March 2003 Archives

Kuala Terengganu

Arrived in Kuala Terengganu yesterday evening. Will be here until tomorrow to conduct Dealernet training. This is my final stop. Once this is done, i would have covered the whole country, having met and trained every single PETRONAS retail station dealer there is (there are exactly 635 of them at last count). Phew!

Will take a few months off training to concentrate on my other KPI (Key Performance Indicator) for the year. Then i'll start my second tour of the nation with the Dealernet Refresher Course! Hahaha... no rest for the weary.

Sheikh Imran Hosein

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I attended a talk last night by Sheikh Imran Hosein (his books) at IIUM Matriculation in PJ. The talk, entitled "The Quranic Perspective on the War in Iraq" started punctually at 8pm to a full house of about 200+ and ended at 11.30pm. By its end, i felt depressed and very, very disturbed.

To his credit, the Sheikh is a great orator - in my experience as a university debater, i've heard many wonderful speakers but he bests them all by miles. His factual knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah is impressive and he quoted from both in liberal measures throughout his lecture last night.

I agree with a lot of what he said last night. He started by discussing the 10 Signs of Yaumul Qiyamat (The Day of Judgement), and how present human history is fast approaching that Final Day. Through the deeds, actions and events of current times, he argued that we are living those 10 Signs now.

  • Gog and Magog were born during the time of the Prophet and their influence began spreading from Europe. They brought us secularism (shirk against Allah), they began the "blue jeans jemaah" and the current wave of globalization is a symptom of their influence.
  • The Beast is the State of Israel - Jews kill and slaughter Muslims everyday.
  • Dajjal was the UK (which advocated the creation of the State of Israel in 1948), but now it is the US (which acts as the "hammer" for Jews against Muslims today). One day soon it will be single person, a leader from the men of Jews.

Virginity

The author of the Psycho Circus has a problem: she's a virgin, but often wishes that she wasn't. It doesn't help that some of her friends keep on pestering her over the issue, teasing her, tempting her.

You know what? I applaud her resistance, i applaud her resolve, and i applaud her conviction.

Whether or not she is a virgin is besides the point. Whether or not she remains one in the forseeable future is not the point either. I don't applaud her for her piety; i'm not sure her resistance is based on religion and even if it was, that wouldn't matter either. I applaud her because it would be so easy to give in, and yet she chooses the difficult path.

Followers of her blog will know that she has an adundance of admirers (male and female) - most of them have offered to relieve her of the "burden" of virginity. And while she seems to crack at the seams every once in a while, she persists in honoring her principles.

That is what i admire: her integrity. Integrity is about making a decision and sticking to it. Ignoring temptation, ignoring peer pressure, ignoring (or rather controlling) her own lusts - the ability to do this leads to integrity. My hat goes off to you, TJ.

Time for everything

When someone tells you that he doesn't have time to call you, he's either lying or asleep 24 hours of the day. There is ALWAYS time. Its true that we all have the same 24 hours. Its also true that some of us are more busy than others with the things that make up our daily lives. Its also true that you can always find the time to do the things you do, especially things that, by their nature, don't take very long to do at all.

So the next time someone tells you that he doesn't have the time to call you, its probably because he doesn't want, and not because he can't. How hard can it be to make a 2 minute call to say hello, to ask about your health or day? Its not very hard at all.

I've been asked how i'm able to write something new everyday (well, almost) in my blog. Where do i find the time? Where do my thoughts come from? By the questions that i've been asked, its almost as though people are surprised that thinking actually takes time. That's not the case at all. We're actually thinking all the time, our minds are in constant motion. But what i've noticed is that its often difficult to be aware of our own thoughts.

The next time you see something interesting, ask yourself why that is, and make a conscious effort to remember your answer or your lack of one. Write it down if you have to. The next time someone says something to you that triggers your curiousity, don't just nod - talk to him about it. The next time you get angry or jealous or horny - pause and reflect about what this emotion means to you. Think, think, think. Don't let life flash by you without examination.

Postcards from abroad

I received 2 postcards from a dear friend today. I wasn't really surprised to receive the cards, because she told me before she left that she was going to send me some cards from New Zealand.

In this day and age of electronic/digital communication e.g. email, SMS, instant messenging, etc., the value of hand written notes have increased tremendously. When something becomes rare, you learn to treasure it more.

Postcards from New Zealand
Two beautiful postcards from a friend visiting New Zealand

Looking at the curves of her writing, it makes me wonder where she was at that very moment, what she was thinking and what she was feeling. Chuckling at what she wrote, i wonder whether the same message would have garnered a similar response if sent to me in the letters on a computer screen. There is also a certain charm at touching the same piece of paper she wrote on; its almost like being able to touch her too, eventhough she is so far away. And, of course, the effort that went into each card is worth appreciation too: she had to take a moment to pick the card, find a place to write it, buy the stamps, and put it into a mail box. Much more complex than the simple type and click of email.

I love receiving written mail. There are very few finer manisfestations of friendship than the time and thought it takes to send a letter or note or card written with your own hand. Thanks.

Being a woman

I really have no idea whether many men have ever had this thought run across their minds, but i wouldn't be surprised if quite a few did. Personally, i've given it some thought over the years, ever since i became aware of women as the opposite sex.

As i relaxed at home this weekend, i thought about it again: what would it be like to be a woman?

I suppose this train of thought was brought on by a few incidences. A friend was menstruating and she told me about the pain she felt around the waist. I wondered what could that possibly feel like. I tried jabbing and pinching my waist. That hurt. Did menstrual pain feel anything remotely like that?

I was watching Chicago yesterday. During the love scene between Rene Zellweger and her unfortunate lover, i wondered, what does it feel like to be a woman making love to a man? To have, basically speaking, a foreign object inside you? Do women feel pleasure the same way men do? What defines the female orgasm?

I saw my mom in the kitchen preparing dinner. Dad was no where in sight. I wondered how it felt like to be a woman, cooking for her family, preparing their meals, being responsible for their physical and emotional well being. I wondered whether my mom resented the fact that dad did very little to help in the kitchen (though he does do other "manly" house chores). Or does being a woman mean that there are some things that have to be accepted "as is"? Or has social conditioning made mom sincerely believe that the kitchen is her domain? Is she genuinely comfortable with that role?

I wondered, while watching the F1 at Sepang on TV, what does it feel like to be a "grid girl". Wearing impossibly tight clothes, leaving so little to the imagination, being oggled by millions of men across the world through the television or the lense of a binoculars. Is it something to be proud of? Does it bring her professional satisfaction to know that the only reason why she's on the track with an umbrella is because she has the body of a goddess?

Being a woman is an experience i'm disappointed to admit will always be beyond me. Its easy to read or listen to women tell you how its like to be a woman. But to really understand, to really appreciate the nouances of woman-hood, i don't think anything beats the real thing.

Well rested, raring to go

Its a Monday morning and the blues are definitely far, far away. I'm well rested, the flu is gone and i'm on a new regimen of dietary supplementary pills. The aches and knocks of weeks of travel have evaporated. My 4 day break has certainly worked its magic.

Coupled with a tremendous weekend where Schumacher did NOT win, where Newcastle romped to a 5-1 thrashing over Blackburn, where i managed to spend nearly every waking hour with my family and loved ones, where i had some excellent meals, i don't think it could really get any better. It was a blessed weekend. It was something i seriously needed.

How was your weekend?

The Quran and polygamy

I wish i could understand the Quran better. I take some time to read it, mostly when the night is quiet. I've flipped through it countless times, sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for an hour or two. I like to randomly turn to a page, read the Arabic text, then pick up the translation to understand the meaning. 3 years of advanced Arabic in IIUM should have given me the skills to do without the translation, but a language unused, is a language forgetten.

As far as the actions of humans are concerned, the Quran seems to split them into three categories:

a. The Good (actions that are not only good, but are encouraged and/or compulsory e.g. marriage, prayer, fasting, etc.)
b. The Bad (actions that are not permitted)
c. The Ugly (actions that are permitted, but not encouraged and/or frowned upon e.g. divorce)

Thinking about these differences, i was wondering whether the Quran would ever ask or permit Muslims to do things that the average person could not perform. Are there actions that the Quran reserves for "exceptional" people and "exceptional" people only?

Or to ask the question in another way, does the Quran allow Muslims to do something a great majority of us can't do?

If most of us can't do it, why not just make ban its practice? Most of us can't drink alcohol without getting drunk, so the Quran (after a series of abrogations), bans its consumption altogether.

Polygamy, the practice of a single man having several wives on the other hand, is particularly interesting in this regard, because it allows Muslims a particularly controversial practice that is frowned upon by large segments of society.

"Marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with them, then only one or one that your right hands possess. That will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice." (Quran 4:3)

Sick and on leave

I'm the only person i know who takes 2 days off his annual leave (PETRONAS gives me 15 each year) to recuperate from the flu. Most others would go to the doctor and ask for an medical cert and take medical leave. My problem is that i REALLY dislike doctors, enough to not want to see them if its absolutely possible, and that i don't think i'm THAT sick to justify an MC.

But, i still need the rest that my body is screaming for, thus i'm on holiday both yesterday and today. Come Monday next week, i'll be as right as rain.

I'll use the time to catch up on my reading. Bought Edward de Bono's "Six Thinking Hats" yesterday. Its a great read.

Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono's "Six Thinking Hats"

Begging for love

When things don't work out in a relationship between a man and a woman, i think one of the most pathetic things that the man can do is beg her to give him another chance.

He cries, he smiles, he goes down on his metaphorical knees to convince her that "this time it will be different". He wants her to believe that he has changed, or circumstances have changed, that their relationship could still work. On its own, such attempts are not so bad. But when she repeatedly says no and he repeatedly tries to persist, then that's when it gets pathetic.

(If you're the sort or woman who enjoys the attentions of a begging man and says "no" just to see him beg some more, shame on you. I question your motives and intentions.)

A situation like this is about respect. If he respects her, he will accept her answer of refusal and move on. If he doesn't, he won't and continue to insist, somehow believing in his warped mind that persistence is somehow an endearing trait. A disrespectful man is really not worth anyone's time.

Men everywhere, listen here: don't beg. If its meant to work it will.

The Bush has balls

Love him or hate him, you'll probably notice that George Bush Jnr has got things firmly in his court. War is barely 48 hours away and things look bleak for the sovereignity of Iraq in the coming months and years.

Its not only the outcome that matters here, its also how Bush Jnr has come to bring it about. He's stood up against overwhelming global opinion, he's flipped the finger at the UN, and he's about to put Iraq to the sword in a blitz of bombs and missiles. He's got guts, you have to give him that.

And you know what? He's probably going to get away with it.

Being able to speak

One of the things that i look forward to each time i travel is the opportunity to speak to the local cabbies. I think someone famous once said, "if you want to get to know the locals, talk to its cabbies." How true.

So, after landing at the fantastic new airport in Kota Bharu, the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport, i eagerly hopped into the nearest cab and started chatting away. I asked questions about the weather, about the local economy, about what has changed since the last time i was in Kota Bharu (about 6 years ago). In return, i answered his questions about KL and how things were going there. We even had a few minutes to debate about the state of Malaysian politics.

As the drive ended at my hotel, he commented: "Tengok muka, macam Cina, tapi berbahasa macam orang Melayu. Kalau dengar suara je, mesti ingat Melayu betul." (Your face is like a Chinese, but you speak like a Malay. If i could only hear your voice, i would have thought that you were a Malay).

I laughed and told him that i was a Malay by birth, its just that i look Chinese. He laughed in embarassment, i smiled. Man, i can't remember the last time i felt so good.

In Kota Bharu, Kelantan

Still feeling sick, but considerably better than a few days ago. Arrived in Kota Bharu, Kelantan last night to conduct Dealernet training. Will be here until tomorrow evening.

I'm exhausted after so much travelling these past weeks. Will be taking Thursday and Friday (20-21/03) off from work. Going to stay at home for some rest and recuperation.

An excellent wedding

The wedding of Dian and Tahir was an excellent affair. The food was very good, the atmosphere was one of vibrance and joy, the blushing couple was a wonderful sight to behold.

If only all weddings went as well as this. If only my wedding could be like this.

Dian and Tahir
Dian and Tahir (the groom), may you have a fantastic life.

A crazy marathon

A crazy marathon began last night. I got home from Kuantan at roughly 9.00pm. I'm off to Penang on the 7.30am flight this morning. I'm back in KL on Sunday morning at 9.20am and i'll be off to Kota Bahru at 10.30pm Sunday night with my return flight on Tuesday night at 7.50pm.

Never done this much travelling before in such a short period of time. It'll be interesting to see how my body takes it, especially since i'm feeling unwell. Wish me luck everyone.

Beginnings of a crap day

Training is going to start in 5 minutes. And i feel like crap. I didn't sleep well last night, i was haunted by terrible dreams. I have a friggin' head cold. My throat feels like its been to Hell and back.

All in all, i'm in a foul mood. If i was in KL, today would certainly be a strong candidate for an MC. But i'm in Kuantan. I've got a room full of dealers waiting on me, expectations are high. Oh fudge. The show will go on.

What is a blog?

Dear Oon Yeoh,

Thank you for your quick email reply. I applaud your attempt to find a useful definition for what is a blog.

You said, "the objectives of a blog and online diary are slightly different, and a distinction should be made". You further defined this distinction as, "meant to be excerpts of other content coupled with embedded links and the blogger's own personal comments about the external content or the issues raised in that content". Essentially, you said the function of a blog is, "to point people to other links".

There are two scenarios that i would like to pose to you for your consideration and comment based on what you've mentioned above:

A position of influence

When i was younger, i didn't give much heed to people who said that teachers have the ability to shape the mind of their students. I've had teachers all my life, and i don't think any have had any real impact on me beyond the scholastic. In fact, the people who have influenced me the most have been those who were not my "teachers" in the formal sense.

But over the past months, i've come to appreciate the position of influence a teacher has over his students. This time, i'm the teacher and mature adults, most of whom are much, much older than i am, are the students. I'm no classroom dictator, but i think if i asked them to jump, they would willingly say, "How high?"

A teacher has an amazing influence over his students. Its a shame that some choose to abuse it.

The selection of a mate

The romantic admission would be to deny that practical considerations have anything to do with love; the person's background, his family, his history, his job, his education should have very little to do with whether he (or she, if the case may be) is worthy of your love. If you love him, does it matter if he is a prince or a pauper?

But really, such a question belongs in fairy tales and Hollywood movies. Forgive my cynicism, but the real world is very different. The real world is a practical world where love is always tempered by whether or not he can bring food to the table. Love does not feed the stomach, though it is the food of the heart.

This begs a question: all things else being equal, is it unreasonable for a woman to choose between a few men the best man who is able to best provide for her "practical" needs?

Say she has a choice: 2 good men. Or maybe 3. One is a doctor. Another has a simple degree in languages and literature. Would it really be surprising if she chose the doctor? Of course not. I would too. Wouldn't you?

Religion

Larry King asked a very good question to one of his panelists tonight:

"If you believe that your religion is the "right" religion, then is it not logical that you consider all other religions as "wrong"?"

The person (an American Christian authority) who was being asked that question, fudged around for a few seconds and was mercifully put out of his misery as Larry invited the next panelist to speak.

Pacifists will always try to take the path of least offence. If that means trying to reconcile irreconcilible beliefs (such as religion), then so be it. But just because this particular person couldn't answer this question, does that mean that no acceptable answer exists?

Regrets

I almost never regret anything i've done in this life. Never never never. Regret is a waste of time; it hangs you up on the past on something that you can't possibly change. It doesn't mean that i don't learn from mistakes, it just means that i very, very rarely regret them. Anyone who knows me, will know that this is true, this is one of the philosophies in my life.

I woke up this morning feeling a profound sense of regret. A few weeks ago, i got into a fight with a dearest friend. I thought she was wrong, she thought that i was being stupid and childish. Its not important who's right or wrong; i can hardly even remember or even bother with the reasons why we fought. What i regret is that we fought, that i shouted at her.

I think she doesn't know how important she is to me. Up to this morning, i think i didn't know either. Its almost as though, a dream visited me in the night and told me that i was being a fool: friendships like the one we have (had?) are a one-off affair. God doesn't make many of these. No matter what the problem was, it isn't worth messing up the friendship. It isn't worth the fight, the weeks and weeks of silence and anger.

I'm sorry.

Flying to Kuantan

My life flashed before my eyes today over the skies of Pahang. The turbulence was unlike anything i've felt before; there was a moment when the plane seemed to plunge down in a near vertical drop all of the sudden, probably due to irregular air flow over the wings. For a split second, i swear the orange juice in my cup experienced weightlessness. It was so surreal to see the cup on the small table drop with the plane but the juice stay where it was, seemingly suspended in mid air. Wow!

Muted screams and gasps filled the cabin. All i could do was laugh, quite loudly in fact that the people near me turned to look. I thought it was hilarious. Almost like a small kid on a roller coaster, i wanted the plane to do it again! What a rush!

The rest of the flight was a bit bumpy, but we arrived safely. I'll be in Kuantan until this Friday, the 14th of March. Conducting training for the Dealernet again.

VOI Blog of the Month

With war coming, its important to keep abreast of the issues surrounding it. I think there is very little doubt that Bush & Co. will invade Iraq in the very near future. Sometimes, i wonder why the Bush-Blair axis even bothers with the Security Council; they have repeatedly said that they will invade Iraq with or without its blessing. Do they think that by obtaining the UN's blessing, it will make their invasion of Iraq any less wrong?

*sigh*

Blogs, over the past months, have played their role in this debate. Some support the invasion, some don't. But many, many bloggers have had their say. One blog that does this better than most is InstaPundit.com, the VOI's Blog of the Month for March 2003. Maintained by Glenn Reynolds, a law prof at the Uni of Tennessee, he aggregates a large number of relevant articles on the matter and adds to them his personal comments.

If you've yet to dig beyond the news served up to us by CNN or Reuters or AP on the impending invasion of Iraq, InstaPundit.com is a good place to start.

Moroccan culinary delights

A common symptom of the twenty-something syndrome is the need to understand why we work. Why do we spend so much time studying, why do we make the effort to find a job, work hard and have a career. Money is the simple answer, but i i suspect that each of us have a deeper reason for going through all this trouble.

To each his/her own. But for me, its because i like food, i like to eat, i like the experience a good meal provides as it enters my mouth and tantalizes my tastebuds.

I want to be able to go anywhere, to any restaurant i want. I want to be able to order anything on the menu, i want to be able to have as little or as much as i want. And i want to be able to do all of this without worrying about how much its going to cost me. Be it a cheap plate of fried kuey teow at FAM or a RM100 sashimi bento at the Pan Pacific, i want to be able to have absolutely anything i want, whenever i want.

Last night, i exercised this philosophy with an EXCELLENT Moroccan meal at Al Hambra, a quiet place next to Victoria Station in Bukit Damansara. I had champignon as a starter, a delightful thin mushroom soup with lots of basil and olives. I used it to drench the freshly home baked bread (imagine the best bread you've ever tasted and this would be it) and lapped it up in minutes. Then the main courses of lamb tajine (thick lamb stew) and chicken and meatball couscous followed. Couscous is a type of wheat. When cooked it looks like micro rice and tastes a bit like bryani. Everything came in huge servings and there was no way the three people eating could finish it all. A fourth person at the table would have been perfect.

If you can find this small gem of a restaurant, don't hesitate. RM100 will get you a meal for 4 that you will never forget.

HANIfans

A conversation with a self-professed HANIfan, someone who reads HANI's HONEY (a blog) regularly, revealed how much she has come to know and empathize with the issues surrounding Hani's life. She knows what goes on in Hani's mind, she understands Hani's fears, desires and ambitions, she is able to relate to Hani's friends (most of whom have blogs of their own). She was there during TJ's latest admission to the Psycho Circus. She's aware of the multi-dimensional sexual appetites of Hani's other friends (links to their sites).

And she got all of this information by reading their various blogs. Amazing.

Blogging, for many, is a therapeutic means of expression. Hani, TJ, and many, many others listed in the Great Malaysian Blog List talk about their daily lives and issues that matter to them. Blog writers (myself included) may believe that their writing doesn't mean anything to anyone besides themselves and their close network of friends. It seems that this belief may be inaccurate.

People do care what bloggers write, and when the writing achieves an almost Betty la fea-like serial-ness about them, the following of these blogs can be quite addictive.

Profiting from fear

I used to think that junk mail was good for one purpose only: a good laugh. You've really got to hand it to some of these people; they really know how to make some of their emails irresistable. One look at the subject line, and you just feel that you HAVE to open it. Depending on the type of person you are, you will be lured by different types of subjects, and sooner or later, we all click open junk mail if for no other reason that to satisfy our curiousity.

Or calm our fears.

Fear is a great motivator and i can imagine why many men will click on the subject "Can't satisfy your woman? Use this and go all night long!". If there is a universal fear that men have, its the inability to perform in bed. No matter how good you think you are, no matter how many praises have been sung in your ears by your lover(s), it would be very unusual if you didn't ask yourself at least once, "Could i be better?".

Birth control in Malaysia

It was very interesting to note that the "Today Sponge" is on sale again. A hugely popular contraceptive in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was suddenly discontinued in 1995. I remember when this happened and i also remember the outcry that followed.

Bath sponge
This is NOT a contraceptive sponge. Don't go stuffing it where it doesn't belong

In 1995, i was at the tender age of 19. I knew about sex, i knew about birth control and contraceptives and i think i knew that if i were to have sex, its important to be responsible and do it safely. Its sad that none of this knowledge came from the Malaysian public education system.

You would think that with the Malaysian youth being increasingly exposed to sexual messages in the media, the "adults" of our society would see it fit to counter, with legislation, these messages with a education syllabus. This syllabus would go beyond what is taught in agama (religious) or moral classes. All i was told in those classes is that sex before marriage is wrong. No one told me what is the right thing to do should i decide to have sex.

The Today Sponge
The Today Sponge of Seinfeld (1995) fame

Its not enough to say "No" or "Don't do it" and feel that our obligation to our youth is fulfilled. We should understand that, while many will heed our advice, many still will seek to satisfy their curiousity. What do we say to help them?

I was fortunate. I learned about responsible sex from my parents, from the various teen and women's magazines that i could get my hands on. I live in the city; such items are easy to come by. I suspect with a great deal of confidence that there are many who may not be so fortunate.

Sex is a wonderful experience. Un-safe sex is simply blindingly stupid.

Buying gifts

Buying gifts have never really been a strong point for me. I usually give either too much thought into each gift (leaving the recipient bewildered as to why the particular gift was chosen) or too little thought (leaving the recipient upset).

Case in point: wedding gifts. A few years ago, when a friend got married, I gave her... wait for it... a brand new BLANKET. I have no idea what possessed me to buy her a blanket, and one with large, obvious-looking red hearts printed all over it. A few weeks later, i called to ask whether she had put the blanket to good use. I found out that her niece was its proud new owner.

Ringgit Malaysia 50
When in doubt, RM50 never misses

Since then, i've given up trying to be cute or thoughtful with wedding gifts. From then on, its always been a RM50 note wrapped up in a nice smelling envelope (RM50 per person that attends the wedding, so if i bring a date, its RM100). Money is the easiest denominator. Let the new couple think of what to buy for themselves. I'm just not very good at it.

Action and reactions

If there is a fundamental rule in this world, its that for every action there will be a reaction. Everything that happens will lead to something else. Everything that we do is a reaction to something happening before it and will lead to something happening afterwards.

The filling of your lungs with air is a reaction of your muscles contracting. The money you earn from work is a reaction of your efforts and sweat; the greater the effort, the more the money is often the case. The accident on the highway this morning is a reaction of careless driving or faulty machinery. The impending war in Iraq is a reaction of human greed.

I think we don't spend as much time as we should to understand the relationships between actions and reactions. Some of us never even think about these relationships which is a shame. If we don't pay attention, we'll never learn and never progress. Newton learned about gravity by asking himself why the apple fell from the tree, and why we don't float up into the air. He paid attention. We should too.

Lisa Khalilah's Wedding

Attended another wedding last night, an old friend, Lisa Khalilah bt Khalili. Her husband is Azrul Hafizi bin Abdul Wahab. Both are lawyers.

It was great to see her last night. Lil' Lisa has come a long way and i'm extremely happy to see her so happy. Congratulations to you both.

Lisa's Wedding
Lisa Khalilah and Azrul Hafizi - don't they look grand?

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

February 2003 is the previous archive.

April 2003 is the next archive.

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