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Historian - a Real Leader
The troop position of Historian is often left unfilled in smaller troops and thought of as a 'bogus' position in many other troops. Scouts that take on the Historian job may find that they have nothing to do for 6 months except put a newspaper clipping or two in an old scrapbook. It doesn't have to be that way. Every troop leadership position can and should have real leadership responsibilities.

Leadership doesn't need to be demonstrated in a charismatic, up-in-front, "Follow Me!" manner. There is a whole lot of leadership that can happen behind the scenes or in quiet, supportive roles. And, opportunities to get in front of the troop should be added to every leadership role.

To ensure the Historian job is a real leadership position, our troop has included the following responsibilities in the list of duties.

The Historian meets with the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader at least every 2 months to report on his progress towards his goals. This ensures he is fulfilling his duties and will receive rank advancement credit. The Historian also has an adult mentor that he can go to with ideas and for advice.

Our troop web site is becoming a key method of communication and that is why it is included in these duties. All troop leaders have access to create and maintain content. The web site makes access to information easier and faster for everyone.

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Posted: 17:16 11-29-2007 268
Favorite Games
Now that the weather has dipped into single digits - Brrrr - I thought you might be able to use some indoor game ideas. These are some of the favorite games of our scouts for troop meetings that still get some action going.

Don't let your troop meetings get stagnant during the winter. Make sure evey meeting has some action for scouts to look forward to.

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Posted: 10:47 11-28-2007 267
I'm Stuffed
After eating, sitting, and visiting relatives for two days stright, I'm stuffed!
Each family has its own traditions - some watch football, some hunt deer, some always go to Grandma's, etcetera. I guess our family's tradition is to eat - we don't do much else for the weekend. I actually cut back on my meals for three days before Thanksgiving in hopes of reaching Monday without a big gain on the scale. There's still some turkey left to make sandwiches for the drive home tomorrow, but all the pumpkin and pecan pie got finished today.
I guess it's a good think to set aside a couple days to relax and reminisce with the extended family. We don't get to visit with everyone very often. It seems kind of gluttonous with all the food that gets laid out, but it is a celebration of thanks for life and the opportunities we have in this country. And, I for one am thankful for my situation and place. I've been fortunate to have few family, social, or professional hardships and this past year has been especially smooth.
It will be back to the normal life on Monday, but for now I just heard it's time for dinner - again.

And to think we do it all over again just one month from now, but with presents too!

Scout On
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Posted: 19:16 11-24-2007 266
Centennial Quality Unit Award
At the end of October, units could start claiming their Centennial Quality Unit goals for 2007. This is the first year when this new CQU award replaced the normal Quality Unit award.

The six requirements for the award raised quite a stir this year around here. Lots of confusion and questions about just what was needed to actually earn the award, especially compared to the fairly simple requirements for past QU awards.
New RequirementsOld Requirements
  1. Have ___ percent of direct contact leaders complete Basic Leader Training for their position, including Youth Protection Training.
  2. Retain ______ percent of our members, recruit ______ new youth, and recharter on time.
  3. Recruit ______ new adults
    to be active.
  4. Have a minimum of 60 percent of youth advance in rank for Cub Scouting and
    Boy Scouting or earn Venturing recognition awards, or improve by 10 percent over last year.
  5. At least 70 percent of youth have an outdoor experience or one activity per month, or improve the percentage over last year.
  6. Conduct annual program planning and provide the financial resources to deliver a quality program.
(Complete 1st four requirements and any two more.)
  1. Scoutmaster completes Boy Scout Leader Fast Start Training and Basic Leader Training for Scoutmasters.
  2. One or more Assistant Scoutmasters registered, trained, and active. One registered adult is assigned responsibility for Youth Protection training.
  3. Conduct six highlight activities and attend a BSA long-term camp.
  4. Complete charter renewal before current charter expires.
  5. Conduct an annual program planning conference, publish an annual troop program calendar, and present it to parents at a family activity.
  6. Conduct a service project annually, preferably for the chartered organization or the community. The project will be reported on the web site.
  7. 60 percent or more of youth advance a rank, or have a 10 percent increase in total rank advancement over a year ago.
  8. A Boysí Life subscription will go into the homes of all youth, or have a 10 percent increase over a year ago.
  9. Renew charter with an equal or greater number of youth registered over a year ago.
  10. Conduct Troop Junior Leader Training as outlined in the Scoutmaster Handbook and hold monthly patrol leadersí council meetings.

The past QU requirements were all pre-set. With the CQU, each unit sets its own goals for the first 3 requirements. Some units may low-ball to ensure the award while others may challenge themselves and miss the goals.
The curious thing is looking forward to 2008 and the changes in the requirements. Individual units will get to set their own percentages for requirements #4 and #5 - effectively letting each unit decide what is needed to earn the award. See this 2007-2008 comparison.

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Posted: 12:09 11-21-2007 265
New Rank Requirements
The National Youth Protection Committee recommended additions to Boy Scout rank requirements that were approved and will become effective January 1, 2008. These changes will emphasize the importance of Youth Protection training.

Tenderfoot Rank
Revised requirement 9:
Explain the importance of the buddy system as it relates to your personal safety on outings and in your neighborhood. Describe what a bully is and how you should respond to one.

Second Class Rank
New requirement 8b:
Explain the three Rís of personal safety and protection.

First Class Rank
New requirement 12:
Describe the three things you should avoid doing related to use of the Internet. Describe a cyberbully and how you should respond to one.

The changes will be represented in the 2008 Boy Scout Requirements book and the revised ninth printing of the 11th edition of the Boy Scout Handbook.

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Posted: 0:49 11-21-2007 263
Progress Towards Rank Remedy
As you may remember, the Cub Scout Immediate Recognition Kit has been recalled this fall due to high lead content in the paint.

Scouts or parents that have one of these items can return it to a Scout Shop starting on December 1, 2007 and receive a replacement. The new replacement items will have an imprinted diamond shape on the back so you can tell they are new.

Also, when someone returns an old one, they can enter to win one of three BMX bikes from Kahoot - as kind of an "Oops, sorry" contest. The bike winners will be drawn on April 1, 2008.

See Kahoot News for details.

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Posted: 14:17 11-19-2007 262
Merit Badge Video
The BSA has put out a video overview of the merit badge program. You can view it online - Merit Badge Primer Video

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Posted: 12:41 11-19-2007 261
Eagle Scout Ceremony
The troop celebrate another Eagle Scout today. This one finished his requirements just a few weeks before his 18th birthday, so it was close. He hovered at Life for over 3 years but finally completed the tasks.

The Court of Honor ceremony went very well. Check out the script at this page - the interrupting scouts worked out well and added a little intrigue to the event. The best part was having his little brother and sister put on his Eagle neckerchief. The worst part was having the Scoutmaster talk too much. :-)

The Eagle did a great job of encouraging all the younger scouts to set goals, persevere, and not wait too long. Whenever an experienced scout can prod other scouts along in their advancement, that's a good thing.

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Posted: 23:08 11-18-2007 259
Popcorn - Behind the Scenes
Trails' End Popcorn is the staple funding for many packs/troops, districts, and councils around the country. There's a good chance the scouts in your unit sell popcorn. Some love doing it while others hate the whole thing. From the average scout's, parent's, or even scoutmaster's point of view, the popcorn just magically appears at someone's house and they go pick up the items they sold.

Today, I had the enlightening opportunity to discover that the popcorn does not magically appear at that person's house. Actual people spend many actual hours of actual hard work getting it ready!

Our District Executive put out a request for folks to help sort popcorn. Since I was free today, I said, "Sure!" I didn't know that I was the only one that had that reply.

All the orders for a district are combined into one huge order from Trails' End. Popcorn is delivered on pallets in cases. Many pallets with hundreds of cases! All wrapped in plastic and waiting to be broken down and re-assembled into piles for each specific troop.

Our D.E. gave me one troop's order and told me to gather all the items 'over there'. I searched for Cheese Lovers and Three-way Tin Chocolate Lovers and Microwave Kettle Corn. After lots of searching through pallets, I finally had the lay of the land and the next order was easier.

You may not know this, but on every item and every case there is a symbol - a moon, circle, triangle, sun, or something else. You should look on your items. We had our own special language. We didn't say we needed 7 2.5 Pound Popcorn Tins - we said we needed 7 Triangles. I didn't even know what was in most of the cases for half the day. :-)

After 3 hours of picking and packing, the troops began to arrive for pickups. Then, we moved the orders to a loading bay and they checked off that we had the correct number of triangles, circles, and clovers (sometimes called 'clubs'). I was impressed - we only had a couple mix-ups and they were fixed.

So, when you get your popcorn, remember that someone put in a whole lot of work just to get those items to you so your scouting adventures could happen. Next year, consider volunteering to help sort your district's popcorn - it really was an interesting day. And, try the 'stars' - they're very good!

Scout On
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Posted: 22:12 11-16-2007 258
Christmas Gift Idea
Back in September, I wrote a post about the Rocks In My Backpack book written by Tom Sholes. I just wanted to remind you that this really is a great gift for any scout volunteer you may know - or anyone you know that was ever in Boy Scouts.

Tom tells me that many copies of his book are going overseas to soldiers that were scouts, giving them some humorous relief from the stress they face.

Buy It - > < - Buy It

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Posted: 13:06 11-15-2007 257
Selling Campouts
In our troop, each campout is organized by a patrol with the assistance of an adult. The patrol does all the planning and arranges training in troop meetings before the campout for skills that could be useful on the outing. To aid in the planning, a Campout Planning Checklist has evolved.

We've been seeing a lower participation level in troop camoouts for the past year than we'd like. I asked the PLC what they thought might be done to bring the numbers up a bit and they decided that more promotion would help.

For the past couple months, each planning patrol has been asked by the PLC to present the outing with a little more 'OOMPH' than just standing up and saying, "We're going camping on the 24th. Here's the permission form." At last night's troop meeting, it finally happened!

A couple scouts from the patrol planning the December skiing campout got dressed up in ski gear, goggles, poles, ... head to toe. One came running in hollering that he was tired of raking leaves and wanted to go skiing. But, where could he go? The other scout said he had a solution to his problems. They went back and forth explaining all the fun activities they had planned for the campout and how scouts should sign up. Very entertaining and a great demonstration of how the other patrols should do it. A lot of scouts signed up right then.

Now, I'll be talking to the SPL about how he can challenge the patrols coming up in 2008 to outperform this patrol.

Adding a bit of entertainment, even in announcements, is a good way to make troop meetings more interesting.

Scout On
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Posted: 12:55 11-13-2007 256
Annual Lock-In
Today I'm recovered from our annual Lock-In on Friday night. Yesterday, I was a little sore and tired as an old man. In years past, this was our Webelos recruiting night but we now have the Scoutorama for that.

The Lock-In is probably the most un-Scouting thing our troop does. Mini-golf, bumper cars, and mostly shoving coins into blinking, whirring, flashing arcade games for a couple hours in the quest for the jackpot of tickets. Then, exchanging all those tickets for some silly plastic jumping frog or other such junk. Can you tell what I think about it? :-)

But, every year, during the PLC's planning session, it finds its way back onto the schedule. This year I even mentioned that global warming is making it feasible to camp in November, but that didn't have much impact.

It's not really that bad. After the arcade, we retreat to a local church with a huge gym and play highly active games. We have pizza and pop and then the scouts battle it out in the gym. This weekend, we played pinguard for 2 1/2 hours straight. They even let the old guys play and I'm still sore from throwing about 500 nerf soccer balls.

Another change this year was that we ended at 1:00am rather than staying all night. At past lock-ins, some scouts would leave around midnight anyway and then I'd be stuck with a bunch of zombies at 7:00am trying to clean the place up. It worked out much better this time and it looked to me like the scouts were tired enough when they headed home. I'm anxious to hear what the scouts have to say about it at the troop meeting tomorrow.

Scout On
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Posted: 22:46 11-11-2007 255
A Greener Christmas
I've noticed a lot of Greener ads on TV the past week or so. The hybrid cars are becoming more common on the streets. The price of oil keeps setting new records. Cutting our energy consumption is no longer something to think about doing some day - it's something to actually do now.

I always put up my Christmas lights the week after Thanksgiving. That means they burn for over a month. I use C7 lights - incandescent lights that are smaller than C9s. I'm one of the few left in my neighborhood that has not switched to LED Christmas lights and it's about time I made the switch too.

I grew up with these C7 lights and they just always seemed more 'real' to me than LED lights. But, with the recent advancements in technology, the LEDs are pretty cool.

LED lights have about a 50,000 hour life compared to 2,000 for incandescents - yes, I get tired of replacing a handful of lights every year.

LED lights use about 90% LESS energy than incandescents. That means the extra large electricity bill that comes in January will be a thing of the past. Instead of an extra $100 it would just be an extra $10.

LEDs are more durable too - they're plastic shells instead of glass. Also, they are literally cool, cool enough to touch.

So, what's on my Christmas list? Besides a new pair of Scout Socks, it's new strings of LED lights.

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Posted: 22:39 11-11-2007 254
Webelos Recruiting
In our community, we have a handful of Boy Scout Troops and a handful of Cub Scout Packs. The membership in any single pack or troop fluctuates year to year. Across the board, numbers stay fairly even, but there are spikes in individual units which often cause some concern.

Some years, a troop will get a bumper crop of new scouts because there are a few younger brothers in Webelos that are definitely going to that troop and they wind up pulling more new scouts along with them. Other years, the same thing will happen to a different troop.

This year, it seems like competition between troops is at a very high level. Our troop is in the situation of having a few younger brothers moving up so we're not too concerned about bringing in enough scouts. But, that doesn't mean we aren't pulling, pushing, and prodding Webelos to continue on.

The scouts in our troop have scheduled events so they could invite Webelos along. And, they've done this to help the Webelos fulfill their Arrow of Light requirements, rather than actively recruiting them. I think that makes a big difference in the amount of fun and pressure that exists. We had a handful of Webelos join us at the district Camporee. We had a very fun Scoutorama last weekend. And, next month, they decided to invite some Webelos to go skiing.

Last night, the troop had a table at an event specifically devoted to recruiting Webelos. One of the local Packs invites all the troops to have a table in a local church. Then, they invite all the Webelos from every pack to come and meet each troop. It's a terrific event where Webelos get to see each troop. The troops have little activities trying to impress the Webelos. Many of the troops have developed traditional activities - one has rubber band guns, one has a board game, and we have a wheel of fortune. I had a great time because I just sat and watched all night. The scouts talked to Webelos and parents and never got a question they needed me to help with.

I would highly recommend that you consider organizing such an event in your community - it will give you good press and really help with the Webelos transition. Getting Webelos to go on to Boy Scouts is the goal, not so much which troop they join.

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Posted: 12:32 11-09-2007 253
What's It?
I just wanted to pass on an idea that worked well for me. The name of the game is What's It?

I've collected a number of strange items over the years that are not easily recognizable, especially to younger folks that maybe have never listened to an LP or seen a record needle. You probably have similar things collecting dust in the attic, on the shelf, or in the garage.

Take an object to a troop meeting.
Allow each patrol 30 seconds to inspect the item.
Give everyone 2 minutes to come up with an explanation or use for the item.
The patrol leader or representative of each patrol comes up front and gives a 1 minute or less presentation on what the item should be used for, according to his patrol.
Unbiased judges determine which patrol gave the best or most convincing presentation. Not necessarily the correct use of the item wins.

We've done this a half dozen times over the past year or so and the scouts enjoy it. It is a bit of silly competition but more importantly it inspires creativity and gives the opportunity to speak in front of the group. By recognizing the presentation rather than the correct use, most of the scouts doing the speaking put in their best effort.

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Posted: 17:27 11-07-2007 252
Elections and Citizenship
Tomorrow is election day. This is a great opportunity to emphasize the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen in our country. With the three Eagle required citizenship merit badges, discussing local, national, and global impacts of casting our votes is a good exercise. Webelos also have a Citizen activity badge.

If your scouts haven't seen how voting is handled in your area, tomorrow would be a good time to take a couple scouts while you cast your ballot. With the advancements in technology, each time I go and vote it seems something has changed. Last time, we punched holes in cards but a computer read and verified the card before the vote was officially cast. I'm looking forward to seeing what's new this time.

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Posted: 13:06 11-05-2007 251
Hunting Season
This weekend was deer hunting opener in Minnesota. Quite a few of the scouts from the troop went out with their dads. The news said that 70% of the deer taken will be harvested in the first 4 days of the season - that's a lot of shooting.

Besides hunter orange safety clothing, a good pair of hunting boots is the most important gear. The weather can be snowing, raining, or bitter cold and being able to track a deer through muck and brush is required. Sturdy, waterproof, warm boots can make a barely bearable day downright comfortable.

A new pair of boots could be a great gift. If you're like me, it's hard to think of things for others to get you for Christmas and birthday. If you play your cards right, the same boots you get for hunting can also be used as hiking boots.

We have 18 scouts heading to Philmont in June and new hiking boots for Christmas would be perfect for most of them.
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Posted: 8:37 11-05-2007 250
It's amazing how fortunate we have been with weather this year. Yet another practically perfect day for our annual Scoutorama yesterday. Cool, crisp fall air with sunny skies and a little breeze to blow the leafs around a bit.

The patrols set up 8 scout skill stations, each patrol hosting 1 or 2 stations depending on how many scouts attended. There were firestarting, wilderness survival, service project, bearmuda triangle, backpack packing, first aid, and cooking.

Two dozen Webelos from local packs went through the stations, gathering beads to exchange for prizes later in the Trading Post. These were mostly 5th graders with a few 4th graders. The cool thing was that we had visitors from 5 different packs - 2 packs that we've really had no interaction with before.

After a hot taco lunch, each patrol got a chance to lead the group in a wide-area or team game. We wrapped up by 3:00 for a 4-hour action-packed event. There wasn't much lag time at all.

This is the 3rd year the troop has put on this event. It was a bit easier this year and seemed to run more smoothly. As scoutmaster, I got to spend most of my time talking with parents and stayed away from the stations and games.

Scout On
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Posted: 13:34 11-04-2007 249
The Taming
I've spent quite a few hours over the past year reading some Baden-Powell writings and some early year Scoutmaster handbooks. As I read them, I can see my friends and me doing exactly what they describe - running through fields for no reason but to run, doing things our own way whether right or wrong, turning anything at all into a game. As I've reflected on these books and tried to use what I can from them to improve what our troop offers for the scouts, I've run into a tough realization over and over.

I can't help but notice that boys have been tamed. Given complete leeway to choose absolutely any activity for a troop meeting, we still sit in rows of chairs, have announcements, have instruction, and sit. We have no one tussling, rough-housing, even thumb wrestling. Nothing gets broken, no clothes get ripped. These scouts appear to prefer to sit and listen to someone talk than go outside and climb a tree. Even with direct prompting from me at the PLC meetings, an active game just isn't part of a meeting. I must be wrong. There must be something I'm missing.

When we're on campouts, if there is any free time, they sit. They don't run off and explore or get in trouble. They just sit and maybe work on some advancement.

It's almost like watching tamed bears. They do neat tricks, but you just know they should naturally be doing something else. It may be that our community, in general, is very driven to have kids excel. Since kindergarten, organized activities such as school, sports, music, and playgroups have dominated these boys' lives. Maybe they really don't know how to cut loose and have fun without a schedule and a goal. But, it's probably just that they are used to troop meetings being a certain way and they're in a rut.

So, now I'm at the 'lets try an experiment' point. And, that's what I'm planning for the next few months. I'm collecting a bunch of things my buddies and I used to do. Stuff like pitching pennies, pen guns, match rockets, hand slaps, tree climbing, rock skipping, whatever I can remember. At the next PLC, I'll ask the SPL if I could have a 10-15 minute chunk of time at the next 4 troop meetings for a Scoutmaster Challenge or some such thing.

Assuming the SPL agrees, then I'll get an Assistant Scoutmaster for each patrol and explain the plan to them. At the meeting, they'll each take a patrol and show them the activity and then step back and let the scouts play. I don't think we'll have competitions, but if the scouts move towards that, then great!

After a few meetings I'll know if this has become a part of the meeting that scouts look forward to or not. If it is, then I'll need to chat with the PLC about the experiment and how it's time for me to step back and they can start an SPL Challenge instead. Hopefully, that will be a good start to some brainstorming of active games to try. If that happens, it will be a good big step back towards FUN.

Scout On
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Posted: 16:11 11-02-2007 248
Shorter Days and New Hours
Anyone camping this first weekend in November? If you are, remember that you gain an extra hour of sleep on Saturday night with Daylight Savings ending at 2:00am Sunday morning.

Last night, we sat out front with our little screened in fire burning and handed out candy to the goblins, witches, and other urchins that ran past. I noticed it got dark around 6:00pm and the trick-or-treaters were complete by about 8:00. Oh, for the days of summer with light until 9:30 and blinking the sun out of my eyes before 6:00 in the morning.

I call the upcoming 4 months 'mushroom time' because we so seldom see any daylight when we drive to work in the dark, work inside all day, and then drive home in the dark. It also makes it a bit more challenging for scouting.

When winter camping, it's important to keep the short daylight hours in mind when scheduling a day's activities. In the cold, food is more difficult to cook and there is less light to work with. Maybe dinner should be moved to 4:30 from 6:00. Moving Lights Out an hour or so earlier also seems to work pretty well since it's been dark for 4 hours already.

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Posted: 12:03 11-01-2007 247
Alzheimer's Awareness Month
Even Scouters get old. As we age, our bodies run into problems, whether it's arthritis, weight, or even memory laps. The physical ailments and challenges are often obvious and a scouter needs to evaluate his/her effectiveness in each aspect of scouting. Maybe those extra 50 pounds mean I can't do Philmont or my bum knee means I can't do the 50-miler any longer.
Some diseases are more difficult to identify and accept. If a scouter providing safety for a crew forgets the route or becomes confused, there may be disastrous results. It's important that we as leaders maintain our abilities and accept our limitations.

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) is spearheading a nation-wide drive over the month of November to promote early detection of Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.

National Memory Screening Day is November 13, 2007. It is held annually in November and was started in 2003. November is recognized as National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month.

This screening day provides free confidential memory screenings for anyone concerned about memory loss or feel they may be at risk due to family history. A memory screening is a good first step towards early detection and appropriate intervention for memory illnesses.

If you have a relative for whom you are concerned, or want to get yourself checked out, consider finding a memory screening location near you. Sites can be found at which is the web site for the national memory screening day.

The AFA has some recommended tips for successful aging which are intended to help slow or prevent the loss of brain cells. A healthy mind, body, and spirit are key and can be aided by a healthy diet, limiting alcohol, exercising, relaxing, socializing, and managing stress.

Both seeking a cure for the disease and ensuring quality care for sufferers of Alzheimer's are important work done by the AFA. Please consider a contribution to the AFA to support their work.

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Posted: 11:37 11-01-2007 246
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