Granola Shotgun

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oldbeyond
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Granola Shotgun

Post by oldbeyond » Fri Aug 25, 2017 12:40 pm

Perhaps this is old news to a lot of people here but this is a gem of a blog: https://granolashotgun.com/

Basically it deals with the built environment and home economics during the long descent, with a lot of focus on practical ways to adapt to current systems, both physical and legal, both by the author himself as well as by his friends and neighbours. Also, there are lots of pictures ;)

halfmoon
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by halfmoon » Fri Aug 25, 2017 10:22 pm

Great stuff and new to me. I particularly like this: https://granolashotgun.com/2017/07/25/p ... pocalypse/

Thanks for sharing!

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SavingWithBabies
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by SavingWithBabies » Sat Aug 26, 2017 1:11 am

The author did an interesting presentation on four properties he bought:

https://vimeo.com/153180790

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Kriegsspiel
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Kriegsspiel » Sat Aug 26, 2017 8:44 am

I'm also a fan. I liked this article, quite EREy.

And this one, I'll bet 7 would like it.

oldbeyond
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by oldbeyond » Sat Aug 26, 2017 10:26 am

And here's some Alpha Strategy for you: https://granolashotgun.com/2017/02/23/a ... nt-page-1/

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SavingWithBabies
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by SavingWithBabies » Sat Aug 26, 2017 11:53 pm

I'm hooked. I've been reading it off and on when I have a chance. Quite a bit to ponder. I'm enjoying this post: The Springfield Strategy. The back and forth in the comments about the public schools is great and includes a link to It’s the Schools, Stupid! (Part I) written by the owner of the house featured in the blog post. And that house is so amazing...

Another great post is The Bitter Suite which delves into why the author of the blog decided to build an insulated "shed" with few amenities although looks amazing (it documents the building of the shed too). It touches on those DIY spray foam insulation kits I've always been curious about.

I've been pondering how to cut our housing costs. It's tempting to buy in my current location. However, it scares me. The prices are too high. One of the underlying threads in the blog is about how the current state of the USA is unsustainable. That we are on/near/somewhere close to the peak and the decline is coming. I identify with this and it has supported my personal feeling that now is a bad time to buy. The author in one post (don't remember which off hand), points out the house market is back up to the prices in 2006 before the collapse. If adjusted for inflation, not 100% of the way but 80%. There is a lot to mull over and the photography is top notch too.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Aug 28, 2017 2:02 pm

Eh. His writing is fine, and I like the photos, but the relentless beating of the "suburbs equal death" drum is monotonous.

I get it. City folks are very proud of being city folks. Fine. I like it when people live as they want to. But the embrace of one lifestyle does not require the death of all others, no matter how common.

His reoccurring theme of somehow, we need to plan our cities so future architecture students will be inspired is... Uninspiring.

In the real world, we build what we want, confined by what we can afford, and what is allowed. If you don't like it, don't build it, or rent it, and do build/rent/buy what you like.

Though I do like his "adapt, because the system will break before it bends" take on central planners.

All in all, the fantasy of building walkable cities, is just a fantasy. All cities will follow the Detroit model, or the Flint model. Their sewage, properly processed, will kill the rivers, and coasts, wiping out fisheries, while at the same time, overflowing into drinking water reservoirs. All depending on publicly maintained pumps to keep them working. Couple this to cost disease and urban budgeting, and it gets very clear that Detroit is the Seattle/San Francisco/Houston of the near future.

Sure, suburbs may die, but cities will as well. Walkable, or not.

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BRUTE
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by BRUTE » Mon Aug 28, 2017 10:37 pm

Riggerjack wrote:
Mon Aug 28, 2017 2:02 pm
it gets very clear that Detroit is the Seattle/San Francisco/Houston of the near future.

Sure, suburbs may die, but cities will as well. Walkable, or not.
more or less walkable now?

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Aug 29, 2017 9:52 am

@Kreigsspiel: Yup, Detroit is now like unto the open frontier of yore. Hurry, hurry, stake your claim!

@Riggerjack: I don't disagree with you on general principle, but I would note that most of the problems in Detroit and Flint are due to rapid decrease in human population, magnified by even larger decrease in capital investment. In many ways, Detroit is now less of an environmental disaster than it was 40 or 50 years ago. For instance, the river is very much cleaner than in the 70s. The lead issue in Flint was due to human engineering error, in conjunction with decaying infrastructure, not increased resource use due to population pressure. Might be more the case these-a-days that Detroit is heading in the direction of Seattle than that Seattle is heading in the direction of Detroit. Gentrification is proceeding at a fairly rapid clip. The proportion of vagrant scum to yuppie scum wandering around downtown on any given Saturday night has completely flipped in just the last 5 years or so. One Lyft driver told me that she dropped off some European tourists at an AirBnB in a still borderline sketchy neighborhood, and they were so excited to be visiting the city, that the driver felt sort of amused and concerned for their safety at the same time.

As the previously auto-industry loaded cities emptied out in recent decades, the migration from family farms and rural outposts also continued. So, the only growing areas have been the outer ring suburbs. Therefore, nature has been reasserting its reign in the city and in areas deemed too far for commute to centers of employment. There are neighborhoods within 15 minute walk of highest building in city center that now look something like scrub-countryside of some impoverished county in Georgia on a summer day, and bears, coyote, fox, eagles and wolves have all increased their range greatly since my childhood.

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SavingWithBabies
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by SavingWithBabies » Tue Aug 29, 2017 11:24 am

@Riggerjack I don't see it the same way. The underlying theme is that we have or are going to hit peak USA and economic growth is no longer going to be the same. In that context, he is looking at what housing areas are going to be the first to fall. His argument is that suburbia is often unsustainable economically. That much of it was built on the assumption that growth would continue. But if growth stops or goes negative, the issue is suburbia requires too much infrastructure per person. The roads are no cheaper per foot nor are the sewer lines or water pipes but the lower population density that still uses shared resources (city supplied -- unlike rural) makes the budget go negative.

No doubt there will be exceptions to this. Maybe it'll never hit some coastal/wealthy areas or it will take much longer.

However, I don't know the suburbs. My background is I grew up in the city (inner Chicago) but spent my whole summers on friends of family biodynamic farms in Wisconsin. So maybe I'm missing some of it. I also don't necessarily buy the peak USA thesis but it seems worth hedging against it.

Detroit is an interesting case -- I've been watching closely from afar. It definitely feels like it is coming back from the downtown outwards. It may never be what it once was but it is far from dead. Even with all of the economic issues and political scandals, it struggles forward and is living. It seems to be hard to kill the core of a city.

@7Wannabe5 If one wanted to move to Detroit (from not far away -- I'm renting in Saline now), how would you recommend getting a feel for the different areas? I don't want to dox myself but the school system I'm connected with is near Charlevoix St and Burns Ave. The school there is K-8 so we'd still have to figure out high school. Those old huge brick 5+ bedroom houses are amazing. I see sellers of fixed up 6 bedroom mansions asking $300k though and still not selling. Did all of those get scooped up and rehabbed? With ERE goals, I don't want to spend $300k but it is amazing what it can buy.

Interestingly though, that couple linked above who were homesteading in Detroit ended up selling and moving on. Apparently, it was taking too much time away from their artistic/work focus with gardening and/or AirBnB and/or ? My wife has said the same thing has happened with the childhood friends she had in Ann Arbor that moved to Detroit -- they stayed for a while and then ended up leaving. So I am cautious. However, we're in a different spot with kids and wanting to settle down so I am still mulling it over.

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Aug 30, 2017 5:10 am

@SavingWithBabies:

It's all a bit of a crap shoot, but in terms of what I think is more likely to be developed sooner rather than later, I would stick to within the boundaries of Davison, Livernois, Woodward and Mt. Elliot./Conant, with a good deal of dubious even within those bounds. IMO, the west side and many of the inner ring downriver and western suburbs are going to take a lot longer. I hate to have to say this, but a serious downside is that the schools are terrible, so you would probably have to either pay for private or join some sort of home-schooling co-op.

You might also want to consider the possibility of going even more rural. I raised my kids in a very inexpensive large old historic home in the realm another 20-30 minutes further out from Saline. Upside being that the little town was so safe I could let my kids wander pretty free. Downside being commute through deer country on two lane highway. Not much ethnic diversity in rural Michigan, but more socio-economic diversity than in the suburbs. The house next to mine was practically a shack, but another two doors down was a 3 story fully restored Victorian mansion inclusive of cupola. In 1992, I couldn't even afford a decent sized apartment in Ann Arbor, but I was able to purchase a 2850 sq. ft home with features such as original leaded glass French doors for $79,900. The property tax rate is also much lower in rural areas.

I am still bouncing back and forth between city mouse/country mouse, with decided opinion that the suburbs represent a very poor, over-priced compromise rather than the best of both worlds.

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Kriegsspiel
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Kriegsspiel » Fri Sep 01, 2017 6:29 pm

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Tue Aug 29, 2017 9:52 am
@Kreigsspiel: Yup, Detroit is now like unto the open frontier of yore. Hurry, hurry, stake your claim!
I live here now. Still not sure if I want to stake a claim :lol:

Do you include Mexicantown and Corktown in the west side inner ring? I thought they were pretty cool.

What is the other realm you speak of?

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Fri Sep 01, 2017 7:22 pm

@Kreigsspiel: Yeah, I did include Mexicantown and Corktown, or at least that was my intention. They are both a mix of rough and cool. The everything is $1 thrift store where I buy most of my clothes is in Mexicantown, and sometimes a date will buy me dinner at one of the new upscale restaurants in Corktown. The other realm is Lenawee county. Have I doxed myself now? Is there some kind of squad that will show up if I did?

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jennypenny
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by jennypenny » Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:36 pm

This post is good on the death of household productivity ... https://granolashotgun.com/2017/10/11/a ... ductivity/

I like his point that those lifestyles/arrangements force people to monetize every aspect of their lives.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Sun Oct 22, 2017 10:41 am

the issue is suburbia requires too much infrastructure per person. The roads are no cheaper per foot nor are the sewer lines or water pipes but the lower population density that still uses shared resources (city supplied -- unlike rural) makes the budget go negative.
I've heard this before. It wasn't true then, and it ain't true now.

For an objective look, compare taxes to services urban, suburban, and rural. Cities consistently have higher taxes, and provide the same services as suburbs, they just don't provide the same quality. There are streets of Seattle patched so heavily, and so uneven, touching your brakes triggers antilock braking and traction control to kick in. In the suburb of Marysville, my residential street was repaved before the first pot hole.

Now, I work in telecom engineering, I worked on the fiber to the home overlay project, installing a parallel network to the existing copper network. And I can tell you that aerial plant (telephone poles) is cheap to install, but very expressive to maintain. Underground plant is immune to nearly everything but backhoes. Cities existed before telecom, for the most part, so most cities use aerial plant. Suburbs are installed in developer provided conduit, most of the time. Way cheaper to maintain. That's power and communication infrastructure.

Street construction costs are determined by access, and distance to quarries and asphalt plants. These are economical only where land is cheap, I have never seen either in a city, usually the costs are high enough to have quarries on several sides of a good sized city, because it is worth opening a new quarry rather than haul gravel across town. And the farthest point from quarries is going to be downtown. Then factor in how much work it is to clear everyone and everything out of the way to repaved. Crews in cities have to coordinate this months ahead, and it causes such an uproar that patching potholes is the common practice, rather than trying to get all the equipment in to repave. Thus the pavement in Seattle that makes my gravel driveway seem smooth.

Water and sewer? These are sunk costs, and you have to maintain the system that was installed. The city of Everett just finally dug up the leaky water mains on marine view, about 10 years ago. They were made from creotsoted wood. Hollow log mains are not as rare as you would think, and still serve in lots of systems. They leak, they rot, and they only get replaced when they leak so much they open up sinkholes. Suburbs have more modern pipes, less maintenance, less waste.

So what's left of infrastructure? As near as I can tell, symphonies. Seattle has one, Marysville has a few HS bands, so yeah, cities provide a better product there, hands down. Other than that, though, I can't see anything cities do better or cheaper than suburbs.

Rochester NY has lost a bunch of citizens over the decades. I imagine it would be a good model for what happens. I have never been, I only know it because that is the HQ for the company I work for, and I looked up the wikipedia page. Anyone been to Rochester? Anyone know how this worked there?

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Ego
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Ego » Sun Oct 22, 2017 2:04 pm

Riggerjack wrote:
Sun Oct 22, 2017 10:41 am
the issue is suburbia requires too much infrastructure per person. The roads are no cheaper per foot nor are the sewer lines or water pipes but the lower population density that still uses shared resources (city supplied -- unlike rural) makes the budget go negative.
I've heard this before. It wasn't true then, and it ain't true now.
The Halifax Regional Municipality has all three, city, suburban and rural within their municipality. Here is their conclusion.
Halifax found the cost of administering services varied directly in proportion to how far apart homes were spaced. On the rural end, each house sat on a 2.5 acre lot. On the very urban end, there were 92 people dwelling on each acre. Between those two extremes were several development patterns of varying density.
https://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/03/05/ ... velopment/

Image

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Riggerjack
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Oct 23, 2017 4:29 pm

@ego
The Halifax Regional Municipality has all three, city, suburban and rural within their municipality. Here is their conclusion.
:lol: so, you are trying to say that central planning is good at presenting itself in the best possible light? Your link went to fluff, summarizing the PR release of the halifax regional planning board, who was "summarizing" other studies I couldn't dig into, since they are about 15 years old. Not that being up to date would in anyway make them more accurate. The ways they "simplified" their math is revealing, though.

For instance, this is interesting:
As a broad comparison, it may be interesting to note that the average residential property tax (per
dwelling) in 2003-04 was about $1,200, less than the estimated costs for any of the eight settlement
patterns.
If did a bunch of estimates, and every single one came in higher than mean, I would recheck my math! :roll:

So, to avoid any possibility of cherry picking, I ran the numbers in Seattle vs Marysville.

Seattle 2016 transportation expenditures $422,432,612 population:704,352 density:8398/mi2.
So that's $600/ person.

Marysville $6.6 million for streets, population: 66,773 density:2900/mi2.
Or just under $100/ person.

Disclaimer: accounting ain't my strong suit, cities organize budgets differently, and many of the line items in Seattle's transportation budget may be under other categories in Marysville. However, with a 6:1 cost ratio, I am very confident that it is still far cheaper to maintain infrastructure in Marysville than Seattle.

I just used Google to find budgets, and Wikipedia for city stats. Anyone can do this. Can anyone find a case showing urban areas demonstrating their efficiency of scale? This doesn't require an end to growth, we can just look at costs today. Surely, such obvious economies of scale have already kicked in, examples should be everywhere.

Strange how urban areas are associated with higher taxes though, isn't it? I assume that just pays for all this serendipity I keep hearing about.

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SavingWithBabies
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by SavingWithBabies » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:03 pm

Is it crazy to think that the best long term bet might actually be a couple acres outside of the city with electric and natural gas but without septic and water? I am thinking of that here in the midwest where water is plentiful. After the water and sewer debacle with my current rental, I'm looking at your own septic and well with more favorable eyes. I have relatives on well and I know hard water can be a problem. But it seems like, in the long term, one has much more control over the expenses for both compared to getting them from the government.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:08 pm

I just ran unincorporated snohomish county for comparison. 2016 transportation: $109,129,226. I had to play with the population numbers. I took the 2010 census numbers, and subtracted the 2010 population of the 20 largest cities in the county (20th largest city in the county is Index, population 178. I'm not worried about anything smaller.), giving me 285,202. I'm sure that's low, we are growing fast, but whatever, it's close enough, and the error is on the expensive side.

So rural Snohomish county spent $382/person. Or less than 2/3 of Seattle's transportation budget per person in a fairly rural area. And Snohomish county budget was very straight forward.

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SavingWithBabies
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by SavingWithBabies » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:15 pm

@Riggerjack The cost breakdown/comparison is interesting but what about the actual usage? Like in cost per ride or something like that?

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Ego
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Ego » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:20 pm

@Rigger, yeah, I get that it is not a simple calculation. But there is a simple logic underlying why cities are more efficient... economies of scale.

Rural residents frequently use city service (roads, parks, libraries, waste treatment for their septic system cleanout, etc.) yet despite this, the economies of scale make cities more efficient. Rural residents often require extra special services that are not necessarily factored into their cost. Like ferries, for instance. How much of the cost of the Washington State Ferry system is paid by fares? How much is direct subsidies? What would happen to island dwellers if the state said, "Meh, this is too expensive", and stopped the service?
Last edited by Ego on Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:22 pm

@ SWB:
Why would you want to outsource water and septic? What is the advantage of being outside a city on acreage (higher purchase price, higher taxes)?

Everything in our current land of plenty is preferences. If your preferences match that of the crowds, prepare to outbid them to get what you want. When your preferences no longer align with the preferences of the crowd, you have to deal with that.

My strategy has been to avoid the crowds. But I can't say that is the best strategy, just what works for me.

I'm only arguing about this because I have seen the panicked look in the eyes of city folks trying to figure out how anything works without streetlights... Truth be told, I prefer people live where they want, even in cities.

But when the assumed narrative is that one place is obviously the better, sometimes facts help disperse fictions.
Last edited by Riggerjack on Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:38 pm

@ Ego
And city folk won't stay in the cities, hence the 40 miles of backups going back to Seattle from every direction every Sunday afternoon.

The ferry service was siezed from black point, back in the 50's as part of the highway system. It used to be entirely private. Again, used by rural folks all week, and 3 hour lines of tourists on the weekends. I don't know what percentage of cost is covered by fares, varies by run, I'm sure. Again, state ownership jacks up prices.

If the ferry shut down, most residents would throw parties! And then, most who work on the mainland would adapt. We would quickly see a small private system again, like the passenger ferry from Port orchard to Bremerton. He'll, even hat island with population of 32 full time residents can keep a private ferry system going. Property values close to ferries would drop, local government would go into blind flailing panic without tourist taxes and lower property taxes (island county has a free bus system, paid for by higher sales tax).

I do know the Sounder, light rail from Mukilteo to Seattle costs $47/ passenger, if every trip is at capacity, and the fair is $9, if that helps.

Again, if there are any economies of scale to urban areas, it should be perfectly clear in a budget. I ran 3, and it's not like I had to cherry pick to find easy evidence of absence of economy of scale. But 3 is a small sample size.

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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by jacob » Mon Oct 23, 2017 5:52 pm

@Riggerjack/Ego - Could it be that you guys are arguing whether the energy-dollar price of transportation is fair in the short run vs in the long run? Or are you arguing whether it's fair in the near space or in the far space, given current pricing?

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Riggerjack
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Re: Granola Shotgun

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Oct 23, 2017 6:01 pm

Hint. If I wanted to prove that cities COULD have an economy of scale, I would look for one on flatland, with minimal bordering water, like a river. Seattle is hills squeezed between water bodies, with creeks and rivers cutting through, so could be overly expensive.

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