Monday, August 01, 2016

New Edition Day

The URI! Zone turns 20 years old this month, an epic yet ultimately pointless achievement not unlike driving a Prius for 8 hours without a pee break or watching the entire series of Everybody Loves Raymond. From its roots as a static HTML homepage through the evolution into a daily blog, this website has existed in some form for almost as long as Yahoo! (although obviously, the URI! Zone has retained its modern relevance and artistic appeal, while Yahoo! today is only known for its awful video player that refuses to work with ad blockers).

To mark TWO DECADES of existence, I have put together a one-minute movie history of the website, set to the tune of The Llama Fanfare which originally played in the background as a MIDI file in the very First Edition. Today, everyone hates websites that automatically play music and video, but back in the late 90s... well, everyone STILL hated it. I was a trendsetter in hate!

The URI! Zone: 20 Years of History in Under a Minute

By the numbers, here's what the URI! Zone looks like today:

  • 7166 images, MP3s, and other files, totaling 295 megabytes
  • over 162,430 unique visitors since 2003
  • 3775 daily blog posts since 2001
  • 8032 comments from 145 unique visitors since 2003
  • over $2800 spent on web hosting since 2003
  • exactly $222 in prizes given away in caption and name-that-tune contests
  • $0 in income from ad revenue, because ads are retarded

Looking ahead into the next decade, this website will be around for quite some time to document my zany life for syndication (and not just because I purchased 3 years of reserved Amazon Web Services instances to run it). Having reached 20 years, I'm now allowed to coast a bit on the strength of popularity alone (see also, any recent comic from The Family Circus and Garfield). I'll be posting three times a week, usually on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which is still three times more than most bloggers post anymore. If there are any topics you'd like me to cover, let me know. Likewise, if you yourself have a regularly updated blog worth reading, send me a link!

Thank you for your continued friendship and readership! TEN MORE YEARS!

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Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Memory Day: 1979

Apart from being the fabulous setting of the second season of Fargo, 1979 marks the first year that a BU existed in the world. My parents always knew that they wanted to adopt a second child that would outshine the older sister in the number of As and merit badges earned. It would take almost two full years from the time that my dad wrote this letter for their order to be fulfilled, packed, and delivered:

Based on the thick packet of evidence in my possession, the adoption process (through a now defunct organization called Welcome House) was a tedious, expensive process full of bureaucracy, misplaced paperwork, and letters arriving weeks later after being dashed off on a typewriter. My parents would ultimately get lucky when I was abandoned at the Wooie Police Station in Seoul on September 15 and transferred into the care of Korea Social Services. I was given the name Soon Bok Yoon, which sounds DELICIOUS.

I spent the first three months of my life in an orphanage at 533-3, Ssangmun-dong, Seoul, South Korea, a location that currently resolves to a demolished building on Google Earth. I have no memories of this time, but the staff sent a few pictures of me to my future parents:

Based on its appearance, I presume that the stuffed animal was a superhero duck named "Bruises Easily". It did not accompany me on my journey to the US. There is also a creepy lock of hair in my file folder of adoption papers. I presume that the staff sent it along in advance so my parents could prep a voodoo doll in case I behaved badly. If I die in a freak volcano incident, you are welcome to use this old hair to reconstitute a clone of me like Dolly the Sheep.

Meanwhile, my sister, Ellen, was 3 years old and living the only-child lifestyle in the house on Pickett Street in Alexandria. The paperwork churned inexorably forward like a season of Bloodline played at half speed, so I did not get to meet my future parents until the 1980s were underway.

To Be Continued...

Other posts in this series: 1979 | 1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989 | 1990 | 1990 - 1991 | 1991 - 1992 | 1992 - 1993

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Friday, August 05, 2016

Trip Plans 2016

Now that August is well underway, we're preparing for our upcoming vacation, this time to Colorado. Although it will be no Grindelwald (where we went last summer), we'll be able to use real money and speak English at the expense of slightly smaller mountains.

We plan on flying direct to Denver (and in fact, the "Direct Flights Out of Dulles" page is our usual brainstorming launchpad when planning new vacations) and heading to Boulder for two nights, where we'll meet up with Oklahoma Emily and do hippie things. From there, we'll spend five nights in a swank studio cottage in Estes Park, where we'll do daily hikes throughout Rocky Mountain National Park and hang about for "long enough to get bored". I'm hoping Rocky Mountain National Park will be more exciting than Rocky Mount, North Carolina, a sad stop on I-95 that's only reknowned for being an exit to the Outer Banks when approaching from the south.

After Estes Park, we'll drive through the mountains to Breckenridge, where we'll stay for 4 more nights and do even more hiking. Finally, we'll head back to Denver for two nights, where we'll meet up with the inestimable Mike and Annie to do city things before returning home.

This trip was incredibly easy to plan -- we blocked out the logistics like planes and cars and hotels early in the year, and will finally figure out what, specifically, we'll do each day while flying into town. I'm also looking forward to browsing the airport bookstores before buying the books on my Kindle -- this would feel more like sticking it to old media if the average price of Kindle books hadn't risen over $10 though.

Have any suggestions for our trip? Let me know in the comments section!

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Monday, August 08, 2016

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday night, we took our bumper crop of tomatoes over to the Lowry household for pizza and salads as well as the Opening Ceremony for the Olympics. The ceremony was pretty forgettable, although the section where the giant fish vagina projection screen floor presented the illusion of 3D rooftops while people danced across it was mildly interesting. Plus, the stadium did not collapse so bonus points for that. As usual, NBC completely killed the momentum of the broadcast by having 1.2 commercials for every 1 unit of Olympics.

On Saturday night, I made spinach-stuffed mushrooms for a double birthday party amongst Rebecca's yogi crowd which turned out really well except for the fact that we now have multiple half bags of various cheeses left in the fridge. I'll either find a new recipe that requires many cheese, or melt it all into a bowl and eat it with a spoon.

On Sunday, the Smiths stopped by to reclaim Titan the cat from cat prison, and then we met up with Rebecca's parents at Old Ox Brewery for a midafternoon sampling. The humidity had returned with a vengeance so we wisely sat indoors. We finished the day by laying around the living room with the Olympics on in the background. Rebecca is really into the ludicrous displays, although I would enjoy it much more with fewer commercials, fewer sappy stories about how rough the athletes had it growing up, and more emphasis on the action and replays.

How was your weekend?

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Shameless, Season Two (US remake):
Shameless continues to maintain the quality it set up in the first season as it gradually introduces new members of the Gallagher family. It walks the line between pathos and comedy quite nicely and never feels like it's dragging.

Final Grade: B+

Community, Season Six:
After being cancelled on NBC, Yahoo! picked up Community for one final abbreviated season. It's still better than the awful fourth season, and has a few really funny spots, but feels incomplete without Donald Glover. The show owns its meta nature fully now and ends with a fake commercial containing a spot on summation of the entire show: "some episodes too conceptual to be funny, some too funny to be immersive, and some so immersive they still aren't funny".

Final Grade: B-

Drymax Lite Hiking Socks:
I got these socks for our upcoming Colorado hiking excursions. They're made from futuristic synthetics and stay dry and bacteria-free. They're lighter than they appear when worn, and have no inner seam to rub against the top of your foot. My feet felt great after 7 miles, the point at which my big toes usually start hurting.

Final Grade: B+

Person of Interest, Season Five:
The abbreviated final season of this show knocks it out of the park. This final season wraps everything up, giving all of the characters the endings they deserve, with the final three episodes being especially impactful.

Final Grade: A+

Person of Interest, Complete Series:
It's amazing that a procedural CBS "case of the week" show could ever turn out to be a Trojan horse for a serial show about dystopian futures and government surveillance, and even more amazing that it didn't just collapse into a muddled heap of poorly implemented sci-fi. The series has an organic evolution with great supporting characters and recurring bit characters (there are callbacks to characters from the first season in the last season that I didn't even remember). The mismatched buddy nature of Reese and Finch's relationship (and Reese and Fusco's relationship later) was well done. Season Four sagged liked my childhood mattress with the broken bed frame which I had jumped up and down on one too many times. Part of the problem was the introduction of a villain (Samaritan) which was simply too powerful and the feeling that the plot was stalling in order to stretch out to 22 episodes. That said, this is still a great show whose final season makes the whole journey worthwhile. The first four seasons are currently free on Netflix.

Final Grade: A-

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

5:13 AM: Showered and ready for work.
5:31 AM: Arriving in the office.
6:51 AM: Excess heat flares over Reston.
11:02 AM: Getting lunch at Chickfila, less because I was hungry and more because I needed to break a 20 dollar bill.
11:22 AM: Lunch and news.
11:39 AM: Back to work with Booty.
2:00 PM: Running on the treadmill and watching the TV show version of Limitless.
3:05 PM: Time for a humidity-triggered haircut.
3:30 PM: Working on my Wiki.
3:46 PM: Exercising Booty.
6:35 PM: Burger Night!
7:29 PM: Rebecca finishes up her documentation for work.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Hello from Boulder

We flew into Denver mid-morning on Saturday and made our way up to Boulder in time for the last few minutes of the weekly Farmer's Market.

We spent the evening biking through hippies and taking a small hike up to Red Rocks in Settler's Park (not the same as the Ampitheatre), with dinner at Southern Sun and drinks at FATE ("Coffee Kolsch" sounds weird, but it's more delicious than Soon Bok Yoon).

On Sunday morning, we went to Chautauqua Park to hike the Flatiron 1/2 trail, which would take us to where the arrow points in this picture.

We made it to the top! We then did a second hike to the Royal Arch which I bailed on halfway up, in favour of taking a 1 hour nap on a large cool rock in the forest. Rebecca and Emily made it all of the way up and were unimpressed.

After ice cream at Glacier, we dropped Emily off at her airport shuttle (having planned for just a single whirlwind weekend visit) and then spent the rest of the day wandering around Pearl Street Mall. Rebecca got some fancy tea at a store near a street musician who was probably high and just playing warm ups on a tenor saxophone. For dinner, we went to the West Flanders Brewing Company, where we had 4 deliciously on-the-mark Belgian beers.

A more detailed travelogue might follow when I get home. Happy Monday!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Hiking to Black Lake

We got up at 5 AM today and arrived at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead in time for sunrise and a parking spot in the rapidly filling lot.

This hike was 10.5 miles. Black Lake is one of the farther lakes from the trailhead because of segregation. Yesterday, we hiked 9.4 miles around Mount Wuh, and the night before (on our first night in Estes Park) we did 3.6 miles. In the picture below, you can see Long's Peak (the highest point in the park) in the distance, the first mountain from the left with sunlight shining on it.

We timed things well, as we were off the mountain and heading towards the car when the daily thunderstorms arrived. We had a celebratory pint at Rock Cut Brewery (a Smoked Brunette) and then came home for an afternoon nap!

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Hiking to Sky Pond

Today's hike was 9.6 miles long, but felt much easier than Wednesday's hike to Black Lake. We once again got up at 5 AM to get one of the coveted parking spaces and then hiked through the boring Alberta Falls area to get to the good stuff.

We arrived at the Loch but didn't stay long, as the wind was blowing coldly down the valley.

The vistas continued to get more impressive after the Loch and we survived the rock scramble that took us up the wet rocks to the right of Timberline Falls in the picture below.

We were among the first five people to reach the terminus this morning, and Rebecca marked the territory with a yoga pose.

This time around, the entire hike took just over 6 hours, and now we have the afternoon to nap and then lounge around town! Tomorrow, we're driving the crazy mountain road through Rocky Mountain National Park (taking the long way to Breckenridge).

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Hiking to Quandary Peak

Quandary Peak near Breckenridge is considered to be one of the easier "14er" mountains in Colorado (any mountain with a max elevation over 14,000 feet). It has a very simple elevation grade -- you just continuously walk uphill until you can't go any further.

We woke up at 4:30 with special parfaits from our innkeepers (since we'd be missing the breakfast portion of the B&B experience) and started the hike at 5:40. We needed flashlights for the first half hour, but the sun rose soon after.

It took us 3.5 hours to make it 3.3 miles up to the summit, an experience of endless boulder fields and low oxygen that probably nearly killed me several times while Rebecca charged ahead with her boundless yoga energy. We borrowed a cardboard sign from someone else for this picture because we came unprepared.

We saw a nice variety of birds (including ptarmigans) and mammals. There were 2 mountain goats atop the summit, but luckily they were far enough away to enjoy without worries of goring or being butted off the world. We also saw many pika, chipmunks, and squirrels.

Our descent took 2.5 hours and the daily thunderstorms started brewing as we reached the bottom, meaning that most of the people who started after us probably had to turn back before reaching the summit.

This evening, we're going to CB & Potts for burgers and good Colorado beers, and then to a tourist shop so Rebecca can buy a Quandary Peak sticker for her water bottle. A 14er bagged!

For more technical details about our hike, see Wednesday's post, Hiking to Quandary Peak - The Dirty Details.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hiking to Quandary Peak - The Dirty Details

In Monday's post, I provided a skimpy, fluffy travelogue of our trip up Quandary Peak. Today's post provides a bit more detail, for anyone interested in doing the hike themselves. Although none of the Colorado 14er peaks are EASY hikes, Quandary Peak's East Ridge is a worthwhile starting peak for anyone of reasonable fitness and good preparation. For comparison, I am a middle-aged suburban that eats fried chicken too often and runs about 12 miles per week at a jogging pace while watching bad TV shows on the basement treadmill.

Important Stats

  • 6.6 miles round-trip, with 3375 ft elevation gain

  • Took us 2 hours for the first 2 miles (to the saddle ridge), then 1.5 hours for the final 1 mile. Stayed on the summit for 30 minutes, as the weather was mild.

  • Took us 2.5 hours to get back down to the trailhead (6.5 hours total).


  • Do some hikes with serious ups: This hike is almost completely uphill with only two short sections even close to horizontal in nature (You go up about 1000 feet for every mile you travel). The elevation gain will kill you before the overall distance. Get used to the slow and steady "alpine plod" approach to making steady progress without burning out. This hike is steeper than the famed "Roller Coaster" section of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.

  • Do some hikes at similar elevations in the days just before this hike: We did two ten milers in Rocky Mountain National Park (each with about 1600 feet of elevation change), and definitely felt the effects of the reduced air pressure at high altitudes. This gave us a better appreciation of our limits during this hike and gave our lungs time to acclimate to the changes.

  • Be fit enough to carry the standard kit of hiking gear: You will definitely need good lightweight hiking layers (we had a range of 35 - 64 degrees Farenheit in a single mid-August day) and an appropriate amount of water for your body size. I favored quick-to-eat granola bars over meal foods like sandwiches, but left heavier food to look forward to back at the car. I also needed a flashlight for the early portion. Don't forget your sunscreen and sunglasses.

  • Come EARLY: This is an incredibly popular hike with limited parking. The main trailhead fills up by 6:30 AM on the weekends, forcing you to park down in the overflow lot (at the intersection of 850 and CO-9). Hiking from the overflow lot adds another half mile to your trip, and no one wants that. Come on a weekday if you want a more serene experience. We hiked on a Monday and got to the trailhead at 5:30 AM, and there were already 8 cars there.

  • Leave EARLY: Hiking after 12:00 PM can be unpredictable weather-wise. Plan to start early enough to be back down below the treeline before any thunderstorms occur.

  • Treat this hike as a challenge: This is a difficult, strenuous hike, and you will have a greater chance of success if you go into it expecting the challenge instead of treating it as just another outing. Your physical endurance will get you most of the way, but the last 1/4 mile is all mental.

What To Expect

  • The trailhead is easy to find on Route 851 with great signage. The start of the hike may be difficult to see if you come before sunrise -- it is beyond the triple trailhead maps on the left side of the road and ascends very quickly.

  • The first 100 ft of the hike will give you some idea of how steep the end is, but it calms down quickly after that. The trail crosses several old mining roads, but newer "TRAIL" signs are very easy to follow. You may need a flashlight here before sunrise.

  • The first mile is fairly pleasant. The trees continue to thin out, only to be replaced by boulders you will learn to hate. When you start seeing small stands of trees covered in stray mountain goat fur, you will know that you're at the treeline. This will be your last chance to pee in privacy (peeing later on involves long treks away from the main path and ducking behind very small rocks).

  • Above the treeline, you will face neverending staircases of rocks, punctuated by the occasional cute pika. Conserve your energy here and understand that the final ascent will be HARDER than this section.

  • Around the 2 mile mark, the hike will flatten out to form the saddle ridge. This area is relatively flat and the worst is yet to come. This is the point where you should seriously judge your reserve energy and not be afraid to turn around if your body or the weather are not cooperating. The views from here are amazing enough that even this stopping point is a worthwhile hike. This area was the windiest and coldest portion, during which I put all of my layers on).

  • The final ascent from the saddle ridge is the most challenging section, but you will be cheered on by everyone else already on their way down. I survived by going about 15 steps at a time, then standing still until my heart rate normalized, with a longer 3-5 minute break whenever I felt like it. The one time I felt like I wasn't going fast enough and tried to push harder, I immediately regretted it and had to lie down for a few minutes doing some mindful breathing.

  • As you ascend, you will see a "false summit". The real summit doesn't actually come into view until you're nearly there, and can be recognized by a wooden stick planted at the top. The GOOD news is that after the false summit, the remaining 0.1 miles is nearly flat.

  • After this, you've made it! Seek out the geological marker embedded in the rock roughly in the middle of the summit, and celebrate with the many other hikers who will be up there taking pictures of the great views and mountain goats. When we went, someone had left a cardboard sign with the name of the peak and elevation wedged under a rock near the geological marker.

  • The descent is wholly possible if you've made it to the top. You'll just get super annoyed that the neverending boulder staircase lasts for so long. Start coming down with at least 2 hours to spare before any brewing thunderstorms so you can reach the treeline with time to spare.

Any questions? Let me know in the comments section! Good luck!

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Colorado Miscellany

We're heading back to beautiful low-humidity Sterling today, so enjoy these miscellaneous pictures of our non-hiking adventures!

Saurus dinosaurs (acrobats on stilts) take over the downtown Breckenridge square.

A puppy dog hitches a ride up to the top of Quandary Peak.

We go horseback riding in Breckenridge on Lucas and Rubicon.

We enjoy a free wine and cheese Happy Hour at the Queen Anne B&B in Denver.

Annie and Mike use their brain waves to move a ball at the Nature and Science Museum.

We experiment with sour beers at the Crooked Stave Brewery in the RiNo district.

tagged as travel | permalink | 2 comments

Monday, August 29, 2016

Colorado Wrap-up

Here are a few quick reviews to close out our two weeks in Colorado. If you're headed that way yourself and need some recommendations, I'll be glad to help!


  • Foot of the Mountain Motel (Boulder): Pretty views and friendly staff, but sketchy area and minimal amenities (no A/C) (C-)
  • River Rock Cottages (Estes Park): Great centrally-located studio cottage with hot water and comfort for days (A)
  • Fireside Inn (Breckenridge): A warm, inviting, British B&B experience in a good location (B)
  • Queen Anne Bed & Breakfast (Denver): A bit far from most tourist attractions, but great breakfast, free wine and cheese happy hour, and very cool room design (B)


  • Southern Sun Pub & Brewery (Boulder): Great service, good beers, unmemorable food (B)
  • West Flanders Brewery (Boulder): Great Belgian beers, good food (A)
  • Oskar Blues (Lyons): Good beers, good food (B)
  • Rock Cut Brewery (Estes Park): Good beers, nice environment (B)
  • Rock Inn: Great comfort food (A)
  • Ed's Cantina (Estes Park): Good food, unmemorable beer (C)
  • Claire's on the Park (Estes Park): Unmemorable (D)
  • Breckenridge Brewery (Breckenridge): Unmemorable beers, good food (C)
  • Giampietro (Breckenridge): Great pizza and pastas (came here twice) (A)
  • CB & Potts (Breckenridge): Good beers, bad wings (D)
  • Park & Co (Denver): Unmemorable (C)
  • Wahoo Fish Tacos (Denver): Dry fish but big portions (D)
  • Crooked Stave Brewery (Denver): Does anyone like sour beers? (D)
  • Frozen Matter (Denver): Good ice cream, intrigued by speakeasy in the freezer (B)

Worthwhile Activities

  1. Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park
  2. Seeing acrobats in the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts
  3. Seeing Ronnie Chieng at Comedy Works in Denver
  4. Visiting the Denver Nature and Science Museum
  5. Driving Trail Ridge Road across Rocky Mountain National Park
  6. Hiking up Quandary Peak
  7. Horseback riding in Breckendrige
  8. Couples Massage in Estes Park

tagged as travel, reviews | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2016 album. I also have a new Colorado, 2016 album but it doesn't appear on my Photos page because Google is in the processing of breaking another legacy product (Picasa) in favour of their own awful offering. The old Picasa API will not show albums just created in Google Photos because Google Photos has no toggle to set an album as "public" (This is also called "irony"). I'll have to sort out the APIs another day and recode the Photos page accordingly.

-10 points from House Google.

  • Events
    • Hiked in Sky Meadows Park on S 7/31.

    • Watched the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics with the Lowrys on F 8/5.

    • Went to a yoga birthday party on S 8/6.

    • Sent Titan back home and visited Old Ox Brewery with Rebecca's parents on S 8/7.

    • Went to the Smiths for some midweek Olympics on W 8/10.

    • Hung out in Boulder with Emily, going biking, hiking to Red Rocks (1 mile), and drinking a delicious Coffee Kolsch on S 8/13.

    • Hiked 7 miles on the Flatirons 1/2 trail and part of the Royal Arch trail, then had delicious Belgian beers at West Flanders on S 8/14.

    • Hiked 3 miles to Dream Lake and Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park on M 8/15.

    • Hiked 9 miles to Fern Lake in RMNP on T 8/16.

    • Hiked 9 miles to Black Lake in RMNP on W 8/17.

    • Hiked 10 miles to Sky Pond in RMNP on F 8/19 then got couples massages.

    • Drove Trail Ridge Road through the alpine regions of RMNP while listening to dance electronica by Parov Stelar that made it seem like we were playing live-action Mario Kart on S 8/20.

    • Attended the last day of the Breckenridge International Festival of Arts, featuring acrobat dinosaurs and normal acrobats, and also hiked 5 miles on Peak Trail #45 on S 8/21.

    • Hiked 7 miles up the 14er, Quandary Peak, on M 8/22.

    • Went horseback riding in Breckenridge on T 8/23.

    • Met Mike and Annie in Denver on W 8/24.

    • Visited the Science Museum and saw Ronnie Chieng at Comedy Works on H 8/25.

    • Stopped by Alexandria to visit with the visiting nephews on S 8/27.

  • Projects
    • Did no useful projects this month.

  • Consumerism
    • Ordered a new desktop computer in the face of sporadic IRQ crashes on the one that's almost 6 years old.

    • Decided to begin researching standing desks.

    • Got to level 230 in Overwatch.

    • Still enjoying Fargo, Season Two, and started Limitless, Season One as a lightweight treadmill show.

    • Enjoyed music by Spose, and compiled a list of fun album requests for next month's birthday.

August's Final Grade: A, two weeks of vacation in the mountains!

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August 2016

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