We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Thursday, June 18. 2015
What caught my attention, though I'm not sure if it caught my wife's, was the trail itself. I was an avid hiker/camper in my youth. My wife is not. El Camino is roughly 800 km, or about 500 miles, if started in Roncesvalles, France.
The history of El Camino is quite lengthy, a pilgrimage which preceded even the Christian era. With the growth of the Church, and the incorporation of many pagan rituals and groups within the Church itself, El Camino took on new significance as a means of penance. The attraction of Santiago de Compostela is related to the belief that St. James the Greater's (Santiago) tomb is in the church at that site. The belief was, for years, that the path offered an opportunity for penance and spiritual growth, as any pilgrimage seeks to provide.
There were, and to some degree still are, many paths to complete the pilgrimage. Which is one reason given to the rise of the symbol of El Camino, the scallop shell, with many routes ending at a single point. Other reasons for the shell include the belief that to 'prove' one completed the trip, a scallop shell was required to be taken as a token. Scallop shells also happened to provide other traveling purposes, such as acting as a plate for food, or large enough for a small drink of water. All the stories about the shell relate back to some myths about the arrival of St. James' body to Spain's shores.
Continue reading "El Camino de Santiago"
Wednesday, June 17. 2015
Today, the documentary world is full of nonsense. Outside of Ken Burns, whose work usually captures my eyes and ears, there aren't many documentary works which are interesting at all. Most documentaries today seem to be paid for by either corporations or left-wing nutjob organizations. They are more propaganda than documentary.
Which is a shame. The term documentary used to mean something, and not just mean "telling you a story I'm paid to tell you because it's what my paymasters want."
"Nanook of the North" was one of the first documentaries, and this work comprised at least 3 full classes in one semester of documentary study. Even then, much was known about how much Robert Flaherty had scripted, rather than actually documenting 'Nanook's' life. Flaherty defended his position, pointing out the issues a producer has in trying to recreate reality. As a class, we agreed that Flaherty's limitations, based on the bulkiness of his equipment and limited capacity for being in the right place at the right time, gave him some leeway to play somewhat fast and loose with the generally accepted rules of documentary film-making. Even so, his work perpetrated and reinforced some stereotypes, rather than helping to inform people about how accustomed to modern life Eskimos really were.
Continue reading "A Brief History of Documentary"
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 16:31 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, June 11. 2015
A friend of mine who absolutely loves Obama enjoys sharing little things with friends via Facebook and email. I've put a few below the fold, though I'm still searching for the one which claims that Obama lowered unemployment, increased the stock market to record highs, and lowered gas prices to recent lows. That one was a hoot.
They are factoids which support the concept that Obama is a good, gracious, and successful president despite claims to the otherwise.
By the same token, this same person (and many others like him) continually complain about the 'state of the economy' and how 'corporations are ruining the US' and how we're still plagued with high unemployment and poverty.
I suppose they can make the claims they make because they believe if Obama had the full support of the nation and Congress, these things would finally be 'taken care of' and we'd all live in Candyland.
But it doesn't square. These folk are deluded enough to say the things they say, and make no mistake - none of the facts used are untrue, they are merely out of context and misunderstood by the dopes who use them (to be fair, I've seen plenty of similar stuff by Republicans, and the information used just as poorly). Yet if things are just so dandy, what else does Obama need to really 'fix'? That's what I don't understand. These people are incapable of leaving well enough alone. Once you've got something working, you don't keep fiddling with it. That is, if you actually assume the economy is working. I don't. It's functioning. Sort've. You can't really shut down an economy, it just shifts its activities to more profitable and easier methods. So yes, the economy continues to function despite the damage Obama has done. Measurements are just data. They don't tell you about the health of the economy. These fools have misconstrued momentary data for meaningful analysis, and completely missed out on the fact that correlation is not causation.
Continue reading "Ridiculous Claims"
Wednesday, June 10. 2015
My visit to the lake was very short, but deliberate. I had a full day of history in Rome at the Forum, Colosseum, Circus Maximus, and Catacombs. My family is not fond of 'history' or 'battle' vacations, so I decided the best way to handle this was to pack it into the drive from Florence to Rome. On that drive, we first stopped at Siena, and spent several hours walking the beautiful streets of this city. Siena was too short, and worthy of a separate post altogether. But for me, the visit meant we were only an hour from Lake Trasimeno, which was 15 minutes out of our way on the final ride to Rome.
As a result, it was easy convincing everyone that dad could have one more slice of history pie.
Along the way, I told the story of Hannibal and the battle, and why it was so significant. First, it was the largest ambush in history, and remains so. Second, it was one of the first examples of a military turning movement. Finally, it was a decisive victory for the Carthaginians, wiping out two entire Roman legions by a factor of at least six Romans to one Carthaginian. However, some estimates put this ratio at 11 to 1.
Continue reading "Lake Trasimeno"
Monday, June 8. 2015
We are a week returned from two weeks in Italy, during which we visited Rome, took an overnight train to Venice, rented a car and drove to Verona, then Rappallo, stopped in the Cinque Terre, stayed at a Tuscan resort in Barga, spent a day in Lucca, spent an hour in Pisa (which is all you really need, in my opinion) and then finished up with three days in Florence. On our final drive down to Rome, we spent 3 hours in Siena, then took a 30 minute side trip to Lake Trasimeno (being a history buff, I had to see the battlefield where Hannibal decisively defeated the Romans, losing only 1 man to every 10 of the Romans).
When I returned to the office, the first question most people had was "Which city was your favorite?" Florence and Venice, obviously, were amazing. But I'd opt for the Cinque Terre.
While not technically a city, it was far and away the most beautiful and wonderful place we saw.
Continue reading "Cinque Terre"
Wednesday, April 29. 2015
Both the Romans and the English shared the idea that the law is something to be discovered more than to be enacted and that nobody is so powerful in his society as to be in a position to identify his own will with the law of the land.
Monday, April 27. 2015
Well, the market has done quite a bit to 'fix' it, already (though even the fixes that currently exist like solar and wind would best be left to the market and have no government subsidies or breaks - the only thing keeping most of these affordable). But it looks like some forms of "fossil fuel" will remain the fuel of the future...and with good reason. There is a profit motive to give people a reason to buy some...especially 'green' versions of fossil fuels.
Wednesday, April 22. 2015
This is not nearly as funny as the Yale vs. North Carolina soccer shoot-out. But since News Junkie stumbled on Studio C, the group of young comedians who made Scott Sterling famous across the globe, I thought my fellow farmer would enjoy this skit. The ending is in his sweet spot.
Monday, April 20. 2015
I've always had some kind of Asian influence, either art or literature, in my life. I suppose it's the result of my parents' years in the Philippines and then my father's subsequent time in Micronesia after their divorce. We children always received some kind of books or other material from his travels.
Recently, my sister commented that she'd taken my mother and half-sister to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see the Kano Exhibit. I was jealous, until she told me it was a four-part exhibit due to the nature of the material. Yesterday, we drove down and joined them for part 2 - Ink and Gold.
Continue reading "Kano"
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 14:05 | Comment (1) | Trackbacks (0)
Tuesday, April 14. 2015
I have a better idea. Shut it down and generate taxes via another method.
I think there are some easier ways to take money by taxing financial transactions, given the size of those markets.
But even if that isn't going to work, and income taxes remain the main method of tax taking, then funding the IRS is a terrible idea. The best way to raise revenue isn't to force people to adhere to a difficult and unworkable code that is punitive. It's to simplify that code and reduce the work. The idea of increasing enforcement is a 'jobs creation' idea that produces nothing. Let jobs be created where they add, rather than take, value - in the open market.
To do this, make the income tax low and flat. You earned $10,000? Fill out the form on the back of a postcard. Maybe you have deductions for family members living at home, but beyond that, you pay 10%. So $10,000, deduct yourself and pay $900. $250,000, deduct the wife and 3 kids and pay $24,600. Easy to file, easy to audit, easy to enforce, hard to avoid...lower staff, lower costs, higher collection rates.
It really is that easy. But again, it's just another good idea that won't pass because people are too caught up in how things have been rather than considering how they can be.
Friday, April 10. 2015
I had several questions about the project. For one, was there a revenue impact which was expected to offset the cost, and if so how was it calculated? What was the timeline for introduction at departmental and company-wide levels? What were the expectations of the use of the data? Was it better to implement in a piecemeal fashion, department by department - continuing the current path we are on - or was their top-down approach more efficient and likely to yield better results? Each question received an answer, sometimes dismissive, which led to more questions.
I was viewed negatively for my inquisitiveness. I explained I wasn't opposed to the project, but that I'd seen projects like this many times. None have worked as expected and most never paid off. These were not reasons to avoid doing it, but it is good to ask questions and be sure. I was told to 'trust' the data scientists, none of whom I know, and don't stand in the way. I acquiesced, and ceased my questions. Groupthink is a powerful thing. Data was here to save our business, I was assured.
On the train ride home, I ran into a colleague from another department who is much closer to this project and he told me even more details about the project. For one, it was the third attempt by this team to implement the 'vision' (so much for trust!). For another, they were abandoning all the work done in the previous 2 operations and starting from scratch, meaning work which had been done on all the old systems had to be reassessed and either tossed or transferred to newer platforms. Finally, they'd spent exorbitant sums of money already, to the point that break-even was probably 10 years off, assuming they met their 4 year timeline. He listened to my questions and nodded, saying they were all the right questions and there was good reason to question the nature and scope of this project.
Google, Facebook and all the other firms with huge data systems have the benefit of being young and starting from scratch while new technologies were being introduced. This is how business works, it's part of the process of creative destruction. The newer companies benefit from untried, but potentially beneficial products, living or dying by their ability to manage and incorporate these ideas and technology. Older companies have to try and keep up, and many are incapable of doing so. However, these older firms need to be careful about the implementation. Data is as much about art as it is about what the data tells us, sometimes less is more. Sometimes your gut tells you as much as $10mm worth of information does. I have seen people collect information on months-long projects only to confirm suggestions which were made at the outset. The delays cost money. There are rare, very rare, occasions when the data tells us something different. Sometimes the reason it tells us something different is due to the time delay in collecting the data. Perhaps this is a form of Heisenberg's Cat played out in the realm of business.
I am a huge believer in collecting and managing data. My job relies on it. But as I tell my boss, data and technology are like Stradivarius violins. You can give me a Stradivarius and I will make awful noise with it. Give it to a concert violinist, and beautiful music is made. The same is true of data. Many data scientists today, I've found, make very basic mistakes in their assumptions about what data tells them. The most common is the confusion over causation and correlation. I have had arguments with PhDs over this very issue when they present correlative data without proving the linkage to causation.
Baseball is a great example of this point. Sabermetrics have revived and increased my interest in the game. Yet Sabermetrics have limits. A cute, sappy movie Trouble With The Curve illustrates where data intersects with knowledge and experience. Data can provide support, but it takes experience to know what that data is telling you.
Dr. Joy Bliss recently posted about this issue, as the problem has infected even the realm of medicine and health.
Data can do many things. But the last thing it should be used for is policy-making, because data is typically utilized under the 'pretense of knowledge' and applied in a fashion that has unintended consequences. They may also have politics, which don't benefit you, built in.
Michael Crichton famously warned us of the problem of politicized science and data. Sadly, many intelligent people remain ignorant of misplaced trust in data, demonizing critics without explaining fully why the critics' logic is flawed.
A company, like the one which employs me, is just as likely to politicize positions. We call it groupthink. In my briefing, I was not part of the groupthink. I enjoy being on the outside. I may be wrong at times, but when I am, I'm happy to know that I have played the role of Captain Obvious, asking difficult questions in a fashion to open up the thought process further - if it can be opened up further. Sadly, as I watch what happens in the office, I begin to understand why Progressives remain so prevalent in our society. They are incapable of moving past groupthink. If everyone else is doing it, it must be good - right?
Tuesday, April 7. 2015
But the final game last night was a masterpiece, with lead changes galore and a personnel chess match which eventually led to Duke's fifth championship banner.
The real story, though, was who got them there. Their stars carried them all season, but got in foul trouble. So a forgotten freshman steps up with the team facing a considerable deficit, and single-handedly changes the tide of the game.
His story, one of great expectations which were never really fulfilled on a team loaded with talent, is one we can all learn from. I shared it with my sons, pointing out that you never know when your chance to make a difference will arrive. But if you're not prepared to make that difference, if you've let your skills diminish, if you've stopped caring, then your chance will arrive and pass.
I reminded them of the Prodigal Son. His celebrated return wasn't about how great he was, but how he returned to the fold. The personal recognition of his fall from grace and the need to redeem himself, returning to his father. Grayson Allen may not be the prototypical prodigal that leaps to mind. But all talented people, that is everyone, suffer down moments. What defines them isn't how they got down, but how they are able to pick themselves up and keep moving and make the most of what they have. Allen did that.
Wednesday, April 1. 2015
As a result, I have a very unnatural feeling about the RFRA. I oppose its existence, but accept that it's needed in today's world of crazies who will sue for any reason that crosses their mind. I pointed out to a friend of mine that, as a Phillies fan, I may not want to sell a hot dog to a Mets fan. I don't like Mets fans, I'd prefer not to associate with them (at least on game day). Based on the concept of freedom of association, I have that right, since an economic transaction is an associative act. It is protected by my right to decide who I wish to interact with. All great societies require freedom of association. The downside, of course, is that sometimes discrimination takes place. Generally that discrimination is price based. An unwillingness to pay the price I set will not yield a purchase. On the other hand, sometimes it could be simply that you're not the person I want to sell my house to - for any reason. Those reasons don't have to be 'good' and they can't necessarily be labeled 'bad', they just are. You don't have to agree with my reasons. They are mine.
Would it be better to not have the RFRA and the debate surrounding it? Absolutely. But we have it because of some basic stupidity in life today. Really? You want that cake so badly it must come from a guy who doesn't want to serve you? There's no other baker in town? Your goal is what? Oh, I get it, you just want to make a big point by shaming him. Well, that's OK. Shaming is perfectly acceptable. But forcing him to make your cake is aggression.
The best way to fight this law, the Progressives think, is to boycott Indiana and its businesses. Several have started to do this, including Angie's List (which, tangentially, actually saved the state millions of tax dollars). However, boycotting is the worst way to 'fight' the law. It will create backlash and will entrench the supporters. The best way to change the law is through business. That is start businesses which do not discriminate and will hire anyone. Engagement and activity undermines discrimination, because it will generate profits. Once a discriminatory business sees its profits leaving, they will change soon enough or go out of business.
Perhaps the best example of freedom of association occurred on The Ed Show on MSNBC, however. As Ed Schultz was losing his debate with his guest, Ed chose to shut the guest's microphone off. Coward that he is, Ed was incapable of making a valid point and decided to muzzle his lucid guest. Which is not censorship, but is Ed exercising his right to associate with people he wants to do business with. Which, interestingly, supports the nature and spirit of the RFRA. While the RFRA references religion, the reality is religion has very little to do with it. It is simply the right to choose who you want to associate with, whenever you please. There is nothing wrong with that. It's a shame Ed Schultz and others of his ilk have yet to recognize this salient point.
Do I agree with the RFRA? Only insofar as it makes sense to let people do business with whomever they'd like without the government forcing them to do its bidding. Do I agree with its existence? No, technically it's covered by the First Amendment. But practically speaking, in today's absurd upside-down Progressive "do as I tell you" world, it's needed.
Addendum by Editor-Dog:
"Everybody's Lost Their Goddamn Mind Over Religious Freedom" - Both conservatives and liberals aren’t being straight about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
It’s legal to kill babies, but let’s worry about a gay person’s right to cake
Why We Need RFRAs
Has the fight over Indiana’s RFRA set the GOP up for failure?
Indiana’s Law Is Not the Return of Jim Crow
My view? This has nothing to do with reason other than political tactics. Pence stepped into a political trap. Bad timing. Facts, such as the support of Dems for these laws, and their presence in many blue states and a total of 19 states, is ignored. Pence had a target painted on him.
Monday, March 16. 2015
Wednesday, March 11. 2015
At first I considered joining, if only to share a slightly different viewpoint than the ones I'd seen posted (click and take a look). I saw comments like "Serving people & Loyalty to government" (loyalty to government? Why is this always absolutely necessary? What would Jefferson and Washington have said?). Or "Respect for Authority" (this is so wrong, I can't even think of where to begin. I'm not sure 'authority' is generated from winning a popularity contest). Then there are some really bizarre ones like "Identity, Belonging, Altruism" (not sure when being a citizen provided me an identity, helped me feel like I belonged and don't get me started on the concept of altruism).
So I figured, I'd start my own here and find out what Maggie's visitors consider citizenship to be. Here was my stab at it, the one I never posted:
To me, Citizenship is loving my country and the rights of the individual which are protected by the Constitution while questioning the nature of human authority. Acknowledge and respect individual rights while exercising individual responsibility which strengthens those rights.
What would your thoughts be?
Monday, March 9. 2015
I happen to agree with Bird Dog's statement, too. But I believe economists often do themselves a disservice. Usually it's the economists who make predictions about macroeconomic outlooks which do this. By and large, it's the economists with Progressive tendencies. Though certainly some in the Republican camp get a bit outrageous.
I'm fond of saying economists can't make predictions, nor should they. They should offer scenarios. That's what I tend to do. Options of potential outcomes. Economics involves far too many variables to be a predictive science, though the basic rules can explain many things we see quite well, and that's what science is for.
To better understand economists and economics, perhaps this would help.
Tuesday, March 3. 2015
Bigger than ISIS? Maybe or maybe not, but not as hair-raising. Bigger than Hillary using her personal email? Absolutely, but not as top-of-mind or intriguing. Bigger than Immigration Reform? Probably not, but interestingly the topics which are involved would play a role in hopefully reducing the influx of illegals by opening up markets more.
We are smarter than you, and we know what's best for you. Don't worry that you never voted for us, or that we are completely unaccountable. It's in your best interest.
Ultimately, it's a kind of boring topic. Which is why I like it, because it involves politics, law and economics. Economics being 'the dismal science', Net Neutrality has often been misconstrued and misunderstood in the media because it doesn't attract much thought beyond a populist angle. After all, most reporters and bloviators who comment on the topic work for companies that will benefit from Net Neutrality. Of course, they were never harmed without it, but hey, these populists are busy looking out for your best interests. Because, of course, nobody else will and you're simply not smart enough to know better. I'll be clear, I work for a company that supports Net Neutrality and conceivably benefits from it. Which is one reason the small level of anonymity which blogging provides is beneficial when writing pieces like this.
The passage, last week, by the FCC of a policy which treats broadband providers as "common carriers" under Title II of the Telecommunications Act basically means they are now utilities. Not completely, but close enough to make that claim without much disagreement. But what sparked this vote, why is it needed (or why do populists feel it is needed), and what does it potentially do?
Continue reading "Net Neutrality"
Wednesday, February 25. 2015
Continue reading "New York is a Dying City"
Friday, February 20. 2015
In our nation, we have taxation with representation. However, given the size of our current debt, and the length of financing being pushed out to 20 and 30 year bonds, much of the repayment will be provided by another generation.
This generation, of course, has no say in the introduction of debt, and this is a fairly common theme when the size of our debt is discussed. However, I've seen relatively few people discuss the political implications of forcing taxation without representation on these future generations.
Is there a moral issue related to deficit spending, over 20 to 30 years, since it is essentially taxation without representation? I think there can be a strong case made, though I've never seen it discussed. Has anyone else?
Wednesday, February 18. 2015
From my perspective, a college degree is good for a few things. These are not limited to: expanding one's view of the world, improving one's own process of inquiry and learning (my father's old line is you go to college to get an education, not to get a job), and to become technically proficient in a variety of specialized fields where proficiency is otherwise difficult to achieve. I'd toss in that it's also a means of networking and learning social skills to improve future prospects in both life and work.
College is not the only place to learn these things, though it's probably one of the better places to learn them. You could say the same for the military, in some respects. Be that as it may, limiting one's view of a person's potential and capabilities to very specialized qualifications, such as college or military backgrounds, is a bit odd.
Mike Rowe explains why:
Continue reading "Mike Rowe on Qualifications Versus Competency"
Monday, February 9. 2015
I never saw the need, or use, for Google Glass. People who had them were weird, a bit stuck-up, and their quirky behavior was not a selling point. It's no surprise to me that the entire project fell apart over differences in marketing, but the addition of an illicit affair just makes the story that much more interesting.
There are a few things to take away from a story like this. First, keep it platonic. I've never felt there is a good reason to get involved with anyone you work with. I have a hard enough time with people in my own industry, having to date someone at the same company would be murder. The old "Don't crap where you eat" are words to live by. Second, it's clear Google is not without its imperfections. Those who think Google is becoming a monopoly or overly dominant have some legitimate fears. Perhaps those fears are overblown, though. Back in the 1980's a friend of mine used to say "Someday, we'll all work for IBM." By 1995 it was "Someday, we'll all work for Microsoft." Today, you can figure out who we're all going to work for. I doubt it. Google is very good at what they do, but there are no guarantees they will take over everything. Finally, while I don't see any reason to dislike the idea of Google Glass, I just don't see the fit today. Apple's Newton was about 10 years ahead of its time, but there is clearly a market for handheld computing. Maybe computing glasses will make a comeback. I wouldn't be hopeful, but I don't see why they can't be the next thing, either.
Want an idea of how big Google is? Submitted for your approval, a video that has a tinge of conspiracy paranoia, but is completely clear in its intent to just show you everything Google is doing without making judgments.
Sunday, February 1. 2015
My fraternity had a summer paper that we mailed out to members. Its motto was "All the sh*t that fits, we print." This has been the motto of the IPCC for quite a long time.
Thursday, January 29. 2015
I am astounded that there are still people, even family members of mine, who truly believe government is here to do good things. I've ceased to be fooled by that illusion.
Wednesday, January 28. 2015
When they lived at home, I'd try to convince my less intrepid boys to do the same thing, to no avail (some of us have that entrepreneurial gene, others don't). As much as I enjoy the effort of digging and spending time outside, I was pleased to see younger folk scrambling for a buck. I paid them $30 and they cleared the walk and driveway in about 40 minutes. I don't even have to listen to people complain that I didn't pay minimum wage. Though if I'm ever up for public office this may haunt me as I didn't pay their taxes.
What really surprised me was they asked for my phone number, in case they get another snow day they can call to ask if I need to be shoveled. After checking with their parents, I agreed to give them the house number. Norman Rockwell is not dead, no matter how much our politicians try to kill his vision of our nation.
Friday, January 23. 2015
I may have misinterpreted what Mr. Ma said, but his comment was something to the tune of "If you have a billion dollars, it's not just yours. It became yours because the people who gave it to you felt you would do better things with it than anyone else, like the government. This places a responsibility on the person with a billion dollars, and is why I will seek to do good with this money."
As I said, I may have not heard it precisely or interpreted it correctly. If I did, it is a view I agree with(although people didn't give him anything, they exchanged money for a product or service he provided which made everyone better off).
All told, I'd prefer to not have a billion dollars in wealth. Too much responsibility, too many headaches. People who amass fortunes like this, however, have made the world better and this is why I don't oppose or envy their wealth. As Ma intimated, they can do better with the money. This is one reason I enjoy watching shows like Shark Tank. Not only do I learn insights on how to manage a business, but I see wealth at work producing things people want or need.
People who believe the wealthy sit around pools drinking margaritas all day (I've had people say this to me) have no idea where wealth comes from or how it is made. Those people may exist, I'm certain they do. Their wealth, however, does not last as long as you'd think. Their money must be working at improving lives through exchange or production, somehow, for them to spend the rest of their lives poolside. Real wealth creators, however, are always doing good with their money, even if it's just managing their companies (which provide jobs, goods and services) or coming up with new ideas that people want or need.
By and large, I believe if you're smart enough to earn the money through productive or creative capacity, as Jack Ma did, you're likely to know what to do with it. If you lucked into it, you're unlikely to have a good idea of what to do without some professional help.
Then there is a third group I forgot to mention. Politicians. I believe they are more like lottery winners, though they believe they are producers. I see them as popularity contest winners who are handed a blank check and haven't a clue what to do.
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