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Having one of those "I'm not doing anything" days because I slept or lazed around all morning.

But since then I've
  • gone to WI craft group where I learned a whole new kind of craft (book folding)
  • a bit of Lib Demmery, including inviting a new Lib Dem to local #libdempint, passing on important e-mails to the people who can do things about them, and agreeing to go to a meeting in a few days
  • e-mailed Metrolink & Northern to try to set up a meeting about how inaccessible Manchester Victoria is (as leader of the VI Steering Group)
  • e-mailed the council guy and the RNIB about the taser thing
  • printed off stuff I need for my book
  • did an update (accidentally two updates) for my Kickstarter backers. The previous update hadn't worked (not surprising when these two nearly didn't either) so the poor fuckers hadn't heard from me since June!
  • ordered new printer ink when I didn't have enough to print off what I needed
I think I still have to convince myself it is okay not to go to yoga tonight. I keep forgetting I have a yoga mat of my own now so I might do a bit here but I think I am still too sinus-infected to go to the class I usually do.
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I've said before the thing I love about Levenshulme is that it seems to be half people complaining about how expensive the beer is in the posh places is so expensive (more than four quid!) and half people complaining about flytipping.

Yesterday morning seemed typical of that, when I saw on a local facebook group
  • Someone asking if anyone else had seen the man tasered on the steps of the train station yesterday evening
  • A picture of a burnt-out car
  • The news that a gourmet grilled-cheese and burger joint that also does mocktails is going to open
Of course the taser thing was more concerning than just justifying my impression of where I live. But it got worse.

Later in the day, after I'd utterly forgotten about all of these things, Andrew was trying to sort out his travel to and from London for a gig he's going to. I was listening even though I was idly scrolling through twitter when I came upon a tweet with a link and "I bet blind man was a PoC - I hope he is OK & remains anonymous if he wants to." I noticed the link was to the Manchester Evening News, so I clicked on it and...

...interrupted Andrew in the middle of saying "National Express" with "HOLY SHIT!" So of course he was worried, asked me what was wrong, and it took me a while to get the sentence out in the right order.

The man who was tasered at Levenshulme station is blind.

And of course he only got tasered because he was blind. He wasn't dangerous, threatening, hadn't done anything. Two people called the cops saying they thought he had a gun. All he had was his folded-up white cane.

This is my train station. It's like two minutes' walk from here. I'm in and around the area all the time. And I often have my white cane folded up.

Now, I think my friend whose tweet I originally saw had a good point about the likelihood of the man being a person of color. (Andrew said "yeah, he'll be Asian" matter-of-factly when we were talking about this. We don't know, of course, as is only right.) As a white person and a woman, I know I am not in the same danger of having the cops called on me first of all and them overreacting if they are.

But I was pretty shaken up at first, all the same.

And then I started thinking what can I do?

I just had a meeting of the Visually Impaired Steering Group on Wednesday. Had an e-mail from the manager of the council's sensory team who's helping facilitate it for us, so I'm going to ask him. And I'll try to get in touch with the RNIB and see if they're aware of what sort of training the police get on stuff like this -- it's probably them that do it, if anyone does -- and of course there are mad-keen Levenshulme community groups to try to get involved too, maybe do some kind of education event locally. I'm happy to field questions people are usually too embarrassed to ask blind people, let them see my cane, dispense information or resources or whatever.

One of my friends asked if I'd like people to walk with me to/around the station, which I was really touched but and think it's a nice idea, some kind of little march.

The ongoing conversations in my facebook and twitter feeds after I posted this link have been really thought-provoking. As has a BBC article about it which I read this morning, saying that the man doesn't intend to make a complaint and that he "acknowledged that his behaviour could have led to people being concerned."

What really disturbs me is the guy agreed his behavior might've concerned people. Let me be clear: I 100% support whatever reaction he has in the apparent immediate aftermath of being tasered and still surrounded by police. I am not blaming him here at all, I am raging at the systemic ableism in society that made this possible or necessary for him to say.

I know my behavior seems agitated/weird if people don't know I'm blind. I also get anxious a lot (especially when I'm doing something like waiting for a train! I was at a different train station around this same time, waiting for a train that ended up being delayed by 45 minutes, and in freezing awful weather it was so miserable I probably would've looked weird to anyone scrutinizing me too carefully). I do things and I get around in weird ways, and so do a lot of people with a wide range of disabilities: it affects our posture, movements, expressions, body language, all sorts of things.

And it's weird only because people have such a narrow, and an ableist, idea of what "normal" behavior is. It's weird because they're not used to us, because it's not easy for us to get out or because it's expected that we wouldn't do so on our own. That shouldn't get anyone tasered.

I don't blame the guy for saying he could understand why his behavior would be concerning (if he did as the BBC have reported, I think we're just getting the cops' side of the story here) because I can imagine just wanting to get out of this situation.

I can also understand apologizing for the stuff your disability makes you "bad" at, because I do that all the time in a social-lubrication kind of way. I will say sorry for not seeing things and sometimes even as I'm doing it I know it's something I'd object to but it's so ingrained.

That's why it disturbs me. I could see myself doing the same. Even though that is the last thing I want. But the cops have a lot of power over you, especially when they've just tasered you, and when you were just going about your day.

Things I've learned:
  1. SpecSavers' advertising has worked really well because I'm already sick of the jokes about it.Not only are variations on "maybe it's the policeman who's the real blind one!" not actually funny, but they're ableist. Remember how I'm always banging on about the uses of "blindness" to indicate ignorance of something? This is that. If you're equating stupidity or ineffectualness with blindness, you're also implying blind people are stupid and unable to do things. This is something that hurts blind people every day, and unlike getting the police to stop tasering people, it's really easy to fix so please do consider it or mention it to your friends.
  2. The police-defenders on the local fb group are really concerning me. They don't seem to understand that once someone tells the police you have a gun, it's almost impossible to prove to them you don't without getting yourself hurt in the process. (I know this is something my friends of color know very well and I'm sorry I'm only realizing it recently.) It's enraging.
  3. And sometimes even the people on the "right" side are so fucking ableist. There's been lots of "this man had to be so courageous for using public transport by himself!" that edges into cripspiration which just makes my brain itch.

Morning

Feb. 24th, 2017 10:31 am
hollymath: (Default)
Sinus infection.

The amount of standing around in the cold waiting for inadequate public transport last night probably couldn't have helped, though the scratchy throat was there before I left, when the last bus of the night left me stranded.

The visit was useful anyway, getting help from a friend for a job interview I've gotten sorta by accident which I felt totally out of my depth for. I'm feeling out of my depth in other ways now, but better aware of the things I should do and worry about if I'm going to this interview.

Someone's calling me in an hour who's doing research on LGBT migration and looking for people to talk to I guess. Other than that, so far me and the dog are staying in bed today. I've started reading "The Story of Your Life," which Arrival is based on. I loved the movie, and apparently the book is even better.
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Sometimes the word "friend" feels really inadequate when you're poly.

Sometimes something happens to someone close to you and there are people you can't tell, or at least you can't tell them how excited or devastated you are at whatever kind of a thing it is (they've won an award, they have a serious illness, whatever) because you're not out, or they're not out. Or maybe because you wouldn't use a word like partner for them...but friend isn't enough, either.

We don't have the vocabulary.

And when it's a happy thing you're affected by, this might seem less of a problem because at least you're happy. When it's a sad thing, it seems extra sad that you can't even explain why you're so sad.
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Another e-mail I've had from Citizens UK that it will do me no good to send to my own MP, some of you might find it worthwhile though:
Tomorrow MPs will debate the Dubs Scheme in Parliament. This is the Government’s chance to do the right thing.

Email your MP and ask them to attend the debate.

For two weeks our voices have been loud and clear - from Rowan Williams to Keira Knightly to Birmingham City Council, from Aberdeen to Hammersmith - we have sent a clear message: Britain is better than this.

And we know the Government can hear us - just this weekend Theresa May agreed to review the claims of 400 refugee children. Already we have made a huge difference. But we can win bigger than this.

We need to get every single MP we can in the chamber tomorrow.


Together, if we urge our representatives to show up, we can create more pressure than ever before.
Email your MP now to ask them to go to the debate and tell the Government to keep the Dubs Scheme open.
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Chased down photo & references today, so citizenship application is DONE!

Need to sort out payment form and collect all the passports and marriage certificate and proof of passing the Life in the UK Test in a big envelope with all this. Then on Monday I can take it to the post office.

Having (extra) cake and (another) glass of wine to celebrate/destress. I didn't realize how miserable working on this today had made me until it was done.
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The other day, Citizens UK e-mailed encouraging people to get in touch with their local councillors to try to get individual cities to do what the government won't do as a whole and continue the Dubs scheme for refugee children. You can write to yours with WriteToThem. I've just written to mine, based partly on their template.
I am deeply concerned at the news that the Government plans to close the Dubs scheme for unaccompanied child refugees by the end of the financial year, and am writing to ask for your leadership.

Last year the British government accepted Lord Dubs’ amendment to the Immigration Act, which established a safe route to sanctuary in the UK for unaccompanied children. At the time, many councils supported the call and pledged to work with Government to establish the scheme.

Manchester really should be one of those. I see "Refugees Welcome" signs all around Levenshulme, from Inspire to spray-painted on the path near the train station, and yet Manchester has shamefully not done its bit in fulfilling that promise.

Please help us change that by helping keep the Dubs program going here in Levenshulme and in Manchester.

Thank you.
hollymath: (Default)
So Gung-Ho!, the 5k obstacle course I signed up for sent me an e-mail this morning called "Gung-Ho! helping your relationship...or lack of it".
Did you know...

Fitness can help to build relationships!

A 5K race, yoga class or a workout at the gym may not seem like a romantic outing, but a growing group of experts agree that couples who exercise together can not only stave off the extra pounds that are often linked to marriage, but they can strengthen their relationship and possibly live happily ever after.

So get in and book now, as it seems the couple who exercises together stays together...and if you're single you never know who you might meet giving you a helping hand over our giant inflatable wall 😉
It just seems a really terrible way to encourage more people to sign up. If the couple who exercises together stays together I'm fucking doomed because I've never done that!

This is the first I've heard about the "extra pounds that come with marriage" that I should be "staving off," too. I'm so dismayed that everything about exercise also has to be about losing weight because that has a terrible effect on my mental health. So it doesn't really work to tell me it's not about conforming to beauty standards because it's about health.

And the idea that helping somebody with a ridiculous bouncy-castle kind of obstacle should be a romantic or sexual encounter...no. Just seems like a license for men to be creepy at women, assuming they'll need help and then "oops my hand slipped, didn't mean to touch you there!..."

I'm probably overreacting, but I find this kind of talk so off-putting on so many levels. I don't need to lose weight I don't need my partner(s) to like doing everything I do, and I don't need anyone with more than fellow-feeling towards humanity to help me with anything, thankyouverymuch.

Its the first e-mail I've had from Gung-Ho! since I signed up, too, which doesn't leave a very good impression. I've unsubscribed now so I hope I don't miss anything important or useful.

Scope

Feb. 16th, 2017 07:15 pm
hollymath: (Default)
Almost as soon as I'd posted that tweet, I remembered that the nice man from Scope, the disability charity, had asked for a landscape picture to go with the blog post he was doing about me.

Unsurprisingly, I've done everything back-to-front because I was on TV first, and signed up to tell my story and be a media volunteer (someone they could call if someone asks for registered blind people or people in Manchester or whatever other category I might fall into) only afterwards.

So after Christmas the guy I've been chatting to from Scope, a friendly dude called Phil, called me up and asked me a bunch of questions and then was left with the unenviable tasks of typing that all up and writing it into a linear narrative. We went all through me emigrating here, the Shoe-Tying Occy Health Cowbag story that the BBC people had liked so much, trying to claim benefits, the intersection of disability and immigration status, all kinds of things.

Last night I saw they'd posted this...with the picture I'd just taken, and a couple more I'd sent (the bottom one is me showing off the NASA t-shirt JT got me for Christmas, so it's no fair them cropping it as viciously as they did!).

It's pretty good -- a few quibbles with the narrativd but they're most likely down to me not being as clear as I'd like to. And I'm kind of annoyed that all my terrible speech mannerisms have survived intact -- I appreciate that most people will find it easier to tell than write their stories, but I'd much prefer to write.

But when I said this on Facebook, a friend said "I was just thinking how like you it sounds -- in a good way. I like your way of framing things. It's a good article, pointing out what you weren't sure of, and how awkward it is to challenge fail when it is you in a vulnerable position employment and power wise." And this coming from someone whose disability activism I admire and which had among other things personally helped me very much, this is especially nice to hear.

The day before the Scope people asked if I'd talk on LBC (a radio version of tabloids, though of course that isn't how they described it to me!). I only had a minute, literally, so it wasn't that interesting except that the presenter told me they'd also asked people to call in with positive stories about employment while disabled and not. one. person. did. Afterward the nice Scope lady called me back, said I'd been brilliant, and finished with "national radio! that's pretty good!" and I was nice and didn't say "dear, I was on Woman's Hour once, that's better than talking to Iain Dale."
hollymath: (Default)


I took this picture on Tuesday night, for the #loveknowsnoborders campaign, started by [twitter.com profile] ZoeJardiniere, which you can read about. It's close to my heart because while obviously I was able to move to the UK to be with my spouse, his income only barely exceeded the requirement at that time, £15,000. The current income requirement to bring a foreign (non-EU...for now, anyway) spouse to the UK is £18,600, which might not sound like much but that would've kept me out of the country for all but a few years of our marriage so far.

It's especially unfair if the British partner is a woman, a person of color, young (in your 20s, ages at which many people including us get married), or otherwise on the wrong side of a pay gap, which makes it even harder to reach that arbitrary income. (Part of the reason we ended up here rather than in the U.S. is that Andrew is more able to earn a good income than I am, which is basically just down to the patriarchy.) It's the same threshold all over the country, too, so it'd be much harder for people living outside London to clear that income threshold.

It's also infuriatingly inconsistent, not that we can expect better of our governments of course. This income is supposed to guarantee that neither the foreigner nor their British spouse need to resort to state funds -- which they're not allowed to do. But years later when I couldn't work and was allowed to apply for benefits, I found that I wasn't entitled to any income-related benefits because my partner worked more than 24 hours a week. It could be 24 minimum-wage hours a week and yet this was expected to be enough for us to live on? Even though it'd be a damn sight less than £18,600 a year. (A tweet I saw yesterday said that working full time on £7.20 an hour isn't enough.)

#loveknowsnoborders made for interesting reading yesterday, for all those who were able to celebrate thoroughly multinational backgrounds, raltionships, addresses and children, there were also people saying "my valentine hasn't been able to bring me to live with her in the UK for four years" or whatever, which my brain just rebels from being able to even imagine.

Clearly the hashtag is an aspiration and not a reality so far, but reading it gave me all kinds of feelings and I wanted to be a part of it. I didn't have the brains or energy to of a video, even if Andrew would've tolerated it which I don't think likely. So I just took a picture, where you can't hear the low in-your-throat growl he's doing, like a dog who isn't barking yet but is warning you, and tweeted it.
My husband hates having his photo taken but he hates systemic xenophobia towards me more! That's how bad it is, folks.
A decision is expected next week on what's known as the MM case, a judgment that will affect thousands of families affected by the Family Migration Rules. There's a good explanation of that case here, from last year.
hollymath: (Default)
Yesterday I was on local radio with a couple of my fellow WI members talking about what we're up to (especially an event we're proud to have gotten funding to do as part of Transport for Greater Manchester's Women on Wheels initiative in March.

Then I caught up with a friend I hadn't seen in a while, who's also on the WI committee so that's one of the things we chatted about.

Then it was our WI committee meeting that evening. And then I stayed on after with a few of the others to have another drink and talk about all sorts of lovely things and stay out until other people's spouses texted them to ask what on earth had happened to them or to say that they'd gone to bed.

So I suppose it's no surprise after a day like that I ended up dreaming about the WI!
hollymath: (Default)
5k obstacle course with bouncy-castle-esque inflatable obstacles. Look at the video! I tried to enbed that but of course it won't work.

All signed up and everything. It's [twitter.com profile] survivorkatie's fault, but at least she's doing it too.

I've always been one of those "won't even run for a bus" people but I've tried 5k at the gym the last few weeks to see exactly how much I suck at it. I'm okay for a rank amateur, but I think my yoga and weightlifting will come in as handy for all the obstacles. Might need a better strength training plan than "whatever I feel like," but I already thought that!

I also need new shoes and sports bra and clothes and everything. Sigh. I like exercise but shopping too? Now that's cruel.
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"I've served you before," the woman at the ticket counter in Piccadilly said when I said yes thanks I was fine changing at Huddersfield, I'm used to it. "Because not many people want to go to Brighouse, she explained, as if to offer a reason (maybe one that wasn't "oh yeah, you're the blind one"). "Yeah, boyfriend, Brighouse, you're an old hand at this aren't you," she said and we both smiled.

She handed me my tickets and said "poor thing, can't you get him to move closer?" My smile changed to that of someone who'd just remembered she is presumed monogamous.

But even without that, why say I should make I'm move here, why couldn't I move there? I'd love Brighouse as a place to live if it didn't mean being so far away from the rest of my friends.

Even if it weren't for the fact that we've both got established households where we are, I don't really mind traveling to visit. Yes it'd be nice sometimes to just be able to see somebody for an hour or whatever or without having to plan it, but I like the train journey (in the daytime at least) and I think the change of scenery does me a lot of good.So much that at first I was wary of how much I liked James, recognizing the possibility that part of what I liked was an afternoon's vacation from my normal life every week.

Turns out I do like that but James is even better than I thought he was at first.
hollymath: (Default)
Andrew's telling me about his dream. His sister told him she was trans so we couldn't go on our planned trip to the Moon because the insurance was all messed up since the documents were in her old name.

"We were all ready to go, at Disneyland where the trips to the Moon leave from..." he started. And actually, it seems very plausible to me that commercial Moon trips will go from Disneyland!
hollymath: (Default)
Thanks to [personal profile] po8crg for realizing the Manchester angle on this meant we could write to people locally about it. (And for sharing his letter, which he might recognize in my one!)
Last night I was at a march through the centre of Manchester where we were shouting "No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!" Of course I know that this is an aspiration and not a description, yet, but I'm dismayed to see how quickly we are proven wrong.

Unless we can stop it, there will be a chartered flight tonight from an airport the people of Manchester own, deporting refugees who in some cases never even had their claims processed and thus are being deported unlawfully.

You can find more information about it here: http://unitycentreglasgow.org/mass-deportation-charter-flight-january-31st/

Please use Manchester City Council's shareholding in Manchester Airports Group, who own Stansted, to prevent this flight, and any others as I'm sure the next ones are already being planned..

I'm an immigrant to the UK and I know how horrible our immigration and asylum system is. I know it's not keeping us safe, it's keeping us ignorant of what refugees and asylum seekers are actually like. Deportation ruins and even ends lives, and I don't want it to happen.
hollymath: (Default)
#Muslimban protest today.

I had a chance to make a sign, modeled on a piece of art my friend Maria shared from [twitter.com profile] MoonStoneClare:

Here's my version:

Here's me standing with a lot of my friends who were there (including a new friend I made because the aforementioned Maria who's in Swansea mentioned both of us as having been at the Manchester demo. She's an immigrant and she knows someone in Edinburgh who is from Wisconsin who's found out ways to help out there from over here so I look forward to picking her brains about that!).

And since I was holding my sign almost all the time ("You must have strong arms like a rower's!" Birgitta said at one point; I don't really but I do feel totally vindicated in not being able to be at yoga tonight!), I didn't take many pictures but I couldn't resist this sign. Birgitta told me people were taking selfies with him in a "now here's more than one..." kind of way but I thought a picture of just him was easier.

I'm really glad there were Lib Dems there, marching as Lib Dems. We did have someone yell something about tuition fees and call us pricks, but honestly at this point that seems so fucking quaint. When a Nazi's writing Trump's executive orders, I wish I had nothing better to care about than one mismanaged decision the Lib Dems had five years ago. Meanwhile we have 82,000 members, 3786 ("as of an hour or so ago..." says Andrew who found that figure for me, clearly expecting it to have nudged up another one or two since then!) in the last three months, and we're trying to save the country from Brexit which is more than you can say for the rest of the parties with more than 9 MPs (in England anyway).

Hywel made the point at Winter Strategy Conference that we should be out there doing these things as Lib Dems (at least some of the time; almost every Lib Dem I know has a lot of hats to wear: some of us were draped in bi flags today) and I find myself definitely agreeing. It feels so good to be part of a party that's got my back here as I'm watching my country fall apart from a distance and mostly feeling pretty helpless about it.
hollymath: (Default)
I wrote to my senator what must be earlier this week but feels like a million years ago, after seeing lots of him being a badass at nomination hearings, particularly Sessions', just to say thanks and keep up the good work. I checked the box saying I didn't need a reply but I got one anyway last night. It looks like what he's sending to anyone who writes to him on the subject.
As a Senator and a member of the Judiciary Committee, I had the opportunity to question Senator Sessions during his confirmation hearing. That's a role I take very seriously. During Senator Sessions' hearing, I pressed him on his misrepresentation of his record on civil rights, as well as on the issue of voter suppression, and I shared a story about the impact of Trump's divisive rhetoric on Minnesota's immigrant and refugee communities. I was not satisfied with the answers he gave to me and a number of my colleagues' questions, and after careful consideration of Senator Sessions' record, I do not think he is up to the task of being an attorney general for all Americans. I cannot vote for an attorney general nominee who is not fully committed to equal justice for all, including the LGBT community, minorities, immigrants, and women. When his nomination comes up for a vote in the Senate, I will vote no.
Shame he voted for some of the others though.

And my other senator has voted for all of them so far.
hollymath: (Default)
For those fortunate enough not to know about Facebook, it has a feature where you can add to your updates what you're feeling, reading, drinking, eating, and a bunch of other options, one of which is "watching."

It's just another way for Facebook to gather saleable data on you, but it's successful enough that I find it appealing enough to use sometimes. As I did the other day when I started watch my birthday present from [personal profile] miss_s_b, a box set of the Sherlock Holmes ITV series from the 80s (well, mostly...it looks 80s to me anyway).

To distinguish this from all the other Sherlock Holmes movies and TV shows I might have wanted to say I was watching, I saw that Facebook called it Sherlock Holmes With Jeremy Brett, not quite its official name but how a lot of people refer to it, perhaps because all these shows and movies seem to end up being called "Sherlock Holmes" and hopefully partly because Jeremy Brett is just so great. (I call him my favorite TV Sherlock Holmes because that means I don't have to decide whether I like him or Clive Merrison better.)

So such Facebook posts end up being structured: "[person] is [reading/watching/eating/doing] [book/movie/food/whatever]. Mine said "Holly is watching Sherlock Holmes With Jeremy Brett."

The first comment underneath says "I like the way this status makes it look as though you and Jeremy are cuddled up on the sofa together, dissecting the plot.

An, of course, irresistible idea. I declared that this was exactly what I would imagine happening.

And, true enough, tonight I am doing the unusual thing of watching stuff in bed, just because I'm too cold to be anywhere else (this afternoon I spent, for reasons I'm too tired to go into, an hour outside without my coat and then three hours in a flat with the door open...). I'm under all the duvets. And if Jeremy wants to cuddle up and dissect the plot again, I'll warm up quicker!

Eeee!

Jan. 25th, 2017 08:58 pm
hollymath: (Default)
*does the "a friend I never thought would join the Lib Dems has just said that he has joined" dance*

Yoga class

Jan. 24th, 2017 12:08 am
hollymath: (Default)
Here are the things I have learned from three weeks of yoga classes on a Monday evening:
  1. Bring a bottle of water next time. You meant to do that last week, and forgot until you got there and saw someone with one this week. You get more thirsty than you think.
  2. Don't wear the green leggings again. They're in danger of falling down.
  3. You really like yoga even though you worry it's taking an approach to life with a long, complex history and making it into appropriative exercise for white people.
  4. It is okay that you're the only person in the class who can't do a shoulder stand. It's okay that you could do one last week and not this week. You have been reassured that the version you can do (basically, a bridge up against a wall) is just as good. It would help if you believed this but it's something that you know is true and that this is what you'd say to anyone else in your (ha) position.

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