Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 8:47 pm

Geeking out

Item the first: Geoffrey Chaucer, an unpublished clerk to King Richard in the 13th century, contacts novelist/essayist Margaret Atwood seeking an interview, and “wyth grete gentilesse, she did consent to be interviewede through emayle on [his] blog.”

Item the second, and my only question about this item is: you mean it wasn’t already? Sex.com officially became the most expensive domain name in history a few months ago, going for $13 million. The new owner has some ideas about what he might do with the domain — not necessarily what you might think. But then, of course, so does everyone else.

SO far ahead of the curve

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:43 pm
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I ended up at the bottom of this flow chart ALL THE TIME in high school … and texting hadn’t even been invented yet.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011 10:01 pm

Thanksgiving

Filed under: America. It was a really good idea — Lex @ 10:01 pm

The following letter was written around Thanksgiving 2010 and originally posted at A Company of One, a site that, for whatever reason, isn’t functioning as this post is written. The letter was reposted this week at Zero Hedge:

To the unemployed, sick, disabled and poor:
Hello,

I’m unemployed over two years now, a 99er without any benefits for three months. I followed Unemployed Friends almost from its start, never posted until now, but am grateful for my time with you all. I did as asked with calls and e-mails, etc. I’ve a confession to make to you all. I’m a criminal.

I’ve obeyed the 10 commandments and all laws except: I’m unemployed and that’s now a crime, I’m poor and that’s a crime, I’m worthless surplus population and that’s a crime, I’m a main street American Citizen born and raised in the USA and that’s now a crime, and I’m euthanizing myself as I write this note — so arrest my corpse. This isn’t a call for help, the deed is done, it’s not what I wanted. Death is my best available option. It’s not just that my bank account is $4, that I’ve not eaten in a week, not because hunger pangs are agonizing (I’m a wimp), not because I live in physical and mental anguish, not because the landlady is banging on the door non-stop and I face eviction, not that Congress and President have sent a strong message they no longer help the unemployed. It’s because I’m a law abiding though worthless, long-term unemployed older man who is surplus population. Had I used my college education to rip people off and steal from the elderly, poor, disabled and main street Americans I would be wearing different shoes now — a petty king. Hard work, honesty, loving kindness, charity and mercy, and becoming unemployed and destitute unable to pay your bills are all considered foolishness and high crimes in America now. Whereas stealing and lying and cheating and being greedy to excess and destroying the fabric of America is rewarded and protected — even making such people petty king and petty queens among us.

Since the end of 2008, when corporate America began enjoying the resumption of growth, profits have swelled from an annualized pace of $995 billion to the current $1.66 trillion as of the end of September 2010. Over the same period, the number of non-farm jobs counted by the Labor Department has slipped from 13.4 million to 13 million — there is no recovery for the unemployed and main street. We taxpayers have handed trillions of dollars to the same bank and insurance industry that started our economic disaster with its reckless gambling. We bailed out General Motors. We distributed tax cuts to businesses that were supposed to use this lubrication to expand and hire. For our dollars, we have been rewarded with starvation, homelessness and a plague of fear — a testament to post-national capitalism.

Twelve years ago, I lost the last of my family. Ten years ago, I lost the love of my life, couldn’t even visit him in the hospital because gays have no rights. I fought through and grieved and went on as best I could. Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with Diabetes and Stage 2 high blood pressure with various complications including kidney problems, mild heart failure, Diabetic Retinopathy. These conditions are debilitating and painful. I am on over eight prescribed medications, which is very difficult without insurance and income. But I struggled on and my primary caregiver was very pleased with my effort overtime with my A1C at seven. Still these physical disabilities have progressively worsened, and I have had a harder and harder time functioning in basic ways. All the while, I give thanks to God because I know there are many more worse off than me — and I tried to help by giving money to charities and smiling at people who looked down and sharing what little I had.

I am college educated and worked 35 years in management, receiving written references and praise from every boss for whom I worked. Yet, after thousands of resumes, applications, e-mails, phone calls, and drop ins, I’ve failed to get a job even at McDonalds. I’ve discovered there are three strikes against me — most 99ers will understand. Strike one — businesses are not hiring long-term unemployed — in fact many job ads now underline “the unemployed need not apply.” Strike two — I am almost 60 years old. Employers prefer hiring younger workers who demand less and are better pack mules. Strike three — for every job opening I’ve applied, there are over 300 applicants according to each business who allow a follow up call. With the U3 unemployment holding steady at 9.6percent and U6 at 17 percent for the past 18 months, the chances of me or any 99er landing a job is less than winning the Mega Million Jackpot. On top of that, even the most conservative economists admit unemployment will not start to fall before 2012 and most predict up to seven years of this crap.

I believe the Congress and President have no intention of really aiding the unemployed — due to various political reasons and their total removal from the suffering of most Americans, their cold-hearted, self-serving natures. Had they really wanted to help us, they could have used unspent stimulus monies or cut foolish costs like the failed wars or foreign aid, and farm subsidies. The unspent stimulus money alone cold have taken care of ALL unemployed persons for five years or until the unemployment rate reached 7 percent if Congress and the President really wanted to help us — and not string us all along with a meager safety net that fails every few months. In any case, if I were to survive homelessness (would be like winning the mega-millions) and with those three strikes against me, in seven more years, I’ll be near 70 with the new retirement age at 70 — now who will hire an old homeless guy out of work for nine years with just a few years until retirement?

So, here I am. Long term unemployed, older man, with chronic health problems, now totally broke, hungry, facing eviction. My landlady should really be an advocate for the unemployed — she bangs on my door demanding I take action. A phone call and a “please” are not enough for her — she is angry. She is right to be angry with me, I am unemployed — as apparently everyone is now angry with us unemployed.

Two hundred and eleven and social services cannot help single men. Food banks and other charities are unable to help any more folks — they are overwhelmed with the poor in this nation. So I have the “freedom” to be homeless and destitute and “pursue happiness” in garbage cans and then die — yay for America huh? It’s the end of November and cold. A diabetic homeless older person will experience amputations in the winter months. So I will be raiding garbage cans for food, as my body literally falls apart, a foot here, a finger there. I have experienced and even worked with pain from my diseases — hardship I can face. I just cannot muster the courage to slowly die in agony and humiliation in the gutter.

I have no family, I have no friends. For the past two years, I’ve had nobody to talk with as people who knew me react to the “unemployed” label as if it were leprosy and contagious. I am not a bad person, in fact people really like me. But everyone seems to be on a tight budget these days and living in incredible fear. It is hopeless since we all are hearing more and more that we unemployed are to blame for unemployment, that we are just lazy, that we are no good, that we are sinners, that we are druggies, yet we are the victims who suffer and are punished while the robber baron banksters and tycoons become senators, congress, presidents and petty kings. So the only option left for me is merciful self euthanasia.

It is with a heavy heart that I have set my death in motion, but what I am facing is not living. So off I go, I have made peace with God and placed my burden on Jesus and He forgives me. This nation has become evil to the core, with cold-hearted politicians and tycoons squeezing what little Main Street Americans have left. It is not the America into which I was born — the land of the free and the home of the brave with kind folks who help neighbors — it is now land of the Tycoon-haves and the rest of us have-nots who march into hopelessness and despair.

Every unemployed person I have met over these past two years have been saintly. Sharing what little they have, and being charitable — being kind and patient and supportive. Isn’t it amazing that we Americans who suffer so much, have not taken to the streets in violence, riots or gotten out the guillotines and marched on tycoons and Washington in revolt as would happen in most other nations? But rather we plead with deaf politicians to please help us. We don’t demand huge sums — just 300 bucks a week, barely enough to cover housing for most. Most of all we say, please help us get a job, please allow us dignity.

I can’t help but juxtapose our plight to the tycoons and politicians. They are never satisfied with their enormous wealth, and always want more millions no matter whom it hurts. They STEAL from pension funds, banks, the people and government, and little Wall Street investors. Then rather than face punishment, they become petty kings in this world. They are disloyal to America, unpatriotic, and serve their own foreign UN-American greedy causes and demand more and more and more. I feel that this is not the nation into which I was born. I was born in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. America, where people give as much as they receive. America, where all people work for the common good, and try to leave a better and more prosperous nation for the next generation. America, where people help their neighbors and show charity and mercy. This new America is alien to me — it is an America of greed and corruption and avarice and mean spirited selfishness and hatred of the common good — it is an America of savage beasts roaring and tearing at the weak, and bullying the humble and peacemakers and poor and those without means to defend themselves. I am not welcome here anymore. I don’t belong here anymore. It’s as if some evil beast controls government, the economy, and our lives now.

I must go now, my home is someplace else. Goodbye and God bless you all. God bless the unemployed and poor and elderly and disabled. God bless America and the American people except the tycoons and politicians — may God retain the sins of tycoons and politicians and phony preachers and send them to the Devil.

Mark

Is this letter “true”? That is, was/is there really such a person as “Mark,” a 67-year-old gay man, unemployed now for more than two years, and did he really kill himself?

Obviously, I do not know.

Just as  obviously, that is not the point.

The point is that there are millions of Americans who could be Mark. They’ve been unemployed for more than two years, they’re running out of money and options, and the people who run this country could not give less of a damn about them if they were shooting individuals for sport as they stood in line at Social Services, waiting for help that won’t be coming because, by God, our billionaires are overtaxed, our biggest banks are too heavily burdened with regulations and our military obligations cannot be curtailed even though they’re the source of many of our problems in the world.

Twenty years ago, President George H.W. Bush, who received the Medal of Freedom this week, told America that as much as he might like to do more for the general welfare, “we have more will than wallet.” In fact, busted as we are right now, we have the wallet we need, even if much of its contents has been shipped overseas permanently. That’s how rich this country still is.

What we don’t have is the will to stand up to the sons of bitches who are keeping us from looking after one another and remaking this country into an even greater version of itself. And it looks very much right now as if that will be America’s epitaph.

Omnibus education bill

Filed under: America. It was a really good idea — Lex @ 9:45 pm
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Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform (via ZH), in one lengthy, entertaining, sobering, frightening, instructive post, elegantly drapes post-1900 U.S. history, current affairs, economics, politics and a criminal investigation over the skeleton of John Steinbeck’s 1937 masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath.

It’ll probably take you an hour to read and absorb this piece. My advice? Go prepare your favorite adult beverage and do it. It’ll be one of the most worthwhile hours you spend all year.

Why am I not surprised?

My junior senator, Kay Hagan, appears hell-bent on topping predecessor Elizabeth Dole’s world land speed record for pissing away credibility.

You’ll recall that apparently she has some issues with investigating and prosecuting war crimes (and more about that later). Now, she’s apparently decided to join the criminals by becoming a co-chair of Third Way, a bogus corporate “think tank” that recently advanced the novel idea that banks ought to be able to foreclose on property to which they do not, in fact, have clear title.

Geez, Kay, why not just legalize cocaine trafficking and money laundering and call it Miller Time.

Mmmmmmmm. Druuuuuuugs.

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:20 pm
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If you follow my Twitter feed (link here — or, you know, just look down at the lower right side of this page), you know that not only did I have dental work this week, it was nowhere near as much fun as this:

Wisdom Teeth

I like my dentist. And when she says she had NO IDEA I would react that way to the epinephrine in the local, I believe her.

I also get a gum graft in a couple of weeks, as a direct consequence of brushing responsibly. At least the drugs should be better.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 8:41 pm

Writing assignment

Filed under: Fun,Hooper — Lex @ 8:41 pm
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Hooper last night completed his first-ever school assignment to write a piece of short fiction. It follows in its entirety:

One night I was getting ready for bed. I was getting my PJs on and I saw something glowing. I found a green and white egg under my bed. The egg started to move slightly. It started to crack and something came out and here’s what came out.

Out came a yellow and white creature. It started to roar and I knew right away that I would name it Receus. At the moment it sprang a yellow and white beam and left a gigantic hole right through the ceiling. Soon I thought I could do whatever I wanted with it, so we started to plan stuff.

We thought for awhile and came up with a brilliant idea. We would try to take over an underwear factory with underwear that weighed one thousand tons.  We planned it out and thought of traps and made a few. We got a driver’s license and drove to the first underwear factory. We used a giant catapult to sling an underwear and it crushed the whole building.

We started to go to other factories. Soon all the factories were destroyed. Every boy in the world already had a lot of underwear so they still had underwear. But when they wear out, they went to places with just pants. And we all lived happily ever after, even the mothers.

A few random thoughts:

  • “Spring” and its variants should be used as transitive verbs much more often.
  • Notice it doesn’t occur to him that the hole in the ceiling might constitute a problem requiring a solution.
  • Clearly the Dav Pilkey oeuvre (viz.) has been a huge influence on him.
  • He might have a future in economics; his “We got a driver’s license …” seems derived from the fabled economists’ approach to the plummeting-plane conundrum, “Assume a parachute.”
  • His grasp of physics might be limited, although, in fairness, he does not specify the material out of which is made the underwear that destroys the factory. Something dense, like depleted uranium, might just do the trick if the pair is a size XXL and is catapulted with sufficient velocity.

Finally, the desire to live life without underwear is the one aspect of the tale that brings this work close to roman à clef status. He frequently attempts to go to school without first having put on underwear and has since he got out of diapers. “There’s no room in them!” he insists. I leave it to his future bride to ascertain the truth or falsity of this claim … and to those of you with backgrounds in psychology to determine the underlying meanings. If there are any Feudians left among you, I presume that you will have a field day.

Monday, February 14, 2011 8:44 pm

Quote of the Day

… from Kung Fu Monkey, actually two years ago, on Atlas Shrugged, which is relevant now that the trailer’s out (and, hell, no, I’m not going to link to it):

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

We’re also now being told that the movie version of Atlas Shrugged will be filmed in three parts. No word on the other 27.

Friday, February 11, 2011 8:10 pm

Priorities

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:10 pm
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We’re doin’ it wrong.

Residential lenders, real estate agents, appraisers, mortgage brokers, investment bankers and bond ratings agency committed massive amounts of criminal fraud, destroyed trillions in wealth, rendered millions of Americans jobless (many of them likely for the rest of their lives), fleeced the taxpayers to keep their own companies alive and their individual bonuses intact, and the government is doing absolutely nothing about it.

Keep that fact in mind the next time someone accuses this administration, or any other, of being “anti-business.”

Thursday, February 10, 2011 8:15 pm

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 8:15 pm
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Henry Adams, on a Chronicle of Higher Education blog:

To be fair, many English instructors (especially fans of Wordsworth) believe that human beings will do the right thing if someone explains it to them properly. I find that notion charming, but I don’t see how anyone who teaches first-year composition can hold it for long.

I was an English major. I did my senior thesis on Wordsworth’s Prelude. And I, too, find that notion charming. But I gave it up early in life, without ever having taught first-year composition. Indeed, I am so far from convinced that people will do the right thing if someone explains it to them properly that I’m unsure whether Jesus Christ Himself could gather 12 disciples these days without pointing a gun at people first.

 

 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 9:15 pm

Well, it’s a start

Filed under: Evil — Lex @ 9:15 pm
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Apparently George W. Bush isn’t going to get to spend quality face time with his money. A right-wing Swiss lawmaker wants him arrested.

Sleep well, war criminal.

So, all that really bad banking stuff that happened a coupla years ago?

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 9:00 pm
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It’s a lot more likely to be back than Schwarzenegger at this point:

Regulations are put in place to see that the system runs smoothly and to protect the public from fraud. But banking without rules is more profitable, so industry leaders and lobbyists have tried to block the efforts at reform.  And, they have largely succeeded.  Dodd-Frank – the financial reform act — is riddled with loopholes and doesn’t really resolve the central issues of loan quality, additional capital, or risk retention. Banks are still free to issue bogus mortgages to unemployed applicants with bad credit, just as they were before the meltdown. And, they can still produce securitized debt instruments without retaining even a meager 5 per cent of the loan’s value. (This issue is still being contested) Also, government agencies cannot force financial institutions to increase their capital even though a slight downturn in the market could wipe them out and cause severe damage to the rest of the system. Wall Street has prevailed on all counts and now the window for re-regulating the system has passed.

President Barack Obama understands the basic problem, but he also knows that he won’t be reelected without Wall Street’s help.  That’s why he promised to further reduce “burdensome” regulations in the Wall Street Journal just two weeks ago. His op-ed was intended to preempt the release of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission’s (FCIC) report, which was expected to make recommendations for strengthening existing regulations. Obama torpedoed that effort by coming down on the side of big finance. Now, it’s only a matter of time before another crash.

Yeah, well, so the banks crash again, you think. Why should I care?

Because, sonny, when the banks crash, they and their owners don’t pay. You do. Through the nose (and other, even less toothsome, orifices):

So, between $4 to $7 trillion vanished in a flash after Lehman Brothers blew up. How many millions of jobs were lost because of inadequate regulation?  How much was trimmed from output, productivity, and GDP? How many people are now on food stamps or living in homeless shelters or struggling through foreclosure because unregulated financial institutions were allowed to carry out credit intermediation without government supervision or oversight?

The answers to the second question depend on the variable, but the answers to the first and third questions are easy: millions, maybe tens of millions. And here, friends, is why we are well and truly screwed:

Ironically, the New York Fed doesn’t even try to deny the source of the problem; deregulation. Here’s what they say in the report: “Regulatory arbitrage was the root motivation for many shadow banks to exist.”

What does that mean? It means that Wall Street knows that it’s easier to make money by eliminating the rules….the very rules that protect the public from the predation of avaricious speculators.

The only way to fix the system is to regulate all financial institutions that act like banks.  No exceptions.

Which, of course, is exactly the plank upon which so many of our newest congresscritters campaigned. Right?

You kids get out of my yard … and stop trying to get me to buy you beer.

Tom Scocca gets at something I’d sort of sensed but hadn’t really grasped. Maybe it’s because my parents didn’t make a big deal either way about drinking when I was kid. Maybe it’s because, with the legal drinking age then 18, I could get beer pretty much anytime I wanted it from about 15 on, and its very accessibility rendered its acquisition somewhat less urgent. Ida know. But as a quasi-responsible parent, damn, am I annoyed I didn’t grok this faster:

What are beer commercials about? The two central premises are these:

1. Beer—cheap, common, domestic beer—is a rare commodity that drives men mad with the desire to have it, at any cost.

2. Women are the great obstacle between men and the fulfillment of this desire.

Taken literally, this is baffling. Beer is cheap and easy to find. The only cost should be $6.99 for a six pack, at any convenience store. And rather than hiding from women to drink their beer, many single adult heterosexual men seek out female company when they’re drinking. “Drink our beer and avoid contact with women!”—who could possibly be the target for that pitch?

But it makes perfect sense if the target audience is—and it is—16-year-olds.

The girls aren’t really girls; they’re Mom. And Mom is the first hurdle in the thrilling obstacle course that makes up the world of the teenage beer drinker.

Geez. It’s the tobacco companies all over again. On the bright side, far fewer than one in three people who drink beer are going to die prematurely by using the product as intended, and secondhand beer, although certainly toxic (not to mention odoriferous), is more easily avoided and almost never lethal.

Want to see something you won’t see on a big bank’s balance sheet?

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:14 pm
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Voila! A housing market even worse than in the Depression:

Along with the snow and cold, November brought continued declines in home values. In fact, the Zillow Home Value Index has now fallen 26% since its peak in June 2006. That’s more than the 25.9% decline in the Depression-era years between 1928 and 1933.

November marked the 53rd consecutive month of home value declines, with the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) falling 0.8% from October to November, and falling 5.1% year-over-year.

But wait! Some good news!

Foreclosures, however, took a tumble in November, with fewer than one out of every 1,000 homes being foreclosed.

Awesome! That’s way down!

Unfortunately, that is an effect of the bank moratoriums that took place after the robo-signing issues came to light. Foreclosures are expected to rise again once that effect wears off.

Oh.

Crud.

Now, you might think that a housing market this bad would mean that a lot of mortgages that are listed as “assets” on various balance sheets are only assets if, by “assets,” we mean, “instruments worth half or less of what we say they’re worth.” And you would be correct. However, the banksters got to Congress and so Congress got to the FAAB and so now banks and their accountants are allowed to lie about how big their assets are and stay in business, rather than being liquidated in orderly fashion with their executives, stockholders and bondholders made to take the haircut.

In the financial Super Bowl, the refs are all being paid off. And you, mon ami, are not a ref.

Friday, February 4, 2011 5:49 am

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 5:49 am
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… from novelist/playwright/journalist Roger Rosenblatt, on PBS’s “NewsHour”:

We write to make suffering endurable, evil intelligible, justice desirable and love possible. And I can elaborate on those things.

But the most important is love. That after all the suffering, all the injustice, all the evil that one sees in the world, if you can rise above it and make it beautiful, and thus lovable then that’s worth a life.

Well, three out of four ain’t bad.

There’s a reason Paul wrote that of faith, hope and love, the greatest is love. Cynical though I am, I think that humans are so hard-wired to love that love would be possible with or without writing.

But the other three? As long as suffering and evil exist and justice is delayed or denied, writers will always have a job … and this blog will always have a mission.

Thursday, February 3, 2011 8:36 pm

Two guys, one watermelon, one .50-caliber round

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Fun — Lex @ 8:36 pm
Tags: ,

Because what could possibly go wrong?

Hooper loves Cartoon Network’s “Destroy Build Destroy,” from which I fear it is only a short step to this.

(h/t: Andy)

A question

Filed under: America. It was a really good idea — Lex @ 8:31 pm
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Would it kill American foreign policy to be on the right side of history a little more often? Because I’m 51 years old, and in my lifetime that phenomenon has been damned rare.

Friday Random 10, Thursday mindless-website-fixing mind-preservation edition

Filed under: Friday Random 10 — Lex @ 8:17 pm
Tags:

Titus Andronicus – A More Perfect Union
U2 – Beautiful Day
Big Pink – Velvet
Dire Straits – Romeo & Juliet
Wye Oak – For Prayer
Brains – One in a Million
The Black Hollies – Gloomy Monday Morning
Tom Petty ft. Eddie Vedder – The Waiting (live 7/30/06)
Crowded House – Fall At Your Feet (live)
Otis Redding – Love Man
Lyres – Take a Look at Me
Graham Parker & the Rumour – Discovering Japan
Old 97s – Barrier Reef
Foo Fighters – Learn to Fly
Peal Jam – Redemption Song
Blasters – American Music
Come Hell or High Water – Hangover
Izzy Stradlin & the Juju Hounds – Pressure Drop
Fugazi – Life and Limb
Suicide – Ghost Rider
The National – Blood Buzz Ohio
Bright Eyes – Four Winds
Dreams So Real – Open Your Eyes
Big Star – September Gurls
New York Dolls – Courageous Cat theme
Gin Blossoms – Allison Road
Paul Westerberg – High Time (Grandpa Boy)
Tom Verlaine – There’s a Reason
Chris Mars – The Outer Limits

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