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The Adventures of Engineer Jim


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OK Folks, here you go:

I worked as a cabinet builder at Klipsch from 1976 to 1983. Sometime not very long after I started working there a new engineer was hired. His first name is Jim and his wife's name is Becky.

Jim and Becky came from West Virginia. Both were well-educated at fine colleges. They were a very loving couple and devoted to each other. They were also "good people"...the kind of people everybody enjoys being around, and are honored to have had the opportunity to know...as was the case with my feelings for them both. They were avid collectors of antiques, and especially glass collectibles...already having a surprisingly extensive collection for a couple so young. Jim's passion for antiques overlapped his vocation in that he was very interested and knowledgable about old audio equipment...which eventually led to his being "unofficially" named the curator of the Klipsch museum during its early development.

Jim had opportunities to take up employment at other places which would have been much more lucrative for him, but jumped at the opportunity to go to work at Klipsch, instead. He once told me that any engineer with any sense at all would NEVER turn down an opportunity to work with PWK! I admire Jim for many things. Over the years, he has proven himself one of the most capable engineers that Klipsch has ever had...with a very long list of accomplishments there!

Becky was an excellent cook, and shortly after arriving in Hope, she began working part-time at Pioneer Kitchen in Old Washington. On many of the Saturdays we had to work a half-day overtime, many of us employees would go there after work to eat. Before many of us had gotten the opportunity to know Jim very well, we already knew Becky. BTW, she makes an extensive variety of quiche to die for! Smile.gif

These two are good people, and in writing the following anecdotes, it is NOT my intention to make anyone appear ridiculous. At some time in everyone's life they have done things that they can look back on and hopefully laugh about...as those around them laughed about shortly after the events occurred. The most important thing for the reader to remember here is that Jim and Becky are the kind of people who will laugh along with others who see humor in something either of them has done, even if the events may not have been very humorous at the time the event occurred...like I said...good people!!!


Shortly after Jim was hired on at Klipsch, new equipment was being installed in the company's listening room that had just undergone remodeling. I really didn't know Jim yet, having only seen him run around in the plant on occassion. One day, a number of boxes arrived in shipping and receiving and were sent over to the area where I worked. They were obviously new audio components. My being an audio equipment nut, I of course was curious when I saw TASCAM on one of the boxes, and during lunch break stuck around as Jim unpacked the boxes and set the equipment up on the table there.

Jim was busy unpacking and I helped him out, and when the TASCAM box was opened up, I commented that I had a tape deck EXACTLY like that at home, but it was a Teac, not a TASCAM. Shortly after that, we unpacked a DBX 4-channel noise reduction unit, and I said I also had one of those at home, but an earlier model. When I told him this, he nodded his head, but the look in his eye said "yeah, right!" Well, I asked how much the reel-to-reel cost and he said $1800.00. I told him I had paid just under 500 bucks for mine just a few years earlier, but I had gotten it while on sale when it was already going for a heavily discounted price. Same look from him again. Well, about that time the "back to work" buzzer went off and I went over to my workbench and started slapping out some more Heresys, thinking "Geez! That went well...he doesn't even know me yet and he already thinks I am full of crap!!!"

Anyway, over the next few weeks, he was wandering about the plant here and there and getting to know some of the working stiffs and everybody was talking about how nice he was.

I was fixing to throw a backyard party at my little frame rent house out in the country south of Emmett. I wandered around the plant on breaks telling everybody to come on out, free eats and beer!!! I also invited Jim. It was early spring, and alot of the folks planned to do something else that Saturday, and didn't commit to coming, but I ordered 3 kegs anyway.

Saturday started out cold and dreary, with misting rain, but before noon the sky cleared and it warmed up nicely...a beautiful day for an outside party. I had borrowed a pair of LaScalas from the plant and had put them outside up against the back of the house, carefully running speaker wire around the side of the house through the window of the living room where my Heresys were. I had already recorded three 2-hour reels of rock/pop music and five or six cassetes of "progressive country" for the party. I had set up the stereo system so that the LF and RF cables for the reel-to-reel were running to the same inputs on the HK900+ QUAD receiver's tape monitor 1, BUT I was also running the L and R cables of the cassette deck to the LR and RR inputs on the receiver's tape monitor 1. That way I could play country inside the house from the cassette deck AND rock from the reel-to-reel outside the house on the same tape monitor, and use the joystick balance control on the HK to balance them out....gotta love that HK900+!!!!

I had figured to have maybe 20-30 people max show up for the party throughout the afternoon because so many had made prior plans to go to the lake or whatever. I had already thawed out a big doe I had frozen from deer season, and although I planned to cook most of it up over the weekend, I only expected to need to bar-b-que about one ham and shoulder for the party. By noon, a few of my closest friends had arrived and things looked good...everything in order...enough food, etc...BUT...it wasn't long before alot more people arrived...soon my driveway and huge front yard and even up and down the road was filled with vehicles!!! I ended up cooking that ENTIRE doe that day to feed the crowd!!!

Jim and Becky showed up in the early afternoon, coming around to the back of the house where they could hear the LaScalas cranking. I was busy as hell, cooking and swapping out a fresh keg to the cooler when they got there. They mingled a bit and Jim came to the kitchen door. I handed him two cold beers and he overheard the Heresys in the living room playing music different from what the LaScalas out back were blasting.

He wandered into the living room, saw my equipment and came back and said "Hey, that is just like the reel-to-reel in the new listening room!!" I said "I told ya that I had one just like it!" He said "I am gonna go give Becky her beer and come back and look at your set-up some more! Do you have a minute to talk about it with me?" I said "Sure thing, Jim!" He came back and I explained how I had set up the tape decks to the reciever and such, and we did alot of shooting the bull about equipment on and off the rest of the day while enjoying the biggest party I ever had thrown!!!

Funny thing, though...Jim never did give me that "yeah, right!" look again after that day. Smile.gif


It has been my experience that engineers, architects, and such sometimes let themselves get so focused on the final result of a project, that they get in too big a hurry to let common sense enter into the process.

A year or so after Jim and Becky arrived, they bought a piece of land on the edge of Hope. The intent was to first build a "barn-like" structure on the land. In this structure they would have both room to live, and to store their massive amount of "stuff", while saving the money they had been paying for rent and using that money toward building their home. Good logical thinking!!

Well, one day at work, I realized I had not seen Jim around for a day or so...and I knew he had a "hot project" he was working on that required him to be spending some time in the cabinet shop to get it completed. I asked around the plant and all I heard was: "You haven't heard about what Jim did the other day?", and then the employee would start laughing so hard that they couldn't even finish telling me what had happened to poor old Jim. I later found out from Jim, himself, the details:

Before construction on "the barn" began, some improvements were in order on the land. A fence had to be built and Jim, with occassional help from some of the employees, began setting the fenceposts, but there was just one problem: At the point where the fence met the "driveway", he needed to set a heavy post with bracing to later support a gate.

Well, he had decided that if he was gonna go to all that work, then he was gonna use the best damned fencepost material there was for that heavy endpost. And that material was gonna be OSAGE ORANGE. Osage Orange is probably the hardest damned wood in North America. It is locally called by a variety of names such as "Bois'd'Arc" and "Horse Apple tree". It is the most insect resistant, rot-resistant, water-resitant, hell...EVERYTHING resitant...wood there is that one can find in North America, too. In other words, it will last FOREVER!!! Jim's kinda fencepost!!! The important thing to remember about it though, is that because it is so damned hard, it is also CHAINSAW RESISTANT!!!

Jim, being a logical sort of guy, knew that he had an osage orange tree very close to where that post had to be set, and that if he cut it down for the post he wouldn't have to haul it far to get it there...and osage orange is HEAVY AS HELL!!! He also realized that he didn't need the tree trunk, because it was alot larger than what he needed for that fencepost. He instead decided to just use one of its limbs that was "just right for that post".

Well, the weekend before I noticed he wasn't at work, Jim decided to saw that limb off that osage orange tree. Keep in mind that the limb was about 8-10 feet up in that tree. He went and got his chainsaw, and put a brand-new chain on it, because the wood was hard as hell and a sharp cutting instrument would be needed.

Then he got out his ladder so he could climb up and saw the limb off, and put it against the tree, and climbed up it with his chainsaw.

Well, Jim sawed and sawed and sawed...finally getting that damned limb sawn through...and just as the limb started to come down, he realized, MUCH TO HIS SURPRISE, the folly of having that ladder leaning up against the tree UNDER THE LIMB HE WAS SAWING OFF!!!

As Jim lay around for the next couple of months in a cast for his broken hip, he had alot of time to gloat over having a huge fencepost that would last forever just sitting there on the ground waiting to be set.


Jim and I had gotten to know each other alot better over time and had alot of respect for each other in many ways. One thing I found particularly unusual about Jim was his willingness to listen to another's opinion on a subject, especially if that opinion was based on solid information...a quality not always found in engineers , architects, etc. Jim was also pretty good at taking others' suggestions and giving them a try if the suggestion seemed a good one. He was also generally extrememly polite, even when being presented with "bullsh*t".

One morning I got to work and was milling around before the "time to get yer butt to work" buzzer rang and I noticed a complete set of panels and such for a pair of LaScalas and another set for a pair of heresys had been sawn out of medium density particleboard (MDF). I asked around and was told a pair of heresys and a pair of LaScalas were gonna be built out of the parts. "The 'powers that be' are considering making some of the Industrial speakers out of particleboard now."

Later that day, Jim came over and asked me to rout out the throats to the LaScala "doghouse" motorboards from the MDF panels, and the LaScala and Heresy fronts, too. I told him I was gonna be covered in that fine dust and wasn't looking forward to it, but I did it, and I asked him why they were gonna build a LaScala out of "this crap".

He explained how the consistent density of the MDF made it a better material for the performance of the LaScala folded horn, as compared to plywood...and said that its lower price would save the company alot of money in production...but it would only be used on the speakers that were painted black or fiberglassed.

I retorted that "It may save some money in materials, but in every other way it will cost alot more in production and other areas". He asked me why I thought that? As I went back to work, building heresys, he stood near me and we discussed this:

I explained that it would require a better dust collection system on the saws and overhead router to keep from covering the workers in its extremely fine dust, and that it would also require the wearing of dust masks when performing those functions. I also explained how the people around it during those functions would be spending alot of time cleaning dust off their safety goggles which would lower output.

Jim then told me how much faster the sanding room portion of the manufacturing process would go since the MDF required no sanding of its outer panels because it was already so smooth.

I retorted that, since the LaScala and decorator Heresy were both built using lap joints, and those lap joints were left slightly "proud" to be sanded flush in the sanding room, then that didn't make much difference because it would take alot more time and skill to sand those edges flush and the joint seems would have to be puttied with something so that the seam didn't show after painting. Then I told him that MDF never does well being sanded, and explained why. I also reminded him that the dust collection would be a problem back there, too...and that for the case of the LaScala, at least, the sheer increase in weight of the cabinet when made out of MDF would require more time be used by the ladies back there in order to get the cabinet turned over and around on their little tables during the sanding process, since it would take at least two of them to do it each time it had to be done. I also reminded him that none of the gals back there were "spring chickens" anymore, and not to forget time lost on the job due to back injuries from all that heavy lifting.

Then Jim and I discussed the painting process. I explained that MDF just "sucks-up paint bigtime" along the sanded edges, making it difficult to achieve a clean looking finish...especially where lap-joints are concerned. This would require a better job in the sealing of the cabinet prior to painting, therefore more paintroom time.

Finally, Jim said that at least in the cabinet assembly process, no time would be lost.

I then explained to him that MDF doesn't accept the glue we use on its factory-finished sides, but sucks it up bigtime on its sawn edges, and how a different adhesive MAY have to be used. I also pointed out that if the nails going through the flat side of the lap joints into the edge below were too much off center, the MDF would either at least "swell-out" some or a chunk would "blow out" of it, therefore requiring more care by the builders when assembling the cabinets, and more time...and in the case of fixing accidents, it would take alot more time...resulting in loss of production. He nodded.

Then, I mentioned that in final assembly, when the components were screwed into the cabinets, it would require more attention so that the MDF didn't strip out from too much torque OR the screw heads didn't get twisted off...not to mention that when putting a screw into MDF, it tends to bulge upwards, and the inherent problems that would cause getting a good seal of the horns and woofers to the fronts. Then I mentioned that MDF doesn't hold a screw as well as plywood does.

All through this discussion of MDF, Jim stood there patiently listening while I talked and built cabinets. He was taking it all in. But when I told him it would not hold a screw as well as plywood, he said that the manufacturer rep for the material had told him that was just an "old wive's tale." I told him I could prove it, if he came back during lunch break. He said he would and then he left.

At lunchtime, I took a long glue block and stapled it to a table-top. Then, I pre-drilled the pilot holes for mounting the drivers into two heresy fronts..one was birch plywood, the other was MDF. Jim watched this, noting I was drilling each front the same.

Next, I installed the two UPPER screws through a mid-range horn flange into each the fronts., using the same pneumatic screwdriver. Then, I stood each front up on their bottom edges, with their side edges touching, and with the bottom edges against the glue block I had earlier stapled to the tabletop, so that the bottom edges of the Heresy fronts couldn't slide forward. Now the horn throats were sticking out toward the edge of the table.

I told Jim to stand, centered between the two midrange horns, to put his hands on top of the throats of the two horns and steady them, without grasping them, and with his hands identically positioned on the throats. He did so. Then I told him to slowly walk backwards, taking minute steps, while retaining equal downward pressure on the horns until he was off balance and the horns were EQUALLY supporting his upper body weight.

He seemed amused at this, but did just as I asked. While he was doing this, I positioned myself so that i could see the upper edges of the horn flanges (the only edges screwed against the fronts).

It was only a minute or so before the screws in the MDF heresy front started to back out, as Jim continued to back-up with more and more of his weight being EQUALLY transferred to each horn throat. I had intended to tell him to stop before the screws in the MDF backed out very much, but he immediately noticed it, and stopped anyway.

He stood up straight and said "You're right!!! MDF doesn't hold a screw as well as the plywood!!! That salesman was full of bull!!!"

I said "Remember, Jim, a salesman's job is to sell the product, and he will tell you whatever he thinks you want to hear to make the sale...ESPECIALLY if he makes his living from COMMISSIONS!!!"

Then I removed the screws from the top of the midrange horn flanges in each heresy front, grabbed a pair of tweeters and told him to watch. As I drove two screws slowly through the tweeter flanges into the wood below, I had him positioned to observe the point where the flange met the wood on that side. I said "Now watch as the wood bucks up as the screws goes into it, then notice how it will flatten back out as the flange is pulled tight to it on the plywood, BUT on the MDF it will never completely flatten back out". He watched, and he learned. I said, "Now is that gonna be a good seal, or is there a possiblity of squeaks on what is supposed to be an airtight seal?" He grinned.

Next, I shot a nail dead center into the edge of the plywood, and another into the MDF. Then I told him to grasp the wood by its edge and slowly "feel" where the MDF had swollen outward, but the Plywood hadn't. He did, and grinned again. I grabbed the MDF and said "Those sanding ladies are gonna hate this stuff." He grinned again.

Lunchtime ended and he left and I got back to building Heresys.

Although those pairs of LaScalas and Heresys WERE built and tested, they never went into production.

While the process of building these two pairs of speakers progressed, I sometimes noticed Jim talking to the employees involved. I like to hope that my input to Jim was the reason for that, as I sincerely believe it was!!!

I can just imagine him performing those tests for the "number-crunchers" and telling why the changeover would not end up saving any money after all...but I doubt he would have needed to say any more than: "Our exhaustive testing has concluded that, although MDF is less expensive than plywood, other costs involved in using it would negate any benefit from that savings, and very likely increase the overall cost of each unit produced"...or something like that. Smile.gif

This message has been edited by HDBRbuilder on 04-26-2002 at 11:18 AM

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Wow, thanks for taking the time to write that! Simply a GREAT read!

It's nice to know that common sense wins out over accountants' needs for paper profits!






Eico HF-81

Eico HFT-90

AES AE-25 "Superamp" (in temporary retirement)

AES AE-3 Pre-amp (in temporary retirement)

New Tube 4000 CD Player

1976 Klipschorns (KCBR's & ALK'ed)


Klipsch 1968 ALK Cornwall "II"s (LF/RF)

ALK Belle Klipsch (Center)

Klipsch Heresy (RR/LR)

Klipsch KSW-12 sub

Sonic Frontiers Anthem AMP1 (driving Cornwalls)

Sonic Frontiers Anthem AMP1 (driving Heresy's)

Denon AVR-4800

Toshiba SD-3109 DVD

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Wow, three kegs for 30 people... it's a good thing the rest showed up!

Yep, that's the kind of thing that can be turned into the making of a good book. Isn't it great that Klipsch has the kind of Forum that makes a post like this something to be proud of.

HDBRbuilder, is it alright if I call you HDBR for short? Wink.gif -HornED

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Thanks Folks,

I'm glad your enjoying my meanderings! Smile.gif


Well, I have a few short stories I have written (guess I have a few more now, huh? LOL!)...but I have never tried to get anything published yet...hmmm


RE: the party and those kegs...

My girlfriend and I were overwhelmed by how many people showed up!! We estimated that at the height of the party action, there were over 200 there, and that well over 400 total came!!! Funny thing is...since most had purchased beer and such for cancelled weekend plans due to the rain that morning, they brought their liquid refreshments with them to the party! Out of the three kegs I had purchased, when the last partier passed out in his car at 3 am, I still had one keg untapped and half a keg in the cooler!!!!! As for the doe I cooked up outside on the 55 gallon drum grill, all of that was gone by 5 pm, AND it was BIG DOE, too!!! But alot of folks had brought hot dogs, hamburger, steaks, chips, and fixins and such they had planned to use elsewhere, so there was plenty of food around, even at 3 am!!!

Another funny thing...One of the Klipsch employees lived about a mile and a half as the crow flies behind my house. Just behind my huge backyard, across the barbed-wire fence, was a relatively thin stand of tall pine trees, beyond that was open pasture very gently rising upward, and then sloping back downward again...being open all the way to this employees's house. The LaScalas up against the back of my house were firing that direction.

When I got to work the next Monday, he came up to me and asked how the party had gone. Well...he is a pretty straight-laced non-drinking country boy kinda guy, so I was worried that something might have happened...maybe one of the partygoers had had an accident by his ranch or something....

I answered: "Oh, the party went great...why do you ask?" He said, "Well, I could hear the music over at my place." I said, "I'm sorry, I won't let that happen again."

He said, "Oh, I ain't complaining. It wasn't just exactly MY kind of music, but it sure sounded good. I even got me a pitcher of iced tea and sat outside on the patio and listened for awhile. Were those LaScalas?"

I told him they were. He asked how much power the amp was puttin' out. I told him 32 watts. He laughed and said, "Those doggone things really crank don't they?" I laughed and said, "Yep, they sure do!!!"

He was the Belle builder!! Smile.gif

BTW, relating to The Famous Fencepost Incident:

When a FEW of the employees related THEIR version of the events, they said Jim was sitting ON THE LIMB, and NOT standing on the ladder, when the limb broke loose, but I am sure he wasn't...after all...Jim wouldn't tell a fib about that, would he? Smile.gif

RE: "Can I call you HDBR?"

Sure...no problem...I am deign to use my real first name, since it may cause confusion as another frequent poster has the same one....besides, using my real name would just make it easier for the "hit-man" to find me, now wouldn't it? Smile.gif

This message has been edited by HDBRbuilder on 04-26-2002 at 02:05 PM

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Great story HDBR! I'm sure it was fun as well as educating to spend time with Jim and Becky. I look forward to getting to know them. cwm17.gif I was very impressed with Jim when I met him at the Fan Club Tour in Hope. He really knows his stuff.Steve has met his family and likes them all. Klipsch is so full of interesting people. I am glad Steve introduced me to this fine company. I have had many years of pleasure from their speakers and look forward to many more.I would also like to add that everyone I have met there is REALLY GOOD people. cwm35.gif


The token female for the Klipsch Fan Club Tour 2001

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Thanks again Folks.

I am primarily posting this to ensure that my signature line works.

Coming soon to a forum near you, more on Engineer Jim and PWK.


If you want to send a private message, or have already done so, be aware I have not as yet been able to retrieve them. Send e-maill instead, please...just note Klipsch forum in the heading so it doesn't get deleted.

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HDBR - When you worked at Klipsch, were there speakers laying around that employees could take home to listen to. I've read in some of your posts that you took home LaScala's for the weekend. Was this common practice, or did you have to pull strings to do this. Just curious. Great stories, keep them coming.


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HDBR -- Nice post. Sounds like Klipsch was a good place to work, where the engineers took heed of what the production folks had to say.

I recently got a pair of '77 cornwalls. Is there any chance you would've built 'em? One funny thing is that one of the stickers on the back isn't completely filled out. Neither the model nor the inspection sign-off is filled in.

Also, I noticed the squaker in one had some of the inside lining stuck to it. Is this normal??

My brother owns some '81 cornwalls which are all black. Are his made of MDF??

Just curious...


This message has been edited by mace on 04-28-2002 at 11:14 PM

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As for the possibility of me having built those cabinets, Look at the back of the speaker...on the back edge of the left side(as you face it from the back), look up at the top just below the joint. There should be some letters stamped into it...some may be feintly stamped, some may be easy to see...those are the sander and builder codes..it you can tell me what they are I may be able to tell you who built and sanded them.

As for one label not being filled out, and that bit of insulation on the mid-range driver...it sholdn't be there, and whoever did the final assembly either didn't notice it there(VERY unlikely), OR it was stuck elsewhere inside the cabinet when the back was put on and wasn't noticed and ended up stuck to the adhesive that held the driver's PWK label when the cabinet was moved around in packing or shipping.....As for the label, the final assembler must have grabbed one while not paying attention and not realized it hadn't been filled-in yet when he or she put it on.

One note here: The fall of 1977 was hectic as hell...especially thru November, when the first MILLION-DOLLAR month in the company's history occurred...there wasn't to be another million dollar month for a few years. The quality and integrity of the speakers produced then was not compromised, but on occassion the mad rush left labels not completely filled out!!!...This was one of the points brought up at a quality control company-wide meeting the following January, after some of the dealers had complained about the labels. Yours was likely built during that mad rush to get all those speakers built and shipped out!

When you have six trucks waiting to load at a two-truck loading dock and you are still doing final assembly, testing, and packing of the speakers for those loads, AS the loads are being LOADED ONTO the trucks!!...and half the people involved in the packing and final assembly/inspection are from another department just to help out...and EVERYBODY has been putting in 14 hours or more a day for at least 6 days a week....little things like that happen!!! Smile.gif

As for speakers being built using MDF while I was there from 1976-1983, ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!...just two lascalas and two heresys as prototypes... and they were never sold after testing...I think they ended up being burned!


If you want to send a private message, or have already done so, be aware I have not as yet been able to retrieve them. Send e-maill instead, please...just note Klipsch forum in the heading so it doesn't get deleted.

This message has been edited by HDBRbuilder on 04-29-2002 at 12:57 AM

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RE: Loaner speakers for emplyoyees use during the time I worked there.

Yes, there were a few pairs of LaScalas and Industial Heresys available for loan to the employees when I worked there. These were generally ones that had been returned for slightly damaged cabinets during shipping, but still functioned per specs...that damage was repaired, and they were generally either shot with the industrial textured black finish or fiberglassed and shot black. All the employee had to do was to get his/her name on the list and tell when they wanted to use the speakers(pick-up and return dates/times)and what the speakers were to be used for(ie., inside or outside use). The speakers were loaned on a first-come, first-served basis until they were all loaned out...and the length of the loan could not exceed seven days. There were also two or three pairs of LB-76 models for loan in the same manner.


If you want to send a private message, or have already done so, be aware I have not as yet been able to retrieve them. Send e-maill instead, please...just note Klipsch forum in the heading so it doesn't get deleted.

This message has been edited by HDBRbuilder on 04-29-2002 at 01:59 PM

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