Drunken CSX engineer and CSX [are] at fault

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Posted by zugmann on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 10:59 PM

jeffhergert
PTC is getting some upgrades.

I'd be careful using that word. 

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Posted by SALfan on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 10:32 PM

Lithonia Operator

This is pretty off-topic but ...

SALfan, were the plastic bottles used to keep rain off the grain ends, and therefore prolong the life of the fence posts?

 

 

Yes.  If you look at creosoted posts that have been in place for say 15 years, a lot of times the post will be a lot lighter at the top than down near the ground.  Rain gets into the wood grain at the top and literally washes the creosote out of the wood.  We also used leftover paint to try to seal the post tops.  Of course, nowadays most people use metal posts as the line posts (as opposed to corner posts) because they are faster and a LOT less work to install, so it isn't as big a problem now.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Sunday, September 27, 2020 3:42 PM

PTC is getting some upgrades.  One of the upgrades that's supposed to be happening in the next month or so involves the Restricted Speed Mode.

After operating in Restricted Speed Mode for 5 miles or other conditions, it will require an acknoledgement from the engineer.  It will also remind that it is still in RS Mode.

Jeff

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Posted by ChuckCobleigh on Monday, September 21, 2020 10:29 AM

BaltACD

Interesting, but old news to professional software developers who have been involved in or trained in software testing. Nice example of what can be done with a cheap calculator when someone pulls a number out of a dark space as part of a suggestion for corrective action.

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, September 21, 2020 9:45 AM
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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, September 18, 2020 9:04 PM

jeffhergert
 
BaltACD 
zugmann 
charlie hebdo
Jeff and zug:  I agree.  Trusting your managements or HR with testing is naive at best.  A big part of the problem could be resolved if abuse and dependence were looked at for what they factually are: diseases needing treatment, not a punitive approach.  

But if you do that, then next we'll be expecting the railroads to start doing real scheduling.  /s 

Yes the carriers have to a better job of scheduling their broken knuckles, pulled out drawbars and undesired emergency brake applications.  Not to mention 1001 other things that delay trains.  The wheelchair trapped by the flangeway at a sidewalk crossing.  The structure fire immediately adjacent to the tracks.  The Presidential motorcade etc. etc. etc. 

Unforseen happenings notwithstanding, they do a horrible job with crew line ups.  Trains that are sometimes hundreds of miles out appear ahead of trains that are practically on a terminal's doorstep.  "Ghost" trains, those without power or cars showing ahead of real trains that are actually moving.  Trains will appear and then disappear, only to pop up again as they are being ready to be called.  Deadheads also appear, sometimes shown to be in the process of being called, only to disappear. 

Sometimes trains don't appear at all on the line up.  We sometimes recrew long pool trains, these may or may not appear depending where they fall down at.  These aren't the ones I'm talking about.  We get grain trains that come out of Northwest Iowa that go west.  The pool I'm working has to get them, the originating crews don't have rights or qualification to take them west.  Yet sometimes they won't appear on our line up.  You can only find them by looking at the outbound line up at the away terminal.       

I routinely watch my estimated call time, my "mark", swing 8 to 12 hours forward or backward.  Sometimes both ways.  

Could they do a better job?  Of course they could, but that would mean someone monitoring things more closely.  In this time of doing more with less people that ain't gonna happen.  They do use a feature of their CAD to update line ups, which usually results in those trains way, way out being marked ahead of trains that are close.   

Jeff

About the 'Trun of the Century' CSX installed an application that was to be the lead into automated calling.  The application was designed for Chief Dispatchers to in put 'call times' for road crews at the terminals when road crews were called.  The application as first installed took the 'scheduled run time' between terminals to present a time in the application at the next calling point.  If a Chief did nothing, the crew would be called on duty at the time that was in the application.  In that configuration many crews got called for trains that were still hours away.  In Self Defense - upon seeing 'new' trains pop up in the screen, the times would be set back the maximum time that the application would allow - 6 hours - witht he hope that the train would be 'figured' in in the interim and a 'good' call time could be entered.  Sometimes that plan worked, sometimes, in the 'heat of battle' the train was delayed even more, and low and behold its time did not get set back and BINGO the crew got called and they train is still multiple hours from the terminal.

That particular system remained in effect for approximately two years - my understanding was the the company was paying between $1-$2M per month in 'called and not used' penalties.  Finally the system was changed and left the 'call time' at the terminal blank until the Chief put in the proper time.

On CSX, the calling application mandated that a time be 2 hours 15 minutes in advance of the current time be input in to the system for a 'normal' call which was 2 hours.  Interdivisional Runs as identified in the system required a time of 3 hours 15 minutes to give the crews a 3 hour notice.

A lot can happen between the time the anticipated call figure is given and the train actually arrives.  Remember - that call figure is given when the train is 60 to 100 or more mile from where the crew is to go on duty.

Different terminals forecast their need for unscheduled 'extra' trains differently.  Normally extra trains are to be requested and authorized at least 12 hours before the time they are to run to give adjoining territories time to get whatever resouces that may be required in place - some terminals my short circuit the 12 hours and the first thing an adjoining territory knows it that a call figure is being given for the train.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Friday, September 18, 2020 8:08 PM

BaltACD

 

 
zugmann
 
charlie hebdo
Jeff and zug:  I agree.  Trusting your managements or HR with testing is naive at best.  A big part of the problem could be resolved if abuse and dependence were looked at for what they factually are: diseases needing treatment, not a punitive approach.  

But if you do that, then next we'll be expecting the railroads to start doing real scheduling.  /s

 

Yes the carriers have to a better job of scheduling their broken knuckles, pulled out drawbars and undesired emergency brake applications.  Not to mention 1001 other things that delay trains.  The wheelchair trapped by the flangeway at a sidewalk crossing.  The structure fire immediately adjacent to the tracks.  The Presidential motorcade etc. etc. etc.

 

Unforseen happenings notwithstanding, they do a horrible job with crew line ups.  Trains that are sometimes hundreds of miles out appear ahead of trains that are practically on a terminal's doorstep.  "Ghost" trains, those without power or cars showing ahead of real trains that are actually moving.  Trains will appear and then disappear, only to pop up again as they are being ready to be called.  Deadheads also appear, sometimes shown to be in the process of being called, only to disappear. 

Sometimes trains don't appear at all on the line up.  We sometimes recrew long pool trains, these may or may not appear depending where they fall down at.  These aren't the ones I'm talking about.  We get grain trains that come out of Northwest Iowa that go west.  The pool I'm working has to get them, the originating crews don't have rights or qualification to take them west.  Yet sometimes they won't appear on our line up.  You can only find them by looking at the outbound line up at the away terminal.       

I routinely watch my estimated call time, my "mark", swing 8 to 12 hours forward or backward.  Sometimes both ways.  

Could they do a better job?  Of course they could, but that would mean someone monitoring things more closely.  In this time of doing more with less people that ain't gonna happen.  They do use a feature of their CAD to update line ups, which usually results in those trains way, way out being marked ahead of trains that are close.   

Jeff

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Posted by SD70Dude on Friday, September 18, 2020 8:01 PM

BaltACD
zugmann
charlie hebdo
Jeff and zug:  I agree.  Trusting your managements or HR with testing is naive at best.  A big part of the problem could be resolved if abuse and dependence were looked at for what they factually are: diseases needing treatment, not a punitive approach.  

But if you do that, then next we'll be expecting the railroads to start doing real scheduling.  /s

Yes the carriers have to a better job of scheduling their broken knuckles, pulled out drawbars and undesired emergency brake applications.  Not to mention 1001 other things that delay trains.  The wheelchair trapped by the flangeway at a sidewalk crossing.  The structure fire immediately adjacent to the tracks.  The Presidential motorcade etc. etc. etc.

All that stuff happens after the crew comes to work, and turns what should be a 5-8 hour shift into a 12-16 hour slog.

As you well know, the real problem is that most of us still have no real idea of when we will be called to work.  There will always have to be an extra/spareboard of some sort, but it should be possible to have many, if not most crews start at something close to a regular time (isn't PSR supposedly about running the same number of trains at the same times each day?). 

Of course this would require time, money and effort from both the unions and the companies, and concessions from both sides.  So I don't see it happening within my lifetime.

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by zugmann on Friday, September 18, 2020 7:34 PM

BaltACD
Yes the carriers have to a better job of scheduling their broken knuckles, pulled out drawbars and undesired emergency brake applications.  Not to mention 1001 other things that delay trains.  The wheelchair trapped by the flangeway at a sidewalk crossing.  The structure fire immediately adjacent to the tracks.  The Presidential motorcade etc. etc. etc.

Exhibit A. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, September 18, 2020 7:31 PM

zugmann
 
charlie hebdo
Jeff and zug:  I agree.  Trusting your managements or HR with testing is naive at best.  A big part of the problem could be resolved if abuse and dependence were looked at for what they factually are: diseases needing treatment, not a punitive approach.  

But if you do that, then next we'll be expecting the railroads to start doing real scheduling.  /s

Yes the carriers have to a better job of scheduling their broken knuckles, pulled out drawbars and undesired emergency brake applications.  Not to mention 1001 other things that delay trains.  The wheelchair trapped by the flangeway at a sidewalk crossing.  The structure fire immediately adjacent to the tracks.  The Presidential motorcade etc. etc. etc.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, September 18, 2020 7:09 PM

zugmann

 

 
charlie hebdo
Jeff and zug:  I agree.  Trusting your managements or HR with testing is naive at best.  A big part of the problem could be resolved if abuse and dependence were looked at for what they factually are: diseases needing treatment, not a punitive approach. 

 

But if you do that, then next we'll be expecting the railroads to start doing real scheduling.  /s

 

Yeah.  Just fantasy. 

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Posted by zugmann on Friday, September 18, 2020 6:53 PM

charlie hebdo
Jeff and zug:  I agree.  Trusting your managements or HR with testing is naive at best.  A big part of the problem could be resolved if abuse and dependence were looked at for what they factually are: diseases needing treatment, not a punitive approach. 

But if you do that, then next we'll be expecting the railroads to start doing real scheduling.  /s

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, September 18, 2020 6:18 PM

jeffhergert

 

 
Overmod

 

 
tree68
Drug scans, of course, take a few days to get results, not to mention you have to be able to provide enough sample. 

 

I believe there are very rapid field scans for many of the 'popular' drugs, with implied relative ease of producing variants for different or novel agents.  These are not the Theranos-style microsample quick analysis, they are more like the one-line/two-line disposable pregnancy test.  They would NOT be used as forensic 'proof', only for RedBoard-style stand-down or mark-off or followed by more precise and chain-of-custody-protected fluids testing in a proper clinical setting.

 

Theoretically a weed weasel could carry these onto equipment easily and request only a small volume of liquid to work.  Probably the best way would involve a labeled vial into which the indicator is inserted and then remains 'sealed'.

 

 

 

One.  No one would trust a company officer with taking a sample.  No matter how tamper proof it is.

Second.  Once you've taken a sample to look for drugs, other than alcohol, that crew has to be removed from service for the remainder of the trip.  I mentioned earlier that they only test us by breathalyzer for alcohol when going on duty.  They do the full blown testing when going off duty, or if they have an immediate cause for testing.  The reason is, if they test a person and that person is involved in an incident, then the test comes positive for drugs, the railroad is liable because they let him work.  Maybe other railroads do it differently, but ours always has liability on it's mind.

Jeff

 

 

Jeff and zug:  I agree.  Trusting your managements or HR with testing is naive at best.  A big part of the problem could be resolved if abuse and dependence were looked at for what they factually are: diseases needing treatment, not a punitive approach. 

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Posted by zugmann on Friday, September 18, 2020 5:44 PM

tree68
A built-in breathalyzer sounds good - much like the interlockers installed in DWI offender's vehicles, but there comes the matter of enforcing actual samples.  Crew members who are complicit aren't going to rat each other out.  I'm sure a bellows could be used to force clean air into the tester...  And that means cameras in the cab.

I am not putting my lips on anything in that nasty cab.  Period.  Pass the breath test but test postive for a staph infection.  No thanks.

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Posted by zugmann on Friday, September 18, 2020 5:43 PM

Our pee sample guys are contractors, I believe, and those guys are tested directly from the FRA if I was told right. 

I wouldn't trust a manager with any of my various bodily secretions. 

 

When we get popped for a random, we do the breath and pee cup at the beginning of shift.  I forget how many hours we get, but we can consume up to 32oz (I think) of clear liquids.  I was told things like coffee don't count towards that.  

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Posted by jeffhergert on Friday, September 18, 2020 5:25 PM

Overmod

 

 
tree68
Drug scans, of course, take a few days to get results, not to mention you have to be able to provide enough sample. 

 

I believe there are very rapid field scans for many of the 'popular' drugs, with implied relative ease of producing variants for different or novel agents.  These are not the Theranos-style microsample quick analysis, they are more like the one-line/two-line disposable pregnancy test.  They would NOT be used as forensic 'proof', only for RedBoard-style stand-down or mark-off or followed by more precise and chain-of-custody-protected fluids testing in a proper clinical setting.

 

Theoretically a weed weasel could carry these onto equipment easily and request only a small volume of liquid to work.  Probably the best way would involve a labeled vial into which the indicator is inserted and then remains 'sealed'.

 

One.  No one would trust a company officer with taking a sample.  No matter how tamper proof it is.

Second.  Once you've taken a sample to look for drugs, other than alcohol, that crew has to be removed from service for the remainder of the trip.  I mentioned earlier that they only test us by breathalyzer for alcohol when going on duty.  They do the full blown testing when going off duty, or if they have an immediate cause for testing.  The reason is, if they test a person and that person is involved in an incident, then the test comes positive for drugs, the railroad is liable because they let him work.  Maybe other railroads do it differently, but ours always has liability on it's mind.

Jeff

 

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Posted by jeffhergert on Friday, September 18, 2020 5:12 PM

tree68

I've heard three hours, and then it's not a failed test but a refusal to participate or however they word it.  The penalties for that are worse than an outright failure. This may be the railroad's policy, they can be harsher than the Feds require. 

There is a limit of I think they said 6 bottles of water, but our bottles of water can vary in size.  Currently we are provided in my terminal 10 oz bottles.  We've had 8 oz before and I've seen 16 oz bottles before.

I know of one case where the guy had to drink water.  It was at another terminal and I don't recall them saying there was a limit then, many years ago now.  His test came back as being diluted and it was treated as a failure.

Jeff

 

 
BaltACD
I believe a person being drug tested has up to two hours to produce a testable sample.  Water is made freely available to assist in producing a sample.

 

It's four hours, and there is a limit to how much one is allowed to drink, but I don't recall the specifics.  The regulation says "moderate."

49 CFR 219 is the federal reg.  It's available on-line.

 

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Friday, September 18, 2020 4:35 PM

There's a test strip that can be used for BAC.  I have seen them used here in the office personally after someone came back from Lunch before and they where acting different afterwards.  He got busted on that strip was sent for a further test and then FIRED for cause.  Why the guy was one of our forklift drivers that moved 1 ton boxes of plastic resin around.  

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, September 18, 2020 2:21 PM

I think there are three issues here and it is important to distinguish between them.

1. Ongoing testing to make sure substance use is not occuring in violation of operating rules.

2. Providing a confidential program for treatment of any abuse/dependency, with effective protection against job loss. 

3. Investigations of accidents, especially those where substance use is rationally suspected.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, September 18, 2020 11:24 AM

Lithonia Operator
It would seem to me that that would be a standard question in any wreck investigation, period. Mainly just for general fact-gathering. But also because if the crewman says he absolutely had not consumed alcohol, but the test proves that he did, then they can also bust him for lying.

It is for reasons just such as this that the NTSB bends over backward to note that nothing in their investigation can be used in any legal proceeding.

This aside from the 'don't ask, don't tell' (aka not documented, not done) way that I see some of these interview sessions crafted when the TV-lawyering carefully-formulated questions to things they already have answers to aren't in play.  I think at least some of this is intended to extend some plausible deniability to employees vs. companies, but that might just be paranoia doing the interpretation -- not that it necessarily isn't there...

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Posted by Convicted One on Friday, September 18, 2020 9:53 AM

Lithonia Operator
the engineer clearly wants to make it sound like they tampered with the evidence. I have no idea if that has any factual merit.

"Chain of Custody" is a fairly common defense strategy for people who have been caught.

It has worked in some situations where the employer has made a blunder, but it's akin to getting a case thrown out of court over a technicality.  No one really believes the accused is innocent. They just have a future day of reckoning, awaiting them.

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Friday, September 18, 2020 8:49 AM

I've now read both the engineer and the conductor interviews.

The engineer was never asked anything about alcohol use. Not a single question. What's up with that?

(I don't remember if the conductor was asked about alcohol, regarding himself or the engineer.)

It would seem to me that that would be a standard question in any wreck investigation, period. Mainly just for general fact-gathering. But also because if the crewman says he absolutely had not consumed alcohol, but the test proves that he did, then they can also bust him for lying.

Do union agreements somehow prohibit such questions? I found it astonishing there were none.

Now, the engineer clearly wants to make it sound like they tampered with the evidence. I have no idea if that has any factual merit.

His only case seems to be that "hell, they work us to death, so I'm always tired." But OTOH, he says that if he has a hotel stay of 24 hours, he only sleeps 6 of those hours. I know it's not always easy to sleep a times when you usually don't, but here's a guy who is "always tired" but does not take advantage of the opportunity to sleep when he's in a hotel room, away from home chores, screaming kids, wife's needs, etc. Pretty hard for me to empathize with him.

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Posted by Euclid on Friday, September 18, 2020 7:33 AM

If the conductor knows that an engineer has been drinking, what do rules require the conductor to do?  If the company suspects that the conductor knew the engineer was drinking, and the conductor did nothing, can the company discipline the conductor?

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Posted by tree68 on Friday, September 18, 2020 7:15 AM

BaltACD
I believe a person being drug tested has up to two hours to produce a testable sample.  Water is made freely available to assist in producing a sample.

It's four hours, and there is a limit to how much one is allowed to drink, but I don't recall the specifics.  The regulation says "moderate."

49 CFR 219 is the federal reg.  It's available on-line.

LarryWhistling
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Posted by Overmod on Friday, September 18, 2020 1:35 AM

tree68
Drug scans, of course, take a few days to get results, not to mention you have to be able to provide enough sample. 

I believe there are very rapid field scans for many of the 'popular' drugs, with implied relative ease of producing variants for different or novel agents.  These are not the Theranos-style microsample quick analysis, they are more like the one-line/two-line disposable pregnancy test.  They would NOT be used as forensic 'proof', only for RedBoard-style stand-down or mark-off or followed by more precise and chain-of-custody-protected fluids testing in a proper clinical setting.

Theoretically a weed weasel could carry these onto equipment easily and request only a small volume of liquid to work.  Probably the best way would involve a labeled vial into which the indicator is inserted and then remains 'sealed'.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, September 17, 2020 11:07 PM

tree68

Alcohol tests present another potential problem in these days of just enough crews to do the job - if a crew member fails the test, the train they were assigned to take out will have to sit until a replacement is found.  

Trains sit all the time anyway.  I don't think this would be a big issue. 

They would blame the additional crew costs on the failing employee, and any additional train delay would be hidden through the magic of PSR.

In some cases this might actually be advantageous, they could use the failed test delay as an excuse to hide other additional delays, and the relief employee might be someone they would have had to deadhead anyway. 

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, September 17, 2020 10:44 PM

I believe a person being drug tested has up to two hours to produce a testable sample.  Water is made freely available to assist in producing a sample.  I a person is unable to produce a sample within the time limit - it is considered as a FAILED test and the employee is removed from service pending disciplinary actions.

I would notice the tester at the Dispatch Center monthly or more frequently - when the tester arrives, no one knows who is to be tested.

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Posted by tree68 on Thursday, September 17, 2020 9:25 PM

Regardless of who runs the program, the only way it will work is if an employee knows that they may be tested.  Examples such as Balt's don't instill that kind of caution.

I've heard it suggested that tests should be administered at various times through an employee's tour of duty.  That prevents them from partaking after they step onto the train.  The logistics of that are difficult, however, which means that testing either before or after would be the best thing.

Drug scans, of course, take a few days to get results, not to mention you have to be able to provide enough sample.  

Alcohol tests present another potential problem in these days of just enough crews to do the job - if a crew member fails the test, the train they were assigned to take out will have to sit until a replacement is found.   

A built-in breathalyzer sounds good - much like the interlockers installed in DWI offender's vehicles, but there comes the matter of enforcing actual samples.  Crew members who are complicit aren't going to rat each other out.  I'm sure a bellows could be used to force clean air into the tester...  And that means cameras in the cab.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, September 17, 2020 7:38 PM

Overmod

This is why there's no mystery about why RedBoard was a union-administered program, and why I think personal safety and awareness training should likewise be union-administered and overseen (although underwritten with railroad financial support).  Unless there is some reasonable way to encourage sobriety and, when it is not present, ensure 'the safe course is taken' without having to become a snitch or a weed weasel in the eyes of other employees, problems like this become an ugly race to expulsion-from-school-for-having-an-aspirin-tablet kind of enforcement, probably backed up as these things usually are by pressure or enticement on the insurance industry.  What a fun world it would be with inward-facing cameras and a breathalyzer coupled to the alerter system that periodically 'random scans' consists over the PTC network and prompts everyone in the cab to blow into the device within 45 seconds to avoid a penalty brake... and stops the train if excessive alcohol is detected.  

 

Sadly,  as long as employees fear termination if their cat is out of the bag about their behaviors or illnesses, devices to detect will need to be used for safety, including robot trains in the future. 

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