Gamification of the Classroom

While on Erasmus I learned about “gamification” as a concept and how businesses are using it, especially in advertising, to get consumers attention. It’s all about making a process as fun and interactive as possible for a consumer in order to grab their attention.

This concept came up again recently during my linguistic class and it got me wondering how games could be used in mainstream education. Just a few weeks ago, I used kahoot, an interactive quiz, as part of my Gothic presentation.

Kahoot Tutorial

Kahoot allowed me to create a number of questions based on my presentation which students could then answer on their smartphones. Points are awarded for correct answers as well as speed and the computer displays a leader board throughout.

This creates competition as well as interest in the topic and really got the usually quiet twenty-minute content discussion going.

Next week I’m to present on English language teaching and I have chosen “gamification” as my topic as I have seen firsthand how games make learning an altogether richer experience for all those involved.

While games are widely used in early teaching, higher level education has largely been lacking any innovation in this field. This is something which I hope I can highlight to a room of future English teachers, that hopefully could encourage a whole new wave of teachers to a new way of teaching.


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Deadlines, Deadlines, Deadlines.

As usual, the first six or so weeks of college glide past almost carefree. Blink and you’d almost miss them, until you find yourself in week 11, neck-deep in deadlines you’d forgotten about in the slumber of the first several weeks.

Trying to allocate time to what and figuring out as to when it must be all submitted is where I find myself as of now. On top of some things more than others, it’s not all total chaos. However, it does little to make the last few weeks the semester any less stressful.

The afterthought of going into my fourth and final year is just that, an afterthought, for now anyway. While personal issues have somewhat distracted me from the get go, I now feel I’m in a better position to muster on.

Thankfully Easter is upon us and the week in it should allow me to get on track. It seems no matter how much time a student is given to complete something, most will wait til the absolute last moment to complete it and I’m by no means an exception to this.

While all this work may squeezed into just a few weeks may seem daunting, to say the least, summer on the horizon is sure to lend the motivation one needs to trudge onward.

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Web Design For Dummies (Like Me)

Another semester another web design assignment, the bane of my existence. On first hearing about this assignment, I was transported back to the nauseating experience of trying to figure out the inner workings of Adobe Muse.

There, the real work involved figuring out how to actually use the software and not the assignment itself. This was something which quickly learned could not be accomplished by fiddling around with it. As quickly as I would have hoped anyway.

Luckily for me, this assignment would focus on building a website using Google Sites. With this, I was reassured that this assignment wouldn’t be quite as traumatic.

Google Sites’ templates really did a lot of the work for me and allowed me to focus instead on the content of my website. Learning in class that less is more in communicating content online, I began to focus most of my efforts towards character length.

However, while content is all well good, poor navigation and a websites overall aesthetic can greatly impact functionality and the length of time a reader spends on your site. The key to any successful website is to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for any would be visitors.

This in mind, I turned my efforts to improving the website’s overall appearance. To do this, I carefully chose a colour scheme which I believed would best reflect my site. As I intended it to be educational, I chose blue as it reflects a sense of competence and quality (or so my sociology lecturer would have me believe).

Colour in check, I now needed to go over some of the picture choices I made and search for better alternatives. Keeping professionalism in mind, photos needed to communicate that and maintain a certain aesthetic in line with the theme and colour scheme in use.

Confident in my choices of content and design, I needed to quickly run through the site as if I was a visitor. Checking links embedded to other sites as well as user friendliness, I navigated my way through each page.

Two weeks of work later and with slightly more hairs on my head than after previous web design experiences, I’m quite pleased with Google Sites, as well as my project.

Just as I tried to mimic with my website, Google Sites’ user friendliness as well as its functionality worked a treat for me. Even learning from scratch, a dummy like me, was able to create my very own website and it didn’t even cost me a penny.




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Under Pressure

Presenting has always come somewhat more naturally to me others, but no less frightening to do. In the past, I’ve been quite good and masking my apprehension and not allowed it to hinder me as badly as it could have.

However, it’s only in the last couple of years that my confidence has grown to the stage where my confidence can now complement my presentation. This wasn’t learned overnight and it’s only through presenting in tutorials that I have slowly, but surely gotten to a stage where the thought of a presentation doesn’t send me looking for cover.

This semester in university has been presentation intensive, with only one of my five modules not containing any. I’m currently preparing for a group presentation for my TESL module, which I spoke about in my last post. This has been made all the more daunting that it will be in front of a full lecture theatre. There’s also the matter of it being worth 60% of our grade, yikes.

That in mind, it comes as no surprise that I, like the majority of my peers, will be feeling the pressure. It only underlines the importance of doing a good presentation and not allowing myself succumb to fear.

One could argue that it’s a handy one, considering it’s a 30 minute presentation and this is the attitude I hope I’ll go into it with.

Afterall, pressure is for tyres.


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Broader Horizons



A year spent abroad has only made me hungrier not just to travel, but live and work abroad in new and exciting places. While difficult at times, especially considering my deep affection for my country and all my loved ones that call it home, it has yet to phase me.

My plan, if you could call it one, was to graduate from UL with a certificate in TESL. This would allow me to travel far afield and work as an English teacher. Sounds simple on paper and as I was soon to find out, much more difficult in theory.

I’ve quickly learned that being a native speaker in a language does not mean one is able to teach it. While aware that TESL certification would be no walk in the park, I was humbled after just one week of lectures and tutorials.

Ask the average person to categorise words and most will reply with something like: “Nouns, adjectives, verbs” or along those lines. This, I’m now well informed, is a gross simplification and each of these have four or so deeper categorisations. Categorisations which can be quite painful to learn… even as a native speaker!

As the old saying goes “nothing worth having comes easy” and I haven’t allowed my initial difficulties put me off my goal.

It’s intensive, time-consuming, frustrating and just damn difficult at times, but it’s the means of attaining the future I want and I’ll be damned if I gave in so easily.


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The Anglo Perspective


Now in my 3rd year of New Media and English, it’s hard to grasp how the time has slipped away so suddenly. My final year closing in, many of the modules I’m now doing reflect that and the workload has, naturally, increased.

One such module is Irish Literature. Each semester I’ve chosen this module consciously so as to have an adept understanding and study of English literature in Ireland. This has benefited me too in the fact that much of the coursework reflects back on previous works and literary movements covered in past modules.

Last year was the centenary of the 1916 Rising, something I would take great pride and interest in. As this module covers Irish literature from 1930 to 1990, much of the aftermath of the rebellion and the Irish civil war is discussed. It’s fascinating to see how real life events, many of which were experienced first hand by the authors, inspired incredible works of fiction.

Recently, I just finished a close reading assignment on the last September by Elizabeth Bowen. The text explored the extinction of the “Big House” lifestyle that was enjoyed by the Anglo-Irish Aristocracy for centuries up until the turning of the Irish War of Independence in 1919. In the novel, Bowen explores the relationship between the native Irish, the English Crown and the Anglo-Irish juxtaposition between the two, somewhat precariously at that.

Personally what I found the Anglo-Irish perspective most interesting, as much of the previously works we studied was from a native one. The sheer ignorance perpetuated by many Anglo families in Ireland to the rising tensions was startling. An “if we ignore it, it won’t affect us” attitude, which Bowen seems to put to fear more than anything.

The house and its grand estate is described as like an island in the text, cut away from the rest of Ireland. Indeed, while grand, the lifestyle they enjoy seems rather solitary and lonesome.

I found Bowen to be fair in her descriptions to be fair of both sides of the conflict. However, I was shocked to learn that the Irish revolt came as a shock to the Anglo characters, when it was a strikingly clear course of action for the native Irish in the text. This in itself was thought-provoking and only further highlighted the disengagement between the lives of the characters in the text.

Though a work of fiction, I feel it excellently portrayed not just the mood of the time, but the sentiments, humanising the conflict full circle.

Modules like this are why I chose to do my degree in New Media and English and allow me to not only improve my writing and understanding of literature, but of my country and its history too.



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Fake News – Establishment Media vs. the Alternative?

Earlier this year, as I spoke about in an earlier post, I attended a semester abroad in Dutch university. While there I took an English module and where we were asked to write a speech on a topic of interest to ourselves.

Give the countless headlines that still dominate our social media feeds and newspaper headlines in regards to “fake news” stories, I decided to dedicate my speech to the topic. I’ve decided to leave it as is in its original speech format and I ask of you to make of it what you will and please feel free to open the debate in the comments below.

It goes as follows:

In the fall of the US 2016 Presidential Elections, fake news as a terminology to describe bogus news stories, often shared on social media, has gained traction. Recently Pulitzer Prize winners, Politifact have even named it their ‘Lie of 2016’.

Many have turned their heads and nodded towards this phenomenon as an explanation or even causation as to Hillary Clinton’s downfall in the general election. This belief has been championed by the establishment media and has led to string of articles, daily, bashing a marked rise in “fake news”, lamenting alternative forms of media for producing these stories.

However, I feel as though this recent ‘backlash’ against fake news is, truthfully, an attack on alternative forms of media by the establishment. Just as the printing press gave the people a voice, so too has social media, and people have taken to it in their hundreds of millions. With this came a new platform, connecting innumerable people of innumerable backgrounds together to exchange opinions, stories and feelings across the globe.

New, exciting and strikingly less regulated than other aspects of our modern world, social media has allowed individuals to seek information and viewpoints outside of mainstream media, a prospect which would not have been possible on a similar scale before. This has led to a rise in amateur journalism from countless podcasters, blog writers and even Youtubers sprouting, each with their own unique take on what’s happening in the world.

Outside and unregulated by mainstream media, Alternative media is ripe with a broad range of anti-establishment opinions and beliefs on the political system, many of which do not exist in the mainstream. Views which terrify many in fear of debasing the status quo of Western Media.

As the famous saying goes, if one doesn’t read a newspaper, they’re uninformed, but if they do, they’re simply misinformed and the establishment is attempting to thwart alternative media by debasing its credibility. Daily, for the last fortnight, my Facebook and Twitter feeds have been overflowing with articles, which peculiarly are being posted by all major news outlets which I follow.

Rarely a stance like this is so blatantly perpetuated by all outlets which only highlights the fear that alternative media has struck into their core. The direct link to the masses which they had once enjoyed through our televisions, radios and newspapers continues to dwindle, as more and more people now rely on social media for their news. Unable to adapt and compete with a changing environment and in a last-ditch effort, mainstream media is attempting to bury the movement as a whole by questioning its credibility.

This stance, I admit, has only been made possible through a long list of undeniably fake news stories which have been perpetuated by small or alternative media sources, including bogus allegations against Presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

However, would it not be truly absurd to even… for one moment, consider doing away with alternative media in its entirety by tarring them all with the same brush? Especially in an age where mainstream media puts emphasis on being the first to report something over actually reporting the truth of the manner.

They speak to us as though, we don’t have the intelligence or piece of mind to determine for ourselves what is bogus and what is truthful. Surely it is our choice to form our own opinions, to go where we would like to go for answers and to do away with what we see as non-truths. Some papers have gone as far to say in their attacks that we have entered the “post-truth era”. The exact opposite, ladies and gentlemen, couldn’t be any truer if we tried.

We the people for the first time in recorded human history have now the power, the power to choose what we want to read, when we want to read it. The power to voice our opinions to an audience of millions across the world. To give our five cents and to have our part in a dialogue that is taking place globally, on millions of smarts phones and computer screens every day. It is the fear of our potential, as a people and perhaps someday as a planet, to inform ourselves, to eat the forbidden fruit and hear ideas which have not been tainted or moulded into shape by establishment views and media. It is through our potential which they fear that they will become redundant and it is from this fear that they lead their attack on alternative points of view.

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Hoisting Sails

It’s now March and I finally I’ve returned home for good, or at least for now, after a year abroad in the Netherlands. While most of my fellow students returned home in December, university terms are somewhat different to those we’re used to at home and I was required to stay for an extra month of classes and then, wretched exams.

Life moves at a different pace there and while I gradually adjusted to the flow of the days, something inside yearned more and more for home as the term went on. Classes changed weekly and long bitter cycles in the Dutch cold each morning did little for the soul. The energy and excitement of the beginning of the semester was replaced with a sense of embitterment that while I was lugging in -12 to exam halls some 15km from university, my friends were already back in UL and getting back into the flow of college life in Ireland.

Now home, I’m still somewhat out of mix with things here, struggling with building codes I once knew off by heart and staring blankly at updated university websites I now have to learn to use again.

Despite all this wallowing, I am positive about my experience as a whole and delighted to be home, I just need to give myself more time to get into the ebb of daily life in Limerick. My year abroad has allowed me to grow far more and far quicker than I ever would have abroad and allowed me a sense of independence I never knew I could have at this stage of my life. So for all the vices that co-op and Erasmus brought, it returned tenfold to me in terms of experience and ambition to make my way on my terms.

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Pic n Mix: Turfy’s Top Ten Tracks

As I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog on Damien Rice, music plays an important role in my life and I think most would agree it plays one in their lives too. This post will include ten of my favourite tracks (in no particular order) and what they mean to me. I tried to make the list varied to keep it interesting. By the end of this I hope I’ll have introduce you to a few new tracks that you’ll adore as much as I do!

Let’s open up with a bangin’ tune, here’s “I Sat by the Ocean” from none other than Palm desert rockers Queens of the Stone Age (QOTSA). This a relatively new track, features on their most recent critically acclaimed album …Like Clockwork. It’s a real summer anthem and always puts me into a good mood.

Toning it down a little, we have the ever so smooth and bluesy “I don’t want to Set the World on Fire” by the 1930’s American Quartet, Inkspots. I first came across this track while playing Fallout 3 and instantly fell in love with the slow calming swing of the song. The Inkspots paved the way for future generations of Rockers and Blues, becoming synonymous with all players of Rock n Roll and Rhythm and Blues alike.

Leading on from the Inkspots, 50 years on to be exact, we get Rory Gallagher, Irish Blues Rock legend. Rory honed his sound listening to the likes of Inkspots and his hero Lead Belly. The influences of southern music to young Gallagher were detrimental into his coming as a musician. He manages to combine his southern influences with Irish ones alike and it all ferments into an intoxicatingly alluring mishmash of passion and blues. But don’t let me tell you, check out the track for yourself.

Knocking around during the same time as Rory, was equally enormous Luke Kelly. Kelly is known as the father of Irish music and many would argue is untouchable. This particular song means a great deal to me as it was a favourite of my Grandfather’s, often he’d sing the ballad quietly along as we dug spuds in the garden. It was a reassuring sound to hear his melody and whenever I listen to this song it brings me to those long summer evenings spent in the garden with him.

Next we have Scottish Rock trio Biffy Clyro. Biffy were one of the first bands I ever followed and will always be a favourite of mine. I had the pleasure of seeing them perform in the O2 Arena Dublin a few years ago and their presence on the stage was phenomenal. One song in particular, Machines, hushed the entire crowd into silence and the atmosphere was palpable. It’s one of the most beautifully written songs in the list and I know you’ll adore it. Here it is live in Wembley 5 years ago.

Instrumentals can be equally as powerful or even more soulful than songs and Ocean by John Butler is certainly as good an example as you’ll find. It’s a piece that takes you away from where you are and you feel the waves of emotion flutter with every change of chord and rhythm. My words can’t do it justice so you’re just going to have to listen to it yourself.

Now we have an instrumental with a bit more edge, New York duo Ratatat produce experimental instrumentals with guitar, bass, keyboard and synthesizers with a sound that’s as equally alien as it is incredible. Loup Pipes off their debut album has become a favourite of mine and I often have it chiming along as I write essays or even relax.

Leaving instrumentals beyond we have the British Indie giants Foals. A bit off the wall or quirky to put it lightly, Foals deliver and array of sounds and melodies that set them apart from your typical modern band. Here’s a real festival hit with their track Inhaler

Of course Damien Rice was going to feature on this list and so you have him now. I spent a good deal of time trying to cherry pick my favourite song from him and eventually settled for “Rootless Tree, Live at Abbey Road”. This song details the end of Rice’s turbulent relationship with band member Lisa Hannigan and soon became my heartbreak song as a young teen. While laughable now, the song still does mean a great deal to me and Rice effortlessly turns “FUCK YOU” into an overwhelmingly evocative melody that takes you away.

Finally we have a personal favourite, The Auld Triangle. I can’t tell you why I love this song so much, but it’s a rare day when I haven’t sung it to myself or with others (drunkenly). The song was written by the legendary Irish playwright Brendan Behan and has become synonymous with Irish music, having been covered countless times by the likes of The Dubliners and even Justin Timberlake (*gasp*). Here’s my favourite rendition done by a favourite artist of mine, Glen Hansard, along with an array of other Irish music giants at the Royal Albert Hall. Enjoy!

As ever, thanks for reading and I hope I’ve shown you something new and wonderful!


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History Corner: Battle of Dysart O’Dea 1318

I’d like to take a slight detour from my usual blog topics and write about the battle of Dysart O’Dea 1318. As you may have noticed, my second name being O’Dea, I’ve taken a particular interest in this topic. Though one of the lesser well-known battles in Irish history, it had monumental implications on Norman rule, leaving Thomond an autonomous kingdom free of any Anglo influence until its disestablishment in 1543.

The Battle of Dysert O’Dea took place on the 10th of  May 1318 at Dysert O’Dea near Corofin, in The Kingdom of Thomond.

Kingdom of Thomond at its full extent.

Kingdom of Thomond at its full extent.

The Anglo-Normans had been clashing on and off with Thomond since the day their arrival in Munster. Thomond was a kingdom stretching across North Munster, ruled by the successors of the great Brian Boru and attained its independence where so many Gaelic kingdoms had not.

However, by the time of the Norman invasion, its borders had shrunk to present day County Clare. On its borders the Norman forces of Richard De Clare resided in Limerick City and the townland of Bunratty in South Clare.

However, by the time of the Norman invasion, its borders had shrunk to present day County Clare. On its borders the Norman forces of Richard De Clare resided in Limerick City and the townland of Bunratty in South Clare.

The Gaels and Normans had co-existed in uneasy truce with one another and adopted the “live and let live” sentiment between them. Simply put the Normans lacked the military strength to topple Thomond, while Thomond was unwilling to risk an open siege on Limerick or confrontation with Norman forces. Instead, the Normans opted for an alternative method of asserting influence over Thomond in the form of supporting one claimant to the throne over the other.

Gaelic Kingdoms lacked the stability of Norman dynasties in that it wasn’t of primogeniture (first-born males’ inheritance). Rather, in these kingdoms the new leader would be elected through the backing of smaller clans within the region. This meant that there was never an easy handover of power after the death of a ruler and left Gaelic kingdoms in constant conflict. Richard De Clare hoped that by backing one faction over the other he would either put a friendly face on the throne or weaken the kingdom as a whole.

Norman Knight (foreground) with typical mixed infantry (background) dawning both chainmail and typically Gaelic woolen armour.

Norman Knight (foreground) with typical mixed infantry (background) dawning both chainmail and typically Gaelic woolen armour.

13th century Gaelic warriors with Kerns (right) skirmishers.

13th century Gaelic Gallowglass heavy infantry with Kern skirmishers (right).


This particular conflict over the throne was between two individuals, Donough O’Brien and Murtough O’Brien. De Clare backed Donough, whom though having the initial success was quickly on the lower hand after a crushing defeat to his rivals in the Burren. After relentless cattle raids by the O’Deas on De Clare’s stocks, he was provoked into a response. He assembled what forces he could; made up of spearman, some archers, light cavalry, with the main bulk of the force consisting of footmen supplemented by Donough.

These were experienced frontier soldiers who had some knowledge of the terrain and a considerable experience fighting the Irish. Heading north past Ennis, De Clare began pillaging what he could along the way, determined to knock Murtough off his feet by removing the main backing force of his campaign from the face of Thomond, Conor O’Dea.

dysert o'dea battle map

Map illustrating the battle

Confident of victory, De Clare split his forces into three divisions, the left towards Magowna with the right towards Tully, spreading out to continue to pillage and raze, providing a guard to the flanks of the main force in the centre. Meanwhile in the centre column, De Clare and his son took the direct route to Dysert O’Dea Castle; determined to destroy O’Dea’s forces.

As De Clare approached Lough Ballycullinan, North East of Dysert, he came upon a party of O’Dea’s men, the Irish account describes it as “a well ordered detachment of horse and foot” – driving a herd of cattle across a ford. The Normans upon seeing this easy prize made charge and De Clare in his haste separated from the main body of his units. At first the Irish seemed full of flight, but it was a trap. O’Dea was no fool, and all too aware that his troops would have little chance of matching De Clare’s in open combat. O’Dea’s men quickly turned around after luring De Clare close enough and began skirmishing the Normans with showers of darts, sling-stones and hand-stones. De Clare grew rash and charged into the forces.

In the midst of the long standing skirmish, Conor O’Dea reputedly felled De Clare with his axe; “the O’Deas killed both himself and every man with him”. The Gaels began to slowly retire towards the woods as De Clare’s troops ensued their pursuit. Upon reaching the treeline, De Clare’s men were immediately bombarded by O’Dea’s main body of units, hidden amongst the trees and found themselves being assailed from both front and rear.

Dyart O'Dea Castle a later 15th century addition to where Conor O'Dea made his stronghold.

Dyart O’Dea Castle a later 15th century addition to where Conor O’Dea made his stronghold.

Site of the ford where the ambush and subsequent skirmishing took place.

Site of the ford where the ambush and subsequent skirmishing took place.

The Normans were holding their own remarkably well despite the loss of their leader, closer to victory than the Irish and remaining disciplined enough to continue the fight with vigour. Both rears of the Norman units were reinforced by the arrival of the two other bodies of Norman forces and joined up into a central column. O’Dea’s forces were relieved with the arrival of O’Connor’s and O’Hehir’s forces who charged swiftly down Scool Hill to the West. Conor O’Dea’s men cut their way through and joined the reinforcements outside the wood.The fight became a melee and the Irish became engulfed in a surging, hacking mass as the Normans reformed to counter. The Irish forces became compacted by the overwhelming forces and formed into a phalanx and held their ground as the Normans struggled to break through. Individual warriors came out and fought one on one and it is said that De Clare’s son was slew by O’Connor.

Through the determination of the Irish forces with the leadership and remarkably use of the geography to their advantage by Conor O’Dea, victory was made possible, but not yet ensured. Murtough and his forces were still outside of combat. It was their intervention that was decisive. Murtough followed the burning countryside over Spancil Hill from North-East Clare in such a hurried piecemeal fashion that they were at first mistaken for Norman reinforcements. The weight of Murtough’s forces tipped the balance. The Normans still fought with equal vigour and discipline but were trapped between the two Irish forces, collapsed and were slaughtered, “so dour the hand-to-to hand work was, that neither noble nor commander of them left the ground, but the far greater part fell where they stood”.

Modern re-enactment of Norman light cavalry, these would have provided the rear and front guard of De Clare's party

Modern re-enactment of Frontier light cavalry, these would have provided the rear and front guard of De Clare’s party


Site of the battle with Spancil Hill (background) where Murtough O'Brien's reinforcements arrived from.

Site of the battle with Spancil Hill (background) where Murtough O’Brien’s reinforcements arrived from.










The battle was decisive, 400-500 of De Clare’s forces including him and his son were slain in comparison to only 80 Irish forces. Murtough pursued the retreating survivors to Bunratty Castle where he found the castle and settlement set aflame by order of De Clare’s wife who had fled to England by boat upon hearing of her husband’s death. Thomond remained independent of foreign rule and influence for the next 200 years until the intervention of Queen Elizabeth in Ireland.

Conor O’Dea had utilized the best tactics available to him – ruse, concealment, goading and ambush and a new found hardness, which allowed his forces to stand against the Normans through the thick and thin of the battle. Luck may well have played a significant role in the series of events that happened during the battle as it does in any battle. But regardless, O’Dea’s skill as a tactician, ability to hold his nerve where De Clare was incapable, and quick thinking is a credit to him and the victory.

Thanks for reading and if you’ve any suggestions for my next historical post be sure to comment below!

All the best,


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