How Do Like The New Uber gPod?

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I'm doing something a little different with this article. If you like it, please leave a comment and/or share this article with a friend.

It's 2030 and my little man, Giles*, is now a big man. He's a month away from his 18th birthday. He's studied extremely hard and he's got a shot at Stanford next year (finger's crossed).

I'm continually amazed at all the things he's been able to fit in his head. However, this is about the one thing that isn't in there.

Giles doesn't know how to drive a car. Neither do any of his friends.

Since the government passed the new Manual Driver Requirements in 2028, none of them have even taken a driver's test. Why would they?

I couldn't be happier about how things have developed in the last 15 years. When I started this blog nearly 25 years ago in 2006, I had planned to spend thousands on transportation in retirement. Who would have thought that transportation has become a small income stream for me?

Did I lose You? Let me take a step back.

In late 2015, I realized that several technologies were converging to change the world.

My solar panels hadn't celebrated their first birthday, but they already had me thinking: "If only there were reasonably-priced electric SUVs, I could eliminate most of my gas bill. (I'd need something for longer trips.)"

Several months before that, Uber came my town. I've only used it a couple of times, but the idea of on-demand transportation is changing the way millions of people travel.

And the year before that, I was on "the 101" in Silicon Valley and next to me was a Google car without a driver.

A funny thing happens when you put autonomous cars, on-demand transportation, and "free"** solar power together. The cost of car transportation becomes very small.

Uber's future  gPod

Currently, the average American family spends 19% of their money on transportation. (I'll make the assumption that the number is typical, or more, for car owners and those who commute via public transit save money.) However, the average car is in use only 4% of the time according to Morgan Stanley.

So, roughly, 1/5 of the money goes to something that is used 1/25th of the time. That's terribly inefficient.

In a world of autonomous, on-demand cars, people pay for what they use. I choose to save money by riding at off-peak hours to run errands.

What about the cost of human drivers? In 2016, Uber had to pay hundreds of thousands of drivers. Autonomous cars is a huge, huge cost savings for them.

I don't mind one bit, because autonomous cars are great for riders like me as well. We can use our commuting time productively. The average commute to work appears to be about 24.5 minutes. We'll estimate that to be 50 minutes a day (round-trip). It appears that the average hourly wage is $20.43, meaning that the 50 minutes saves people around $17 a day on just their work commute. (This makes the dangerous and possibly false assumption that people would be as productive while in the car. If they aren't being productive, I humbly suggest that they have a higher quality of life.)

In the spirit of the late, great, Steve Jobs, there's One More Thing.

The autonomous cars drive much more efficiently. They merge perfectly because computer sensors direct everything. The same sensors help ensure that there are extremely few accidents. Commuting times are reduced which is allows people to have more time to do the things they want to do.

What about solar? How do I make money from Uber's gPods?

A few years ago, the last of the gas-powered auto companies announced they'd be switching to electric, just like everyone else. At the time of the announcement, I couldn't help but think of the last companies to make typewriters and VCRs.

Our family has always tried to be a little ahead of the curve. In 2015, We were the first house in the neighborhood to get solar power. So when Alphabet's Uber subsidiary announced their latest innovation a couple of years ago, we were quick to sign up.

We make a little money each day renting out a parking space in our driveway (and electricity) to Uber. Uber realized early on that by distributing cars throughout a neighborhood, people would always have fast access to a car. Location, location, location. It was much more efficient than having them in a central parking area. By tapping into the solar power that's already in most people's homes, Uber eliminated the need to "refuel" cars.

I imagine that Uber swaps out cars for maintenance, but it's hard for me to be sure. The cars look mostly the same. The come in any color you want as long as it is black. All I know is that we have size 1, 2, or 3 in our driveway at any given time.

Back in 2016, I was estimating that we'd pay more than $800 a month for our two cars in retirement. That's around $10,000 a year. This system is much, much cheaper. In fact, our car expenses are essentially zero when you factor in Uber's payment to us for the parking space.

We finished paying off our 15 year mortgage 3 years ago in 2027. With our electricity and transportation costs zero we are left few other expenses. I haven't figured out how to eliminate the cost of health care, food, taxes, insurance, and other utilities. For most people health care is one of their biggest expenses. We're very fortunate to have my wife's military coverage. Though it is much more expensive than in was in 2016, it's still a great deal compared to the other options out there.

Thank heavens that we've been able to reduce and/or eliminate all these expenses. This year Stanford is $150,000 a year. Giles' younger brother, Xander, is looking into MIT. That's not any cheaper.

Is it silly to reflect about saving $10,000 a year on transportation when you are spending $300,000 a year between two colleges?

* In traditional Lazy Man fashion, I have substituted real names with a character from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

** Solar power isn't free, but the panels are very cheap and efficient in 2030. There's no incremental cost to power cars like there is with gasoline.

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Posted on August 23, 2016.

Top 10 Sneakiest Business Tricks

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Drill or Sneaky Business Trick?  You decide!

Drill or Sneaky Business Trick? You decide!

There are a lot of marketing tricks that businesses use to drill into your brain that you you must buy their product. Being aware of these can help protect you from your subconscious mind. Of course, the flip side is that if you are business, you can use these tricks to make more sales.

  1. Limited Time Offer - Act now! It is designed to stop you from hemming and hawing and just make the purchase. If you snooze, you lose out on the good deal. On a completely related note, today is your last day to take advantage of CollegeAdvantage's free $50 dollars. Act now! [Update: The deadline is extended until the 18th!]
  2. Limited Availability Offer - The first 100 customers get a free extra Shamwow! Well, I don't know if that's really true of Shamwow, but you see it all the time in those infomercials. The thing is that the infomercials are running all day and night all over the country. So pretty much everyone is going to be included in that first 100 customers. They really have no way to track it.
  3. Affiliate Program - This isn't so sneaky actually. A company, like the CollegeAdvantage offer above, offers to give people a commission for bringing them sales. It's a cheap form of marketing for the company and they figure that you'll probably take my somewhat less biased (but probably still biased) word that they offer a good product. In the CollegeAdvantage case, I had written about them in my choosing a 529 plan far before they had an affiliate program.
  4. The Surprise - A Trader Joe's near me came up with the concept of Mystery Beer which I quickly dubbed one of the best ideas ever. It was literally a sealed brown bag of a selection of microbrew beers. Oh what fun to get to the car and see what you got! It brought back the feeling of collecting baseball cards when I was little (another surprise). Can you imagine the amount of sales McDonalds gets each year from people who just want more Monopoly pieces? By the way... that brings me too...
  5. The Contest - This is not always used to get you buy something, but more to get you to do something. You can see that you have a chance to win $5,000 from Taco Bell for giving them feedback on your service. That's bargain-priced market research for a company like them. To explore how this might work, I ran a contest where I asked for readers Valentine's Day tips and a few days later, I used those tips (with proper attribution) to write Save Money on Valentine's Day (17 Tips Inside). It was cheaper than hiring a writer and more cost effective than me spending hours trying to research it. The end product came out better too, don't you think?
  6. Portion of the Proceeds go to Charity - This is one of my favorites... especially when they don't really say what the portion is. For instance, a company that makes $45 bottles of juice, MonaVie, has created a seemingly legit charity called The MORE Project. It's a non-profit and don't doubt that they do good work. However, I think the charity exists more to make MonaVie seem like less of scam to potential customers. That's not to say all charity offers are bad, Coldstone Creamery has an annual event where I believe all the proceeds aid the Make a Wish foundation. Maybe the difference is that I don't believe Coldstone needs to give back to support their competitively-priced product while MonaVie has to pull out all the stops to get someone to pay 10x more than what you would in a store.
  7. The Rebate - It seems like most people know about the rebate's sneakiness... or maybe it's just because I'm 33 now and my crowd knows it. When I was 20 though, it got me. The rebate is effective for two reasons 1) the difficulty in filling out the required paperwork... and 2) people's... ahem... laziness. Between the two, a lot of rebates don't get processed something that companies call "breakage." If you see a company put a $300 television out there with a $50 rebate, the company can expect to really get $270 in money from that television as some will pay $300 and not get the rebate and some will get the $250 price after rebate. However that $250 price sure is enticing.
  8. No Payments for 18 months! - This is similar to the rebate. It seems like a great deal at the time and may make you buy the product thinking that you don't have to pay. However, if you are one day late, you get 18 months of credit card late fees tacked on. These places are assuming that some portion of the people are going to pay late, so that's just extra money for them. Even if all that money just goes to the credit card company, the offer helps the store make more sales.
  9. Charging a Premium Price - This doesn't sound like much of a business trick. However, do you think Tiffany's jewelry is better made than other jewelry? Are their diamonds different than diamonds you can find elsewhere? Do they have magical special silver than other companies don't? No. They simply brand themselves as a high-end seller and people start to believe that owning the product is a symbol of status. This is why you don't see Tiffany's sell too much at a cheap price... it would erode the premium brand (and premium price) that they've built up. And you can't forget about the price-placebo effect.
  10. Multi-Level Marketing - This is a lot like an affiliate program, but with a bit of a twist. Instead of a company just paying people a commission to sell the product, they put a hierarchy into the system where people can actually make more money recruiting other people. They get people excited to earn millions of dollars like the few people who were early in and now at the top of the hierarchy. I'm not a fan of such systems. As a consumer, I don't want people pitching a "get rich" opportunity, especially when I can look at the numbers and say, hmm... 99% of these people aren't getting rich. However, from the company's perspective this is a cheap way to not only recruit millions of salesman, but also millions of customers by convincing them to buy the product themselves.

You may note that a certain company that I mentioned above actually uses quite a few of these business tricks.

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Last updated on December 16, 2009.

Murphy-Goode’s Smart Marketing with New Media

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Murphy-Goode Winery has an interesting job opportunity that you may or may not have heard of... a 6-month contract to be a "Lifestyle Correspondent" for Murphy-Goode Wine. It pays $10,000 a month - a fairly impressive salary considering that you get free rent on top of it. Oh you also get to learn how make wine.

What does the job entail? It's simply marketing the lifestyle of wine country via the Internet. You'd be expected to connect with Facebook and Twitter users, create videos of your experience on YouTube.

What makes this such a fabulous idea? A couple of things:

  • The Publicity of the Job Itself - What's it worth getting news coverage for this job? Hell, in a tiny, tiny way I'm contributing to the value that Murphy-Goode is getting by writing this post. I'd bet they received more than $60,000 worth of free advertising before they even choose the Lifestyle Correspondent.
  • Getting the Brand Spread Consistently - Part of me can't imagine people will follow the correspondent. However, I can imagine the correspondent will have a lot of Twitter followers and a lot of Facebook friends. This is surely a quality asset for Murphy. They'll increase their mind share, especially if they can keep it going with promotions it's followers.

I work with a company that employs a social media consultant. I don't have any firm statistics, but I'm fairly sure that the company doesn't get the same value for it's dollar as Murphy-Goode is going to. Then again, the product isn't quite as sexy. It's not very obvious to me how they could extend a similar type of promotion.

For a little while, I thought of applying for this position. I ended up skipping it because I'm not very good with the video camera. Also, it would be about 3 hours away from my wife and puppy. While they may be able to come with me, I'm sure my wife wouldn't appreciate that commute. However, it's not too late for you. If you hurry, there's still time to apply for the job. It ends on midnight Friday night.

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Posted on June 19, 2009.

Oprah’s Stanford Commencement Speech

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Yesterday I had the unique opportunity to celebrate a friend get her doctorate degree from Stanford University. It was the result of many years of hard work. Though it was her day in the sun, I found myself looking more towards Oprah's commencement speech. After all, there was little question how the day would go for my friend - she'd walk across the stage, get hooded, and then pose for an ungodly amount of pictures. With Oprah, on the other hand, I didn't know what to expect.

I don't have a lot of experience with Oprah. You'll notice this site isn't Lazy Woman and Money. I'm sure Oprah's audience does include many men, but her show is geared towards a women audience. My impression of the show has always been some woman sobbing about a tragedy and Oprah, saying, "There, there" while trying to find a way to make the situation at least a little better. Then there's a book review of something like The Secret, which is more about changing your life from thinking positively from the reviews I've read. (As Lazy as I am, I tend to believe in acting positively is necessary as well.) As you might be able to tell, I might not be basing this knowledge on any actual facts.

I was blown away by her speech. After about 10 minutes, I realized I could probably focus a week's worth of posts on it. I'm not going to drag you through that. Instead here's a fairly dense review of what I found interesting. At the end, you'll find text and video links to the entire commencement, so you can live the whole experience.

16 Thoughts on Oprah's Stanford Commencement Speech

  1. I think I laughed a little each time Oprah said Stanford, because she used a baritone voice to convey the exclusivity of the school.
  2. I think that I would be like Kirby Bumpus, a Stanford student, and not mention that Oprah is literally my fairy godmother.
  3. I think that no one needed a Wusthof knife to cut the tension when Oprah closed the ceremony with, "You know, I've always believed that everything is better when you share it, so before I go, I wanted to share a graduation gift with you. Underneath your seats you'll find..."
  4. I think that Oprah's story of not being one credit shy from graduating college for 12 years was great. She tied it into a great message when she went back to get the degree despite having more than enough success without it, quoting B.B. King, "The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take that away from you."
  5. I think that while I often write about money, this is a beautiful excerpt, "I believe that there's a lesson in almost everything that you do and every experience, and getting the lesson is how you move forward... I know that inner wisdom is more precious than wealth. The more you spend it, the more you gain."
  6. I think I learned that you should do what feels right. Oprah went into a story about her first job where everyone tried to make her into something that she wasn't. Even her father encouraged her to play along, "Just do your job", he'd say. This spoke to me recently with a contract job that I took. It's a great story for another day.
  7. I think that story lead into the one thing that's been driven home time and time again from this website, "When you're doing the work you're meant to do, it feels right and every day is a bonus, regardless of what you're getting paid... If it doesn't feel right, don't do it."
  8. I think this would be a horrible article if I didn't mention this nugget from the speech... "Let me tell you, money's pretty nice. I'm not going to stand up here and tell you that it's not about money, 'cause money is very nice. I like money. It's good for buying things. "
  9. I think it would be an even worse article if I didn't provide the full context, "What you want is money and meaning. You want your work to be meaningful. Because meaning is what brings the real richness to your life. What you really want is to be surrounded by people you trust and treasure and by people who cherish you. That's when you're really rich."
  10. I think having the trust of many readers and being surrounded by other great bloggers has brought meaning and real richness to my life.
  11. I think this is a great piece of advice, "There are many times when you don't know what to do. When you don't know what to do, get still, get very still, until you do know what to do."
  12. I think Oprah gave this piece of common advice, "Ask every failure "” this is what I do with every failure, every crisis, every difficult time "” I say, what is this here to teach me?"
  13. I think she tied that piece into her own experiences well, using the story of the sexual abuse at her school in Africa. She realized that her failure was in focusing on all the physical details of the school, and missing the overall picture that the people are what matter.
  14. I think that Oprah reiterated what Bobby Petrino said about dealing with adversity. In case you missed it, here's a recap. Greive properly, attend to the situation at hand, and get back to what was important before the crisis. It's too bad that Bobby Petrino turned out to be a twerp that left the Atlanta Falcons in their time of need.
  15. I think Oprah's third lesson is one that many of my personal finance blogging colleagues will nod and agree with... "Don't live for yourself alone. This is what I know for sure: In order to be truly happy, you must live along with and you have to stand for something larger than yourself. Because life is a reciprocal exchange. To move forward you have to give back. And to me, that is the greatest lesson of life. To be happy, you have to give something back."
  16. I think I now appreciate the amazing woman that Oprah is. If you think about it she's had every "strike" against her... a discriminated against race, sex, even weight. On top of it all she had a funny name... It's even more amazing when I realize that she became a public figure with all those "strikes" against her. It's not like she got rich by inventing dental floss.

For those interested, the full text of Oprah's speech is available on Stanford's website

If you have a half hour and want to get the full effect of the speech, hit play on the YouTube video below...

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Last updated on June 19, 2008.

Automated Housekeeping

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According to Google, I'm the second laziest man on the web. I jokingly grabbed the Lazy Man name because I abhor housekeeping. It's a chore which never ends. I hate the feeling that I'm not making an progress. So it got me thinking, What can I do to eliminate or at least reduce the housework? Fortunately, I was able to come up with a few ideas that reduce the housework:

  • iRobot Roomba - The iRobot Roomba has been fantastic. We let it run around once a week. It scoots under tables and chair better than a conventional vacuum. While it's cleaning, I'm free to do another task. If it seems expensive, stick with me for the rest of the article, it doesn't have to be as pricey as it seems.
  • iRobot Scooba - This is the equivalent of the iRobot Roomba for hard floors. It works equally well, too. Unfortunately it requires Scooba solution, which on Amazon is $10 a bottle. By ordering in bulk from the iRobot site, it can be bought for around $4 a bottle. A bottle lasts a long time since two ounces of solution can do a whole floor. However, I found that you can use an alternative solution. A little vinegar is all you need. It doesn't smell great right after cleaning, but within an hour the smell is gone.
  • Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner - At only $25, this is the cheapest of my automated housekeeping ideas. Simply press the button when you are done showering and the device blasts the walls of the shower and tub. We used to clean the bathroom once a week - now it's closer to once every 6 weeks. Once again the Scrubbing Bubbles Cleaning Solution is a expensive at $4.50 for a 3-week supply. And once again, I'm going to give you a much cheaper method. We looked in our cleaning supplies and found a bottle of Zap. It's concentrated, so it only takes 2 ounces of Zap every two weeks. Refilling the previous cleaner bottle is easier than you might think. The cap twists off and on with a little pressure.

I promised you a solution to the high price of the iRobots. You'll notice that both of them retail over $500. Using the Craigslist trick I mentioned yesterday, we got ours for a combined cost of $180. The value we receive is huge. We've been able to postpone our search for a housekeeper indefinitely. I get to be Lazy and my wife doesn't get mad at me.

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Posted on September 25, 2007.

Boomer Celebrities and Money…

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Money Magazine has an article interviewing several celebrities on their money habits. Here are a few that I liked:

  • My Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger - "Money doesn't make you happy. I now have $50 million, but I was just as happy when I had $48 million." That sounds a little more like Terminator logic than the logic I'd want from my governor. The thing is that while 2 million might not be a lot when you have 48 million (just 4%), I bet the average person would consider 2M to be a big difference in their lives. I'm not saying that money makes you happy, but I don't think his logic makes any sense.
  • Jerry Seinfeld - "Dogs have no money. Isn't that amazing? They're broke their entire lives. But they get through. You know why dogs have no money? No pockets." What?!?! Why is this in Money Magazine? What are we learning here?
  • James Taylor - "Time may be money, but your money won't buy time." - From "Sun on the Moon" James, my friend, money can buy you so much time. It can save you from having to do errands like landscaping and laundry. It can buy you better medicines which can buy longevity.
  • Cheryl Tiegs - Leave it to the supermodel to come up with the best idea. It's a little long to quote, but she's refreshing down to earth for a supermodel. The real gem is her parenting advice though. Well worth the clickthrough, and I'm not going to spoil the surprise here.
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Posted on March 7, 2007.

Amortize Your Possessions

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I mentioned last Friday that I had recently brought a a new mattress and a new set of tires. When two big expenses come up like this, it makes you think about what else might come up next. "They" say things come in threes right?

In anticipation of that third item, I've decided that my to-do list is going to grow a little bigger. At some point in the next couple of months, I'm going to take a tour of all my possessions and assess how long each of them might last. For instance the bedroom set is about 9 years old now, but I think it could last another ten years without a problem. My couch is only 3 years old, but some of the cushions are going to need a little work in a couple of years. The microwave is pretty old and could be the third item to need replacing. At least that's not going to be a pricey fix.

Does anyone else take inventory of his/her possessions?

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Last updated on December 23, 2007.

1 vs. 100 Text Message Scam Lottery

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Bob Saget, host of NBC's 1 vs. 100I have to admit it - sometimes Energi Gal and I like to stay in on Friday nights. It's not about saving money or anything like that. I think it's just that it's good to wind down from a long work-week.One of the shows that we like to watch is 1 vs. 100. I do okay, but Energi Gal is a dominate force. We've seen about 8 episodes and on only one question has she not known the answer - and on that question she guessed it right!

Right before the commercial they have a "Play 1 vs. 100 at Home" game for $100,000. The question is typically extremely easy such as this past week's "What completes the phrase 'like finding a ________ in a haystack.'" The options were a) pitchfork b) needle c) ice pick. Answer correctly (as 99% of the people in the group of 100 did) and you get entered in the drawing. It's free to play via the web, but they advertise the easy way - text messaging from a cell phone. Of course there's a 99-cent charge per entry and fortunately you can enter up to 10 times.

It makes me wonder how many people miss the fine-print and the disclosure of the 99-cent charge. How much money do you think NBC brings in from this lottery?

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Last updated on February 2, 2007.

The $250,000 Identity Mistake

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Last night I was watching the new NBC show Identity. I thought it would be terrible, but it's really not bad. There's a crazy rule and it drives me crazy. If you get everyone's identity right and get to the final two, they take away your Mistaken Identity - your do-over if you make a mistake.

So last night, the contestant gets down to three people. There is one male, a burly looking biker-type and two women, one in a nice dress and another in a just a typical shirt and shorts. The three clues she has to match are alligator wrestler, kidney donor, and CSI Investigator (at least I think that was the last one). So she chooses the guy and matches him with the alligator wrestler after getting all the experts' opinions. She gets it right cutting it to the two women. She loses her Mistaken Identity and realizes that she can go home with $250,000 or risk it all on a 50/50 shot at $500,000. She does the right thing and goes home.

Can you figure out what she should have done? If not, read on. She should have taken a stab at the kidney donor or the CSI Investigator as one of the women. Even if she gets it wrong, she just loses the Mistaken Identity. She can then ask the experts on the easy alligator wrestler. After that, due to the process of elimination, she can figure out the last two and take home the $500,000.

Hopefully, the other contestants will figure this out and take advantage. If so, NBC could be giving out some prize money - this situation has come up a couple of times in the first week.

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Last updated on January 1, 2007.

Best Idea Ever Series – Part 2 – Brainwash Cafe

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One of the coolest things that I found about San Francisco was the Brainwash Cafe. Sure it doesn't look like much from the outside, but you really need to give it a shot.

What makes it one of the best ideas ever? It's a laundromat... it's a cafe (with a liquor license)... it's an arcade (okay only 3 pinball machines... and it's a concert hall (as long as your band can fit on a 6' x 4' stage).

Everything is reasonably priced as well. If you get there from 4-7PM during the work week, they have $1 Pabst on draft. They'll even give you $1 off the food (or a free beer) if you are there to do laundry. My friend commented that it must be the best place in the world to pick up women. I imagine it would be.

On the night that we went, Everyday Jones was the entertainment. They totally rocked and I even got to pull Alissa's braid. Even though Energy Gal (my fiance) will kill me, I'm going to go out and say that she was super attractive. If you get a chance check them out.

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Last updated on December 14, 2006.

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