This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Battle of the Bands: I'm Jumping in the Song River for Round 3

And Now for the Friday Night Fights
         This is round three of the Battle of the Bands.  I missed rounds one and two but when I saw this going on I just had to dive in--I love this music stuff as you regular readers may be aware.  If you're wondering what I'm even talking about you can check my original announcement or you can go directly to the source at Faraway Series and Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends.   In fact you need to go to those sites to see who the other contenders doing battle are.  Then you vote your opinion.  Don't forget there are prizes at stake.

Here's the Deal

        Let me explain more about this.  On (or around) the first and fifteenth of each month we who are participating will post our selected match-ups.   In the comments readers will vote for their favorite versions of each song.  Be sure to give us your reason for voting on the selection you have chosen.  Then on (or about) the 7th and 21st of each month we who have participated in the BOTB posts will announce the vote tally and tell you our own personal choices.   Easy enough, right?

        Why should you vote?  Here's Stephen T McCarthy's explanation: Every 4 months there will be a new compact disc winner. In other words, ‘Battle Of The Bands’ #1 was posted on August 1, 2013, so at the end of November, one of you lucky voters is going to win a CD that includes one of the songs we’ve featured in our ‘Battle Of The Bands’ installments (you get to choose, and it doesn’t matter if the song won or lost its battle – if you like it, it’s YOURS!)

        Stephen at Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends is monitoring the contest so be sure to vote at his site. And Faraway Eyes at Faraway Series put together this whole extravaganza so be sure to visit her site as well. 

          So on with my part of the show!   Here are my contenders:

Neil Young "Down by the River" (1969)

         This classic song is from prolific songwriter/music artist Neil Young's  second album.   In his sophomore solo effort Young was backed by Crazy Horse, a band made up of most of the members of Los Angeles based group The Rockets.  I probably don't have to say much about the artist or the song since most of you are probably familiar with both.

         Take a listen...

McKendree Spring "Down by the River" (1972)

        McKendree Spring appeared on the music scene in 1969, but I didn't pick up on them until they had released their third album in 1972.   When I noted that they were covering one of my favorite songs by Neil Young and had a violin player in their line up, I decided that this was an album that I had to own.  I was not disappointed.  Their albums frequently include cover versions.

         Lamentably, the third album is the only McKendree Spring album I've ever owned and the only one that I'm familiar with.  Since Amazon and other internet purveyors were not around yet, finding the Spring albums was not always easy.  Back then I rarely ordered albums in record stores and music buying was mostly an impulse thing for me.  If I had seen other Spring albums at times when I had the money on hand, I would have probably picked them up.

        This group is still together and has a few recent recordings.  They apparently still play on occasion.  You can find more about them at the McKendree Spring website.

         Here's their version...

Now It's Your Turn

        Please vote for your favorite version in my comment section.  Then go to the blogs of Stephen and Faraway Eyes  to vote for their contenders.   Your votes will be kept on record for the final tally.

         You may win a CD!

          If  you want to join in and post your own battle we welcome you to do so.  Let us know in the comment section that you are adding your own match ups.   It's not a blogfest officially, but it's kind of like one.  If you're joining us then be sure to link to the three blogs that are in the contest (mine, Faraway Eyes, and Stephen T McCarthy) so readers will know what's going on and join in on the contest.  I've already heard that Alex J Cavanaugh is doing a battle on his site.

          Don't forget to come back on September 7th (or the case of Tossing It Out Friday September 6th) to see which version readers preferred and why I chose my personal favorite.

           Which version do you prefer?   Why do you prefer this version?   Had you previously heard of McKendree Spring?

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ask Arlee: 30 questions about music

       Here's a fun thing that I found at Mitch Mitchell's I'm Just Sharing...,  You may even want to do this one at your own blog since it's an entertaining good time.  Mitch says that for him "it started with this guy Lamarr Wilson who mentioned that he saw a Tumblr post of someone (he mentions the guy but didn’t link to it) who had 30 questions on music and that he wanted to answer some of them for his video post. He tackled 10 of them, doing a bit of performing for each of them as well.  There's also a video of a lady named Tomeka Haywood who did a video response to Lamarr’s video."

        In my list I've included links to the songs.  Click on the song title if you want to hear the song.  Of course it would probably take a couple hours to listen to them all, but you didn't have anything else to do did you?  If you do your own list, be sure to let me know so I can come to check it out.

        Music Asks:   

1: A song you like with a color in the title  "Green Eyed Lady" by Sugarloaf

2: A song you like with a number in the title "99 1/2 (Won't Do)"  CCR version is my favorite.

3: A song that reminds you of summertime  "Summer in the City"  Lovin' Spoonful

4: A song that reminds you of someone you would rather forget about  There's no one in my life history that I want to forget about, but there are people who have left me with negative feelings.  A song that I might relate to this is "Hold Me Now" by the Thompson Twins

5: A song that needs to be played LOUD  Anything by Led Zeppelin.   I'll go with "Dancing Days"

6: A song that makes you want to dance  You'll probably never find me doing it, but I love those big choreographed productions of Michael Jackson's "Thriller".   There must be hundreds of these flash mob videos on YouTube.  I've linked to one that was done by a dance academy in New Orleans.

7: A song to drive to   "Radar Love" by Golden Earring

8: A song about drugs or alcohol  "Pills Blues"  The Rockets (the group that later became Neil Young's back-up group Crazy Horse). 

9: A song that makes you happy  "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys

10: A song that makes you sad  "When I Fall in Love" The version I've linked to is the wistful rendition done by Nat King Cole.  It's a beautiful romantic song, but it makes me kind of sad.  The expectations we have about love are often idealized and don't turn out like we dreamed about in another time.

11: A song that you never get tired of   I'm a big fan of Neil Young's music.  I've yet to tire of hearing "Cinnamon Girl".  

12: A song from your preteen years    "The Wayward Wind" by Gogi Grant.  

13: One of your favorite 80’s songs   Parachute Club - "Sexual Intelligence" (1985)

14: A song that you would love played at your wedding  "A Rover Reformed/A Fine Companion"  Traditional  English fiddle tunes.  Actually this was played as the processional entrance of the bride and wedding party at my second marriage.  It was played by two of my friends on guitar accompanying me on the fiddle.  The clip is not us playing, but it sounds very much how we sounded.  Yes, I played at my own wedding.

15: A song that is a cover by another artist  Before I understood who Bob Dylan was I started hearing his songs covered by other artists.  I especially liked Johnny Cash's version of "It Ain't Me Babe".   Be sure to see the announcement at the end of this post about The Battle of the Bands!

16: One of your favorite classical songs  "Je Crois Entendre Encore" by Georges Bizet from his opera "The Pearl Fishers".   In the clip I've linked to the song is beautifully performed by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour.  This gives me chills every time I hear it.

17: A song that you would sing a duet with on karaoke   Not sure this would happen again, but actually I did sing "Rocky Top" with my sisters at a party once.  Sometimes strange things happen.  The clip I've included is by the bluegrass group The Osborne Brothers who had a hit with the song back in the 60's.

18: A song from the year that you were born (1951) "Tennessee Waltz"  Patti Page.  I was born in Ohio, but after settling in East Tennessee during my high school years I've always considered that state my home.  I still do even though I currently live in Los Angeles.

19: A song that makes you think about life  "In My Life" by The Beatles.

20: A song that has many meanings to you  "Como Te Extraño Mi Amor"  I guess I'd have to look up the lyrics to recall exactly what they mean, but the song itself represents a period of transition, a span of changing outlook, and a recording I enjoy hearing.

21: A favorite song with a person’s name in the title   "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" by Crosby, Still, and Nash. 

22: A song that moves you forward  "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, performed in this clip by the 60's group Gerry and the Pacemakers.

23: A song that you think everybody should listen to  "What About the Bond?"  by Bruce Cockburn should especially be listened to by anyone contemplating marriage or divorce.

24: A song by a band you wish were still together    The New York Rock and Roll Ensemble was an eclectic band that had infinite possibilities.  They combined mostly rock and classical but had the potential for creating so much more.  They were musicians of high caliber.   Here's a clip of them performing "Gravedigger".  

25: A song by an artist no longer living   Jim Morrison of the Doors performing Kurt Weill's "Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)"

26: A song that makes you want to fall in love  "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green.  Wow!  How cool could a song be?   

27: A song that breaks your heart   "Cry Me a River" Julie London (or anyone except Joe Cocker who makes me cry for other reasons).

28: A song by an artist with a voice that you love   Greg X Volz singing Aerosmith's "Dream On"

29: A song that you remember from your childhood  "The Face from Outer Space"  Jeff Barry  --I used to love silly novelty songs.  I still remember seeing this performed on some TV variety show.

30: A song that reminds you of yourself  "On The Road Again"  Willie Nelson.  Yeah, I can relate to this song for sure.
And now it's your turn if you'd like to play along...

        Be sure to visit this coming Friday as I participate in the Battle of the Bands.  For more information and additional links see my Battle of the Bands post.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Do You Know What Your Children Are Learning in School?

teachers (Photo credit: Mouse)
      God bless our teachers!   But I am beginning to think that administrators and creators of curriculum are emissaries of evil.   They may think they are doing the right thing, but then again I wonder how thorough and rational that thinking is.  Or maybe it's just another part of a bigger conspiracy to control the world population.

        Schools are either now back in session or will be soon.  There is an increasing amount of buzz over a new curriculum being instituted in schools across the country.  Common Core is the bane of many teachers who are having to relearn how and what they teach.  Sure, there are some who come to the defense of Common Core, but I am hearing increasingly negative reports as more teachers are introduced to the program.

       When I initially heard about Common Core I had my usual suspicions, but didn't give it too much thought.  Then I began to hear some odd reports about the program.  I began doing some research on the internet.  What I found left me incredulous. If you're not familiar with Common Core do the research for yourself.  This is especially important if you have children or grandchildren in a school system where the program has been or is going to be added.

       I still don't know too much about Common Core so that's why this is my topic for today.  Maybe some of you can enlighten us about the Common Core program.  To me something smells fishy.   Now I'm tossing out the bait to see if anyone will bite.

      You can find many videos on YouTube about Common Core, pro and con.  The following excellent video was brought to my attention at the site Old Virginia Blog. I think the indoctrination they suggest sounds very suspicious and creepy.  This is the stuff of speculative or science fiction.  The video here concerns first and third grade.  What I've seen about middle school and high school text books is outrageous and highly disturbing.


          Do you keep up with what your kids learn in school?   Are you familiar with Common Core?    What do you think is the intent of the federal government regarding education?

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Friday, August 23, 2013

What's Fun for You?

Battle of the Bands (video game)
Battle of the Bands (video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
       Can you believe another summer is almost gone?   I've had a great one for the most part and I hope yours has been good as well.

        I've had fun doing some traveling this year.   Road tripping is one of my favorite fun things to do.  But I do have fun just staying home doing things on the internet, watching movies on television, or just hanging out.  Gotta have fun sometimes.

Here's Something Fun

        Two of my good blogging friends have started a bi-monthly (as in twice a month) event called Battle of the Bands.  Usually on the first and the fifteenth of each month, they face off two versions of the same song for readers to vote on to decide which artist made the best recording.  They also have a giveaway as a part of the fun.   Read more about this event at their sites Far Away Series and Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends.  You can track back through their posts to see the two battles that have already taken place.   Next battle will actually be posted on August 30th due to Labor Day weekend.   Be sure to keep up with the battles to come.

        And guess who is going to join them in this.  If you guessed me then you'd be right.  How can I resist something like this?   Me and my passion about music and all.  I've got some interesting picks lined up.  You may know how obscure I can get.  Well, I can promise some picks that are rather out there, but I'll have some mainstream stuff as well.   Join me next Friday August 30 to see who will be battling in my first round.

         If you want to join in the fun then you can do your own battle on your blog.  Please be sure to link to Faraway and Stephen T. McCarthy and Tossing It Out of course.  Leave us all a comment to let us know that you've added your own band battle so we can check out your picks.   It's all pretty informal and unofficial and all.  Kind of a blogfest without a Linky List.  And most of all, it's fun!  Next Friday!

         What do you like to do for fun?   What fun things have you been doing this summer?   Would you like to match up your own song versions to do battle?

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ask Arlee: Answering Some Questions

English: Rear of the Clover Hill Mill in Maryv...
English: Rear of the Clover Hill Mill in Maryville, Tennessee, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
      Today I'm going to answer some questions posed at L.D. Masterson's blog L.D. Masterson.  It was all part of an award, but I left the award at her blog since I already got one of those some time back.  But I'll answer the questions to fill up my space today.

        The problem here is the questions are about favorites.  I usually have a tough time playing favorites because the choice can often depend on time, place, occasion, or whatever.  Ask me a favorite and I'll come up with a list.  My favorite today may be different tomorrow or next week.  I'll play along by naming what comes to mind first or what I'm leaning toward for the moment.

1. Favorite color --Blue.  No green.  Wait--blue.  Green.  Blue green?

2. Favorite animal--Elephant.  I used to like to draw elephants when I was a kid and I thought I did a pretty good job at that.

3. Favorite number-- 7

4. Favorite non-alcoholic drink--Chocolate milk.  Yeah, that's healthy.  I have gotten better than I used to be at drinking more water.

5. Favorite alcoholic drink--Brandy mixed with Grand Marnier

6. Facebook or Twitter?--I use Twitter the most, but I find Facebook to be more interesting and functional.  

7. Passions--Writing, music, movies.

8. Prefer getting or giving presents?--I hate shopping but I enjoy making people happy by giving them something they like.

9. Favorite City--I could probably live just about anywhere because I can usually find something good about wherever I am.   In the U.S. I'd probably opt for Maryville, Tennessee.  Outside the U.S. borders I am mighty partial towards the Canadian city of Toronto--I've always loved being there.

10. Favorite TV Shows--I tend to prefer the classics I grew up with like "Twilight Zone", "The Ed Sullivan Show", or "The Jack Benny Show".   I have a post planned about television and I'll have more to say about modern TV at that time.

         Do you think posts like this are just trivial space fillers?   Do you have a hard time playing favorites?   Do you want to share any of your own answers (here or on your own blog if you need to fill some space)?   Do you have any new questions for future ASK ARLEE posts?

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Why Is It Important for the United States to Give Egypt Military Aid?

United Nations "Fight For Freedom" p...
United Nations "Fight For Freedom" poster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
       Since Egypt is the big news item of late I thought I'd add my blog to the mix.  Each year the United States gives the Egyptian military $1.5 billion.  In the long run Egypt is probably a dubious friend and ally of the United States and it strikes me we are paying out something more akin to insurance or bribe money than actual aid that will benefit the western world overall.   Add to that the dollars we dish out to factions in Syria and the governments of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and many other countries who likely are not rooting for the U.S. way of life.

        While the U.S. doles out trillions in military aid, our government borrows like amounts from other countries like China, a country that unlikely is hoping that the U.S. will stay at the top of the heap as a world power.  The United States has tons of economic problems as we see large roles of unemployed and underemployed, small businesses struggling, and cities going bankrupt.  Is it prudent for our country to be borrowing so heavily so we can dish out money elsewhere?  

          Shouldn't the United States government be thinking more like a business and looking for bigger returns for the questionable investments of aid?  Or maybe they are thinking like the mega corporations which are eating up the world's economy and soul.  Who is really in charge here and do they know what they are doing?

          Personally I think we need to start keeping more dollars at home.  I'm not a fan of powering the military machines of most of these countries.   Not unless we start getting more back from them to make it worth it for us and I don't see that happening any time soon.  And not ever maybe.  Let's face it, we have different interests at heart for the time being at least.   Rather than nations of dependency, I'm a believer in creating cooperative capitalistic ventures who are interested in developing and sustaining their own economies while productively interacting with others.  Or are there some other agendas that governments have in mind?

          Should countries like the U.S. be funding the military machines of potentially dangerous governments?  How does aid from the United States government benefit anyone in the long run?   Can we truly consider countries like Egypt, Pakistan, and others friends and allies?   Or are they just taking what they can get with an intent on eventually stabbing us in the back?

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Welcome to New Jersey--Providence Isn't Only In Rhode Island

      My wife and I recently returned from a massive three week 7000 mile road trip from our home near Los Angeles to the Jersey Shore and Tennessee and many points yon and about.  That came down to ten full days of driving that averaged out at about twelve hours and around 700 miles per day.  All told it was another great adventure--one that I thought wouldn't happen.  Since we had already taken our trip to Ecuador I figured we wouldn't do the U.S. tour, but my wife decided that we should still do it and I have her to thank for this second vacation.

        We'd barely been back a week from Ecuador when my wife finished up an obligation to jury duty and then told me to make arrangements for the trip.  I planned taking a more northerly route through Utah and Colorado and on across the great interior of the nation.  Early Saturday July 13th we hit the road and by the early evening of Tuesday July 16th we were in New Jersey sitting in the living room of one of my daughter's house when we heard what I thought was a loud knock at the front door.  It was not a knock at the door.

        One of my other daughters who had gone to check it out came back stunned.  "Somebody hit your car!" she said.

         Her words seemed so unreal that they didn't exactly register with me as I followed her to the front door.   The sight that greeted me made no sense at first.   A different car was now sitting where I had left ours.  Our car was several feet away with its front end bashed against a street light pole that now tilted at a precarious angle.

You Should See the Other Guy!

         I must admit that the damage to our car initially didn't look that bad.  Looking at the damage to the offending vehicle, a sporty 2013 Toyota FRS, the old fight joke "You should see the other guy!" ran through my mind.  I tried to keep a positive frame of mind considering our circumstances.

       Next Time Use Your Brakes Instead of Our Car
        The young man who was driving the car registered in his father's name was obviously driving way too fast and not paying attention to his driving.  Texting perhaps?  He had not even tried to use his brakes.  His airbags were deployed.  He had a broken wrist and was visibly shaken by the accident.  He also probably was a bit concerned about what his father would be saying.  His mother arrived on the scene shortly after the accident happened.  They lived around the corner from my daughter.   Two ambulances arrived on the scene, but the mother declined treatment and opted to take her "child" to the hospital herself.   The police cited the kid for careless driving.

It's Much Worse Than It Looks

        My wife, son-in-law, and myself all made rough guesses that the damage would come to about $5000.  The appraiser who came out the next day wrote up his estimate for a couple hundred over that.  After the damaged parts were dismantled and upon final investigation at the body shop, the final bill was over $8100.  Remember, we had damage at both ends and there was a lot of replacing of parts to be done.

                       Wrecking the Car at Both Ends

        Our car took a forceful hit when you consider how far it traveled after being struck and the damage to the streetlight pole.  And talk about service from the power company.  They were out on the scene to straighten the damaged pole before the Toyota had even been towed.

                   An Endorsement for Nissan Maxima

         I've always liked my wife's Maxima.  It's the second one she's owned.  It's comfortable, drives well, and hasn't required much major maintenance.   Now I know it holds up well in an accident.   Like everyone said afterward, it's good that we weren't in the car when this happened.   However, now I feel even more secure driving this car.

                   And While I'm Handing Out Praise


         I was very pleased with the speed with which my claim was handled by my insurance company which is through the Auto Club of Southern California.  We were quickly taken care of by Carsmetics of Brick, NJ.   Since everyone knew our circumstance of being on vacation, they prioritized the repairs and got us back on the road two days after our originally scheduled departure date.   While the car was in the shop we had to get a rental car in order to go to Tennessee as we had planned.   Not in our plans was having to return to New Jersey to pick up our Maxima.   I can't say enough good things here about the service we received from Carsmetics, but I gave them a good review at Yelp.

        It's kind of amazing to consider all the traveling that we did to get to New Jersey with no problems and then to be parked in front of my daughter's house not more than a half hour and have this happen.  If something like this was going to happen, what a convenient place and time for it to happen.   I guess I could call it providence and I'm thankful for our safety throughout this entire amazing trip.

        And as they say, "Stuff happens."   Or something like that.

        Have you had any experiences of providence like this?   What's your favorite car?   Is it the car you drive now?    Have you ever dealt with a location of the Carsmetics body shop chain?

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Closing My Mind With the Assistance of the U.S. Government

My wife and I at the Equator monument.
       I've always had somewhat of an adventurous spirit.  Travel is a great love of mine.  So you'd think when offered a trip to Ecuador I would have been thrilled at the prospect.   But under the circumstances I was not.

       Previously I made reference to "My Reluctant Ecuador Vacation" and briefly told about our trip with some photos and a video.  That document will suffice as a record of our trip.  If you missed that post and want to know about my trip then check it out.  In this current post I want to explain a bit about my reluctance to embark upon the Ecuador excursion and how the United States government added to that reluctance.

        Yes, controversy Monday comes on a Wednesday this week.

My Summer Vacation Plans

          My wife came up with the Ecuador trip plan in May.  My reaction to the suggestion was one of disappointment as we had originally planned a trip back east to New Jersey and Tennessee to visit our grandkids and my family.   Since we rarely get to see any of them I had been looking forward to this trip.  Going to Ecuador was pretty much going to mess up those plans as far as I could see.  One trip was probably all we could afford.

         My disappointment was very evident as I made it very clear that going to Ecuador was not as important to me as visiting family.  Since my wife was now set on making the trip to her home country I tried my best to get into a positive mindset about going.  I wasn't doing a very good job at this, but I tried to put it all in the most positive light I could.  I began to do research on the internet in order to prepare myself for the upcoming trip.

State Department Deception

         The website of the United States Department of State seemed like a reliable place to go for information.  What I read there about traveling in Ecuador began to make me have second thoughts about going and my reluctance on taking the trip was rekindled.  From the website I gained a perception that Ecuador was not necessarily the best place to go.  Not wanting to go probably made me read more into the website warnings than was there, but still I was seeing all sorts of cautionary flags waving before me.  Thinking more on the idea of the trip I told my wife I wasn't going to go.

           After further consideration, as I was on the web arranging my wife's flight, I decided that it would be wrong for me to let my wife go without me.  I booked tickets for both of us.  In the end I was glad that I did because it was a great trip.  While in Ecuador we encountered none of the problems mentioned on the Department of State site.  Maybe there was some fact there, but I think the dangers were greatly exaggerated.  I would go to Ecuador again if the opportunity arose and I would highly recommend the experience to anyone.

How Much Are We Being Deceived?

          My experience with this trip combined with all of the things that have been coming to light in the news of late makes me ask:  Can we trust our government?

          Actually this is a question that has been asked for quite some time by many.  In the past I've often had a sense of paranoia about our government.   Then after 9/11 I got caught up like many others in a certain aura of patriotic fervor.   My job loss in 2009 began to send me back into a sense of doubt which has been heightened in the past few years.  Government agencies instill fear of travel outside our borders while doling out trillions of dollars to dubious countries like Egypt, Syria, and Pakistan.  Government agencies are intruding into lives of individuals and organizations that are not in a favorable light with the current administration.

         There is increasing evidence that the government is spying on all of us.   For what purpose?  The sadder story is that many of us don't care much and even if we do there isn't much we can do about it.  Call me a conspiracy theorist and you'll be telling it like it is.

          What do you think about the U.S. or any other government for that matter?  Can governments be trusted?   Are we heading toward one world government domination by powers that are not in the interest of good?    What government propaganda hogwash have you fallen for in the past only to discover you've been duped?

View at the Equator Museum
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