How many clubs is too many clubs?

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by Eden McEwen ‘17

Who remembers club fair? The throngs of underclassmen and overeager club leaders put on the show of a festival, offering everything from mini donuts to fun sized candies to samosas as not so subtle bribes for student emails and half hearted pledges of  interest. The Fitness and Athletic Center last September was stuffed with dreamy promises of a club filled future. What happened to those promises?

The first weeks of a club are glorious. As a long time club leader I can tell you 30+ people at a meeting feels like an early Christmas. But by Christmas, the email lists or Outlook group members dwindle from plenty to enough to depressing. That is just the number of those willing to receive the weekly emails, never mind who actually bothers to show up.

Why does every club season have such a drop off? And why, every fall, do two dozen clubs pop back up just to die before November? It seems that we have too many clubs and too few club survivors. The culture of clubs at George School follows a steep wave of interest, but there must be a secret to those who survive the winter.

The long lasting clubs are easy to name. Argo, JSA, MUN, Body Project, UMOJA, Open Doors, Goldfish, and Java. They fulfill the basic needs of club culture, hitting on the basic interests of George School students. Other clubs have been born and died all the while, or existed as a “why not” instead of a “must have.” They are harder to name, as they come up only as we laugh at the yearbook page in May. Anyone remember PRO, or maybe Puzzle club? Terra, Beatbox Club, Medical club, or Young Writers? They have come and gone, but existed for the hot second long enough to be featured in an decently size club photo taken in late October.

If you look at any population graph, there is always a carrying capacity, an asymptote that represents the line the population will always return to when it crosses over. Let us break it down. Let us talk rabbits.

Spring sees a huge spike in the cotton-tailed population, but the environment they are in can’t sustain such rapid growth. There are only so many holes to live in and so much grass to eat, and with the introduction of predators the population is forced back to a stable carrying capacity.

Clubs can be seen to operate the same way. There are only so many places we can comfortably congregate in, only so many days of the week, only so many times.

We only have four days in our club-week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday  (Friday only sometimes, for those leaders who are daring and believe in their club members’ loyalty). There is only a limited number of meeting places, too. For large clubs, a classroom does not cut it, and there are not many community spaces focused enough for the agenda of a club.

But what kills off clubs the fastest are the predators. Sports games, night classes, and the relentless struggles of stressed-out, overloaded students kill club attendance like the plague. No one is going to tell their teacher they could not study because they had to go to Badminton Club; no coach is going to take Wednesday night Improv as an excuse out of a varsity tournament.

So what happens to the club community? Is it possible that the number of clubs George school allows shoots the clubs themselves in the foot, stretching the student body too thin to keep any one of them alive?

There have been attempts to curb the club population. A few years ago, Student Council had proposals up for different kinds of clubs, downgrading some to interest groups and raising the prestige of others. There was outrage, there was apathy, and ultimately the plan fell through. As of now, with all of the things George School demands of students, club participation is the first sacrifice.

Our club population will forever fluctuate, you can tell by looking through past yearbooks. Take a look at the Club Fair week one, and then at the Community News postings by the last month of the year, and you can see the decimation. Is there a way to build a healthier club system that will get approval of Student Council members?

Until something in the culture of clubs changes, it does not seem likely that we will have any more long term clubs, or any fewer short-term start up clubs. The constraints of George School keep our outside gatherings at a steady carrying capacity. Living the life of a struggling club’s leader is heartbreaking. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that the behemoth clubs of 30+ attendees could ever fail.

In the long run, far longer than any of our matriculation here, clubs will maintain themselves according to the student body’s interests.

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Sky Reviews

by Joey Cifelli ’19

April 3, 2017

Billowing and bellowing, as far as I am concerned. That is the kind of sky we are dealing with here. A rather blustery day, Pooh might say. The clouds roll like the hills of Yorkshire, I understand. Or the waves of the Pacific, if you are into that sort of thing. Those two darker gray splotches near the Northwest look similar to eyes. If we can accept that, then the bright light area and the dark bar underneath are a nose/mouth or nose/mustache combo. Honestly, once we discovered the face, it ruined the rest of the sky. It is difficult to concentrate on the murky bits to the East now. If the same has afflicted you, our apologies. 9.1/10

April 4, 2017

We decided to go with a close up shot today. It is a deviation from the norm, we know, but this one is worth it. This whole day was chock full of intriguing cloud portraits, actually. This just happens to be the one we went with. A new flavor of ice cream based on this example would be called Ethereal Swirl, I imagine. These drops of periwinkle whisked in with the cream puffs look delightful, and probably taste even better. Some sort of Wyvern or sky serpent appears to be crossing over the Northeast section. We only see the body, and maybe a hint of a claw, but the rest remains a mystery. 9.4/10

April 5, 2017

The way the three lights along the horizontal axis line up make it feel like we are all on an alien planet. Very cool. In all seriousness though, we have no idea what those two lights beside the sun are. UFOs, maybe, or breaks in our cloud cover. Regardless, their symmetry is impeccable; they must have coordinated it. The clouds make a satisfying curtain, which mutes the intense light we see in those center three areas. We can tell it is been thoroughly used, from the worn marks near the South and Southeast. If the curtain ever gets pulled, it will be interesting to see what is on the other side. 9.7/10

April 6, 2017

Great palette today. We have traditional grays and whites, as well as dark blue in the background, and the yellow of the branches. Shot from a new vantage point today, which is why we get to see those complimentary trees. We could have gone to the usual place, but this shot was too good to resist. This sky elicits the image of a pastry of some sort. The trees make a crumbly crust, the solid blue sky forms a dense filling, and the clouds make perfect whipped cream. Certainly a creation that would make both bakers and astronomers jealous. 9.8/10

April 7, 2017

What a way to end the week. A beautiful, conflicting sky that mixes warmth and chill. This picture was taken at dusk, so we get to see bright moonlight on the right, and the receding glow traveling to the left. A small beacon of illumination breaks through the chaos, near the tiny cavern to the center right. It could be a single star, or a plane. It all looks the same from here. There is something comforting about knowing that, the object we observe could be a fireball many times the size of our own planet, or a metal carriage carrying people. To us on the ground, they are equal in this cosmic desert. 10/10

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Why I Said Yes to GS

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Bea, seen here in her Oxford University Sweatshirt, works with another student on the Curious George. 

By Bea Feichtenbiner ‘19

George School is so much more than I thought it would be. In seventh grade, I began thinking about colleges. I know that is early, but I have always been hyper focused on my future. During this time, I wanted to major in English and obsessed with England. I decided that I wanted to go to the University of Oxford in Oxford, England, and I would do anything necessary to get there. I learned of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma from a family friend and I looked it up. Only two schools within an hour of my house offered the diploma. I knew this would help me get into my dream school, so I convinced my mom to let me look at them. The first school, Harriton High School in Lower Merion School District, was the closest to my house, but I would have to move to attend school there. George School was the second closest.

Neither my mom nor I felt any harm in applying, so I started the application. I went for a tour in October and I loved it. It just felt right. I finished my application and anxiously awaited a decision. The portal said decisions would be posted at midnight, so I planned to stay up. When the clock hit twelve, I logged in and sure enough, my decision was there. “Congratulations,” I read.

The next morning, I logged on again at 6:30 a.m. “Congratulations,” I read again. I ran upstairs to wake my mom up. She was excited, but we both knew what this meant: we had to decide whether or not I should go.

After I pondered it for a couple of weeks, I convinced myself that I needed to say yes to GS. I made a PowerPoint of pros and cons and presented it to my mom. We accepted the admission a week before it was due.

Then I had to tell my friends and my family. Some were shocked and some were not, but for the most part, everyone supported me. I got many comments about how I was “brave” or “crazy.” I didn’t understand this. Going to George School felt natural, I didn’t need to be brave or crazy. I felt like I belonged. That didn’t stop the butterflies in my stomach when I actually got ready to go though. For the first few hours, I was convinced I hated it. But then it got easier and I made new friends.

I am not going to lie, even now, three months away from my junior year, I sometimes feel like I made a terrible mistake. I miss my family and my friends, I miss my old life. But I don’t really regret it. I have my moments of doubt, but it has been a great opportunity and I am not going to waste it wondering about what might have been. George School is one of the best things to ever happen to me—it has a way of making you belong, no matter who you are.

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Sky Report

by Joey Cifelli ’19

March 27, 2017

Starting off the week with some gloomy notes, it seems. Ah well, a mellow, cloudy day never hurt anyone. Perhaps this is an omen of the tumultuous times sure to come. Anyway, we here at the studio like to think of these skies as blank canvases. Simple, open to interpretation, and maybe a little bit unexciting. Please feel free to add in your own visions of what this sky could be. 7.7/10

March 28, 2017

Today’s sky is almost a perfect copy of what we had yesterday, which leads me to believe that we might be dealing with identical twins. If so, it is worth deciding which is which, in relation to the Sprouse twins of course. This sky is almost certainly Cole. It’s slightly lighter tone is clearly a direct connection to Cole’s more whimsical nature. Yesterday’s serious mood reflects the dark horse aura Dylan Sprouse carries around him. It should be noted that our opinions on the Sprouse twins are subjective, and should not be taken as fact. 7.7/10

March 29, 2017

The gloom has finally receded, leaving us with a chipper blue gradient to admire. The darkest blues are appearing in the Northeast, which is slightly unusual. Normally they would occupy the entire North, but the extra light from the sun takes up more space. I believe this is the first time people have been in the shot, so there’s a new milestone. They provide a good reference point for the scope of the image. I’d estimate that the tall tree to the right of them is about eleven persons high, adjusting for inflation, and the sky is fifteen thousand persons high. 7.3/10

March 30, 2017

Quite a work of art we have here today. I see at least three separate cloud formations all emerging from a single point. The emergence of these clouds from the East is reminiscent of the Big Bang, the explosion that brought the universe into existence. What we are seeing now is still that same stardust, just manifested in a unique way. The ribbed pattern of the formation in the Northeast has a stair-like appearance, which acts as a bridge over the more turbulent clouds beneath. Meanwhile in the West, splinters of pale blue are fracturing the dense cover. Maybe they will break through completely, but then again, maybe not. 8.5/10

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John Streetz: Teacher, Mentor, and Friend

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Friends,

I am deeply sorry to share the news that John Streetz, former George School teacher, coach, and a most beloved and devoted friend of the community, passed away on Saturday, March 18, 2017 in Oakland, CA.

George School’s first African-American teacher, John was hired in 1950 by Head of School Dick McFeely to teach Chemistry. Over the next sixteen years, John also coached track and cross-country and lived in Orton Dormitory with his family. He had a profound and lasting effect on his students, his colleagues, and the school; he was a legend in his own time.

In addition to his legacy within each of us who knew him, John’s presence will continue to be felt on campus every day. In 2009, several of John’s former students funded the construction of a new faculty home on campus, Streetz House. John and his late wife Jackie were the class sponsors for the Class of 1961 which, on the occasion of their 50th reunion, presented George School with a wonderful gift to the endowment, The John and Jackie Streetz Scholarship Fund. These generous gifts are fitting tributes to John that will support and nurture George School students and faculty for years to come.

I want to share with you an excerpt from the email sent earlier this week by Dick Brown to his 1961 classmates:

We have lost an exceptional person, a man who inspired us, comforted us, and often made us laugh. John was the heart and soul of our class inspiring us with his own accomplishments, challenging us with his intelligence, delighting us with his humor, and always taking pride in our accomplishments. We encourage all classmates to attend the memorial service when it is scheduled. 

With apologies to Eleanor Hoyle:  Quos valde amas numquam vere moriuntur … those who we love deeply never truly die.

As of this writing, there is not yet a date for a memorial service, but we will post new information on this page as it becomes available.

Please join me in holding John’s daughter Pamela ’70 and their family in the Light. I hope that you will share your remembrances and words of comfort here—in this community space dedicated to John Streetz and his remarkable life.

Karen Hallowell

April 20, 2017 editors note:  News of the death of John Streetz in March has left many in the extended George School family mourning the loss of our beloved teacher, coach, colleague, and friend. We will gather to honor John’s memory and celebrate his life at George School on Sunday, May 21, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. in the meetinghouse. All are welcome.

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The World Roars for Women’s Rights

by Michelle Bronsard ’18

For this article, six women were asked about their views on Trump’s presidency, the Women’s March, and current women’s rights issues. Their opinions do not represent George School’s position, mission, or views.

On Friday, January 20, 2017, President Trump was inaugurated  in Washington DC with a crowd of about 800,000 people attending, according to most sources. The next day, Saturday, January 21, millions of people from around the world protested his inauguration by attending what was organized as the “Women’s March” in Washington, DC or sister marches in other cities across the globe.

Approximately 700 sister marches took place in New York City, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and other locations in  the United States. Internationally, marches were  held  in Montréal, Toronto, Vancouver, Buenos Aires, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Oslo, Barcelona, Berlin, Vienna, Belgrade, Nairobi, Tel Aviv, New Delhi, Sydney, Melbourne, and numerous other locations.

As the name suggests, the purpose of the women’s marches was to inform the Trump administration about the importance of women’s rights. Most marchers seemed to be concerned with the alleged lack of respect that Trump has for women. This view of him comes from numerous non-consensual kissing, groping, sexual assault, and even rape accusations by some of his female employees, clients, dinner and television show guests, as well as models from beauty pageants.

Additionally, Trump has made provocative comments about potentially dating his daughter and other young girls, and he bragged to Billy Bush in 2005 about his ability to “grab [women] by the pussy” because he is “a star” and “they’ll let [him] do it.” This all has led to several women fearing a country under Trump’s administration because of his seemingly aggressive and disrespectful behavior toward women.

Many women are concerned that reproductive rights, such as the right to abortions, and social issues, such as equal pay, are at risk.

An event as important as the Women’s March was not going to be missed by George School students with an interest in politics and human rights. Nadia Arenas-Purvinis ’18 attended the Washington, DC march with several of her friends. For her, the march was an opportunity to take a stand against sexual harassment:  “I went to the march because I feel like this is a good time for women to unify […]. I loved it because there was a great sense of community even around people I didn’t know. It was comforting to me having all these people around me fighting for what we believe in and for our rights.”

When they heard about these events, English teachers Avery Stern and Melaina Young ’93 felt compelled to get a group of students together to attend a march. On Saturday, January 21, a group of about thirty students and faculty members left campus for the Philadelphia Women’s March. When asked what motivated them to attend the march, the students stated that they were concerned with the new administration’s future policies.

Emma Yoder ’18 pointed to Republicans’ intent to defund Planned Parenthood as one of her reasons for attending the march. Michelle Tyson ’18 expressed worry over the treatment of minorities: “I’m at this march because I think the United States is heading into a world that disparages the minorities of our community, and that includes queer people, black people, illegal immigrants…” Despite the students’ different interests, there was a shared belief in the importance of community. Catherine Tatum ’20 felt inspired by the many people around her: “It’s really important to come together because right now what we need is unity.” Emma added that “through this unity, we find power.”

Avery and Melaina were greatly impressed by the students’ enthusiasm. Avery explained how important their participation was because she “felt more so after this election than ever before that every body, physically, counted.” Not only was the presence of the students important for maximum media coverage of the march, it was also a way to establish an uplifting mood at a difficult and alarming time for many of the marchers and their families. Avery recounts the time she “climbed up the steps with a couple of students . . . and just to be able to look out on the sheer number of people who showed up was very invigorating.”

The call to participate in person and demonstrate resistance in large numbers was heard around the world. Carolyn Tate, an English teacher at George School during the 2015-16 school year, now living in London, went to the Vienna Women’s March during her stay in Austria. “I felt compelled to attend a Women’s March because being a citizen, even abroad, means being engaged […]. At this point, I think, we need to put our bodies on the line. Physicality, even in the internet age, does matter. Numbers matter. Being in a public place and having your voice recorded as a loud emphatic “NO” matters right now and will matter in the future when we study how America and the world responded to Trump’s grab for authoritarian rule.”

Clearly, there was a popular opinion that showing up to the marches was key to being heard.

Carolyn added that going to the small march in Vienna was a way for her and the other marchers, including many American expatriates and Austrians, to resist other rising authoritarian movements around the globe. “When the United States elects a racist and misogynistic leader who has publicly announced his intent to establish a white-ethno state, this affects the whole world.” Indeed, there is a rise in right-wing nationalism in several european countries, including France, Hungary, and Austria, reminding some people of fascism prior to World War II. Carolyn pointed out that “Trump is terrifying and his specific policies and plans need to be addressed, but he is also part of a larger international trend of violent ethno-nationalism.” In her opinion, this may explain the high level participation and the great number of marches across the world.

In light of the massive turnout for these marches around the world, however, it is crucial to note that Trump’s comments and allegations did not stop him from garnering more than 62 million votes in the presidential election. What came as a surprise to many was that 53% of voting white women cast their ballot for him.

As many Trump supporters have claimed, it is difficult to predict what a Trump administration might mean for women, so giving him a chance, they say, does not necessarily threaten women. Additionally, Trump has been known to be an active supporter and mentor to various women working in his businesses, and his cabinet includes four women.

People on the left had some misgivings, as well.

In the planning stages of the marches, several commentators questioned their purpose and efficiency. The lack of concrete policy proposals from the march organizers had made people wonder about the wisdom of holding these marches now, rather than after a specific objectionable policy was submitted for legislative review or actually put in place. They feared that an absence of purpose would lead to low turnout.

However, many participants already had in mind specific ideals and rights that they were willing to express and fight for. Although there was no concrete result from the marches, they were successful in raising awareness about numerous issues as well as giving people hope and space to develop the fighting spirit that they feel they may need in the next four years.

Avery had some final advice for the community: “Keep marching. Keep protesting. Keep donating and calling congressmen and voting. For the women who are in positions of power: keep advocating.”

 

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A Single Glorious Day

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by Avery Stern 

Important Note: Having worked with dogs in many professional settings, I know the mark of both a healthy and docile animal. The dog mentioned in this post was both – I also had him checked out by J.D., our supervisor, who has ten dogs himself and has seen multiple successful adoptions in similar situations to this one…I also called my Vet friend. Everyone was responsible.

So we begin.

This is both a thank you letter for the wisdom each student has granted me, and a letter of wisdom to each of those I have thanked.

I am heading to bed tonight with a tiny hole in my sweatpants from a playful stray puppy. With cornbread crumbs on my heels. With a few small dollops of stucco in my hair, paint-stained finger nails, and wretched stomachache I’ve carried with me for days. (I’ll tell you now that if you’re a vegetarian, eating your first rib in 13 years off a student’s plate in a divey restaurant in Memphis isn’t the way to go. Might I suggest the fried chicken?)

I am also headed to bed tonight, ten days before my 25th birthday with a revelation I swore I would never have: You cannot save the world. You cannot even save a sliver of it. (The 20 year old in me is shrieking at the impossibility of this statement. “Quiet,” I tell her…hear me out).

I came to this revelation through the previously mentioned stray puppy. The puppy, whom I named “King Tutwiler of Tutwiler, Mississippi,” followed me home on a mid-day run. I’d passed a literal pile of puppies the day before, all heaped together for warmth in the rare 34 degree southern weather. But while those dogs showed moderate interest in me, they stayed put. Wiler, however, chased my heels for a mile jog back to the Habitat Dorm at which point I was determined to feed, vaccinate, wash, and ship him home on our American Airline flight this Sunday. (Ugh, I am a bleeding-heart I know).

We can perhaps by-pass the absurdity of what ensued when I arrived, floppy puppy afoot. The kids bottle-necked the door, some smartly cautious about interacting with a stray, others donning long sleeves, boots, and pants, and trusting that if he wasn’t nippy all they would need afterwards was a shower. John called his mom in hopes of fostering him claiming, “he’s the goodest of boys!” She agreed.

Sarah and Storey both agreed to take him for shots and a check-up at the shelter. I indulged the idea. Perhaps my Vet friend could take him in? No, her roommate did not like animals. My sister? An almost mother of two. So “Def no.” My boyfriend? A “soft” no, but a “no” nonetheless. My Parents? “Hahahahahah NO.”

But, I had to save him! WE, the good people of the George School with our house-building and community-engaging and compassionate hearts! As a tiny stray he could get run over by a car, attacked by a larger animal, starved to death. Yes, this is true—but perhaps that is life. Perhaps Wiler was serving as the symbol or metaphor of the much larger implications of this service trip.

We cannot save all of the stray puppies, however phenomenally cute, and we cannot build enough houses for all those in need. Sad? Yes. True? Unfortunately.

What we can do, as the well-educated and privileged people that we are as George School community members, is to acknowledge that we can “mud” all the dry wall in the kitchen, or install support beams for a whole roof, or give a puppy the best day he’s had in this three months of life. And these contributions are good. They are so, so, so, good. And if life is just a sum of its parts—just days all strung together, then one of those days is bound to be the best one of all and I’d like to be a part of someone’s.

So thank you Nodor, Sophia G, Sophia S, Sarah, John, Storey, Micheala, Elvis, and our supervisors J.D. and Ben for teaching me the humbling power of a single glorious day. I hope you continue to treat everyone with the same selfless love, respect, and generosity that you did to Wiler and I thank you for the love, respect, and generosity that you have shown to me.

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Friday in France

by Cynthia ’18

Today I woke up to our last day of service. I was sad to leave the kids behind, as I had finally gotten to know and love them. I gave a few last piggy back rides and even received a few works of art before I left. This service experience is one I will truly remember.

After school, our French hosts took us out for a picnic where we had snacks, played Truth or Dare, Never have I ever, and just enjoyed being outside in the 60 degree weather. Then we headed to town to get some pizza, and we debated if “Texas Pizza” was really Texan. We finished our last night going bowling and Paul won both rounds.

Overall, it was a fantastic last day and I’m sad to be catching the plane tomorrow afternoon to return home. But in two weeks I will be seeing these new friends again, so it’s not all sad.

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Thursday in France

by Julia ’18

Waking up in a French household is like waking up in a movie filled with bread, nutella, kuegelof, various jams and jellies, and seeing the sun rise up from Alsace mountains… and more bread.  That’s how my day begins. Then I go to my service site at the école maternelle Charles Kienzl.

This morning Cynthia, Ethan, and I helped the children with various games, puzzles, drawings and reading books. There is one student in the class, Léon, who is constantly full of energy. The highlight of my day is being able to calm Léon down for a few minutes before he is off again. After the morning service, we met Ben, Paul, and Tucker and our French hosts at the lycée to go to lunch. The lunch at Kastler offered a variety of cheeses, bread, and yogurt. After lunch before going back to our service sites, we played card games. Then it was time to go back to our écoles for the afternoon with the bigger kids. In the morning, we help with the three-year-olds and in the afternoon, we help with the four- and five-year-olds. The older classes are learning math and doing several activities involving numbers.

After the second half of the day ended I went back home with my correspondante, but not before going to her German class. Once back home we ate dinner, played piano, and sang in a mix of French and English. Afterwards, we had dinner and then it was time for bed.

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Final Day in Nepal

There was great rejoicing yesterday when the group arrived in Pokara at the campsite so we are all together again.  We said an emotional farewell to the porters and cooks who cared for us so well.  Today we also said goodbye to our wonderful Sherpas. They have been at our sides through service, ball games and trekking.

We flew from Pokara to Kathmandu, checked in at the hotel, returned camping gear, took hot showers and then went off to Thamel for some shopping.  We had a delicious dinner, continuing our ritual of sharing highlights of the day.  Such a mix of regret to leave this beautiful country with eager anticipation to be reunited with family and friends.  We head home tomorrow night.

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