Jeff Kennett Assassination Attempt ….Not that I can remember

I’ll start this by saying that I had a lot of time for Jeff Kennett as premier of Victoria.   As a copper at the Counter Terrorist Intelligence Section where part of our role was investigation into threats against senior public office holders, we had a lot to do with Jeff and his office, and we were always treated well.

Jeff and his family received threats against them on a daily basis and each and every one of them was evaluated, assessed and investigated where it needed to be.   He received bullets in the mail at his office and in his letter box at home, he received abusive and threatening phone calls and letters.  In some cases we were able to identify people who made the threats and charge them where appropriately.

Yesterday on Radio Station 3AW Jeff said that as Premier he was shot at twice.   That’s been picked up in the daily newspapers today and you can read The Age article here.  There are things Jeff says in the interview that are correct, he did receive death threats and he did have his house vandalised and there was inordinate and unfair pressure put on his family.  It was a horrible time for him.

I have to say though that I cannot remember any time during the nearly 9 years I was at the Counter Terrorist Section ever being told about an assassination attempt, let alone investigating one.   Now it could be that I’ve forgotten, it could be that it wasn’t reported at all to Police, or it could be that it was reported to some other group of police who didn’t report it to us at the time.    Memory can play funny tricks.

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My Underbelly the second

The next few years in the late 80’s saw us have to babysit a parade of undesirables.  If they were given protection because they were informing on other crooks it was something we could stomach but in several cases we were required to look after people involved in the murders of policemen.

In 1986 whilst I was still with the PSG [Protective Security Groups] a bomb went off in Russell Street outside the major city police station.  At the time we had no idea whether it was terrorist related but it certainly seemed to be aimed at the police force.  The bomb was in a car that was parked outside the main police communications centre.

It was timed to go off at lunch time and on almost any day of the week the street was crowded with police, the public and lawyers milling around outside the Melbourne Magistrates Court which was across the road.   This day, however, was Easter Thursday and the courts had been in wind down mode for the Easter Holidays so there were only a couple of people in the vicinity of the bomb as it went off.  One of those was Angela Taylor, a young police constable who had her clothes blown off with the force of the blast and who survived, her skin blackened and falling off, only to pass away in hospital around a month later.

Our office was around 150 meters from the blast but that day I was away on holidays and driving with my family down to Lakes Entrance in eastern Victoria.  My sister Deb was on duty that day and she was sitting in an office on the first floor of the building when the bomb went off blowing her off her seat and sowering her with glass.  I heard the news on the radio that a policewoman was seriously injured and it wasn’t until late that night that I was able to find out that it wasn’t my sister.

It turned out not to be terrorism, it was conducted by a group of crooks whose aim was to disrupt police communications so that they could commit some armed robberies in the northern suburbs.

The investigating police eventually were able to make some connections to the perpetrators based on forensic evidence from the remains of the car but in the end it was evidence given by Paul Hetzel that helped to put them away.

Hetzel lived for years in the witness protection program and we looked after him for the time in the lead up to the trial.   This was different to the Tizzone job.   This time a police woman had been murdered, a colleague and it could have been anyone of us.

We moved around a lot.  In one suburban safe house on a few acres of land there was a large shed at the rear of the property.  I remember one of the guys, nicknamed “Vegie” cobbled together bits and pieces of junk and came up with something resembling a machine gun which he mounted on a tripod aimed at the back of the house the witness was in.  It didn’t last long because the braid at the time took a grim view of it and the witness nearly shat himself one morning when he stuck his head out the back door.

Before I move on a little more about Vegie who thought he was called that because as a red head he had a carrot top.  Truth is it had more to do with some of the things he said that earnt him the name.  One day we were driving along a country road when he said, “There’s a lot of those new breed of horses around.”

We bit and asked him what he was talking and he said the Caution Horse breed.  Then he explained that he’d seen a sign on the back of every horse float we’d passed “Caution Horses.”

We also moved at one time down to a diary farm near Koo Wee Rup.  As with some of the other places we stayed at, the witness got the house and we had to make use of the sheds on the properties.   Another colleague who I shall call TT was a horrible snorer and as such he was put on permanent night shift so that the rest of us could get more sleep. 

Now we weren’t the only occupants of these sheds and on this farm our constant companions were Huntsman spiders.

One day one of the guys came rushing into the shed and said “Quick, come and have a look at this.”

So we all followed him quietly into the shed where TT was blissfully and loudly snoring.   On his face, moving up and down to the rhythym of his snoring was one of the largest huntsman I have ever seen.   Did we wake him I can hear you ask? 

Nope, we stifled our laughter and backed out thinking that finally he had found something that enjoyed his snoring.

The strangest places

Perceptions are an odd thing I’ve decided.  The other day my son asked me how I survived in the Police Force being a non-drinker.  I told him that I didn’t know any different, but unlike a lot of my peers I didn’t spend a lot of time socialising at the Police Club which in those days was adjacent to Russell Street Police Station and always full of coppers, most of them off duty, unless you were a detective and then given you were on duty all the time it didn’t really matter whether you were on or off shift, if you get my drift.

Anyway, the truth was that I was never at my best in crowds or social situations.  I was shy, I didn’t enjoy smoky, beery environments, and at the time, I was a young married man with a couple of young sons and I much preferred being home than out.  I don’t think I was ever given any credit for that.  And that doesn’t mean I think I deserved it, just that the homeliness wasn’t appreciated.

The being home thing is the one true trait that reveals me as a Cancerian I guess and not much has changed over the long years since.   Looking back [and maybe some of you who have regularly read this blog will know] my loner personality was evident pretty early in life.  I’ve heard recently that someone I used to be close to had described me as a boring man and as someone no one would look twice at, and to be fair, that has an element of truth.   Social situations and building relationships used to scare the crap out of me.  I’d much rather lock myself at home rather than put myself in a situation where I might have been vulnerable.

So son, if you one day read this.  I have no regrets about spending the time at home rather than getting pissed with my mates.   I wonder sometimes whether I may have ended up with closer and better friends than I had, but it is a waste of time wondering for too long.  In the end we do what we do because it seems the right thing at the time.  Sometimes experience and hindsight may tell us that we should have explored some things more fully, that letting walls down and friendships in may not be such a bad thing after all.   But two wise men have left behind two wise comments –

“To thine own self be true.”  and
“I yam what I yam and that’s all I yam”

And for those who don’t recognise the quotes the first is William Shakespeare, the second is Popeye, which simply proves that wisdom can be found in the strangest places.

The strangest places

Perceptions are an odd thing I’ve decided.  The other day my son asked me how I survived in the Police Force being a non-drinker.  I told him that I didn’t know any different, but unlike a lot of my peers I didn’t spend a lot of time socialising at the Police Club which in those days was adjacent to Russell Street Police Station and always full of coppers, most of them off duty, unless you were a detective and then given you were on duty all the time it didn’t really matter whether you were on or off shift, if you get my drift.

Anyway, the truth was that I was never at my best in crowds or social situations.  I was shy, I didn’t enjoy smoky, beery environments, and at the time, I was a young married man with a couple of young sons and I much preferred being home than out.  I don’t think I was ever given any credit for that.  And that doesn’t mean I think I deserved it, just that the homeliness wasn’t appreciated.

The being home thing is the one true trait that reveals me as a Cancerian I guess and not much has changed over the long years since.   Looking back [and maybe some of you who have regularly read this blog will know] my loner personality was evident pretty early in life.  I’ve heard recently that someone I used to be close to had described me as a boring man and as someone no one would look twice at, and to be fair, that has an element of truth.   Social situations and building relationships used to scare the crap out of me.  I’d much rather lock myself at home rather than put myself in a situation where I might have been vulnerable.

So son, if you one day read this.  I have no regrets about spending the time at home rather than getting pissed with my mates.   I wonder sometimes whether I may have ended up with closer and better friends than I had, but it is a waste of time wondering for too long.  In the end we do what we do because it seems the right thing at the time.  Sometimes experience and hindsight may tell us that we should have explored some things more fully, that letting walls down and friendships in may not be such a bad thing after all.   But two wise men have left behind two wise comments –

“To thine own self be true.”  and
“I yam what I yam and that’s all I yam”

And for those who don’t recognise the quotes the first is William Shakespeare, the second is Popeye, which simply proves that wisdom can be found in the strangest places.

Morality and the police

I’ve been a cop in my life, for sixteen years in fact, although I did resign in 1997.   And there were times of moral dilemma that occured throughout that time, particularly in the early years when the old school coppers were still around.  I saw no great evidence of corruption, although there were times when blind eyes were turned to minor crimes and other times when people were bricked for offences when the evidence for conviction wasn’t quite enough.   And I hasten to add that I never falsified evidence at any time, although I did let some people off minor offences using my discretion.    But I did know some old school coppers who did push boundaries at the time.   Blokes who learnt the ropes in the 60’s and 70’s when the world was a differnet place.    For the most part the old school detectives knew they may have to stretch the truth and the old school crooks knew it was a fair cop anyway.

Times change of course.  Footing a kid up the bum when they were wrecking letter boxes became unacceptable, beating confessions out of armed robbers is no longer allowed, and that’s not a bad thing.   One of the things that has really changed is the release of information.  In the old days it was common practice to pass on information to outsiders, other agencies, law enforcement professionals, private investigators etc., but that can’t be done anymore.

That’s why the revelation that Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said something to Collingwood Football Club President Eddie Maguire about the recruitment of Ben Cousins raises a number of concerns in my mind.  The Chief has to practice what she preaches.  Now the information is public it is in the public interest to know exactly what was said and in what context.  If it was innocent then there should be no issues.  If you are head of a department that prosecutes it’s own for unauthorised release of information then you must be prepared to put yourself up to scrutiny when it appears you have done the same.   Of course people can have an opinion but when you are in the public eye and your opinion counts you have to be very sure of what you say.

At this stage it is Ben Cousins who stands to lose out because of what may have been said by the Chief Commissioner.  And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether what she said was correct or not.  Perception is what is important here

Morality and the police

I’ve been a cop in my life, for sixteen years in fact, although I did resign in 1997.   And there were times of moral dilemma that occured throughout that time, particularly in the early years when the old school coppers were still around.  I saw no great evidence of corruption, although there were times when blind eyes were turned to minor crimes and other times when people were bricked for offences when the evidence for conviction wasn’t quite enough.   And I hasten to add that I never falsified evidence at any time, although I did let some people off minor offences using my discretion.    But I did know some old school coppers who did push boundaries at the time.   Blokes who learnt the ropes in the 60’s and 70’s when the world was a differnet place.    For the most part the old school detectives knew they may have to stretch the truth and the old school crooks knew it was a fair cop anyway.

Times change of course.  Footing a kid up the bum when they were wrecking letter boxes became unacceptable, beating confessions out of armed robbers is no longer allowed, and that’s not a bad thing.   One of the things that has really changed is the release of information.  In the old days it was common practice to pass on information to outsiders, other agencies, law enforcement professionals, private investigators etc., but that can’t be done anymore.

That’s why the revelation that Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said something to Collingwood Football Club President Eddie Maguire about the recruitment of Ben Cousins raises a number of concerns in my mind.  The Chief has to practice what she preaches.  Now the information is public it is in the public interest to know exactly what was said and in what context.  If it was innocent then there should be no issues.  If you are head of a department that prosecutes it’s own for unauthorised release of information then you must be prepared to put yourself up to scrutiny when it appears you have done the same.   Of course people can have an opinion but when you are in the public eye and your opinion counts you have to be very sure of what you say.

At this stage it is Ben Cousins who stands to lose out because of what may have been said by the Chief Commissioner.  And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether what she said was correct or not.  Perception is what is important here

I don’t get….gender discrimination complaints

Let me start by saying that I subscribe to the Groucho Marx theory of club membership –

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member!”

Our Chief Commissioner of police here in Victoria has been in the news for the last couple of days because she was upset that the Atheneum Club in Melbourne apparently refused her membership. Now I would never be invited to be a member there for a number of reasons including that I didn’t go to a private school, I don’t earn enough money and I am neither a member of the new or old establishment of Melbourne. Christine was upset because they wouldn’t accept her because she is a woman.

I will say that she isn’t making much of a song and dance about it, but she did say on radio this morning that many of the male members had daughters who one day may wish to become members in their own right.

Funny that a men’s only club won’t accept women isn’t it. Fernwood gym’s won’t accept men, we don’t get upset about that we go and join another gym, or we set up our own club. So if a woman applies for a men’s only club and gets rejected why get upset about it. I don’t get it.

I don’t get….gender discrimination complaints

Let me start by saying that I subscribe to the Groucho Marx theory of club membership –

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member!”

Our Chief Commissioner of police here in Victoria has been in the news for the last couple of days because she was upset that the Atheneum Club in Melbourne apparently refused her membership. Now I would never be invited to be a member there for a number of reasons including that I didn’t go to a private school, I don’t earn enough money and I am neither a member of the new or old establishment of Melbourne. Christine was upset because they wouldn’t accept her because she is a woman.

I will say that she isn’t making much of a song and dance about it, but she did say on radio this morning that many of the male members had daughters who one day may wish to become members in their own right.

Funny that a men’s only club won’t accept women isn’t it. Fernwood gym’s won’t accept men, we don’t get upset about that we go and join another gym, or we set up our own club. So if a woman applies for a men’s only club and gets rejected why get upset about it. I don’t get it.

Josie’s Interview Part 3 – Specialisation is for Insects

Firstly, apologies Josie for taking so long to get through this interview. I’ve had too many weekend meetings at work to actually find a few hours in a row to finish it. For those who don’t know Josie from Picking up the Pieces has sent me five questions and along the way has also interviewed a number of far more interesteing people than I whose replies you will find links to here. So here is Question 3 and my response.

3. You have been involved in some fascinating careers thru the years. What was your original intended career when you came out of college? Which job turned out to be the most fulfilling and why? What do you like/dislike about the position you have now? Where do you see yourself ten years in the future?

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Lazarus Long – “Time Enough for Love” by Robert Heinlein

Throughout High School I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be. I toyed with the idea of being a doctor when I was really young but found out during High School that I wasn’t smart enough at the time to fulfill that ambition. So in deciding I really didn’t know what I wanted to be long term it was an easy out to actually take a year off before going to University.

In those days it was easy for a school leaver to pick a career in the public service or a bank, to sit an exam and be one of hundreds chosen postitions vacant with those organisations. So in 1975 I commenced my first job as an Accounts clerk in what was then called the Ministry of Conservation. It was a good place to work with good people but some of them had been there for decades and for a 17 year old the prospect of being in the one place for so long was anathema so after a few months I decided that I would indeed take the place I had deferred in an Arts Degree at Monash University and in 1976 I began my first of four years at that old alma mater.

However, I still didn’t have too much of a clue about what I wanted to “be”. There was a vague idea of becoming a park ranger and I therefore studied Geography with minors in Psychology and Anthropology. My double major included units in geomorphology, climatology and biogeography and that eventually lead me to an honours year where I studied palynology, which for those who don’t know [and it’s no shame not to] is the study of fossil pollen grains. In a nutshell I spent a year staring at a microscope counting pollen grains I had taken from a sedimentary core of a bog I called Caledonia Fen on the Snowy Plains near Mt Howitt in Victoria. This gave a climatic record stretching back at least 30,000 years into the last Ice Age and was the basis for my thesis. I think that it is still the oldest continuous highland site studied in Australia.

I studied the same subject matter with three other people, all of whom stayed in Academia and went onto gain Masters and PhD’s in the same areas of study. By 1980 I was getting sick of study and decided that it was time to enter the workforce on a full time basis. I had of course held several jobs during my university studies – as a factory worker, storeman and packer, shop assistant, cleaner and part time office clerk. So I started to put in for jobs and found out fairly quickly that a knowledge of climate change didn’t really qualify me to be a park ranger. What I really needed to know was how to trap a rabbit or skin a feral cat or how to build a bush dunny.

I ended up working full time for around 18 months at a department store called Waltons and had the job of counting the takings and doing the banking every day with a couple of other companions. But as with the public service job several years earlier I was not convinced that I had a long term future there. So I applied for both the Air Force and the Police Force and the application for the second came through first and within six weeks of applying I found myself in the police academy having had my shoulder length hair and beard shaved off the night before my induction.

I spent 16 years in the police force and loved most of it. I was trained in close personal protection, became a hostage negotiator and the last eight years was a Counter Terrorist specialist. I count myself lucky that I didn’t leave the job bitter and twisted like many seem to. There was never a morning when I woke up and thought that I didn’t want to go to work. It was always challenging and interesting and I was good at what I did. If there was a trigger for wanting to leave it was disappointment at failing Detective Training School under unusual circumstances which I have detailed here.

Perhaps the first signs of my midlife episode manifested in the itchy feet that lead me to leave the police force and to buy a franchise. We did a lot of homework before taking the plunge into business and I learnt fairly quickly that I actually knew nothing at all about running a business. The pity was that it also became evident that the franchisors were also struggling with the business as well and six months after we bought into it they went into liquidation. Whilst we struggled on for another 18 months we ended up having to follow the same path having lost close to $200k in the failed venture.

Fortunately for me, a former police colleague had set up his own business and he hired me as his Chief Intelligence Analyst and I had three good years working for him back in an area that I had a lot of knowledge in. But the toll of losing the money in the business meant I felt a great deal of pressure to try and recover financially and it wasn’t long before I found myself with a second job running the Victorian Basketball League. As it turned out, it wasn’t worth the hours I put in and was the beginning of my true neglect of my family. Relationships have to suffer when people work 80 hour weeks and whilst I enjoyed the work I was in some ways oblivious to the slack my wife had to pick up in looking after the family and I certainly wasn’t aware of the impact on my kids. It was head down and bum up. The response of a man to mistakes he made and a desire to provide financially for his family but totally unaware of looming problems.

The second job lead directly to my current role as CEO of Knox Basketball here in Melbourne. I count myself lucky to have a full time job in sport and to have turned a hobby into a career. If I was to say what I like best about the role it is the challenge of being able to build an organisation and to have had some input into it being regarded as the best of it’s kind in the country. Conversely some of the inherent enjoyment one gets from being involved in an organisation as a volunteer is lost when it becomes a paid position. Or maybe I should say that the nature of the satisfaction changes.

What do I do as CEO – actually a bit of everything, sort out problems, troubleshoot, write and implement business plans, apply strategies to our growth, answer phones, clean dunnys at times, wipe up spew, sweep floors, stack chairs, pick up rubbish, listen to parents, referees, players, coaches and anyone else who has a complaint or suggestion. As Lazarus Long said “Specialisation is for insects!”

As for ten years from now – all I’ll say is I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

Josie’s Interview Part 3 – Specialisation is for Insects

Firstly, apologies Josie for taking so long to get through this interview. I’ve had too many weekend meetings at work to actually find a few hours in a row to finish it. For those who don’t know Josie from Picking up the Pieces has sent me five questions and along the way has also interviewed a number of far more interesteing people than I whose replies you will find links to here. So here is Question 3 and my response.

3. You have been involved in some fascinating careers thru the years. What was your original intended career when you came out of college? Which job turned out to be the most fulfilling and why? What do you like/dislike about the position you have now? Where do you see yourself ten years in the future?

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Lazarus Long – “Time Enough for Love” by Robert Heinlein

Throughout High School I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to be. I toyed with the idea of being a doctor when I was really young but found out during High School that I wasn’t smart enough at the time to fulfill that ambition. So in deciding I really didn’t know what I wanted to be long term it was an easy out to actually take a year off before going to University.

In those days it was easy for a school leaver to pick a career in the public service or a bank, to sit an exam and be one of hundreds chosen postitions vacant with those organisations. So in 1975 I commenced my first job as an Accounts clerk in what was then called the Ministry of Conservation. It was a good place to work with good people but some of them had been there for decades and for a 17 year old the prospect of being in the one place for so long was anathema so after a few months I decided that I would indeed take the place I had deferred in an Arts Degree at Monash University and in 1976 I began my first of four years at that old alma mater.

However, I still didn’t have too much of a clue about what I wanted to “be”. There was a vague idea of becoming a park ranger and I therefore studied Geography with minors in Psychology and Anthropology. My double major included units in geomorphology, climatology and biogeography and that eventually lead me to an honours year where I studied palynology, which for those who don’t know [and it’s no shame not to] is the study of fossil pollen grains. In a nutshell I spent a year staring at a microscope counting pollen grains I had taken from a sedimentary core of a bog I called Caledonia Fen on the Snowy Plains near Mt Howitt in Victoria. This gave a climatic record stretching back at least 30,000 years into the last Ice Age and was the basis for my thesis. I think that it is still the oldest continuous highland site studied in Australia.

I studied the same subject matter with three other people, all of whom stayed in Academia and went onto gain Masters and PhD’s in the same areas of study. By 1980 I was getting sick of study and decided that it was time to enter the workforce on a full time basis. I had of course held several jobs during my university studies – as a factory worker, storeman and packer, shop assistant, cleaner and part time office clerk. So I started to put in for jobs and found out fairly quickly that a knowledge of climate change didn’t really qualify me to be a park ranger. What I really needed to know was how to trap a rabbit or skin a feral cat or how to build a bush dunny.

I ended up working full time for around 18 months at a department store called Waltons and had the job of counting the takings and doing the banking every day with a couple of other companions. But as with the public service job several years earlier I was not convinced that I had a long term future there. So I applied for both the Air Force and the Police Force and the application for the second came through first and within six weeks of applying I found myself in the police academy having had my shoulder length hair and beard shaved off the night before my induction.

I spent 16 years in the police force and loved most of it. I was trained in close personal protection, became a hostage negotiator and the last eight years was a Counter Terrorist specialist. I count myself lucky that I didn’t leave the job bitter and twisted like many seem to. There was never a morning when I woke up and thought that I didn’t want to go to work. It was always challenging and interesting and I was good at what I did. If there was a trigger for wanting to leave it was disappointment at failing Detective Training School under unusual circumstances which I have detailed here.

Perhaps the first signs of my midlife episode manifested in the itchy feet that lead me to leave the police force and to buy a franchise. We did a lot of homework before taking the plunge into business and I learnt fairly quickly that I actually knew nothing at all about running a business. The pity was that it also became evident that the franchisors were also struggling with the business as well and six months after we bought into it they went into liquidation. Whilst we struggled on for another 18 months we ended up having to follow the same path having lost close to $200k in the failed venture.

Fortunately for me, a former police colleague had set up his own business and he hired me as his Chief Intelligence Analyst and I had three good years working for him back in an area that I had a lot of knowledge in. But the toll of losing the money in the business meant I felt a great deal of pressure to try and recover financially and it wasn’t long before I found myself with a second job running the Victorian Basketball League. As it turned out, it wasn’t worth the hours I put in and was the beginning of my true neglect of my family. Relationships have to suffer when people work 80 hour weeks and whilst I enjoyed the work I was in some ways oblivious to the slack my wife had to pick up in looking after the family and I certainly wasn’t aware of the impact on my kids. It was head down and bum up. The response of a man to mistakes he made and a desire to provide financially for his family but totally unaware of looming problems.

The second job lead directly to my current role as CEO of Knox Basketball here in Melbourne. I count myself lucky to have a full time job in sport and to have turned a hobby into a career. If I was to say what I like best about the role it is the challenge of being able to build an organisation and to have had some input into it being regarded as the best of it’s kind in the country. Conversely some of the inherent enjoyment one gets from being involved in an organisation as a volunteer is lost when it becomes a paid position. Or maybe I should say that the nature of the satisfaction changes.

What do I do as CEO – actually a bit of everything, sort out problems, troubleshoot, write and implement business plans, apply strategies to our growth, answer phones, clean dunnys at times, wipe up spew, sweep floors, stack chairs, pick up rubbish, listen to parents, referees, players, coaches and anyone else who has a complaint or suggestion. As Lazarus Long said “Specialisation is for insects!”

As for ten years from now – all I’ll say is I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

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