Images Tell Stories

I've long been fascinated with the power of images and the stories they tell. But now, the images can actually "talk." Who knows if they are telling the truth?

I've just read Google's Image Recognition Software Can Now Describe EntireScenes. This is interesting from several perspectives, but currently, it sparks a conceptual idea for the creation of digital stories as a result searching images and allowing the data to create a story. This random collection of descriptions about what is happening in an image seems bizarre and remote from true storytelling. But wait, don’t we tell ourselves stories… make up some plausible narrative about what we see around us every day? Isn't it human nature to make meaning out of what we see? Perhaps the image-generated story might just be the starting point to explore and learn what has really been captured in a particular image. Perhaps this could be the catalyst for real learning. How different is this from vetting a story from social media, particularly by those in professional journalism. How different is this from detective work, archaeology or other forms of research? Let’s experiment and see what we can learn as we seek to discover the truth.

Program Design in 21st Century Higher Education

I feel the need to reiterate my disclaimer: I write this blog post to share my own generalized thoughts about educational program design and do not represent any institution as I ponder design for the future.

Architecture of the Future Yesterday, my colleagues discussed their foray into the topic of designing a new program within the university. Obviously, program design has always been complex business and I do not claim to have any real knowledge of that complexity. But, I wonder if the current state of debate about higher education, the roles of 21st century technologies, demands for access and the current climate of innovation might make it both increasingly more complex and ripe for opportunities. As I understand it, program design must be able to prove that it will lead to jobs. But what jobs? Do these jobs even exist? It seems to me that requiring a program to prove that it will create (specific) jobs runs the risk of looking into the rear-view mirror to design for what might be coming down the road. I'm confident that programs can be designed for existing jobs and that we can collect data to prove some success in having graduates move into existing roles. But, what about the future? What about innovation? What about preparing students to live in a world of constant change and to be employed in jobs and professions that don't presently exist? I would hope that any new program would provide embrace open and connected learning opportunities and lead to learning that in turn would enable graduates to think critically, creatively, gain 21st century computing skills, develop digital literacy and be able to act independently and collaboratively, to solve problems, invent new things, explore and to enhance the quality of life.

Image: Architecture of the Future, courtesy of Daniel Foster,

The Rhythm of the Web

Keep your own beat Yesterday I had a brief conversation with Gardner Campbell regarding a statement that he had made in a Google Hangout (see: time 49:30) within connected courses #ccourses. He talked about participation on the web as something that moves at different speeds. This idea really resonated with me and has had my head buzzing throughout the week. Having spent a lot of time in online courses, online discussion, collaborative writing, etc. I recognize easily what he's talking about. The web does move at different speeds. Sometimes it's synchronous and other times it's asynchronous, with varying rhythms of interaction. Through experience with the interaction with others on the web, patterns begin to form. People began to recognize each other by the quantity and quality of their interactions. We each gain credibility for contributions and our interactions as we seek to enhance our own learning in an open environment. Through this process we create communities of trust in people whom we can rely upon to share their ideas and to critically critique our work for the advancement of all.

For me, the next steps are doing what Jon Udell refers to as “awaking grains of sand” on the web and creating what @gardnercampell referred to as “network effect” (see: ). In conjunction with these actions, developing my own rhythm is a critical step in my participation on the web.

So, here’s my nugget or “grain of sand”. I’m eager to see if it irritates the oyster and develops any pearls of wisdom.

Exploring image bit depth, Adobe Premiere CC & problem solving from a different perspective

What is image bit depth and how might it affect my use of images?

How can sharing my questions with others lead to simple solutions?

What changes, when we look at problems from a different perspective? A question introduced to me earlier this week in a lecture by Professor Jack Horner, the 2014 keynote speaker for the Ruth Harris Lecture in Dyslexia Studies.

I’ve been editing a project in Adobe Premiere CC and at the end of the video, I want to place a VCU branding image that includes a tag line. Branding, as we all know is important and institutions often have specific requirements as to what and how files may be used. Following the rules, I went to the university’s branding site (which, has restricted access) and downloaded the appropriate folder of images as a .zip file and then extracted the individual .jpg images. Having used .jpg images throughout my work without any issues, I proceeded to drag the file into the Premiere project. But wait! A statement appeared informing me that the bit depth of the .jpg file is not supported in Adobe Premiere. This puts my following actions into the category of insanity as defined by Einstein, Franklin or someone: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I dragged the file into the editor again (repeatedly) and still got he same message. I then “imported” the file to see if “import” worked differently than “drag” in the editor. Again, I got the same message. Hummm… does this mean that I inadvertently selected bit depth settings in my Premiere project that are smaller than my .jpg file? Pondering this, I asked Alana Robinson to confirm my actions for file access and to try importing a .jpg file. Once more - the same result. But Alana immediately searched the problem online and found that Premiere does not support 16 bit or 32 bit images. Viola! She brilliantly came up with another solution: “try a different file type.” And there it was, in a matter of seconds, she changed the file to a file.eps and dropped it into the editor like it had been coated with grease. Thanks, Alana for looking at the problem from another perspective and for teaching me not only how to get an image into Premier, but to think critically and experiment in the process.

A few questions (or resources) you might like to investigate:

What is image bit depth in an image?

What is an Encapsulated PostScript file?

How can I find out the bit depth of an image? One way is to look at Extensible Image File Format information (EXIF)

Please reply with any links you feel will help us all gain a better understanding.

Feedback: Here’s your score!

English: Measurement unit
English: Measurement unit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently joined a MOOC on digital storytelling. I was up-front and honest about my experience and my reason for joining. I run a digital storytelling program and I wanted to see how another program might parallel, differ and/or otherwise inform me. There’s always room to learn.

As I engaged in the course, I felt good about participation and offering some thoughts and resources that others might find beneficial. I was excited and comfortable doing the first assignment and in retrospect, probably too excited and included information that more appropriately would fit into week 2: script development. Then…I waited. Part 2 of the assignment was to provide peer review of 3 other participants and then get feedback from 3 others. I was charged, ready to see the work of others, give feedback and to get feedback on my own work. But the design made me wait and the waiting began to disturb my flow. Finally, the day came to review others and I did that as thoughtfully as I could. I tried to provide positive support and make suggestions to help the development of their stories. One by one, I moved forward in a system that would not allow me to get feedback until all others had completed their work and the multi-day deadline had passed. Finally, the long awaited feedback came. Anticipating some thoughtful comments and advice, I was disappointed to get “grades”; numbers. Numbers that were a bit lower than I expected, but that’s OK. The disturbing part is that there was very little feedback and that it was anonymous. This made me rethink the value of peer-review, flow, anonymity and the inability to have a conversation about my work. This nameless, faceless, unconnected grading system left me clueless about how to improve my work. What’s worse, it killed my interest in the course. It became a bit of a canned process that ran on a schedule. However, all is not lost. It made me realize the value of open sharing and the possibility of instant or at least, very quick feedback. It made me realize the value of a personal connection to someone who actually cared about what they might say and how that might help me learn. It made me realize that through our open sharing, we might actually teach or learn from others and make new connections that might just change our way of thinking and in some cases, our lives.

Connected Learning

Leighblackall-64955397 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I just read The Problem ofLearning in Higher Education by Randy Bass.

As I move toward increased participation in in an open and connected world, I do so with both excitement and measured steps. The openness and connection I want is for sharing my thinking, my understanding and most importantly, to have those challenged in order to learn.

Randy concludes his writing with a reference to Steven Johnson’s (author of “Where Good Ideas Come From”) TED Talk tagline: “Chance favors the connected mind.” I like this notion. In many ways, I see too many connections and get deep into the weeds in a heartbeat. I jokingly compare myself to the image of John Nash (A Beautiful Mind), as I could easily see myself in a room full of images, information and strings to connect the ideas. Maybe I should be scared of that vision.

Randy breaks down connections into two parts: first, making connections between things and secondly, the sense of being socially networked. The first part is easy for me, but the social aspect requires some work on my part. I need to think about the word social. I think this word is not clearly defined and understood by many, particularly as our use of words like “friends” or “circles” are transformed by the use of technology and media. However, in the context of connecting ideas across realms of experiences in various settings and with various groups or individuals, I have long seen the connection of sharing ideas to the enhancement of learning. In this light, I see and welcome thoughtful inclusion of individual and collective experiences in learning design. Engagement with others, commenting and discussion, collaborative creations, the use of ePortfolios and community-based service projects are only a few things that come to mind. Just as engaging in and observing the world about us informs our learning from different perspectives, it is our learning that should impact the world, sometimes in small but meaningful ways. As Mary PeaceMcRay said at the end of her story The Process of Science "in science, observation of small and insignificant things, often leads to greatness."

Why I Teach: I teach to enjoy your success

Yesterday, I started to write about why I teach. I came up with some ideas shared at the bottom of this post, but today, I read an email from a faculty member who participated in my Digital Storytelling Program. This short email and the video shared in the link is why I teach.

Hi Bud!
I hope you're doing well. I worked on a project this week that reminded me of our digital storytelling seminar. I thought I'd send you a link and say thanks for the learning! Apologies for the long rambly blog post.

Kristin (Reed)

Watch this video to see learning unfold in real time:

My guiding questions:
Why do I teach?
Why do I care if you learn?
Why should you come to me?
Why should I (or any teacher) ask these questions (most importantly to ourselves)?

I have a passion (some say I have a gift). My passion is for good stories and to explore my own understanding through the creation of stories. Good stories are compelling. They cause me to listen deeply. But, more importantly, they cause me to reflect and ask questions. 

You come to me to learn about digital storytelling and I am inspired to share what I know and the resources that have developed my thinking. I immerse myself in listening deeply, so I can help you hear your own story. I love to help you identify your true passion and help you learn to tell your story through the power of digital media. I love to help you learn about the power of image, sound, voice, timing of delivery and the use of technology to create and share your own work of art.

I come to digital storytelling with experience and ways of working, but filled with questions and challenging my own thinking. I’m often teaching on the fly, not with lack of experience, but questioning what I say, even as I share my experience and thoughts. 

I come with passion,
Passion for story
Passion for media 
and a way to articulate feelings.

I  come to help you tell a story that will make my hair stand on end. 

Why do I teach?

I teach to enjoy your success.
PS: Kristen's video is very different from the work we explored in my digital storytelling program, but the experience there has grounded this creative exploration and I want to celebrate her work and the work of her students.


I am further venturing into the the concept of connectedness. 

A telephone network connection point with spar...
A telephone network connection point with spark-gap overvoltage suppressors. The two brass hex-head objects on the left cover the suppressors, which act to short overvoltage on the tip or ring lines to ground. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As part of that process, I'm blogging about the baby step of tagging selective posts to allow them to be harvested and and fed via RSS into the MOOC. As required, I'm adding a tag to the URL of my blog. My tag will simply be #connected. I'm using my Blogger account for convenience at this time, but I may find that I want to experiment with Wordpress in the future. I can't resist adding an image and I know that Jim Groom will love the descriptive language. I expect that I will need "overvoltage suppressors" as I embark on this journey and I look forward to the "charge" that I expect to get from existing and anticipated new connections.

A "Killer" Blog: Reconsidering the power of metaphor in teaching and learning

--> Think about how we all use metaphors in education. What messages are we sending?

English: Cartoon drawing about a big fish bein...
English: Cartoon drawing about a big fish being attached by small sharks, a metaphor for things like bloggers putting focus on bigger players (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Quick as a wink,” the semester starts and we “charge up the hill” to prepare for “classes”.  We do our best to “communicate” and “connect” with our “students” to create rich learning “environments” and experiences. We strive to share our expertise and “guide” learners as they “explore” and “navigate” their way to “rich” learning. We work in both physical and virtual “classrooms”, share “documents” and “artifacts” (largely through electronic “bits” and “bytes).” We share our own narrative and “tell stories” that will hopefully “illuminate” and help learners “see”. 

English: A wrecking ball reading "million...
English: A wrecking ball reading "millions of years"; a metaphor suggesting that acceptance of an old Earth leads to the destruction of society. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Metaphors are everywhere. As a storyteller, I am keenly aware of their power, but perhaps my awareness needs further examination. What works a metaphor for me may not resonate with others, particularly those from a different cultural background. So let’s pause and reflect before we inspire others to “kill” the opposing team.  Let’s reflect on what we say and the awesome power of our words, particularly if they are misunderstood.  See: “Your Brain on Metaphors”, the Chronicle, Sept. 2, 2014 encourage a deep relationship with other learners

English: Graffiti in Bethlehem Polski: Graffit...
English: Graffiti in Bethlehem Polski: Graffiti w Betlejem Deutsch: Ein Graffiti in Betlehem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clearly, I am a storyteller and I believe strongly in the power of image(s) and the interconnection of other media to share narrative. Much of my thinking and work is related to this. Recently, I blogged about the need for an open source image collection so we at VCU might be better able to tell our stories and teach through their power. 

VCU Student Commons, Monroe Park Campus
VCU Student Commons, Monroe Park Campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the Wideo blog post of August 5, 2014, the notion that “Visual Storytelling is timeless and mighty” is presented from the perspective of advertising.  This blog shares interesting thoughts, but it is clearly about marketing. However, it made me start asking myself questions and speculating some answers.

What are the differences between a myth and a narrative?

English: Flag of the Navajo Nation Diné bizaad...
English: Flag of the Navajo Nation Diné bizaad: Diné Bikéyah (Naabeehó Bikéyah) bidah naatʼaʼí (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What are the differences between story and myth?  

As we tell stories of our own development, are they about something we want to come true/develop or are they about something that exists?

Telling these stories forces me to ask:

Who am I (are we)?

What examples can we provide (individually or collectively)?

What do I (we) want to become?

What actions will I (we) pursue individually and with others to achieve our vision?

Again, the Wideo blog is clearly about marketing. But, I wonder how this information might apply if we think about the meaning of "brand" from institutional, organizational, individual and most importantly, educational perspective(s). How about changing the idea of “opportunities for media to create a deep relationship with customers”, to using resources to create more opportunities for media to encourage a deep relationship with other learners?
Standard language: Ptolemaic hieroglyphics fro...
Standard language: Ptolemaic hieroglyphics from the Temple of Kom Ombo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think these are interesting questions and ideas to explore. 

Let's Build a VCU Open Photo Collection: VCUOpenPhoto

I work in the ALT Lab at VCU as Senior Specialist for Learning Media Innovation. My work routinely involves the use of images for the creation of digital stories and increasingly, the creation of course trailers and course content in video format, which is largely for access via the internet. I have also been assisting faculty in the creation of their own digital stories for teaching and sharing course related narratives. In turn, many faculty have encouraged students to create their own projects. Working in an educational environment pretty much dictates that faculty, students and staff who engage in this practice, must have access to freely available resources. Hence, I have practiced and promoted the use of Creative Commons licensed materials, with attribution to the kind people who provide them.

We live in the 21st century and have access to networks and wonderful resources that are shared by millions through Creative Commons licensing, with the intent of fostering creativity and learning. Why then in my own institution, is it so difficult to find good images to represent campus life and learning opportunities that I or others might use to create work, without having to purchase images? In my search for VCU images, I found a collection of 52 images that I am authorized to download ( Fifty-two images to represent VCU and the rich life this institution provides our students and faculty. When I search Flickr, I find many more images related to VCU, but alas, they often link back to VCU closed repositories and use is restricted.

Recently, I edited videos to introduce students to an international program that is hosted by VCU. This project required time consuming research for CC images. I experienced enormous frustration about finding (or not finding) VCU images that we can use without paying Creative Services (CS) and without marketing control. This has led me the idea to create a #VCUOpenPhoto (#VCUOpenVideo) collection that can easily be developed through crowdsourcing images from the VCU community. Such a project could also be used as an opportunity to foster digital literacy in the VCU community (including alumni) and grow a collection that can also demonstrate the power of networks (people and digital), RSS, tagging, and other means to pull together a digital collection that is in the control of the contributors and that can be dynamically added to at any time. Will this create challenges? Yes. Will this create concerns? Yes. Will this need some form of curation? Maybe.

We need an open collection of images images. We have a community of 30,000 students, plus faculty/staff. We live in the midst of creative people. If every student faculty member provided just one image of something they feel is important, beautiful, thought provoking, representative of VCU life and or study, we could quickly build a collection that can be endlessly expand. This project should emphasize openness, Creative Commons license, as a basis for establishing standards. This project could serve to inform and educate people about digital standards, size images, that you stand, etc.

The development of such a project could interface with Tom Woodward’s (@twoodwar) photo safaris and we could use the idea of tagging images for search under different criteria.

Our culture is changing our incoming students will be expected to blog. This implies they know or will learn how to use digital resources in appropriate and creative ways. Why don’t we use this idea to develop digital literacy? We are a community of creative people, with one of the finest art schools in the world on campus. We have people who are familiar with creating good photographs for various reasons. Let's be a bit radical, let's represent the ALT Lab philosophy and the philosophy of openness.

Please add your comments and let's build this collection together.

Personal learning: Wrestling with technology and conceptual models

How I learn depends on the context of what I'm trying to learn.

Currently I'm working with Adobe Premier and learning to edit in that environment. My editing has been focused on simple editors that allow faculty and students to work freely or with little cost. Consequently the tools have been somewhat simpler. Learning to work with Premiere or other technologies often requires a vocabulary and a familiarity with procedures and ways to achieve certain goals. Without the basic knowledge of the language used, it's difficult to communicate or do research on what you're trying to achieve. Simply trying to pan and zoom or use what is now commonly called the Ken Burns effect in different editors can pose a problem if you don't know exactly how to find and present specific controls. In my case simply trying to turn on the keyframe tool to establish a starting and stopping position for scrolling to another area of an image in Pemiere presented a challenge. I was exactly in the area I needed to be in, but did not realize that I had to click a little clock like image to establish a position point or a keyframe. So for me, learning is both a joy and a painful process. The pain is experienced by all of us to some degree as we learn. This occurs when our conceptual models are challenged and we are trying to be change our current understanding of the world to a new vision and understanding of how something works.

Learning Through Focused Engagement: 3D Printing Revisited

There is nothing like a rush of creativity; when the mind is inspired by an idea and takes flight into multiple possibilities for new exploration and expression.

This morning I was engaged in a demonstration of 3-D printing and in scanning people (myself included) to be re-created in a three-dimensional plastic form. Conversation flowed from the technical to the inspirational and to discussions about potential interdisciplinary learning opportunities.

I am not new to 3-D imagery and I have been exposed to 3d printing at conferences and when my colleagues Jeff Nugent and Britt Watwood recently began to explore our new 3D printer. But today, when I actually focused on my own learning & engagement in the process, the muse began to dance. What previously seemed like insignificant creation of "toys", became a source of wonder.

This is a quick post just to share excitement about my own learning and my reflection on engagement. Right now, I'm blogging for the sake of getting myself into the practice of regularly sharing my learning. I'm quite sure much more will follow soon.

Deeper Learning

Observing student(s)
Evidence of deeper learning
Applying knowledge

Open, Vertical, Dynamic Course Design for Instructors and Students Alike

un phare en coquille / Lighthouse like a shell
un phare en coquille / Lighthouse like a shell (Photo credit: TisseurDeToile -[*])

I’ve recently been engaged with faculty in a discussion about “open” in their courses. Interest and experience vary widely and for many, the concept is foreign and frightening. “Designing” for such a course might seem an oxymoron. However designing simply means considering the overall course goals & what you want students to be able to achieve, as well as making learning relevant, so students can incorporate their knowledge into real world experiences. Designing for such a course must also consider the available resources (there are many things available via the net) and the needs for communication, interaction, building community, showcasing student work and assessing understanding. How can we make this learning experience unique, distinct, dynamic and create a course that learners want to take?

What if a course were truly dynamic? What if you the instructor and your students experience content that was dynamically updated every time you access your site? What if the instructor provided a framework and selected data feeds that could provide dynamic information related to course specific topics? It seems that this could provide faculty and students with opportunities to engage in relevant discussion and create new works to both explore and demonstrate learning? Such a learning environment might also allow faculty to demonstrate their processes of thinking, research, collaboration, communication, and personal learning.

In the digital age, information is constantly and things such as breaking news, research, interesting questions, social media, all drive our quest for understanding. Recently on NPR I heard the term Verticals: data driven ventures. As I understand it (and I certainly need to learn more), news, marketing and other digital publications are increasingly using data driven verticals: data driven ventures information. Wouldn’t it be interesting for faculty design a course with both fixed content and selective feeds of dynamically driven information to engage in open learning ask interesting questions around and help explain information?

I know this work is already underway in some respects, but I'd like to see experiments with a whole new level of "verical design". I welcome examples and/or ideas for various disciplines.
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Augmented Reality and Digital Storytelling - Walking Blog 3

Walking Blog 3:

I've been working with Aurasma augmented reality App. I'm thinking
about how this might be applied educationally and in various ways. I
I'm thinking about having different people tell their version of a story
about a particular event or issue and video record that as an overlay
for Aurasma. Then, I could take photographs of individuals (or locations) and make those
be a trigger for the person telling their story.

Let the experiments begin.

Note: I've learned that video is limited to 100 MB. If you venture in this direction, please share your learning and example projects. Learn more with the Aurasma Handbook.



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Rethinking Serendipitous Connections & The Power of Informal Networking

Walking blog 2:

Perhaps I've been too serious about my approach to social media. Sometime ago I decided that there are plenty of posts to Twitter and I don't need to add unnecessary garbage (but I still do on occasion). However this morning I learned of a fundraising goal by some VCU students and a faculty member to raise over $10,000 in the fight against childhood cancer. This was largely done through connections in Twitter. Perhaps these connections were formed by the more informal sharing of information about basketball games or other personal interests and not just through more serious posts. Maybe I have been wrong. It just maybe those trivial posts that allow one to build a significant network and through that, allow someone to see my more serious thoughts and the sharing of information that matters. 

By the way, a few shaved heads raised over $12,000. Thanks to @proffigment (Lisa Phipps), her students and the power of social media.

Walking Blogposts: Leveraging Technology to "write" More Often

Blogging is about thinking in public spaces. In many ways you might say blogging is about thinking aloud. Some of my best thinking happens while I'm walking from one location to another. Therefore I decided to leverage the ability to do audio blogging through the use of my iPhone and notes app. 

This post is being composed as I walk to the parking lot. There will undoubtedly be occasional misunderstood words and perhaps phrases. I could choose to post this immediately take a chance that there will be some errors or I could look at this and make minor edits and post it directly from my phone. For more elaborate work or to continue writing/thinking, I can email these to myself and open them on my computer for continued editing. An example of that might be where I want to quote some particular reference and link to the URL. 

Stay tuned this is the first of my walking blog posts.

Smoke in the Hallway: Getting a Whiff of Good Ideas

Smoke (Photo credit: Centophobia)

It’s amazing what I can learn by just walking down the hallway. 

In a casual conversation about my most recent classroom presentation/discussion on the use of digital storytelling to convey narrative about statistical information, I referred to the canary in the coal mine (Stats Story-Canary in the Coal Mine) as an analogy for declining frog population as indicators of pollution and related consequences. Gardner Campbell remarked, “analogy is the core of congnition.” This brief moment led me to explore that statement and that led me to the Presidential Lecture by scientist Douglas Hofstadter.

I work in an amazing place. I’m priviledged to be engaged in meaningful conversations, explore media, blog, network, create, teach, learn, dream, inspire, be inspired, work with astounding colleagues who push and pull on my thinking and expand my learning. All too often, I loose sight of my own story. It’s good to reflect and acknowledge the blessings I have.

Yes, there’s smoke in the hallways. When you smell it, put your nose to the wind and your ear to the ground. Something is burning and it may just be the next great idea.
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No Connectivity

Candle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No network connectivity! NO NETWORK CONNECTIVITY? I’m suddenly thrown back into the 19th century. I’ll just relax and listen to some music, while I work on some off-line projects; but, NO Pandora! SILENCE!

Don’t get me wrong, I love being high-tech by day and Amish by night; but I want to pick and choose… I want control. Trying to perform my 21st century role in a wired world just seems weird. It makes me ever more mindful of how dependent I’ve become on electricity, computing devices, the Internet and the community with which I am temporarily (I hope) disconnected.

Wait! A flash. My email just wiggled and life has been restored. Web pages are flying into my screen at the speed of light. All is well in River City.
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