Fifteenkey

A place to indulge my narcissism... and write stuff...

Author: fifteenkey (page 1 of 90)

He’s done a mile or two…

As of today, thirty-five billion, one hundred and thirty-six million miles to be somewhat exact. Well, that’s the number I’ve traveled on this rock in its orbit around our star at about 18.5 miles/second, accounting for the fact that the orbit is slightly elliptical. Of course, I’m discounting the 7.0128E+11 miles I’ve traveled with our solar system through the cosmic background at 370 miles/second because that would make me feel really old and probably a bit dizzy. There are many ways to look at 60, but the experience of getting there has recently taught me to look neither back nor forward, so we’ll stay right here in this moment. Relatively close to it, anyway.

This week, a familiar face peered at me above the frosted “privacy glass” of my office. I’ve known the guy for most of my time at Kronos, but I wouldn’t say we’re close, but friendly. He said, “Since you’re a person I trust, I…” What a wonderful thing to hear from another human being.

Speaking of human beings, there’s a new one in our family. Luca arrived on October 5th, and perhaps even more than his mother Megan, father Mike, or sisters Maddie and Aza, Uncle Kyle is the family member most excited and outpouring of love. It recently occurred to me that Kyle may never hold a child of his own, so little Luca will be the recipient of a whole lotta love…

Simultaneously, I’m reading (Beth chuckles at how slowly…) How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan, and listening to Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment by Robert Wright. I highly recommend both. As much as I enjoy contemplating the Cosmos and fanaticize about getting out there, the journey inside is equally infinite, yet highly accessible. I’ve written about meditation here before, but like clearing space junk orbiting our planet or plastic from our oceans, emptying the trash out of your mind is good daily maintenance. You should try it.

Anyway, other topics I’d lined up for this post include, “Podcasts,” “Exercise – yoga – arthritis,” and “Luke Voit,” but I’ll save those for my next missive in six months… Instead, since birthdays sometimes involve the exercise of a personal inventory…

  1. Mind: Still functioning, but the hard drive retrieval time is intermittently slow and sometimes doesn’t return data at all.
  2. Body: More mass than it once had, and not the good kind. Exercise is still conducted consistently, but frequency could be improved. Right hip is not hip to movement.
  3. Work: Still love it. Thinking the next chapter may be related to the books I’m reading.
  4. Family: Strong. Kyle, Megan, and Jessica are all doing wonderfully. It’s not been every year I could claim that, so I appreciate it now. A birthday card from Megan says, “You’re my best friend.” I must have done something right there. Maddie’s card was addressed to “Glampa,” and nobody calls me that. She’s a smart smartass. Genetics…
  5. Love: There’s a line in the film, “Interstellar,” “Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space.” Even though Forrest Gump claimed, “I know what love is,” I think that like time and space, it’s a mystery and almost unknowable with 100% certainty. Still, I’m a life-long learner, and I’m willing. What I do know for certain is that it sure feels like there’s a lot of it in me and around me. I wonder if the writer of “Love Makes The World Go Around” had a side gig as a physicist? Oh, man. I just looked it up. While songwriter Ollie Jones was not a physicist, he penned the song that Perry Como popularized in… 1958. That’s far out, man.
  6. Happiness: Please reference 1-5 above.

Oh, and thanks, Mom for having me.  It’s been an awesome ride.

Approaching the 13th hole

You’ve heard the golf metaphor, he or she is “on the back nine” to describe a person in the second half of their life? Well, for reasons completely unrelated to reality, I’ve always thought the year of my departure from this plane of existence to be 2042. As a young man last century, I calculated (I did the math in my head… Yeah, impressive) that in the far-off year of 2000, I’d be 42. Then I figured half a life in one century, half in the next for 84. Yeah, complete nonsense that’s of no use except for blog fodder and freaking myself out once late 2041 rolls around.

Anyway, the golf analogy. Dividing my current age by 84, then multiplying by 18 puts me between the 12th and 13th hole of my life. Actually, for those calculating at home, I’ll be at the 13th tee on June 20, 2019, and will likely slice. For now, I need to stay focused on every moment of the 12th.

“As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.” – Ben Hogan

Still, it’s fun playing with numbers and interesting to look ahead. But like in golf, if you look ahead or behind, and don’t pay attention to the shot you’re on, chances are you’re going to mess it up. Plus, all of us are constantly just teetering on the edge never knowing when life is going to drop. So…

“I’m going to give you
a little advice.
There’s a force in the universe…
…that makes things happen.
All you have to do is get in touch with it.
Stop thinking. Let things happen…
…and be…the ball.”

Can you write a Yelp review after a lobotomy?

I’m not sure when it happened, but meditation took my mojo. My writing mojo, that is. Meditation – the practiced ability to observe and stop in space the colliding asteroids of thought has the downside of neutering certain elements of creativity. Specifically, for me, the constant chaos of spinning thoughts exploding off each other in grey space created ideas of expression, but now that space is tranquil, and conceptual creation quiet.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’ve self-lobotomized. The simple, but very difficult practice of focusing on one’s breath and bringing that focus back every time it’s lost to some random thoughts creates a discipline of mind with all kinds of benefits. You can look it up.

Anyway, this morning I intended to write a ripping review of a recent awful car-buying experience to post widely on social media, but the suicides this week of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain give me pause. Life is hard. For everyone. It doesn’t matter how much fame and fortune you may have achieved, the voice in your head may still tell you that you’re a worthless fraud. It’s not my job to pile on, so I’m not going to reveal the dealer publicly, but I will give them this feedback privately.

So I’ll write this review from a more neutral perspective hoping maybe you can avoid some of the frustrations I experienced helping my daughter buy an SUV.

Here are 5 simple rules for buying a vehicle from a dealer:

  1. Car dealerships sell cars all day, every day – hundreds or thousands a year. You buy maybe a dozen in your life.
  2. The dealership is trying to maximize the profit they make on every vehicle. That’s their job and it doesn’t make them bad people. Your job is to get the best price you can without losing your mind.
  3. Ask to see, and then examine the Carfax AND the service history of the vehicle.
  4. You need to pay close attention to the numbers. If you’re negotiating the price (and you should be) of the vehicle, during the process you’ll likely be presented multiple “price sheets” from the dealer with changing numbers each time. They may look something like this:
    My eyes naturally went to the bottom (“Amount Financed”) line, but as I learned, it’s important to scrutinize every line. For example, the bottom line may fall closer to where you want it (good), but close examination shows that most of the decrease happened because the “Cash Down” (money you pay out of pocket up front) increased without your consent by $2,500 (not good at all). I didn’t catch that until round 3, but it’s a good thing I did. As you can see, “Savings” (discount off of the “sticker price”) and Trade Value are the significant drivers of decreasing the final price you’ll pay. As a side note, in my opinion, the “Doc Fee” is simply dealer profit, but they won’t negotiate on it, and “Fees” are typically for registration, plates, and inspection, which brings me to…
  5. DO NOT take delivery of a vehicle without the registration in hand, confirmation from your insurance company that the vehicle is registered and insured, and you have an inspection sticker on the vehicle. Otherwise, nine days later you may discover that the loan on the vehicle you traded-in has still not been paid in spite of the 3 emails sent to the General Manager, and the vehicle your daughter is driving is unregistered and uninsured. Oh, and don’t take delivery when the vehicle hasn’t been detailed and the gas tank is on “E.”

“Woke up, fell out of bed…”

…but I haven’t “dragged a comb across my head” in years. Today’s title and lyric are from The Beatles “A Day In The Life” off of their now-50 year old Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Fifty. Damn.

Anyway, I’d love to turn you on with this post, but it’s nothing more than one of those “year in review” things. I recently received my 35th consecutive Christmas Card from college roomie, Clint, and he provided a 2017 chronology. Here’s mine…

When Jason Isbell wrote for his 2017 record, The Nashville Sound, “last year was a son of a bitch for nearly everyone we know,” he wasn’t lying. 2016 was a year to remember to forget. But we can’t. Not yet, anyway. I still feel the damage of 3 ribs shattered on New Year’s Eve, and I’m afraid we’ll be feeling the pain of 2016 for years to come.

January was a dull, painful blur, mostly convalescing (and sleeping) on a recliner in my living room. I did watch “The Big Lebowski” a lot and tried to rally in February with college pal Phil in town for a B’s game and Drive By Truckers show on the same night, but about two feet of winter forced the Truckers to drive right by Boston from a cancellation. I didn’t make it back to the city for the Sunday reschedule, but it was a great time catching up with Phil, including a top 5 career steak at Abe & Louie’s.

Chef Maddie

March highlights included Maddie in a school cooking competition, buying a La Creuset Dutch oven to really nail ‘Boeuf Bourguignon” for Kyle, and seeing the ULowell Riverhawks in the Big East Hockey Tourney with Barb.

Speaking of Barb, in April we enjoyed the Christmas present she got for Kyle, seeing “The King and I” in Boston. For the balance of the month, Kyle sang his heart out to the tunes from that show… Actually, he’s still singing them.

In May, we visited (Work)Joyce’s new digs in Salem, and dropped by the Peabody Essex Museum while there. Pal Alan and I got together for one of our 5 dinner dates in 2017.

Kyle and Megan at the daughter’s new digs

June found us strolling the “hoity-toity” enclave of Peterborough, NH, and defying gravity at another Boston Opera House production involving wicked cool witches. Sampling the small plates and Sangria at Worcester’s Bocado was another June highlight. The first month of Summer rolled to a close with a community presentation at the Salesforce World Tour event in NYC, after which the Acela 2166 got me to South Station just in time to see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at some corporate sponsored tent on Boston Harbor… Oh. June… Yeah.  Megan and Maddie moved out of my home, and Maddie’s only home for the first almost ten years of her life. The leaving was bittersweet, but they’re 3 miles away and living a happy life with Mike and Aza. Emphasis on the sweet. It was the end of the world as we knew it, but Kyle and his old man back at the Phillips Homestead feel fine.

It started to heat up in July with a vacation trip to NYC with Kyle to see “Anastasia.” It got so hot I signed up for a summer health club pool membership… in Michigan! Summer holiday continued at the Sea Crest Beach hotel in Falmouth, visits to our favorite restaurants, and uh, beach.  The Cape of Cod was followed by a trip North for the Drive By Truckers Thursday in Portland, ME, Wilco Sunday in Portland, and relaxation in between at the Samoset Resort including 18 seaside holes! A lovely couple weeks… Oh, and the whole extended family went to see “Jaws” at the old fashioned, single screen “Last Strand” movie theater. Summer…

Summer 2017

Needing an additional respite from the heat of summer, Phase II of beach blanket bingo began in August, and included young Maddie and Aza at the Sea Crest, two days of Maui Mats, and visits to the Flying Bridge and Quahog Republic. Since it wasn’t hot enough in New England, I zipped down to South Florida where I saw both of my brothers, then flew home with Mom.

Since it is the September of my years, September bounced a big bucket list experience when I saw Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO. If you love music and are a fan of life, go see your favorite artist or band there. And say hi to Jayonce. I did. The trip also reconnected me with college friends Kraker and Heide in 10,000 foot Breckenridge. The “Rocky Mountain High” trip of 2017 was a great one.  Life is not all fun and games, though. Mid-month I cleaned the carpets in the Man-Cave, and took Maddie to see the Red Sox and her favorite, Mookie, get smoked by the eventual world champs, the Astros. Jose Altuve… Man, that dude can play. September also marked one year of Kyle living full-time with me. We celebrated.

Shopping with Jeff and Dave

October. My favorite month and the month of my birth (thanks, Mom). It was an interesting 31. I exorcized myself from all things Verizon – that felt good, and the Pixel 2 is pretty sweet. 3 birthdays were celebrated and time traveled. The month ended with a now annual romantic weekend with Dave and Jeff in the Poconos. We’re virtually together every day, but the in-person gig reminds me why I appreciate them so. Oh, and thanks, Louis and Carmen…

November is usually a busy work time, but this year was doubly so with 4 presentations and 2 panels over 10 days in San Francisco and Las Vegas for Dreamforce and KronosWorks. Oh, and in between, we celebrated Kyle’s 26th birthday. While in the City by the Bay I dropped into the SFMOMA. In Vegas, we treated our community leaders to dinner at SushiSamba. One said it was the best dining experience he’d ever had. Nice. Megan hosted Thanksgiving, and it was wonderful, especially when her Pinterest-inspired centerpiece burst into flames.

Merry Christmas from the Moon Rock

The last 1/12 of the year is now half over, but it’s been a good half. Kyle’s birthday present was experienced in the Big Apple and featured singing and dancing Cats. We do love it, but Gotham City demands you bring a full wallet for it to siphon. After a lofty dinner bill at Benjamin’s Steakhouse, I just smiled when the bartender at the Neil Simon Theater said, “Sixty-three dollars” for a double bourbon, 10-ounce Sauv Blanc, and a water… New York. New York. The name isn’t the only thing that’s doubled.

So that’s it for now, though the last 15 days are likely to be filled with the happiness of the last 350. Let’s hope the year doesn’t go out with quite the bang of 2016. The sound of a sparkling wine bottle exploding between my ribs and the icy asphalt is not one I want to hear again. Although… “the incident on Phillips Passway” did bring Elizabeth and me closer together. My neighbor is now so much more, and who knew how much she’d love “the city that doesn’t sleep!”

“If not now, when?”

Technically, this isn’t a “selfie” since Amanda Shires took it, but I’m in it.

I guess there’s been some misattribution of this posts title. In fact, it was Hillel the Elder who famously said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” Huh… I thought I’d heard it in a movie, but anyway, it helps kick off a post about not procrastinating.

The Red Rocks Amphitheater has been on my mental “bucket list” since seeing U2 Live At Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky, a film documenting the bands 1983 performance there. The movie propelled the band. The irony is Red Rocks was half full.

Over the past few years, I’ve browsed for shows that would move me to go, but one thing or another prevented me from acting. No, wait. I let things prevent me from pulling the trigger. This time, some of the same ilk of life’s “things” pulled on me, but a gentle push from Mom sent me Westward. Solo.  I remember telling my Dad to get out with people, because all the great “stories” of our lives that we tell usually involve people. Oh, there were people, and they made the trip special:

  • “Jayonce” – Jay and I worked together at Kronos, and we always connected. Maybe it was demographic, love of music, or some other human connection we can’t really define. Whetever the reason, it was great to chat over lunch at Red Rocks, peruse the music museums there, and hang out before the show.
  • Jason, Amanda, Sadler, Derry, Jimbo, Chad, Frank, Ben, Matt, Nigel, Tarrant, and the other members of Amanda’s band who will have to remain nameless since I cannot find their names. – They rocked the rocks. It seems to me that when bands play Red Rocks, it’s like their SuperBowl, and they up their game for the occasion. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, and Amanda Shires and her band played with high energy and absolutely killed it. I had pretty high expectations, and they were exceeded.
  • Tom and Heide – College friends that I haven’t seen in over 30 years, but time being relative, it seemed none had passed. We had a great time reminiscing and catching up in Heide’s beautiful home of Breckinridge.

The backdrop to this experience was beautiful Colorado. I hadn’t been there since a 1981 road trip to see the Stones with college buddies. Life was different then. It took four of us about a nanosecond to decide we would embark on the 1,800 mile round trip from Tucson to Boulder. Now it takes a little more time, but the experiences are just as rewarding.

So what experience are you procrastinating on? “If not now, when?”

You’re So Vain

I saw some new faces working the “Planet Fatness” desk on Friday. That’s what happens when it’s been 49 days since your last check-in. Stretching was fine. Yoga has tempered the 49 day lull, so flexibility wasn’t an issue, nor was set one of dumbbell work. That’s when reality reared its fat head. The 50 rep ab machine set didn’t reach fiddy, and the hand weights got very heavy in set 2. Usually the performance “wall” is scaled with will, but not on this day. The 10-short ab set was followed by a flat-out quit after 23 minutes on the elliptical machine… I was done.

“Failure” can be a sobering experience, but hopefully it’s followed by determination and perseverance to simply get better. There’s really no point (aside from the humor) to thinking “my god, you’ve gotten fat,” unless it’s a verbal kick in the pants toward action. It’s also good to step back for a little more perspective. For years I’ve gone to the gym on average twice a week, and more recently added occasional biking and yoga. It’s more than most:

Some other interesting stats say “more than half of members join a gym or health club to:

  • Feel better about themselves
  • Look better
  • Lose weight”

Yep. All of the above. I realize and appreciate the health benefits, but I can’t help but think my return to the planet was prompted by the fact I’m going to see college friends this week that I haven’t seen in over 30 years… and I’m afraid it’s going to go something like this…

Rocky Mountain High

Come on. If you’re a baby boomer, you’ve badly sung along to John Denver’s ode. Let’s do it together:

“Rocky mountain high-iiiiiiiiiii Col-o-ra-do”

Nice. You should check out the lyrics. It’s not about smoking a doob.

Regardless, I will be exploring all that Colorado has to offer during my pilgrimage to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre to see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Psyched! Yeah, I was hemming and hawing about the trip until I heard my mom say, “Just go. Isn’t it you who always tells me you only live once?” OK, Mom. I still have some details to work out with Billy Shatner (is he still at Priceline?) regarding wheels and a couple nights in the Mile High City. Oh, and bakeries. I want to bring some fresh baked goods when I go for a mini-reunion with some college friends in Breckenridge.

While scanning the calendar it occurred to me that our reunion will commence on our mutual friend, Mike G’s 60th birthday. Sixty… Dude, you’re old. Anyway, I’m looking forward to catching up with Heide and “Krak” on high in the Rockies. We’ll celebrate our dear friend.

Back to the Music. This will be my second JI show in 2017 after a trifecta the year before. The Red Rocks thing has been on my “bucket list” for years. I didcough up the cake for “VIP” seating in the sound booth area, but hey, we only live once, right Mom? Speaking of bucket lists… Other than going into space, I’m not sure there’s anything else on mine. Actually, there are a few other experiences closer to home that would be on the list if one existed… Italy, Greece, the jungle in Peru, Barre, MA for ten days… Oh, and the Louvre. Yeah, that would be cool.

Oh, the music. Yeah, I was teetering… The June show at whatever that tent place is now called on Boston Harbor was a bit underwhelming due to sky high expectations, but then last week after falling asleep to a live stream of Isbell’s “Austin City Limits” taping, I was jarred awake when YouTube then played a full February 2014 show from the House of Blues in Boston. Pal Jeff and I were there. You can be, too. Laying awake being blown away by song after song, I thought, “I have to go.” Here you go.

Tossing off the Baggage

As adults, we’re supposedly all responsible for behaviors that impact our (or others) physical and/or mental health. Some of those behaviors include:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Using Drugs (legal and illegal)
  • Making poor food choices and/or overeating
  • Inactivity
  • Engaging in unsafe sex
  • Engaging in bad relationships
  • Engaging in risky or unsafe behavior
  • Trying to rationalize the election of Donald Trump…

I’m sure there are more. Participation in fundamentalist religions comes to mind. I’m just listing those off the top of my head that I’m guilty of. Often these behaviors occur when we’re young, before our frontal cortex is fully matured to temper rash decision-making. Our tendency toward or away from these behaviors are influenced by nurture and nature:

  • Genetics
  • Our socio-economic conditions
  • Cultural influences
  • Mommy/Daddy issues
  • Past experiences
  • Future expectations

All you have to do is open your eyes and look around to realize this life can be hard. Given the huge role of genetics in this, do any of us really have a choice in our behaviors or are we somehow biologically and systematically pre-disposed to them? I think it’s both, and they all can be difficult to overcome. In the recent past, we’ve seen “successful” people like Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, and Robin Williams take their own lives while battling mental illnesses like bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression. And those are just the suicides that make the news. Tens of thousands more don’t. A 2016 New York Times article indicated US suicide rates reached an all-time high with 42,773 recorded in 2014. It’s estimated that 90% of these individuals had a treatable mental illness… Statistically, your personal orbit is likely filled with people suffering from anxiety, bi-polar, depression, PTSD, and many more.

Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers wrote a song about the struggle with depression and about Mr. Williams. I’m sure many can relate to it. I know I can. Especially the last line about luck…

Tossing off the baggage that is pulling down on me
Toss it in the river and be free
Move so close together, only inches separate
you from all the darkness in me
I’m not seeking explanations for this thing that you did
a thin line separates the laughter from despair
I’ve had my own depression since I was just a kid
but been blessed with the means to repair

Spring Cleaning Random Thoughts

Yeah, It’s actually Summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, but I’ve been busy.

A real Spring cleaning needs to happen here. I’ve now got two empty bedrooms to do something with. My girls moved out a couple weeks ago. I miss them, but they’re close and seem very happy as they embark with Mike and Aza on a family journey of their own.

I can never fully immerse myself in a record until I’ve listened with headphones, ideally while doing nothing else or performing a mindless task like weeding. Last weekend while ripping grimy green growths, I mainlined the Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and experienced an even deeper appreciation of the new record. After his last two gems of storytelling, “Southeastern,” and “Something More than Free,” I think the Boston Globe captured my view:

“So even if the album is not as consistently transcendent as the last two, that’s a high bar — and nothing here will harm Isbell’s soaring reputation.”

Listening on headphones delivers nuance that’s often missed listening in the car or while around the house. On “Anxiety,” this line hovered between my ears:

“It’s the weight of the world
But it’s nothing at all”

It’s a song that will likely resonate with many who suffer from it. From what I’ve learned, anxiety is ruminating about the future, depression dwelling on the past. In either case, it’s just your thoughts – nothing at all.  There are ways to better control those thoughts. Figure it out.

Speaking of happiness, I’m off Facebook nearly 3 months and off politics since gerrymandering put a narcissistic adolescent in the Oval Office. I’d rather not be intimate with how he and Republicans work to complete the hollowing out of the middle class that could destroy the country.  Wow, that’s a downer. It is. There are times that out of nowhere, my mind will remind me, “Donald Trump is the President of the United States.” What a nightmare.

Anyway, work is good, albeit intense. A community of over 27,000 customers and partners will keep you busy. On Monday, I hop a downbound train to NYC for a “Customer Advisory Board” meeting with Salesforce, our community platform provider. I’ve had a great experience with them, but the meeting that was scheduled to end at 3 on Tuesday, now goes till 6. Not for me. I have tickets to see the aforementioned Mr. Isbell Tuesday night in Boston and if the Acela runs on time, I’ll just make it.

Well, that’s enough for now and takes us full swing back to where we started. Even though I’m concerned about the future for my kids and grand-kids, I’m trying to Hope the High Road and hang on to some faith. Why?

“I still have faith, but I don’t know why
Maybe it’s the fire in my little girl’s eyes”
White Man’s World – Jason Isbell

Buying Prescription Glasses Online aka Pupillary Distance

Not happy that I lost my sunglasses!

Sometime between dinner at Les Zygomytes and the walk back to the parking garage after “Wicked,” your friendly blogger lost his sunglasses. Yes, I wear sunglasses at night. Anyway, the research and replacement process took place today. This post may help you, and it will be my reference for next time…

If you’ve ever purchased prescription glasses, you know there’s quite a bit of measuring that goes on just above your nose. What’s being measured there is “Pupillary Distance” (PD), the distance in millimeters between your pupils. If you are buying progressive lenses to compensate for near and far-sightedness, you’ll also need the “Near” PD because the pupillary distance shortens (like going crosseyed) when you’re looking at something close to you like a book.

Anyway, my PD measurements were not on my prescription, but I measured it using a nifty online tool.  Once I had the PD (63), I used an optometrist community to learn that 94-95% of your PD will be your “Near PD,” depending on the size of your head. I went with “bulbous” and used the 94% calculation (59). With my prescription and fresh PD numbers I was able to easily order new peeps from EyeBuyDirect.com (there are others) with a 25% off coupon I found here.

Oh, and don’t forget to use your Health Savings Account (HSA) credit card!

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