much to Pawsomebox for sending Saffy a free box of goodies. As you can see from the pictures she really enjoyed the toys and treats. We might just have to accept that the ear drops aren't her thing, but otherwise it was a great little box for a lovely little dog (yes I would say that about her). 

Pawsomebox are a subscription service that send out a box for dogs once a month. The boxes are matched to the dog's age, size, weight and other factors and cost from £15.90 a month. They're a great way to trial some new products that you might not pick up otherwise. 

The March box was sent to me free in return for a review. I was not paid to do so and all opinions are my own! (Saffy's opinions have been interpreted, of course. A blog post full of 'woof, growl, woooo, arrwwww' just wouldn't really work now, would it?)

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Showcase Saturday #4 - Horse (Number 2)

This week's Showcase Saturday piece is back to my favourite subject - horses. This particular drawing was part of my GCSE Art coursework, which means I drew it about six years ago. Where has that time gone?!

It was actually inspired by the work of another artist, but without my sketchbook I can't remember who. It was drawn using coloured pencil on paper, with the bottom half being a layer of brown sugar paper - hence the wavy line through the middle!

There are definitely a few bits out of proportion, but I love the warm colours of this piece and the dark outlines. I remember drawing a lot of this using the school pencils rather than my own, and it being quite difficult to blend the colours quite how I wanted. 

The rough background and dark outlines were inspired by the other artist and it's actually an effect I like- strong but without distracting from the main structure.

I've been getting such good feedback on this series so far and I still have a few more pictures in store so make sure you're back next week for another!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The A to Z of Me - Part 1

One of the lovely things about blogs is the fact that on the whole they're incredibly personal and you get to feel like you know the person writing. Blogs are much more of a two-way thing than other content on the internet and that's what makes me enjoy writing so much. I've seen a few examples of personal A-Z posts and I think they're a brilliant way to quickly learn new things about each other. I have a tendency to write long points in my blog posts (yet give me an essay to write and I'll struggle to reach the word count), so I've decided to split this up over a few posts, starting with A to G today.

A is for Aeroplanes
Because of the places I live, I'm well used to hearing and seeing planes going overhead and they're something I've grown up with. As well as finding flying exciting, I think there's something rather comforting about hearing a plane going overhead. I even have an app to find out what the planes overhead are and where they're going! I also used to have a recurring dream about flying a plane and having to land it - not as bad a dream as it sounds because I was always able to do it!

B is for Bristol
The university I chose to come at study at. I very nearly didn't apply for Bristol due to the competitiveness of the course and even when I had my offers I spent a long time deliberating between here and Manchester. I'm glad I ultimately picked Bristol though - it's a place I love being and I've met lots of wonderful people.

C is for Countryside
Although I grew up in the suburbs of London and go to a city university, I know that I much prefer the countryside. People often assume that I will want to go back to London to work after my degree, but actually I don't really miss it all that much. My dream life involves a nice house in the countryside somewhere with a few animals and plenty of nature around me!

D is for Dogs
If you've read enough of my posts, you'll have realised I have a Jack Russell Terrier called Saffy who I absolutely adore. She can be a typical terrier and be annoyingly playful, but she's so cute and funny that whatever mischief she's gotten into is soon forgotten. Dogs are definitely one of my favourite animals, although top spot is a tough call between dogs and horses.

E is for Elizabeth
My middle name. I used to really dislike the name Elizabeth but now I like it  - and there are far worse middle names to have! Plus it's a pretty regal name with a past Queen, a current Queen... and the middle name of a future Queen!

F is for French
I started learning French aged seven and carried on right through school gaining a GCSE and an A Level. I even did a module of Medical French in my second year of university. I've spent a week on work experience in a French hotel and did a school exchange with a French girl living near Paris. I love the language and have tried very hard not to lose it. I don't have many opportunities for French conversation in my daily life, but I do sometimes watch news in French, read French websites and blogs and watch French films. Had I not decided to go into medicine, there's a good chance I would have studied French at university instead.

G is for Gymnastics
When I was much younger, I used to be in a local gymnastics squad. I was quite good at pointing my toes, balancing and being bendy, but I don't think I was ever really strong enough to do a lot of the vaulting and somersaults and other things that came with it. I enjoyed the training and the sparkly leotards but long term it was probably not going to be my thing. My one regret though is not carrying on practising the splits - I wish I could still do it!

So that's a few things about me, don't forget to come back for the rest!


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

What's In My Bag?

It's with me almost every day, carrying all those essentials for daily life. Now they might say you should never go through a lady's handbag, but seeing as I have nothing in there to hide (other than far too many receipts for chocolate bars), I'm sharing it all today.

I try quite hard not to overpack my bag - mostly because I don't want to carry a huge weight around on my shoulder all day. Despite this, lots of things have found their way in and I still struggle to find what I want because somehow everything makes it right to the bottom. 

My Fiorelli bag was a Christmas present a few years ago and it has seen a lot of use since then. It's starting to look rather tired, but it does get used every day for university and placement and perhaps not treated with quite the care it deserves!

I usually have my umbrella tucked into my bag - unless it happens to be a rainy day in which case I'll probably have left it on my bedroom floor according to Sod's Law. Unless my bag is particularly heavy and I have to make a few compromises on weight, my pencil case is with me. I like to have different colour pens when writing notes so this contains a selection of coloured biros and pencils. I always carry my purse with me, containing plenty of cards and hopefully a bit of money too! Until the weather warms up just a little bit more, my gloves are staying in my bag to keep my hands warm on early morning and late evening walks home. 

I carry a small leather notebook for writing down things I've seen in clinics or on ward rounds and need to look up, or email addresses and phone numbers for people I need to contact. It's also my back up incase I forget to bring the right handbooks for lectures or tutorials. If I'm on placement, my stethoscope is in my bag - a nice raspberry pink shade that approximately 50% of the girls in my year seem to have. And there was me thinking hardly anyone would dare go for a pink stethoscope... I also take my ID lanyard with me so I can show people who I am and swipe myself into the various parts of whichever hospital I'm at. I've pinned a fob watch to it because we can't wear wrist watches, and a black pen that I never let out of my sight in case a doctor steals it. Seriously, hospitals are like black holes for black pens because all medical documents are meant to be written with black ink.

I usually have an assortment of handbooks, notebooks and log books in my bag, according to whichever module I'm currently on. These help me keep track of what I'm supposed to be learning. We have a log book of all the procedures we need to be able to do by the end of medical school and we have to get each thing signed every time we do it. It's great for showing progress, but I do actually have to remember to have the book with me and ask someone to sign it every time!

I have a reusable shopping bag that folds up into a small pocket that I must admit I don't use very much now but I'm always expecting to come in useful one day. I also carry tissues and Vaseline and a lifesaving tube of Neutrogena hand cream because constant handwashing and alcohol gel destroys my hands! There's always an assortment of pens in my bag. All of them blue which isn't very helpful... 

I keep my Oyster card and railcard in my bag at all times, mostly so I know where it is! I obviously don't use my Oyster card when I'm at university, but I need it for getting the tube when I go home for the weekend. There's usually a stash of used train tickets in there too, but I actually cleared it out the other day. Perhaps it's the medic in me, or the old Girlguiding days of being prepared for anything, but I nearly always have painkillers of some sort in the back of my bag and a good handful of different plasters. I think I give more of these things away than I actually use myself, but I like being able to help when someone's in pain or has a cut.

So that's what I'm carrying around with me every day, what are your essentials?

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Little Things I've Loved This Week #5

On Friday, the medical school put on a 'Well-Being Day' for the fourth and fifth years in order to unwind and learn the best ways to look after ourselves through the pressures of training and working in medicine. One of the speakers talked about the '5 Ways to Wellbeing' actions from NEF, one of which is to 'take notice' of what's going on around us. I feel like this weekly (usually!) post is a good example of taking notice of the little things that make life better. So to the other bloggers out there doing similar posts, you're all one step closer to wellbeing!
Here are some of the things I've enjoyed this week...

1. Chair Massage at the Well-Being Day. I was lucky enough to have signed up in time to be able to book myself a half-hour massage during the day. It was just what I needed to un-knot my tight back and shoulder muscles and I left feeling so much better. 

2. Lunchtime walks by the river during GP placement. Fortunately I don't have to work through my lunchtimes like the other staff at the practice, so I've been making the most of my breaks by getting out in the fresh air for a stroll along the nearby river. There are always lots of other people walking or sitting to eat their lunch outside and I try to smile and say hello to as many as possible!

3. Reading in the sunshine with my housemates. With Friday afternoon being such lovely weather, we took a blanket and our books out to a nearby grassy spot and sat in the sunshine for a short while. While relaxing on your own is nice, sometimes it's better to have some company - especially as 'connecting' is another of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing!

4. Perfectly timing my train back to Bristol. This never usually happens to me if I haven't booked one - I either just miss one, or turn up far too early for the next. So after a long day at the GP, it was great to hear a train pull into the station just as my ticket finished printing from the machine - I had been expecting to miss that train and have to wait half an hour for the next. It was also an added bonus that I managed to find an unreserved seat and was sat in the right carriage and not one of the ones that were going to split off at the next station!

5. Really cheerful music in the mornings. I've been leaving the house at 7.10am each morning and not really seeing anyone I know besides the staff at the GP pratice all day, so I haven't always been in the best of moods every morning. This week though I started taking my iPod with me on the bus and it's amazing what a difference a bit of Beyoncé can make to a morning!

What have you enjoyed this week?


Saturday, 21 March 2015

Showcase Saturday #3 - Tiger

This week for Showcase Saturday I've decided to show you one of my favourite pieces - a coloured pencil sketch of a tiger's face. Coloured pencil is easily my most preferred medium for artwork and I can happily sit for hours carefully blending the colours together.

Drawing animal hair is something I find difficult, so this was a challenge for me having to try and show the hair directions. The hairs that were strongly in focus in the photograph I still don't think I quite got right, but the longer ones above and below the eyes I enjoyed putting in using long strokes of pencil. What I really love about this picture though is the eyes, especially the dark hairs around them. The picture is framed in our living room and I always feel like the eyes are the most striking feature. When I studied the photograph carefully, there were a lot more colours in the eyes than just yellow-orange and carefully layering up the different tones was the key to getting them as close to realistic as I could.

This week I also happened to have a photo of the drawing in-progress. The coloured parts around the top were the bits I was most proud of and I took this photo to show how it looked just in case I completely spoilt it with the pastel and charcoal parts at the bottom where the hairs were out of focus and much softer. As you can see, when I'm drawing I usually have at least three sets of pencils and pastels out and end up with them all over the place as I constantly switch between them!


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Imaginary Childhood Games and My Current GP Placement

Do you remember the imaginary games you used to play as a child? Although I've always said I didn't really decide I wanted to be a doctor until I was about sixteen or seventeen, I vividly recall many instances of playing 'doctor' when I was young. 

We had a great big laptop computer that I would set up on my desk (and quite often not even switch on) and I'd make myself piles of 'forms' (even in those days I seemed to appreciate paperwork in the healthcare system). I'd gather together various pens and nail files as 'equipment', and my bed became the couch in the consulting room. To finish it all off, I had a real, working stethoscope given to me by a family member which I'd place proudly round my neck. To be honest, I don't really remember ever playing this game for very long each time. I'd do a few imaginary consultations, randomly sign the 'forms' I'd made, and jab away importantly at the keyboard before tidying it all away again or moving on to something new.

These memories came back to me the other day as I sat myself down at a computer, arranged real equipment on the desk around me and pulled my own real stethoscope out of my bag. Now I had a real examination couch behind me, and thermometers and saturation probes instead of nails files and felt tips. This time the computer was switched on and logged on to an actual GP system. And the patients were real people with real problems. It was no longer a game. I was actually doing this!

I'm already approaching the end of a four-week placement at a GP surgery and it's been one of the best learning experiences I've had so far. I spent a week and a half sitting in with doctors and nurses, observing the consultations and doing simple things like taking temperatures and blood pressures and giving injections. 

After that, I've been scheduled my own clinics where I see the patients by myself for up to twenty minutes, before the doctor comes in to check what I've found out from the patient, confirm the diagnosis (if there is one) and order any investigations or write prescriptions that are needed. It's really tested my knowledge and skills, especially as I've usually got no idea what's about to come through the door!

I've seen patients by myself occasionally in clinics or in A&E (still with a doctor checking up afterwards of course!), but I think what really makes this placement different is having my own room, getting patients from the waiting room myself and being able to type my own notes onto the system. Also, I think that for many patients, going to the doctor's is a bit of an 'occasion' still, something you build up to, unlike an emergency admission to A&E. They might be more prepared with what they want to say or what they hope to get out of the consultation. 

I was surprised to find myself not feeling particularly nervous about doing these clinics. Perhaps it was a case of simply having to get on with it - the patients were booked in and had turned up, there's no getting out of it for me! It did feel weird when I was standing in reception the week before and could hear the receptionist booking people in to see me, but it's been such a good experience so far and a real confidence booster. I've mentioned before about how helpful patients are to medical students, and it's the same again now. Whatever I've done for the patients I've seen this placement, I'd say they've really done more for me!

When I used to sit at my bedroom desk with that stethoscope round my neck, I never envisaged that one day I'd be doing it for real. I think I picked the right game to pursue though... the other options were vets (a cat allergy probably stands in the way of that. Plus I've seen the Veterinary Science course... *shudders*) or airport check-in (having watched far too many episodes of Airline). 

Did you ever imagine during your childhood that you'd be doing what you do now?


Saturday, 14 March 2015

Showcase Saturday #2 - Horse

I received lots of lovely comments last week when I started off the Showcase Saturday series with my watercolour painting of giraffes. This week I've featured something I draw often - a horse. I began drawing horses when I first started horse riding. I think it began with a simple, cartoon-style tutorial I found in one of my Pony magazines when I was young and since then I progressed to more life-like pictures using the book Draw Horses by Lee Hammond.

I used to save all the posters out of my magazines as inspiration for drawing and would copy the photos which is a really good way to learn to draw. I managed to make horses the main theme of my GCSE art project - despite the teacher forbidding anyone to draw animals! This small act of rebellion paid off though when I opened my results and found I'd earned an A* in art, something I really hadn't been expecting.

This paticular picture was one I drew a few years later using pencil. Please excuse the grid lines still visible - this picture stayed like this in my sketching folder for a long time before my parents had it framed and only then did the lines get rubbed out! Something I learned from the Draw Horses book was the importance of getting the dark areas shaded really dark. I also usually prefer to draw horses without their tack (e.g. the bridles and saddles) simply because I find it hard to accurately draw in all the buckles and loops, but that was something I concentrated on here.


Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Vegetarian and Gluten Free Lasagne with Rizopia

My housemates and I are all busy people and at any one time there's at least one of us living out on placement Monday to Friday. Add in going home for the weekend now and again, and suddenly it becomes quite a challenge to actually see much of us other! 

The other week I spent most of Sunday afternoon preparing this delicious vegetarian lasagne so that we could share a meal together before packing our suitcases and heading off to various hospitals for the week. Pasta dishes are ideal for serving lots of people, but until now we've always avoided pasta because one of my housemate's cannot eat gluten. This time though I was fortunate enough to have been sent some gluten free brown rice pasta* from Rizopia. I was curious how this naturally gluten free pasta would compare to ordinary wheat pasta.

Seeing as I had a whole day free to cook it (because I'm ignoring the pathology notes I still need to write up!) I decided to do it properly and make my own white and tomato sauces. My white sauce skills definitely need a little more practice, but the tomato sauce was delicious, even if I do say so myself!

To make approx. 6 servings
Roasted vegetables
2 sweet peppers (I used a yellow and a red)
2 small/medium aubergines
1 courgette

8 sheets brown rice pasta

Tomato Sauce
1tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion
1 carrot
1 clove of garlic
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
2tbsp tomato purée
Handful of basil leaves

White Sauce
85g butter
85g gluten-free plain flour
750ml milk

125g mozzarella cheese

1. Begin by preparing the roasted vegetables. Chop the aubergines, courgette and peppers into equal size chunks- approx 1.5cm. Put them into a roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil. Put in the oven at 180°c for 35 minutes.

2. While the vegetables roast, you can make sauces. For the tomato sauce, finely chop the onion and garlic and chop the carrot into small pieces. Pour 1tbsp of olive oil into a saucepan and once hot, add the onion, garlic and carrot. On medium heat, cook for 5-7 minutes until softened. Stir in the tomato purée. Then add both tins of chopped tomatoes and stir well. Roughly tear the basil leaves and add them to the sauce. Leave to simmer.

3. For the white sauce, melt 85g butter in a saucepan then stir in the 85g of flour and cook for 2 minutes. Using a whisk to keep everything moving, slowly pour in the milk. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and carry on stirring until the sauce thickens up.

4. Take the vegetables out of the oven and put half into the bottom of the lasagne dish. Pour over half the tomato sauce, then place sheets of lasagne over the top to cover. Pour over  half of the white sauce. Then add the rest of the vegetables, the rest of the tomato sauce and another layer of pasta sheets. Finish with the remaining white sauce, making sure to completely cover the top layer of pasta. (The chunky vegetables and not particularly deep dish meant that I didn't have many layers. Adjust this stage as necessary to make more layers if you want).

5. Finish off by scattering chunks of mozzarella evenly across the top of the lasagne. Place in the oven for 45min at 180°c until golden on top and cooked through. 

(Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food)

Verdict on the free-from pasta?
We really liked it! It cooks just like normal pasta which is perfect for anyone who doesn't normally use gluten-free foods. It tastes like brown pasta and worked really well with the vegetable flavours in this dish.
Rizopia comes from PGR Health Foods and can be found in independent health food stores or from their Amazon store with free delivery. It is also available on prescription from the doctor for anyone who is a register coeliac.

What do you think?

*I received one box of Rizopia lasagne sheets from PGR Health Foods in return for reviewing them on my blog. I did not receive any money for this post and all opinions are honest and my own.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Little Things I've Loved This Week #4

After yet another busy week (I'm not sure I'll ever start one of these without saying this), it's only now that I've really had time to sit down and think about the past seven days and what I've got up to. I also missed this last week, sorry!

1. Roast dinner with the girls
My housemate and I cooked a roast dinner for the others and a couple of friends tonight. I maintain that a roast dinner is the perfect way to finish off a weekend before heading off for the week. It's so lovely to catch up over some homely food. Plus doing the cooking means I get all of the fun of 'sampling' the cheese sauce and none of the washing up!

2. Cute kids
I'm now on GP placement which is so much fun, especially because I get to see a lot of people who aren't really sick - a nice change from hospital medicine. There have also been some real cuties coming into the surgery, including a lovely little kid who blew me a kiss as they left the consultation room. It made my morning!

3. The chatty bus driver
Due to a motorway closure the other day, my twenty-five minute bus journey became an hour and twenty-five minutes of crawling along at an average 3mph. And for a good half of that, it was just me and the driver on the bus. I'd have completely understood if she'd been grumpy, but she was so pleasant and friendly it made the journey much more bearable and not awkward. Also, I got to properly take notice o all the lovely countryside that we drive through... silver linings to every cloud and all that!

4. Medic Wine Tasting Night
It's always nice to do something different and medic nights are always a good laugh. We had a fabulous venue, a selection of wines and some experts to talk about them, followed by hours of live music and dancing. The perfect opportunity to catch up with people I don't see during the week - although it took me a while to recognise people as it was a masquerade themed night!

5. Blogilates workouts
I've not been running recently (which explains the lack of running posts) because it's dark by the time I get home and I don't really know the area I'm living in. Running on my own, in a strange place, in the pitch black, with no one knowing where I am doesn't feel the most sensible of things. Instead, I've been trying out some pilates videos on Youtube and have really enjoyed them! Normally I give up as soon as I get a little bit tired, but Cassie's cheery encouragement keeps me going and I definitely feel the workouts the next day. Fitting 20-30 minutes into my evening is easy enough and I can do it whenever works for me. 

What have you been up to this week?

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Showcase Saturday #1 - Giraffes

Let me introduce you to a new series on the blog - Showcase Saturday. I've enjoyed drawing and painting for as long as I can remember and I thought it might be nice to share with you all some of the pieces I've done over the years.

My special interest in artwork is animals - it began with drawing horses but eventually I decided to branch out to other four-legged creatures. There's something incredibly therapeutic about sitting for hours with just a sheet of paper and a box of pencils or paints, adding a little here and there until you've built up something to be proud of.

I'm starting the series off with this watercolour picture of giraffes. I've often sketched cartoon-style giraffes, but this was the first time I really looked at their patterns and how the shapes and spacing actually worked. I never used to have much success with using watercolour to do anything intricate or detailed, mostly due to impatience! For this piece, I took the time to let the layers of paint properly dry before adding the next bits and this stopped everything from blurring into one.

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