How To Deal With Everyday Problems – An Unofficial Guide

Life is full of problems.

A few weeks ago, I was cooking dinner when I encountered a problem.

My Uncle Ben’s rice packet was too tall to fit inside the microwave.

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The problematic size of my Uncle Ben’s rice packet in relation to the size of my microwave was very upsetting for me.

This was completely irrational because the inconvenience that it caused me was relatively small.

However, small everyday problems can often be extremely frustrating and I think this is because, on some level, they reflect larger ongoing issues in our lives.

However, the immediate frustration that we experience when we encounter one of these problems means that we become so emotionally involved with the situation that we neglect to think clearly about exactly why it is frustrating us.

As a result, our approach to the problem becomes more reactive as opposed to perceptive.

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In order to prevent everyday problems from becoming irrationally overwhelming, it is important to keep them in perspective.

A good way of putting a problem into perspective is to try and visualise it within the context of the sheer magnitude of time and space.

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However, because humans are naturally introspective, it is easy for us to become immersed in our own issues as opposed to considering the wider picture.

As a result, our perspective of what is actually important can become distorted.

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Although my Uncle Ben’s rice packet was relatively large in comparison to my microwave, when related to the entire history of Planet Earth it is actually very small.

In fact, when compared to the vast expanse of the universe, my entire life is basically irrelevant.

However, this did not stop the inconvenient size of my Uncle Ben’s rice packet being a significant issue in my insignificant existence.

I am aware of the fact that the dinosaurs were around for 160 million years and modern man has only been present on Earth for 200,000 years and I have only been alive for 22 of those years but I was trying to ram my Uncle Ben’s rice packet into the microwave for 30 seconds and that bothers me.

In addition, whilst I was relating my problem to time and space, my brain began making associations between the two, meaning that the image of my Uncle Ben’s rice packet became integrated into my vision of dinosaur times.

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When solving a problem, it is important to adopt a proactive, solution-focused approach.

However, this can be quite hard to do if you do not have a lot of confidence in your ability to come up with effective solutions to problems.

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If you are unable to come up with an effective solution to a problem, it can be frustrating.

It is often tempting to complain order to release some of this tension.

Complaining is a completely illogical way to deal with a problem because it exhausts energy levels that could otherwise have been used to take productive action against it.

However, this is why complaining is so great.

Complaining allows you to engage with a problem whilst simultaneously procrastinating from actually attempting to solve it.

In addition, complaining often involves interacting with other people which enables you to make them aware of the problem’s existence in the hope that they will solve it for you.

If you are unable to solve your problem or find someone else to fix it for you, it is tempting to bury the problem under a mass of hardcore denial.

However, denying the existence of the problem all together can be a problem in itself as the problem often consequently resurfaces in an even more powerful state than when you initially buried it.

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If you liked this post, please feel free to check out my other posts where I have written about dogs, social awkwardness and other life-affirming subjects.

For more drawings, you can also follow me on Instagram

The Dog – A Loyal, Faithful, Devoted Companion That Will Almost Definitely Ditch You To Chase a Squirrel or Dive Head First Into a Bog.

Just over a year ago, I wrote a post about my dog, Jessie.

Since then my parents have decided to acquire another dog.

When I say ‘decided to acquire’, I mean that I pressured them until their willpower broke.

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My family’s second dog is called Bailey.

Like Jessie, Bailey is a Labradoodle which means that, genetically, he is a mix of Labrador  and a Poodle but, physically, he looks like he is the descendant of a large teddy bear and Rowlf from The Muppets.

Bailey is 18 months old which means that he is now the size of an adult dog but still has all the raw enthusiasm of a puppy.

As a result, he carries himself with the grace and sophistication of a bulldozer being operated by a person who is not very graceful and sophisticated.

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Bailey’s main ambition in life is to catch a squirrel.

Unfortunately, his current technique of barking loudly and running directly at the squirrel in the hope that it will not see him coming has produced a success rate of 0%.

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In addition, his chances of catching a squirrel are not improved by the fact that sometimes the ‘squirrels’ he chases are not actually squirrels and are instead just generic small moving objects that happen to have strayed into his visual range.

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In fact, Bailey’s general lack of bodily coordination means that he often finds it difficult to catch anything at all, including inanimate objects, as his absurd levels of enthusiasm often significantly impair the accuracy of his attempts.

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Aside from squirrel chasing, Bailey’s other hobbies include pulling on the lead and howling.

When out on a walk, Bailey operates under the delusion that he is a member of a professional dog sled team but, since he is the only one on the team, he has to pull extra hard to compensate.

When inside the house, Bailey enjoys testing both the dexterity of his vocal chords and limits of my sanity by engaging in regular bouts of howling.

The howl is a noise that was designed to allow wolves to communicate over long distances.

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However, unlike wolves, most dogs no longer inhabit vast expanses of wilderness.

When this powerful form of communication is released within the confines of an enclosed residential space, it becomes amplified by the walls, creating what can only be described as a greenhouse effect of concentrated, ear-splitting sound.

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Dogs are well-known for their loyalty, a trait that has been documented in many films and books.

However, I think that there is a difference between the loyalty displayed by iconic dogs such as Lassie and Bailey’s tendency to cling to you with the adhesive qualities of a solid PVA glue.

Bailey tries his upmost to ensure that he is included in the majority of my daily activities.

EATING:

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WORKING:

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SLEEPING:

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Because of their loyalty, dogs are commonly referred to as man’s best friend, a title which they have held for hundreds of years.

You would presume that such a long-lasting relationship would be founded on a strong connection, a cross-species link, operating outside of verbal communication, that enables us to understand each other.

However, since we have had Bailey, I have begun to doubt the dog’s ability to understand humans at all.

This is because Bailey has an ongoing tendency to misinterpret the pretty much all of things that I say to him.

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Festive Eating – The Art of Consuming Enough Food to Find Yourself on the Verge of Exceeding the Physical Capacity of Your Stomach and Then Somehow Managing to Make Your Way Through an Entire Box of Chocolates.

Christmas food is in a league of its own.

In the 21st century, there is increased awareness of the health risks of excessive eating and therefore the majority of people tend to exert a bit of control over what they eat.

Not at Christmas.

Every time we substitute chips with salad, deny ourselves a slice of cake or practice any other form of culinary self-control, a little bit of tension is stored within us.

All of this tension is released on Christmas day.

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The sheer mass of food present at Christmas is enough to intimidate most people.

Food is everywhere.

Some items of food are served within other items of food, like Inception but with calories instead of dreams.

People buy presents that are specifically targeted to further increase their ability to consume food and drink.

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It is impossible to escape from the near continuous torrent of food.

The abundance and accessibility of food induces you eat at a rate beyond that which you would have previously perceived possible.

Items of food are often actively brought to you by other members of the family who are  trying to offload them onto you in a desperate attempt to halt their own unstoppable consumption.

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It is likely that members of your family will have prepared dishes which they look upon with the same sense of pride that Michelangelo experienced upon the completion of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.

It is therefore hard not to experience a sense of obligation when they offer you a portion of their culinary magnum opus.

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Christmas day is a bit like Black Friday for your stomach in that it receives an unprecedented amount of business, all the digestive enzymes that work there get overly stressed and eventually everything implodes, leaving stranded you in a state of comatose on the sofa.

The physical consequences of this implosion normally manifest themselves when you attempt to dress yourself on Boxing Day and closing the zip on your jeans is the equivalent of squeezing said jeans, along with various other items of clothing, into an undersized suitcase before you go on holiday.

Once Christmas Day has passed, you are unsure if you will ever need to eat again.

However, on New Year’s Eve, the calories strike back in the form of alcoholic drinks.

New Year’s Eve calories are much more subtle than Christmas calories.

Not only is it hard to consider a liquid calorific, the more alcohol you ingest, the more intoxicated you become and the less aware you are of how calories work.

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Unless you possess an uncommonly high metabolism, it is impossible to consume vast quantities of food and without it exerting adverse effects on your waistline.

In order to counteract the calorific onslaught of Christmas day and New Year’s Eve, many people decide to take up running.

Running is similar to eating in that if you do for long enough it makes you feel sick.

When you first start running, it seems that everyone you pass doesn’t appear to be struggling as much as much as you are.

This may be because these people are just really fit.

However, it is comforting to imagine that a significant amount of people are just maintaining an illusion of fitness in order to appear impressive for as long as it takes to fully pass another person.

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If the World’s a Stage Then I Am That Kid in the Nativity Play Who Forgets Their Lines and Never Quite Recovers From the Trauma.

As babies, we do not have many expectations of ourselves or others.

For the most part, we operate outside of social convention under the direct influence of our basic needs and emotions.

However, as we mature into adulthood, behaving in this way becomes increasingly unacceptable.

For example, as adults we are expected to eat in a dignified manner.

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We are expected to exert control over our bodily functions.

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We are expected to read age appropriate literature.

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We are expected to rely on ourselves as opposed to our parents.

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In order to retain our place in the bubble of social acceptance, between infancy and adulthood, we are taught to act.

We learn behavioural mechanisms which allow us to cope with certain social situations in a suitable way.

With enough practice, performing in a socially acceptable manner becomes habitual.

I encountered the first true test of my performance skills on my first day of primary school.

I knew that I was supposed to be interacting with the other children but my ability to do so was impaired by the fact that there were lots of people that I didn’t know.

This was overwhelming and then totally paralysing to my four year old brain.

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My reluctance to speak was troubling for my teachers, although I am unsure if this was due to the fact that it affected my ability to participate in their lessons or because I regularly looked like one of those kids from The Shining.

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After the shock of my first day, my stage fright extended for several months into the academic year.

Eventually, I did develop the ability to say words.

However, I soon discovered that saying words when you are in group of people often results in you becoming the centre of attention.

For me, being the centre of attention was a lot like being the centre of the Earth in that it made me feel under a massive amount of pressure and my cheeks had a tendency to become very hot.

As a result, I tried to divert any form social attention away from me.

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As a child, your understanding of the wider world is limited and it therefore easy to operate under the misconception that you are the most important thing in existence.

As a four year old, I believed that I was the centre of the universe.

On top of this, not interacting with people left a lot of space in my brain for thinking about other people interacting.

This manifested itself in an unhealthy tendency to assume that when people were talking without me, they were talking about me.

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In fact, it is much more likely that they were talking about something infinitely more interesting.

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My uncomfortable relationship with social interaction extended outside of the educational environment.

When I was 10, my mum decided that I was old enough to order my own ice creams.

This was a distressing development because I liked ice creams and was now required to interact with a human that I didn’t know in order to obtain one.

I cannot remember exactly what the lady at the ice cream stand looked like when I first ordered an ice cream but I’m pretty sure she was over sixty years of age, had soft white hair that looked like a small cloud floating on top of her head and was wearing woollen top with an image of a cat embodied into it.

I was terrified of her.

I was fully aware of the fact that, at that specific point in time, the lady’s primary purpose was to sell ice cream whilst providing me with a satisfactory customer experience.

However, a part of me still assumed that she would be shocked and outraged if I asked for one.

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As a teenager, I didn’t like the taste of coffee very much and was therefore excited to discover that you could overwhelm its natural bitterness with the sickening sweetness of artificial flavouring by buying a caramel latte at Starbucks.

I was less excited about the fact that I would have to order it.

However, repeated exposure to the source of fear can be an effective technique in reducing many anxieties and, by this point in my social development, I had developed a sufficient amount of self-awareness to realise that my initial feelings of stress and anxiety were often due to the fact that I had imagined an intimidating social situation in my head.

I knew that the best way to address these feelings was to face them head on and to immerse myself in the social situation before I had the chance to overthink it.

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I practiced my lines for a few minutes, saying the words ‘one medium caramel latte please’ to myself over and over again, before heading into the shop.

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I am gradually learning that the world doesn’t revolve around me and that most of the time people aren’t actually that bothered about the things that I do.

If I have an awkward social interaction with someone, the likelihood is that they won’t lay in bed that night thinking about how strange and weird I was and are instead much more likely to be thinking about how strange and weird they perceive themselves to be.

I actually like socialising now, although I am unsure if I am enjoying the experience of connecting and communicating with people or the rush of triumph I experience after performing a successful interaction.

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Mice and Other More Legitimately Scary Animals That I Am Afraid Of.

As a young child, I was not afraid of many animals.

I think this was because my perception of animals was built mainly through watching Disney films such as The Lion King.

The animal characters in Disney films are complex and emotionally developed beings with highly anthropomorphic mind sets.

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A major shift in the way that I perceived animals occurred when I witnessed lion feeding time at a safari park.

Before this, my greatest insight into the brutality of nature came when I watched two ducks quack viciously at each other as they fought over a piece of bread in my local park.

I gradually came to realise that the primary concerns of animals in reality are much more visceral than those of their animated counterparts.

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Watching nature documentaries such as David Attenborough’s Planet Earth has provided me with a slightly more realistic portrayal of animals.

David has taught me two main things about animals:

  1. Animals are some of the most amazing, beautiful and interesting things in existence.
  2. They are also sometimes really scary.

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Whenever I think about sharks, I feel fear rising up inside of me, much like a shark rises up from the depths of the ocean to ambush its unsuspecting prey.

Thinking about the fact that the motion of the fear rising up inside of me is similar to that of a shark tends to get me thinking about sharks even more, leaving me mentally stranded in an infinite loop of terror.

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I have often tried to pinpoint the exact source of my fear of sharks.

Maybe I am afraid of sharks because the film business tends to portray them as malicious man-eaters and, as we know, films are notoriously accurate representations of real life.

Or maybe it is because, on the rare occasions that sharks attack humans, they deliver an initial experimental bite before deciding whether to return and finish the job, which I guess is a bit like when you can try little samples of various food products in Tesco except with less customer service and more blood and death.

I have also considered that my fear is due to the fact that sharks thrive in the ocean, an environment in which I feel completely powerless and vulnerable.

However, there are many other creatures that also flourish in aquatic habitats that do not scare me as much as sharks.

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People often say things such as ‘you are statistically more likely to be struck by lightning or have a vending machine fall on you than be attacked by a shark’.

However, these statements only serve to increase my awareness of other things that could cause me significant bodily harm in addition to sharks.

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A cougar is a bit like a domestic cat but also not like a domestic cat at all.

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In general, the domestic cat will display affection towards you primarily for the purpose of obtaining food.

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In fact, many domestic cats are reliant on humans as a source of food.

Whilst cougars do not display such reliance, they also occasionally view humans as a source of nutritional sustenance.

Like the shark, the cougar is an ambush predator and can jump up to 30 feet in order to attack its chosen prey.

To put this into perspective, 30 feet is the equivalent of 1 30ft long ruler or 30 1ft long rulers.

Before I went to Canada, the prospect of being attacked by a cougar whilst walking through the woods never occurred to me.

Now, however, every little sound that I hear has the potential to be a cougar.

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I do not understand why I am afraid of mice.

Unlike sharks and cougars, mice tend not to display aggression towards people.

Logically, I know that the extent of the damage that a mouse could physically inflict if it came into contact with my body is basically non-existent.

However, logic is not always a reliable tool with which to combat fear.

In fact, when faced with fear, my brain tends to short-circuit and bypass logic completely.

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I know that mice look like this.

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However, under the influence of fear, my brain refuses to acknowledge this fact and the way in which I react to the presence of a mouse is indicative of a much more threatening appearance.

img_0723The fact that I am scared of mice despite their diminutive appearance leads me to think that I am afraid, not of the mouse itself, but of the way in which it moves.

Mice move with a randomness and unpredictability which can be seen to mimic the unforeseeable nature of life.

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Human beings are by far the scariest animals on the planet.

Our superior intellect and natural creativity has enabled us to become the Earth’s current apex species.

However, our capacity to think beyond ourselves and our direct biological needs has also been the source of some very scary things.

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I Lived In The Canadian Wilderness For 6 Months. Well, on a Kids’ Camp With Some Heated Cabins, a Semi-Functional Wifi Connection and a Dining Hall That Provided Hot Meals at Regular Intervals But Other Than That It Was Basically Primitive…

I graduated from university in July 2015.

The whole experience was quite disorientating.

For the first time since the age of four, I found myself outside of the academic system that had always provided me with a steady stream of goals and a consistent sense of purpose.

I felt quite lost like Nemo in Finding Nemo or the people in that TV show where the plane crashes and the passengers become stranded on an island.

I often experienced difficulty answering certain questions in job interviews.

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I do not remember having identity issues as a child.

Back then, I spent a lot of time in the great outdoors and when I say the ‘great outdoors’, I am referring mainly to my parents’ back garden.

My parents’ back garden featured breath-taking geographical features such as a 2×3 metre pond, a multitude of impressive wildlife specimens in the form of worms and the occasional pigeon and some flowers.

Once I was in the wilderness, it was hard to get me out.

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Eight months after graduating, I decided to go and work on an outdoor education camp on the west coast of Canada, in what I guess was an attempt to reconnect with a simpler time when I worried less about establishing myself in the ‘real world’ and more about the important things in life, such as whether my mum would get mad if I used her electric whisk to blend together the ingredients of my mud pie.

Western Canada is a land of great natural beauty.

It looks a lot like that place that they used to film Lord of the Rings, except not exactly like that place because that place isn’t Canada; it’s New Zealand.

However, soon after arriving at camp, I discovered that finding a peaceful moment to contemplate nature is kind of difficult when you spend the majority of your time surrounded by kids.

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When you are out on a boat with a group of children it is important to concentrate, not on the complexity of human cognition, but on providing some form entertainment for the kids.

Neglecting to do this will encourage them to find ways of entertaining themselves.

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At first, I did genuinely believe that it was going to be okay.

The logical part of my brain was aware of the fact that a group of 11 year old girls didn’t possess the vocal capacity to continue singing until the end of time.

However, as the minutes passed and the singing continued, I started to lose my grip on my sanity and with it my ability to think in a rational manner.

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As a camp counsellor, you are required to provide 24 hour supervision for the kids in your care.

This means that you have to sleep in the same building as them which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that a lot of children don’t understand how to sleep properly.

Some kids, for example, operate under the terrible misconception that the crack of dawn is an acceptable time to be awake.

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Children learn at an accelerated rate and as a result have highly imaginative minds.

This heightened curiosity that children possess is an amazing thing.

However, it is significantly less amazing when it manifests itself in a seemingly unstoppable torrent of questions at 4:35am in the morning.

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Despite its frustrations, working with children is ultimately a pretty rewarding experience, even if it does entail spending the early hours of the morning explaining how sunscreen works to a 9 year old.

However, during my time at camp, I was not working with kids 100% of the time.

In the spring season, the site was frequently rented out to adult groups for various events, weddings and retreats.

Whilst working with one of these groups, I got talking to a man who told me that stargazing on a regular basis helped him to maintain clarity of thought.

The man in question had dreadlocks and was wearing a ‘Live, Breath, Yoga’ singlet so I decided that he was probably a reliable source of wisdom.

I figured that what he was saying made sense – if you’re searching for a personal lightbulb moment, why not look to nature’s very own lightbulbs to locate it?

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I’m beginning to doubt if staring intensely at a mountain range or the night sky is an effective way to induce a moment of epic self-realisation.

Maybe a solid identity is not something that can be found in a fixed moment because we ourselves are not permanent fixtures.

Our minds are always evolving and the way in which we perceive ourselves and our surroundings is constantly changing.

Maybe the process of reaching self-enlightenment is a bit more like driving down a heavily congested road…

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