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Goals from the Infirmary

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Or at least it did today and yesterday. It’s not an auspicious beginning for the New Year, but with the cold temps out here in California and all the holiday running around, I suppose it isn’t surprising that some bug has latched onto me. Anyway – the MucinexD is keeping me from dying. Killed me that I had to wait until after 10AM Sunday to get my hands on any. The government’s restrictions around purchasing anything with sudafed in it – the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, in what has to be a vain attempt at controlling its production, make it so you have to wait for the pharmacy counter to open so you can show a drivers license and sign your life away before buying. Don’t come down with a cold on Saturday night…that’s all I have to say.

I’ve decided I’m going to try to post to the blog more frequently. Why you ask? There’s no big trip going on. And there’s probably nobody really reading, but I suppose I think I have something to say. Actually…WeightWatchers thinks I have something to say. I’ve decided to try and do something about my weight, so I signed up Saturday. I’ve enlisted a friend to join me – not naming her here until I’m sure she’s a willing participant. Anyway – I figure if I’m public about this, it adds to the commitment level. I’m also supposed to be “journaling” – and isn’t that what blogging is all about? So watch here for progress. I’m not going to post my starting weight – because it’s too embarrassing – but I’ll post my progress (or lack thereof) each week. I have not quite half of me to lose, so you could be watching this for awhile. First step is 5% of your current weight – which would bring me down to where I was before I started working at BlackArrow in September 2007.

I followed WeightWatchers, with reasonable success, for awhile after Molly was born. The technology has improved a lot since then…cool web apps that help you track what you’re eating, assess recipes you typically use, figure out how much food your workout offsets, etc. This one seems to be built in Flash. It should have more social network aspects in this day and age (IMHO), but it’s pretty cool – other than some occasional performance issues that are kind of bizarre. I also really want an iPhone app. There’s some people who’ve written Points Trackers and Converters, but nothing exists that integrates with eTools on the web. I guess now that I’m a customer, I can needle them.

Another part of this goal is also making a commitment to myself that I’m not going let work get in the way of moving and using my body. Since taking a permanent job, I’ve spent a lot less time on my bike and in the spin studio. I love what I do, but not so much that I’m going to let kill me. It’s funny…when you’re working you don’t have time to exercise, but if you don’t you start to not only get physically, but also mentally lethargic. Guess I’m going to just have to slow down, go to bed earlier and get up earlier to squeeze it all in.

Molly, my beautiful daughter, was great over the holidays…working out with me at spin class, on the elliptical, at a Zumba class. She’s promised to call me every other morning to make sure I get out of bed and do something before I go to work. It’s nice to have her support…I love her very much.

It’s time for another cup of tea and my before bed MucinexD. So the mucus doesn’t win…

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Living It Up in Lyon

We had an early wake up call Friday (well, just my iPhone alarm) to catch the _ AM TGV to Lyon. I promised Rich un café before the Metro, but the café on our corner was still closed. We did find the Le Horizon was open by the time we got to corner for St. Placide Metro though, so Rich was feeling almost human.

At the Gare de Lyon, found a Lonely Planet Guide book to Lyon, a novel in French I wanted based on a movie preview I saw earlier in the week, and grabbed Molly something she could read on the train. Also grabbed a quick coffee and pastries for the train.

Train left exactly on time, as expected. Have never been on a late train in Europe. Promptly fell back to sleep in the comfy seat. Rich was happy I was sitting in seat traveling backwards, as it makes him feel ill. I’m so tired I don’t even notice.

We arrive in Lyon and have some time to kill before meeting Molly’s French teacher, Mr. Daniel. Tried to find the covered market; Les Halles, but was unsuccessful. By the time we figured out where it was? We could see the river, so strolled into the center of town, crossing the Rhone. It all seemed very quiet for 10 AM on a Friday. Walking across the bridge we had a view of the basilica and mini Tour Eiffel. I was immediately thinking that I don’t want to climb that hill they’re perched on.

Walking thru the centre we had to stop for some moving men who were hauling a piece of big furniture out of the third or fourth floor window. Too bad it wasn’t a piano – would have made a great photo. Even an antique armoire. But it was just some ugly chest of some sort – not even sure why they were moving it.

Near Printemps we found a cool passageway with a little art gallery that’s part of a chain with a cool concept. I’ll have to post the name later, as I can’t remember it right now. Molly bought a painting for her dorm room and there were a fea things there that I liked too…very affordable. There was a nice man working there who was very talkative, giving me a chance to practice. M. Daniel calls we’re chatting to give direction au parc and I find myself speaking French to the American because I couldn’t context switch. He probably thinks I’m very strange. Anyway, he wants to meet an little over an hour later and tells us to bring a picnic lunch.

So we stroll somemore, find the Soane, a fabulous suspension bridge for les piètons, and – quelle chance – un marché along the river! While taking a few pictures, I lose Rich, so while waiting I set out to buy lunch. Lots of chatty merchants…I buy cheese (Compte Grotte Sel), patisserie (macarons and tarte au poire), a few of these good looking muffin-like things (Dome de Provence), and some fabulous olives (curry, basil and these fab French black ones). Who knew I could come to like olives. All started last summer in Italy, but these sealed the deal. Molly buys a perfect baguette.

After all this shopping, it’s now a mad rush to the metro…no people work there, machines only take chipped credit cards and coins, so Molly digs in her purse to find fare for the three of us. We leave from Bellecour and arrive at Massena. As we exit the Metro we can smell the bread from the bakery on the corner that has a line around the block.

We get to the Parc de Tete d’Or and find M. Daniel with his charges – a bunch of teens mostly from Californi, but a few other places too. He introduces us to his French partner in crime, Jeremy and we have our pique-nique under the trees because at this point it’s pretty darn hot. So what do do? Visite le Jardin des Plantes and tour the greenhouses. Insane, but lovely at the same time. In a lily pond we come across a heron that looks like statue, but turns out to be real. There’s also the turtle deposit pond…apparently the French imported over 4 million Florida turtles…you know…the ones sold in pet stores when they are three inches long and three ounces, but grow to be five pounds. Anyway, the park apparently has hours where frustrated parents can come leave them behind without guilt. There were hundreds lolling around in the pond looking to be fed.

The other big park attraction is the guignol – French Punch & Judy. The kids were screaming and laughing from the show. When we got back, the American teens were playing a pick up game of soccer with a bunch of French kids. This French girl fell for Sam and within the hour, young love was born, phone numbers were exchanged. Under another tree was a a French-American game of spin the bottle going…no undressing, but plenty of kissing.

M. Daniel left the group in Jeremy’s capable hands to take us to Vieux Lyon next. On the way we grabbed a beverage. He introduced Molly to Diabolo Menthe…mint syrup in sprite, basically. Molly chose grenadine, which was very sweet. Took the metro over to Vieux Lyon and then the funiculaire to the top of the hill (yeah! no Montmartre-like stairs today!). The funiculaire looked like a roller coaster, but at least when going up, the seats were facing the right direction for Rich. He stood with me on the way down later.

The basilica was quite beautiful, with mosaics that rival some I saw in Ravenna. There was a huge gold Madonna greeting you at the entrance. At his point in the day, Molly’s flip flops, which were truly disgusting at this point, broke. But it was M. Daniel to the rescue…he ties the stretchy plastic handle thing from Molly’s gallery shopping bag around her foot and flip flop sole to hold her together til we can find her a new pair. Given the shoe crisis and my sore hip, we skip the Roman ruins and head back down to Vieux Lyon.

We stop in the Eglise St. Jean, which was older than the basilica, but had mostly new glass. There was this cool old clock, though that reminded me of one on the side of a church in Prague. I loved “guide practique” for Catholics in Lyon – almost grabbed one for mom. Then we did the rue St. Jean – traboules, little shops, touristy, mais pas trop and we find Molly some shoes (only 12 euros!), and throw out the old ones – yea!! We dit au revoir et mercie au M. Daniel and continue exploring. It’s snack time so we buy some exotic looking macarons, but sort of jelly filled, not as yummy as they looked or tasted, but still good…pomme & some exotic lemon that sounds like it’s from Kazikhstan or some such place, fraise and Sichuan pepper, and peach/lychee. We find more traboules, the little narrow passageways thru the buildings. The whole place reminds Rich and I of Italy. Like I imagine old Florence, I expected women with those Renaissance pointy hats that have scarves trailing off their tops to poke their heads through the spiral stairway “windows.”

We take the Metro to train station, where we find absolute madness. I look up at the big board and – mon dieu! – the trains are all running late. Major malfunction in the system somewhere. We grab a few glasses of wine for the wait. The waiter gives me a hard time about making a change. I told him I couldn’t believe it given the crowds they were serving. He was just cranky…turned around and gave some other French woman a hard time and they had a small screaming match.

So…it’s now time for our train. But – quel voie? No track is listed. I bought a baguette for the ride, but it became stress bread. The board doesn’t say the train is late, but isn’t telling us where to go. Finally, it shows twenty minutes after scheduled departure time. We make our way with the throngs of people up the track, but now where’s our car? We’ve walked the entire length of the train and it’s not there. A nice man sensing my panic shows us board with train configurations. They link TGVs together and our part hadn’t shown up yet. Not sure we would have figured it out without him. Of course, our car is the last and we’re standing at the front, so have to go running down to the end. I get some m ore sleep on train, but when I wake up it seems like we’re going about 200 miles an hour, but wait…we just might be. First time I was ever on a late train in Europe.

Dinner awaits us at Le Train Bleu, but I’ll add that tomorrow. I know I’m falling behind again, but I will get this whole trip online.

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Cuisine et Cinèma

Thursday was all about the food…the markets, the culinary stores, and some eating and drinking of our own. On our way to the Metro, we stopped at a boulangerie and I grabbed my personal favorite breakfast food – pain au raisin. There was an older guy still making baguettes for the day and behind him were ovens containing dozens of them. Creepy experience in the Metro…a lady squeezing in with me on the turnstyle, effectively using on my ticket. The line we were on had the above ground thing going on vers la Place de l’Italie.

We exited at one of the Guimard Metro stops: Richard Lenoir. I haven’t spoken of him yet, but I think his art nouveau work in wrought iron is just a thing of beauty. The coolest stop is Chatelet, but you can see his work on stop south of Richard Lenoir, at Blanche near the Moulin Rouge and others. He also did home decoration…doors, armoirs, window frames, etc. You can see some of that at the Musée d’Orsay.

The Marché Bastille was bustling. Molly’s future husband(so he says!) was feeding her strawberries & melon, a little boy sampling du pain, another little boy and his mother, a flower seller, a friendly shrimp guy who gave us samples, which necessitated my washing my hands in a fountain a block north of the market. There was also une femme pas gentille, who had enough of tourists taking pictures that morning of her wares and shooed me away. I walked away, but 10 yards later turned to photograph her. Les hommes next door s’amusent, and were yelling, “smile Yveline, look pretty for the camera,” in French of course, laughing. That struck up a nice conversation. It’s the vendeurs as well as the fabulous looking produce, fish, cheese, meat, breads, etc. that make the markets so wonderful here.

The Bastille Opera is house looking like hell – truly a visual blight. Les Halles was too, but that came later in the day. They are modern things that won’t stand the test of time, while I think IM Pei’s pyramid will. At this point, it was drizzling, but we never needed an umbrella.

Next stop was the St. Eustache statue Rich wanted to see. When did this arrive, I wonder? I swear I don’t remember it, but the date etched in its side says 1986. The kids really love climbing it and they made me want to sit dans l’oreille, but with my still hobbled state, I figured trying to do that was pushing my luck. After we went to Au Pied de Cochon for the onion soup, but I also enjoyed the little meringue pigs and rose petal ice cream from Molly’s “La Coupe Vie en Rose.” Oh…and another bottle of rose from Provence.

After lunch it was the kitchen supply stores:
– Mora – macaron cookbooks and all things baking. There was a chef outside peddling Kenwood ovens who made Molly a fruit filled cookie in one of those silicon cookie molds…looked like a round madeleine aux amandes.
– Store across the street whose name I can’t remember, begins with a B – deep fat fryers, crepe makers, giant strainers
– A. Simon – onion soup bowls, menu chalkboards, my china that disappeared during one of the moves (Pillyvuyt), wine label placemats, other resto supplies
– Dehillerin – copper pots, a steel pot I could cook you in (or maybe boil you in oil if you’re not good), cute little candy molds, cast iron pots, and the guys who told Molly don’t get married (“bad deal”) or at least spend some time with them first

Next we headed into the Beauborg madness…only place in Paris so far that rivaled the Champs for crowds. Rich, thinking we’d never make it to a café, grabbed a Starbucks shot to go, but next we hit a café where we could sit and watch the Niki de la St. Phalle fountain. The lips are my favorite part. Post coffee, and four cheese pizza for Molly which had blue cheese on it (kinda strange with tomato sauce), we came across soccer match with the little French dog who did a mean header and took on five boys without fear. Reminded me of that kids TV show with the dog who travels thru history – what’s his name? Then we found the sample sale – jeans for Molly & Rich (and maybe Hilary when she arrives). Molly also bought a cute Chloe blouse in peach and blue.

The weather continued to decline and we were in need of being stationary for awhile, so we decided to head back to our neighborhood where there are lots of movie houses and see if we could catch a French film. First though, we got music in the metro … Cosmopolitan Metropolitan, classical symphony in Chatelet. They are sort of an underground chamber orchestra and were wonderful.

We saw the movie, Aux Personne de Deux Personnes with Daniel Auteil (kind of the French Dustin Hoffman). Woody Allen could have made the movie and Hugh Grant could star in the English language version. Cute concept, but not sure of the execution. Maybe I can find a review at some point.

We had dinner at La Coupole, the huge brasserie with its changing colors dome. There was an exhibit/tribute there on the Jardin des Tarots by Niki de la St. Phalle. Dinner was good… un bon Sancerre, coquilles St. Jacques in a creamy risotto, profiteroles et fraises du bois. Rich had his foie gras fix. At one point, the restaurant lights dimmed and it was time…the whole restaurant chantent Bon Anniversaire a quelques personnes, sparklers on dessert. Our waiter, Hugo, was charming…telling us that the French Laundry in the US is his absolute favorite, even better than anything in France. While I’m enjoying my food here, it may be true. But then…there’s always the picque-nicque…

Time for bed…have to be up early the next day for the TGV to Lyon.

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Cuillère

We couldn’t get a reservation at the restaurant I had chosen for dinner, so during lunch Rich picked this restaurant from his Lonely Planet guide and Molly approved. They had space at 9pm and off we went after a good rest on and some music shopping on the Champs. It’s located in this shi-shi looking boutique hotel and I immediately felt underdressed as I walked in the lobby, but got over it once we got seated. The initial service experience was strange…couldn’t get a wine list until we has asked three times and we really came to believe there was only one in the restaurant. By then we’d had our menus (in English) for awhile and they were perplexing too. After finally getting the wine list (15-20 minutes in), the sommelier gave me like 5 minutes to read it. I was kind of getting annoyed by the whole thing. But once wine was on its way, things improved. Our waiter patiently explained how things worked and then the hostess came by and took our order. I forgave the English only thing after realizing the now nearly full, buzzing restaurant had less than 10 native French speakers in it.

Food was really impressive and inventive. An amuse bouche of chilled pea soup with unsweetened whipped cream and a hint of mint served in a tall shot glass. A ceasar salad in a beaker from chem class. A square soft boild egg with the standalone yolk resting on top and the most perfectly seasoned veggies – ratatouille from the Beauborg perhaps. Kind of felt like I was in an episode of Top Chef. My main course of tuna was delicious and all three of us wound up eating from Molly’s pasta pot where the sauce was creamy plain yogurt, some melted butter, and parmesan. Desserts were great – even the Red Bull ice cream. Even loved the utensils, where the was a combo spoon/fourchette creature. Our wine, which we weren’t crazy about when we first received it completely changed character with the food and was perfect with the meal – a 2004 Nuits-St. Georges, Les Saints Juliens from Maison Champy.

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Impressionable

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From Hot Chocolate to Hot Sauce

Didn’t quite have a plan, so we started at Angelina, home of the world’s very best hot chocolate. It’s almost like drinking a rich chocolate pudding before it cools. Yummy. We knew it was supposed to be a nice day, so wanted to be outside and decided we’d head to the market on rue Mouffetard. Started to walk to the metro at the Louvre and had a little detour to the rue St. Honoré. Of course, the princess found something to buy (maillots de bains) and we came across one of my favorite newer buildings in Paris at the marché St. Honore…all glass and its modernity fits with all the classic style architecture, I think because of its simplicity and transparency. We walked over to the IM Pei pyramid in the court of the Louvre, but saw businessmen eating a classic Parisian lunch on church steps along the way. When we had arrived at the metro stop near the rue Mouffetard, the feet were a little tired. There was a place that looked nice for Molly to get her Parisian haircut, so she rested her feet there while Rich and I sat people-watching at the Cafe Comptoir des Arts over a few small glasses of Cote-du-Rhone. Molly’s new doo is très mignon! Walking up the rue Mouffetard, we grabbed our lunch – a crèpe for Molly and a panini shared between Rich and myself. We walked the whole southern half of the 5th arrondissement before settling in at the Mosque for tea and north african treats…coconut bar, baklava, almond cookie, cinnamon cookie and a pistachio chewy cookie. The tea was very sweet with mint served in what look like painted giant shot glasses, like you would see in a Morrocan restaurant. After that it was time for a new neighborhood, so we headed to Montmartre. Though we were looking for the funicular to save the climb up the hill, we didn’t find it and instead found ourselves climbing. I think it was the thing that pushed my hip over the edge for the day, but it was worth it, and probably needed after all the mid-afternoon cookies. Sacre Coeur is as beautiful as ever, but no photos allowed inside. We even saw the photo police make someone turn his camera back on and delete the pic he had just surrepititiously taken. Getting Molly inside was a challenge, as she was mesmerized with the African boys playing with the soccer ball on the steps in front of the church. Molly had picked the restaurant for the evening, Le Mono. It’s owned by a family from the Ivory Coast and the food was fabulous. Reggae music played in the background, we all shared another bottle of Cahors, and ate the fish and spinach dishes. The “breads” were unusual…almost more the texture of a cake. The owners were très gentille and made us feel very much at home, although our host had to keep running a few doors down to catch the Italy vs. France rematch, which France lost again. It was fun walking to the Moulin Rouge seeing every cafe, bistro and bar with a TV packed to the gills for the game. From the Moulin Rouge, where we did not see the can-can dancers, we walked down Notre Dame de Lorette where Rabbit’s offices were and Daveès first apartment – carefully avoiding looking in all the doorways of the bars of Pigalle.

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Shopping and Sipping

OK, folks. Still no photos. Was going to post some this AM and discovered I don’t have the cable for getting them off the Canon. The cable for my snapshot camera doesn’t work, so I’ll have to go buy one somewhere. Despite my best attempts at pre-trip list-making for packing, I still managed to forget things.

After visiting the internet cafe on rue Odessa yesterday, Molly and I went to meet Rich who was waiting for us at Gare Montparnasse. We were headed in for some breakfast canelé at Baillardran. Read about them in Clothilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris. Not sure they were worth the trip…sort of a cross between a marshmallow and sticky bun. Might have been better if fresh out of the oven…not sure. But it put us in the right spot to buy our train tix to Lyon for Friday and get our Carte Orange for the metro. This required a visit to the instant passport photo booth – kind of amusing being told in French what faces not to make. By the way…it looks like the end of an era is approaching. The carte orange with the little metro ticket appears to be being replaced by modern technology imminently.

Got on the metro to Madeliene. Molly managed to go into Kenzo and find a lovely new sweater within minutes. Walked by the flower market, then into the palace of food porn, Fauchon. It’s much more shi-shi, and pink, than I remember. Love the little petit pois éclairs though…so cute. They let Molly take a photo of some of the pastries. We got some small snacks to hold us over until lunch. Walked over to Printemps to begin the shopping and grabbed a quick lunch at “Be,” or Boulangépicier. Had a fabulous sandwich – roquefort, poached pear, and frisée on this raisin baguette. Also shared a broccoli-mushroom soupe that was the very essence of broccoli with Molly.

Several hours of shopping at the grand magasins later (cieling at Galleries Lafayette still amazing!), we walked over to the Opèra. Yes, there is the prospect of ballet on this trip – maybe our last night. Was looking at a 1900s postcard painting of the Palais Garnier in my Walks Through Lost Paris book. There appears to be a lot less gold on the adornments than is there today. After the most expensive cup of coffee ever at Cafe de la Paix, we made our way to the “passages” – Choisueil, Colbert, and Vivienne, with the latter being the plus charmante. The Colbert was nice though with its atrium to the sky.

Then, it was time for wine at Willi’s Wine Bar. The whites outshone the reds. Rich and I tried the following:
– 2007 Domaine Saint Préfert, Chateauneuf-de-Pape (white)
– 2006 Cuvée Nathan Crozes-Hermitages (white)
– 2006 Evening Coast Pinot Noir (Willi’s CA red)
– 2004 Domaine Léon Barral Faugères Jadis (Languedoc red)

Ate dinner at the restaurant a few doors down…Monçeau. Lovely meal. More on that later though. Want to get out and about for today.

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Hunting and Pecking in Paris

Going to try to do this blog thing this week. Not confident I’ll be any better than I’ve generally been my last few trips though. And I have this bigger challenge…a French keyboard, which is definitely slowing me down.

So…I’m here in Paris for the first time in a decade. Molly is with me. Rich too. It’s a little strange because this is the first time I’ve been here without Dave – so that’s bringing up all sorts of stuff. But Paris is as beautiful as ever. Staying at the Hotel Aviatic near Montparnasse. Cute in that aging, a little shabby, quaint kinda way. Walked everywhere yesterday…Cherche-Midi to St. Germain de Près to Notre Dame (damn, it’s clean!), where the bells were ringing. We walked in during mass to hear the organ and smell the wafting incense. Then it was off to the Jardins de Luxembourg, with a brief stop for some yummy glaces…chocolate blanc and noix de coco avec chocolat lait. Then all the way back west to the old apartment on rue d’Etreès. Watched the puppies play in the park around the corner in front of Les Invalides. Then over towards le Tour Eiffel for dinner and closing the day – literally just before midnight walking underneath the lit up tower.

Shared a cafe crème and chocolat chaud with Molly at Au Chien Qui Fume, had a nice late lunch with Rich and Molly at Bistro de l’Abbaye and dinner at le Fontaine de Mars. The waiters have all been very nice and helping Molly zith her French. And one poured a little too much Cahors in her glass which made her happy. And I’ve decided the French have the best p words…pamplemousse, parapluie, and poubelle – who else could make garbage sound so beautiful!

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Greetings from Mexico City

So…it’s my first time south of the border. I’m about to venture out of the comfort of the W Hotel and explore the city a bit. I’m here for a business meeting this evening, but since work has been so busy, I’m hoping to get in a little sightseeing and Xmas shopping at the same time.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about coming here – I don’t speak the language and the city has a reputation of being a little dangerous if you don’t know your way around. Well – it may or may not be true, but have to tell you that the first thing you see when you get here and come out of customs is a Starbucks (who buy the way – sells a turkey sandwich down here as a Christmas sandwich). Anyway – that lulls you into a sense of security. And the maid in my hotel here speaks more English than most I encounter back home. Kinda funny.

The other thing making me feel a little more comfortable was some help I got from the guy who works at my dry cleaners (Blossom Hill Cleaners – a “green” dry cleaner in Los Gatos) who hails from Mexico City. He told me where and where not to wander, how to find good mariachi and tequila, what the neighborhood I’m staying in is like, etc. He also warned me to only get in a “certified” cab where I can confirm that the driver actually looks like the guy in the photo on the cab license. Good advice – thanks. Next time I see him, I’ll have to ask his name.

OK…I’m going to get off of here and go see if there’s something worth writing about. I’ve let my blog get way, way out of date, miss some great trips and pics, so I’m making a resolution to fix that.

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