Spring (or Fall or Summer, But Never Winter) is a Time for Change

Guest post by J. Squid

Some of you in my meatspace have known this for some time. And a couple of you in my cyberspace have known as well. For the last year and a half, plus or minus, I have been transitioning. You can probably get a fairly good idea of when I started by looking at when I changed my commenting name from Jake Squid to J. Squid. I will be changing it again in the near future. The reason I haven’t announced this before is that if word of my transition had gotten back to my employer, I would have been immediately fired. As I have left that job (for my 2nd retirement), I no longer have to be closeted in most places and times. When I first told people, I said that I had done a reasonable facsimile of a man for 50 years and now I’m going to do a reasonable facsimile of a woman for the next 50 years.

I’ve known since some time before I was 10 that I was (or would do better as, the context of time and place certainly had its influence on me) a girl. Unfortunately, at the time, there was no such thing as transitioning as far as any of us knew. When I did learn about the possibility of transition, 10 or so years later, it wasn’t realistically achievable for me. I’m a terrible actor and there was no way I was going to pull off being super feminine for psychiatric and medical professionals. So it wasn’t a possibility for me.

And then, you know, life continues. I fell in love, got married and lived 10 years as the victim in an abusive relationship. When that broke up, just before my 31st birthday, I strongly considered transitioning and looked at it again. Alas, it was just as unachievable for me as it had been 10 and 15 years earlier, so I put it out of mind.

And, once again, life continued. I fell in love for the second time, got married and lived for close to 20 years with a wonderful and loving partner, Mrs. Squid. And then, just after my 50th birthday, my doctors FINALLY became concerned about the lump in my chest I’d been complaining about for 30 years – apparently, it just had to get BIG enough to scare them. That concern morphed, over a short period, into a mastectomy. During that whole process, the shocked look from the doctor, meeting with the surgeon, mammograms and sonograms and biopsies, more meetings with surgeons, surgery and recovery was the best time in my entire life, to that point. It was a gas and I was so very, very happy. I’d like to be happy like that again one day, but I digress…

After I had recovered from the mastectomy, I was appalled and disturbed by having nothing but chest wall on that side. On the advice of everybody in the world, I waited a year before deciding what to do. I decided I needed reconstruction. It was during that process that I began to realize that just getting back what I had before wasn’t what I wanted and I found myself disappointed that no reconstructive surgeon suggested implants. I thought about that for a couple of months and realized that what I really wanted was to transition. Can I tell you how nervous I was when I told Mrs. Squid? I mean, I was as certain as one could be that she would be okay with it, but that doesn’t really hold back the fear that you’re about to destroy your most important relationship. She listened to me, looked at me, and said, “I was wondering when you were going to figure that out.” That still brings tears to my eyes. My family was just as accepting. My friends were even more accepting and were calling me by my new name so fast it left my head spinning. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have the family and friends that I do.

Having made the decision, I was referred by my therapist to another therapist who specializes in trans issues. I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better match and her help has been invaluable. So in September of 2018, I began taking hormones. The changes over the next several months were very welcome. After about 13 months, I decided the time had come to stop vaping. (Here, I will digress, once more, to tell you how much better vaping is than not vaping, but here I find myself…) Once I stopped vaping, the effect of the hormones increased unbelievably. I had heard that oral HRT is less effective for smokers, but they really undersold that.

It has, so far, been a revelation. I am, without question, feeling better about myself than I ever have. If it hadn’t been for the degrading situation at work (they kicked out the hated brother-in-law who, it seems, was the one responsible for a great work environment), everything would’ve been perfect. Work, however, had been getting me increasingly down since last summer. The collapse of my thyroid function (after 10 years of cromulent management of the problem, I had forgotten the symptoms and didn’t realize that’s what was going on) left me crying from exhaustion every night in the shower and really broke down my resistance to the horrible work environment that had been created. On Valentine’s Day, I reached my limit and was fortunate enough to have saved enough money that I didn’t need the job, and gave my two weeks notice.

I am hopeful that once I get over the panic of not having an income for the first time since 1996 (even though I don’t actually need an income any time soon) that I will get back to feeling, well, if not happy then, at least, not depressed. We’ll call that a victory.

I have an appointment with a surgeon next month and I’m looking forward to not being lopsided for the first time in over 30 years. I can finally be me all the time and everywhere and now I can get a wardrobe together, search for the job I want and present myself as the me that I am. I’ll have time to see my friends and to get my spaces at home organized and to work on my writing and all those other things that I haven’t had time and energy for. As I enter the second half of my life (my family tends to be exceptionally long lived and I shall be optimistic about my chances), I am increasingly of the belief that I should enjoy myself while I can.

At some point I’ll reconcile my need to transition with my belief that men and women are the same – they’re people. Or I’ll decide that there is no need to reconcile those two things. Whatever.

So, yes, I am more content with myself than I have ever been, my friends and family are the best I could ever ask for, strangers are kind enough to treat you the way you signal you’d like to be treated and my hair is magnificent. MAGNIFICENT!

Posted in Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 13 Comments  

Cartoon: Billionaires Discuss Economics

If you enjoy these cartoons, help me make more by supporting my Patreon! A $1 pledge really helps.

However the Democratic primary turns out, I’m grateful to both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders for making increasing taxes on the wealthy a more prominent issue.

This one was fun to draw. The biggest drawing problem this strip presented was that three characters who had only been seen once each by the readers, would have to be recognizable as the same characters in the final panel. So a lot of thought went into the character design; each character had to have very distinctive head shapes and clothing, so that (hopefully) readers will be able to see that they’re the same characters in the final panel.

The last panel was especially fun to draw. Honestly, cartoony people freaking out is always fun to draw. (Bulge those eyeballs! Unhinge that jaw!) I also really enjoyed drawing the flowers in panel one, because they’re not the sort of thing I usually draw, and they came out well. (Drawing is always more fun when things come out well).

* * *


This cartoon has five panels, plus a small “kicker” panel below the bottom of the final panel.


This is a title panel, showing a sedate arrangement of flowers in front of a vase. That’s all just the background for the lettering, which says: “Another edifying episode of… Billionaires discuss Economics”


A middle aged-man sits in a high-backed desk chair; there is a desk in front of him, with a laptop and a cup of coffee on a saucer. He’s reading a magazine called “Tax Dodge Monthly.” But at this moment he’s looked up from the magazine to address the viewer, smiling.

SEATED MAN: Giving poor people handouts creates a culture of dependency, so the best way to help is to give them nothing.


A younger man, wearing glasses and a Yale tee shirt, stands on a tennis court, holding a tennis racket over one shoulder. He speaks to the reader, looking friendly.

TENNIS: My great-great-grandfather made a fortune busting unions and paying workers a pittance. And eventually I inherited that fortune! Why can’t poor people just do that?


A middle-aged man, balding, with a neat, pointy beard just on his chin, speaks sternly to the readers, one forefinger raised as if making a point. He’s wearing a double-breasted blazer and a necktie. Next to him, his dog looks up at him calmly. Behind him is an enormous mansion with big pillars surrounding the door.

BEARD: I’m sorry some people can’t afford health care, but we can’t help everyone with every little problem. People need to toughen up.


The three characters from the previous three panels are all in this panel, looking frightened and panicked.

SITTING MAN: A small tax increase on income over fifty million dollars? It’s highway robbery!

TENNIS: Where’s their compassion?

BEARD: Why don’t they care what happens to us?


The “Beard” character from panel four is chewing out Barry, the cartoonist.

BEARD: This cartoon is yet another example of pervasive anti-billionaire bigotry!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Economics and the like | 3 Comments  

Cartoon: Sexist Joke

If you like these cartoons, please support them on Patreon! A $1 pledge really helps.

This cartoon is another collaboration between me and the wonderful Becky Hawkins. As well as political cartoons, Becky and I collaborate on the webcomic SuperButch – hey, did I tell you folks SuperButch won a Prism Award? – and of course please check out Becky’s solo work.

My favorite parts of this cartoon – the extreme perspective in panel 2, the red panel, and the spiral lettering – were all Becky’s ideas.

That’s the best part of collaboration, for me – seeing the ideas that Becky comes up with that I hadn’t even considered when I wrote the script. Becky and I work well together because we think about comics similarly in many ways – but its our dissimilarities I enjoy the most.

This cartoon is about what’s (sometimes derisively) termed “microaggressions.” Quoting Wikipedia: “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalized groups. ”

In some ways, microaggressions are actually more stressful to experience than flat-out aggression. For example, if someone yells “hey fatso!” at me out of a passing car, that’s easy for me to categorize and deal with. I give the car the finger, and later on I sneer about it to my friends, who I can be sure will take my side. Microaggressions, on the other hand, are mentally stressful. Should I say something? Will I seem oversensitive if I complain? Will anyone take my side?

That stress – and the time and mental energy microaggressions can cause us to lose – is what this cartoon’s about. For all of my readers who have experienced and been bothered by microaggressions, I hope this cartoon makes you feel a bit seen.


This cartoon has five panels.


We can see five people around a table in a business conference room (although there are probably more people around the table, we’re only seeing part of the table). All the people are wearing business clothes, and there’s a whiteboard at one end of the room, showing a growth chart. There’s a glass of water in front of each person.

At the end of the table, a gray-haired man is standing, addressing the room, grinning as he speaks. Everyone else – all men – is laughing uproariously (there’s a “ha ha ha ha” sound effect). Except for one woman, in the foreground, who is not laughing and looks subtly alarmed. She’s wearing glasses and a pink business blazer.

GRAY HAIR DUDE: They scampered like frightened little girls!

EVERYONE: Ha ha ha ha

GLASSES WOMAN (thought): Oh God that was so sexist what should I do?


The same scene, except now shown in more dramatic perspective, with the woman with glasses in the extreme foreground looking at her colleagues.

GLASSES WOMAN (thought): I could say something but I need my colleagues to like me.


This panel shows the woman’s nervous face, looking straight out at the reader, floating in an abstract face. A spiral of words – her thoughts – are superimposed over her face, going around and around her.

GLASSES WOMAN (thought in a spiral pattern): It was just a joke! I don’t want to see shrill and humorless but this wasn’t the first “joke” … If I speak out would anyone take my side? But it’s not just me, it’s all the women in the office! But I don’t wanna be the office buzzkill. But if I don’t say anything then…


A narrow panel, all in red, shows a very tight close-up of her determined face.

GLASSES WOMAN (thought): I’m gonna say something!


The room is dark. There’s no one in the room but Glasses Woman, who looks surprised, and a woman in a janitor’s uniform who’s mopping the floor.

GLASSES WOMAN: Hey, where’d everyone go?

CUSTODIAN: They went home an hour ago.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Feminism, sexism, etc | 2 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Riding The Junk Fish Edition

  1. Two recent Democratic party primary series that I’ve found interesting to read (or at least skim). The New York Times did moderate-depth interviews with all the then-still-in-the-race candidates. And Vox has begun a series of articles arguing their best case for each candidate. There are two up so far: The Case For Bernie Sanders and The case for Elizabeth Warren.
  2. Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall | Public Books
    A short, good article about Issac Asimov’s famous habit of groping women around him, and why it wasn’t okay.
  3. Gougers ‘R’ Us: How Private Equity is Gobbling Up Medical Care | The American Conservative
    Private Equity really is the worse – they add no value, just extract money from businesses that are actually productive – and is leading to needlessly higher medical bills.
  4. The Long Long Man series of gum commercials.
    Eleven commercials, forming a single continuous narrative, from a Japanese gum maker announcing its new line of extra-long gum. It’s… amazing.
  5. Largest Art Heist In History Happened in Germany this month | Daily Mail Online
    As far as I can tell, the thieves – who are described as exceptionally small – cut off electricity to the entire building by doing something to an electrical station on a bridge a block away, then broke a small window to crawl into the museum. The museum isn’t sure how they broke the shatter-proof glass of the display cases. Sounds like a heist movie.
  6. Opinion | I Almost Lost My Career Because I Had the Wrong Passport – The New York Times And an alternate link.
    Anti-immigration demagogues in Denmark have successfully made immigrants feel unwelcome – at considerable cost to Denmark.
  7. Brigham Young University to Students on Medicaid: Buy Private Coverage, or Drop Out – The New York Times (Alternate link.)
    Update: In the face of bad publicity and student protests, BYU relented.
  8. A List of Some Terms Used to Describe Genitals in Fanfiction
  9. On perfect communication and the tyranny of “platform responsibility” | Go Make Me a Sandwich
  10. Does Letting Police Enter Your House Give Them Permission To Wreck It? – Reason.com
    According to the Ninth Circuit court, yes, it does.
  11. William Barr, Donald Trump, and the post-Christian culture wars – Vox
    The Christian Right sees themselves as being oppressively crushed by an endlessly hostile and all-powerful left with no scruples. They’re wrong, but it’s helpful to keep in mind that they really, really believe this.
  12. How ‘The Penis Monologues’ Challenges China’s Toxic Masculinity
    A Chinese play against what we’d call toxic masculinity, inspired by “The Vagina Monologues.”
  13. A Harvard journal’s wild plan to save democracy by adding 127 states – Vox
    Literally nothing in the Constitution prevents Congress from admitting the Obama family’s personal DC residence as a state — a state which would then be entitled to two senators, one member of the House, and exactly as much say on whether the Constitution should be amended as the entire state of Texas.”
  14. This collaboration between a pole dancer and an animator is amazing.
    The great cartoonist Windsor McCay, around 1911, did an act like this, in which he interacted live with an animated dinosaur. But I’m sure that the interaction was not this intricate.
  15. Friends, join me for a pleasant journey into the very tolerant world of Apu fandom
    “We must be unflappable, and if we flap, it’s proof we’re the histrionic, outraged minority lefties they always knew we were.”
  16. A court just blocked Trump’s attempt to slash legal immigration – Vox
    Conservatives are against all immigrants (or at least all non-white immigrants), not just unauthorized immigrants.
  17. The Battle Over E. B. White’s “Stuart Little” | The New Yorker
    The most influential children’s librarian in the country – a woman who literally created the idea of children’s libraries, and who was actually pretty awesome in many ways – hated that little mouse.
  18. Trump’s policies at the border weren’t designed to keep out Mexican asylum seekers — until now – Vox
    “One woman had approached CBP officials at the port in El Paso on three occasions identifying herself as a Mexican asylum seeker, but was turned away. She has a strong asylum case: Cartel members kidnapped her son and told her they would send her his severed head in a cooler if she didn’t pay an extortion fee.”
  19. Canceling | ContraPoints – YouTube
    The vlogger, who was recently “canceled” herself, uploads a looong video with her thoughts on “cancel culture” and her experiences. One thing I liked is that she provides the seeds of a way of distinguishing between cancellation and criticism – in my head-canon, it really shouldn’t be called a cancellation if it doesn’t include at least three of the cancel culture tropes.
  20. Should Public Transit Be Free? More Cities Say, Why Not? – The New York Times And an alternate link.
  21. Climate change: From the beginning, models have been remarkably accurate – Vox
    Unsurprisingly, the models are better at predicting the physics (outputs) than the “humans” (inputs).
  22. Hieronymus Bosch Butt Music – YouTube
    “Music printed on the butt of one of the tortured souls in the 15th Century Hieronymus Bosch painting ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights,’ played on (What else?) Lute, Harp, and Hurdy-Gurdy by James Spalink.”
  23. Muhammad Ali in a Broadway Musical? It Happened – The New York Times (Alternative link)
    The almost completely forgotten 1969 musical “Buck White.” Only one copy of the script is known to still exist.
  24. Heads or Tails: The Impact of a Coin Toss on Major Life Decisions and Subsequent Happiness
    “This paper reports on a large-scale randomized field experiment in which research subjects having difficulty making a decision flipped a coin to help determine their choice. […] Individuals who are told by the coin toss to make a change are much more likely to make a change and are happier six months later than those who were told by the coin to maintain the status quo.”
  25. An American Revolution at Sing Sing – Reasons to be Cheerful
    An in-prison production of the musical 1776.
  26. House Votes to Restore the Voting Rights Act – Mother Jones
    “Although the VRAA has no chance of becoming law this year, the passage of the bill lays the groundwork for Democrats to make voting rights a major legislative priority should they recapture the Senate and the White House in 2020.”
  27. Why Are So Many Evangelicals Okay with David Being a Murderer, But Not a Rapist? | Libby Anne
    Thanks to Mandolin for the link.
  28. There Are Whales Alive Today Who Were Born Before Moby Dick Was Written | Smart News | Smithsonian
  29. St. Marys Kansas and Christian Withdrawal – The Atlantic
    A town in Kansas where the overwhelming majority of residents are members of the right-wing SSPX church. On the one hand, great: People should be able to form communities. On the other hand, it can really suck for non-church-members in town, and especially for children raised there who dissent (or would like to dissent) from the town’s orthodoxy.
  30. Henry Lee Lucas Was Considered America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer. But He Was Really a Serial Liar.
    And a serial killer, too, but with many fewer victims than he claimed.
  31. The corporate poo patrol is coming after your precious toilet time | WIRED UK
    Toilets are being designed to be less comfortable to discourage workers from spending time in the bathroom.
  32. The Grooming Gap: What “Looking the Part” Costs Women – In These Times
    There’s an actual wage penalty for women who buck the (sometimes unsaid) grooming requirements.
  33. Quiz: Which of these 2020 Democrats agrees with you most? – Washington Post
    I wound up with Warren in first, at 15; Sanders and Yang tied for second, at 11; and Biden dead last, at 5.
  34. This post is illustrated with photos of two works by Italian street artist Mr. Thoms, whose website is full of fantastic and surreal paintings.

Posted in Link farms | 82 Comments  

From Sa’di of Shiraz, 13th Century Iran

A day or so ago, in response to the escalating tensions between Iran and the United States, I posted to Twitter my version of what are perhaps the most famous lines written in 13th Iran by Sa’di of Shiraz:

The last two lines of the verse, in case you don’t want to click through to see the second tweet in the thread, are:

You, who will not feel another’s pain,
no longer deserve to be called human.

Oonagh Montague replied with this important question:

She made me think that it would be good to post the entire piece from which those lines are taken. It’s from Sa’di’s Golestan–the title means Rose Garden—which is a collection, broadly speaking, of teaching stories that combine prose and poetry. Notable about the story the lines I tweeted come from, which is in “Kings,” the first section of the book, titled “Kings,” is that they are specifically directed at a despotic ruler who as asked for the help of Sa’di’s speaker. In other words, they are not intended as an abstract expression of liberal humanism, but, rather, as practical advice for how the ruler can achieve the ends he desires. Here is the story in its entirety, which I think speaks for itself in all kind of ways:

An Arab king who was notorious for his cruelty came on a pilgrimage to the cathedral mosque of Damascus, where I had immersed myself in prayer at the head of the prophet Yahia’s [John the Baptist’s] tomb. The king prayed with deep fervor, clearly seeking God’s assistance in a matter of some urgency:

The dervish, poor, owning nothing, the man
whose money buys him anything he wants,
here, on this floor, enslaved, we are equals.
Nonetheless, the man who has the most
comes before You bearing the greater need.

When he was done praying, the monarch turned to me, “I know that God favors you dervishes because you are passionate in your worship and honest in the way you live your lives. I fear a powerful enemy, but if you add your prayers to mine, I am sure that God will protect me for your sake.”

“Have mercy on the weak among your own people,” I replied, “and no one will be able to defeat you.”

To break each of a poor man’s ten fingers
just because you have the strength offends God.
Show compassion to those who fall before you,
and others will extend their hands when you are down.

The man who plants bad seed hallucinates
if he expects sweet fruit at harvest time.
Take the cotton from your ears! Your people
deserve justice. Otherwise, justice will find you.

All men and women are to each other
the limbs of a single body, each of us drawn
from life’s shimmering essence, God’s perfect pearl;
and when this life we share wounds one of us,
all share the hurt as if it were our own.
You, who will not feel another’s pain,
no longer deserve to be called human.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments  

What books/TV/movies/podcasts did you like in 2019?

This thread is for talking about whatever movies/TV/books you enjoyed (or hated, or just want to mention) in 2019. So please use the comments for that!

(I haven’t seen the new Star Wars yet, but I’m planning to see it soon, so no spoilers please!)

I’ll go first:

I’ve been seeing people posting “top ten movies of the year” lists and it made me wonder, did I even see ten movies that were released in 2019?

So I looked at this list of all the movies released (in the US) in 2019, and it turned out I’d seen way more than I thought. Twenty-six, in fact. Which seems like a lot. Still only a tiny fraction of the films that came out.

My favorite movie of 2019: Parasite. Followed by Toy Story 4.

My favorite TV show of 2019: Unbelievable. Followed by Bojack Horseman.

My favorite graphic novel of 2019: Berlin.

Anyway, here’s the list of movies.

  1. Happy Death Day 2U
  2. Alita: Battle Angel
  3. Fighting With My Family
  4. Captain Marvel
  5. Gloria Bell
  6. Ash Is Purest White
  7. Us
  8. Shazam!
  9. Avengers: Endgame
  10. John Wick: Chapter 3
  11. Booksmart
  12. Rocketman
  13. Toy Story 4
  14. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  15. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  16. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbes & Shaw
  17. Ready or Not
  18. Judy
  19. Parasite
  20. Zombieland: Double Tap
  21. Terminator: Dark Fate
  22. Frozen II
  23. Knives Out
  24. Jumanji: The Next Level
  25. Richard Jewell
  26. Little Women

Thirteen of the movies I saw were either sequels or, if not exactly a sequel, parts of a pre-existing franchise (Captain Marvel and Shazam!) or intended as the start of a franchise (Alita). Two were subtitled (Parasite and Ash Is Purist White). Four were (at least nominally) horror movies. Four were superhero movies. Twelve were action movies (more or less, genre boundaries are fuzzy). Thirteen had female main characters. Five had visibly non-white main characters. Ten are sort of art-housey movies. Two were animated.

I enjoyed all of these movies to some degree, although there are some here I certainly wouldn’t recommend. The 2019 movie I most regret not seeing is The Farewell: Hopefully I’ll catch it at some point.

Okay, your turn!

Posted in Popular (and unpopular) culture | 34 Comments  

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening

I wrote about my annual narrative pleasures of 2019 at Ambling Along the Aqueduct. The Good Place, Russian Doll, and Bojack Horseman are great – check out what I had to say about them.


“Your Face” Review at Locus Magazine

Karen Burnham reviews my short story “Your Face” at Locus Magazine. She says “It gets right to the emotional core” of the subject–great to hear!  Read more here.

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Rachel Swirsky 2019 Award Eligibility Post

Check out my three new short stories from this year!


Oh! Abigail! Oh. It’s good—it’s so good to see you.

Mom. Hi.

I feel like I could reach out and touch your face. Your face! It’s so good to see your face.” 

In “Your Face”, a mother visits an artificial simulation of her dead daughter, trying to figure out how much of her is real. It was published in Clarkesworld Magazine in August, and is available in both audio and text format. 


You are floating. No, not floating—numb. No, not numb—nothing.

You are nothing? No. Wait.


You don’t know who you are, or what’s going on, but you know for sure you don’t want to be talking to the man onscreen who says he’s your father.  I wrote Compassionate Simulation” with my friend P.H. Lee. It was published in Uncanny Magazine’s July/August issue. (CN: abuse)


“The problem with my dachshund is that he pees.

Constantly. Unrelentingly. On rugs and furniture and laps.

He looks up at you with those large, dark eyes, and attempts to communicate innocence. I know better. He’s a malicious bladder loosener. He knows that he’s a tiny dog in an enormous, chaotic world.”

Global warming has taken its toll on Appalachia: a depressed economy, outbreaks of tropical fevers, and worse. Returning to her declining hometown, a college dropout has only one friend left–her dachshund. Who pees. A lot. “The Problem With My Dachshund” was published in the December 2019 issue of Guernica.

Posted in Fiction, My publications | Leave a comment  

Check Out “The Problem with My Dachshund” on Guernica!

Global warming has taken its toll on Appalachia: a depressed economy, outbreaks of tropical fevers, and worse. Returning to her declining hometown, a college dropout has only one friend left–her dachshund. Who pees. A lot. “The Problem With My Dachshund” was published in the December 2019 issue of Guernica. 
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