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halloween 2002 roundup
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Saturday, May 04, 2002x


// obscurity alert //


Although this posts and the two before it are dated Sunday, I'm actually posting them late Saturday night local time. I switched the timestamp to Greenwhich Mean.

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/4/2002 //



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happy birthday, sara


Today my friend Andrea very graciously helped us out in our project to get our old house ready to sell. Her daughter Sara recently turned 4, and she had a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's. Andrea very generously took Cecilia and Naomi to the party, which enabled Crystal and myself to get a lot of cleaning done in the basement of the old house. It was a PowerPuff Girl theme party; we gave Sara a Blossom umbrella and a Lego set. The girls had lots of fun; Cecilia apparently ran around and enjoyed herself, while we're told Naomi ate almost a whole slice of pizza (at 10 months!). When they got home, Naomi was still very active but Cecilia was fast asleep in her car seat. Naomi didn't nap at all and Cecilia didn't sleep long enough, so they were both kind of cranky and overstimulated by the end of the day, but it was a good Saturday anyway.

// update //


I forgot to mention that we visited my friend Onye at a gallery close to downtown. She was displaying some of the beadwork she's done; it was just gorgeous. Cecilia enjoyed wandering among the various galleries and looking at the art for sale; I followed her, deathly afraid she'd accidently break some $200 trinket. As I said, she was a little cranky and difficult to manage, but she was also charming and curious.

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/4/2002 //



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maybe there's something to it after all...


One of the long-time arguments of proponents of file sharing is that it actually stimulates consumption. For example, advocates of MP3 music say that listeners who can evaluate music on a try-before-you-buy basis are likely to buy CDs they otherwise might not have. Today Reuters reported that according to Jupiter Media Metrix, this claim might have some validity. (I don't know how much faith to put in this info, though; Jupiter Media Metrix has come up with some wacky data in the past.)

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/4/2002 //



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// update //


Visiting Radio Paradise this morning, I noticed that Webmaster Bill Goldman not surprisingly has a number of links concerning the CARP streaming royalty fee issue. Goldman is featured in a C-Net News article on the topic. I've added a link at the bottom of my original post, and you can check out several more stories at Radio Paradise itself.

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/4/2002 //



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Friday, May 03, 2002x


still downloading


This massive, 200+ song download is still going. It's been more than 48 hours since I started it, but the computer crashed last night and I just turned it off until this morning, so it's been more like 36 hours. The thing is, this FTP site is kinda slow, but who cares since I'm getting stuff I've been after for a while. I'm still in the middle of the Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack; after that my download manager should grab the soundtrack to Biohazard 2 (Resident Evil 2) and Princess Mononoke. I forsee major CD burning this weekend.

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/3/2002 //



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double header


Destroy All Monsters posted two articles of mine yesterday—a DVD review of Jet Li's The Enforcer and 20 Questions with the actress/model Mia Crowe.

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/3/2002 //



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check, please


According to the Manichi Daily News, a number of sex shops near the Shin-Osaka Station are issuing phony restaurant receipts so traveling salarymen can put their visits on their expense accounts. The ruse appears designed to attract customers hit hard by Japan's lingering economic doldrums, but police warn that this deception can net the business a tax evasion fine and the customer a fraud rap.

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/3/2002 //



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the final dog update


The castaway dog stranded for more than three weeks on an abandoned tanker finally reached dry land May 2 with her arrival in Honolulu, Hawaii, aboard the tug that rescued her.

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/3/2002 //



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Thursday, May 02, 2002x


music galore


More video game soundtracks today. I've had a download running for about 24 hours now (no kidding!), and I've snagged some stuff I've long wanted:

  • Soul Blade (original and Khan Super Session)

  • Parasite Eve

  • Dance Dance Revolution


Looks like this DL will be going all night again, 'cause I still have the Final Fantasy VIII and Princess Mononoke soundtracks to go. Unfortunately, as long as I'm downloading I don't dare try to burn a CD, because I know the computer will choke up if I do. But I'm fairly gleeful about all this new music.


posted by Gregory Harris on 5/2/2002 //



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this is probably futile, but...


If you haven't heard already, the future of Internet radio may be in serious jeopardy. On May 21, a new fee system goes into effect that will impose a charge of 14/100ths of a cent per listener per song to Internet radio stations like my personal favorite,
Radio Paradise. While that seems like a paltry sum, Wired reports that it could add up to fully twice the revenue most independent Internet broadcasters make. Meanwhile, Internet radio stations run as a spinoff of commercial radio stations—the same ones whose recent merger frenzy has led to the increasing homogenization of the airwaves and, in no small way, the proliferation of tiny radio stations that cater to the demand for something different—have to pay a fee only half of that the indies are saddled with.

Meanwhile, AnchorDesk's David Coursey makes an interesting connection. He sees current over-the air broadcasters as backing the fees to kill off independent competition to their own move onto the Internet. Broadcast stations' streaming cpmponents are subject to fees only half those of independent stations, and no fees at all for their boradcasts due to the supposed "promotional" value. (Meanwhile, most of the independent Internet broadcastes I know feverishly promote the ecelctic artists they play, and for the best possible reason—they geneuinely like the music.)

I should also note that since the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which lifted restrictions on companies owning multiple radio stations, corporoate ownership has undergone a massive consolidation. Which, of course, means moreprepogrammed, homogenous mediocrity. (I must admit, although I listen to very little broadcast radio in Indianapolis, the Bloomington/Indianapolis station WTTS-FM is fairly decent by my standards.)

In the best traditions of capitalism, the pre-programmed pabulum of the radio landscape has caused many to turn to Internet broadcasts, many of whom run their stations more as a hobby than a business. It's exactly this market force that the recording industry, stung by consumers increasingly rejecting their product in stores, seeks to choke off with this government mandated fee. I am sick to death of jokers in expensive suits whom I wouldn't entrust with operating an elevator preach supply and demand when selling a CD that costs about 50 cents to manufacture for $18 and then run howling to regulators when demand goes elsewhere. My younger reader won't remember LPs, but CDs were once about 33% percent more expensive than albums—about $12 versus $9 for an LP—and the recording industry assured us that the price would come down once the technology became standard. But it didn't, largely because again the industry consolidated itself and consumers were left with fewer choices offered up by companies whose management and artist representatives were often hardly competent to do more than pop a champagne cork.



I think Coursey definitely has a point. At the very least, the disparity in fees between independent Webcasters and the outlets of commercial stations stinks on ice. In the Wired article, John Simson, who runs the royalty collection agency that'll fork the fees over to recording companies, groused that independent Webcasters aren't entitled to a subsidy. Well, allowing commercial stations to pay half price on the dubious ground that incessently spinning the same drivel counts as "promotion" isn't a subsidy, I don't know what is.

Now, if anyone out there feels the quality of broadcast radio has improved over the past five years, by all means tell me so.

Please visit SaveInternetRadio.org, where you can print out a handy petition to mail or fax your representatives in Washington and learn more about the issue.

// update //


Bill Goldman of Radio Paradise is the subject of this story from C-Net News on the Internet radio controversy.

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/2/2002 //



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idiots in charge of schools


CNN has featured a couple of stories this week that make me shake my head in wonder at the sheer lack of common sense displayed by certain people in charge of our school children.

Yesterday (May 1), CNN reported about a California high school vice prinicpal who conducted a spot check of girls entering a school dance to ensure they were wearing the "appropriate" underwear. While that notion might merely indicate a silly and overzealous disciplinarian, she apparently required some of these teenage girls to lift their skirts in full view of male students. Not surprisingly, parents are calling for her ouster.

(By the way, my read of the school's dress code as reported in the CNN story is that the proscriptions regarding underwear apply to garments that reveal underclothing or when it's worn in lieu of outer clothing, i.e. bras worn as tops or boxers instead of shorts. It's hard to tell...the code reads: "Clothing that violates these standards are: ... 2. Undergarments," so you could make the case also that the dress code bans underwear entirely.)

Our next contestant resides in my home state (well, I was born there) of Pennsylvania. An 11-year-old honor student was suspended for three days after doodling a stick figure of her teacher with an arrow through her head on the back of a vocabulary test on which she'd received a D.

Sixth grader Becca Johnson was suspended for making "terrorist threats" after a fellow student spotted the doodle in her binder. Johnson explained that she drew the picture to express her anger and never intended to harm anyone (unless she really planned to contact noted bow hunting enthusiast Ted Nugent to whack the teacher). She apparently did not display the drawing to anyone else, so it's unclear to me how the picture she thought she was the only one to see could constitute a "threat."

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/2/2002 //



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tweak alert


In case you didn't notice, my links table over there on the left is ever so slowly growing.

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/2/2002 //



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deep trouble


In the latest example of a clueless corporation attempting to dictate a change in widely accepted Internet practice, the parent company of the Dallas Morning News served up a threatening letter to BarkingDogs.org, for bypassing its front page and linking directly to one of its stories, like this. The controversy was covered in a recent article in Wired (and yes, I deep linked to that one too).

This isn't a case where sites link content deceptively, making it appear that the material is part of their own site—that tactic was declared foul. No one is forcing the newspaper to maintain a Web site, after all, and even so the paper is free to put whatever advertising or links it wants on the linked pages. It strikes me that any linking at all is a greater opportuinity for that page, and therefore that advertising, to be read. I for one am not going to change the way I hyperlink so the extravagant ad revenue projections of some dot-com-boom-addled CIO can be justified.

This blog has already linked to pages on all sorts of Web sites and will contine to do so any time I feel like it. And by the way—the letter to BarkingDogs cited copyright protection, but that doesn't apply to links at blogs like this one. Commentary and criticism is protected under the doctrine of fair use. So there.

Besides, a US District Court judge has already expressly rejected the notion that hyperlinking to content is of itself a copyright violation. I imagine whatever lawyer started this whole charade with that letter hoped BarkingDogs would comply meekly. As it is, the incident is provoking widespread ire and outright defiance by BarkingDogs, which is practically daring the company to file a sure-fire loser of a lawsuit. I'd say that lawyer certainly is serving the client's best interest.

(Please note, the sarcasm lamp was definitely on for that last sentence.)

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/2/2002 //



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dog my cats


At last, some good news. The castaway dog adrift on a disabled Indonesian tanker for 24 days was rescued by a Coast Guard crew dispatched to bring the fuel-laden ship under tow. The 2-year-old terrier mix will arrive in Honolulu to a celebrity's welcome. Then it's off to a mandatory 120-day quarantine period, after which she'll be adopted by a friend of the dog's former owner. The dog, Forgea (pronounced "Hokget" in Taiwanese, meaning "happiness, good fortune, blessing"), was reported in good condition.

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/2/2002 //



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Wednesday, May 01, 2002x


horrifying idiocy


This little item genuinely shocked me. A New York couple was charged with reckless endangerment after their 16-month-old daughter was discovered in the throes of advanced malnutrition. The couple, who claim to be strict vegans, refused to feed their infant daughter either breast mil or formula, relying instead on a diet of ground nuts, juice, herbal tea, beans and flaxseed oil. When removed from her parents' home—where she'd been born without medical assistance, pre- or post-natal care, the child was the weight of a 2- or 3-month-old, half her normal weight. The baby, now 20 months old, weighs as much as a child half that age and is unable to walk or talk, indicating severe developmental difficulties.

Nutrition experts said that a baby could thrive on a vegan diet, as long as the child was given breast milk or soy-based formula, neither of which should conflict with vegan beliefs. (While human milk is technically an animal product, the mother consents to feed her child, so exploitation shouldn't be an issue.) Meanwhile, other vegans told Newsday that their lifestyle is healthy and that the girls' parents were not strictly vegans because 1) the cod liver oil they gave her comes from fish and 2) starving their child is in direct conflict with vegans' pacifist beliefs.

// rant alert //


I am a father of two little girls. Taking care of them is the biggest responsibility I've ever had to face. Any parent is likely familiar with the anguish of taking care of a sick child, worrying that she might come down with something serious. I pay attention to what my girls eat and try to give them a healthy diet. (The Baby is easy; as long as we avoid allergens, as long as we keep her tummy full, she's happy.) I'll admit it—I get misty when I hear of a child's suffering. The two-year-old aboard one of the doomed airliners on 9/11, the young ones who died in the Afghan airstrikes, the babies who died on the Titanic, the Lindbergh baby—these thoughts get me all choked up.

I simply can't fathom two parents who'd watch their child starve before their eyes when they had the means to feed her. The growth of a child occurs over such a long period of time, and it's easy to get used to the pace until you realize she isn't a baby anymore. But I'd think anybody would notice that their child simply wasn't growing, crying or able to move her arms or legs without difficulty—all conditions the little girl suffered when she was rushed to the hospital. The couple apparently brushed aside relatives' concerns about the girl's health until she was nearly dead of starvation, and now there's no telling what permanent damage she'll suffer. And all this time, for more than a year, their girl was starving in front of their eyes.

I have trouble understanding parents who elect to withhold medical treatment for their children in favor of a belief in faith healing. I have trouble understanding it, but I do accept that these parents genuinely want the best for their kids and at least have an idea they genuinely believe will work. I utterly fail to grasp how these two would so obviously damage their child in adherence to some wacky dietary notion, especially when other vegans hasten to point out that human milk and soy-based formula are perfectly acceptable alternatives, and exactly what a baby needs.

The couple faces seven years behind bars. Neither that nor being forbidden to care for their child again begins to justify this child's suffering.

One last word. In one article (sorry, I don't have the link), an attorney for the couple complained that it took prosecutors four months to charge them. I'm not a prosecutor—and in this case I'm sorry I'm not—but offhand I'd say it's because the child was so close to death they needed to see if murder charges wouldn't be warranted.

Props to Dodd Harris for tipping me off via his blog.

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/1/2002 //



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life in an academic career


My friend Patty just had an article published in this week's edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. It's about looking for a job in administration rather than a tenure-track position as she was finishing up her doctorate. Kudos, Patty!

posted by Gregory Harris on 5/1/2002 //



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Tuesday, April 30, 2002x


chucks amuckconverse all-star


Nike's latest version of the Air Jordan comes in a nifty metal briefcase and sports a $200 price tag. Today's Washington Post has an article that compares the new shoe with my personal favorite sneaker, the venerable Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star. The verdict? 21st-century technology beats the heck out of 1920s-era canvas and rubber on the boards, but the Chucks are still pretty darn cool.

posted by Gregory Harris on 4/30/2002 //



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Monday, April 29, 2002x


// rant alert //


Sunday's Washington Post column about a risky situation at an Ohio nuclear plant inspired the following rant. Unfortunately, it exceeded Blogger's ability to post in one piece, so I split it into three sections. A little judicious cutting and pasting, and they're now arranged in linear, but not chronological, order. I figured that was better than having the three sections appear in reverse order.

posted by Gregory Harris on 4/29/2002 //



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// begin rant [part 1] //


Note: This rant concerns the hole found in the containment vessel of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant as outlined in my
previous post.

I work in a regulated industry, and from my perspective, the company I consult for takes the regulations and the agency that enforces them seriously. Indeed, my consulting contract is specifically for ensuring regulatory compliance. The work I do is to ensure readiness for an inspection that could occur at any time. The company runs internal audits to ensure regulatory compliance, and there's isn't a winking, just-kidding attitude behind them either.

From my perspective, I can't see the company I work for reqesting that an inspection be delayed several months because it'd be inconvenient at this time. And if a company made such a request, the understanding of inspectors I've been given—I have never encountered one personally—is that they'd immediately suspect the inspectee was hiding something.

Whether we're in a mood to acknowledge it or not, where this country gets its energy is always going to be a problem. I must admit, when the events following the 9/11 terror attacks highlighted this country's dependence on foreign sources of oil, I had considered whether nuclear power might be the answer. (I'll say this much about the bogus ANWR issue—whether we drill in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge or not is ultimately irrelevant; we simply can not drill our way to energy independence. The mere fact that we're looking in less and less hospitable territory, and farther and farther offshore, is a clear signal that there are precious few reserves left under the continental United States, period.) These revelations, however, and the typaclly bland reassurances of the utility running a reactor with a big hole in its containment vessel, don't increase my confidence a lot.

But I have a market-based solution to the whole problem that only requires one new regulation: require certain key executives of the utilities that run nuclear power plants to live by them. Hey, they're safe, right? So it should be no problem.


posted by Gregory Harris on 4/29/2002 //



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// rant part 2 //


//
see part 1 //
The arguments surrounding nuclear power plant safety remind me of another case where faulty cost/benefit analysis and risk assesment—not to mention the pressures posed by competition to operate on the cheap—led to the loss of hundreds of lives: the fabled RMS Titanic disaster. Marine architect Thomas Andrews' plans originally called for enough lifeboat capacity for all passengers, but the number was reduced for a variety of businees reasons: The boats took up valuable space on the Boat Deck, where First Class passengers liked to stroll; having a conspicuously large number of boats might lead to perceptions of a safety problem; and of course the widespread beleif that the ship's watertight compartments made the Titanic "practically unsinkable" anyway. Yet although the ship carried lifeboats for only half its passenger capacity, it was actually operating slightly more than 15% in excess of compliance with outdated regulations.

When the ship struck the fatal iceberg, Andrews, his assistants, and White Star Line head Bruce Ismay were on board. Andrews and his team, Captain E.J. Smith, and most of the senior officers went down with the ship, along with 1,200 other people. Indeed, although Andrews was seen feverishly directing passengers into lifeboats, he made no attempt at all to save his own life. The ship's engineers, who kept the power on until the Titanic broke in two, and the band, which played until the very end, also became legendary for doing their duty.

Ismay survived, though, by boarding one of the several lifeboats that left the stricken ship. And he was pilloried for it. By the standards of the Edwardian era, for him to flee leaving women and children to perish was an act of cowardice, especially in light of the many Titanic crew who stayed at their posts until the end. In all honesty, these charges were probably unfair. Testimony indicated that Ismay only boarded the boat when he believed there was no one else around. (Exactly where he thought everyone else went with not enough boats isn't clear.) Ismay was forced from the White Star Line's leadership and spent his days a bitter recluse.

posted by Gregory Harris on 4/29/2002 //



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// rant part 3 //


// see part 1 // see part 2 //
I don't mean to compare Ismay's fate—living out his days in luxury as a wealthy man—with those who perished in the icy North Atlantic as a result of his company's decisions. But the recent Enron scandal and its spillover to accounting and investment firms reminds me of the former White Star chief. Watching the parade of snobby suits testifying to their blameless conduct is positively sickening, and Mrs. Kenneth Lay's crocodile tears about being reduced to owning only one mansion—horrors!—no less so. The ones who flee the sinking ship leaving the commoners to their fate deserve our contempt at least and, more appropriately, to sink or swim with the rest of us. So again, if nuclear plants are so darn safe, I invite the CEOs of the various utilities to live next to one. I'll be behind them 100%.

One last comment. I like to think of myself as well-informed, which brings me back to the title of Gilinsky's column, "Heard About the Near-Accident at the Ohio Nuclear Plant? I'm Not Surprised." No, I hadn't heard about it. Gilinsky takes the plant's owners and the NRC to task for their casual attitude to what he views as a serious potential problem, but I have another question: Where the h311 was the press? I didn't hear a whisper of the plant's corrosion problem in any of the news sources I consult regularly. I don't pretend to understand why, but I suspect that journalists simply didn't understand the scale of the potential problem enough for it to make more than regional news cycle.

There are a lot of blogs out there who attempt to make the case for a liberally biased media, but it strikes me that a story like this would be meat and drink for a truly liberal media. No, I think it's something worse: an incompetent media, in which bottom-line driven management results in pool of newswriters barely competent to rewrite a press release, let alone attempt to read betweeen the lines. That, O my droogies, is truly scary.

// end rant //



posted by Gregory Harris on 4/29/2002 //



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we almost lost toledoradiation symbol


Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission official Victor Gilinsky had a
column in Sunday's Washington Post about a disturbing situation at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Toledo, Ohio. Gilinsky's column does a pretty good job of analyzing the various portrayals of the discovery in the media, from the blasé reporting by the utility owning the plant to the somewhat more hysterical attitude taken by watchdog groups. (Speaking of hysterical attitudes, I don't count the title of this screed; it's a goof on Gil Scott-Heron's tune "We Almost Lost Detroit" from the concert film No Nukes, which also represented my first exposure to Bruce Springsteen.)

// related links //
Information on the plant from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
A description of the corrosion effects from the Engineering News-Record
Article on Davis-Besse from the Union of Concerend Scientists
News and discussion board from the Nuclear Power Industry Exchange
Despite the corrosion, the plant passed its annual inspection, according to the Fremont, Ohio News-Messenger
An NRC review finds no widespread corrosion problems in similar reactors
Parent company FirstEnergy discusses repairs with the NRC


posted by Gregory Harris on 4/29/2002 //



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Sunday, April 28, 2002x


home at last


We went to Louisville this weekend to visit family. We stayed at my dad's and attended my nephew Mason's second birthday party. It was a really good visit—I got to see all my immediate family. We also got to drop in on my friend Hardin this morning, see our friends Lloyd and Angela and their thre-year-old son Quinn for ice cream in the afternoon, and I finally got a peek at my friend Joe's newborn son Cooper. Poor Cooper has been a bit ill; he just had a slight infection around the umbilical area, and he was delivered prematurely so it was a cause for concern. His IV is out and he's doing fine, so we're certainly rooting for the little guy.

I dropped by my brother's pad this afternoon; he has a DVD-ROM, and with it I was able to capture some screen shots for a DVD review I wrote for Destroy All Monsters. Thanks for the assist, Jeff!

I'm listening to a really groovy Internet radio station right now—Radio Paradise. They play an appealing mix of obscure college rock, world music, and older tunes. They just spun one of my favorite Replacements songs, "Can't Hardly Wait." Give 'em a listen.

That's it for tonight. Traveling with toddlers is tiring, and besides I just got a new toy I want to play with.

posted by Gregory Harris on 4/28/2002 //



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