January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins

R.I.P. to Molly, who had the sharpest wit of any columnist I've ever read and aimed it at the people who deserved it most. She died of inflammatory breast cancer Wednesday at 62.

I don't remember when I first read one of her columns. I do know it wasn't in the Texas Observer (many many tributes at that link), since I've never seen a hard copy of the magazine. It must have been a syndicated column in one of the local papers, back in the 70s or 80s. She had a gift for describing a politician and the scene he inhabited better than almost anyone else. Here's a compilation of some of her best quotes.

I'll miss her.

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How do they do it?

Going off to an office and doing paperwork most of the day has given me a new appreciation for those bloggers who have full-time jobs and still manage to post good long pieces every day. I get home, make dinner, watch The News Hour, go back to the computer to read a few things, and I'm way too exhausted to think about difficult concepts.

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January 29, 2007

King George, again

Our miserable power-hungry President has just decreed (that's the right word; he did it by Executive Order) that all Federal agencies henceforth must have political appointees at their head. This is ostensibly to ensure that all costs have been weighed against the benefits of any regulations the agencies might enact.

Typically, agencies issue regulations under authority granted to them in laws enacted by Congress. In many cases, the statute does not say precisely what agencies should do, giving them considerable latitude in interpreting the law and developing regulations.

The directive issued by Mr. Bush says that, in deciding whether to issue regulations, federal agencies must identify “the specific market failure” or problem that justifies government intervention.

Besides placing political appointees in charge of rule making, Mr. Bush said agencies must give the White House an opportunity to review “any significant guidance documents” before they are issued.

This is going to allow special interest groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the oil/gas lobbies and all manner of other business outfits to block regulations that might otherwise force them to behave in safe and environmentally sound ways.

Got any tea we can dump overboard somewhere?

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January 28, 2007

Channel flipping

If you've watched any ESPN at all the past few days it's been a little hard to miss the Winter X Games. I admit I didn't watch any of them, but you couldn't help but see highlights on SportsCenter at some point.

Will someone please explain how or why there's such an event as Snowmobile Freestyle? Whatever happened to being light on the land? Talk about wretched excess.

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January 27, 2007


I was minding my own business reading a book and listening to Saturday's edition of All Things Considered when I looked up and saw this guy not three feet away.

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January 26, 2007

Parking solutions

The place I'm working has a two-wide car lift within the building. I've seen these in Japan, but never here. It's kinda like driving into an automated car wash; pull up till the front tires fall into a recess on a mechanical plate, get out, go push the start button, and watch the car rise up out of sight. The whole mechanism rotates, presumably on something like a bicycle chain.

I've already been told horror stories, but so far so good.

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January 25, 2007

Media reading list

Atrios has done a great public service in listing books he thinks have informed the "netroots'" view of the media. He includes Alterman, Haynes Johnson, Conason/Lyons, Marvin Kalb, David Brock, Wolcott and Boehlert, among others.

Like Atrios, I haven't read them all, although at least five are on my shelves. They provide a narrative (not the narrative; neither he nor I suggest that) of what the media's been doing for the past ten or more years.

Anyway, check out his list. Next time you're at the library or in the local bookstore, pick up a copy of one or more of the books.

He missed one I'd add, by the way: Frank Rich's The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina.

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January 24, 2007

A puzzlement

Er, I don't get it. I went up to the local military hospital to get a new prescription filled today. Apparently the Army is at ThreatCon "Alpha," which means every visitor has to have his/her ID checked. I was one of the lucky ones who had to get the Army's random vehicle check, too. That meant that I had to pull over, pop the hood and trunk, show the registration, inspection and insurance cards, have the underside of the car checked with a mirror, and get a day pass. It was a nuisance, but hey, it's George Bush's war on terror, so I'll live with it.

But here's what I don't understand. Why, after all that, does the vehicle pass not expire until February 2? How secure is that?

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Pump and dump?

One of the commenters at Matt Yglesias's blog asks a funny question about the mention of the Baby Einstein company's prominent position in last night's SOTU speech. Matt suggested it was product placement as a deficit reduction plan. His commenter says:

. . . maybe W is planning on selling his stock but wants to create a short-term buying interest/frenzy in the stock before he does so.


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January 23, 2007

SOTU 2007

Shorter GWB: Blah blah they're coming to get us and we must win in Iraq or we'll all die. Read the text.

Shorter Jim Webb: Economic disparity between rich and poor must be addressed. This reckless and mismanaged war will be stopped, if not by Bush, then by Democrats. Read the text. Watch his entire speech.

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"I girdeth up my...elbow?"

For those of us who simply can't stand the thought of an hour of a George Bush speech without booze, here's Adam Felber's SOTU Drinking Game.

Bonus suggestions if he announces he's going to war with Iran are included.

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January 22, 2007

Blog for Choice Day

I'm on my way out the door, so on the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade I'll point you toward this link-rich post from Shakespeare's Sister. Maybe I'll have time this afternoon to follow it up.

It's pretty simple to me: I get to choose how I live my life; shouldn't everybody?

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January 21, 2007

NFL Conference Championships

So Da Bears lead the Saints at halftime 16-9, and Indianapolis plays New England later today.

I don't have an obvious rooting interest here, but it would be a helluva feel-good story if the Saints made it to the Super Bowl for the first time in their (mostly miserable) history, so I guess I'm leaning towards them.

In the other game, Peyton Manning is in danger of being tagged with that "can't win the big game" phrase, which I think is unfair. On the other hand, I was on the phone with a friend when San Diego went ahead of the Patriots just before the half last week and told my friend the Patriots would somehow pull it out, and they did. I think New England is kinda like the 49ers back when Montana and Rice played for them; they just figure out how to win. I hesitate to bet against them.

My sympathy's with the Colts; my brain's with the Pats.

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January 20, 2007

2008, No!

Let it be known that I recently formed an exploratory committee to help me determine whether I should run for President of the United States. The committee, made up of extraordinary citizens of great rectitude, knowledge, and concern for the direction our country is heading, has persuaded me that I should sit this election out.

I realize that many of you will be greatly disappointed by this, and I'm honored by that. But I've concluded that there's just too much else going on in my life at the moment, and I don't have the time to criss-cross this great nation, eating rubber chicken, making the same speech over and over again, shaking thousands of hands (have you looked at the price of Purell lately?), and being away from my dog.

Thank you for your best wishes. Perhaps by the time 2012 rolls around circumstances will have changed.

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January 19, 2007

It's a mystery

The Mystery Writers of America once compiled a list of the top 100 Crime Novels of all time, picking ten in each of the following categories:

  • Classics (1-10)
  • Suspense (11-20)
  • Hardboiled/Private Eye (21-30)
  • Police Procedural (31-41 – there was a tie between #40 and #41)
  • Espionage/Thriller (42-51)
  • Criminal (52-61)
  • Cozy/Traditional (62-71)
  • Historical (72-81)
  • Humorous (82-91)
  • Legal/Courtroom (92-101)

#1 in Classics: The Complete Sherlock Holmes (no surprise there)
#1 in Suspense: Rebecca
#1 in Hardboiled/Private Eye: The Maltese Falcon
#1 in Police Procedural: Dance Hall of the Dead
#1 in Espionage/Thriller: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
#1 in Criminal: The Godfather
#1 in Cozy/Traditional: And Then There Were None
#1 in Historical: The Daughter of Time
#1 in Humorous: Fletch
#1 in Legal/Courtroom: Presumed Innocent

The British Crime Writers did the same thing, although without the categories.

These kinds of things are always fun. For the record, of the ones listed above, I've read seven. Somehow I've missed Turow's Presumed Innocent, McDonald's Fletch, and du Maurier's Rebecca.

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January 18, 2007


For the first time in six or seven years I'm doing regular work outside my home. It's a little odd to have to be someplace at a certain time every morning. Mind you, I'm not complaining; it's just that there's a certain adjustment required (and I don't mean only the commute).

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January 17, 2007

School daze, school daze

There's an interesting article in the current Newsweek which discusses the idea of lengthening school days to make them standard across the country. It cites this interesting discrepancy:

Students attending a public school in urban Chicago go for 5 hours and 45 minutes daily, while the New York City school day is 65 minutes longer. Now, factor in that New York City kids attend school 12 more days than their Windy City counterparts. Add it up, and it's clear the New York kids have gained a distinct advantage—eight more weeks of instruction time a year.

It got these numbers from a new database created by something called the National Council on Teacher Quality which sounds like a right-wing group attempting to abolish the US Department of Education but is a Gates Foundation-funded watchdog group.

If you're interested in how much class time the kids in the 50 largest school districts in the country actually put in, or in a whole lot of other information about those districts, it's an interesting thing to prowl around. You can generate your own reports by district, including all or any of the questions the Council asked while perusing teachers' bargaining agreements.

As I recall, my high school class day in Fairfax County, Va. began at about 8:10 every morning with homeroom and ended at 3:22 in the afternoon. Anyone else remember their school hours?

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Now, c'mon

So the plumber replaces the faucet mentioned yesterday, presents his bill, is paid, and leaves. Two hours later I get out of the shower, turn off the faucets, and the hot-water one serves notice that the little set screw inside the handle has stripped threads and won't properly turn on/off.

What the hell is going on here?

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January 16, 2007

Water water everywhere

Damn. When one toilet's fixed, another one goes. Worse, when testing to see if the water came back on properly after changing the valve in the second one, the aerator in the sink's faucet failed and broke off within the faucet head, so now I need a new faucet.

Who did I harm to be cursed like this?

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January 15, 2007

MLK Day 2006

Why was Dr. King in Memphis when he was killed?

To support a sanitation workers' strike. Peter Dreier tells the story.

Wages averaged about $1.70 per hour. Forty percent of the workers qualified for welfare to supplement their poverty-level salaries. They had almost no health care benefits, pensions, or vacations. They worked in filthy conditions, and lacked basic amenities like a place to eat and shower. They were required to haul leaky garbage tubs that spilled maggots and debris on them. White supervisors called them "boy" and arbitrarily sent them home without pay for minor infractions that they overlooked when white workers did the same thing. The workers asked Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb and the city council to improve their working conditions, but they refused to do so.

On February 12, 1,300 black sanitation workers walked off their jobs, demanding that the city recognize their union (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME) and negotiate to resolve their grievances. They also demanded a pay increase to $2.35 an hour, overtime pay, and merit promotions without regard to race.

For the next several months, city officials refused to negotiate with the union. In private, Mayor Loeb reportedly told associates, "I'll never be known as the mayor who signed a contract with a Negro union."


King came back to Memphis on Wednesday, April 3 to address a rally to pressure city officials to negotiate a compromise solution to the strike.

For his trouble, he was killed on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel the following day. He was 39 years old.

As Dreier says, people forget that Dr. King was an activist. He's been praised to the skies for his oratory with good reason, but he was first and foremost a man who wanted things changed and one who did things to instill those changes.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King.

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January 14, 2007

Yet more intrusion

It's bad enough that the Pentagon is now demanding financial records from banks about their customers, but this part has even more potential for misuse:

Even when a case is closed, military officials said they generally maintain the records for years because they may be relevant to future intelligence inquiries. Officials at the Pentagon’s counterintelligence unit say they plan to incorporate those records into a database, called Portico, on intelligence leads.

And what does the Administration say about this story? Cheney, on Fox News Sunday today:

It's a perfectly legitimate activity. There's nothing wrong with it or illegal. It doesn't violate people's civil rights. And if an institution that receives one of these national security letters disagrees with it, they're free to go to court to try to stop its execution.
So, sue if you don't like it.

Where are all the right-wing loonies who saw black helicopters and One-World Government during the Clinton Administration? Shouldn't they be up in arms about the federal government collecting private data about civilians?

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January 13, 2007

All Keyed Up

Here's a potentially embarrassing meme: if you've got a Flickr account, take a photo of your everyday keychain and post it to the "Show Me Your Keys" Flickr Group.

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January 12, 2007

I am Dagwood Bumstead

You know the classic cartoon/comic strip of the homeowner fighting with a gusher of water from the sink or toilet? I actually had that happen today. I was trying to replace the gasket inside the cap on the toilet flush valve. I dutifully turned off the water at the valve below the tank, took off the cap, and a geyser erupted. There was water everywhere. I managed to get the cap back on and stop it, but I had to call a plumber to come out to look at the valve. Turned out the thing itself has a gasket, and it had cracked or gotten brittle, so even though I thought it was turned off and the handle wouldn't turn any further, it wasn't really off.

Fortunately we managed to find a plumber who got here within half-an-hour, and he replaced the old valve and the gasket I had been initially trying to fix. We're $146.60 poorer, but much relieved.

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Drive it like Beckham

In one of these ubiquitous interviews with David Beckham about his move to L.A., somebody should ask him how long he thinks it'll take to learn to drive on the right-hand side of the road.

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January 11, 2007


I got a postcard from Kodak yesterday. It introduces the KodakStore Trade-in Program.

"Buy any Kodak Easyshare Digital Camera at the Kodak Store and trade-in your digital camera regardless of brand for a Cash Rebate!"

Hmm. If you're looking to upgrade, this might be worth checking out. Go to this page to get an estimate of the trade-in value of your current camera.

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January 10, 2007

George addresses the nation

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English American dead.

Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1

After Democrats swept the November midterm elections, people both inside and outside the administration expected the bipartisan Iraq Study Group to provide Mr. Bush with a face-saving exit from the war. Mr. Bush made favorable reference to the study group on Wednesday night, noting that he had accepted some of its 79 recommendations.

But he rejected its central notion, that the United States should set a timetable for scaling back combat operations and mount a new diplomatic offensive to engage Iran and Syria. Mr. Bush concluded that those recommendations were not a recipe for victory, but rather, as he said after a meeting with Mr. Maliki in November, a recipe for “a graceful exit,” a path he did not want to pursue.

A path he did not want to pursue. Nope. Dad bailed out of Iraq; I'm not gonna.

Persistence is often admirable, but stubbornness and obstinacy are not. More and more Bush reminds me of one of the kings Shakespeare wrote tragedies about, but there's nothing sympathetic about our King George.

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Pete Seeger, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, 1961

He did it His Way

The president’s call for more troops comes less than two months after Gen. John Abizaid, the outgoing head of the U.S. Central Command, said that such an increase would not help matters in Iraq. It thus marks a clear break with Mr. Bush’s frequent assertion that he would rely on his commanders to determine optimum force levels.

The idea of an increase goes, as well, against the recommendation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which had called for the withdrawal by early next year of most U.S. combat units from Iraq.

But hey, Bill Kristol, Fred Kagan and General Keane all think it's a good idea, so...

God forbid Bush listen to the professional military people.

Do you think he'll sue the Iraq Study Group for non-performance, since he's doing the opposite of what they said?

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January 09, 2007

Iraq War 3.1

Senators who met with Bush said the president made it clear that he is planning to add as many as 20,000 U.S. troops to help quell violence in Baghdad. They also said the president is arguing that his new plan has a better chance for success than past plans because of a greater willingness of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to commit Iraqi forces against all perpetrators of violence, including Shiite militias.

Right. Because al-Maliki doesn't need Moqtada al-Sadr to keep him in office.

As Josh Marshall says:

When the president goes before the people on Wednesday, he is basically saying, trust me.

It's never really possible to know what the future will bring, especially for most of us who may have gut level instincts about military strategy but little detailed operational knowledge. But given the track record and the fact that few people outside the White House seem to think this is a good idea, what possible basis is there to put any trust in Bush's latest gambit?

Or any faith that it will work.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Bob Dylan, 1963.

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January 08, 2007

OSU - Florida

I'll take OSU by a touchdown.

Update: Good grief. I'm glad I had no money bet on that travesty. It reminded me of all those Super Bowls which were hyped to the skies and turned into blowouts.

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Down with decorations

Ok, house, you can go back to looking drab and non-festive now.

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January 06, 2007

Mystery series

Back here I said I was going to try out some of Jane Haddam's Gregor Demarkian books (full list here), and now I have. At the local used bookstore I found a copy of Not a Creature Was Stirring, book one in what's now a twenty-book series, and I'm now reading Conspiracy Theory, the nineteenth. It's the only one my local library had today when I went to return some books. They can be read as stand-alones, fortunately.

They're very good. They're complicated, the murders are puzzles, and the characters are well-drawn. I'm looking for the ones I haven't yet read. Library Thing has tie-ins with several bookswap sites, but not one of them lists any of these as available. Rats!

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January 05, 2007


If you've been watching promos for PBS's Antiques Road Show in Honolulu you've no doubt seen a woman at the end of the clip say "I've got gooseskin." This just amuses the heck out of those of us who live here. Local parlance uses the words "chicken skin" to describe the phenomenon of goosebumps; the lady is obviously flustered at being told her precious object is worth gazillions more than she thought and conflating the two.

We chuckle everytime we see it.

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January 04, 2007

Neither rain nor snow, but Bush

Wiretapping your telephones isn't sufficient for Bush, apparently. Now he says he can open your mail too.

The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a "signing statement" that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions.

That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it.

When is this damned country going to wake up and be more afraid of the powers this man asserts for himself than it is of the supposed things he claims to protect us from?

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January 03, 2007

Take that, Virgil Goode

You've heard about this nitwit Congressman from Virginia, Virgil Goode? He's been squalling about the idiot voters in Minnesota who had the gall to elect a Muslim named Keith Ellison to the U.S. House.

The controversy over Ellison's desire to swear his oath on a Koran, which had been stoked by conservative commentators initially, reached something of a fever pitch when Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode, an otherwise obscure Republican, declared in a letter to a constituent that "When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Qur'an in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Qur'an."


What made Goode's ignorance of those founding principles remarkable was the fact that he represents Virginia's Albemarle County, where Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743.

On Thursday, it will not be Virgil Goode who pays tribute to Jefferson.

It will be Keith Ellison.

The new Congressman from Minnesota will declare his loyalty to the Constitution while clutching a copy of the Koran that was once owned by Jefferson. One of many Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist texts that the author of the Declaration of Independence donated to the Library of Congress at its founding, the Jefferson Koran has been loaned to Ellison by the rare book and special collections division of the library.

Way to trump this miserable bigot, Congressman Ellison.

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Misuse of language

When is an escalation not an escalation? When it's a surge!

I doubt if the escalation will do any good; in fact, I suspect it will do more harm. 30,000 more soldiers just makes the occupation look that much more permanent, particularly since they have to be housed somewhere. Also, 30,000 more soldiers means 30,000 more targets for IEDs, mortars and sniper fire. To what military end?

This is politics, but worse, it's stupid politics. It's not like the 2006 elections showed a demand from the voters to send more troops off to the meatgrinder that is Iraq. Nope, this is Bush as steadfast wartime President, ignoring the will of the people. He's smarter than they are, after all.

The man is an idiot. A stupid, selfish idiot.

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January 02, 2007

Inflation isn't a problem, huh?

Here, Mr. Bernanke, take a look at this.

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January 01, 2007

My stars and little fishes

If you missed the last five minutes plus overtime of the Fiesta Bowl, I'm sorry for you. That was the most exciting football game I've seen in years.

In one of the more dramatic finishes in BCS history, the Sooners (11-3) and the Broncos (13-0) combined for 22 points in the final 86 seconds of regulation.

And then went on to score 15 more in OT. OU scored first in the overtime. Boise State then scored a touchdown and went for a two-point conversion to win. The quarterback faked a fade pass to the right side and handed off on the Statue of Liberty play to the running back who went into the end zone untouched.


Update: More from ESPN, including the story of the running back's on-field marriage proposal to his girlfriend immediately subsequent to his scoring the conversion. (Yes, she accepted.)

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Offhand, the only good thing I can think of that happened to the country in 2006 was the Democrats unexpectedly winning both Houses of Congress in November. Let's hope there are more and better things to celebrate a year from now.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Update: Somehow the comments for this entry were inadvertently closed when I posted it. They're open now, and thanks to Terry in the previous comments for telling me about it.

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