Waiting to inhale

Today's to-do list: 1. Do some research to see why the dog is pooping in the house all of a sudden. 2. Check to see if the swimming pool has sprung a slow leak. 3. Save Betty's life. Let's begin with No. 3, shall we? The pool and dog poop can wait (but not for long!) Of course I can't save Betty Coleman's life alone. I need your help, and so does Betty, the wife of my good friend Charles Coleman. It's a beautiful day in San Antonio and, hopefully, where you are. The sun is out, the sky is... Read more


I'm pretty sure Terrence Malick mows our yard


Our lawn guy, who I think is Terrence Malick, must have stepped away for a minute.   (Courtesy:  blingcheese.com)

Malpic250Oh he's a crafty one, that seriously reclusive Texas-based filmmaker Terrence Malick.

Malick's "The Tree of Life" took the Palme d'Or, a fancy way to say Best Picture, at the Cannes Film Festival in the South of France on Sunday (May 22).

The anti-prolific filmmaker didn't show himself along the sun-baked Croisette in Cannes to bask in the glory of a controversial press screening (a mixture of boos and praise), the gala screening or even Sunday night's awards ceremony.

I think I know the reason for that.  It wasn't near-terminal shyness at all.

I'm pretty sure that's because Malick was cutting and edging our lawn in Plano, TX early Saturday afternoon.  Did a fine job, too, and walked away with 30 bucks (including tip) for his hard work.

Malick hides his true identity well, that sly dog.

Terrence -- an overly formal name for a guy trailing along after a power mower -- calls himself Manuel in his landscaping persona.  I suppose that's an effort by the former Rhodes scholar to, you know, blend in.

He calls me Mr. Larry, and even blurs his true identity by wearing a floppy hat, which is eerily similar, plus or minus a sweat stain or two, to the one seen in Malick's rare photo shown here. 

Manuel -- or is it Terry? -- tries to further conceal his ID by speaking in broken-English via a thick Spanish accent.  I tell you, Malick could act in one of his movies.  His Spanish accent is that "bueno."

That means "good," for those of you who are single-lingual.

It took me a while, but I'm onto Terrence/Manuel now.

I mean, the guy has only cranked out five feature films in almost 40 years.  That gives the Harvard grad plenty of time to grow his landscaping business between gigs.

If you ask me, when Malick turned down the opportunity to direct "The Elephant Man" in 1980 it was because he had some serious mowing and edging to do.

Then there are the blatent landscaping hints in some of his movie titles:  Come one, "The Tree of Life"?

And isn't "The Thin Red Line" (1998), a World War II flick set in the jungles of Guadalcanal, just a metaphor for that thin ditch the edger channels between the sidewalk and the lawn?

I'm on to you, Mr. Terry.  Just know that your secret is safe with me.  In fact, I feel a little like a movie mogul, since we invest $30 in your cinematic projects every couple of weeks. 

I hate to bring this up, Terry, but we have yet to see any return on our investment, cinematically speaking.

Also, if you're not too busy hiding from the paparazzi after your big win at Cannes this week, the magnolia tree of life over by our squirrel feeder in the back yard could use a little trimming.

(Terrence Malick, or Manuel photo from some time in the past courtesy:  Hollywood.com.)


Springing a wiki leak: The Royal Wedding timeline

A man's home is his castle.  In Great Britain, thanks to the Royals, that can literally be the case.

Smooch348r If you ask me, every bride and groom should launch a happy marriage in a 13th century tomb (Westminster Abbey), share a ceremonial first wedded kiss in front of thousands of adoring subjects and ... wait for it ... squint skyward for not one, but two flyovers to celebrate the very special day.

I've got to admit that beats a wedding in someone's back yard converted into a wedding gazebo, a wedding singer so bad I still can't get the sight of my soon-to-be step-son grimacing and one of my best friends poking fingers into his ears in a vain attempt to shield himself from the off-key warbling.

But enough about my wedding.  Let's get on to the new Royal Coupling.

That would be last Friday's blissful union of the UK's Prince William and Kate Middleton, a so-called commoner.

Or, perhaps it's more appropriate to call it the blissful reunion of Willy and Kate since the couple have allegedly been, shall we say, royally shacking up since eight months before the engagement was even announced.

Word is that the Archbishop of York, no less, "gave his backing" to the shacking.

Party on, Brits. 

At first, I was among those who questioned why all the U.S. news agencies went gaga -- not Lady Gaga, just gaga -- over Friday's nuptial festivities.  Some network anchors and reporters (mostly women, I'm relieved to report) even purchased and sported brightly colored hats they can never even think of using for anything else for the occasion.

Gradually, I came around to the notion of embracing, out of curiosity, mind you, something I couldn't escape anyway.

If you question this theory, may I remind you that all of this country's big-time network TV anchor throats (announcers) were caught way away from their posts and red-faced when a marauding tornado the size of Kirstie Alley when she's off her diet did its best to wipe Alabama off the map hours before  a British bride and groom (who chooses not to sport a wedding band) vowed up.

At least Wiki leaks is on top of things.  Here, then, is the just-exposed royal timeline of last Friday's day of days:

8 a.m.:  Prince William (the balding one) is given the new title of the Duke of Cambridge by his grandmother, the queen, to mark his marriage to Kate Middleton.

10:13:  Prince William, wearing a red tunic of an Irish Guards officer, leaves Clarence House in a chauffeur-driven Bentley with his bother, Prince Harry.  Harry sports a Blues and Royals officer's uniform after deciding at the last minute against the Nazi uniform he wore to a Halloween party a couple of years back.

10:18:  The princes arrive at Westminster Abbey to rapturous applause and cheers from fans.  Only a few yell out, "Yo, Harry, where's the Nazi uniform?"

10:47:  The queen and Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Westminster Abbey in a Rolls-Royce limousine.  The Queen Mum's dressed in a primrose dress with matching hat and coat.  The Duke doses off in a military uniform.

11:00:  The bride arrives right on time.  She's wearing a gown with lace applique floral detail designed by Sarah Burton from the House of Ross Dress for Less.

11:20:  There's a fancy wedding ... yada, yada, yada.

12:28 p.m.:  The newlyweds arrive at Buckingham Palace where William is overheard telling Harry, "I've got to visit the other royal throne, if you know what I mean, Bro."

1:27:  William and Kate kiss for the first time as hubby and The Missus on the balcony of Buckingham Palace as hundreds of thousands cheer down below (outside the royal gates, of course).  NBC, which had been counting down the seconds as if the royal smooch were the launching of the space shuttle, is busy gabbing about something else and misses the money shot.  (Somewhere back in Plano, TX, USA a lone writer marks this glaring NBC flub as the high point of his day.  "Yes!")

1:35:  Royal lunch is served.  Beans and bangers (weenies).  Again.

2:17:  The queen excuses herself to catch the afternoon soaps on the telly.  Alone for the first moment as husband and wife, Prince Willy suggests to Kate that it's time for a little graby-graby to celebrate the royal union.  One of the servants Kate and William said they'd do without thought she heard this from behind a door:  "Forget it, bub.  I'm not about to ruin my wedding day with heathen relations, royal or not."

2:18:  Royal sulking.

3:12:  A deep sigh is heard though the keyhole of William and Kate's chambers, then the sound of a TV remote clicking into action.

3:13 to 5:45: The newly crowned Duke of Cambridge spends the late afternoon alone watching a cricket match between Kent and Middlesex.  If you'll forgive a royal pun, Middlesex doesn't score either.

(First kiss photo courtesy:  http://www.mirror.co.uk/)   


A word to wise 'dummies' everywhere

Colon252r Unless you own or maintain a Web site and have hopes of helping to pay the rent via on-line ads, you may not be aware of this:

It's uncool, forbidden even, for a Web site owner to click on his or her own ads.

In fact, once you commit to placing ads on a site, an oath, of sorts, must be agreed to guaranteeing that the urge to click will be snuffed.

Just to show my dedication to the agreement, I signed mine in blood, which I don't recommend.  Pretty messy, that.

I won't lie to you.  It's a mental battle to refrain from checking out ads on your site.  The pittance one receives from Web site ads depend on the clicks.

So while I can't spend my day click-trotting from ad to ad across my Web pages, nothing forbids you from clicking in to take advantage of what I'm assured are fine, fine offers.

That doesn't mean I can't notice which ads are gracing my site, though.  At any given moment you're likely to see ads for Netflix, the latest movie, on-line universities and the like.

Lately, though, I've noticed an ad for the book "Colonoscopy for Dummies" and become, well, rather startled.

I endured my first colonoscopy last June.  In fact, feel free to click here to read, "A fine how do you doo," my account of the ordeal.

It went well and everything turned out fine.  But "Colonoscopy for Dummies"?

Actually, I'm a fan of the "Dummies" how-to books, which bear the slogan "Making Everything Easier!"  I have "Quicken 2010 for Dummies," "Publisher 2007 for Dummies" and "Excel 2000 for Windows for Dummies."

According to what's lurking on my bookshelves, I haven't felt the need to excel in over a decade.  Maybe I need to purchase "Let's Get Fired Up Again for Dummies."

Still, when it comes to a colonoscopy, I prefer to leave that to the highly trained professionals, thank you.

Now the good news:  As it turns out, "Colonoscopy for Dummies" does not detail how you can perform the delicate procedure yourself.  That would involve a tricky balance of mirrors and medical instruments that I don't even want to think about.

The book in the familiar yellow paperback format merely covers all the questions, fears and even prep for the actual colonoscopy, which, by the way, might just save your life.  So feel free to click on the ad if you see it pop up on one of my pages or anyone else's, for that matter.

And speaking of a colonoscopy, if your doctor suggests you get one, I encourage you to heed the advice.

When you go in for the consult, your physician will explain the procedure step-by-step.  Unless he pulls out his own copy of "Colonoscopy for Dummies" during the chat, I think you'll be fine.

("Colonoscopy for Dummies" photo courtesy:  Colonoscopyfordummies.com.)


Cold facts, warm feet & the agony of deceit

I've been sneaking around, and I'm terrified my wife is going to find out.

Yet how can I resist her charms?

Surely, someone out there will understand, even if it's only the men; some perhaps suffering the same agony.

She's there to warm me and protect me from the cold abyss of the outside world.  She's always there when I need her, and she never utters even a hint of objection or complaint.

Thermuse251 She is ... my thermostat.

I'm cold natured.  I can't help it.  I can't deny it.  I can't defend it.  So I sneak around to deal with it, but the deceit gnaws away at my soul.  Not enough, though, to shiver all day when I'm home alone during cold winter months.

My wife Suellen, through no fault of her own, has an inner body temperature that appears to reside in the desert of El Azizia, Libya, which is generally regarded as the hottest place on Earth.  How does 136 degrees sound?

So, especially during the winter months, if Suellen is anywhere near comfortable, I feel like I'm trudging naked through a raging blizzard in Antarctica.

I've tried to fight the good fight; wrap myself in blankets, wear socks in house shoes, etc.  But occasionally I have to poke my nose out of my blanket pile to move around.  And there it is.  I'm right back in the frozen tundra.

"This is why humans moved into caves, then built huts and eventually took out second mortgages on houses in the suburbs," I plead, "to get out of harsh elements like this."

That argument never flies, of course.

"If you're cold, just put some more clothes on," she says.

To which I've been known to reply:

"If you're hot, you could just take some clothes off."

Gentlemen, I don't recommend that retort.

If you just blurt it out anyway, as I have, just say something like ...

"What?  I didn't say anything.  I was shivering so much you just heard my teeth clicking together."

And so it goes, season after season.  That's why I've resorted to my savior of warmth, Ms. Thermostat.

We heat it up toasty style during winter days.  I just have to remember to restore the chill before Suellen comes home.

The deceit is killing me, though.

I can't go on living this lie.  So I'm fessing up and embracing the mantra of that great philosopher Vanilla Ice.

If there was a problem yo I'll solve it
Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it

Ice ice baby, indeed.

(Thermostat photo courtesy:  HunterFan.com)


Loot, loot, loot for the home team?

Riot300 So how do we, the perennially beleaguered Texas Rangers fans, handle long-elusive success?

What's the protocol for celebration at a moment like this?

Sitting in my recliner tilted into full warrior mode as rookie Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, a fireballer, froze Yankee slugger and former Ranger Alex Rodriguez with an 83-mph slider Friday night, it suddenly occurred to me.  We, us formerly lowly Rangers fans, have never had to deal with the possibility of winning the really big one before. 

In case you haven't been counting, the fourth time -- not the proverbial third -- turned out to be the playoff charm for the Texas Rangers.  The franchise has endured much this year:  Player injuries, a manager admitting a noseful of cocaine, a management team willing to forgive if not forget, more injuries, pitchers that didn't deliver, another who arrived and did (Cliff Lee), bankruptcy, new owners and finally this, an American League Championship over none other than our old tradition heavy nemesis, those Yankees of New York.

But even before former Angels outcast DH Vladimir Guerrero took a flying leap onto the Rangers infield victory pile Friday night, my brother Lannie was already texting celebration plans:

"We're going to go outside and shoot our guns into the air, then we're going to turn some cars over," he slowly texted one thumb at a time.

Lannie was kidding.  There are no weapons in the house, except for sharp tongues which can be lethal and have been known to misfire.

And of course there were no real plans to roll cars or, as New Yorkers might expect of jubilation-drunk Texans, to tip over sleeping cows.

Championship celebrations have gotten ugly in the past, as the enclosed photo shows.  When the Detroit Tigers beat the San Diego Padres in the 1984 World Series, violence erupted outside Tiger Stadium, according to an article posted on the BleacherReport.com Web site.

That's an overturned burning Detroit Police car behind the giddy Tigers fan holding up the World Series pennant flag.

So here's what most of us are likely to do to celebrate the Rangers' American League pennant win as we prepare to brace for the next and deciding step; a seven game winner-take-all World Series against the impressive San Francisco Giants.

We'll head down to local department stores selling official Rangers Championship t-shirts and caps.  Or we might, due to tight economic times, see how the knockoff shirts and caps look at the discount stores.

That's about as wild as we plan to get.  With one possible exception.

If Tammy Nelson (click here for photo), the "Beach Blanket Babylon" singer who warbled "God Bless America" with the outrageous San Francisco skyline hat on during the game in S.F. last week, strolled through our neighborhood, I'd be awfully tempted to tip that monstrosity over, Golden Gate Bridge and all.

(Detroit World Series riot photo courtesy:  bleacherreport.com)


What I did on my fall(ing) vacation

AMbu275 As long as I can remember, I've fought hard against the odds -- uphill, wind in my face, lacking necessary God-given talent tools and/or budget -- to be The Guy.

I longed to be the center of attention, the guy all eyes gravitated to first as a radio DJ, then as a TV news reporter/anchor, a stand-up comedian (let's not go there) and film critic, which actually worked out pretty well.

I finally reached that coveted center-stage point over the weekend in a tiny Texas coastal town.

But I never wanted to be this guy.

It's 4:30 in the morning.  I'm coming out of a blackout fog on a cold condo bathroom floor with loved ones and a complete stranger staring down at me.

Holy crap!  Is that a defibrillator?

But wait, let's flash back a little like they do in the movies.

My wife Suellen and I look forward with great anticipation to our rare chances to get away to the beach.  We don't own a condo.  We will, though, just as soon as our lottery numbers cooperate.

So we rent.  And we love it.  Last weekend's trip began like many of the others.  Relatives and friends would join us at the beach.  We would gather for coffee and chats in the morning, dig our toes into the sun-kissed sand during the day as the seagulls circled low overhead and toast the good life once the sun went down.

But we -- and when I say we I really mean I -- ventured, as they say in the movies, "off-script" this time.  I've been dieting, as some of you and this region's perplexed Blue Bell ice cream distributor know.

My calorie count has been low (too low you are about to discover).  And I've been pushing myself physically playing tennis (which I recently rediscovered that I really enjoy) in the hot sun without adequate hydration. Played a rousing game of "rediscover tennis" with the family that very morning, in fact.

Distill all that with a libation or two to celebrate good times, the moon shining brilliantly on the Gulf water and the fact that the Texas Rangers had clinched the American League West division championship earlier in the day and around 4:30 a.m. we get these buzzwords:

Cramp.  LEG CRAMP!  Now in both legs!  "Ow, ow, ow, OW!"

"Got to get to the bathroom."


(That's the sound of yours truly blacking out and collapsing in a clump on the living room floor; un-carpeted of course.)

Panic.  (That would be Suellen as she comes to my rescue.)

In the bathroom now.

Splat again.

(My best description of collapse No. 2 brought back thoughts of the late Howard Cosell's call when George Foreman belted Joe Frazier to the mat in the first round of the 1973 world heavyweight boxing championship in Kingston, Jamaica:  "Down goes Frazier!  Down goes Frazier!")

Serious panic now.

(Suellen makes frantic call to daughter Lisa and son-in-law Johnny, who are two floors down.)

I'm up.  Johnny, a medical research scientist working on a cure for cancer, slums a little and checks me out.  He says my pulse is low.

"I think I'm fine now."

Splat -- the trifecta.

Now we're back to real time.  The paramedics have arrived. 

Actually it's just one paramedic, a nice young lady with slurred speech.  I'm told later she must have recently gotten her tongue pierced.  Presumably, it was on purpose.

"My partner's downthairs throwing up," she casually announces.

Still, she does a very capable job of hooking up my EKG, checking my pulse (Yep, low) and pricking my finger for blood to check the glucose level (low there as well).  The good news:  I do not require the defibrillator.

Suddenly, two more paramedics appear.  One of the new arrivals, whose partner is not downstairs tossing his cookies or jumbo fried shrimp or whatever, appears extremely professional and caring.  Still that makes three paramedics.  I think the odd number is somehow throwing the universe off-kilter.  At least it is mine.

"Sorry, guys," I tell them, "You're not meeting me on my best day."

"We rarely meet people on their best days," the professional appearing one responds with rather exceptional comic timing. 

Full disclosure:  I'm kidding around with them to keep from being scared out of my wits.  When it's generally decided that I don't appear to be in immediate serious danger and can avoid taking a ride in their ambulance (with the puking guy driving), I relax a little.

"Your color ish coming back," the emergency responder with the trendy spike in her tongue says.

"That's good," I respond.

But I can't resist:

"What color am I?"

(Ambulance drawing courtesy:  fundraw.com)


Helpful hints on being pro-inactive

Sun221 I admire the pro-active, take-charge people.

They're the natural leaders who see a problem and jump right in to do something about the dilemma. 

Like Martha Stewart, for instance.  Sure, some may call her demanding and hovering because she has a reputation for paying close attention to every detail.

Her track record, though, speaks for itself.  Ms. Stewart took a couple of twigs from her garden, wrapped ribbons around them and convinced a large percentile of American citizens to purchase Martha Stewart signature craft products at Michaels. 

This is a given, isn't it?  There's glitter, and there's Martha Stewart glitter.

Let's not forget that Ms. Stewart got where she is by only serving minimal prison time.  You've got to admire that.

Several early evenings last week, I was thinking about pro-active people I admire.  Not just Stewart, but also Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk and Snooki from "Jersey Shore" on MTV.

I was sitting out on our patio sipping a cool beverage and marveling that the sun was going down with what appeared to be orderly precision once again.

How does the sun do its wondrous disappearing act so well evening after evening?  After all, don't we live in a world filled with chaos?  Wars are raging.  Hurricanes and tornadoes are bearing down on us.

And the economic experts -- all of them dutifully employed with cushy retirement accounts and low deductible health insurance no doubt -- have suddenly declared that the recession is over.  (Yeah, right, pal.  Come hang with me for a while.)

I was pondering why the sun even bothers to shed golden light on us without judgment when I noticed a stir of little-bitty activity below me.  I was just reaching for a higher power; a refill.

It was a long stream of busy ants.  They were power-walking as fast as their little legs would carry them from left to right along a crevice in the patio slab.  The first evening I barely even noted them.

The next evening I noticed them again.

"Where are you rushing off to, little fellas?  Chill, enjoy the evening ritual with me.  In Hollywood the filmmakers call this Golden Hour.  That's when the sun's rays are soft and flattering.  Lots of movies are shot this time of the early evening.

"So relax, little ants.  What's the rush?"

The next day, in the harsh midday sunlight, it was pointed out to me that the shower stall in our master bathroom was literally covered in ants.  We're not talking scores of ants, or even hundreds.  Thousands!

It's as if someone had painted the shower tile black and, taking meticulous pains as Martha Stewart would,  even included tiny legs.

But they weren't moving.  The ants' journey -- so frenzied as they scurried past me an evening or two before -- had ended.  My wife Suellen zapped the little buggers with toxic spray before they could advance on the rest of the house.

I admire take-charge, pro-active people like Suellen.

I'm also thankful for Mr. Raid, or whomever it was, who dreamed up the necessary, but rather morbid idea of bug spray.

(Sun drawing courtesy:  OCAL/Clker.com)


Giving knee trouble the cold shoulder

Tennis250 This may shock some people.  Or a lot of people.

OK, full disclosure.  It'll startle you, everyone you know and quite possibly future generations of their families.

I was a jock in high school.  An athlete.  So there!

I'm not claiming to be the square-jawed quarterback, the basketball point guard or the fleet-footed track star who ruled the halls of Grand Prairie (TX) High back in the mid-1960s.

I was, uh, pretty much the last kid on the Grand Prairie Gopher varsity tennis team.  Not first team, either.  I was the last guy -- or second to last guy (I'm still working that out with my therapist) -- on the boys doubles team.

The second doubles team.  And, yes, our mascot was a burrowing rodent.

My first recollection of being revered as a high school athlete stud was when it rained and the tennis coach made us run laps in the gym.  For some reason I can't recall (or blocked out over the years), the bleachers were full of bored students on that dreary, sixth-period afternoon.

The bleacher bums began to throw pennies at the team in general; but in particular at the slightly chubby future (barely) second-teamer huffing and puffing and bringing up the rear.

Did you know it's a long way around the glossy floor of a high school gym when you're 16, semi-plus-sized and being publicly ridiculed?

The therapist I mentioned above (but have never actually been to) could probably trace my rebel streak back to that very moment of my mentally self-tortured youth.  Look closely at the tennis team pictures in my high school yearbook and you'll notice that I'm the only tennis stud wearing black socks and a smirk when both were severely frowned upon in tennis etiquette.

Anyway, that's not why I asked you here.  The point is that if anyone told me six months ago that I'd be taking up tennis again after a 35-year layoff I would have sworn they were nuts.

I still think people are a little crazy (You've heard of "Dancing with the Stars" haven't you?), but I am back in the tennis game.  White socks this time.  I do my rebelling at the computer keyboard these days.

When I was in my early 20s, way back in a previous century, I stepped awkwardly off a curb in front of our family home in Grand Prairie and twisted my knee.  So badly, in fact, that I was quite sure my days chasing down a fuzzy ball were over.

A few months ago, however, a friend suggested a game of tennis. I agreed merely as a courtesy.  I haven't even owned a tennis racket in decades.  So I borrowed one and gamely exposed myself to what I expected to be public humiliation and self-ridicule (just like the old days).

Sure enough, the tortured knee crackled and refused to obey direct orders from the brain.  "Nice shot," I found myself yelling across the net while wondering why the #&^@ I didn't run a few steps and hit the ball back.

Then a funny thing happened.  The more I tried to run on the battered knee, the more it got better, not worse.  The fact that I've lost a few pounds helps.  But as my friend Gerry (who knows this kind of stuff) says, the exercise is probably strengthening the knee.

So now I'm bugging everyone I know (my wife Suellen, my brother, friends) to join me on the tennis court.  I'm feeling years younger.  My weight loss is accelerated.  And the knee?  It's just fine, thank you.

But now my shoulder's killing me.

Your sympathy is welcome.  Just don't throw pennies.  

(Tennis cartoon courtesy:  about.com)


Desperate horsewives

Horse201 If anything, Monmouth Park (Oceanport, N.J.) track announcer Larry Collmus seemed a little bored Sunday (Aug. 22) as the horses filed into the starting gate for the seventh race.

The names of at least three of the entries perked him up some, though.  Especially when he mused that Little Miss Macho appeared a little slow out of the gate.  Two other steeds, however, made this call one for the party reel of all time.

You may have seen snippets of the finish of this showdown between ... sorry, I can't spoil it.  It works much better if you hang with the call all the way to the finish line.

There's only one thing that could have possibly made this afternoon at the track better:  If the race was called the Tiger Woods Sweepstakes.  After all, there's lots of high-dollar mudslinging.  And, just for the record, the Tiger/Elin divorce was finalized the next day.

Now, "And down the stretch they come!!!"


(Horse cartoon courtesy:  classichorse.com)


Ray Stevens to the immigration rescue

Immigration problem?  What immigration problem?

Ray Stevens, the great novelty song stylist, spells it out for us:



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