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Blog Posts for September 2006

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The Connection Pack

 

I picked up the first 1,750 mini-cards from the printer and got the proofs of the next eight designs, which will come in next Wednesday. If I didn't mention it, I'll offer these in a variety package of cards, 1 card each of fifteen different designs. Here's a snapshot - note the quarter at the bottom of the picture.

I was planning to use a zip loc bag to package these, but Tamara recommended, and rightly so, that I use something else - of which I'd never heard - called an "organza bag."

Nice presentation... I have a box of them coming to me to see what they're like.

So - inside the shimmery bag, for $11.99, you'll find the 15 cards, 15 envelopes, and a piece of paper with text something like this:

The Connection Package

Strengthen your personal and professional relationships with these vibrant and unique cards. Small enough to fit in a wallet - memorable enough to leave a lasting impression!

Use these cards:

  • In the office with colleagues
  • On gifts as tags
  • To accompany flowers
  • As back pack or lunch box notes for your kids
  • As invitations
  • Just because...
Connect with Someone!

(You can also buy a dozen of the same card for $11.99.)

I feel like after spending over $3,000 of my money, I need to focus on marketing. I'm nearing the right product. How do I pitch it? At work, I have eight orders thus far, which is pretty much an order per person who has seen the cards. That's hopeful!

 

7 Comments
Read the whole story of "Workin' on the Dream"
by Brett Rogers, 9/1/2006 11:41:48 PM
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No News is Good News

 

Stephen Covey taught me about the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence: while I may be greatly concerned about something, I may not have any control over it. If I spend a lot of time there, I'll be wasting my time. Time is best spent in areas where I can have impact.

Therefore, in a complete departure of habit, I will no longer read news web sites.

I once knew a guy named Barry Lawler, who was my landlord for a time when I lived in Corvallis, Oregon. I also painted his historic house. Barry never listened to or read or watched the national news. He thought it a complete waste of time. He was right.

I'm working on some new habits to develop in my life. My re-think of my Rules of Life is coming along well, but this one bubbled up and it will most likely be the hardest. Could also be the healthiest.

On occasion, I will continue to read blogs and such that I find helpful to me, but news sites ain't it.

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 9/4/2006 8:29:04 AM
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Creatively Squander

 

"The secret of fast progress is inefficiency, fast and furious and numerous failures." - Kevin Kelly

Kelly further writes:

The network economy is destined to be a fount of routine productivity. Technical experience can be shared quickly, increasing efficiencies in automation. The routine productivity of machines, however, is not what humans want. Instead, what the network economy demands from us is something that looks suspiciously like waste.

Wasting time and inefficiencies are the way to discovery. When Condé Nast's editorial director Alexander Liberman was challenged on his inefficiencies in producing world-class magazines such The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and Architectural Digest, he said it best: "I believe in waste. Waste is very important in creativity." Science fiction ace William Gibson declared the web to be the world's largest waste of time. But this inefficiency was, Gibson further noted, its main attraction and blessing, too. It was the source of art, new models, new ideas, subcultures, and a lot more. In a network economy, innovations must first be seeded into the inefficiencies of gift economy to later sprout in efficiencies of the commerce.

Before the World Wide Web there was Dialog. Dialog was pretty futuristic. In the 1970s and '80s it was the closest thing to an electronic library there was, containing the world's scientific, scholarly, and journalistic texts. The only problem was its price, $1 per minute. You could spend a lot of money looking things up. At those prices only serious questions were asked. There was no fooling around, no making frivolous queries-like looking up your name. Waste was discouraged. Since searching was sold as a scarcity, there was little way to master the medium, or to create anything novel.

It takes 56 hours of wasting time on the web-clicking aimlessly through dumb web sites, trying stuff, and making tons of mistakes and silly requests-before you master its search process. The web encourages inefficiency. It is all about creating opportunities and ignoring problems. Therefore it has hatched more originality in a few weeks than the efficiency-oriented Dialog system has in its lifetime, that is, if Dialog has ever hatched anything novel at all.

The Web is being run by 20-year-olds because they can afford to waste the 56 hours it takes to become proficient explorers. While 45-year-old boomers can't take a vacation without thinking how they'll justify the trip as being productive in some sense, the young can follow hunches and create seemingly mindless novelties on the web without worrying about whether they are being efficient. Out of these inefficient tinkerings will come the future.

A quick note: I mention in my previous post that the reading of news sites is a huge waste of time because it can't effect any positive change in my life. The news and those who make it are out of my reach. What Kevin Kelly says here is that by being inefficient, I'm actually learning and exploring. Big difference. One-year-olds are incredibly fast crawlers. By tinkering with this 'walking' phenomon and wasting time going nowhere and getting hurt and frustrated by trying to move around on two legs, they learn to use a more efficient mechanism for travel.

I'll repeat again what Kelly said:

"The secret of fast progress is inefficiency, fast and furious and numerous failures."

Crawling was cool and mobile - no doubt about it. But there's a better way. We can't be afraid of the new and the inefficient, nor can we fear the inevitable failures that spring from our initial time with them. Just because we're afraid that we wouldn't be good at it shouldn't preclude us from the attempt.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 9/4/2006 9:13:52 AM
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Distilled

 

I now have one rule of life that I would evangelize:

Crave freedom, for yourself and for others.

Freedom is choice. It's exploration and spontaneous and wonder-filled. I think everyone can and should pursue it with abandon.

After that mantra, I'm establishing habits. A habit is better than a goal. Yoda said it well:

Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.
Habits are what I do daily. Goals are what I try to do. I think a "goal" is often a precursor to a lack of follow-through.

Habit = Actions.
Goals = Words.

A goal is also a destination, and I don't think that's bad, but firm goals can prevent me from tweaking my direction. It doesn't allow a course correction and it prevents me from listening while I'm focused on arriving at my goal. You know, I should just sail. I might not find India, but America instead.

Tom Peters recently published a slide deck that spoke of the 3 E's:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Execution
  • Excellence
Standards are important. In fact, critical. What are the non-negotiable behaviors I habitually exhibit in my life? Habits are something that I can do right now, and standards are the quality with which I do them. If I set standards for me, and then habitually execute my standards of behavior, I'm doing what Gandhi said:
Be the change that you seek in the world.
I can only change me, so I am. If others are influenced to do the same, then it will mean all the more because they chose it for themselves freely, not because I coerced them. My actions speak volumes over my words.

I'm reading Jeffrey Gitomer "Little Red Book of Selling." In the "Kick Your Own Ass" section, he says:

Philosophy drives attitude.

"Attitude drives action. Actions drive results. Results drive lifestyles." That's a quote from America's business philosopher, Jim Rohn. If you don't like your lifestyle, look at your results. If you don't like your results, look at your actions. If you don't like your actions, look at your attitude. If you don't like your attitude, look at your philosophy.

Most salespeople make the fatal mistake of starting in the middle: they start with "action."

If you have no philosophy and you have a lousy attitude, what kind of actions are you going to take?

He also says later to celebrate effort, not victory. Attaining a goal is not triumphant. Executing daily the standards I set for myself is triumphant. That's the hard part. But the philosophy and the standards are the first and essential step.

I've divided my standards into four axes: Body, Mind, Lifestyle, and Business. In each of these, I've declared three standards. The standards are written as means of action and not as goals. They are actions I can do daily right now and not destinations in some distant future. I won't say what they are, but this method feels right, and it's a complete change of what I had before. It's much better.

"Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."

ETC: The more I think about it, the more I'm down on goals.

  • It's future-telling, which is just dumb anyway.
  • Goals don't allow for any evolution. It's rigid thinking. The strong do not survive; the adapters survive.
  • By announcing our goals, we set the expectations of others and by changing goals, no matter the reason, you disappoint people.
  • We generally either set our goals too low, in which case we settle for mediocrity, or we set them too high, in which case we now have more reason to believe that we can't succeed. Gitomer talks about how sales goals are bullshit. He's right, and this is exactly why.
The dilemma for me is that this flies in the face of a lot of the business world.

Let's look at war, and business is often compared to war, so we'll go with this. A goal can be seen as aiming at a target. Think of the soldier in the field. The enemy guy in the mustache is his goal. "I'm gonna nail that guy!" he says to himself. He stares through his rifle's site and takes aim at the enemy. The enemy is moving. He has to shift his target. He has to move his position. But while he's fixating on this mustached guy, he's missed the swarm of other combatants who have moved into his area. He was tunnel-visioned.

So did he simply have the wrong goal? Think about it. The bigger goal is to any enemy soldiers. Okay, fine, so instead of aiming at a single soldier, he should have made his goal the enemy platoon. Any one of them will do. Now he's firing at anything in that direction. But being fixated on the enemy soldiers, he misses the directive of his squad sergeant, who wants the team to work together. He stopped listening.

So did he have the wrong goal again? The bigger goal yet is to have enough guys on his side to take over the area in which they are and hold it. They do this by working together. So he does this, and now he's listening and firing at targets of opportunity. They are gung-ho and owning that patch of dirt. But they didn't know that there are two brigades behind the single enemy platoon in front of them.

I could go on with this exercise, but the point is simple: Focusing on a goal will force you to miss the bigger picture and cause you to ignore the changing conditions of your environment. It might also prevent you from doing the job right in the first place.

Where's the upside?

The replacement, as I've mentioned, is habits driven by standards. I don't hear those words much in the business world.

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 9/4/2006 10:08:50 AM
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P2P and the Coming Wave

 

Micro-financing. Person-to-person lending. You'll find it at Zopa, Prosper, and I've now found Kiva.

Kiva has a philanthropic twist as its aim is to help the poor.

There will be more coming like these. Over the weekend, I read about realtors' woes with this new fangled stuff at Jeff Jarvis' site.

Lots of industries / companies tackled around the ankles by us little folk. Will business prepare?

 

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by Brett Rogers, 9/5/2006 1:03:21 PM
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Research

 

In the next few days, I'll be posting about one of the victims of 9/11. I won't say yet who that is - I was assigned this person when I volunteered to offer a blog tribute to a victim. I've located the phone number of their brother and I hope to find out more details about this person's life in the next few days.

I want to tread lightly and be as respectful as I can be in honoring their memory.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 9/7/2006 7:59:51 AM
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The Business Card Presentation

 

Imagine that you're at a trade show, and you want your business card to stand out of the crowd. How do you do that? I don't know that there is a way to do that today, frankly. I've not seen one. But how about this?

Does that make it more memorable?

 

2 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 9/7/2006 10:52:23 PM
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Organza!

 

Woo hoo!

Love the look... thank you, Tamara :)

Next, I need to come up with the tags that would identify and describe the Connection Pack. Attention retailers: I'm coming to see you soon.

ETC: Ho ho! I've figured out the tag (looks great), and I've determined a way to sell a whole bunch in the next few months. I'm shooting to have a small army of salesfolk. I need to talk to my accountant next week and see what my exposure is with salespeople - can I give them straight commission as reps, or would they be considered employees?

 

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by Brett Rogers, 9/8/2006 6:25:49 PM
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Michael J. Lyons

 

Michael Lyons loved his family.

He met his wife, Elaine, while a freshman in high school at the Yonkers deli where she and he both worked. He was always playing jokes at the job. He would sometimes glue a quarter to the floor and watch customers struggle to pick it up, or fill co-worker's shoes with corned beef fat. He was always ready with a joke.

He typically held down two jobs, but when he came home, he was all about his family. His daughter, Caitlyn, got all of his attention and he would help in any way with her. After her birth, he slowed down a bit. Elaine was expecting their second child when he responded to the needs of New York on September 11.

Michael was a firefighter in Squad 41. For his second job, he drove an ice cream truck because it gave him such pleasure to see the kids' faces light up when they came to buy something. He used the extra money from his second jobs to buy a house in the town where his wife grew up.

Michael's normal way of greeting people was to say, "Hey, bro." Even his lieutenant allowed the casual greeting because of Michael's engaging and passionate way. Michael was a seven-year-veteran of the New York City fire department. His body was never found.

On November 2, 2001, his second daughter, Mary Michael Lyons was born. Elaine named the baby girl after her father.

 

2 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 9/11/2006 8:21:13 AM
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Sales and the To-Do List

 

I now have all of my cards from the printer and the organza bags and I've created the tags. It appears that I have a good and unique product and that my price point is right. All that's left is sales. I have to do some work on my web site to track aspects of the business that I can't track today. There's always more work... but there is movement. I sold 7 Connection Packs yesterday without really trying. People saw them and wanted them. Paying the $12 was a no-brainer.

Less than two years ago I painted my first painting and since that time, I've worked to find a way to make art my living. It's been a bumpy road, with turns I didn't expect. I learned a lot about myself that surprised me. I recorded some of what transpired here on my web site.

If there's a skill that I find most valuable in life, it is listening. When I listen - really listen - life is easier. Rather than mete out my way, I adapt to what life would have me to do. Listening helps me to move not like a bulldozer, but like water. It's a gentle act. It's also hard to do well.

So now I am ear to the market. I've learned that tweaking is more powerful than a new direction, and a'tweaking I will go. The market will tell me how to do this. I'll find the right channels and the right approach - as long as I listen and adapt.

I read Jeffrey Gitomer's "Little Red Book of Selling," and in it, he opens with this:

"Why do people buy?" is a thousand times more important than "How do I sell?" No, let me correct that... it's one million times more important than "How do I sell?" No, let me correct that... it's a billion times more important than "How do I sell?" Get the picture?

It never ceases to amaze me that companies will spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars teaching people "how to sell," and not one minute or tens of dollars on "why they buy." And "why they buy" is all that matters.

"Why they buy" is listening; "How to sell" is forcing my way into the market. Big difference.

In Dorothy Leeds' book, "The 7 Powers of Questions," she gives this story:

The most successful salesperson who ever worked for Equitable Life Insurance sold more insurance than any other employee for more than twenty-five years. His approach was short and simple. Larry would sit down with his prospective clients in their living room, lean in close to them, look them in the eyes, and say, "Tell me, why do you need life insurance?" They would tell him, and within no time, they had sold themselves a policy.
Listening is such powerful stuff.

I am ear to the market. Lots to do ahead...

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 9/14/2006 6:09:10 AM
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Google Earth Fried My Computer

 

I downloaded Google Earth and while using it for the first time, it froze pretty hard and my system did a serious pause but was otherwise fine. I had planned to uninstall it, but other things came up. So my son uses Google Earth... and my computer died a mighty horrible death at his hands. I think it fried the motherboard.

Word up: don't download and install Google Earth.

Being a computer guy, I'm not too worried about this. As long as it didn't touch my hard-drive, which is where all my data and work are stored, I'm okay. I've had to replace a motherboard or two before. But never from a single application's usage. And I have a beefy machine: 1 GB of RAM, a screaming AMD processor, 256 MB of video RAM, etc. Plenty of horsepower for an application like this.

I'll be calling Google today and see what they say. I'm not so happy with them today.

 

3 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 9/15/2006 8:14:10 AM
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It's Alive!

 

Yep, my computer is once again up and running. It turns out that Google Earth so tried my video card (a Radeon something) that it literally fried it. There were burns on my video card, which explained the smell of burnt plastic that I noticed that night. But after a new card, I'm back at the keyboard. Woo hoo!

I've been doing lots of thinking lately about the difference between content and attention. Said another way: product and marketing. Said yet another way: quality vs. quantity. The best movie is generally not the most trafficked, and the most trafficked doesn't win any Oscars. Content is the realm of the artist, but not the realm of the wealthy. Want money? You open a McDonald's, not a chef'd restaurant. Capiche?

Content is complicated.
Attention is simple.

For example, if you want your kid to pay attention to what you write in a note, flowery words and careful passages will take a very back seat to brevity.

"Johnny, I hope that you had a wonderful day at school. I spent the morning cleaning up and managed to make some cookies, now stowed away in a place where you can't find them - so don't try. You can have some when I get back. But before I do get back, could you take out the trash?"

Or...

"Johnny, take out the trash before I get home."

Which note sees the trash taken out?

Attention is both immediate attraction and sustained attraction. I might capture an audience, but can I hold it? If I can, I'll be rewarded for it. But I could create the most beautiful content ever, and if I can't get anyone to look at it, what does it matter?

Attention is greater than content. Best if there's both, but it's cart and horse, and the horsepower is in the attention.

ETC: I'm reminded of something I tell myself often - "Love is spelled T-I-M-E." Anyone who kids themselves that quality is more important than quantity when it comes to relationships is kidding themselves.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 9/28/2006 1:06:42 AM
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Homework

 

Someone close to me has asked that I do some homework: define "friend." What does a friend look like, to me? My list, in its raw form, is:

  • Easy
  • Empowering
  • Makes me feel like I can
  • Celebrates me
  • Listens
  • Honest with me
  • Let's me drive me
  • Shares themselves with me
  • Wants me to be happy
  • Laughter
  • Asks me questions
  • Spends time with me
And of course, vice versa.

How would you define a "friend," for you?

I'm reading The Female Brain. Fascinating read, and more fascinating are the reviews on Amazon (click through the link). The author provokes some strong reaction.

The premise: that a woman's brain is marinated in hormonal baths throughout her lifetime.

The objective: to explain the effects of this.

I'm not reading this as gospel, but as a perspective I'd not heard. I agree with one reviewer in that she is hard on us men. Yes, we get a swathed in testosterone 8 weeks into conception and that deeply affects our brain development, enhancing some features and restricting others. Viva la difference!

Her main point is this: a woman is a communication machine. Well, duh. But her treatment and explanation of how the chemicals of the body factor into personalities and moods and lean women into certain behaviors are interesting and worth consideration. She should write the companion book about men, but somehow, I doubt she will. She says that we men should have "brain envy." I do envy a woman for her abilities in certain areas, but I have to say that I'm quite content being a guy, for all kinds of reasons. Again - viva la difference!

 

0 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 9/29/2006 1:00:56 AM
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In the Stores

 

I'm taking the day off and attending to the business. A couple of things:

  • Between the two local retailers that are selling my cards, I made $100 in the last month. That's cool :)
  • The local Borders has signaled that they're interested and my UPC code for the Connection Pack is being entered into their system under multimedia. The next step is to figure out the merchandising. What's the display look like? I think I want to go counter-intuitive with that. The easy way out would be an acrylic display. But I'm thinking wicker...
I love today. I've also called other retailers and I'll be following up with them in the next few weeks. Let's see how many stores I can get into. But in the meantime...

Yayy!

ETC: Here's a picture of the big cards in the Village Bean in downtown Des Moines.

Once I hit the afternoon, I worked on the merchandising, aka retail display for my cards.

I could have gone with a simple acrylic stand, but that's flat for me. Everyone does that. How do mine stand out?

I wanted wicker, and so I had a minor shopping spree at Michael's today. I bought the basket, a glue gun (the guy in me shudders just a bit at the thought of me buying a glue gun, but it's in the name of business, so that's a bit of salvation), and foam core for the backing of the signage.

Next stop: Hancock Fabric across the street. Here's the funny... I'm walking out of Michael's and there's a retired guy asleep in the passenger seat of an older family sedan - obviously waiting for his wife, who dragged him along to shop at Michael's. I go across the street and sure enough, another retired guy, asleep in the passenger seat, dragged along so that his wife could go fabric shopping. Gotta be a demographic in there somewhere.

I wanted a white cloth to line the basket, but changed my mind when I saw the navy broadcloth. Bought a yard and went to Office Depot for letter-sized gloss photo paper and double-sided tape.

Thank goodness for my mom, the seamstress. I drove to Ames and she edged a couple of squares of the fabric. Here's the result:

I like it. Next, I work on the signage and then hot glue velcro to the basket, then glue the fabric to the basket, and then print and attach the sign image to the foam core and use the velcro to stick the foam core. Arts and crafts at my pad, eh?

The big question: what if this all goes really well and I get into stores nationally? How do I ramp up production of the cards and the baskets/retail displays?

What a great problem to have... I'll take it!

MORE ETC: And the finished product:

I haven't glued anything yet, but this is how it will look. Yep - that beats an acrylic display any day of the week.

I like this quote:

"You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take." - Wayne Gretzky
It's been interesting to see the reaction of my sons to this. They're watching me start with an idea, and then spend close to a year working on it, honing it, and turning out my money left and right to gamble on a dream.

It's worth it. I'll keep tweaking this until I succeed. I like the little cards. In the next Connection Pack that I release, I'll have this:

I love life :)

 

1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 9/29/2006 12:36:38 PM
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Clear Box

 

I took my homemade displays (wicker baskets) out this morning and dropped one off at the retailer downtown, the Village Bean. Jenny, the woman behind the counter, remarked unprompted that she liked it a lot. "Oh, how nice!" That was comforting :)

Next I went to Border's and walked through their cards section with the other basket. I'm not so sure that it will work unless it's a point of sale display. So I looked online this morning when I got home for some clear plastic boxes that would fit my little cards. This would allow them to fit on the shelf with the other card packages they have there.

I told my son, later in the car, that we live in such an enabling age. In about 10 minutes time searching, I found the exact size that I needed for my cards, a 2¾" × 3¾" × 1" clear plastic box. And I ordered 25, to sample the appearance of them. I'll need stickers for the back of the box, but at least this way people could open the box and browse the variety. Being clear plastic, and not opaque, allows the art to speak for itself. No fancy packaging necessary.

But isn't it amazing? I can paint, scan it in, send it to the printers and purchase 3,000 cards, order the envelopes, find and buy the packaging online, purchase the bar code that I need... no other time in history offers so much to the would-be entrepreneur as today does.

Simply incredible...

 

0 Comments
Read the whole story of "Workin' on the Dream"
by Brett Rogers, 9/30/2006 7:14:34 PM
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What Sells

 

I'm surprised by what sold in my cards, to some degree. The ones that are most popular hold no surprises. But the ones that didn't sell? That's what gets me...

In the last month, here's what sold at one retailer, the Village Bean, a coffee shop:

CardQty Sold
5
5
5
5
4
4
3
3!!
2
2
2
1
0!!
0!!

The ones in bold are the ones that surprised me. I find it hard to believe that none of the golf or snow cards sold. I understand that snow has been out of season - fair enough - we'll see how they do in the next month. But no golf??

And how did the "Child Hug" card surpass the "Mother and Child" card?

Hmm... all of this plays into what I choose for subjects. Let's see what happens in the next month.

 

2 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 9/30/2006 11:12:38 PM
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