Wednesday, November 30, 2005

to the passing of time...

"Sorrow comes, but it's like manna - you can't hold it past its time. Nor can you deny its value for the moment and refuse it altogether. All things in season." - madcapmum

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Thursday, November 24, 2005


Click on photo to enlarge

One of our Black Australorp hens, Corrina (see post below), spends so much time outside the chicken yard that I began wondering if she left any eggs laying around the garden so I went exploring this morning and found a beautiful pine-needle 'birdnest' behind the dog house. I felt like I won the Easter Egg hunt on Thanksgiving Day!

We have much to be thankful for today, our son and his girlfriend are still with us after their horrific accident, and we look forward to our Thanksgiving Dinner today with Jimmy, Lindsay and her family, who drove out from Colorado so we could all get to know each other.

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Peggy & Corrina

Click on photo to enlarge

We don't usually name our hens but Corrina here has a very adventurous spirit and likes to be around people so we made an exception. Corrina jumps the chicken yard fence every day to scratch & peck her way around the native plant garden looking for seeds, greens & bugs. Here she watches Peggy collect pine needles for some winter basketry to see if any bugs turn up. When she's in the chicken yard and a person approaches, Corrina will jump up on the fence to greet you and, when she's out, she'll walk right up to Dallas looking him in the eye, and Dallas seems perfectly content to leave her be. She's been doing this for weeks now.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Rustle the Leaf Environmental Comics

Click on comic to enlarge


All you earth friendly home-schoolers out there, here's a fun way to enhance your curriculum, if you haven't discovered it already!

I've linked a refreshing weekly environmental comic strip Rustle the Leaf to our blog, but I haven't got the graphic link working yet, so to read the latest strip or check out their well researched monthly lesson plans in Environmental Science & Political Economics, click on the green highlighted text above or just below the Rustle the Leaf graphic in the LINKS sidebar.

This months lesson is The Global Warming Coverup for grades 9-12, and lessons are archived back to November 2004 which was on Acid Rain for grade 3-6.

Each weeks comic is also supplemented with a data sheet on the topic, and links to further information & resources.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Geese Going Moon - November 16, 2005

Click on photo to enlarge

Here's just a few Native American names for the November moon.

Kiowa - Geese Going Moon
Creek - Moon When The Water Is Black With Leaves
Cheyenne - Deer Rutting Moon
Winnebago - Little Bear's Moon
Abenake - Freezing River Maker Moon
Cherokee - Trading Moon
Assiniboine - Frost Moon
Shawnee - Long Moon
Wishram - Snowy Mountains In The Morning Moon
Sioux - Moon Of The Falling Leaves
Algonquin - Beaver Moon
Tewa Pueblo - Moon When All Is Gathered In

Nice names, I think, that hold us close to our world, our place, and its workings.

I took the photo from our deck as the moon rose in the east at 7:09 this evening.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Poor versus Impoverished

I guess I opened a bit of a can of worms with my $Voting With Our Dollars$ post, so I might as well pour all the worms out on the shore and let the hooks fall where they may.

Open discussion is a good thing and I know everyone has their own opinion, but I live in a country where, presently, the dominant players (Republican & Democrat alike), have no trouble promoting similar agendas through the many supportive media outlets owned by their corporate benefactors, while most real opposition or dissent is no longer aired in the mainstream free-press of this democracy of ours.

So if we really believe in freedom of thought, freedom of ideas, I suppose it's still OK for me to air some of my thoughts here, and I hope I don't lose friends over it.

Here goes...

Being poor and being impoverished are, to me, two different things.

When I was young we were very poor but I never felt impoverished until my family moved up to the middle class.

My single-parent grandmother, on my mother's side, died young in 1952 leaving my mother & father to raise 4 extra children in addition to our own growing family (2 boys at the time & a girl on the way).

My mother received Social Security checks for each of her siblings (I recently saw some of those old SS stubs and I think she was getting $8 a month per kid).

In the rural San Fernando Vally of 1952, eight of us lived happily in a two-bedroom duplex converted from an old chicken coop, but we had room, miles and miles of open land all around us to roam and explore, and the magical beauty of nature for inspiration.

Most of our clothes and household items came from the Salvation Army Thrift Store but everyone else in our community shopped there too, so who cared?

My dad usually had work and my mom even owned a $25 Ford Model A with a rumble seat that we tooled around the dirt roads in when we could keep it patched up enough to run.

But we all had fun, my aunts & uncles, who had literally become my brothers & sisters, were older and played ukeleles and sang old-time songs out under a shade tree, we built huge forts from the straw bales stacked by the thousands on the big farm across the street, we were poor, and we knew that, but we weren't impoverished and we didn't have snobby neighbors, television or celebrity worship to tell us we were.

After the "good jobs" moved in, and we became part of the new middle class, after the fields were replaced with tract-house boxes and asphalt, after we traded our rented chicken coop for ownership of one of those stucco boxes, and bought ourselves a late model Oldsmobile and a boat, after our real lives were traded for jobs, & stuff, is when I began feeling impoverished.

My parents grew busier & more stressed trying keep up with the Joneses of the new world materializing around them, a world where money & possessions became more important than people. Every time a neighbor got a new gadget we had to have one too, hula-hoops, garbage disposals, power mowers, color TVs, and the more crap we got the more we wanted. Meanwhile the rewarding livelihoods of farmers, ranchers, craftsmen and skilled laborers were disappearing, replaced by mindless never going anywhere service jobs for the masses of consumers being bred & groomed for the New World Economy.

Mom & dad divorced and my diabetic father, having lost his family, drank himself to death at the age of 36 leaving me without a dad as I entered adolescence on the ever-meaner streets.

My mother is proud, she would never collect welfare, so she just went to work and we became latchkey kids roaming the streets and fending for ourselves.

All the while growth, growth, growth was becoming the buzzword of a nation of TV Zombies, brainwashed in a media blitz of Madison Avenue bullshit designed to enrich Wall Street hustlers and the companies they pimp for, and suddenly, the rampant growth of a cancer cell became our new model of how communities should evolve and function.

And so we were transformed, within a few decades, from a mostly rural self-reliant people, into a nation of commuting suburbanite dependent consumers, relying on our jobs in the aircraft plants, the auto-assembly lines, the post offices, chemical plants, supermarkets, fast-food joints & shopping malls.

We started moving our factories overseas so the remainder of Americas skilled workers could compete for wages & benefits against Third World laborers, and then came up with big box retailing which culminated in Wal-Mart who've driven thousands of mom & pop stores and even whole towns out of business.

The new jobs took more mothers out of the home because young couples could no longer afford rent on one income, these new jobs that didn't pay enough, even with two adults working, to cover rent, food & child care expenses.

So people by the hoards turned to welfare & food stamps, but believe me when I say I’m not defending unwieldy, unworkable bureaucratic social programs, especially when they're intentionally designed that way to make them as useless as possible (i.e. the new Medicare Prescription Drug Benefits for Seniors-what a load of undecipherable gibberish!).

I worked for the Post Office for 30 years and had to deal with more than my share of nasty-tempered second and third generation drug-addict welfare mothers who thought the world owed them a living, and it sickened me. And I’ve also seen my share of poverty-stricken people splurging their checks on Las Vegas gambling trips and bigger TVs.

But these people didn’t invent the system they were born into, they are victims of legalized charlatans, hustlers & profiteers who rob the working class of their time & money, leave them with a worthless education, sell them a poison lifestyle of emptiness, train them for meaningless jobs to support that lifestyle, strip them of every shred of human dignity, and then encourage them to have children they can’t afford, or even care for, thus ensuring there will be plenty of new consumers and more cheap labor to fuel the GROWTH of the global economy, and now even the pensions and retirement benefits of employess who already devoted lifetimes of hard work are being taken away, while the government talks up Social Security reform (see privatization).

What can you make of a system that poisons the minds, bodies & lives of its citizens and then leaves them to rot?

Every day the gap widens between rich & poor, the middle class shrinks away as CEOs grow richer, building steel & glass towers to the sky, dumping toxic waste in our oceans, our air and our backyards, chemicals in our food & water, then bankrupting their corporations with over-ambitious hostile-takeovers and phony book-keeping, and then writing it all off so us working stiffs can pay for it, while we pay for the wars too, with our lives, and our children’s lives, and our hard-earned dollars.

There’s not enough money for health care, not enough money to stave off poverty, not enough money for education, not enough money for decent wages, not enough money for environmental protections, but there’s always plenty of money for war.

Criminals have stolen our planet and our lives and they’re selling it back to us at a very high premium indeed, and they will raise the stakes until there’s nothing left, if we let them.

Our tax dollars have murdered innocent people by the millions simply because they refuse to hand their land and their natural resources over to foreign business interests, so we send in the CIA to install a despot that will do it our way.

We’re told we must wage war to defend freedom and spread democracy around the world, but what we’re spreading isn’t freedom or democracy, what we’re spreading is the horrific tyranny of an all-consuming economic system which may eventually render our planet uninhabitable.

Being a citizen of the wealthiest nation in history (both in natural resources and material wealth) and watching that wealth squandered by a pitiful citizenry of brainwashed consumers, with few limits to their neediness, creates in me the

discomforting thought that I may belong to a species with a hopelessly impoverished spirit.

Being poor, I suppose, is a state of mind. A self-sufficient small-scale landholder may be penniless but still have peace of mind, where impoverishment, as I see it, is a state of existence where, upon separation from any meaningful livelihood, or sense of community, one’s mind, spirit and body are left with no real joy or hope.

Rights & Freedom?

There are no rights without responsibilities, and there is no freedom in subservience.

Well, I've got that off my chest, so maybe I can get back to some nice gardening & nature topics now!

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Hope In Latin America...

Today is my 60th birthday and I'm going to take the liberty of posting commentary you won't see on your evening news or in your local paper.

The piece below, by John Pilger, arrived from ZNet with this mornings e-mail and lifted some weight from my heart.

I enjoy allowing myself a rant now & then but John Pilger's well-informed first-hand rant will suffice nicely for today, and helps me celebrate something other than just getting another year, or decade older.

ZNet Commentary
The Rise Of America's New Enemy November 11, 2005
By John Pilger

I was dropped at Paradiso, the last middle-class area before barrio La Vega, which spills into a ravine as if by the force of gravity. Storms were forecast, and people were anxious, remembering the mudslides that took 20,000 lives. "Why are you here?" asked the man sitting opposite me in the packed jeep-bus that chugged up the hill. Like so many in Latin America, he appeared old, but wasn't. Without waiting for my answer, he listed why he supported President Chavez: schools, clinics, affordable food, "our constitution, our democracy" and "for the first time, the oil money is going to us." I asked him if he belonged to the MRV, Chavez's party, "No, I've never been in a political party; I can only tell you how my life has been changed, as I never dreamt."

It is raw witness like this, which I have heard over and over again in Venezuela, that smashes the one-way mirror between the west and a continent that is rising. By rising, I mean the phenomenon of millions of people stirring once again, "like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number", wrote the poet Shelley in The Mask of Anarchy. This is not romantic; an epic is unfolding in Latin America that demands our attention beyond the stereotypes and clichés that diminish whole societies to their degree of exploitation and expendability.

To the man in the bus, and to Beatrice whose children are being immunised and taught history, art and music for the first time, and Celedonia, in her seventies, reading and writing for the first time, and Jose whose life was saved by a doctor in the middle of the night, the first doctor he had ever seen, Hugo Chavez is neither a "firebrand" nor an "autocrat" but a humanitarian and a democrat who commands almost two thirds of the popular vote, accredited by victories in no less than nine elections. Compare that with the fifth of the British electorate that re-installed Blair, an authentic autocrat.

Chávez and the rise of popular social movements, from Colombia down to Argentina, represent bloodless, radical change across the continent, inspired by the great independence struggles that began with Simon Bolívar, born in Venezuela, who brought the ideas of the French Revolution to societies cowed by Spanish absolutism. Bolívar, like Che Guevara in the 1960s and Chavez today, understood the new colonial master to the north. "The USA," he said in 1819, "appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty."

At the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, George W Bush announced the latest misery in the name of liberty in the form of a Free Trade Area of the Americas treaty. This would allow the United States to impose its ideological "market", neo-liberalism, finally on all of Latin America. It was the natural successor to Bill Clinton's North American Free Trade Agreement, which has turned Mexico into an American sweatshop. Bush boasted it would be law by 2005.

On 5 November, Bush arrived at the 2005 summit in Mar del Plata, Argentina, to be told his FTAA was not even on the agenda. Among the 34 heads of state were new, uncompliant faces and behind all of them were populations no longer willing to accept US-backed business tyrannies. Never before have Latin American governments had to consult their people on pseudo-agreements of this kind; but now they must.

In Bolivia, in the past five years, social movements have got rid of governments and foreign corporations alike, such as the tentacular Bechtel, which sought to impose what people call total locura capitalista - total capitalist folly - the privatising of almost everything, especially natural gas and water. Following Pinochet's Chile, Bolivia was to be a neo-liberal laboratory. The poorest of the poor were charged up to two-thirds of their pittance-income even for rain-water.

Standing in the bleak, freezing, cobble-stoned streets of El Alto, 14,000 feet up in the Andes, or sitting in the breeze-block homes of former miners and campesinos driven off their land, I have had political discussions of a kind seldom ignited in Britain and the US. They are direct and eloquent. "Why are we so poor," they say, "when our country is so rich? Why do governments lie to us and represent outside powers?" They refer to 500 years of conquest as if it is a living presence, which it is, tracing a journey from the Spanish plunder of Cerro Rico, a hill of silver mined by indigenous slave labour and which underwrote the Spanish Empire for three centuries. When the silver was gone, there was tin, and when the mines were privatised in the 1970s at the behest of the IMF, tin collapsed, along with 30,000 jobs. When the coca leaf replaced it - in Bolivia, chewing it curbs hunger - the Bolivian army, coerced by the US, began destroying the coca crops and filling the prisons.

In 2000, open rebellion burst upon the white business oligarchs and the American embassy whose fortress stands like an Andean Vatican in the centre of La Paz. There was never anything like it, because it came from the majority Indian population "to protect our indigenous soul". Naked racism against indigenous peoples all over Latin America is the Spanish legacy. They were despised or invisible, or curios for tourists: the women in their bowler hats and colourful skirts. No more. Led by visionaries like Oscar Olivera, the women in bowler hats and colourful skirts encircled and shut down the country's second city, Cochabamba, until their water was returned to public ownership.

Every year since, people have fought a water or gas war: essentially a war against privatisation and poverty. Having driven out President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada in 2003, Bolivians voted in a referendum for real democracy. Through the social movements they demanded a constituent assembly similar to that which founded Chavez's Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, together with the rejection of the FTAA and all the other "free trade" agreements, the expulsion of the transnational water companies and a 50 per cent tax on the exploitation of all energy resources.

When the replacement president, Carlos Mesa, refused to implement the programme he was forced to resign. Next month, there will be presidential elections and the opposition Movement to Socialism (MAS) may well turn out the old order. The leader is an indigenous former coca farmer, Evo Morales, whom the American ambassador has likened to Osama Bin Laden. In fact, he is a social democrat who, for many of those who sealed off Cochabamba and marched down the mountain from El Alto, moderates too much.

"This is not going to be easy," Abel Mamani, the indigenous president of the El Alto Neighbourhood Committees, told me. "The elections won't be a solution even if we win. What we need to guarantee is the constituent assembly, from which we build a democracy based not on what the US wants, but on social justice." The writer Pablo Solon, son of the great political muralist Walter Solon, said, "The story of Bolivia is the story of the government behind the government. The US can create a financial crisis; but really for them it is ideological; they say they will not accept another Chavez."

The people, however, will not accept another Washington quisling. The lesson is Ecuador, where a helicopter saved Lucio Gutierrez as he fled the presidential palace last April. Having won power in alliance with the indigenous Pachakutik movement, he was the "Ecuadorian Chavez", until he drowned in a corruption scandal. For ordinary Latin Americans, corruption on high is no longer forgivable. That is one of two reasons the Workers' Party government of Lula is barely marking time in Brazil; the other is the priority he has given to an IMF economic agenda, rather than his own people. In Argentina, social movements saw off five pro-Washington presidents in 2001 and 2002. Across the water in Uruguay, the Frente Amplio, socialist heirs to the Tupamaros, the guerrillas of the 1970s who fought one of the CIA's most vicious terror campaigns, formed a popular government last year.

The social movements are now a decisive force in every Latin American country - even in the state of fear that is the Colombia of Alvaro Uribe Velez, Bush's most loyal vassal. Last month, indigenous movements marched through every one of Colombia's 32 provinces demanding an end to "an evil as great at the gun": neo-liberalism. All over Latin America, Hugo Chavez is the modern Bolivar. People admire his political imagination and his courage. Only he has had the guts to describe the United States as a source of terrorism and Bush as Senor Peligro (Mr Danger). He is very different from Fidel Castro, whom he respects. Venezuela is an extraordinarily open society with an unfettered opposition - that is rich and still powerful. On the left, there are those who oppose the state, in principle, believe its reforms have reached their limit, and want power to flow directly from the community. They say so vigorously, yet they support Chavez. A fluent young arnarchist, Marcel, showed me the clinic where the two Cuban doctors may have saved his girlfriend. (In a barter arrangement, Venezuela gives Cuba oil in exchange for doctors).

At the entrance to every barrio there is a state supermarket, where everything from staple food to washing up liquid costs 40 per cent less than in commercial stores. Despite specious accusations that the government has instituted censorship, most of the media remains violently anti-Chavez: a large part of it in the hands of Gustavo Cisneros, Latin America's Murdoch, who backed the failed attempt to depose Chavez. What is striking is the proliferation of lively community radio stations, which played a critical part in Chavez's rescue in the coup of April 2002 by calling on people to march on Caracas.While the world looks to Iran and Syria for the next Bush attack, Venezuelans know they may well be next. On 17 March, the Washington Post reported that Feliz Rodríguez, "a former CIA operative well-connected to the Bush family" had taken part in the planning of the assassination of the President of Venezuela. On 16 September, Chavez said, "I have evidence that there are plans to invade Venezuela. Furthermore, we have documentation: how many bombers will over-fly Venezuela on the day of the invasion... the US is carrying out manoeuvres on Curacao Island. It is called Operation Balboa." Since then, leaked internal Pentagon documents have identified Venezuela as a "post-Iraq threat" requiring "full spectrum" planning.

The old-young man in the jeep, Beatrice and her healthy children and Celedonia with her "new esteem", are indeed a threat - the threat of an alternative, decent world that some lament is no longer possible. Well, it is, and it deserves our support.

ZNet Commentaries are a premium sent to Sustainer Donors, see more info at

It's heady stuff to see the victims of tyranny rise up and seize the moment, and for now, Chavez seems to have a mandate to help the poor and indigenous peoples of Venezuela.

But if he is too successful in redistributing the wealth being generated by the Venezuelan People's oil (after all, if it's their country, it's their oil isn't it?) you can bet the farm that he won't be in power long.

Knowing all too well the history of U.S. intervention in Latin America for the past 50 years, I fear Hugo Chavez is probably dead-on in his assessment of some covert CIA operation to eliminate him, and I didn't need to hear the ever more certifiably whacko Pat Robertson's encouragement to do just that before I suspected such plans were already in the works.

For the sake of the Venezuelan & Latin American People, and people everywhere, I hope the CIA fails this time.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

$Voting With Our Dollars$

Click on photo to enlarge

Peggy brought this letter to my attention this morning.

It's from the correspondence section of this months The Sun magazine (a great alternative press publication if you're not familiar with it) and it reminded us once again of the importance of where, how and what we spend our money on.

The letter did leave one big gaping question in my heart though, how do those without dollars to vote with make their voices heard?


Monday, November 07, 2005

Our Finished Floor

Click on photo to enlarge

I finally finished our living room floor on Saturday morning and none too soon as it's supposed rain or snow tomorrow.

I haven't added the baseboards yet because we needed to get the furniture in off the porch before the weather hits, but I can measure those, cut & finish them outside when the weather permits, and just move the furniture a bit to nail them in place.

The floors came out nice and Peggy is very happy with them so I think I made points there!

Blogger Dread Pirate Roberts asked a couple of questions about the floor so I'll answer those here.

1. The tiny spaces between a few of the boards will collect dust and crud but cleaning & waxing will eventually seal them over.

2. Because I used standard 1" x 12" pine planks from the local lumberyard I had to consider the possibility of the wood cupping or warping so I decided to both glue and nail the planks to the plywood sub-floor. I used a non-flammable, supposedly non-toxic adhesive, Taylor's 4071 meta-tec floor adhesive, and I nailed the planks, 3 nails across, every 2 feet. I also acclimated and further dried the planks by stacking them in the house for two months with spacers between each plank to allow for air circulation. The floor is nice & flat with no signs of cupping.

The pine floor is finished with OSMO Hardwax Oil, an environmentally safe product from Germany that is non-toxic & recommended for use on children's furniture as well. It is primarily made from two waxes, carnauba & candelilla, mixed with sunflower, soybean and thistle oils and a bit of highly distilled benzene-free solvent which evaporates upon drying.

The downside is that I messed my back up again doing all that bending & lifting so it's off to the chiropractor again tomorrow.

But it's a pretty floor and as environmentally friendly as I could make it on our budget and in this location.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005


I've been tagged with a meme by Cindy M. of Woodsong, and, if I play along, I'm hoping one day she'll tell me about her camera and some of the tricks she's learned to get those incredible photos of hers.

So here goes.

Five Pet Peeves

1. Diesel exhaust blown in my face by passing vehicles when I'm walking or bicycling.

2. Litter and Litterbugs, especially those who come to visit a place for its beauty and leave their trash to defile that beauty, and their cigarette butts everywhere you look.

3. Suburban sprawl.

4. Motorsports.

5. People who kill animals for sport only and not for food.

Five Wild Critters I'd Like To See (in the wild) Before I Go (or before they do)
(parentheses mine)

1. Delhi Sands Flower-loving Fly (Rhaphiomidas terminatus abdominalis)

2. Mexican Gray Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)

3. California Red-legged Frog (Rana aurora draytonii)

4. El Segundo Blue Butterfly (Euphilotes battoides allyni)

5. Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum)

Five Moments In My Life That Changed Everything That I've Done Since

1. Something I did during the 1960s that I'll leave to your imagination.

2. Crashing my motorcycle in Malibu Canyon in 1978.

3. The moment I walked into Solley's Delicatessen and sat down next to my future wife and best friend Peggy Sue.

4. Being present and useful during the natural births of our two children.

5. The First Gulf War waged against the Iraqi people (which triggered a chain of actions in our lives & lifestyle that eventually resulted in the decision to not own a car).

Five Movies That Are My Life
(No movie is my life but I'll list five I really like)

1. Modern Times - Charlie Chaplin (A priceless treasure, hilarious, irreverent and tender all at the same time)

2. Salt Of The Earth - Rosaura Revueltas (Banned in the 1950s for its political content, this is the only American film ever to be blacklisted, and was selected in 1992 for the National Film Registry, Library Of Congress)

3. Lonely Are The Brave - Kirk Douglas (From the novel 'The Brave Cowboy' by Edward Abbey)

4. The Private Life Of Plants - David Attenborough (All six volumes are magical & fascinating)

5. Frida - Salma Hayek (So beautifully done, the film itself actually resembles the art of this strong, wild and extremely gifted woman)

Five People I'm Tagging (If you don't feel like being tagged you can untag yourself, I picked you guys because you're currently the most frequent visitors to EHG, and I sure hope being tagged doesn't scare you away.)

1. Madcapmum

2. Pablo at Roundrock Journal

3. Deb at Sand Creek Almanac

4. Stella at Musings On The Farm

5. Lene at Leaning Birch


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