Casaubon's Book

A while back I ran a post-apocalyptic novel book club on ye olde blogge, which was a lot of fun. It allowed us to get our doom on at low stakes. Now I’m not, strictly speaking, a hard doomer. I suspect most of the likely scenarios involve gradual declines in resource availability and increasing poverty. In some ways this is more depressing than the grand and more dramatic scenarios that writers love to create – you can win against the zombies, but it is tough to win against the enemy “crushing national debt and gradually increasing world temperatures.”

I think most apocalyptic novels are fun thought experiments, but they go for big and shiny when what we are facing is dull and slow. But I retain the right, as your Apocalyptic Blogiste, to occasionally amuse myself with “when the zombies come” scenarios like those commonly found in novels. “When the Zombies come” on this blog basically means “when the really bad-ass stuff hits.” It covers meteors, war, collapse, ice age and reversion to mammoth hunting and, of course, the undead. I find it extremely useful, given that rather dreary nature of the real disaster going on, to get my zombie on once in a while.

What I’ve been thinking about lately is what the ideal zombie scenario would be. I mean, sure, it would be awful and all, but most post-apocalyptic novels work on the premise that Our Heroes are 1. super and 2. extremely lucky. That is, they get all the good stuff mostly going their way – they weren’t standing under the meteor. They had a genius astrophysicist on hand to fend off disaster by figuring out something no one else could have. They are smart enough to respond immediately – they never think “well what if the power goes back on and we’re embarrassed that we went straight to cannibalism.” They are always right. Unlike the myriad of red shirt characters invented to die horribly, they get to live, and usually there’s some kind of happy ending – that is, in the end, they get to Zombietopia.

Now most of the novels focus, on some level on Zombietopia and its ideal principles (not dead yet, reanimating society), and what struck me, when I was thinking about my own vision of Zombietopia involved some of the same major miracles (not being under the meteor or on top of the volcano, having my own private astrophysicist), but I’m much more concerned than the characters in novels with very small quality of life issues, which IMHO, can make the difference between leading a mostly happy and plucky band of survivors in your silver lame suit and saying “fuck it, I’m joining the cannibals and getting a prion disease.” It seems clear to me that the characters in novels are much more high minded than I am. They are thinking of much more important things in their utopias than laundry.
So what are the requirements for my own, personal zombietopia, the very best case scenario for me and mine (the rest of you have to get your own zombietopia, but I’ve no objection if they exist simultaneously ;-))?

1. The zombies have to come ashore somewhere else, ideally somewhere inhabited only by the only grizzled old seaman to have actually known zombies before, who then recognizes them for what they are, and raises the alarm. This will give me time to get my zombie-preps ready. This is particularly important if they come in the middle of the night, since I’m not a fast waker. I need a few minutes and a cup of tea so that I’m not completely betwattled.

2. My children need to stop bed wetting and I need to be caught up on laundry, so that I don’t immediately have to face the pile of hand washing that will inevitably result from this grid going down.

3. I want there to be a 12 hour period where we know the disaster is occurring, but most people don’t, where the power is still on and the merchants are still taking credit cards that will never be paid off (assuming, of course, that the collection agents aren’t already zombies). Then I can get one of those “shopping for the end of the world” scenes that pervades every single apocalyptic novel. These scenes are like porn for doomy girls, and hey, I want one. In the books, miraculously, no one ever declines your credit card and you’ve always been able to get out plenty of cash, or perhaps the grocer is just extraordinarily noble.

4. When I have to go out on night zombie hunts, I’d really rather not be partnered with my neighbor who will explain to me at some length how this is all Obama’s fault.

5. I don’t actually want to wear silver lame.

6. I would like to discover a secret talent for ninja fighting that I never knew I had. And scrabble.

7. I want to develop the secret knowledge that all book characters have. The moment the grid crashes or whatever, they know. They know that it will never come back, and act accordingly, unlike all the rest of the stupid fools who hang around waiting to see if this is doom or just a power outage. Moreover, I want this knowledge to be absolute and certain, so that I never accidentally begin leading my plucky band across a smoking landscape, only to see the lights come back on and everyone go about their normal work.

8. I also want the special gift for meeting exactly the right people. It must just happen that wandering down my rural street is an expert in zombie demolitions, or a doctor who has previously treated the zombie plague. It seems much more likely that on my street, we’d run into a couple of construction guys who had read World War Z and maybe a hairdresser who definitely saw Night of the Comet, but if the novels get the Navy Seals and the master-archers, I want them.

9. My neighbors and I will instantly pull together and form a noble group of pure-hearted allies who always do what’s right. What is right will instantly be clear, and if someone occasionally points out that it would be easier to do the wrong things, whoever is leading us will always speak for the, the truth and the goodness. We will never get into stupid debates about whether Josie’s ex was an asshole or not, who is in charge or who broke the scythe blade. More importantly, it will not be me who broke the scythe blade.

10. My children will recognize that this is a heroic and important moment, and rise nobly to the cause, behaving gracefully under pressure. They will not whine, pick their noses at meetings or distract us from zombie fighting by fighting with each other.

11. We will find the secret stash of goods that we really, really needed. Whether taken from a recent museum exhibit or found in an old attic, we will never be without the pre-modern tools needed in this new age.

12. Bruce Springsteen will not be killed by the zombies, but will live and write awesome songs about the heroic resistance. Leonard Cohen, who writes awesome songs but already looks kind of undead will rise again to write (but not sing) the zombie’s soundtrack lyrics.

13. In my Zombietopia, all the women of middlish age will not have to bring coffee to the hot warrior chicks and guys in their 20s, the way they do in all the books. Indeed, it turns out that middle aged geeks with agrarian tendencies will somehow be just what is needed.

14. That which does not kill us will make us stronger. I’m hoping that that which doesn’t kill me also makes me thinner, more organized, less irritable and more heroic.

15. My zombietopia will bring people together – while the zombies can be DWMs if they like, the side of good is always multi-ethnic, non-heterosexist and culturally diverse. My little rural town will be the nexus at which the Rebel Amish, the Agrarian Radical Fairie Zombie Hunteres, the asian-american neo-pagan society for the destruction of the undead and even a few members of the Republican party come together in a new era of understanding and common interest. After the undead are defeated, they will create a new Utopia, based on the cultivation of turnips and love of their fellow men.

16. Publishing will reanimate in time for me to write a kick-ass memoir of my days as a zombie fighter. Zombie-Oprah, kept around for sentimentality’s sake will have me on her show.

That’s my fantasy – what’s yours?



  1. #1 Tegan
    January 27, 2010

    Not gonna lie, started laughing so damn hard when you started prepping for the movie soundtrack! But I’ll find a way to mysteriously end up on your street for Zombie-pocalypse!


  2. #2 MMerritt
    January 27, 2010

    Maybe this is assumed, but it has to be slow zombies, not fast zombies. I hate fast zombies.

  3. #3 Raye
    January 27, 2010

    “Indeed, it turns out that middle aged geeks with agrarian tendencies will somehow be just what is needed.”

    Thanks, I needed that boost this morning!

    Sweet satisfaction!

  4. #4 MEA
    January 27, 2010

    Women, esp. those over the age of 40, will not start pushing out a pup every year or so, even if they are not only delighted to be doing so, but also manage to have exceptionally well behaved wonder-pups.

  5. #5 Prometheus
    January 27, 2010

    We already have a pretty big pentecostal community so dealing with the slow moving brain dead is business-as-usual here in Hooterville.

    Maybe they will kill each other off and I can quit worrying whether or not the library has enough fire extinguishers.

    In a previous thread somebody mentioned post-apocalyptic ammo shortages. That made me giggle.

    I do a matchbook calculation every year of how many unexpended viable medium to small caliber rounds there are on the planet at any given moment as a heuristic exercise to affirm my opinion that people generally suck.

    We are now up to 8.67 bullets for every live/zombie human skull on earth.

    With those side-of-a-barn odds I figure even Mr. Magoo will live to repopulate the world with myopic ankle biters.

    If all else fails, I will take my saute pan and butane burner to the top of a high hill upwind of the zombie masses. Once they get a whiff of my Cervelle de Veau au Beurre Noir with slivered caper berries I’ll keep them busy building a pyramid for THE GOD OF BRAINS.

  6. #6 Erica
    January 27, 2010

    I don’t know, but you are one funny chick. I plan on working “completely betwattled” into as many conversations at possible today.

  7. #7 Round Belly
    January 27, 2010

    I completely cracked at number 2. I have 2 beds to change this morning again. So- how do you dry laundry when it’s below zero?

  8. #8 Peak Oil Hausfrau
    January 27, 2010

    I’ve got my post-zombie invasion shopping spree all planned out; but still working on the leather bustier, which lifts and separates quite nicely, and somehow magically enhances my zombie-fighting abilities.

  9. #9 Greenpa
    January 27, 2010


    MY fantasy is somehow finding enough time to have- and write out- fantasies like this…

    You’ve got to be growing meth in your garden, somewhere. Can you do a post on that? Or have you trained your chickens to mug ADHD children, and eat their pills, so you get it in the eggs?

  10. #10 Red State Green
    January 27, 2010

    Thanks, I needed a good laugh today.

  11. #11 Claire
    January 27, 2010

    Yep, pretty good, all right, though I think you could replace the turnips with Red Meat radishes. Way better looking and tasting, too.

  12. #12 Susan in NJ
    January 27, 2010

    My mom got me Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for Christmas (okay, I asked for it), better than the original IMHO.
    So my ideal post-zombie world:
    1. All that fantasy reading will actually be handy and valued and not mis-information.
    2. All the necessary laundry will be clean on D-Day.
    3. We will be able to grow rice in the backyard if necessary (or discover that one of the rice bags miraculously fills whenever it becomes empty).
    4. Instant ninja/sword/bow skills.
    5. Human and zombie rights issues create an intense demand for experience civil rights attorneys leading to excellent renumeration and protected accomodation for advocates.
    6. The shopping spree definitely.
    7. Our force field can operate as an invisibility cloak without losing its force field abilities.
    8. No one notices our well-stocked armoured ATV when we are forced to evacuate and when we do eventually breakdown in your village we will be welcomed for our unique skillset (we’re willing to become asian-american pagans if necessary).
    9. The mandatory outfit for valued women will not involve lace up leather bustiers and over the knee boots with your choice of hot pants or long slit to the waist leather skirt — and if it does, my figure will magically conform to the necessary shape.
    10. If we do unfortunately become zombies, we will retain our intellect and have a good sense of humour (like Todd the Wraith).

  13. #13 Susan in NJ
    January 27, 2010

    One more thing:
    At no time we will have to burn guitars to stay warm.

  14. #14 Roy in WA
    January 27, 2010

    Fantasy thought: All of my planned prepping activities get done by the 100’s of volunteers who magically devote their last moments on earth to saving my garden.

  15. #15 Susan
    January 27, 2010

    Of course you don’t want to wear silver lame, it’s not your color! GOLD LAME for you!

  16. #16 dogear6
    January 27, 2010

    I love your fantasy list. What I would add is:

    1. Zombies don’t come until after I’ve done the monthly supply ship run to the stores and laundry is finished.

    2. All my relatives, friends and neighbors have miraculously put food away so they don’t have to show up on my doorstep, expecting me to take care of them.

    3. My neighbors continue to have no idea that those plants in my backyard might have something worth stealing to eat.

  17. #17 Prometheus
    January 27, 2010

    “At no time we will have to burn guitars to stay warm.”

    God I hope not or the soundtrack for the future will be Appalachian steel flat tops and banjos.

    I’ll beer bong hemlock before I’ll face a world of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs wannabes.

  18. #18 Laurie in Mpls.
    January 27, 2010

    Sharon, I like your version and REALLY hope to be in your neighborhood the day the Apocalypse happens. I can’t bake bread without supervision yet, but I do know how to hand sew. Mending always comes in handy. And I have a goal of learning how to use my treadle sewing machine, so if we can just hold off the zombies until then….kthx?

    Just a couple of fantasy points I’d like to contribute:
    1) NO ONE looks good in silver lame’, and only silver lame’, so I move that we ban it outright. Lame’ of any color is a really aggressive fabric and needs to be paired with more modest fabrics to play nicely with anyone.

    2) I can fix you up with that leather bustier that lifts, separates, and provides some protection. 😉 I’ll need the leather, leather needles, steel boning (lots), grommets, and about a year of hand sewing time….

    2a) You’re on your own for the hot pants and/or slit skirt. Trousers with small metal squares or even rings sewn to them provide better protection.

    3) Not only will the middle aged women with actual knowledge NOT be bringing coffee to the 20 somethings, they will be part of the “war council” (I use that term loosely for planning committee) and be ordering the 20 somethings to do stuff. Useful stuff. Like weed the gardens and all the heavy lifting and in their spare time, learning to use those long bows that someone can miraculously make. ‘Cause the youngsters really don’t have the experience to run the show. Oh, yeah, and fetch the tea for *us*. 😉

    4) All of the incredibly privileged, incredibly plugged in kids/tweens/teenagers I know will suddenly realize that they were wasting their lives on their iPods and cell phones, and willingly pitch in with the massive amount of mundane tasks that suddenly need to be done by hand.

    Other than those adds, I think you have it covered. Carry on! 😀

  19. #19 rheather
    January 27, 2010

    First off, I want to base my zombies on Christopher Moore’s Stupidest Angel book.

    Then I can just put up a sigh that says ‘No brains here, Ikea that way’, and be done with it. Just a week or so of vacation ’til the angel fixes the mistake.

  20. #20 NM
    January 27, 2010

    You have me laughing out loud at work again, and, as usual, people are looking at me strangely. I like your version, and Laurie’s add ons.
    Here are mine:
    1. The invasion won’t happen until I’ve bought land, built a (small but lovely, post-electric ready and earthquake-proof) house and started my (wildly successful) CSA. And hired people to help run it while I’m fighting zombies.
    2. Somehow, even though the power grid goes down, we’ll keep the Internet.
    3. I will have cleverly disguised the entrance to my farm thoroughly enough to make it invisible to zombies, thus giving us a safe sanctuary.
    4. I will have (quickly and painlessly) lost 20 pounds and developed a lot of muscles, so as to look good in the leather bustier, over-the-knee boots and tight pants. I will also have somehow miraculously become an expert gymnast — for those spectacular fighting leaps, you know. I will definitely be the wise, experienced leader telling all the 20 and 30-somethings what to do, and then kindly explaining how to do it. While keeping my house spotless, effortlessly whipping up fantastic meals, and taking in lost animals. Who will not fight with the ones I already have.
    5. I will have developed highly articulate, extremely calm and polite debating skills, so that when people try to explain to me how this is all Obama’s fault, the liberals’ fault, etc., I will be able to out-argue and convince them within 5 minutes flat, with a clever, kindly but irrefutable remark or two.

  21. #21 NM
    January 27, 2010

    Oh, one more thing. Somehow the zombie invasion will trigger the discovery that I Can carry a tune, and sing, and dance to an actual beat, after all. I realize all this is asking a lot, but hey, it’s my fantasy. 😀

  22. #22 paula
    January 27, 2010

    i have that same fantasy of the 12 hours notice no one else gets. Not only will I get to shop, but I’ll have time to swing by the school and pick up the kids, and it will give the husband time to come home from work (with his police issue gun of course! in Australia we dont get to stockpile guns…or ammo. shit even if he does bring home the gun we’ll have to use potato pellets for bullets. Im gonna have to rethink…)

    and it will give the (old sleepy)dog time to learn how to kill…

  23. #23 Susan in NJ
    January 27, 2010

    Prometheus — better lap steel and banjos than John Philip Sousa.

  24. #24 Ted
    January 27, 2010

    Walter M Miller Jr’s (well known for Canticle for Leibowitz) short story “Dark Benediction” is interesting. The “zombies” are infected with a extraterrestrial parasite that causes growth of new sensory organs and more nerves endings on their now grey skin. “Hyphers” as they are called, are compelled to spread the parasite, which is implied to be more benevolent than parasite would imply. It’s worth tracking down, and is collected in either a book by the title of the short story or another collection called “Conditionally Human”.

  25. #25 Michelle
    January 27, 2010

    “but if the novels get the Navy Seals and the master-archers, I want them.”

    I’d be happy with just the SEALS and the archers – Now, if you don’t mind – the rest is just details. We’re talking eye-chocolate here!

  26. #26 gaiasdaughter
    January 28, 2010

    Okay, normally I wouldn’t do this, but the irony is just too great. My DIL (who has a small business sandblasting original art onto glassware) just came out with a zombie apocalypse line which includes recycled glass items (for those of you who take Sharon’s advice to heart and don’t buy new). See her spouted bottles here:

    As for my own zombie encounters, please ask them to hold off until I get my house built — the passive solar one with the central masonry stove that heats the entire house, cooks the food and provides hot water on only one log per day. The one with the secret room at the back of the closet where the zombies will never find us. But no leather bustiers and knee-high boots, please. At sixty, even a miraculous Barbie-esque figure transformation would be insufficient!

  27. #27 Prometheus
    January 28, 2010

    “Prometheus — better lap steel and banjos than John Philip Sousa.”

    First they came for the flügelhorns….and I said nothing…..

  28. #28 Sharon Astyk
    January 28, 2010

    Prometheus, you are fast becoming my new favorite commenter!


  29. #29 Prometheus
    January 28, 2010

    I’m not normally this funny. It’s just subject matter kismet.

    A little ice storm is building up and I am watching the good people of Hooterville playing out their own version of the zombie apocalypse.

    I have been advised that the shelves of Walmart are stripped bare and the courtesy electric scooters for those crippled by their own fat have run out of electricity.

    My intern went home to hide in a fraidy hole with the last box of captain crunch that she wrestled away from a little old lady.

    Silly non-germans. What do you mean? You don’t have a bunker?!?!?


    Two things Prussians love: Marzipan and Worst Case Scenarios.

  30. #30 BlissfulBee
    January 28, 2010

    Trying not to crack up too loudly at work. Doesn’t help that I’m in the midst of re-reading the “Dies the Fire” series…

  31. #31 Susan B
    January 28, 2010

    A middleish-aged medium-soft doomer chick encourages, “To infinity and beyond!” The crowd cheers and picks up their shovels. The zombies run for their lives.

  32. #32 stripey_cat
    January 29, 2010

    I think my first part of the fantasy is that I can either start making SSRIs in the kitchen, or that I come off them without withdrawal and the underlying condition improves. Or maybe some wise-woman come to save us all will tell me a traditional cure that actually works!

    After that, I want to have zombie-ass-kicking trousers that don’t chafe or restrict my movement, a miraculous return to teenage muscle tone and fitness, and a row of really dumb zombies to work off some aggression on. Basically, I want to turn into River Tam (film-state) for half an hour or so.

    Then I can settle down to the hard work of the war council (can we have a sand-table with a relief map on it, and little model zombies?), arranging food supplies and small-scale industrial production, and generally being appreciated for robust planning capabilities (seriously – failsafes and contingency plans are far too often regarded as negative, unnecessary worry in my experience). Then, once everything is running OK, can I have nice, sunny weather for gardening please?

    Finally, actually, a fantasy that hard work in the fields and zombie-slaying won’t trash my hands for fine sewing and spinning.

  33. #33 Zuska
    January 29, 2010

    I have been advised that the shelves of Walmart are stripped bare and the courtesy electric scooters for those crippled by their own fat have run out of electricity.

    Or maybe those courtesy electric scooters are for people with invisible disabilities, like congestive heart failure, who can’t walk around a big-ass store like WalMart to do their shopping.

    In my Zombie Apocalypse scenario, people will cease making fun of those who are overweight, as if it were a moral failing, and those who have invisible disabilities. And women will not feel such a strong need to fantasize about the Zombie Apocalypse suddenly making them thinner, maybe even thin enough to fit into Zombie Apocalypse standard issue hawt women outfits, because no one will give a shit if we are ZOMG larger than a size three, least of all ourselves.

    Also, once the Zombies have been successfully fought to defeat, there will be a problem with disposal of all the dead zombies. We will come up with a magic solution that allows us to rapidly process and store the zombie bodies to be used later as a fuel source, especially helpful for heating water to launder bedsheets for kids who just didn’t get the memo about no bed-wetting post-Zombie Apocalypse.

  34. #34 Zuska
    January 29, 2010

    Hmm, after posting the above comment, I thought perhaps I should make it absolutely clear that I was talking in the last paragraph about a Zombie Apocalypse, Hollywood movie style, thus the fanciful imagination of using dead zombie bodies for fuel. I am not referring to human beings. I do not wish to cause distress to anyone.

  35. #35 Lora
    January 30, 2010

    I would trade all your items for a few community members with the humor of Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost. All we’ve got here is a bunch of Very Serious Yankees and the coked-up yuppie ex-bankers who nitpick with them at town hall meetings. There have been town hall meetings here for 350+ years, the mere fact of a nearby graveyard full of self-exhuming bodies won’t faze these people.

    On the plus side, I am in Biotech-land, so our chances of coming up with a technical solution to the Zombie Apocalypse are non-negligible. However, because of aforementioned dickering over whose turn it was to announce Robert’s Rules of Order at the beginning of last month’s meeting, and then the corruption of whose cousin poured the bad concrete and absconded with our payments, the solution will not be implemented for at least a decade. And then it will run 2X over budget. The question of “how can it possibly be running over budget when your cousin ran off to Fiji, let’s take the money/goods transfers back from Cousin and pay the actual workers who are finishing it properly” will require at least 20 years and three back-room tax breaks to resolve. My only hope is that somehow in the Zombie Apocalypse, there will be no PowerPoint in these meetings.

    And no, it will not matter that there is no tax collector anyway. Whose turn it was to collect taxes, and how they would be collected, is fuel for another decades-long argument.

    I have full confidence that our local ex-bankers will insist on money in some form. These are the same (currently between jobs) geniuses who ran the economy into the ground NOW, and they still think that it was a brilliant move. You could tell them, “No, I am not going to trade you bits of paper for food. You can have two jars of dillybeans if you help me pick though,” and they would still try to reckon it up in bits of paper or gold or something, followed by a lecture on the merits of capitalism, as if black market bartering is somehow not capitalism.

  36. #36 Prometheus
    January 30, 2010

    “Or maybe those courtesy electric scooters are for people with invisible disabilities, like congestive heart failure, who can’t walk around a big-ass store like WalMart to do their shopping.”

    Or maybe they are there because they reduce the slip and fall liability profile and increase sales in “prepared foods” which is an industry term-of-art for shove in your face and chew on the way home in the SUV garbage that has a huge margin for Walmart.

    I read the GMS proposals in 91 and they made me want to throw up.

    Motorized carts are there, like everything else, to increase sales by exploiting a demographic.

    That is why they call it a store.

  37. #37 stripey_cat
    January 31, 2010

    Prometheus, I really think you’re making unwarranted assumptions about the buying habits of people that uses mobility scooters. There may be some truth in the statement that someone who has mobility issues may also have problems standing for long enough to cook, but most food-prep tasks can be performed sitting down.

    Of course the shop wants to increase its revenue, and they’ve realised that people with disabilities still have money to spend: make it easier for them to shop and they’ll spend more. How is this bad?

    Finally, on the fat subject: there are many hidden disabilities that cause a weight increase, directly like thyroid problems, indirectly by medication that causes weight gain, or indirectly because you can no longer exercise. Stop assuming that all fat is elective and a moral failing. This is close to my heart because my mother has been taking corticosteroids for the last twenty-odd years, for a hidden metabolic disorder. Oddly enough, she’s gone from a gaunt bean-pole to 16 stone in that time. She also, incidentally, sometimes needs to use a scooter, most recently when she was discharged from hospital after a liver infection. As a complete aside, she’s a very good cook too!

  38. #38 Prometheus
    January 31, 2010


    “Stop assuming that all fat is elective and a moral failing.”

    I don’t make that assumption and my statements about buying habits are not assumptions either. They mirror statements in the sales literature of the commercial manufacturers as well as the retailer’s guides for eyeline product placement.

    Sorry to hear your mother has mobility problems. Mine too.

    Having a courtesy scooter when my mother insists on visiting a monstrous blue warehouse where they sell five gallon drums of gummy bears is handy. She has a foot long titanium rod in her leg and has no thyroid gland at all. But we are not so naive as to think the scooters are there to accommodate her quest for sudoku puzzle books and frozen peas.

    The scooters are there for the retail profitability that accompanies indolence and gluttony.

    Your mother, mine and a lot of other moms with congestive heart disease, arthritis and a myriad of other disabilities are exercising a little opportunism born of necessity and flexing their ingenuity.

    In the alley behind my office the cardinals take shredded paper from legal petitions for nests. Do you think they think it is there because Justicia concerns herself with the needs of cardinals? I think not. Cardinals tend to have a pragmatic worldview

  39. #39 RobGoblin
    November 2, 2011

    Sharon, your just gay. Grow up.

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