A (mostly) quiet little place on the corner of Kenmore and Grace


Since I was young it has always been a dream of mine to live in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood when the Cubs won the pennant. Anybody who follows baseball closely (even you Cardinals fans reading this) knows the Cubs are a year away from contention. With the number one farm system in baseball and top prospects trickling into Chicago weekly, there’s a buzz on the north side that hasn’t been felt since 2008. (I could go on for days about the Cubs and their farm system but this isn’t a blog about baseball).

It’s been a while since I last blogged and some don’t know but this has been a very trying summer for me. With the way everything happened this summer it was almost like I was stuck in a comedic movie about myself that was funny to everybody else but me. I spent months looking for the right place to live and I knew where I wanted to be but since my entire salary right now is based on tips, there’s no way to prove how much I actually make so it made it tough to find something that would suit me.

On apartment viewings people would ask where I wanted to live and I’d tell them Wrigleyville and they’d say only under 25 year old college grad, out-of-state, Cubs fans want to live in Wrigleyville … check, check, check. I met with one company who asked what I’d like in an apartment and I said “well I’m not picky … but I’d really like exposed brick and a fireplace in Wrigleyville.” After a few failed viewings I was about two hours away from re-signing at my old apartment when I found the perfect place on Craigslist and set up a visit. Two weeks later I was moving in.

My new home 

When I said I wanted to live in Wrigleyville I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I’d ever live as close to Wrigley Field as I do now. My new address is 3765 North Kenmore Avenue (Unit 2W … care packages are always welcome) which is less than a block away from the stadium. I don’t think my parents believed just how close I was until we moved in and the Cubs were in the middle of a game against the Brewers – it was like we were in the stadium. From outside we could hear the fans singing the seventh inning stretch and the boos every time Ryan Braun walk to the plate. I told my family it felt like I was moving back into Purdue as the average age at this location dropped a ton and people looked genuinely happy to be living in this area (unlike my last area where people walked around like zombies). I’ve met more people in three days than I did in the 14 months at my old home (the guys below us just graduated from UW-Madison) and the drunk people on the front lawn of our flat don’t ask me to ‘spare some change’ every time I walk by, they’re the two girls who live above us and are soaking up every last ounce of summer before they have to return to DePaul. The new place has exposed brick (and a fireplace) and it’s amazing how much cooler pictures and paintings look on a cool backdrop. Below I posted a slideshow of pictures from the new place. They say a picture says 1000 words but no amount of pictures can capture how neat it is to walk out my door and see middle-aged men with mits on trying to catch batting practice balls as they fly out of Wrigley Field, or a dad playing catch with his son just before they enter the stadium. What I’m saying is my door is always open (and we have a futon and sectional that will sleep two comfortably – three uncomfortably) and unlike my last apartment I’m not embarrassed any more to have people up to see me.

-D

The sour Bulls fans that made my night


For those of you who didn’t know, I recently started serving part-time at Giordano’s Pizza in Chicago, the premier spot for Chicago-style deep dish.

I’ve been done with training for about two weeks now and I love every second I am on the clock serving. Being so close to numerous hotels and the Magnificent Mile, we get a ton of first-time guests and I always like to personalize the conversation I’m having with my guests in any way possible (it’s said that a server’s tip can be increased up to 15% by them simply personalizing a conversation). Chicago, being the sports-crazy town it is makes it easy for me to find something to talk about with my guests.

Recently, Giordano’s landed Chicago’s biggest sports star, former MVP and number one draft pick, Derrick Rose as a corporate partner. We now advertise our pizza as “The 1″ as in “the number one pizza in Chicago,” as well as Derrick Rose’s jersey number, one. We even have a ‘Derrick Rose pizza’ that is made with his favorite ingredients. What makes this story I’m about to tell even more ironic is that I’ll be serving Rose or his entourage in the coming weeks as Giordano’s is hosting his “coming back” party as he returns from missing an entire season with a torn ACL.

Rose received a great deal of scrutiny toward the end of last season from Bulls fans as his team was pushing a Miami Heat team to the limit in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. He was 14 months removed from an ACL tear, cleared to play in the series and was performing highlight reel dunks in pregame that excited a desperate Bulls fanbase as it was already out its team’s top three scorers from the season. He chose to sit out the series as it “was in the best interest for him to rest for the duration of the season.” (I need not mention the amount of players in the NBA and other collegiate and professional sports that returned from ACL tears in 3/4 of the time). Here’s a funny parody video of the injury Zack and I used to blare in our roommate Matt’s (a die-hard Bulls fan) face last year when he’d start talking about Rose and the Bulls. It’s a YouTube video of … well you’ll just have to watch it and try not to laugh

Chicagoians, being as pompous and arrogant as they are when it comes to sports, act like Indianapolis isn’t even on a basketball map as they forget the toughest teams Jordan’s Bulls had to play in the 90s were the hicks from four hours south. A few times in my short tenure at Giordano’s, I’ve let patrons know I am a proud Indianapolisian (I choose not to use the disgusting “H” word … it makes me feel dirty) and am met with some shrugs and jokes about my choice of NBA team. It hadn’t affected my tip until last night when I was talking to a group of guys who had just left the Blackhawks game and hadn’t dined with us before. One of them asked about the Derrick Rose pizza and the others started chiding Rose for his choice to sit out the Heat series last season. One of them then asked me, “Well, you’ve been around here, what are your thoughts on his decision?” Quickly I told them I was from Indianapolis and didn’t care about Rose’s injury status as the Bulls were just another speedbump in the Pacers’ road to unseating King James and the Miami Heat as the top dog in the NBA. Naturally, they had some choice words for me as they called me an idiot and were quick to tell me how wrong I was – they must have stopped watching the NBA Playoffs after their beloved Bulls got knocked out last season. (On a side note, the first thing we do when we approach a table is inform the guest that it takes around 45 minutes for our deep-dish pizza to cook so they know up front). These gentlemen were in a hurry and weren’t in the mood for a 45 minute wait so they asked me how long it would take for us to make the Derrick Rose pizza. I mean, you couldn’t have teed me up nicer for a response to a question like that. Without a moment’s pause, I told them if they ordered a D Rose pizza it would be ready in about 17 months … I couldn’t even finish the sentence before I started chuckling (it’s okay to laugh at your own jokes if they’re funny). The flabbergasted looks on the gentlemen’s faces told me that I had crossed the line. After about a 10 second pause they chose to all get sandwiches and didn’t speak to me again other than asking for the check.

At first, I had a picture of the receipt up but I chose to take it down for a few reasons. If you’d like to see the receipt itself, let me know and I can send a picture. The overall bill wasn’t too expensive, but the gentlemen wrote “0.00″ HUGE on the tip line and then put an X next to it as if he thought I may have missed that HE STIFFED ME!!! Then, on the line that said ‘signature’, he wrote (expletive) the Pacers and underneath he wrote “GO BULLS!!!”

Evidently the gentlemen didn’t think I was funny as I thought I was (believe me, it’s not the first time this has happened). Maybe the guys will come back in a few months apologizing to me for being too harsh about a joking matter, letting me know I was correct in telling them the Pacers are more relevant now than the Bulls – with or without Rose. Or maybe I’ll just have to put this receipt in a special place and look at it the next time I need a laugh.

Until next time,

Oh, and GO PACERS!!!!!!!!!!

My second firsts


My first day

My first day at the Big Ten Network started a little differently than my first day at Alpaytac.

For one, I didn’t have to be at work until 2 p.m. so I got to stay up late the night before, sleep in and still hit the gym before I made my way into the city as others were on their way home. The building was also a lot more secure than what I was used to as I had to pass a security checkpoint to enter the building, use a security card to get into the elevator and another security card to get into the BTN office. Luckily I now have a pass (with my picture on it … I’m so official) that unlocks all three areas for me.

When I first arrived, most of the eight-to-four people were on their way out and the football people were on their way in. For a job that requires so many small tasks and so much attention to detail I was at first surprised when I saw how small the football staff was. The first few hours were filled with training on the various systems I will be using. I received a pretty cool BTN Nalgene water bottle (I messed up telling my supervisor I didn’t drink coffee because I could have gotten a huge BTN mug that would have made for a great Christmas gift for dad … or a stupid big bowl of lucky charms cereal).

After a few hours of training I received my first task, to write a small bio on each BTN host and analyst. I took great precaution in writing the bios and even though I had completed hundreds of writing tasks in the past I had to make sure each bio was the best one I’ve ever written – after all, I’m working to receive a full-time position once football season is over and I can’t do that by making stupid errors. Something else stuck in my mind as I was writing the bios; when I left Alpaytac I requested some feedback/constructive criticism on my two months with the firm. Most of what I heard was good but my Alpaytac supervisors told me I needed to work on my proofreading and editing skills. I can promise that is the FIRST time I’ve ever heard that (somewhere, Carl Abernathy is chuckling).

Throughout the night, my BTN supervisor stood over my shoulder and coached me through the processes of working the new systems while the IU and Minnesota games were being played … well, that’s what was supposed to happen but if you watch The Newsroom (which I’m now hooked on, thanks to somebody) you’ll know that what’s supposed to happen and what does happen are worlds apart in a newsroom. I can explain the process of how BTN splits up games later but here’s an abbreviated lesson. Since there are multiple games on the same channel at each time, each region gets a different game.  Game viewing is broken up into areas in which a certain school has the most followers. For example, Thursday night the IU game was supposed to be shown in Indiana and Illinois while the Minnesota game was supposed to be shown in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Unfortunately (not really, we know nobody REALLY cares about IU football) the Minnesota game was being shown across the whole region and we had a bevvy of mad fans who had spent their whole week looking forward to their son/relative/friend/favorite team playing and then they couldn’t watch it (it got pretty bad … I was the one who had to sift through the emails we received). Because of the problem, my trainer had his mind on other things and didn’t have time to show me what to do so I was sent home early. Even with the small crisis at the end, I had a great first day.

Football Saturday Number 1

My first football Saturday had a different feel than other work days and I talked about it in my weekly BTN blog post where I’m supposed to write about my Saturday experience (you can read it here). On a side note, if I would have known I was getting my picture taken that day I wouldn’t have worn that pompous shirt … who am I kidding, that’s one of the best shirts I have! There are a multitude of small things that I can tell will make these next 10 weeks a blast. First, breakfast, lunch and dinner are served to the Saturday crew and that may not mean a lot to most, but to a poor college graduate who eats turkey and rice 20+ times a week, I’ll take any free meal I get. Second (it’s okay for you to be jealous), this is my desk setup.

In the middle I have a desktop where I do most of my work: on the left is a 22 inch TV that has better HD picture than in my apartment and I’m actually encouraged to watch football all day on it (if these people knew me they would know that’s about the most counterproductive thing they could’ve done): on the right is a small laptop just so I don’t have to minimize whatever I’m doing if I want to refresh my Twitter timeline (which I’m also encouraged to be on).

I got to work around 10 a.m. and got the scraps of an Einstein Bros. breakfast and at noon we were treated with pizza and sandwiches from the local bakery. There’s no such thing as seniority in these feasts and if you don’t grab something while it’s there, it’ll be gone – it reminded me of an Ingels family Thanksgiving. In what seemed like the blink of an eye it was 4 o clock and my work was running low so they sent me home. Yes, I had to leave before they served dinner! Not that I had a moment to think about getting stressed out and in case I do in the future, I’ll just poke my head over my divider and look at the view of the Chicago skyline from the eighth floor of the Montgomery Ward building.

I’ve now been with BTN for about a week and I even have a pass for a shuttle that will pick me up from the train station, take me to work and then take me back to the train station when the night is finished. Another plus of the job is the trio I work with. I love how my direct supervisor Derek speaks to me like a friend and not like some stupid college graduate that’s probably in over my head. It’s nice that his boss, Elizabeth,  is always there to answer my questions and genuinely cares about how I’m doing and how the job is treating me (it’s highly unlikely that they are reading this so I’m not just saying it for brownie points). I also appreciate that they encouraged me to get another job and that they are understanding enough to be flexible on my work hours. I just found out about 3 hours ago that I’ll be picking up a part-time serving job at one of the best spots for Chicago style pizza; the only downside is that I’ll spend another fall (my third straight) missing Bears games on Sundays because I’ll be at work, but things could always be worse.

Happy Birthday sis,

Until next time …

 

What a difference a week can make


What a cliche title for my first blog post in a little over a month, but soon, it’ll make more sense.

Last Tuesday I was on my way home from work, the L was packed, the sun was just setting over the horizon and the street corner markets were booming. I normally get off the train around 5:50 and make my .4 mile trek back to my apartment (the exact times will make sense later). On a normal night, I stroll past McDonalds and Uptown Baptist Church just before 6 o clock but on this Tuesday night I had to grab a few Gatorades and 5 hour energy for the morning so I went another way. While I was in the grocery store next to my house I heard what sounded like a small army of police and fire trucks flying down Sheridan Road (the road I live on). By the time I had gotten to my apartment the whole city block was roped off because there had been a shooting. To be honest I didn’t think much of it and I figured it’d happen sooner or later around my area … at night – not during the evening rush hour.

When I got home – with the help of my disgruntled girlfriend – I realized that five people had been shot outside of a church on the 4500 block of North Sheridan Ave. ( I live at 4423 North Sheridan). By the end of the night the authorities had found 20-30 shell casings from an “AK-47-like” assault rifle that shot up the corner of Uptown Baptist Church at 5:57 p.m. (now the time above makes sense), killing two people and leaving three other in critical condition; cue the gun control activists (Story in the Chicago Tribune). My normal trip would have taken me past the street corner just minutes after the incident. Throughout Tuesday night my fear turned to anger which turned to sadness for the victims that day, and for the innocent bystanders who were in the middle of a prayer service for the homeless people of the area in the church when the event took place. There are events that take place that are sobering to the soul and this was one of them. For some weird reason I felt a little better when I found out the shooting was stimulated from two rivaling gangs of this area and not some lunatic who just felt like shooting up the steps of a church corner. The next morning my 5:45 a.m. walk to the L was the eeriest thing I’ve ever done. What is normally a busy walk with people out and about felt more like a walk through a town that hadn’t seen a breath of life in decades.  The good that came out of the situation (I’m a glass half full type of guy) was that Mayor Emanuel wanted to prove the incident was just a freak act and not an everyday occurrence so he walked the very streets of Uptown the next day. Since the shooting there has been cops and firefighters on every block of Sheridan Road for miles each way protecting the street that is dubbed a “Chicago Safe Passage Route” (because of the elementary school just around the corner). I now walk to and from work each day accompanied by the brave men and women of the Chicago Police Department and feel safer than ever.

Now that I got that out of the way – I had to start with the bad to get to the good:

The last month and a half has been a frustrating puzzle for me that has been tough to swallow. I have so badly wanted to get into the sports side of the industry and my mom can attest that I’ve been working my tail off to catch a break. Each unanswered email was a nail that stuck a little deeper. I knew I had to get lucky to get my foot in the door at the right place and that’s exactly what I was; lucky.

I have spent the better part of the last 30 days emailing different individuals tirelessly trying to introduce myself to any sports organization I could. I’d find contact information, email somebody offering even a volunteer hand just to show my willingness to work. Often times I’d get no response or a “no thank you.” With one company, though, my relentlessness paid off. The supervisor of an area of one company asked to meet me one day (for what I thought was a volunteer opportunity) but I went ahead and treated it like a job interview. An hour later She had me take an AP Style Quiz, write a press release and edit another (never have I been happier to have sat through Carl’s Friday 3:30 editing sessions at The Exponent). A few days later I got a call and was offered a position. I am now proud to say starting Thursday, my new work home will be at 600 West Chicago Ave. in the historic Montgomery Ward building on Chicago’s near north side. Each day when I get off the elevator on the eighth floor I will be greeted with this sign that will serve as a (short-lived) reminder that hard work does pay off:

photo

Starting Thursday I will officially be an employee of Big Ten Network’s football Saturdays. I will start off in a freelance position that could (will) turn into a full time position with salary and benefits. My work week will now start on Thursdays and end on Mondays as I cover Big Ten Football for the pioneer (and top dog) of college sports broadcasting networks. For months I’ve been begging people for just one chance to show them what I’ve got and after all that talk, I’m in the dish and it’s my turn to produce. I’ll save the tour of my new office and our beautiful building for another, picture-filled, post. Another thing that excites me for Thursday is that I’ll be a new member of Worlds Gym which may not seem like a big deal to you (but I don’t care because it is one to me). Right now I work out at a YMCA that takes about an hour to get to each morning between walking and switching trains. The gym I will be going to later this week is one that I can see from my apartment window.

The weekend, like every other with AJ, went too fast; I got to see her new home in Western Illinois before an abbreviated trip to Purdue to see old friends and roommates (Happy Birthday Tara). Although getting on the Amtrak from Galesburg back to Chicago was hard like always, I couldn’t help but get excited for what will soon be round two and a new chapter in my new life in Chicago.

The ups and downs of my first few weeks


I’ve only been in Chicago for around 3 weeks and I can already see the transformation it’s taking.

For instance, last Wednesday I got a seat on the L on my way to work for the first time since I’ve been here and I had a Starbucks in one hand and a newspaper in the other (piece of evidence #1). I’m already sick of the Cubs night games because I spend my entire ride home with a bunch of “out of town-ers” who don’t know proper public transportation etiquette (piece of evidence #2).

I’m also starting to pick the trends up from around the city. I’ve realized around 5 a.m. when I get on the L to go to the gym, I’m accompanied by a bunch of homeless men – one of which last week had defecated on the floor of the train (no I didn’t see him do it but judging by how he was guarding it and sitting around it, I could only assume), but I can’t lie and say I didn’t try to get a picture to send to my friends. By the time my workout is over around 7:45 the homeless have been run off and the L is full of business men and women (If I forgot to say it before I’m already over the public transportation system). Following a homeless man, watching him meander from trash can to trash can and then grip the poles on the train makes me confident in my decision to fall into the people around me rather than wonder what germ(s) my hand has just touched on the train.

Another saddening reality I’ve been exposed to is that this city, like all others, has its problems. From Wednesday, July 3 until Sunday, July 7, 81 people had been shot in Chicago. Although the city’s murder rate is down from this time last year, it was a historical weekend for shootings. This came on the eve of a controversial decision to pass a conceal carry law making Chicago the last city in Illinois – and one of the last in the nation to allow concealed carry. Until I moved up here I had always heard about the violence but I didn’t understand why it was so frequent. I posted a 13 minute short at the end of this blog that uncovers how this city fell apart so fast. It is as vulgar as it is disturbing but I encourage you to watch it if you have the time. [Don't worry grandma, I'm not in that part of town! ;) ].

Speaking of which, my grandma turned 80 years young today and I had my first Skype chat with the entire family after their dinner at Hollyhock Hills on the north side of Indianapolis (thankfully they didn’t rub it in as I’m up here eating cold chicken and rice two meals a day). If I said this last few weeks haven’t been rough I’d be lying. Last Monday I was informed that I didn’t get a job that I had spent about 40 hours on throughout the interview process. I will not complain too much because I know I’m not the only person that will spend hours on a job application and sometimes not even get a response back. It isn’t helping that AJ is half-way around the world right now enjoying her time in Italy and the only time she can talk is when I am not supposed to be on my phone at work. Although it has been (is) rough, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

A friend from our church got me in contact with the Vice President of the Outdoor Company a few months back and he has helped me sharpen my resume enough so that it’s worthy of being sent to his contacts throughout Chicago. Around noon Wednesday, he CC’ed me in 22 emails he sent with my resume to various contacts in the Chicago sporting industry (Bears, Cubs, Bulls, Sox, Blackhawks, BTN, MLB, Sporting News, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, etc.) and I’m impatiently awaiting a response from at least one of them because that’s all I need. Regardless of what happens, I know the man upstairs has a plan and I’m not going to let myself get too down while waiting to see what it is.

Although work hasn’t gone how I expected it to go, I’m ecstatic for the coming weeks. This weekend one of my buddies is coming up from Indy for a bachelor party and he decided to come up Thursday so I can go to town on him in NBA 2K, MLB 2k, Madden, or any other game of his choosing for that matter! Although it has felt like centuries (even though it has only been a few weeks) since I got to see her last, AJ is coming over from Galesburg Friday the 19th to see her Purdue friends and I before I leave for Green Lake on the 20th and get to see family and friends for the first time in a month. My family also rented a house for a long weekend in the city the first week of August. If I’m good, I may just get a free Cubs ticket out of it. Last, but certainly not least, we have decided to have the annual Miller Low Life fantasy football league draft at my apartment the last week of August. It’s only fitting seeing as how I have been the Toilet Bowl champion two times in the last three seasons (building a dynasty, I know).

Again, the video posted underneath is a short titled Chi-raq – a disturbingly fitting name for what has occurred on this City’s south side in the last few years. If you have the time, you will find it quite interesting.

I’ve made it through the first week .. almost


Greetings from the windy wet city: I already talked about the rain Monday, but Tuesday brought a week-long fury of storms. On Wednesday morning on my way to the gym, I waded through a nasty thunderstorm that dropped over two inches of rain in less than two hours. By the time I got to the gym my entire body was soaked (again) and my new umbrella had ricocheted the rain drops from my head to my duffel bag that was holding all my work clothes. I finished an entire workout with wet shoes and it wasn’t until after I got out of the shower that I realized my dress shirt, pants, shoes, undershirt, boxers and socks had all been soiled. What a way to start the day!

Two days into life here and was already over the public transportation system. I still have yet to get a seat on any of my eight rides to and from work, but I don’t know how much I’d enjoy my personal space bubble being popped by somebody standing literally on top of me. What Hoosiers would consider a full load, Chicagoans see as a way to fit one, two or 20 more people on board. My tipping point was when I was wedged between two people and a man a few feet behind me fainted because of the humidity on the train. After a 20 minute delay (in which I may have been able to move a few inches without touching anybody) we were rolling again and the man had been tended to. Also, I now carry a bottle of hand sanitizer on me at all times because I can’t help but think of all the nasty people that have touched the rails in the last day on the L.

Not much has happened at work but there’s not a lot I am willing to talk about on here because I don’t know who is reading it so I’ll save that for a conversation the next time I see any of my readers. Luckily it has been a busy news week or else I don’t know what I’d be doing to pass the time at the job. Along with being assigned to reading the Wall Street Journal front-to-back every day, I set up a Google news account and can now tell you every aspect of the Aaron Hernandez situation, the trial of George Zimmerman, the 500th person executed in the state of Texas, the Edward Snowden saga (the man is a saint in my book) and even a little politics … yes, I said politics. I have my filter set to the usual, breaking news, Bears, Pacers, Cubs, Blackhawks, Colts, Boilers, but I set it up so that around 1 p.m. (just after my lunch break) it switches to U.S. News, Chicago news and Indianapolis news so I have enough to tickle my afternoon fancy (sarcasm at its best).

One neat thing about my job is that there is an outdoor patio/garden on the roof that I can go up to on a nice day and eat lunch. You can’t beat the view if looking at big buildings is your thing.

I’m ecstatic to say I may get to see Allie tomorrow for a few hours as she heads home from Galesburg to catch a Saturday flight to Italy as a graduation gift. She doesn’t understand the hype about the food and she’s never gotten to experience Chicago style pizza so I’m anxiously looking forward to showing her the best deep dish there is!

Not too much is going on this weekend; I’m in the middle of a pretty exciting potential opportunity that mom or dad can talk more about, but I am pumped to say that I have a ticket to my first Cubs game as a Chicago citizen next Friday since I have the day off work. An old teacher of mine is coming up with some friends and since I have Thursday and Friday off, he offered me an extra ticket for the game.

One final thought … since the Blackhawks are the only team I follow that actually wins, I have what would fill 4 basement walls worth of newspaper articles, posters and magazines from this week ready to be framed and mounted … lets hope I have an understanding future wife.

I gotta go though, the Pacers are on the clock … oh who am I kidding, I don’t have cable …

Until next time

The story of Me and Sports (dedicated to you-know-who)


dt2332:

It’s been tough sledding but she’s come a long way in the last year!

Originally posted on 20something:

I’m not going to lie – and this is pretty high on the self-disclosing scale, at least for me – I’ve always wanted to be a dedicated sports fan. I grew up in a suburb twenty minutes from Detroit (and before you let the stereotypes tidal-wave into your head, NO, I did not grow up next to Eminem nor have I ever witnessed a drive-by … I know some who think specifically of these things when I mention my hometown). Again, for the sake of Internet anonymity (if there’s such a thing), I won’t mention the name of my town, but most people are pretty solid Michigan sports fans. Lions, Tigers, Red Wings (Oh My! So cliche but I had to add it on the end – like I literally couldn’t stop myself from typing it), plus the Pistons. Although a lot of my family fits the Michigan sports fan…

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