Archive for Entirely Too Cool

But fourteen’s not mad about me

I adore the sonnet form. I can’t write in it to save my life — the one time I came up with perfect meter and reasonable scansion, I discovered I’d done only thirteen lines — but I adore it just the same.

And this won’t change my mind, either:

Taylor Swift's We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together in sonnet form

(Via Fillyjonk.)

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Almost none more black

I mean, you’ve got to go to actual black holes to get much blacker than this:

What we call the color of an object is just whatever wavelengths of light it doesn’t soak up, rocketing into our corneas and telling us something about its properties. Most things, even things that are very dark, still reflect back some light, imparting useful information. You can see creases even in the blackest velour.

But a material called Vantablack, being refined in labs now, traps light so completely that practically none escapes. The substance captures a full 99.96 percent of the light that hits it, which the human visual system perceives as deep, textureless blackness. Even when it’s applied to aluminum foil and then wrinkled, the part covered with Vantablack looks just as flat as can be, with no discernible silvery creases. It’s eerie, to have the physical world line up so poorly with expectations. It’s also potentially very valuable — making it look like there’s nothing where there’s really something is a long-time goal for defense departments.

If the price of this stuff ever drops below that of unobtainium, I think I want a jacket coated with it.

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It’s life, Ivan, but not as we know it

Well, actually, it does look sort of familiar:

The Russian press agency ITAR-TASS is reporting something so surprising that I’m having a hard time believing it: Cosmonauts have found microorganisms on the exterior of the International Space Station. Russian scientists are shocked by this discovery and can’t really explain how it is possible.

According to the chief of the Russian ISS orbital mission, Vladimir Solovjev, these findings “are absolutely unique.”

Which is more than merely unique, you know.

At this point the Russian space agency can’t really explain how sea plankton ended [up] on the International Space Station. They have discarded spaceships taking the microorganisms there. Their only explanation is that atmospheric currents may be lifting these particles from the ocean all the way to the station, 205 miles (330 kilometers) up in the sky — which seems absolutely nuts to me.

Like most unexpected life forms, this one turned up during cleaning. Solovjev, quoted by ITAR-TASS:

“We are conducting special works to polish somehow and put illuminators in order. This is particularly needed during long space flights.”

You don’t suppose this stuff was growing on the cleaning equipment, do you?

(Via Fark.)

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That’s one huge motherfocal

Seriously. This lens dwarfs any camera you’re likely to own:

The Canon 1200/5.6L USM … has been built on a special-order basis since 1993, and the ‘official word’ is there are “more than twelve, less than twenty” of them in existence. With a price tag equivalent to a pair of his-and-her sports coupes, they were produced at the rate of about 2-per-year and a delivery time of about 18 months. National Geographic magazine, Sports Illustrated, Canon Professional Services, and a few well-heeled enthusiasts are counted among the fortunate few who own these unique optics. A box of donuts says the Feds probably have a few squirreled away somewhere, but this is something we can neither confirm nor deny. What you get for your money is a monster lens with an angle of view of about 2° on a full-frame 35 mm camera.

The last of them is believed to have been produced in 2005. A couple of specs:

For the record, the Canon 1200/5.6L USM contains 13 elements (including 2 Fluorite) in 10 groups, stops down to f32, and has a minimum focus of 45.9′.

And there is actually one for sale, if you’re prepared to write a very large check:

It’s selling at MPB Photographic, which describes the second-hand lens as being in “virtually immaculate condition with barely a discernable mark anywhere on the barrel.”

They’re asking £99,000, which is about a one-third premium over Canon’s original selling price of, um, $120,000.

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Tanks for the mobility

So I’m sitting here, wondering if my knees are going to be acting up again next week, as they often do in the presence of serious damp, and it occurs to me: Why shouldn’t someone who uses a wheelchair be able to go way the hell off-road?

And this is why I’m thinking that:

The low-suds version — there are three in the line — packs a 16-hp electric motor. And it can take a 60-percent grade, something I can’t do walking these days. Yes, it’s expensive, and Medicare won’t pay for it. I don’t care. (Yet.)

(Via Autoblog.)

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Because terse

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This is not your grandma’s Bunny Hop

(Via neo-neocon, who’s actually witnessed one of these events, though not this one specifically.)

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An idea worthy of emulation

I am not, to my knowledge, located anywhere recognizable on the Autism Spectrum, but I can see serious value in this practice at any gathering larger than a hoof-ful:

Of course, if I show up somewhere with a blue badge, you may safely assume that somewhere down the line I messed up.

BronyCon starts Friday, 1 August, at the Baltimare Baltimore Convention Center.

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Your weekly dose of Hinky

Hinky Dinky Time with Uncle Michael

And this is why you ought to know about it this week, in my semi-humble opinion:

At 9:00 AM (Eastern time) on Friday, July 18th, 2014, please join Uncle Michael in a six-hour odyssey celebrating the history of the Warner Brothers “Loss Leaders.”

Beginning in 1969, Warner Brothers began selling samplers of music by artists on Warner Brothers, Reprise and other, associated labels. These samplers were comprised of a diverse array of artists and styles and were generally presented as double albums which sold for $2. They advertised on the inner sleeves of normal catalog product, in magazine ads, in promotional flyers and at point of sale displays. If you’re of a certain age, these come-ons were ubiquitous.

Listing and classifying these albums has been a side project of this site since the late 20th century. Uncle Michael and I had a longish discussion on what is, and what may not be, a Loss Leader in this context; be it known that I fully support his selections for the playlist, because the guy knows as least as much as I do on the subject, and maybe more.

If you’re not within broadcast distance of the Oranges — WFMU is licensed to East Orange, New Jersey, and its transmitter is located in West Orange — the stream is pretty much always available at wfmu.org.

Update: A darn good show, it was. This was the playlist.

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Though it doesn’t work on water

Hoverboard by MattelIt doesn’t actually work on land, either, come to think of it, but that’s not going to stop the WANT reflex:

We’ve all been demanding hoverboards ever since Marty McFly took off on one in 1989′s Back To The Future II, but now you could own the real thing.

The actual hoverboard used in the film is up for auction at Vue Cinema’s entertainment and prop store live auction, which takes place at Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush in October. It’s one of 375 lots of original props, constumes and production material from a host of movies.

Expected selling price: £15,000, or several gigawallets.

(Via Fark.)

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Expert timing

I remember both ends of this equation entirely too well:

I asked him if he remembered a particular Commodore 64 file, about fourteen seconds of the Carl Douglas dance classic “Kung Fu Fighting,” which used every single one of the 38911 bytes set aside for BASIC programs plus several K more. Of course he had, and he directed me toward this loop:

Now the C64′s SID chip was capable of more than the usual electronics bloops and bleeps — it was just this side of a full-fledged synth — but I had never imagined that it could do that. Now we have music files that use more disk space than used to be available on hard drives.

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Say yes to Z Dress

I might be excessively impressed by this, largely because I have no idea how difficult to live with it might be, but what I can see, I sort of like:

Z Dress Lookbook from Anastasia on Vimeo.

Then again, I used to own a couple of reversible ties. If you must judge me, judge me for that.

(Seen here.)

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Meanwhile among the Haligonians

What most of us Down Here know about Nova Scotia boils down to some vain guy flying his Learjet up thataway to see a solar eclipse. Obviously we’re not getting the whole story, so it’s time to dispatch a trusted emissary:

I must agree with all the locals that I’ve, that we’ve talked to, that Halifax IS CANADA’S BEST KEPT SECRET. In a week, we’ve explored the coastline, crept the forests, the very quaint city herself, Halifax.

I don’t know where to begin, to describe the reception that we’ve enjoyed so much while here: Warm, friendly locals, the staff here at Heritage Hideaway Inn, the (cheap) prices on everything, the ease in getting around … Leticia and I fly home next Saturday morning early, and there will be a part of me that doesn’t want to leave. I have felt relaxed from minute One here. These folks are the essence of “laid back”. It’s like they won’t be happy unless you, the guest is happy, too.

Then again, “most of us” obviously does not mean “all of us.” A local woman was once heard to say: “If I weren’t happily married and tied down with all kinds of material debts, I would run off to Nova Scotia with him.” More amazingly, by “him” she meant me.

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Would you like to swing on a star?

Well, you know, that kind of depends on exactly what we’re swinging on:

It might seem like some sort of troll, but “Putin Is A Dickhead” is now an officially registered star after a group of Ukrainian astronomers got together with some pro-Ukraine activists to cement Putin’s status in the cosmos.

Depending on who’s doing the translation, “Putin-Huilo” might conceivably mean the Russian strongman is something other than a “dickhead” — but certainly nothing nicer-sounding.

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Jenny sets the lineup

How could this possibly go wrong?

It is, of course, right and proper that the Designated Hitter, an abomination unto the Lord, is assigned the number zero.

The Tigers were not amused, however, and blasted Rays pitcher Erik Bedard for six runs on eight hits in two innings, pocketing an 8-1 win at home and dropping Tampa Bay further into the cellar. (Weirdly, the Rays have identical road and home records: they’re 19-25 either way.)

And no, that Squeeze song wouldn’t work: you’d have to send two players into the order twice.

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Mehcanized for your protection

The invaluable Nancy Friedman treats us to an explanation of the handy Japanese term “fukubukuro,” which turns out to be basically a Woot Bag O’ Crap that lacks actual crappiness.

Speaking of Woot, if you’ve been thinking that it’s been a lot less fun, or at least a lot more complicated, since Amazon bought them out, you’re not the only one who thinks so:

How come every time something simple gets popular, people want to make it more complicated? And less fun? And then eventually less popular? Like how raw, energetic rock ‘n’ roll turned into pompous, sluggish stadium rock. Or how superhero comics mutated into a baffling mess of retcons and reboots. Or how daily deals turned into … well, whatever the hell you call it when an online store has too much selection to be easy to use, but too little to find what you want.

That’s why the guys who invented the daily-deal thing are embarking on a grand experiment to bring it back. Back to its simple roots. Back to when one deal every day meant one deal, not a compacted mass of overstock matter plugging up the Internet like that stuff they found inside Elvis. Back to when a trained chicken could literally have done your shopping for you.

So saith Matt Rutledge, head honcho of Meh, which drew 147 percent of its Kickstarter goal in a mere four days. Mr Rutledge is also known for creating, um, Woot. And somewhere in the Mehzzanine, I sort of hope there’s a fukubukuro with a silly name.

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The glucose is clear

There are basically two treatments for Type 2 diabetes: a whole lot of tablets, or shots plus a whole lot of tablets. It’s about time something new came along:

Los Angeles billionaire-inventor Alfred Mann’s almost decade-long quest to develop an inhalable form of insulin for diabetics won approval Friday from U.S. regulators.

His company, MannKind Corp. of Valencia, got the OK on Friday to sell the drug called Afrezza, although regulators warned the product shouldn’t be used by those diabetics with asthma or a serious lung disease.

The Food and Drug Administration said it cleared Afrezza for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The drug is a powder that is inhaled. It would be most often used to help control blood-sugar levels at mealtime, a quick puff replacing an injection before a meal.

Individuals who don’t much care for injections — commonly referred to as “everybody” — will be delighted to hear this, at least until the price is revealed.

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1000 words = 140 characters

I have to admit, this comes off as fiendishly clever:

If nothing else, doing this forces you to think a little harder about what you’re, um, writing, which almost certainly is a Good Thing.

And if one of her sentences should run a little long, well, who’s going to know?

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Don’t even look in this direction

As mentioned a few weeks back, there are two videos for Sia’s hit single “Chandelier,” and she doesn’t appear in either of them; nor does she show her face in her live performances these days.

For the second year in a row, Sia’s won the APRA Songwriter of the Year award, and she sent a video to accept it. This is the video:

As with the videos, it’s Sia’s voice, but it’s emphatically not Sia.

This is consistent, at least, which what she’s been saying since the 1000 Forms of Fear album was announced:

I don’t want to be famous. If Amy Winehouse was a beehive then I guess I’m a blonde bob. I thought “well if that’s my brand, how can I avoid having to use my face to sell something,” so my intention was to create a blonde bob brand. Throughout this whole thing I’ll put a different person in a blonde bob and either they lip-synch while I’m doing a live performance or they perform a dance or do some sort of performance while I have my back to the audience, as with Ellen. I recently recorded a bunch of stuff for VH1 where a 78-year-old woman wears the blonde bob and is lip-synching on a treadmill. Then there’s a black boy that Ryan choreographed a dance for, who’s not a dancer, and he’s in the blonde bob.

You could say, I suppose, that she’s screwing with us; but that’s what we, or at least what I, signed up for.

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Leader of the laundromat

A little bit of turn-of-the-century history:

It was a pretty efficient kick, given the size of the deadbolt; the jamb was nicely splintered. The perp’s efficiency, however, stopped there; not only did he overlook the camera hanging right beside the door, he didn’t get much of anything other than frustration. I calculate my losses at $3.25, from a dish of quarters I was saving up for laundry, and about five minutes’ time to tidy up.

Thirteen quarters out the damaged door. This is precisely why I am not going to mock this startup outfit that will ship you (in a mere two days) a $10 roll of quarters for $15:

Laundry pickup services are expensive and often have long turnaround times. For many folks, the biggest pain point is simply finding enough quarters. Banks have long lines and close early. Grocery and convenience stores aren’t always willing to give out more than a few dollars worth of quarters at a time. We put getting quarters on autopilot so you never have to worry about it again.

I need hardly point out that someone who is routinely visiting the local laundromat (which term used to be a trademark of Westinghouse) probably doesn’t have time to visit all those other places on a regular basis, and also probably doesn’t have three weeks’ worth of clothes on hand. And considering what a roll of quarters weighs — half a pound, unless you have the old silver coins on hand, in which case you’re probably not shoving half a dozen of them at a time into the nearest Speed Queen — a lot of that $5 markup is going just for shipping costs.

A decade ago, I spent $800 on laundry equipment so I wouldn’t have to do that again, plus God knows how much in subsequent years to keep the machines powered up and running. I don’t regret it for a moment. But if I hadn’t, I’d probably be sending off for a roll of quarters every two weeks.

(Who’s that banging on the piano? I don’t know.)

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Or about $69 each

The Guinness people were called upon to certify it as The World’s Largest Videogame Collection — some 11,000 items — and it was auctioned off for $750,250.

The exact number of items is not clear:

The collection consists of all 10,607 games that were verified by The Guinness Book of World Records during the official count performed on December 3rd, 2012, as well as four hundred plus more games that I have acquired since. In total, OVER 11,000 GAMES!! Guinness did not count duplicates, so every game is unique with no repeats.

Ars Technica reports:

Seller Michael Thomasson has said in interviews that he set a “regimented budget” averaging about $3,000 a year for the past 20 years to build up his collection of more than 11,000 games and 100 consoles. That’s a pretty good return on investment for a part-time hobby and should hopefully go a long way toward helping Thomasson with the unspecified “family obligations” that led to the sale in the first place.

Apparently, though, he’s keeping all the consoles, in anticipation of a fresh start.

The buyer will pay a premium of 5% — $37,512.50 — to the auction house.

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At the very least, they’re not pleased

That chap on the left looks vaguely familiar.

Update, 7 am Monday: Tweet has been pulled. However, there are other resources, and so:

Very angry birds

Should have gotten this before I posted, I know.

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You can probably guess the menu

Bell Buckle, Tennessee, population 500, is known for two things: the Webb School, the oldest continuously-operating boarding school in the South, due for its sesquicentennial in 2020; and the twenty-year old RC Cola-Moon Pie Festival:

[O]n June 21st this quiet little town will become a bustle of excitement and activity when it celebrates the 20th Anniversary of its wildly popular RC-Moon Pie Festival. This year’s festival will spew forth the biggest Box Office news of the year — The return of your favorite Synchronized Wading Characters! After two decades of dry humor on a wet stage, the beloved characters will once again reunite. The stage will be a little different, the story may have changed, but your favorite characters are reuniting to celebrate in a way no one else could ever celebrate marshmellow and carbonation glory!

Known as the first “fast food” meal, these two Southern traditions, RC and a Moon Pie, are brought together for a grand celebration Bell Buckle style. The idea for the Festival first began in 1994 as a way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Moon Pie and to bring tourists to Bell Buckle. Bell Buckle called the Chattanooga Bakery to see about throwing a Birthday Party for Moon Pie. Little could anyone have expected what a huge event this would become!

Wikipedia claims the Moon Pie actually was invented in 1917, and therefore would have been 77 years old that first year in Bell Buckle; Royal Crown Cola (home town: Columbus, Georgia) dates back to 1905.

Incidentally, the Webb School was actually founded in Culleoka, Tennessee, but William R. “Sawney” Webb, founder and headmaster, uprooted it:

[I]n 1886, the town of Culleoka incorporated, making the sale of liquor legal within the city limits. This was too much for Webb, an ardent prohibitionist. Sawney and his boys packed up and headed to Bell Buckle, a village thirty-five miles west on the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad. On six acres of beech forest, about one-third of a mile from the depot, Webb dug a well and built a bigger and better schoolhouse than that in Culleoka. Leading citizens of Bell Buckle supported the move by raising $12,000 for the new school.

Today, according to Google Maps, Bell Buckle is 50 miles east of Culleoka. Go figure.

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Dialed in to ponies

We have here a Mazda MX-5 with the Mane Six gauge package:

Custom My Little Pony gauges for Mazda Miata

With thanks to the fandom:

The MLP fandom is awesome. Artwork exists for just about anything you can imagine. Cutie marks for the main characters? How many different file formats would you like? Exact color codes for every aspect of anything ever in the show? Yup, those are plentiful too. The fans really made this custom gauge design come together quick.

Apart from “WANT,” all I can say is “You should see these at night.”

And no, I don’t know where you could work in an Applejack reference. The Malfunction Indicator Light, maybe? “Sugarcube, Ah don’t know just how to tell ya this, but yer emissions are worse than Big Mac after a bucket of broccoli.” Eeyup.

(Via this @LazyGrayBrony tweet.)

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If I’m lying, I’m petrifying

Sony Pictures Animation has bought a project based on your favorite snake-haired female:

Antz writer Todd Alcott and producer Holly Golden sold the studio with a comedy pitch about a beautiful, young girl who transforms into Medusa, a gorgon whose gaze turns people to stone.

“I love the originality of it, the comedy take on Medusa,” Michelle Raimo-Kouyate, president of production at Sony Animation, told TheWrap. “The minute I heard it, it felt ingenious and clever and funny.”

The director attached to the project is Lauren Faust, developer of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which suggests a decidedly different spin on the old story:

Faust told TheWrap the movie will portray Medusa as a decent girl who irks the wrong goddess. After turning into a monster, she learns to embrace what makes her different.

This surely will bring all the boys to her yard: who hasn’t irked the wrong goddess at one time or another?

And in MLP:FiM, come to think of it, turning individuals to stone is routine: cockatrices roam the Everfree, and Discord used to spend his odd (and even) hours as an item of statuary in Celestia’s garden.

(Via The Mary Sue.)

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With a Texas record at steak

I might have been able to pull this off when I was younger. I certainly can’t today.

Meal consists of: Shrimp Cocktail, Baked Potato, Salad, with Roll, Butter, and of course the 72 oz. Steak

Entire meal must be completed in one hour. If any of the meal is not consumed (swallowed) … YOU LOSE!

A Nebraska woman laughs at this puny threat:

Molly Schuyler, weighing in at 120 pounds, ate not one but two 72 oz. steaks at Amarillo’s Big Texan Steak Ranch.

Most who attempt the challenge cannot finish one steak but in less than 20 minutes Molly put away two 72 oz. steaks.

And if you want to watch this spectacle:

This is someone I’d be afraid to ask out, if only for the potential threat to my wallet.

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Portion overcontrol

These aren’t here yet, but it’s just a matter of time before they show up:

Disposable pre-filled measuring spoons. Need a half-teaspoon of ground cardamom, or two tablespoons of organic cocoanut oil? Here they are, with no messy cleanup. Later we can market refill containers. And maybe a decorative rack in which to keep those refill containers.

Maybe I’ll divert one of my spice racks to this Higher Purpose.

The expensive stuff, like saffron, I suppose they can sell by the particle.

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A marked absence of seamen

I really did not need to see this while polishing off a bowl of stew. (I do spectacular, if untidy, spit takes.)

Tourism ad for Key West: Not a dinghy in sight

(Page 57, The Advocate, June/July ’14. If “dinghy” goes right over your head, Professor Ruth Wallis will set you straight, so to speak.)

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Ayapa, when the walls finally fell

From a couple of springs ago:

The Ayapaneco language, one of several dozen tongues indigenous to Mexico, is down to only two speakers, and they aren’t speaking to one another.

Well, they are now:

A centuries old language that was close to extinction has been saved after the last two speakers decided to end a feud that has lasted decades.

Manuel Segovia, 78, and Isidro Velazquez, 72, stopped speaking to each other after a disagreement and it was feared that Ayapaneco could die out.

Ayapaneco is spoken at Ayapa, a village six miles east of Comalcalco, in Tabasco, Mexico.

I had mentioned that work was continuing on a dictionary of Ayapaneco; Vodafone has jumped in with a Web site and an adopt-a-word program.

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Mopzilla 2

My one and only complaint with the Libman Tornado Mop, added to my collection of household tools last month, was that “the instructions are a bit obtuse.” They are even more so when it comes to the humdrum task of detaching the head for cleaning purposes. In the video I pointed to, Suzy Homemaker simply tosses the head into the washing machine. Surely I can do this, right?

The answer, we now know, is “Sort of.” The process is not in the least intuitive. Fortunately, there is, yes, a video:

Got it. I think.

While pricing replacement heads on Amazon, I found this possibly apocryphal product review:

What you have here is a reasonably-priced mop refill for the quality Libman Tornado. But what I learned is that, despite its name, you should not try to use this mop refill during an actual tornado. I was carried to another trailer park where I was almost eaten by a coyote.

Yeah, but you were in a trailer park in the first place. That was your first problem.

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