The Shyness Project

Archive for the tag “toastmasters”

Spending Time with Friends

A week ago on Monday I met up with my friend Jennifer who I hadn’t seen since the summer.  She wanted to meet at a Starbucks I’d never been to before, but I looked it up on google maps and found it without any trouble.  Although I haven’t been making trips too far away, all these little trips to new places have been helpful.  Eventually I want to try some longer distances.  When I first drove to both of my colleges last semester for the first days of school that was very nerve-racking, but now I feel comfortable driving to those places.

Last week on Thursday night I had my first yoga class, which was also in a new place I’d never been to, but I found it no problem as well.  When I got to the class there was a lady and a man sitting outside on chairs looking bored (the man was practically sleeping actually).  I went up to the lady and immediately asked her if this was the yoga class, then I sat down and we started talking from there.  That one question, “Is this the ____ class?” is often how I start talking to people I don’t know.  It works!  We talked the rest of the time while we were waiting and admitted that we were both yoga newbies and didn’t know what to expect.  When we started the class, we found out that it had actually started a week before even!  I was confused by that and she was too, but luckily we were able to stick together and catch up.  The class was alright.  I had trouble completely relaxing though because I wanted to check and see if I was doing the poses right. I think the more I do it the more I’ll be able to calm my mind and keep my eyes closed.  It was interesting though.  Some of the poses were a little difficult to hold but others I felt good with.

I’ve been pretty busy seeing a lot of friends lately.  I’ve been going out every day practically, and I’ve been loving it.  I saw my friend Doug and got to know Susie better when we went hiking/exploring together around a beach, which was cool.  It was a beautiful day and it was nice being out in the sunshine.  I went to Berkeley with Gabi, Isis, and Aaron on Friday too and that was fun.  UC Berkeley is a really beautiful campus.  I went swing dancing afterward that night and invited Gabi and Isis since we had room, and it was one of the best nights of dancing in a long time.  I danced a lot and had a lot of great dances.  I followed for some of the night, led for the other, danced east coast swing at times, then lindy hop, then some west coast, and then ended the night with some blues dancing.  I hadn’t danced blues much at all before, but one of my friends Stu helped explain to me the movement, and now I understand it much better.  It was fun!

I also went to a Belly Dance Performance recently with my friend Angela to see my friend Johanna (one of the friends I made at college when I was trying to make new friends!), and that was a great night.  Angela and I got lost and ended up going to the next city over, but eventually we found our way back and found a place to eat.  I was glad I wasn’t driving though because the directions were confusing and google maps didn’t work out this time.  Angela and I had a great night together and had a good bonding day discussing a lot of personal matters.  She’s like my sister and we can tell each other any and everything.  When we finally arrived at the performance place, we watched the show and had a great time.  Johanna did awesome and so did the other belly dancers.  The live band was really great to listen to and the belly dancing was really neat to watch.

I saw my friend K Tuesday too, who is also a friend I made at college when I was trying to make new friends.  I’ve hung out with K and Johanna the most from college and it’s great that I made two good friends so quickly.  I know we’re going to be long-time friends.  K and I played tennis and it was fun, though very tiring.  Despite running and walking every day I forgot how intense tennis can be.  We rallied a while and then played 2 out of 3 games.  K wanted to bet something so he bet that the loser would buy coffee, but I won so he ended up having to buy his own coffee and buying me hot chocolate.  It was fun and it was nice walking around and showing him my town.  He excitedly asked if I had my camera and I said yes, and so of course we took a lot of pictures (like the one posted here).  Picture taking is a simple activity but it’s a lot of fun when you use creativity for your poses and people tend to know that I love pictures and love taking them with me.

So I’ve been busy seeing a lot of friends, and it’s been great because I hadn’t seen a lot of them in a while.  The winter break is about to end soon though so we will all be more busy with school soon.  I also went to Toastmasters recently and tried the Timer role for once, and at first I was confused but eventually I figured out how the set-ups worked.  I still got called up for an impromptu speech with Table Topics though.  I had been hoping I wouldn’t be picked since I hadn’t been in a while and Table Topics is still the most nerve-racking part of Toastmasters, but I responded to the question, “What would you do if you won 10 million dollars?” and spoke for a little under two minutes, then sat back down.  I pulled every idea of what I would do out of my head though I didn’t really have any time to plan or think about what I wanted to say.  I said more “um’s” than usual because it had been a while since I’d been to Toastmasters, but funnily enough I ended up winning “Best Table Topics speaker”, which was reassuring and encouraging.  I also recently had to call for an appointment with a counselor at one of my colleges, and I still felt that familiar nervous feeling, but I made the call and set up an appointment for myself.  The woman I spoke to was a little rude and huffy, but I understand because it’s probably not a fun job dealing with students all day and scheduling appointments.  Those are some updates of how things have been going post-project.

Speech Week and Standing up for What I Believe In

This is a little off topic but because this was really a monumental week for me I thought I would share.  I had one speech and one presentation to give in school this week, and I led table topics (impromptu speaking) at Toastmasters this week as well.

In International Relations I presented my research relating to violence in South Africa.  I spoke with passion and used emphasis on the important points.  I presented along with 6 other people in my human rights group who each had their own topic and was the 5th person to present in our group.  We all brought up desks to the front and sat next to each other for support as one of us went up to the podium at a time to give our presentation.  I thought bringing all the desks up was kind of silly, but I agreed because the others were a lot more nervous than I was.  Some of them said the reason they didn’t apply for CSU’s was because they didn’t want to take speech.  So we sat together and I exchanged smiles with some of them who were freaking out while they waited for their turn.  We made a solid support group and it was nice actually sitting with them.  It’s amazing how many people who you wouldn’t think are nervous at all for presentations really do get nervous beforehand.  You would just never be able to tell when you see them speaking. Surprisingly I was completely calm the whole time, until the person before me began her speech and I realized I would be up soon.  Only then did I start to feel a little nervous.  It was really nice to feel so comfortable.  We all did really well and we fostered a great classroom discussion afterward. We could tell that our teacher was thrilled with us and our excellent presentation.

That night after the presentation on Wednesday, I had to lead Table Topics at Toastmasters as well.  I brought in a bunch of stuffed animals of cartoon characters and gave introductions on each one.  Then I asked them to speak about the cartoon or character.  My dad gave his third speech as well on his love for baseball and sports in general, and Mernie gave a speech on her dog Rosie who passed away.  It was a good night.

The next day on Thursday, I had a persuasive speech in Speech class to give.  I had signed up to go first on the following Tuesday, but she had announced that anyone who wanted to go this Thursday could because there were only 3 speakers.  I was ready with mine so I decided to go for it.  Before I thought I would want to go first to get my speech over with, but with this I realized I could make a much deeper impact if I went last.  So I did.  All day I was nervous though and the speech was in the back of my mind in my other classes.  Speech is my last class of the day, and beforehand I have Career/Life Planning and Intro to Sociology.  I actually felt extremely nervous for once, and like throwing up even, because this issue makes me so emotional.  I knew what I was going to talk about was going to be controversial and might not be well received by a good portion of the class.  But I wanted to challenge myself and give a speech that required me to stand up for what I believe in, even in the face of opposition.  I wanted to do something to make a difference in an issue I care about and to stand up for all the men and women who it affects.

When I got to the class and sat down, I was nervous.  I tried to actually listen to the speeches- at least the first one- and not look at my notes.  When I look at my notes I tend to freak out and mess up more.  Heather went first and she gave her persuasive speech on donating organs. It obviously meant a lot to her because she started crying during her speech and got choked up, which made me teary eyed too.  I whispered “good job!” to her as she sat down and gave her a reassuring smile as she wiped her tears. Then Ivan gave his speech on being safe from hacking, then Ralph did one on health supplements.  Then it was my turn, and I set down the water bottle I had been taking sips from constantly all class period.  I walked to the back of the room and handed Mrs. East my bibliography, outline, and criteria sheet.  Then I walked to the front, looked at my audience, and began with a sad story.

I felt my hands shake as I told the story.  I felt tears come to my eyes.  But I gave my speech as I planned, with vocal variety, and passion.  I got sad, I got angry, I got serious, and I got optimistic.  I shared with them my vision as to why same-sex couples should have just the same rights to marry as any other couple.  I gave them a simple solution to get involved- to sign the petition to repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act on the human rights campaign site. (Sign it too, if you like.)  I got applause. Then the room was silent as the people sat and reflected on all I had said.  I handed out my handouts with the info on the petition to each person in the class, one by one down each aisle.  They quietly accepted, one guy with an outstretched arm and a thank you even.  I sat down and Heather told me good job as well, and offered me a tissue.  I got my score, 100%, with the comments, “very conversational- no, very passionate delivery, very well written and structured speech, great job!”, and left the room.  Then I cried.  And I couldn’t stop crying.  I cried the whole 35 minute drive home.  I couldn’t believe what I had just done. I couldn’t believe I had just stood up for my beliefs in the face of opposition and talked about an issue that is so emotionally difficult to talk about.  That was probably one of the bravest things I’ve ever done in my life.

Three speeches in two days- what a whirlwind.  I am so glad I joined Toastmasters, because in the past all this public speaking would have brought me a lot more anxiety.  I have without a doubt become much more comfortable and confident in my speaking abilities.  And I am very glad I took the leap and joined Toastmasters over the summer.

Speech #3 How to Make Banana Bread

Hey everyone!

This isn’t a post about trying new things, but I wanted to let you all know that I have my 3rd Toastmasters speech up on youtube now.   I gave it last week at Toastmasters and the week before that in my speech class.  It’s up for viewing if you’re interested!  Thanks! 🙂

Speech #2 on Youtube (finally!)

Thanks to my brother Andrew and his mad computer skills, I got the second speech video onto youtube.  I had to use a file compressor and reduce the file size first.  Here it is:

I lost my train of thought a couple of times and accidentally said “Mr. Toastmaster” instead of madam (hope Chole wasn’t offended, I was tired! 🙂 ) but it went well.  My previous post has the details on how the night went.

Speech #2 – Organize your Speech

I’ve been trying repeatedly to upload my second speech to youtube, but it keeps failing.  I recently got a new camera and noticed that the file size of the video was quite big, 600MB, so that’s probably why it isn’t working.

But my second speech went well!  It was about careers and how I, like Sean Aiken from The One-Week Job Project, think it’s ok to not know what you want to do, as long as you are proactive about your search.  My personal goals that I focused on were slowing down and speaking up, which I did both of.  My evaluator Marcy still suggested slowing down even more, so that is something I can continue to work on.  I did concentrate on adding several pauses to my speech though. Carol complimented me for pausing in just the right places and asked if I had had public speaking training before.  She said she was especially impressed with how I am beginning to take charge of the room when giving a speech.

On the night of the speech, I wasn’t that nervous.  I think it was because I was so tired.  After school I came home and crashed on my bed and tried to rest before Toastmasters.  I was completely exhausted because I hadn’t been getting much sleep and the first few days of college were wearing me out.

I did forget a few things during my real presentation and had to refer to my note card near the end.  I tried to do a little bit of walking while up there and made sure to smile when I could.

After I gave my speech everyone excitedly started sharing college and career stories.  There were a lot of funny tales that had us laughing and I thought it was really neat to hear about all their different paths.  Katherine told me I am a very natural speaker and am lovely to listen to.

For my evaluation Marcy started off by saying that she thinks my strongest speaking quality that showed in the first speech as well as the second is the honesty I bring to my speeches.  She said I was honest about not knowing what I want to do and wasn’t afraid to say it.  I really connect with the audience.  The goal of the second speech was organization, and she said I did that very well with my three points.  The opening captured their attention and the closing was strong too.  The ending personally connected with her in that she’s not quite sure what she wants to do and my reassurances about that comforted her as well.

And at the end when Houston was giving the master evaluation and spoke of me, she said “We value how you speak to us as peers.   You don’t treat us like we’re older.  And as a smart young woman we appreciate that you don’t talk down to us.”  The last part made us all laugh and she said “you know what I mean!”

The second speech was a hit and I’ll have to think of what I want to do for the third one soon!

Grammarian / Wizard of Ahs

Last night at Toastmasters I came in without a role for the first time.  I had missed the previous two sessions of Toastmasters since I was away on vacation in Santa Barbara.  I was a little more hesitant about attending than usual because I thought if I didn’t have a role I would for sure be picked for impromptu speaking with Table Topics.  Nervous thoughts floated in my head about not going, and my dad was busy working on a presentation for work so we could have stayed home.  I read some of my blog comments though and decided that avoiding it was not an option for me.  My promise to myself was to feel the fear and do it anyway, and I didn’t want to let myself down.

We arrived at the meeting and they needed someone to be a Grammarian to listen out for ahs, ums, and sos, so I offered to do that when no one else volunteered.  I’d never done that role before but I knew that I would have to keep alert for it to catch anything like that. Usually it is rare and difficult to hear more than a couple of ums.

Being the grammarian helped me focus on my listening skills, and I did catch an um, uh, and so.  I really did have to listen carefully because they were very faint and wouldn’t be noticed unless you were looking out for them.

I did not get picked for Table Topics, to my surprise.  This was kind of good because I was sitting near the back for once (I always sit near the front) and this made it harder for me to want to go up to the podium.  The further back I am, the bigger the room seems, and the more I want to stay to myself.  Not having gone to a meeting in two weeks also made me realize how helpful it is to go each week. It keeps you in the right mind set and fills you with momentum.  My mind was going blank on the table topics as I listened to the introductions, and I don’t know what I would have said if I had been chosen.  I’ve only done table topics twice so I suppose the more I do it the more I’ll get comfortable with it.  The impromptu speaking segment still makes my heart race.

Near the end of the meeting Chole brought up the idea of starting a mentorship program within the club.  She went around the room and asked each of us to say what we thought our strength was in Toastmasters that we might be able to help someone else with.  Initially I didn’t quite think I couldn’t think of any strengths in Toastmasters that I could help anyone with, but as I had more time to think about it I thought of something I could say.  Many of the others also felt like they didn’t really have a certain strength until someone brought up some ideas of what they thought their strengths were.  Some of them said they are really good at being the Toastmaster, others the Table Topics Master, or are good at adding humor to their speeches, etc.  I said that I’m fairly new, but I think writing is one of my strengths.  I’m able to brainstorm ideas fairly quickly for speeches and then once I start writing them out the speech just flows.  Windy joked that she wants me to write her speeches then, which made us all laugh.  Chole said being able to brainstorm ideas like that is quite valuable and is something that could definitely help someone.

At the end they assigned roles for next week.  I thought of volunteering for Speaker #2, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to have the time to practice my speech enough before Wednesday.  I finished writing it yesterday.  I told Larry I’d email him if I thought I could do it though.  I think I can, I just don’t want to put added pressure on myself if I feel like I’m not ready.  I’m starting my first semester of college next week and that is already a lot of stress for me.  I still am not all that familiar with how to get to each of the two colleges I’m taking classes at, and have hardly driven on the highway before (and never by myself).  I’m hoping to practice this weekend though so I’ll be feeling a little more prepared by Monday.  (*Update: I emailed Larry a few hours ago and told him I would give the speech on Wednesday!  I practiced a lot today and I am feeling more prepared.)

*Psst: Here’s a link to the Toastmasters website:

It has some good info on there about public speaking and about Toastmasters.  There is also a Q&A that I just read about a guy who said he is shy and introverted and how Toastmasters has helped him.

Taking on Another Role: Wordmaster

Last Wednesday I was the Wordmaster at Toastmasters.  I had one of the smaller roles, and simply had to introduce a new word to the club that they would try to use during the table topics impromptu speaking or any other time. I chose auspicious, which means favorable or opportune, even though it’s a word that probably many know and I’ve known it since it was a vocab word from Lit class in 9th grade when we read “To Kill a Mockingbird”.  The word was used several times throughout the evening and it had a fairly good run.

Luckily I didn’t have to do table topics that night as I was feeling pretty nervous about the scenario and wasn’t quite sure what I would say.  My dad gave his icebreaker speech this night though, and that went well.  He did end up talking way over the time limit but everyone assured him that his stories were so good and interesting that they didn’t mind.  So now my dad and I have both gotten our first speeches out of the way!  We really should celebrate.

I won’t be able to go to Toastmasters for the next two weeks though as I’ll be away, but I will have some other posts up for you hopefully!

First Icebreaker Speech


I sat anxiously in my chair, waiting for the jokes and table topics to come to an end.  I was nervous, and I hoped I wouldn’t forget my speech.  It was a little over a 1000 word speech and I had practiced it enough to where I could give it without looking at any notes.  While practicing I worked on using my hands and using some vocal variety.  I wrote my speech basically all in one night, which is when I seem to do my best work when it comes to creativity, and tweaked it the next few days.

Before I left to give my speech, I reminded myself of something I’d read before.  I told myself, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.”  I think a lot of us who are slightly introverted or shy or any sort of combination of the two get caught up in perfection sometimes, and it’s important to remind ourselves that it’s ok to make mistakes or that it’s ok if everything doesn’t go the way we want it to.

As I was being introduced, I felt more nervous than I have been in a long time.  I thought after telling jokes to the club, leading table topics, and participating in table topics that the speech wouldn’t be that hard, but it is surprisingly still the hardest thing.

I think part of the reason why I was so nervous for the speech was because I decided to take a risk with it.  I made my speech extremely personal, and in doing so allowed myself to be very vulnerable.  But I figured that what I was opening up about would allow them to get to know me a lot better than if I simply talked about my hobbies or interests.

While giving my speech to the club, I looked down once or twice at my notes even though I didn’t have to.  I guess it was out of nervous habit, and to make sure I stayed on track.  I spoke a little fast and didn’t keep eye contact with one person for an extended period of time like I could have, but I looked around the room at each person.   There were some smiles and laughs at the humorous parts of my speech, and some surprised and concerned faces as I talked about some of the serious parts of my speech.  At one point talking about shyness and bullying I felt myself get a little emotional, but I kept it under control.

I can’t believe I was able to give a public speech about shyness and bullying, those are things I’ve rarely talked about, let alone given a speech on.  I knew it was a risk talking about that because I’ve always gotten emotional, but I was able to do it.

During the break, Marcy told me that I did a really good job on the speech.  Phyllis came to talk to me about how people like that may be on top of the totem pole then, but after middle school and high school the people who were once on the bottom come to the top.  Larry told me he was really impressed because I really made myself vulnerable, and that’s something that takes years for people to be able to do with public speaking.  He said it was really incredible.

My evaluator, Saeed, gave me a good evaluation at the end of the meeting.  He recapped to the club that I talked about being a young kid with my two brothers, improving my weaknesses, being in many clubs, and being the director of Global Projects in SAGE.  He said I have made several huge achievements for a young lady and accomplished goals very beautifully.  He said how I was viewed as a shy lady and a shy kid, and how I’ve learned that none of these are barriers.  “You proved to everyone that you are not shy, you are a courageous woman.”  His critique was that I should slow down, which takes a bit of the nervousness out.  He mentioned that I didn’t use notes, so I could have walked around instead of staying in one place mostly.  He ended it by saying, “I can see you’re going to be a star.”

It was very nice, and I appreciated his feedback.  The timer said that my speech was 4 minutes and 7 seconds, which made me feel kind of bad because when I practiced it had been about 5 minutes each time.  I didn’t have any ahs or ums though, so that’s good.  I did dwell on the speaking too fast part though, as Larry and Don had said that to me too and I wondered if anything I said even made sense or if I had just messed up my whole speech.  I worked so hard on it, and it meant so much to me since it was so personal, that I hated to think that I had messed it up by speaking too fast.  For once after Toastmasters I didn’t feel the best.

To wrap things up, Marcy gave the master evaluation.  When speaking of me, she mentioned again how she was terrified of public speaking at my age.  She said she felt inspired watching my speech, and was sure the others did too.  She even said that she can see a future leader here.

On another note, I had my dad record my icebreaker speech.  After watching the video, I felt a lot better about my speech and realized that my speed was fine and that everything I said was still clear.  I’m really glad he took the video because otherwise I would have thought I did a lot worse than I actually did.

Scheduling my Icebreaker Speech Earlier than Planned


As I was sitting down finishing my dinner, my mom told me that my dad isn’t ready to give his speech yet and wants to switch dates with me.  Suddenly, that lasagna didn’t taste so good anymore.

I felt sick to my stomach and cold and nervous, and as I ate a few more bites it became harder and harder to chew.

But I took a deep breath, and agreed to do it.  I was planning to give my speech the following week, but now I had two days to finish practicing and fine-tuning my speech.  Oh boy, this is happening.  At least I’ll get it over with…Fellow Toastmasters.

Brittany the Jokemaster


Tonight turned out to be a great night of Toastmasters!  I was the jokemaster of the evening, and was to tell about two jokes.

I practiced my jokes several times a day until I knew them like the back of my hand and didn’t need any notes.  I even video recorded myself so I could see how my vocal variety and expressions/gestures looked.  If I saw things that I wanted to make better, I would work on them, like the way I used my hands and varied my voice.  I didn’t think I’d be able to memorize both jokes, especially the longer one, but after I realized the rhythm of the jokes it made it much easier to keep them straight in my head.

I didn’t allow myself to get worried about what I was doing the week I was practicing thankfully enough.  Anytime I felt a negative thought try to creep into my head, I immediately blocked it from entering my mind.  It was amazing.  I tried to imagine myself telling my jokes with confidence and a self-assured smile.  I believed that the group would laugh at my jokes and genuinely enjoy them.

At the meeting I was called on to tell my jokes right away, sooner than I expected, and I nervously smiled and shook hands with the Sergeant at Arms.  I hoped I would remember everything and not look at any notes.

It went well, and I didn’t look at my notes at all.  I spoke a little fast at first probably, but I used my gestures and vocal variety that I practiced.  I smiled and sustained eye contact with each separate person longer this time to make them feel like I was really talking to them.

Everyone laughed and clapped, and especially enjoyed the second joke.  I felt flushed afterward and a little shaky once I was back in my seat, but it couldn’t have gone any better.  I did it just like I practiced.

When it was time for the table topics, however, I had a much harder time.  Each person read a line off a Snapple cap that they had to make a 1 – 2 minute speech about.  And just my luck, when I was called up I got a really off the wall one.  It read “Only male turkeys gobble.”  I smiled up at the podium but I had no idea what I would say.  I don’t really know much of anything about turkeys…

I started by repeating the fact, and said “Well what do the females do then?  What noise do they make?” I had no idea what else to say and I think I said an um there, and then decided to talk about having a grandpa who owns a farm (made up) who has turkeys, pigs, and horses.  I talked about how the first time I’d ridden a horse, I was really nervous.  We were in the Mojave Desert and it was very hot, and I was afraid of getting thrown off or something but didn’t have any problems. (true)  I said a few more ums and winged it until I saw the green light signaling I’d reached the required minute and that was good enough for me so I finished.

Everyone clapped, and I thought I did really bad, especially with all the ums, but hey, I did it.  I got a little flushed, embarrassed by my poor performance.

Imagine my surprise when at the end of the meeting it was announced that I won the Best Table Topics Award!  I thought I had no chance of even getting a single vote!  I accepted my award with a look of shock and smiled, and admitted that I really didn’t expect that at all.

I talked to some people afterward about it, Marcy and then later one of the guests who said I did really good and they would have had no idea what to say on that.  I couldn’t believe it, I told them I had no idea what I was saying and thought I did really bad.  Maybe I’m just too hard on myself.

Everyone really liked my jokes, and one of the guests at the end commented that she’ll have to steal my jokes to tell other people and pretend they’re her own, which was a pretty high compliment to me.  Houston made a comment that I was a great storyteller, which made me smile because those are words I’d never thought I’d hear.  Chole told me privately that she was really impressed with me because she was terrified of being the jokemaster and hadn’t done it yet. She thinks no one will laugh at her jokes, which surprised me because she’s one of the best speakers of the club.  The other guest said she was really impressed that all of us were such great speakers and said as she was watching Table Topics she thought she’d have no idea what to say and would make a big fool out of herself.  She said public speaking terrifies her, but she has to make a presentation for work soon so that’s why she’s here.

After hearing that, I knew I had to talk to her and tell her how nervous and intimidated I was when I first came here.  So I talked to her and told how intimidated I felt at first and how I wanted to get the heck out of here because I was so scared, but it’s gotten easier each time I’ve come and I feel more comfortable now.  I told her that everyone’s always so supportive and friendly.  This seemed to reassure her and she said she’d definitely be back then, and I was happy to hear that.

On the way home, I turned up the music and sang my heart out to the songs on the radio and felt a rush of euphoria with my accomplishments for the night!  I never thought I’d say this, but speaking in Toastmasters gives me a rush and I’m excited for more!  I can’t believe how far I’ve come already, this is insane!  Absolutely insane I tell you!

*Here’s one of the practice videos, this one was before going to bed.  This camera makes my voice sound funny and doesn’t sound like me according to my mom, but at least it has sound.

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