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There But for The Grace of God…

Posted on Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Dave!This past week a guy from Berkeley died while snorkeling off the Southern coast of Maui. The ninth such tragedy in two weeks. It happened off Maluaka Beach, which is in front of the (former) Maui Prince Hotel, which became the (former) Makena Beach Hotel, and is now condos or something. Back when I was traveling to Hawaii for work, I stayed at the Maui Prince many times. I've snorkeled off Maluaka Beach many, many times. In fact, it was off Maluaka Beach where I learned to SCUBA dive.

It's one of my favorite beaches on earth...

Maluaka Beach, Makena, Maui

Maluaka Beach, Makena, Maui

   
Needless to say, hearing about people dying someplace you've been to many times gets you thinking.

        The Boston Marathon bombing was on a street I've walked down many times.

        9/11 happened in a building I've been up many times.

        The Vegas shooting was in an area I've been through many times.

The list goes on and on. Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, terrorism... it's all happening somewhere, and sometimes it happens in places you know. Having to reconcile happy memories with tragic events is a struggle.

As is life, I suppose.

   

Wish You Were Here

Posted on Monday, March 5th, 2018

Dave!I sent postcards on my Antarctica vacation knowing full well they may never show up. Just so I would know one way or the other if they arrived, I sent cards to myself as well. The first postcard was sent from Ushuaia and never made it. The second card was given to the crew of our ship to mail from Antarctica (since our landing to the post office station had to be canceled). That one finally arrived 10 weeks later...

Antarctica Postcard

Ironically, the postcard that got here cost me $1 to mail. The one that didn't get here cost over $4. Not that it matters. $4 is a tiny drop in a very large bucket.

As soon as my tax refund gets here, I plan on paying off the last remnants of vacation that have been lingering. Go me. Closure at last!

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Day Two: Arnhem

Posted on Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Dave!Traveling with one blogger friend to meet up with another blogger friend has to be one of the better things to come out of the internet.

That so few bloggers are out there now is more than a little depressing to me.

   

Day Three: Antwerp

Posted on Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Dave!I haven't been to Antwerp for decades, but decided to make the trip so I could see the Hard Rock Cafe which was added there. I don't know that it was worth the trip, but it did allow for time to visit with The Woman Formerly Known as DutchBitch, and we decided to make a lunch of it.

An hour and forty-five minutes later, and we were deposited at Antwerp's lovely Central Station...

Antwerp Central Station

   
The cafe is small, but has a decent collection of memorabilia going on...

Antwerp Hard Rock Cafe

Antwerp Hard Rock Cafe

Antwerp Hard Rock Cafe

Antwerp Hard Rock Cafe

   
With n hour to kill until our return train, we walked through the city a bit. This was a creative approach to public art I don't recall seeing before...

Antwerp City Walk

   
Not that it was the only public work on display...

Antwerp City Walk

Antwerp City Walk

   
And for anybody worried that McDonalds, Starbucks, and Kentucky Fried Chicken was the end of American exports abroad, you'll be happy to know that Five Guys has gone global...

Antwerp City Walk

   
And with that, we said adieu to Antwerp.

   

Day Four: Keukenhof, Part One

Posted on Friday, April 13th, 2018

Dave!One of the nicest places to visit in the Netherlands is the Keukenhof, which is all tulips all the time. Well, at least for the time that they are open, which is about mid-to-late-March to mid-May. I've visited a couple times before (here and here), and always have a good time walking around photographing the flowers and taking in the smells that only a billion flowers can provide.

For this trip, I took my Sony 90mm Macro FE lens, which was purchased specifically for situations like this. Even though I didn't really do much "deep macro" with it, I was able to get some beautiful shots that only a lens of this quality can provide. Perhaps next time I will take a tripod and do some "real" macro, which would be an interesting way to make the journey feel new again...

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

To be continued...

   

Day Four: Keukenhof, Part Two

Posted on Friday, April 13th, 2018

Dave!Usually when I take hundreds of vacation photos, I go back to my hotel and immediately purge 50-60% of them. Then I take a good hard look at what's left and delete another bunch of them if I can. Since digital photography makes it so easy (and cheap!) to shoot loads of photos, I always shoot way more than I need just in case I missed something that my be covered in other shots. But to save all those photos would be absurd, as I'd never want to look at crappy images, nor do I want to pour through a bunch of duplicates.

My day at the Keukenhof resulted in two-hundred-and-sixty-eight photos.

I only deleted twenty-two of them.

Everything was just too great to dump.

I did, however, manage to whittle down the ones I was going to post here to fifty, which I divided into two parts because it seemed the easier way to fly.

Every year there's a theme to the Keukenhof's grand display. Last time I was here I think it was orchids. This time it was roses and romance, which was a cool exhibit to see. Roses are just so beautiful when you look at the delicate folds that make them what they are. I couldn't stop photographing them...

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

   
I think my favorite flower I saw was this one, which looked more like fake paper cut-out flowers rather than actual vegetation. I wish I had thought to look up the name...

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

   
In my past three visits, I never once saw a bee. This time I saw two of them, including this industrious fellow...

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

   
A friend came down from Amsterdam to walk around the gardens with me. We were discussing something to do with photography when I young boy heard us speaking in English. He poked at my leg, and I looked down at him only to have this conversation...

"I know the name of all the flowers!"
"That's nice."
"I know the name of all the flowers!"
"Oh. Okay... what's this one?"
"I don't know that one."
"I see. What's this one?"
"I don't know that one."
"Ah. What flower do you know?"
"That is a tulip."
"Alrighty then."

Later we were walking by a pond where there were a couple ducks. The same little boy was yelling "QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!" This was a new level of annoying, and I wondered if I should ask him for more fascinating tulip facts, but thought it better to leave well enough alone...

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

Flowers of the Keukenhof

   
And that's it for this edition of NAME! THAT! FLOWER!

   

Day Five: AMS -> BUD

Posted on Saturday, April 14th, 2018

Dave!This morning consisted of a run to Amersfoort to meet up with my extended-extended family for lunch. It was the weekend of the Smartlappenfestival, where people are dressing up and singing old-time Dutch "tearjerker" songs in the street. The DutchBitch makes fun of me for liking smartlap, but I actually do! It's kinda like polka... it's usually got an accordion... but different somehow...

Smartlappenfestival in Amersfoort

   
After a lovely lunch with some lovely people, it was time to pack up my crap and head to the airport for a flight to Budapest. For whatever reason, the cost to fly Sunday morning was nearly $500 more(!) than flying out Saturday evening, so I bit the bullet and left tonight knowing that the cost for an additional hotel night was by far the cheaper option.

The flight was pleasant and uneventful as usual (one of the reasons I'm happy to pay the slightly higher premium to fly KLM Cityhopper instead of a budget airline).

And so here I am in lovely Budapest for the first time. Where my hotel really seems to like paper airplanes...

Hotel IBIS Budapest Airport

Hotel IBIS Budapest Airport

Hotel IBIS Budapest Airport

Big fun will ensue tomorrow, I'm sure. But for now? Good night.

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Day Six: Budapest, Part One

Posted on Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Dave!Originally, I was spending five days, four nights in Budapest. It's a city I've been wanting to visit for a very long time, and there's a ton of stuff I want to do here. Then I finally managed to get yet another eye surgery scheduled after months of trying, so my European vacation had to be cut from two weeks to one. Which meant that my time in the "Pearl of the Danube" had to be cut down to two nights and one day.

Still, I managed to pack a lot into this one day. So I'm going to divide it up into four entries.

With such limited time available, I was going to get up and head into Budapest early. But the weather was yucky foggy(!) out, and so I decided to sleep in an extra two hours.

After taking the train into the city, I dropped off my backpack at the hotel and headed across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge so I could make my way up to Buda Castle...

Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest

Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest

Interesting note: The bridge was blown up in World War II by the Germans after they retreated across it. The towers were still there, but everything else had to be rebuilt. I think the lion sculptures at both ends survived, which is good because they're pretty cool...

Széchenyi Chain Bridge Lions in Budapest

   
My original plan was to ride up the funicular to the castle, but walk down. With every minute precious, I ended up taking it both ways...

Buda Castle

Budapest Buda Hill Funicular

The views at the top are pretty great...

Budapest Buda Castle

Budapest Buda Castle

Budapest Buda Castle

Budapest Buda Castle

Budapest Buda Castle

Budapest Buda Castle

Budapest Buda Castle

   
One of the more amazing sights was behind the castle where there's this walkway under flowering trees. The shade of pink on display is unreal, and I could have spent an hour just photographing them...

Budapest Buda Castle Flower Tree Walk

Budapest Buda Castle Flower Tree Walk

Budapest Buda Castle Flower Tree Walk

Budapest Buda Castle Flower Tree Walk

   
Along the way I ran across a... I dunno... post or broken water fountain maybe? It was especially cool how the text was carved into it...

Budapest Buda Castle

Budapest Buda Castle

   
Next up in Part 2... Fisherman's Bastion and the incredible Matthias Church!

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Day Six: Budapest, Part Two

Posted on Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Dave!From Buda Castle I walked to the area known as "Halászbástya"... or "Fisherman's Bastion" in English. The reason that this end of castle hill has that name is because the local fishermen's guild was responsible for defending it. The bastion itself is pretty nifty, with great views across the Danube River to the Pest side of the city...

Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest

Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest

Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest

Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest

   
Fisherman's Bastion is home to the incredible Matthias Church. If I were to make a "must-see list" for Budapest, this church would unquestionably be at the top of it. It's a painted church (though not the Painted Church) which is my favorite kind of church (probably because I've seen so many gothic cathedrals in my time that I welcome the opportunity to see something different). The outside is kinda familiar if you've seen a lot of European churches, but the pretty tile roof and awesome moon and star weather vane give you a hint what you'll find inside...

Matthias Church in Budapest

Matthias Church in Budapest

Matthias Church in Budapest

Matthias Church in Budapest

   
And speaking of inside...

Matthias Church in Budapest

Matthias Church in Budapest

Matthias Church in Budapest

Matthias Church in Budapest

Matthias Church in Budapest

I took a lot of photos of those painted walls... fascinated that so many disparate patterns ended up looking so amazingly awesome together...

Matthias Church Painted Walls in Budapest

Matthias Church Painted Walls in Budapest

Matthias Church Painted Walls in Budapest

Matthias Church Painted Walls in Budapest

Matthias Church Painted Walls in Budapest

   
Meanwhile, back to my tour...

Matthias Church in Budapest

Matthias Church in Budapest

Matthias Church in Budapest

Matthias Church in Budapest

Matthias Church in Budapest

   
I could have spent a couple hours here easy, but hadn't eaten all day and needed to grab a bite before more exploring. So I headed back to the Pest side of the Danube, which you can read all about in Part Three!

   

Day Six: Budapest, Part Three

Posted on Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Dave!I would have wanted to visit Budapest even if there were not a Hard Rock Cafe here, but since there is, I definitely wanted to drop by for a shot glass, T-shirt, and a couple pins. And a late lunch. Just enough to tide me over until I found some kind of awesome Hungarian vegetarian meal for dinner.

The Hard Rock Budapest is a fairly small property, but has a good assortment of memorabilia...

Hard Rock Cafe Budapest

Hard Rock Cafe Budapest

Hard Rock Cafe Budapest

Hard Rock Cafe Budapest

Hard Rock Cafe Budapest

It also has a nice view of the square below...

Hard Rock Cafe Budapest

   
Wanting to get the most out of my 24-hour public transit card, I headed to City Park and Vajdahunyad Castle. There's a museum about agriculture inside, but I didn't have the time to spend visiting it...

Vajdahunyad Castle Budapest

Vajdahunyad Castle Budapest

   
Behind the castle is Hősök tere, which means "Heroes' Square" in English. In addition to housing Hungary's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, there are statues of various important Hungarian leaders at one end. As you could probably guess, this has been the site of many political demonstrations over the years...

Heroes' Square - Hősök tere Budapest

Heroes' Square - Hősök tere Budapest

Heroes' Square - Hősök tere Budapest

   
As I was speeding my way back towards the Danube, I saw this funky piece of art in one of the subway stations and had to get a photo. No idea what it means...

Dog Leads Man Sculpture in Budapest

   
The Hungarian Parliament Building is famous for the way it lights up at night, but it's not quite getting dark yet. Doesn't stop me from pulling my camera out as I pass by though...

Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest

Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest

   
At the river, I eventually find what I'm looking for... the "Shoes on the Danube Bank" memorial. During World War II, people (mostly Jews and Romani) were brought here to the river bank to be shot by the Nazi-inspired fascist regime of the day (called The Arrow Cross Party), but were told to remove their shoes first...

Shoes on the Danube Bank in Budapest

Shoes on the Danube Bank in Budapest

   
Exhausted from running around like a madman all day, I headed back towards my hotel to get some dinner and rest up for some night photography. I didn't know what might be available for vegetarians, but thought my best bet would be at a collection of food stands in the square nearby. Sure enough, I ran across "Lángos" or "Hungarian Flatbread," which is pieces of deep-fat-fried dough that's slathered in sour cream then topped with a mountain of grated cheese...

Hungarian Flatbread Lángos in Budapest

Hungarian Flatbread Lángos in Budapest

Pretty close to heaven for somebody like me!

And... one more entry left to wrap things up...

   

Day Six: Budapest, Part Four

Posted on Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Dave!And here we are at the end of my busy day in Budapest. Since I have to be at the train station by 7:30 in the morning, there ain't no more after this.

Odds are if you've ever been looking at photos of Budapest, you'll undoubtedly run across that classic shot of the Hungarian Parliament Building all lit up at night. The city is kinda famous for it, and I wanted a shot of my very own.

After sprinting across the Danube... or, to be more precise, under the Danube on the subway... I sat on the bank across from the building waiting for night to fall and the magic to happen.

The lights start off small at first. Just little glowing dots appearing across the exterior...

Hungarian Parliament Bulding at night in Budapest

But before too long, the whole building is flooded in golden light. It is most certainly a pretty sight...

Hungarian Parliament Bulding at night in Budapest

Hungarian Parliament Bulding at night in Budapest

Hungarian Parliament Bulding at night in Budapest

   
Continuing down the West bank of the river, I make my way back towards the Chain Bridge...

Chain Bridge at night in Budapest

   
I had purchased an extra funicular ticket on my first ride up Castle Hill because I wanted to look down on the city with all the lights on...

Budapest at Night from Buda Castle

Budapest at Night from Buda Castle

Budapest at Night from Buda Castle

On my previous funicular rides, I didn't have very good angle to film the experience. This time I did, and here's what that looks like...

   
And that's all she wrote, folks. Time to head back across the river so I can get some sleep before heading out in the morning...

Budapest at Night

Until next time, Budapest...

   

Day Seven: Vienna

Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2018

Dave!Vienna is a city with historical significance that I have long wanted to visit. When it got a Hard Rock Cafe 2-1/2 years ago, I finally had the excuse I needed to plan a trip. That being said, Vienna is a hard sell if you don't like classical music and horses, as they seem to be the life-blood of the city. Neither of those things interest me, so I tended to focus on the architecture and art, both of which interest me very much.

By train, Vienna is a swift 2-1/2 hours from Budapest. I always spring the small amount extra for a First Class ticket, which seems to result in less hassle during border crossings. I left at 7:30 in the morning and was surprised that there were only two other people in my coach...

On the Train to Vienna

   
As expected, the city is incredibly well-connected with public transportation, including a system of trams and subways that makes navigation a snap. Walking to my hotel, the first photo I snapped on this dreary Monday encapsulated Vienna pretty well...

Horse-Drawn Carriage in Vienna

   
I hadn't eaten breakfast, so my first stop was the Hard Rock for a quick bite. It's nice, but one of the fairly boring new "hipster chic" properties I'm not a fan of...

Hard Rock Cafe Vienna

Hard Rock Cafe Vienna

Hard Rock Cafe Vienna

Hard Rock Cafe Vienna

Hard Rock Cafe Vienna

Hard Rock Cafe Vienna

   
My first stop after lunch was to run out to Schönbrunn Palace. Don't ask me why. I always end up regretting it after visiting palaces, and this was no exception. It's all "Here's a sitting room. Here's a sitting room. Here's a sitting room. Here's a sitting room. Here's a bedroom. Here's a sitting room." Which begs the question... exactly how many places did these people need to sit down? I didn't spend much time after I saw that Schönbrunn was just more of the same thing I've seen a dozen times before...

Schönbrunn Palace

   
Back in the city proper, I decided to wander around and look at architecture, which could keep me occupied for days. There's just so much to see...

Vienna City Central

Vienna City Central

Vienna City Central

Vienna City Central

Vienna City Central

Vienna City Central

Vienna City Central

   
There is, of course, a cathedral. It's pretty much par-for-the-course when it comes to gothic European cathedrals...

Vienna Cathedral

Vienna Cathedral

Vienna Cathedral

My final stop for the day was the Albertina Museum, where I knew there was a "Monet to Picasso" exhibit that was definitely worth my valuable time to visit. What I didn't know was that there was also a new Keith Haring exhibit, which was just icing on the cake...

Vienna Albertina Museum

Vienna Albertina Museum

Vienna Albertina Museum

Vienna Albertina Museum

Vienna Albertina Museum

Phenomenal exhibit. Fantastic museum.

   
After spending way too much time looking at art, everything was starting to close, so I decided to track down a falafel shop for dinner...

Falafel in Vienna

   
And now? Time for sleep. I have two very important stops to make tomorrow before flying back to the Netherlands, and I want to be sure to be rested up.

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Day Eight: Vienna

Posted on Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Dave!When I had to lop a week off my vacation, Budapest dropped from four nights to two, Vienna dropped from three nights to one. This is a tragically short amount of time in either city when you haven't visited before, but I tried my best to see as much as I could in the time I had.

When it comes to Vienna, my primary goal was to see some art by Klimt, his works having a wonderful art-deco sensibility that I love.

My first stop was to be at the gates of the Belvedere Palace Museum, home to Klimt's most famous work... The Kiss, when they opened for the day. That way I could rush to the Klimt works before people (ugh!) got in the way. As a bonus, the weather was much nicer this time around...

Klimt at the Belvedere Palace Museum

Klimt at the Belvedere Palace Museum

The Kiss is absolutely stunning in person. It's about 6-foot square, and has a luminescence you're never going to capture in a photo, but here we go anyway...

Klimt The Kiss

Klimt The Kiss

When you get really close, the texture and construction packed into the piece is mesmerizing...

Klimt The Kiss

   
There are more Klimts, but they all kind of pale in comparison...

Klimt

   
The museum houses other wonderful works as well, and it sure was nice to see them without people (ugh!) mucking about. Well worth arriving early...

Belvedere Palace Museum

Belvedere Palace Museum

Belvedere Palace Museum

   
The palace itself is magnificent. And turning it into a museum is a far better use than an endless parade of sitting rooms...

Belvedere Palace Museum

   
After exploring the Belvedere, I took a tram to the other site I really wanted to see before I left... the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. To mark the 100th year since Klimt's death, they have constructed a massive "Stairway to Klimt" which spans the main atrium and allows you to see his paintings there at eye-level. It's pretty incredible...

Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna Stairway to Klimt

Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna Stairway to Klimt

   
The opportunity to see these works in this way is akin to magic...

Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna Stairway to Klimt

Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna Stairway to Klimt

Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna Stairway to Klimt

Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna Stairway to Klimt

   
As if that weren't enough, Nuda Veritas from a private collection is on loan while "Stairway to Klimt" is running...

Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna Stairway to Klimt

   
The museum has a lot of different works, but I didn't have much time to spend with them... instead breezing through most everything. I did spend a little more time with their Egyptian artifacts though...

Kunsthistorisches Museum Egyptian

Kunsthistorisches Museum Egyptian

   
As I was headed back to my hotel so I could pack up and catch my flight, the weather was really getting nice. Such a shame I couldn't stay and enjoy it...

Vienna

   
And, just like that, my time in Vienna was over.

One subway stop and a 16-minute "City Airport Train" ride later and I was winging my way back to DutchyLand.

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Day Nine: AMS -> SEA

Posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

Dave!After a week of rushing around Europe trying to condense fourteen days into seven, I was looking forward to heading home where I could have a vacation from my vacation... by returning to work! After my first relaxing morning since I got here, the DutchBitch took me to the airport and off I went.

Well, kinda.

The flight was delayed because the PA system was down. Apparently the part they needed to fix it was not on-site, which meant we were 90 minutes late taking off. Ironically, the PA system went down again just before landing in Seattle, so apparently it wasn't as repaired as they thought it would be.

And speaking of things not being fixed...

The replacement part from IKEA for their defective wood staining never arrived, and all attempts to get a tracking number failed. Their promise of "7 to 10 days" for delivery has now ballooned to 23 days, with no end in sight. I'm sick-and-tired of having half-finished IKEA sitting on my kitchen table, so I decided to brave rush-hour traffic to pick up the damn thing in person. It was all I could do to contain my rage that I was having to add 30 to 40 minutes delay to my already-delayed drive home because IKEA customer service sucks, but what other option did I have?

I finally arrived at my driveway shortly after 9:00pm, which doesn't sound bad until you take into consideration that I had been up for nearly 20 hours straight.

Perhaps one of these years I'll finally figure out how to sleep on a plane, but that was not today.

   
UPDATE: And of course IKEA finally sends me the damn part... one day after I already went and picked it up...

FedEx Tracking Number from IKEA

   
How very typical.

Oh well. I managed to get my shelving customized and assembled this morning, so at least I won't have it mucking up my weekend like I would have if I had waited.

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